When the 'Maitland' arrived in Sydney on November 6th 1838, the colony of New South Wales was only 50 years old.
Sir George Gipps was Governor of the colony, which at that time incorporated present-day Queensland and Victoria.
New South Wales was still very much a convict settlement, with one of the largest military establishments in the British Empire. Convict transportation to the colony did not cease until January 1839, the month the Wenbans were released from Quarantine.
The population of New South Wales was only about 80,000 and Sydney was just a small town of approximately 23,000 inhabitants. Half of the population were convicts or their descendants. The population was to double by 1841 due to the influx of free emigrants, by which time there would be four free persons for every bondsman. Brisbane (Moreton Bay) and Melbourne (Port Phillip) were only recently-established small settlements. Present-day N.S.W. and Victoria had been explored by Hume and Hovell, Sturt and Mitchell, but the explorations into Queensland, South Australia and Central Australia would not be undertaken until the 1840's.
Few buildings of the Sydney of 1838 remain standing in 2008. Amongst these are the Rum Hospital (present-day State Parliament House), the Mint, Convict Barracks, Government Stables (the modern 'Conservatorium of Music') and St. James Church in Macquarie Street.
In 1838, the colony had been in such severe drought that the Governor had proclaimed November 2nd (four days before the arrival of the 'Maitland') as a national day of 'fasting and humiliation'. It rained on November 4th, leading to an outbreak of influenza. These circumstances must have created an unpleasant welcome for the families from Kent and Sussex, who were having to contend with deaths of family members and a long period in quarantine. The drought conditions would have been a far cry from the lush green hop-growing regions of south-eastern England. Also at that time, there was major concern about frequent fights between the white settlers and the aboriginal population. Life in the bush was virtually lawless, and there were frequent reports of massacres by both whites and blacks.
The most difficult problem for all the new British settlers was, however, the sense of isolation due to the vast distance of the new colony from 'home'. Very few would ever be able to return, even if they had the means. Corresponding with relatives in Britain by mail took a minimum of 5 months one way, and about a year to receive a reply. Telegraphic communications did not connect Australia to the rest of the world until the 1870's.
Despite these difficulties, the new colony provided significant opportunities for men and women of enterprise, faith and industry.
The rigid distinctions of the English class system had not been transferred to this new society. These factors allowed the families an opportunity to create lives that were more productive and fulfilling than would ever have been possible in their country of birth.
Adapted from an article by: Philip Bowden Mitchell in King, C: The Benenden Bowdens
This was an arduous voyage to undertake in anybody’s language to the new colony, let alone a young couple with kids! and!! poor Mary Wenban would have been pregnant for the entire voyage with Emily who was born 15th December 1838 to claim the distinction of being the first Austalian born Wenban. Mary must have been one tough lady! As well as on the voyage, under horrific conditions, Mary and John took care of their 6 children aged 13,12,10,8,6 and 3. Mary was also a twin and it must have been very difficult leaving her twin sister Jane behind in England.
One can only imagine the impact of seeing friends and children dying on the voyage and then the horror of the children seeing their young friends and acquaintances being sewn up in bodybags and dispatched overboard for shark feed. Yesiree, the recipe for nightmares for years to come in their young lives.
But.. These were our forebears and a tough bunch they must have been to be able to establish a normal life afterwards.
The immigration records filled in on arrival in NSW state that John and Mary were both in very good health, could read and write, and were Members of the Church of England. John was 35 and Mary 32, while Mary Ann, David, Merab, Saul, Jesse and Michal were 13, 12, 10, 8, 6 and 3 respectively.
After being released from quarantine in January 1839, John found work on a farm at Pittown N.S.W. owned by John McDonald a former convict. The farm was named “Lynwood” at Pitt Town and John received the princely sum of £1/10 per week without rations, apparently as a wheelwright, which had been his profession in Hawkhurst. The current address of Lynwood is 41 Pitt Town Road, Pitt Town . At the time of the 1841 census of NSW, the family was living in Pitt Town. The head of the household is listed as John Wanburn, and the schedule shows us that were five males and four females living in the household in a wooden house. The breakdown of these nine people show that there were....
