Sunday, 29 August 2010
LEFT: A scene from rural Devon.
There is no denying that Devon is a pretty place and the countryside in which Elizabeth Mashford was born is some of the prettiest. I wonder did she pine for those lush green fields during the heat of an Australian summer's day? Or did she leave it all behind; simply grateful to be free in a new country with little or no class system and far, far greater opportunities for her children?
One thing is sure, it is unlikely that the little girl had much time to play, let alone sit back and admire scenery. But who knows. Perhaps she bathed in a stream or washed her clothes in one and in the doing found respite from a life of constant drudgery.
In that changing way of mind which seems to be part and parcel of this process, I am now thinking that Partridge is a more likely 'surname' for our bastard Elizabeth.
The reasons are two-fold: a. the name Haynes did not appear until she married Edward Atkins and b. there is a Partridge family which has had a presence in Devon since the 16th century. They are not 'noble' in the truest sense, but they are certainly an 'old' family and compared to the Mashfords were no doubt very wealthy.
The family story handed down by my father and numerous other relatives, of a 'noble' family, may have really been a story of a 'rich' family. The Mashfords were pretty much as 'poor as church mice' from what I can see so 'rich' in their terms may not have been 'rich' in real terms. It did not take much to be the 'betters' of the Mashfords. And time and distance can embellish the truth quite nicely.
The Partridge family were farmers and clearly quite well-off given the lands they owned in the 18th and 19th centuries. Nymet Mills,Hawkridge Farm,Park Mill, Parsonage Farm or Easington in the Nymet Rowland/Lapford/Coldridge areas were where the Partridges lived and farmed in the 1700-1800's.
And one of these holdings, Parsonage Farm, was situated in Winkleigh, Devon. The Partridge family has a long history in Winkleigh and this is where I found a record of an Elizabeth Mashford's birth with mother Elizabeth Mashford and father ? Partridg(e). The lack of a christian name for the father is unusual and the fact that the child took her mother's name is a good bet she was illegitimate.
Checking the parish records for the birth is likely to be the only way this can be confirmed. In the meantime, in that 'jigsaw' way of things, our 'maybe' looks a bit more of a 'likely' given that our family story can be made to 'fit' the time and the place.
And while the Partridge's were not 'noble' in the sense one would give to that word, they certainly had 'noble lineage' and would have been seen to be amongst the 'better classes' in the little village of Winkleigh in the early 19th century when Elizabeth Mashford (Lewis) Atkins was born.
So, not much chance of anything 'grand' to be found in the Mashford past. And it is a reminder of how the way that we 'interpret' words influences what we believe. I am sure, living in the wilds of the Wirrabarra Forest, surrounded by the anarchic drift of Australian bush, that a large farming estate in Devon could have seemed pretty 'grand' to the illegitimate Elizabeth. Or perhaps, like so many illegitimate children, what was important to her was keeping the memory alive of a father she never knew and a life which had been denied to her.
But times change for everyone and these days Parsonage Farm, in Winkleigh, bordered by the Rivers Torridge and Okement, is a family dairy farm which offers B&B accommodation. It's an ordinary looking house by today's standards, but Elizabeth's story is not about today's standards but about the world in which she lived. To the poorest of the poor in the early 19th century it would have seemed a very grand house indeed.
Did Elizabeth's mother work there? Probably. There would not have been much opportunity for a servant girl to meet the son of a wealthy farmer... or perhaps the wealthy farmer himself .... otherwise. The other possibility is that she worked for a trader and delivered goods to the house.
Whatever the truth it is unlikely that Elizabeth Mashford (Lewis) Atkins was brought into being through much more than a momentary encounter. Any father she had would have been only in a biological sense, although that, in the times, as today can count for quite a bit.
And perhaps, as she talked to her children about the world she had left behind, the truth became even more prettily embroidered until it became a tale of a child, born to be a 'lady' but denied it because of her birth?
What is interesting is that Elizabeth Mashford (Lewis) Atkins clearly did talk to her children about her birth or it could not have been handed down through her descendants. The shame of illegitimacy was great and yet she still felt compelled to talk of it. Perhaps, so far away, on long nights, beneath star-glittering inky skies, she felt it did not matter if her children knew .... or for that matter, her husband.
Our family story also says that the wife of Elizabeth's father was actively involved in having his bastard removed from sight. Given that she was in her late twenties when she took ship for Australia, this is probably unlikely. Unless of course she grew up to be such a mirror image of her mother that 'painful' memories were triggered in Mrs Partridge and she took action to remove them forthwith.
Sunday, 22 August 2010
The conjectural nature of ancestry research gets convoluted at the best of times.
It's pretty much all on a wing and a prayer but I am a great believer in the reality of intuition. Given the meagre and commonplace nature of much of the information which comes to hand, intuition is probably a better guide.
Like any 'investigation' the evidence which initially comes to hand is in the form of 'clues,' 'signs', 'possible leads', 'likely scenarios,' and an understanding of the circumstances, the human condition and the times. Pulling 'out' the obscure and 'broken' bits of information and trying to clarify them is like working away with a small brush on some archeological dig; not knowing if what you have found is of any value, but needing all the same to work away at the 'residue' until something is revealed.
Any investigator, whether criminal, archeological or genealogical will rely upon instinct some of the time.... if not a lot of the time. Ironically, the greatest archeological finds in history have been made by amateurs who were not held back by academic rules, regulations and expectations and who simply followed their gut instincts. One of the most famous was the discovery of the ancient site of Troy, by Heinrich Schliemann; adventurer, speaker of 15 languages, world traveller, and gifted amateur archaeologist. Schlieman ignored the theories of the day and pushed on regardless. No doubt like The Fool in the Tarot Deck, he needed to close his ears to the stories which others told and to take a leap into the unknown; following his own heart and his own intuition.
Schlieman pored over Homer's writings, particularly The Iliad, in a search for clues to the lost city. And then he spent years in the dirt and dust trying to put those clues into place. Genealogy is a tidier passion but just as demanding of time and effort. One great benefit today is the internet; a valuable tool when one is 'riding on instinct.' There is nothing which cannot be instantly explored, at least at a superficial level. And the 'net' also allows information to be 'drawn' to the search. Information 'posted' on the net becomes available to the millions of 'spiders' which constantly 'search' for relevant words. It brought a photograph of Elizabeth Mashford (Lewis) Atkins which most of her descendants did not know existed.
Whether information is ultimately found to be right, wrong or inconclusive, the reality is that the more information which is put up on the internet, the greater the chance of being found by a researcher who might just have more information. It has certainly happened before and hopefully will happen again.
At this point my intuition is telling me that Edward Atkins may well have been a convict or, more likely, the son of a convict. It may all end as a dead-end but it is one possibility which needs to be explored. There is always a reason why things are as they are and why people do what they do.
Immigrant records to South Australia are quite good but there appears to be no trace of Edward Atkins arriving. And, when he did 'appear' at his marriage to Hannah McLeod in 1843 he did not put down his father's name. Family ties were strong in the 19th century and honouring one's mother and father was expected. There is a reason why he did not name his father. We just don't know what it was.
However, by 1857 he was prepared to write Joseph on his marriage certificate. What had changed? Probably his attidude or his circumstances. He was older, wiser and perhaps felt safer. Or perhaps his father was dead. Whatever the truth, in 1857 we have a name and a time-frame which might lead to the origin of the Atkins family.
Edward Atkins, if his age at death is correct, was born in 1813. However, given the inaccuracies of age at the time, it is safer to assume that he was born sometime around 1810... give or take five years either way. But, working on 1813, he was 30 when he married Hannah McLeod which suggests he may well have been married before and lost his wife; or he was too poor to marry any younger.
