William John London (1846 – 1932) and Matilda Ann Mitchell (1850 – 1918) – A fine orchard

William was born on the 1st March 1846 the second child to William Albert London and his wife Diana Riley.  At the time his family were livig in the Kurrajong. His father was employed as a Labourer.  On the 7th June of the same year he was baptised at St Peters Church of England in the nearby township of Richmond.

What I have here is entirely with grateful appreciation to (V.Burge) who has provided a wealth of investigative research on the story of  William’s first wife, Mary Colvin.  We have deduced that 19 or 20 year old William must have been following seasonal work in Tamworth.  Given that it was 370km from his home, it was no close location.  It was likely here that William met up with Mary Colvin. In 1866 fourteen year-old Mary gave birth to their daughter, Mary-Jane Colvin-London at Burburgate near Gunnedah. Mary’s step-father was by all accounts a particularly staunch Wesleyan and it is unlikely that he would have been happy with the proceedings.  On Christmas Day the 25th December 1868  William married sixteen year old Mary Colvin in Tamworth. Mary’s step-father, John Adler was the witness for the wedding. Mary’s  parents gave consent to the wedding being that she was under-age.  By this time little Mary-Jane Colvin-London was two years old. Their course however was not set and within two years William had moved back to North Richmond.  It was here that he ‘married’ a local girl, Matilda Ann Mitchell.   Their first child Lavinia was born later that year.  It must  have come up with Matilda that William was already married as there was no official marriage.

Mary Colvin also found love again and she did have a wedding where she  marked herself as a spinster when she eloped and married her second husband George Charles Richardson in 1871 in Tamworth.  Apparently Mary’s family were against her marrying George andit is likely that this had little to do with George himself and more with the fact that she was still legally married to William London.  Divorce was not an easy matter to secure, especially with New South Wales being the last of the states to make this available in 1873 with The Matrimonial Causes Act.  Mary was in a bit of a pickle however by this time.  She could have if she wanted apply to the courts on the only legally accepted grounds (for a wife) of desertion, cruelty or adultery. However by this time she had already legally declared herself married to George Richardson and this would have almost certainly had her brought up on charges of bigamy which was likely to bring a gaol sentence.  I’ve looked through NSW police Gazette’s and there is no mention of any of the above parties that I can find, so I suspect it was all kept very quiet.  Mary went on to have a large family with George Richardson and would die in 1923 at Gunnedah.  Mary- Jane Colvin-London remained with her mother and when she died her father’s name was recorded as Jack London.

Matilda Ann Michell hailed from a large local family back in the Hawkesbury.  Her father was Edward Mitchell (1792-1859) of Norfolk in England. Her mother, Elizabeth Coverley (1815-1879) born in Parramatta near Sydney in New South Wales. There were twelve known children in all.

Mary Ann Mitchell b. 1833,     Edward Mitchell b.1834,    Sarah Mitchell b. 1836, Jane Mitchell b. 1838,     William Mitchell b.1840,    Susannah Mitchell b.1843, Rosetta Mitchell b.1845,    Robert Mitchell b.1847,    Matilda born in 1850, Charlotte Mitchell b.1852,    Martha Ann Mitchell b.1853  and John Mitchell b.1856.  More amazing to my mind is that those children all made it into adulthood!

William and Matilda similarly would go on to have the same large family of their own.  Twelve children in all  consisting of:

Joseph Bartly London 1872,   Ernest Albert London 1874,    Clara Mitchell London 1876,    Edith London 1878,      Arthur John London 1880 who died aged 2 in 1882.    Elsie Grace London 1883 ,  Lillian M London 1885,     Edward London 1887,    Augustus (Gus) London 1889,    Priscilla Georgina London (my great grandmother) in 1891 and finally Patience Gertrude Mitchell London in 1894.   All of the children were born and raised in the Richmond area.