· 3 males between 7 and 14, 2 males between 21 and 45,
· 2 females between 2 and 7,
1 female between 14 and 21 and 1 female over 21
· 1 married male, 4 single males
· 1 married female, 3 single females
· 4 males arrived free, 1 ticket of leave
· 3 females arrived free, 1 born in colony
· 9 church of England
· 2 mechanics & artificers and 7 other persons
Whilst the occupants are not named, we can use this
information to surmise that the people referred to are
In 1842 John became the second school master at the Parochial school in Wilberforce, a position which he held for seventeen years until his death in 1859. He was appointed with his wife Mary at a salary of 52 pounds 1 shilling 8 pence.
After moving to Wilberforce John and Mary had two more children, Ruth (1842) and Bathsheba (1844).
The Wilberforce School House was erected in 1819 (completed in 1820) and is the only remaining school house of the five that Governor Macquarie ordered to be built.
It was a two storey brick building with stone quoins at the front corners. The bricks were sun-dried and were coated with whitewash to help protect them from the weather. The ground floor held two rooms, in which the family lived, with an
attached skillion kitchen. A stairway led up to a large room which served as the school room on weekdays and as a location for church services on a Sunday.
The school house continued in that function until 1880 when the
public school was opened. While he was the schoolmaster at
Wilberforce, John would have taught Fred Ward, the bushranger
known as Thunderbolt who lived at Freeman’s Reach and
attended Wilberforce school.
When Wilberforce was first settled there was no church there,
and church services were held in the schoolhouse until the church
was consecrated. In 1856 construction on St John’s church
commenced, John having contributed £3/3 towards the building
fund. John constructed a vertical sundial on the northern wall
facing the Schoolhouse. On the bottom are his initials, J.W., and
on the top is the year of consecration of the church, 1859. Sadly
it also became the year of John’s death, so that the sundial that
he created became a memorial to himself.
(There are also reports that the sundial was presented to the Church afterJohns
death which seems incorrect.)
John Wenban was a highly skilled musician, and did some work as a piano tuner.
He also lead the stringed instruments providing music for the church choir, playing
“the big fiddle”, one of three violins that provided the accompaniment to the choir and
served as a churchwarden and Parish Clerk.
Extracts from an article by Jenny Joyce (Thanks Jenny)
A Tragic Accident
Historians recount of Johns death.
I thought I'd start with some information about the death of John Wenban (son of William and Dinah Burgess), the first member of the family to come out to Australia.
Firstly, a newspaper account of his death:
"FATAL ACCIDENT AND MAGISTERIAL INQUIRY - On Sunday evening last, just after sundown, Mr. John Wenban and family, of Wilberforce, were returning home in a spring-cart. In turning a corner, near his own house, one of the wheels of the cart went into a hole, the vehicle gave a sudden jerk and Mr Wenban was thrown out with great violence on the ground. The horse immediately became unmanageable, when the eldest daughter of Mr Wenban jumped out and caught him by the head, but was unable to hold him. The animal then bolted off, and capsized the vehicle with three of the children underneath. Soon afterwards the horse got away from his harness, but not until two of the children were severely hurt. Mr Wenban's skull was so severely fractured that he expired in about twenty minutes of the fall. A magisterial inquiry into the cause of death took place before Dr. Day J.P (in the absence of the coroner) on the following day when the foregoing facts were elicited. Mr. Wenban had filled the office of Church of England teacher at Wilberforce for several years, and was much respected by the inhabitants, very many of whom sorrowfully followed his remains to their final resting place on Wednesday."