A lot of birth, marriage and death records are not available online yet and if Edward was born in another State, or married in another State, it will take time to find any information .... should it even exist. Many of the earliest records from Australia's settlers have been lost or destroyed. But, we have to start somewhere and on a positive note, convict records are probably more comprehensive and more available than most.
Was Joseph Atkins a convict? Edward's age-frame suggests that his father could have been born anytime between 1760 and 1790. There are three Joseph Atkins recorded as convicts arriving in Australia between 1792 and 1803.
A Joseph Atkins of Hampshire was convicted in 1801 and was given a life sentence. He arrived at Sydney on The Glatton, in 1803. At this point I know nothing more about him but he remains a possibility.
A Joseph Atkins was one of 325 convicts transported to the colonies for 14 years and arriving at Sydney on the Royal Admiral in May of 1792. However, this Joseph Atkins is listed in New South Wales and Norfold Deaths as being dying later that same year on December 3, 1792. So it is definitely not him.
And then there is Joseph Atkins, of Middlesex who was convicted in The Old Bailey, London, in 1789 and given a seven year sentence, arriving at Sydney on The Salamander, as part of the Third Convict Fleet, in 1791.
While no further details, including age, are as yet available, this Joseph is a 'strong' possibility for two reasons;
a. he would have gained his freedom in 1796-8 - convicts could get a Ticket of Leave after serving four years - and would fit the time-frame for Edward's birth around 1810 and b. a Richard Haynes was on the same ship.
ABOVE: A record of Joseph Atkins trial at the Old Bailey in 1789.
The Haynes name may well be a link in terms of tracing Edward Atkins' family. I had originally thought it was connected to Elizabeth but the fact that none of her Lewis children were given the name Haynes makes me wonder if it was a name which was important to Edward instead.
A Joseph Haynes arrived at the same time as Joseph Atkins; on the ship Kent which was also a part of the Third Fleet. Death records show a Joseph Haynes, Parramatta Convict dying on December 1, 1791 shortly after arriving; an infant, Sarah Haynes died on December 6, 1792 - parents John and Ann; Richard Haynes, who travelled on The Salamander with Joseph Atkins died in March 1794 and William Haynes, who came out as a convict on the first fleet in 1788, died July 9, 1801, at Parramatta.
So there was clearly a large Haynes family in Parramatta at the same time that Joseph Atkins was serving out his sentence. Given that one member of the family had travelled on the same ship with him, from England to Australia, it is feasible, if not likely, that an attachement was formed with the family and perhaps with the woman who would become his wife.
So, for the moment, this Joseph Atkins looks to be a possibility. There is quite a bit of general information on his court case and transportation, but nothing specific enough to make the link more certain. This is the 'maybe likely' stage.
The Old Bailey Records show:
Joseph Atkins, theft from a specified place, 22nd April, 1789.
Joseph Atkins was indicted for stealing on the 6th of January, twenty pounds weight of leaden pipe, value 3s. the property of John Lisle, affixed to his dwelling house, against the statue.
JOHN LISLE sworn.
I am a house-keeper , the lead was stole from the house in which I live, I lost it on the 6th of January, I don't recollect the day of the week, it was about eight o'clock in the morning; I saw it on the day before when the water came in, I knew it to be my property; one of the tenants gave me information of it's being stolen.
I am a watchman, I took the prisoner, he had a sack on his back; I took him with the property; I knew him before.
Transported for seven years .
Tried by the first Middlesex Jury before Mr. ROSE
It seems a trivial crime but these were the days when people were transported for stealing a loaf of bread and I am sure that a length of lead pipe would have been worth a lot in those days.
ABOVE: From one hell to another - prison, ship and the new colony.
He sailed on the 27th March 1791, from Plymouth, on the Salamander, part of the Third Fleet, in the charge of Lieutenant Richard Bowen as Naval Agent. A total of 160 males embarked, there were 5 deaths aboard, and 155 disembarked. The Salamander was a vessel of 320 tons, the Master being a, J . Nichol The ship had been turned by a Thames shipyard in 1776.
It appears that The Salamander and the other ships in the fleet had several attempts at leaving Plymouth before they succeeded. The Salamander sailed with the Plymouth Division of the third fleet accompanied by the ships, William and Anne, and the Atlantic.
The main fleet sailed in two divisions; the Atlantic, Salamander and William & Ann left Plymouth on 27 Mar 1791 while the Albemarle, Active, Admiral Barrington, Britannia and Mathilda left Portsmouth on the same day. The Mary Ann had sailed more than a month earlier and HMS Gorgon had made her departure on 15 March 1791. However, the ships reached Port Jackson over a period which extended from ( July 1791 (Mary Ann) to 16 October 1791 (Admiral Barrington).
While the ships of the Plymouth division stayed together until the Salamander parted company near the equator, those of the Portsmouth division were soon scattered by stormy weather almost from the first night at sea. With the fleet scattered miles apart a mutiny erupted on the Abermarle which resulted in summary execution for two of the convicts. They were hanged at the yardarm on the day of the mutiny, 9 April 1791.
It was a time when crime and criminals were seen in black and white terms and those who offended were believed to be of inferior nature. Making an example of them was seen as a way to 'teach' other inferiors how to behave. It would be many decades before more enlightened people made the association between crime and poverty.
The Plymouth division regrouped at Rio de Janeiro and sailed from that port together. But more bad weather separated them. All three ships sailed directly from Rio to Port Jackson. This was the first time that ships had made the journey without a stopover in Cape Town. Ships of the Portsmouth division variously raced and limped into Port Jackson. The Atlantic was the first ship to sail non-stop from Rio de Janeiro to Sydney and The Salamander was the second. The Salamander arrived at Port Jackson on the 21st August 1791, 147 days out of Plymouth.
From the NEW HOLLAND MORNING POST", 18th October, 1791
A LIST OF CRIMINALS (including Joseph Atkins and members of the Haynes family) who have come to our shores in recent months
Our readers will find hereunder a List of Persons transported as Criminals to New South Wales in the Ships as following, via: Atlantic, William and Ann, Britannia, Matilda, Salamander, Albemarle, Mary Anne, Admiral Barrington, Active and Gorgon.
THE THIRD FLEET of 11 ships arrived in 1791, with over 2000 convicts. The newspaper report states that 194 male convicts and 4 female convicts died during the voyage, and that though conditions on board ship weren't as 'diabolical' as the previous year, they were still outrageous.
While conditions in English prisons were horrendous, so too were conditions on the ships and at this time, pretty bad in the New South Wales colony. From one hell on earth to another and then another. But there is no denying that the citizens of the New South Wales colony, no matter how bad their situation, were absolutely horrified by what arrived on their shore.
The Sydney Cove Chronicle 30TH JUNE, 1790 states:
At last the transports are here DIABOLICAL CONDITION OF THE CONVICTS THEREON 278 died on the fearsome journey to Sydney Cove.
Less than one month since, the cry of “The flag’s up” rang upon our hopeless community and sent our Spirits soaring upwards, our hope renewed and our bellies filled.
Since the Lady Juliana hove to in Sydney Cove upon that day, four more ships have arrived in the Fleet, and our Joy at receiving the newcomers has turned to exceeding distress.
The sights that have confronted us within the month past have been sights shocking indeed to all Christian Humanity. We have seen the consequences of diabolical outrages committed in the name of Justice.
We have seen Human Beings, with minds and souls and emotions, that have suffered as greatly as their bodies, crawling upon our shores like wild beasts upon all fours, so feeble, so starved, so crippled they were.