Matilda Ann Mitchell

Matilda Ann Mitchell

For all intents and purposes Matilda was William’s wife throughout those years. William did officially marry Matilda a year before she died. It is likely that this was done so as to legalise matters as Matilda was not well by that time. The problem was however that William’s first wife was still alive and well and did not die until 1923. So technically Matilda and William’s marriage was still bigamous.

In 1893 William and his family were living at Howe’s Creek, Richmond. It was at this time he was caught swiping a small amount of corn with others from a neighbour, Ezzy’s paddock on Comleroy Road at night.  Even though none are more surprised than his captors he is nonetheless sent to Gaol for six months with hard labour.

Richmond Police Court WEDNESDAY, May 17th 1893. Before W. Lamrook, J.P  William John London, arrested on a warrant, charged with stealing a bag of maize, in the husk, the property of Herbert Charles Ezzy, at (Comleroy-Road, Kurrajong, valued at 5/-.

Senr-Constable McNeely deposed that between 5 and 6 o’clock on that morning, witness, in company with Constable Armstrong and Alexander, arrested accused in his house at Howes’ Greek, Kurrajong, on a warrant. When witness read the warrant to accused, he replied, ” I don’t deny I took two or three cobs, I was coming from fishing, I had no bag.” Witness asked accused if there was anyone with him and defendant said, “There was no one with me at the time I took the cobs.” He also said Ezzy was the owner of the cobs. Witness arrested accused and brought him to Richmond Lockup, and asked for a remand till Tuesday, 23rd inst., for the at tendance of necessary witnesses. Remanded until 23rd insfc., bail allowed self in £50 and two sureties of £25 each. At a later period in the day, two sureties wer e found, and accused was released.

Richmond Police Court.  TUESDAY, MARCH 28 1893.   (Before Messrs W. Lamrock, P. H. Ridge, J. Lamrock, junr, G. B. Boweu, J’s.P).

William John London (on bail) was charged with stealing a bag of maize in the husk from the property of Herbert Chas Ezzy, at Comleroy-road, Kurrajong, of the value of 5/, on May 15th Last. Accused pleaded guilty.   Mr. Campbell appeared for him. Herbert Chas Ezzy deposed that he had an orchard and farm at Comleroy-road ; he was the owner of the crop of maize grow ing there; the orchard was fenced round.

To Mr. Campbell: Did not know accused.    William Shepherd, an employee of Mr. Ezzy’s, said he had charge of an orchard; knew accused; remembered the night ot 15th inst: saw the accused in the orchard at Comleroy-road among the corn on that evening; saw accused pulling cobs of corn in the orchard; when he pulled the cobs he threw them toward a bag; Arthur Anderson was in company with witness at this time; accused was husking part of the corn when witness saw him ; witness was about six or seven yards away from the bag; Anderson went towards accused and caught hold of him while he was in the act of pulling a cob; the accused struggled to get away; witness had a gun with him; went to Anderson’s assistance, and pulled accused off Anderson; did not recognise the accused until he struck a match; when Anderson recognised accused the latter said, ” Let me go, there’s a good fellow and I’ll pay you he said he wasn’t pulling the corn for himself that he came along with some more; accused refused to go any further than the Comleroy-road; on the following day witness found the bag produced.

To the Bench: Believed they were planted half-an-hour in the corn before accused and some other men came; they were talking as they came through; the night was dark; it was 20 minutes past nine o’clock.

To Mr. Campbell: Accused got no chance to touch his bag when Anderson got hold of him; did not recognise the accused at the time, until the light was struck; it was not very dark; could see between them and the sky; saw the cobs passing through the air; when caught, accused had four or five corn cobs in his hand, and he dropped them when Anderson caught him ; Anderson said something about London being the last person in the world he suspected. Mr. Campbell then brought evidence, by permission of the Bench, as to character of  accused.