Next, extracts of the story of John Wenban's accident and death as told in a letter from Mrs Childs to her niece (undated), included amongst the Wenban papers in the Mitchell Library, NSW
"Uncle John was not killed coming from church. They all went but Ruth, and she was
left home to cook the dinner. She was the good worker of the family and as such was
always in good demand, also she was her Father's favourite daughter.
"After she had cleared up the dinner she remarked that she was tired, and would enjoy
a drive, so her father told her to get ready and he would take her for one.
"Roads were only tracks cut through the bush for a one horse track, and it happened
that for some reason the horse stepped out of his track into the wheel track and the
wheel struck a stump, which threw him (Uncle John) out of the cart. He did not live long.
When someone asked how he came to be out driving he said Ruth was tired and wanted
a drive. Poor Ruth said she never forgave herself for saying so. After his death they had
the local Post Office to help them along, then Ruth married John Ford, a farmer at
Wilberforce, and Sheba and her mother were left to the Post Office as Emily was also
married. Sheba was engaged to Henry Beigent, the son of an old friend of Aunt Mary's ...
When Sheba met William Hudson she promptly jilted Henry for the rich man whom she
married - a good man too, I believe - I knew people who worked for the Firm, they always
spoke well of him as being the brains as well as the best loved of the Firm ..."
(The firm would be Hudsons Timber which went on to become Hudsons Timber and
Hardware, That’s ‘UDSON with a ‘H').
The following is a brief summary of the direction of the original Wenban Children in Australia from whom all Australian Wenbans are decended.
In order of age...
1825 - 1914 Married James Benbow Mountford 20th May 1846 I have a notation here of a Dr. Morgan. It is not clear but I think he may have been the attending doctor at her birth. Her godparents were Mary Pipers parents and Marys sister Elizabeth Piper.
Mary Anne had 3 sons and 2 daughters.
1826 - 1910 Married John Annesley Merab also had 6 children. 4 sons and 2 daughters.
1828 - 1892 Married Mary Ann Greentree 1827 - 1907 David apparently walked in his fathers footsteps and took on the trade of Wheelwright and Blacksmith. He also taught the violin as did his father John. David left a journal in the Mitchell library in Sydney for those interesWenbans ted in persuing further details of my facinating Gt. Gt.Grandfather. David had a blacksmith shop at Wilberforce which was removed to the pioneer village near Wilberforce. David left Wilberforce to live at Benner Spring Terrace near Milthorpe NSW in 1871 the area is still known as Corner.
David had a blacksmith shop in Wilberforce which he rented to George Atkins.
This article from Silvio Biancotti
"David Wenban/ Atkin's Blacksmith's Shop (M.C. file)
Originally sited in Wilberforce on the SW corner of the Singleton (Putty) Road and King Street, only a couple of hundred metres from its present relocation site, this blacksmith's shop was operated by George Atkins from 1862 when he rented it as a new shop from David Wenban, son of Wilberforce schoolmaster John Wenban. George Atkins, a blacksmith of exceptional ability, in 1874 invented the single furrow steel plough, which revolutionised Hawkesbury cropping. At the Sydney International Exhibition of 1879 he received a 'commended' Award for his entries of a plough and scuffler. Atkins' single furrow plough was highly regarded and late in the nineteenth century there was scarcely a farm in the district that did not have an Atkins plough. George's son William and grandson William were blacksmiths in the same premises spanning over 80 years. When the business closed down in 1943 (1). Of particular interest is the original stone quenching trough used by the Atkins family, located at the rear of the Blacksmiths shop (2). An Atkins plough is on display in the Blacksmith's shop at the Australiana Pioneer Village today. This whole section of the original shop was moved intact to the Village in May 1970".
4.9.1830 - 1900's Married Grace Holden. His godparents were Mary Pipers father and Marys brother Richard and his wife.
Saul was born 1830-1900s in Hawkehurst,Sussex, and married Grace Holden who died in 1923. He was a tailor and went north (Tamworth) with Jesse until 1881 approx. Then returned to Sydney and lived in Waterloo, Glebe and Bardon Street,Tempe where he died.