Indeed, as our most excellent Governor Phillip was heard to remark upon observing with great distress and pity the scenes at the unloading of the transports, To bring men and women to this Colony in such a manner was like murdering them.
The Transports departed from England with a consignment of more than one thousand convicts – we find ourselves at this time unable to be more exact.
The Neptune carried 424 convicts. Upon arrival, we are informed, 147 had died during the voyage. This same ship of death carried 78 female convicts, and 11 are no more, due to the iniquitous misuse they received while upon their journey. The Scarborough carried 259 male convicts. We learn 73 expired before the ship weighed anchor at Port Jackson. The Surprize carried 256 male convicts and it is believed 42 breathed their last while being transported.
The remaining transport shows improvement. The Lady Juliana carried 226 female convicts and only five failed to survive the voyage. The remainder are in remarkable health. Whilst we must stress that these figures are only such as we have been able to estimate due to the confusion that reigns upon our Settlement, and a later assessment may cause them thus to be amended, our Readers can do nothing but concur that the numbers of those expired, 278 in all, make a total shocking to any man with Human Sensibilities.
It will be remembered that only 48 persons expired upon our own voyage two years since, despite hazardous health conditions and inclemencies of the weather.
The landing of those who remained alive despite their misuse upon the recent voyage, could not fail to horrify those who watched.
ABOVE: England's prisons were overcrowded and convicts often spent months or years on rotting prison hulks before being transported.
As they came on shore, these wretched people were hardly able to move hand or foot. Such as could not carry themselves upon their legs, crawled upon all fours. Those who, through their afflictions, were not able to move, were thrown over the side of the ships, as sacks of flour would be thrown, into the small boats.
Some expired in the boats; others as they reached the shore. Some fainted and were carried by those who fared better. More had not the opportunity even to leave their ocean prisons for as they came upon decks, the fresh air only hastened their demise.
A sight most outrageous to our eyes were the marks of leg irons upon the convicts, some so deep that one could nigh on see the bones.
The scenes on shore at the present are truly piteous. The two Hospitals, one of which was brought by the Justinian, are filled with the screams of those in agony, and the murmurings of those in delirium. Those for whom there is no room in the Hospitals lie beneath their tents, their bodies trembling from scurvy, dysentery and fever.
Those convicts who were able to manage for themselves are stealing food from the very hands of those too ill to make protest or dying. We may expect many more to breathe their last this night, and in some instances the Fearsome Shadow will prove a most happy release from their death agonies.
We learn that several children have been borne to women upon the Lady Juliana, the cause for which were the crews abroad African slave ships which met up with the transport at Santa Cruz.
Full wonder it is, indeed, that these children have survived, and provident it is that they came into the world upon a ship whose captain was endowed with Christian rectitude and generosity.
Conditions in the new colony were hardly easy which makes the horror expressed about the treatment of convicts on the long journey to Australia that much more damning. And such expressions of horror and condemnation would ultimately have an impact upon Mother England. These were the days when the 'worst of things' happened on such journeys and over time conditions would gradually improve.
In another report, from The Reverend Richard Johnson:
The Reverend Richard Johnson, whose Moral Rectitude and Charitable Forbearance are well known within this Settlement, was the first man to board the convict ship, Surprize.
In an interview later with this Christian Gentlemen, he revealed to your Correspondent his deep distress and horror at the sights he beheld below deck aboard that ship. He remarked that it would e’er be a long time, if ever, that he could forget the misery he had witnessed.
The convicts, he said, we in a most piteous state. Some were half-clothed, some we nigh on naked. Even the dead and dying were still in leg irons. Their discomfort, grievous as it was, was made even more so by the lack of beds or bedding.
There was much moaning and groaning from the wretched individuals, who lay in filthy heaps. Lice abounded, and the odour which arose was foul and fetid.
The Reverend Gentleman spoke of convicts who had breathed their last after the ship had entered our harbour, whereupon their lifeless and wasted bodies were thrown naked upon the rocks.
It will gratify the men of our Settlement that His Majesty’s Ministers will hear of the diabolical atrocities committed in the name of the Government.
It will gratify the men of Our Settlement that the scurrilous rogues responsible for those atrocities be brought to account for their inhuman treatment of the convicts – for Englishmen those convicts still remain, though outcast from society through their misdeeds.
Without a doubt, His Excellency, Governor Phillip, will make it exceeding plain to the Authorities the condition in which the unhappy wretches, committed already to their punishment by England’s Judges, were punished even more so within their ocean prisons.
He has already shewn his anger to the Masters of the transports on many occasions, holding them responsible for the skeletons of men they brought to us. He treatment of the convicts on most of the transports, particularly the Neptune, has been savagely brutal.
We have learned that men were so heavily fettered below deck they scarce could move. We have learned that those same fetters were kept upon those men despite agonising sufferings – and that some died still in their chains.
The demoniacal and barbarous treatment of not permitting convicts to take a goodly portion of fresh air daily, of keeping them below deck in foul and rancid atmospheres, of encouraging vermin and filth to accumulate in such environments, will not be tolerated by men of Sensibility.
Starvation was added to the sufferings of the wretched consignment from England. Even the men and Officers of the NSW Corps had reason to complain about the shortage of rations. Yet we know the ships must have been well-provisioned, for immediately they arrived some of the masters opened stores and exposed large quantities of goods at extortionate prices, despite which they were eagerly bought.
Captain William Hill, of the NSW Corps, who travelled upon the transport, Surprize, has described to your Correspondent the outrageous conditions on board, and added that the slave trade from Africa is merciful indeed, compared to some of the scenes he witnessed during the voyage. He states he will never recover from such sights.
The carriage of the convicts was in the hands of private contractors, and it is well known that contractors are economical fellows. They had much to gain by overcrowding conditions and by reducing supplies of rations.
ABOVE: Convicts were put to work building roads for the new colony.
The appalling state of the men and women who were thrown, dragged, dropped or who fell, crawled or hobbled off these ships was reflective of one of the darkest times in history. The convicts suffered perhaps more than the miserable creatures chained on slave ships.... if only because slaves were a valuable commodity and convicts were inferior beings who needed to be taught a lesson; the dregs of humanity with no right to live in a civilized society.
It is yet another irony, that Australia, birthed from such 'dregs' has grown to become one of the most pleasant, efficient, sophisticated, just and law-abiding countries in the world. When you start at the bottom there is only one way to go and that is up. In 1791 when Joseph Atkins arrived, the 'way up' may have seemed almost impossible. But, because of the courage and hard work of convicts, soldiers and settlers, his descendants, whether they be mine or not, can live in order, harmony and beauty today.
But all of this was a long way in the future. The colony itself was in dire straits. The Guardian, one of the ships in the convoy, had hit an iceberg. Many of the crew were saved and the ship was towed to shore but eventually abandoned. More crucially, along with its loss went provisions which would have kept the colony fed for two years. The settlement was in despair.
WOE TO OUR YOUNG SETTLEMENT Deplorable paucity of provisions stores and cloathing:
So the Guardian is lost and with it our provisions. What, in the name of Heaven, is to become of us?
Our people are feeble, we have many hundreds more mouths to feed, and our larder is far from adequate.
The atmosphere that prevails in our small Settlement differs exceedingly from that joyous day near one month since, when the cry of “The flag’s up” rang forth and a ship carrying the British colours was espied for the first time in two and one half years.
The did we present a scene of happiness, of kissing those nearest us, of being so overcome in our emotions as to make us insensible even of speech.
Today, we are a veritable picture of misery, and the distressing and deplorable condition in which our newcomers find themselves – more of that in other columns of this Journal – does nothing to alleviate our pitiable state.
Her Majesty’s Government must know what is going on. We cannot be left to starve.
