Wednesday, November 26, 2014

From Margate to Melbourne : In Preparation for the Long Voyage

These last few months I have been sorting through the many documents and photographs that belong to my husband. All of us who have ancestors that made the long voyage from Britain to Australia must wonder what they endured on this long voyage. Amongst the papers my husband has are two known letters from his Great Great Grandfather William Robert Brown to his wife Anna Bradshaw, that had previously been transcribed by a family member; but who that was nobody knows, nor does anyone know what happened to the original letters. Transcribing this transcription of the first known letter, I was astounded at what it contained – it is basically tips on how his wife and child should prepare for “The Voyage” and what to expect both onboard and on arrival – advice we would find strange these modern times.

William Robert Brown
(From the Ancestry Member Tree " Kim Mountfords Family Tree")

Anna Bradshaw
(From the Ancestry Member Tree " Kim Mountfords Family Tree")

William Robert Brown was born on 25 September 1829 in Margate, Kent, England. William Robert married Anna Bradshaw on August 17 1852 at the Old Church Saint Pancras in London aged 22.

Four months later in December 1852 he was aboard the ship “Barrackpore” on his way to Australia, arriving in Melbourne on 17 February 1853. At this time Anna was pregnant with their son, Willie [William Robert Brown Junior] being born in Margate, Kent on July 11 1853. Whether either husband or wife was aware of this fact upon his leaving is unknown. 

It was however to be 10 years before William Robert was to be reunited with Anna and his son, Wille. During his time in Australia William Robert had worked at a number of properties, finally settling near Maryborough in Victoria. In the 1851 UK census, William Robert’s occupation had been an ostler (a man employed to look after the horses of people staying at an inn), and his father a stable keeper, so it was most likely that he was employed in looking after the horses at whatever property his was engaged at. 

By 1862, he must have saved enough money to send for his wife and son to join him in Victoria. At the time he wrote to Anna organizing her voyage to Australia, he was working on the property “Norwood”, owned by Alfred Joyce

I am unsure of what kept them true to each other, and his letters do not display affection, though they certainly show concern for her welfare. To me, it seems he took a lot of pains in writing his letters, but I will leave the reader to make what they will of William Robert Brown’s character an the nature of his relationship with his wife. How Anna felt about this journey can only be guessed at. Anna and Willie arrived in 1863 aboard the “Merrie Monarch” The family  settled permanently in the Maryborough area in Victoria where two more children were soon born. I do hope that Anna found the wrench from her family and homeland worth the difficulties she must have faced alone on a long voyage to a strange land.

Norwood August 23 1862

Dear Anna,

            I received a letter from you a few days ago dated June 18. I was glad to hear that you and Willie were quite well. I am quite well myself. I am glad to hear that you are ready to start for Australia. At present I don’t know whether I shall be able to send you the passage ticket by this mail or not. I was in to Maryborough to get it two days ago and I had to send the money to Melbourne (8 pounds for you and Willie), and I may not get the ticket back in time to send by the Mail which leaves in two or three days time, but whether I get it on time or not, I must begin to write instructions for you. I shall enclose a draft for 20 pounds in this [letter]. You will have nothing more to pay for your passage. The ticket that I shall send will bring you from London to Melbourne. I shall have to write you instructions how to act to get on board the Ship when I get the ticket. 

With respect to the 20 pounds, I wish you to do as follows; 5 pounds, I wish you to spend on Books for me as I have directed you in another place, 8 pound with what you have left of the 5 pound I sent you last month, I think will be enough for to buy what things you will want and pay your expenses until you get on board of the Ship, and 7 pounds, you will want to take on board the Ship with you, for I think it will cost yourself, Willie and the luggage 5 pound to get from Melbourne to where I am. I shall not come to Melbourne to meet you, for it will be only loss of time and money, for it would be useless for me to go to Melbourne before you arrived there, and whilst I was coming, to you, you could come to me. Melbourne is very different now than when I arrived there. You will not have to stop in Melbourne more than one night after you leave the ship (and you can stay on board the ship 7 days after it arrives, if you like.) There will be a railway open to within 30 miles where I am when you arrive. I would not take less than 7 pound on board the Ship with you if you can possibly help it. If you leave England in November, it will be summer in Australia when you arrive, and after you have left England a fortnight, you will get in to warm weather and it will be warm all the way out.

Now I must tell you a few things what you must buy, of course you know what money you have got to spend. I don’t suppose you have got a very large stock of clothes, what under clothing you want, you will know best, but I would not buy much; any old things will do to wear on board the ship. I would recommend you to buy two new dresses, one common and one good one, but I would not make them until you arrived. If you have one decent dress to wear when you arrive it will do. I would like you to appear a little bit respectable when you come, but I will leave that to you. I would not attempt to do any needlework on board the ship; no more than you have need to repair what you are wearing, and if you have any good things, don’t take them out of your box on board. If you do, the sea air will spoil them. I would advise you to buy two pairs of good boots (I don’t mean men’s Knee boots), but cloth boots for yourself, and two pairs of shoes for Willie. Mind they are plenty big enough for him for him, for recollect that he is growing. Let him wear his old ones on board the ship. You may reckon on being 12 or 13 weeks coming out. Wear all your old underclothing. First wear them as long as you can, and if they are not worth much, throw them over board. Don’t attempt to wash any thing on board. I don’t know whether you are a teetotaler or not, but don’t take any thing to drink of ale, wine, porter or liquors from any one, nor do not let Willie have any if you can help it. I need not tell you to be civil and obliging to every one on board the ship, as far as lies in your power, but you will have to keep your eyes open and look after your own or perhaps you will have sometimes to go hungry. Don’t make to intimate with any one, or tell them too much of your affairs, and be careful of your money, or you will lose it, for there are most times thieves on board every ship. I would advise you to sew 6 sovereigns up your stays until you get on shore at Melbourne. Don’t go to the fore part of the ship no more than you are obliged to go to the cook house, and keep Willie away from there if you can. You will have to keep a good look out for him, or you may lose him overboard. If you have the money to spare, buy a good large strong box, and put all the things in it you do not want on the passage, especially the Books you get for me. Wrap them up in flannel to keep the damp away from them. You will be allowed to have one or two small boxes in your cabin. Have a lock on one of them, and keep it locked while you are away from it. It is better to be sure than sorry. I know there was a good many persons complaining of losing things in the Ship that I came in.

