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 resided in the Kurrajong region and 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.

In 1869 he marries Mary Colvin in Tamworth NSW.  How, why, where and what happened I cannot say.  But at some point in time William and Mary had parted company and by the 20th February 1870 William had welcomed a child, Lavinia with Matilda Ann Mitchell in their home town of Richmond, New South Wales.

Matilda Ann Michell was from a very large local family.  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.156.  More amazing to my mind is that those children all made it into adulthood.

The Mitchell family were an early European family in the Kurrajong area and it makes very simple sense that before long they get together.

William and Matilda went on to have a 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 dies a mere two years later 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 are born and raised in the Richmond area.

Matilda Ann Mitchell

Matilda Ann Mitchell

For those family researchers looking for a marriage certificate you won’t find one until 1917.  William did not divorce his first wife and it would appear that he and Matilda waited until she died.  Divorces were expensive and not readily available in those days.  For all intents and purposes Matilda was William’s wife throughout those years.

In 1893 William and his family are living at Howe’s Creek, Richmond and he is caught up swiping a small amount of corn with others from a Mr 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.


(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 literally) would have been a particularly good thing for him at that age.

   —–     It’s to be hoped Mr Ezzy was able to ‘sustain’ the loss of his maize cobs. Things were indeed tough in those days .  —-

On the 10th September 1895 and for several days thereafter  wild bushfires rip through the area destroying all in their path.  These follow a long and hard drought in the area.  Many properties are damaged quite significantly and there is also the loss of life of neighbours. The Telegraph newspaper reports them as the most terrible and disastrous bushfires to ever be seen in the region. Flames are 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 are directly 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 Williamm is recorded in the Hawkesbury Advocate, a newspaper article(along with others) along Comleroy Road and the Kurrajong mentioning the quality and kindness of  the people along the way. Wm has 1200 fruit trees on his 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.

William it would appear experienced great sadness when his wife dies  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 findings.

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

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.

In 1930 at the age of 80 William is 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 continue the legacy of their parents and grandparents and many remain in the district.  Lavinia married a local farmer Alfred James Bottle.  She died in Kurrajong in 1946.

Joseph married a local girl – Anglina Tierney and dies in 1941 in Bathurst, NSW.

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

Clara married Albert Whalan and died in Lithgow in 1966.

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

Elsie married Herbert Shepherd and lives most of her life in nearby Richmond.  She died in NSW in 1965.

Lillian 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 goes onto marry Florence Rose and became a butcher in Cessnock.  He died in Cessnock in 1945.

Priscilla 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, divorces Arthur and marries John Vesperman. She died in Petersham in 1972.

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

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