It has been made known to the Authorities that our paucity of provisions, stores, cloathing and tools places us in a diabolical position.
We have eaten not one ounce of fresh meat these three years since – save the flesh of the kangaroo, fish, and birds, which are variable both in quantity and quality. Much of the livestock we brought with us has wandered off, died or been killed.
And the food, such as we have, is, apart from that carried by the storeship, Justinian, and the transports themselves, three years old.
ABOVE: Conditions in the new colony were difficult for convicts, soldiers and settlers alike.
Vast quantities of flour has been spoiled, and condemned as unfit for use, and were it not for the recent arrivals, it would have been finished in November. Likewise, our pork would have lasted only two weeks more, and our rice until September.
No soul upon this Earth could accuse us of improvidence. Since our arrival in New Holland we have been rationed with our supplies, in the first instance to seven pounds of bread or flour weekly; seven pounds of beef or four pounds of pork; three pints of pease; six ounces of butter; and one half pound of rice.
Since that time our rations have been reduced on two occasions, until at the time when the Lady Juliana was sighted, we were receiving the miserable amount of two and one half pounds of flour, two pounds of pork and two pounds of rice, weekly.
We have become feeble, unable to work more than three hours in one day without severe discomfort. Scurvy has become rift. Our sufferings both of body and spirit have indeed been great.
No wonder so many convicts died within a few years of arriving. Joseph Atkins, of Middlesex, is not however listed among the dead. We can only presume he lived, at least long enough to marry, have children and possibly to gain his freedom.
A Joseph Atkins died in Parramatta, in 1875 at the age of 97. Is it Joseph Atkins who came out as a convict in 1791? He would have been thirteen when he arrived and seventeen if he got an early ticket of leave or twenty if he did not, when he gained his freedom. And if he is the father of our Edward, he would have been born in 1778 and about 30 when his son was born.
However, I have just found a record of a Joseph Atkins, born Middlesex, 1776. If this Joseph can be linked through age with the Joseph Atkins convicted in the Old Bailey then the only thing left to do is connect him with our Edward Atkins. Many things are unlikely but nothing is impossible with ancestry research.
Monday, 16 August 2010
Emigrants had to be recommended for their sobriety and industry and be known to be of ‘good character.’ Which means they had to have references; which means they were gainfully employed and reliable and responsible enough to procure such references. Or they had the money to pay a good forger which I am sure happened more than once.
And, just like the ‘Ten Pound Pom’ Scheme more than one hundred years later, the Mashfords would have had to sign an agreement that they would stay for a certain amount of time.
If they quit the colony within four years of landing or went to the goldfields... an ever present lure just over the border in Victoria... then they had to repay a large proportion of their passage money.
The Colonisation Circular which could be purchased for ‘tuppence’ contained all the information they would need before setting out on their journey. We can only presume that at least one Mashford could read and write or had the money to pay someone to do the reading for them. I am sure all that industry, sobriety and good character would have had them welll prepared.
Emigrants would often have to wait weeks before being told a departure date and, when it came, it would often be announced at short notice. They would have been packed and ready to go for quite some time. The Circular told them that they had to provide their own bedding, a drinking mug... made of tin or pewter, knife and fork and spoon.
When the ‘call to ship’ came they would have hurried to the docks. One presumes this means they were living in quarters nearby in the weeks prior to departure. Each emigrant was expected to carry their own goods on board and stow them in their ‘space.’ It wasn’t much space, barely wide enough for two with a hessian and straw mattress for a bed. It may however have been an improvement for the Mashfords or conditions with which they were long familiar.
The ‘beds’ had no separations between them so privacy was nonexistent. A long table ran the length of the area at the bottom of their sleeping quarters. This was where they would live and eat and sleep for the months it took to reach Australia.
Conditions were cramped to say the least. There were nearly 200 passengers on the ship, chiefly from the mining districts of Devon and Cornwall. Some 195 ½ passengers actually according to the records including 39 married couples; 36 boys, one aged 14; 27 girls; four boys under one; three girls under one; 43 single men; 41 single women and one presumes the ½ was a pregnancy. There were seven births and only three deaths during the journey.
As well as passengers the ship carried the following cargo: 105 tons coal, 15,000 fine bricks, 30 bags merchandise, 116 packets tea, A.L.Elder, 4 bales of merchandise, etc.
However, the Mashfords were, it seems in good company as this extract from the South Australian, March 19, 1847 reads:
‘The arrival of three large ships from Europe within the present week. Two of them with emigrants numbering in all upwards of four hundred souls has been hailed with great satisfaction by the colonists. The emigrants of the ‘Princess Royal’ are all English except one from Ireland. Judging by appearances and reports we had of them, these emigrants are of better stamp than usual.’
So it seems the Mashfords brushed up reasonably well despite a long and arduous journey. The Princess Royal left London on November 5, 1846 and arrived in Plymouth, Devon where the Mashfords probably boarded the ship after weeks of waiting. The ship was under the command of Captain Charles Von Zuilecom and it left Plymouth on November 15, 1846 and arrived at Port Adelaide on March 16, 1847.
I like the fact that the family came out on a ship commanded by a Charles when that name would become so important in my family.... handed down through the generations at least until today.
The Princess Royal was an iron barque of 540 tons and it saw good passage from England, stopping briefly at St Jago in the Azores, as it made its way south.
The ship had been singled out before leaving England as this report in the South Australian of December 1846, taken from the Plymouth and Devenport Weekly Journal of November 19, 1846 reveals:
A VISIT TO AN EMIGRANT SHIP – Departure of 200 emigrants.
On Friday last, in compliance with an invitation we previously received from Mr. Willcocks, the agent under the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners for Emigration to the Australian Colonies, we paid a visit to a fine ship, The Princess Royal, which was then lying in the sound.
To us it was a matter of great interest to see a large number of our fellow countrymen, collected together, chiefly from Cornwall, who were to take a voyage to a distant colony, from which they will probably never again return to these shores: and we therefore accepted the invitation with pleasure, determining subsequently to give some notice of our visit, as a satisfaction to the friends and family of the many emigrants who were on board, and also to those who may either contemplate a removal themselves, or who feel an interest in the welfare of the industrious classes engaged in an undertaking of the greatest moment to all concerned.
On going on board we found everyone busy in preparing for the departure of the ship, which was expected to leave the Sound the following day. There were men, women and children, the latter in apparently large numbers, though we were informed the selection in this respect was particularly favourable. All the emigrants appeared to be in good spirits and many of them were engaged in writing letters to their friends, prior to their departure. (Our Elizabeth and probably most of the Mashfords would have been the exceptions).
The Princess Royal is a beautiful vessel, 543 tons register, of the firswt class being A.I at Lloyd’s and is chartered by and entirely fitted out, and despateched under the immediate management and superintendence of H.M. Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners. The whole length and breadth of the ‘tween decks’ is appropriated to the accommodation of the emigrants, and is fitted up from stern to stern on both sides with a double tier of standing bed-places and is separated into three distinct apartments, divided by bulk-heads, but so constructed as to allow a free circulation of the breeze from the windsails, and numerous scuttles admit light and air. The single women have an enclosed apartment to themselves, and so have the single men- the males being placed in the extreme forward part of the ship, and the females at the extreme other end in the stern – the intermediate space being occupied by the married couples.
There are two distinct hospitals, one for males and the other for females, the latter being fitted with several bed-places, some of which are prepared expressly for accouchements. Tables run along the entire length of the ship, in the centre, with fixed seats on each side, and hanging shelves are secured between the beams; seats are also fixed at the outer extremity of every bed-place.