The Bench sentenced accused to six months’ imprisonment in Darlinghurst Gaol with hard labor,  Mr. Campbell asked the Bench to allow the option of a fine, which they {refused. The Bench publicly thanked Messrs Anderson and Shepherd for their pluckiness in catching accused.   (Before Col. Holborow and Reynolds, J’s.P

William was 49 at this time and I can’t think that hard labour (which was breaking rocks quite literally) would have been a particularly good thing for him at that age.   Two years later on the 10th September 1895 and for several days thereafter a wild bushfire ripped through the area destroying everything in its path.  This had followed a long and hard drought in the area.  Many properties were damaged quite significantly and there was also the loss of life of neighbours. The Telegraph newspaper reported them ‘As the most terrible and disastrous bushfires to ever be seen in the region. Flames reported to be 80 foot high and the fire front rushing across the area with great speed and calamity. Comleroy Road, Wheeny Creek and it’s nearby locales were in the path of the fire’.

Life for William and Matilda must have improved somewhat following these trying times as on the 29th June 1900 at the age of 54, William is recorded in the Hawkesbury Advocate, a newspaper article  (along with others) as being one of the folk along Comleroy Road and the in the Kurrajong mentioning the quality of crops and kindness of  the people the journalist met along the way. At this time William and Matilda had 1200 fruit trees on their orchard.

The census of 1901 has William and Matilda living on the Kurrajong Slopes and farming. The Great War came to the Kurrajong and two of William’s sons and other cousins were celebrated with a send off at the Comleroy Road School of the Arts at a dance.  On the 25th April 1919 William’s son Gus (Augustus) was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal abroad with the troops. This was mentioned in the newspapers.  It must have been an enormous relief for both William and Matilda that their sons returned from overseas and were able to go on with their lives.  The lives of many others having been sacrificed to the war in Europe.

William it would appear experienced a great sadness when his wife died, it would appear unexpectedly of heart failure and senile decay on the 13th May 1918 at their home on The Slopes. There was a coronial inquest which gave the above-mentioned findings for cause of death.

William had a tombstone erected to her memory at St Phillips Cemetary in North Richmond.  It reads; In Loving Memory of Matilda London who died 13th May 1918, aged 68 years. We never knew the pain you bore, we never saw you die, all we know you passed away and never said goodbye.  Erected by husband and family.

Matilda London Headstone

Matilda London Headstone

In 1930 at the age of 80 William was listed on the census as an Orchadist on the Comleroy Road.

On the 3rd January 1932 William died at Richmond at 85 years of age.

Comleroy School of the Arts 1

Comleroy School of the Arts, Comleroy Road, Kurrajong.

William and Matilda’s children continued the legacy of their parents and grandparents and many remain in the district.  Lavinia (Bottle)  married a local farmer Alfred James Bottle.  She died in Kurrajong in 1946.

Joseph married a local neighbours daughter, Anglina Tierney and died in 1941 at Bathurst, NSW.

Ernest married Annette Targett, they lived in Queensland for a time, however Ernest died in Annandale NSW in 1924.

Clara (Whalan) married Albert Whalan and died in Lithgow in 1966.

Edith (Mahoney) married Edward Mahoney in Sydney.  Unsure of date of death/place.

Elsie (Shepherd) married another neighbours son, Herbert Shepherd and lived most of her life in nearby Richmond.  She died in NSW in 1965.

Lillian, details unknown, died in Kurri Kurri NSW in 1959.

Edward returned from WWI and took up mining.  He married Mary Condran at Wollambi.  He died in 1959 in Kurri Kurri.

Augustus (Gus) the war hero went on to marry Florence Rose and became a butcher in Cessnock.  He died in Cessnock in 1945.

Priscilla (Helmrich/Versperman) married Arthur Helmrich and perhaps travels the furthest of all of them.  They lived for a time in Queensland before moving to far off Malaya and Singapore.  Priscilla returned to Australia, divorced Arthur and re-married John Vesperman. She died in Petersham in 1972.

The youngest child, Patience (Ryan) married Ernest Ryan and lived in NSW dying in 1974. She outlived all of her siblings.

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