A Fanny Wenban(a tailoress) lived with him and Grace Holden whom he married in 1870s, but she may have been the product of an earlier marriage, because it seems that there were two daughters from Saul and Grace's marriage - a Mabel Caroline who died in Nedlands WA in 1953, and another daughter called Winifred Fanny (not the first Fanny?) who married a George Baldock who died in 1966. Fanny lived with Grace in Tempe from 1909- 1919, and in Lakemba St .Lakemba for a little while.In 1924, after Grace had died, Fanny was still the main householder in the Lakemba house.After her marriage to George Balcock, it seems that she moved to WA to be nearer to her sister.Mabel who died in Nedlands in 1953; George Baldock died in 1966 and Fanny died in 1979 and is buried in Karrakatta cemetery, WA. Grace and Saul are buried at Waverley Cemetary.
Jesse... 1832 - 1898
His Godparents were Thomas Piper, brother of Mary and James Reed, husband of Jane , Marys twin sister.
Jesse married Mary Judith Ward in 1867 at Como NSW a Southern suburb of Sydney. Jesse was a carpenter and worked for David Wenban at one stage at Wilberforce. He moved to Tamworth about 1870 and then to Gunnedah in 1882 - 1883 Then with the great drought of that time and employment hard to find moved to Throsby Street .
Jesse and Judith had 4 sons and 3 daughters.
Michal...1835 - ?
Godparents were Richard Piper and "Fanny" Frances, Marys sister.
Michal married Michael George Ford in 1853 at Wilberforce. Michal had 11 children 3 daughters and 6 sons.
Michals sister Ruth Wenban married Michaels brother John Ford.
Michal and Michael are buried at St.Lukes Church of England Wollar NSW.
The following information was kindly sent by Colleen Woodbury who wrote the following...
"I am descended from the Michael George FORD line. Michael was married to Michal WENBAN on 8 March 1853 at St John's C/E, Wilberforce, NSW."
Michal as mentioned previously was one of the original Wenban girls to arrive in Australia in 1838.
As it turns out, Michal and her sister Ruth, were dating the Ford brothers and subsequently both married into the Ford family.
Colleen also sent us a photo of a very old Mary Wenban. and some brilliant shots of the Milthorpe Wenbans coach building business which are displayed on the Aussie Wenbans page.
Emily was the First Australian born Wenban. Emily was born in 1839 in Pitt Town. She was married twice, first to John Cullen-Browne in 1862, he died the same year from an accident. She had a son to him named John. She later married John Beston in 1870 a schoolteacher who was originally from Dungarvan Ireland. He was also a widower. They had 2 children Arthur Beston born in 1872 and a daughter Emily Beston in 1874 who later married a York man. Emily Wenban- Beston died 3 weeks later following the birth from Puerpral fever (post-partum sepsis) she was only 36 years of age. She is buried in the old Campbelltown Catholic Cemetery. They were living at Spaniards Hill at the time near Picton NSW. which is now known as Douglass Park. The old Catholic School and Schoolmaster's residence no longer exist.
Below was submitted by Jenny Joyce from information supplied by Christine Beston Banks on the life of Emily.
Christine is the Great Grandaughter of Emily.
I have written up what I know about the life of Emily Wenban (see below). I do not know of any photos of Emily.
Emily was conceived at the beginning of 1838, when her parents, John and Mary Wenban, were still living in Hawkhurst in Kent. The family already had seven children, but soon after Emily’s conception their youngest son, Walter, died of “fits” (12 Feb 1838).
The family decided to emigrate to NSW and on 24th June 1838, the Wenbans were amongst about 350 assisted immigrants who left Gravesend on the “Maitland”. Unfortunately disease broke out on board and 34 people died during the voyage. When the “Maitland” arrived in Sydney on 6 Nov 1838 she was placed in Quarantine, where her passengers remained for 23 days and where 5 more deaths occurred.