In addition to the ample stores of provisions of every description which are put on board under the inspection of the Commissioner’s Officer, there is an ample supply of medicinal comforts which are issued at the discretion of the surgeon superintendant, an officer who is appointed to each ship by the commissioners, to whom and to the colonial government he is amenable for his conduct. This officer is paid by a fee per head for every emigrant he lands in health in the colony, thereby stimulating him to increased energy in his care of the people. The captain is also entitled to a gratuity on each emigrant, as well as the mate who serves out the provisions, if the surgeon superintendant reports favourably of their conduct towards the emigrants on the voyage.
Captain Van Zuilecom, and Mr Chant, of the Emigration office, kindly showed us over the ship, and answered all our enquiries, as to the various accommodations which are provided for the maintenance of the health of the emigrants, for promoting their cleanliness, comfort and during the voyage. After we had seen all that was interesting below, the emigrants were mustered on deck, and the roll was called, to see that all were present.
Amongst them we saw a great many miners, a class of men who have many of th persevering qualities, and the handy abilities which are so essential for prosperity in a young colony. South Australia, owing to its having been colonized chiefly from the West of England, has more of this class of men, than perhaps, any colony in our possession, and it would seem to be more than mere chance that drew them into a land which is now found to be abundant in mineral treasures.
The women and children looked healthy, and in good spirits, and all the emigrants listened with the greatest attention to the addresses that were delivered to them.
Mr Willcocks spoke to them from the poop nearly as follows:
"My Friends - As the period is now so near at hand when the noble ship in which we are assembled will commence a voyage, which I earnestly hope will be one of comfort and prosperity to you all, I am desirous of directing your attention to a few brief remarks, which the deep interest I feel for your welfare, individually and collectively, induces me to address you.
During the long period in which my avocations have connected me with emigration, I have ever regarded the situation of the emigrant with deep interest, considering no class of person entitled to more of the sympathies of their fellow-men, than those, who, for the laudable purpose of improving the condition in life of themselves and families, determine on making some one of our distant colonies the home of their adoption.
The separation from your friends, kindred, and native land, is, doubtless, a severe trial, and attended with painful emotions. These feelings time will alleviate, and the consciousness of having undertaken this important step with right intentions, and a firm reliance on the assistance of Providence will aid you in subduing vain regrets, and promote the cheerful performance of the duties you owe your families, and enable you to antic-ipate with humble confidence the future career of usefulness which I trust is in store for you.
The excellent character and satisfactory testimonials which you have pro-duced assure me that your future conduct will be marked by frugal habits, persevering industry, and attention to your pursuits, and I shall anxiously hope for the pleasure of hearing of your success in the fine country to which you are about to proceed.
Perhaps there is no country in the world which offers a fairer field for persevering industry, or yields such ample reward to the well-conducted labourer as Australia, and in the fine province of South Australia, the land to which you are now looking as the field of your future exertions, the demand for services of useful and steady per-sons may almost be said to be unlimited.
The blame therefore must attach to yourselves, should you be unsuccessful; you must not, indeed, expect to attain affluence at once; for in Australia, as in every other portion of the world, the ancient curse, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread," attaches to man. The difference between Australia and England is this: -- That in England we have more mouths than meat while in Australia there is more meat than mouths.
By steadily pursuing a prudent industrious, and virtuous course in life, you may rely on very materially improving your condition; and at no distant period of obtaining com-petency, and perhaps fortune, thereby securing to yourselves the means of comfort-ably providing for your families, and placing them in situations that no industry in England would enable you to obtain for them.
I earnestly entreat the young unmarried females among you, particularly those whose parent do not accompany them, to consider seriously the circumstances of their present and future position; and let me impress on their serious attention, how entirely their well-being in the land of their adoption must depend on propriety of moral conduct.
It must be well known to yourselves that a comfortable provision awaits every well conducted female in Australia, either by marriage or respectable service: let me then implore you to remember how important it is that you should guard and watch your conduct with the utmost circumspection.
I must now enforce on your attention the necessity of strictly observing the rules which the Commissioners have laid down on board ship. Their object is solely for the comfort, health, and happiness of every person on board, and it is absolutely necessary everyone should implicitly obey them.
Those for the promotion of cleanliness are of paramount im-portance; on your performance of them depends not only your comfort, but perhaps life itself; sickness, and often death, being the inevitable result of neglect of clean-liness in the 'tween decks’ of a ship.
Let me recommend you, therefore, to conform to them cheerfully, regarding it as a sacred duty to comply with such rules as the surgeon-superintendent may establish, and thus aid, by your example, the promotion of the general welfare and harmony of all on board.
It is necessary I should inform you that a record is kept by the surgeon-superintendent of all your conduct during the voyage, which he will place before the authorities in the colony on your arrival; it is obvious, therefore, how materially your interests in life will be effected by that report, and now necessary it is for you to comply with his reasonable orders and directions.
If any dispute should arise, or any just ground of complaint occur, avoid all altercations and angry words; do not give way to expressions of irritable feeling, but go at once to the doctor and captain, state the circumstances to them, and rely on it they will speedily see justice done to you.
I am desirous to caution you against a course which has proven injurious to many emigrants, who have committed a fatal error in demanding exorbitant wages when overtures of employment have been made to them.
The arrival of additional labourers to South Australia is a matter of much importance to colonists; and the competition for their services so great, that you may safely rely on a fair average rate of wages being offered to you. Mar not then your own fortunes, by setting such a price on your services, that however valuable they may be, cannot be complied with, and must keep you out of employment until necessity compels you to accept, perhaps a lower remuneration than you might have at first obtained.
The sooner therefore you enter into the engagement the better; and by your conduct, zeal, and skill in your avocations, prove at once to those who employ you that your serves are really valuable, and depend on it a reward will quite equal to all reasonable expectation will be yours.
Forget not, in the improved circumstances which I hope and firmly believe you will attain, that you owe a deep and lasting debt of gratitude to Her Majesty's government for enabling you to reach a more profitable field for the employment of your labour, without any expense to yourselves, and especially to Her Majesty's Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners, by whose judicious management and considerate arrangements your comforts during the voyage have been amply and effectually provided for.
The best return you can make, as well as the course which good citizens, be kind to all around you, be honest, sober, and industrious, scrupulously perform all your religious and moral duties, study to obey the laws of your adopted country, and you will secure the respect and esteem of all with whom you may be connected.
I feel most sincere pleasure in being able to congratulate you on the fortunate position in which you are placed, not only as regards the noble ship in which you are embarked, but as regards her commander, a gentleman whose urbanity and courteous conduct inspire all with whom he is connected, with esteem and respect; your surgeon, too, as well as your captain, are intimately acquainted with a service of this kind, both having made frequent voyages in a similar employment, and much is due to the liberality of the owner for the excellent spirit with which he has carried out his contract with the commissioners.
I have every confidence that your voyage will be a prosperous and happy one, and with the most sincere and heartfelt wishes for the successful realization of all your hopes, and for your present and eternal welfare, I bid you farewell, and may God bless and prosper you all."
Mr Chant also addressed the emigrants, pressing still more urgently upon them the importance of cleanliness, and giving them advice as to the manner in which they should act while on the voyage, and the means that they should adopt when they reached the colony for promoting their interest. The whole company listened to these addresses with great attention and at their conclusion gave three hearty cheers in which the gentlemen on the quarter-deck joined.
The Captain and his friends and visitors then adjourned to the cabin to partake of some of the emigrants’ beef, pork and biscuit, all of which were of excellent quality. Amongst the gentlemen present, were T. Carew, Esq, of Stoke. H.J. Hall, Esq., R.N. of Blackheath, one of the owners of the ship, J. Chant, Esq., Lieut. Henmans, R.N., the Surgeon Superintendant, Mr Byers and several cabin passengers.