With respect to the things that you will want on the passage in the eating way, a few apples and oranges are good in case of sea sickness. I would advise you to get a few pounds of soft biscuits and get some thin slices of bread and toast them; they will keep for a few weeks, and get about twenty pounds of flour in a calico bag, and take on board with you, for puddings are about the best things you can get cooked on board. When you make a pudding, make it early in the morning and take it to the cook soon after breakfast, or you will not get it boiled enough. When I came out, we used to make puddings every day. We used [to] break some biscuit into small pieces and soak them in fresh water all night with about as much flour as biscuit mixed well up together with suet, and well boiled, makes a good pudding to eat with preserved meat or soups. With respect to bed clothes, you will want about the same on board the Ship as you want at home in the winter; you will know if you have enough or not.

When you know what Ship you are coming by, you will write and let me know the name of the Ship, and the day she is to sail, and when you arrive in Australia, have a letter written to send on shore the first opportunity (I will enclose a stamp to put on it), directed to Mr. Wm. Robt. Brown, Alma, Nth Maryborough, and as soon as I get a letter from you, letting me know the name of the Ship, and when it is to sail from London, I shall write to you, instructing you how to act to find me. The letter will be directed, Mrs. Anna Brown, Passenger per the name of the ship, Melbourne. You will send for it as soon as you arrive, or if the Ship is a long side of the pier, you might go on shore for it yourself. I would advise you to stay three or four days on board after you arrive, and have sent a letter to me, to give me an opportunity of getting your letter, and then go on shore. You will have my letter then, telling you what to do, but if you should not get a letter from me, I would advise you to go to the Wesleyan Home, 40 Drummond St., Melbourne, and write to me again, and if you don’t hear any thing of me in six days after you arrive, you may make your way to where I am now living, and if you do not find me, you will hear something of me. The name of the person I am now working for is Alfred Joyce Esq., Norwood, Near Maryborough. You will write and tell me what day you are going to start from Melbourne two days before, so that I might be able to meet you. You will leave Melbourne by the first train in the Morning. Book yourself and luggage for Maryborough. It is seven miles from where I am living.

I wish you would bring all the books you can, for I am fond of reading, and if you can get a few pictures of the Exhibition, bring them. I suppose you will go to Margate before you leave. If you do, I wish you would ask Mrs. H. Gore [one of his five sisters] for me for any Books or papers she can spare. I don’t think I shall be able to write to her this month. Give my kind love to all of them. It is quite possible that we shall not meet again in this world, but we have a hope of meeting in a better. August 23; I have not received the passage ticket from Melbourne yet, so shall have to send this letter without it, and you will have to wait another month for it. I would not spend much money before you get another letter from me, for I may have to send you more money for you to pay your own passage. It is not certain until I get a letter from Melbourne. If I get the passage ticket and send it by the next Mail, you will have to go to London as soon as you can after you get it. You will have to take the ticket to the shipping office, and they will tell you the name of the ship you are to go by, and the day she is to sail. They must find you a ship within a month. It may be in 1, 2 or 3 weeks after you show them the ticket. I expect they send a ship away once a month, so it will depend (how long you will have to wait) on the last ship that sailed. I would not waste more time than you can help, but don’t start before you are ready.

I cannot think of anything else to tell you this time. I think I have told you nearly all I can at present. I have not said anything to Mother or anyone else the reason why I altered my mind, and I shall not do so unless they give me occasion to do so. I told them that circumstances had occurred to cause me to alter my mind and that I was able to get a good living in Australia and to save money, and that I thought it was folly for me to return home, for I could not see how I was to get a living in England. I expect they will think you have told me something, but you need not mind what they think, or what they say. I really believe that relatives are best apart.

I shall not send you the list of Books I wish you to get for me until next month. I sent you a Post Office order last month for 5 pounds. I hope you got it safe. Write again as soon as you get this. My address is Mr. Wm. Robt. Brown, Alma, Nr. Maryborough, Victoria, Australia. You need not put “late of Margate, Kent” anymore. My kind love to Aunt & Uncle Brown, Mr. & Mrs. Naylor and all friends [and] your Mother. Give my love to all the girls. I will write to them all soon.

I have told you all I can this time. I will commit you to Him, who is both able and willing to guide, guard and direct you. Do not forget to ask constantly for that assistance which you stand in need of. I feel assured that all things are working together for our good, and it is my daily prayer that God will guide us with His counsel and afterwards receive us to glory. Give my love to Willie.

Remaining Yours,
W.R. Brown

NOTE:  This transcription has spelling and punctuation corrections, as well as paragraph breaks to enable easier reading though sentence structure has remained faithful to the original.

In further posts I hope to deal with the second known letter from William Robert to Anna, and the sad circumstances of his death, back home in Margate for a holiday in 1891