Once released from quarantine the family moved to Pitt Town, where John worked as a wheelwright on McDonald’s Farm. Two weeks after her release from quarantine, Mary gave birth to Emily (15 Dec 1838). Emily was baptised on the 27th January 1839 at Pitt Town.
In 1842 the family moved over the river to Wilberforce, where John became the second school master, and where the last two daughters were born to John and Mary.
On 5 Feb 1861 Emily married John Cullen Brown, the grandson of a convict, in Sydney. Sadly, John died on 18 Jul 1861 of “Exhaustion from severe injury to leg” at Millers Point, Sydney. Emily was pregnant with his son, John Cullen Browne II, who was born 29 Nov 1861 gave birth to son John Cullen Brown II at Wilberforce. The boy seems to have been raised by his uncle, William Charles Browne, at Pullaming Station.
Nothing more is known of Emily until 6 May 1871, when she married John Beston at Camden . He was an Irish Catholic Schoolteacher, who had been born about 1827 in Dungarvan, Waterford, Ireland, and had arrived as an assisted immigrant in Morton Bay in 1855 on the “Fortune” with his wife Sabina Alice Gavin, who he had married in Dublin. The couple had 5 children (Mary, James, Michael, Margaret & Teresa) before Sabina died in 1868.
Emily and John Beston had two children, Arthur, born 1872, and Emily Teresa, born 1874. Emily died 3 weeks later (19 May 1874) of Puerperal Fever, leaving John a widower with 7 children. All of these events occurred at Spaniard’s Hill near Camden. Emily was buried 25 May 1874 at the Pioneer Section, Old Roman Catholic Cemetery, Campbelltown NSW.
Ruth... 1842 -
Ruth married the brother of her sisters husband. Ruth and John Ford had 5 children, 2 girls and 3 boys.
Ruth Ford (Wenban) lived in Strathfield the last five years of her life.
Bathsheba married William Hudson who's family latter went on to become Hudsons Timber and Hardware.
Thats 'udsom with a "H"
Bathsheba and William had 8 children, 4 boys and 4 girls.
© 2008 Wenban Family. Website by Myles design.
The Colonial Life
Proposed Flag c1838
John Wenbans Sundial
John Wenbans Grave Wilberforce NSW
· John Wenban, ( the authors Gt,Gt,Gt Grandfather)
· David Wenban,(the authors Gt,Gt Grandfather)
.Saul Wenban and Jesse Wenban
· Mary Wenban
· Michal Wenban, Emily Wenban and either Mary Ann Wenban or Merab
Wenban (the location of the other daughter is unknown – she may have been visiting friends)
· 1 male ticket of leave convict, single, aged between 21 and 45, Church of
England, Mechanic and artificer, name unknown.
John Wenban started an account book while he was living in Pitt Town. It records the birth of many cows, such as “Bally”, “Beauty” and “Nimrod”. It also shows records of money received for ferrying people across the river and for singing in the Pitt Town Hall and teaching the fiddle, along with details of a large flood in the Hawkesbury Low lands (April 18 & 19 1842).
Family Tree. hand penned by John Wenban
Wilberforce Parochial School - Roll Book
Fees 6/- per quarter
Girls - June 1856
Mary Ann Bowd
Ellen Bushell Elizabeth Cavanough Mary A. Cavanough Ann Cross
Rosanna Cross Susan Cross
Mary A. Cobcroft Blanch Dunstan Grace Dunstan Rachel Dunston Hannah Durrington
Sarah Durrington Maria Farlow
Em Robinson Rosanne Teal
Bathsheba Wenban Ruth Wenban
click photo to enlarge
Wilberforce Parochial School c1819
St Johns Church Wilberforce
Front view St Johns
copies of original immigration arrival of John and Mary aboard the "Maitland" in 1838
A "sampler" sewn by the hand of Ruth Wenban C.1850's
Bathsheba & Merab