The dinner was an excellent one, and there was a beautiful supply of champagne and other wines. While we sat at dinner, the emigrants assembled nar the cabin; and one of them, a miner named, John Rowe, of Lanhydrock, led off a piece of his own composition, entitled, ‘ The Emigrants Song.’ We hve notes of this effusion, but it is too long to transfer to our columns. The piece is of a religious nature, in which an invitation is given to all to join in coming to our Saviour, and the character of it may be seen in the first stanza:-
Come on, my brethren, let us sing,
Uno that city bright;
There need not one be left behind,
For Christ does all invite.
Chorus- And to glory we will sail, we’ll sail, and to glory we will sail.
Rowe, when called in was invited to take some wine, which he declined, being a teetotaller. In reply to questions he said he could not write, and that he had studied the song... meaning that it was his own composition. It was a source of pleasure to witness the quiet and orderly conduct of the people on board, which contrasted most forcibly, as Mr Carew remarked, with the scenes of riot and debauchery which prevailed in ships when about to leave harbour twenty or thirty years ago.
We have already extended this notice far beyond our intention when we commenced writing it, and its length requires we should not proceed further. We will merely add, that while we looked with a deep interest and with much sympathy upon so many people, our own countrymen, whom we shall probably never again see in this world, we feel much gratification in the thought that everything appeared to be done that could be done to promote their comfort and happiness.
The ship left the Sound on Saturday at three o’clock, and we sincerely wish all parties that are in her, a prosperous voyage, and entire success when they have reached the colony.
Brevity was not common it seems, in journalistic dabbling of the day. However, it is important to remember that the emigrants, including the Mashfords, were about to undertake a brave and somewhat perilous adventure in crossing the high seas to become colonists in a strange and distant land.
It was no small thing to set sail for the colonies in the 19th century. And the Princess Royal was not a large ship. Within two years, on February 24, 1849, while sailing to Hong Kong with a cargo of silk, tea, sugar and wine, she would be wrecked on the Lonsdale Reef in Port Phillip Heads.
In a record of the time: the captain stated that the light on the inner head near Queenscliff had led him into danger, and he was using an old chart of the Heads. He said the sea threw her across the reef and on the third surge she bumped so hard she broke in two, scattering her cargo over a wide area. Fortunately all the crew were saved.
But that lay in the future, as did the arrival of the Mashfords in the new colony. Ahead lay thousands of miles of ocean and months at sea. I wonder what Elizabeth thought of the address and whether or not she joined in the singing. The air must have been alive with excitement and perhaps they just wanted the speech to end so that food could be served or bags unpacked. Fear and excitement would have stood on either side of Elizabeth's mind I am sure.
The ship would have carried at least one milking cow along with pigs or cows for fresh meat and some hens. Fodder would be needed to feed the livestock.
Weekly food provisions for each adult included:
1 pint of oatmeal; ½ pint of preserved cabbage and a daily ration of 3 quarts of fresh water. 2 to 3 pounds (lbs.) of bread per day; 1lb of preserved meat; half pound of picked fish per week; 3lb of flour per week; 6 ounces of suet; 2/3rds pint of dried lentils; 7 ounces of sugar; 1 ounce of tea; some mustard; Children aged between 7 and 15 received half this amount and younger ones one third.
Privacy for the emigrants would have been a non-existent luxury. Toilets were pans, rinsed out with salt water. As the journey went on the stench would rise, depending upon how well the passengers had heeded the call to cleanliness and how much they could actually ‘clean’ their living areas. Fresh water was precious and required for drinking and cooking. Salt water would be used for everything else.
A day at the beach would remind any of us what it must be like to wash with salt water even if we could not imagine what it would be like to do it for months at a time. The salt would cake in powdery dust across the skin and over time, would, no doubt become itchy.
Few people would have had soap but then with salt water there would be no lather anyway. Washing on deck was the norm for men and children. Women would be required to dab wash privately. It would have been fine and even fun for the children when the ship was sailing through the tropics; but truly awful in cold weather.
There would have been a common galley which would have made hot food possible and stews a common meal. Without refrigeration, particularly in the tropics, the threat of dysentery was great. Usually such illnesses would go through the entire ship simply because conditions were so cramped. Dysentery was a common form of death. About ten percent of the emigrants died on a ship heading for Australia just three years after the Mashfords took their journey.
When the weather was bad passengers would find themselves locked ‘below’; often wet and ankle deep in water. The further into the journey they were the more likely the water contained not just food scraps but excrement.
How Elizabeth must have waited for that first breath of fresh air and the salty kisses of the wind. She has a strong, sensible look about her in the one photograph that we have and may well have travelled better than many. She was after all travelling toward freedom and dreams. On that long journey there would have been plenty of time to dream; it would have been the only place of privacy.
Within the creak and rock of boat; the scud of cloud and whispering winds, she must have wondered what her new life would be like. Did she dream of handsome young men, fine houses and pretty dresses? Looking at her image I doubt it. There is a pragmatic air about her. Perhaps she dreamt of a warm bed and hearty meals; of sunshine and of laughter.
Whatever the truth of dreams or nightmares, by the end of the four month journey, her face would have been tanned and the taste of salt would be something she would never forget. Depending upon the weather the ship would have spoken in a language she either learned to love or hate. The only silence would be found facing into a determined wind which dispatched all noise: voices, both soft and loud; cries of joy and pain; the flap and snap of sails; the whine and creak of stretching timber; the thud of dropped bags and boxes; the scraped metallic roll of moving barrels; the throated murmur of chickens; the echoed sighs of cows; the snuffled snorts of pigs;the laughter of playing children; the shrieks of a dying creature being prepared for the pot and the drift-rise cry of hungry or newborn babies.
And when the babies were born did she dream of the children she would one day have or fear the moment of giving birth. Probably both. Childbirth was common and very risky. The Princess Royal recorded seven births and three deaths and there is a very good chance that the three dead were mothers and/or babies.
The other risk was fire. There were strict rules regarding cooking, candles and open lamps. Fire when it started was inclined to spread quickly and one presumes more than one ship which disappeared without trace did so because it became engulfed in flames and very little was left to be found.
There was a fairly established route from England to South Australia. The ship would have headed south-southwest, tipping the point of north-west Africa and continuing down to Rio De Janerio before turning due east to head for The Cape of Good Hope in a straight line to South Australia.
The Roaring Forties in this region were both gift and curse. Winds would gust and turn into gales washing water onto the deck and into the lower levels. And when there was no wind, the ship would rock in hot, frustrating idleness. The humidity would make sleeping below decks almost impossible. As always women suffered the most. Men were allowed to sleep on deck but women and children would often remain below deck for days, or even weeks.
The fact that so few died on The Princess Royal must be a testament to good management; sensible emigrants and good weather. How they must have prayed for the journey to end. Not that nearing Australia brought any greater safety. There were too many as yet uncharted islands and reefs and in winter – the threat of icebergs.
But, as the weather improved, as it would have done heading into an Australian summer, the women and children would have spent more time on deck. No doubt any fears they had as to their new lives were well and truly buried under one desire: to get off the ship onto dry land.
LEFT: South Australia would look nothing like the land they had left behind.
Some 14 weeks, give or take the weather, after leaving England Elizabeth Mashford would have seen Port Adelaide far off in the distance. That first step onto dry land must have been both exciting and frightening.
It must have looked like some alien landscape compared to England. Strange trees, unknown plants, weird and wonderful animals and a stretch and reach of sky beyond imagining. It was the light which most struck the early settlers according to records; a light so clear and bright that it was almost blinding. A light, according to artists of the time, which illuminated in a way they had never seen before and which gave a brilliant clarity to every image. It was a land which shone with light ;from the shivering blue of sky to the glittering white of sand and the shimmering red of soft, old earth.
They probably walked from Port Adelaide to the village of Kensington...about ten miles (17km) ... just over twice the distance between Winkleigh and Coldridge. And as the new bridge across the Torrens River had not been built, they would have waded through wetlands to reach the town. March can be hot in South Australia as the summer drifts into Autumn and the journey may well have been made in temperatures as high as 40C. Even if the temperatures were lower it would still have been hot for those used to the cool climes of England. Wading through wetlands may have been a welcome relief after a long, dusty journey.
The land between the Port and the settlement of Adelaide would have been largely bush and the smell of crushed eucalyptus leaves would have drifted with them as they walked; an exotic, unfamiliar smell which would become to their descendants a perfume evocative of their native land.
Beyond the crush of dried gum leaves and broken earth Elizabeth would have heard the mellifluous carolling of magpies and the distant, raucous laughter of Kookaburras. Huge flocks of pink and grey galahs; iridescent coloured lorikeets and parikeets; brilliantly coloured and ridiculously chirping budgerigars; sulphur crested white cockatoos and black cockatoos would have dipped and risen from the nearby trees. Only the black cockatoo with it's luminous yellow crest and flocks of wild budgerigars are seen less often today.
Kangaroos and wallabies would have stood in silent watch in the dry grass of the bush along with the heavy-haunched wombat; the long-nosed spiny echidna and the scampering tumble of possums. If the day was hot there may have been snakes, brown or red-bellied black, sunning themselves in the dust of the track.
And they would have been struck by the sky; that shimmering expanse of cerulean blue which rolled in endless wash to distant horizons in a way not seen in Devon. Behind them was the Gulf and the sea upon which their ship was moored; in front of them lay the city of Adelaide and behind it a ridge of low mountains, the Flinders Ranges, some of the oldest land forms on earth; and, on either side, stretching south to the Southern Ocean and north to the Wirrabara Forest and beyond to the great unknown heart of Australia -were vast expanses of ancient, waiting land.
Sunday, 15 August 2010
Tracing ancestors is like dancing with shadows. We have names, dates and sometimes a blurred photograph but the images are ephemeral and we know little or nothing about their lives or the times in which they lived.
Fleshing out the ‘skeleton’ of knowledge is vital if these names are to be reflected back from the mirror of history as real people. Elizabeth Mashford (Lewis) Atkins was born in Devon in the early part of the 19th Century. That is the only absolute fact we have so far. While it is not possible to know what her particular life was like, it is possible to know what life was like around her. She was born at an historical epoch in Britain in particular and in the world in general.
When Elizabeth took her first breath the First Industrial Revolution, which began in England and spread throughout the world, was into its fourth decade and life was changing in ways that her parents and grandparents would never have thought possible. And, by the time of her death, the Second Industrial Revolution would have wrought even greater changes upon the world and she would have lived most of her life in a strange new country; far, far away from the green sweep of Devon fields.
The Industrial Revolution which began in the late 18th century and continued throughout the 19th century brought major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining and transport and in turn profoundly affected the way of life for everyone; particularly the poor. It marked a seminal point in human history which would ultimately impact every aspect of daily life.
It started with mechanisation; replacing manual labour and draft animals with machines. The development of iron-making techniques followed as did the use of coal; transport was improved and steam power revolutionised production capacities. The rural was becoming industrial in many parts of England’s ‘green and pleasant fields.’
But not so much in rural Devon - where Elizabeth probably grew up living life in much the same way that her parents, grand-parents and even great-grandparents had done. She would have had a place in the social structure and the world around her would have continued to remind her of that place. How different life would be in Australia where social structures certainly existed, but in far less rigid form than England and where she could believe, or hope, that her children would move up in the world in a way which would have been impossible in England.
The poor in England were classified along with gypsies and the Irish as ‘inferior.’ The attitudes of the day ascribed certain qualities to these groups: they were seen as childlike; simple; more superstitious than religious; inclined to crime with no respect for private property; dirty in their habits; excessively sexual and with particular physical qualities.
I am not sure what the particular physical qualities were which the poor shared with the Romany and the Irish but phrenology ... a study of the shape of the head ... was popular in Victorian times and young Elizabeth may well have had her head studied more than once.
Being poor for most people was a life sentence. Perhaps those who were sentenced to life imprisonment in the colonies were more fortunate than they may have imagined. A far less rigid class system, plenty of sunshine and the opportunity to move up the social ladder because the new colonies needed all skills and any skills, no matter the source, brought unheard of opportunities for the so-called ‘dregs’ of English prisons and ‘gutters.’
If the convicts who were sent to Australia did not find freedom in their lifetime – although many, if not most did – then their descendants certainly would. There is no doubt that life in Australia was hard in the late 18th century but by the early 19th century conditions had improved dramatically and by the time the Mashfords arrived at Port Adelaide in 1847, conditions would probably have been better than those they left behind.
England’s class system had been entrenched for centuries and by the time Elizabeth was growing up labels such as ‘middle class’ and ‘working class’ and ‘the poor’ were in common use. The aristocracy, the so-called ‘gentry’ had been around for more than a thousand years but the concept of a middle class was relatively new. This class would provide the great momentum for reform, however, it would be many decades before the working class and the poor were able to claim their rights.
ABOVE: Being transported to Australia turned out to be a ticket to a better life for many of the convicts and most of their descendants.
Whether she knew it or not, and probably she did, when Elizabeth was growing up she was part of an ‘under class’ which many referred to as the ‘sunken people’; those who lived in poverty. Living in poverty as she did, the middle class was a class to which Elizabeth Mashford (Lewis) Atkins could never aspire; no matter how much she may have dreamt of her supposedly noble father. This was a class however, into which many of her descendants would be born. One can only wonder if this would have been the case if she had not decided to emigrate to Australia in her twenties.
One outcome which was a certainty, once she made her decision, was the fact that she would be granted the right to vote far earlier than any relatives she left behind in Devon. South Australia would grant universal suffrage in the 1890’s while England would not do so until 1918 ... some one hundred years after English citizens began the fight for their right to vote.
But in many respects, life in the new colony on the other side of the world, would echo life in the country of her birth. In a 19th century family the father was head of the family. His wife and children respected him and obeyed him ... or were meant to. Until 1882 all a woman's property, even the money she earned, belonged to her husband. Divorce was made legal in 1857 but it was very rare and would remain so really, and continue to be regarded as shameful, until the middle of the 20th century.
In 19th century Britain women were expected to marry and have children. However, there was in fact a shortage of available men. Census figures for the period reveal there were far more women than men. There were three main reasons why women outnumbered men. The mortality rate for boys was far higher than for girls; a large number of males served in the armed forces abroad and men were more likely to emigrate than women. By 1861 there were 10,380,285 women living in England and Wales but only 9,825,246 men.
British laws were much like laws of the period anywhere. A woman was in essence a possession and she was expected to marry. Her father would then hand responsibility for her care to her husband. Such situations are still the norm in most of the undeveloped world. Before the passing of the 1882 Married Property Act, when a woman got married her wealth was passed to her husband. If a woman worked after marriage, her earnings also belonged to her husband. This was either less of a problem or more of a problem for a poor woman and unlikely to have been much of an issue for Elizabeth’s mother.
Once married, it was extremely difficult for a woman to obtain a divorce. The Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857 gave men the right to divorce their wives on the grounds of adultery. However, married women were not able to obtain a divorce if they discovered that their husbands had been unfaithful. Double standards were the state of play. Once divorced, the children became the man's property and the mother could be prevented from seeing her children.
For the poor, such concepts were probably irrelevant. It is likely however, that Elizabeth’s mother, despite having an illegitimate child, did marry. For a woman in the early 1800’s life was even more of a struggle without a husband. Whether or not she did marry, it is clear that for Elizabeth Mashford (Lewis) Atkins to survive to adulthood, there must have been family support.
Life for Elizabeth and her family may not have been quite so ‘brutal and short’ as Hobbes coined it in the 16th century, but it was hard. Few of the poor had ovens and had to rely on an open-fire pan or buy hot food from outside which was costly. Cold meals were common even if meals were uncommon at times. Even at the beginning of the 20th century social workers looking to teach the poor to cook healthy meals would find there was one pot in the house and it was multi-functional; bathing the baby or used as a toilet.
Even in 1904 the poor made do with primitive or non-existent cooking facilities. They also faced problems finding cheap fuel and combined with ignorance and adulterated foods ... common throughout the 19th century ...people were undernourished, anaemic, weak and suffering from rickets. There is little reason to expect the Mashfords, living in rural Devon, to have experienced anything different.
‘. . . Esther Copley's Cottage Cookery (1849) suggests the poverty of the rural diet, for her recipes were for potato pie, stirabout, stewed ox-cheek, and mutton chitterlings. In Wiltshire, admittedly one of the poorer counties, the Poor Law Commission found that the standard fare consisted of bread, butter, potatoes, beer, and tea, with some bacon for those earning higher wages. . . .If the rural poor ate birds then the urban poor ate pairings of tripe, slink (prematurely born calves), or broxy (diseased sheep). Edgar Wallace recollects working-class families along the Old Kent Road shopping for 'tainted' pieces of meat and 'those odds and ends of meat, the by-products of the butchering business.' Sheep's heads at 3d each and American bacon at between 4d and 6d a pound (half the price of the native product) were too expensive for the irregularly-employed casual labourer to have frequently. In Macclesfield 23 per cent of the silk workers and in Coventry 17 per cent of the labourers had never tasted meat. Stocking weavers, shoe makers, needle women and silk weavers ate less than one pound of meat a week and less than eight ounces of fats. . . .’
By the time the diet of the poor and working classes improved, Elizabeth would be living in Australia where at least it was possible to kill one’s own meat. The early settlers grew their own vegetables, planted fruit trees and vines where they could and killed rabbits, kangaroos, possums and native birds. It was probably the most meat Elizabeth and her family had ever eaten in their lives.
Ironically, at a time when people believed in the importance of the health of the physical body, British society produced some of the most adulterated foods in history.
A cartoon published August 4, 1855 shows a young girl leaning over the counter and talking with a store clerk. The girl says to the clerk:
"if you please, Sir, Mother says, will you let her have a quarter of a pound of your best tea to kill the rats with, and an ounce of chocolate as would get rid of the black beadles."
It was no joke. Toxic substances were commonly used as additives. ‘The list of poisonous additives reads like the stock list of some mad chemist: strychnine, cocculus inculus (both are hallucinogens) and copperas(ferrous sulphate) in rum and beer; sulphate of copper in pickles, bottled fruit, wine, and preserves; lead chromate in mustard and snuff; sulphate of iron in tea and beer; ferric ferrocynanide, lime sulphate, and turmeric in Chinese tea; copper carbonate, lead sulphate, bisulphate of mercury, and Venetian lead in sugar confectionery and chocolate; lead in wine and cider; all were extensively used and were accumulative in effect, resulting, over a long period, in chronic gastritis, and, indeed, often fatal food poisoning.’ (Adulteration and Contamination of Food in Victorian England.)
Adulteration was a major problem in Victorian England and often resulted in sickness and death. Not only could many foods kill vermin, they could kill humans as well. It was not until 1860, when Elizabeth was safely in Australia, that the first pure-food act was passed. Even then it only targeted the producer and gave people no protection from vendors who sold unsafe foods.
And it was not just additives; as one finds still in the undeveloped world, much of the food consumed by the lower classes at this time was also contaminated by chemicals or fouled with human or animal excrement. By the 1840’s home-baked bread had died out amongst the rural poor and in 1872, Dr. Hassall, a pioneer into the investigation of adulterated food, found that half of the bread he examined had large quantities of Alum. Alum is not poisonous but it does inhibit digestion and thereby lowers the nutritional value of foods.
And as late as 1877 the Local Government Board found that nearly a quarter of the milk examined contained excessive water or chalk and some ten percent of butter had copper in it to heighten colour. As did eight percent of bread and fifty percent of gin. It reminds me of when I lived in Bombay in the 1990’s when a study showed that many chilli powders... a ‘sacred’ product in India... contained up to 50 percent brick dust or dyed flour! Adulterated foods are still a dangerous part of life in the undeveloped world.
But, there were positives in being poor. Some of the things which Elizabeth and her family could not afford to eat were better not eaten at all. One study of ice-cream samples at the time found the following: cocci, bacilli, torulae, cotton fibre, lice, bed bugs, bug’s legs, fleas, human hair, cat and dog hair and straw. Such contaminants caused diphtheria, scarlet fever, enteric fever and diarrhoea. And in 1862 the Privy Council estimated that one-fifth of butcher’s meat in England and Wales came from diseased animals or those which had died of pneumonia or those which suffered from anthacid or anthracoid disease.
Perhaps it was fortunate that between 1801 and 1850 more doctors were trained, over 8,000, more than at any time before. More than seventy special hospitals were also founded between 1800 and 1860, most of them in London or major cities, so there was unlikely to be much available to the Mashfords in rural Devon.
Great advances were being made not only in medical anatomy and physiology but also in pharmacology. Among the drugs developed between 1800 and 1840 were morphine, quinine, atropine, digitalin, codeine, and iodine. Although these were, in the main, remedies for the rich. Britain does however have a rich history of herbal medicine and it was on these that the poor most often relied. Many towns, villages and rural communities would have someone who plied herbal medicines and many families handed down a tradition of making remedies at home. Perhaps this was so with the Mashfords and perhaps it kept them healthier than some of the more radical and often experimental, medical treatments of the period.
There is no doubt that the greatest improvement in health came about through improved sanitation and improved diet. But scientific advances have aided the process of making life healthier for human beings.
The nineteenth century was also a notable period in the identification, classification, and description of diseases. Scarlet fever was clinically distinguished from diphtheria- a disease which would kill two of Elizabeth’s great-granddaughters in Australia; syphilis from gonorrhoea; typhoid from typhus.
Diseases caused by poor sanitation also took their toll, particularly on the very young and the very old. Studies done between 1800 and 1890 showed, ‘that the various forms of epidemic, endemic, and other disease caused, or aggravated, or propagated chiefly amongst the labouring classes by atmospheric impurities produced by decomposing animal and vegetable substances, by damp and filth, and close and overcrowded dwellings prevail amongst the population in every part of the kingdom, whether dwelling in separate houses, in rural villages, in small towns, in the larger towns — as they have been found to prevail in the lowest districts of the metropolis.’ The answer to it was adequate drainage and waste removal; proper ventilation; thorough cleaning and pure water supplies.
It was said that the annual loss of life from poor ventilation and filth was greater than from any war in which the country had engaged. Some 43,000 cases of widowhood and 112,000 cases of destitute orphanages in England and Wales alone at this time resulted from the head of the family dying from such diseases.
LEFT: Living a rural life in Devon did not necessarily protect Elizabeth against disease and death caused by poor sanitation and malnutrition.
At the time the poor had to share toilets and it was not uncommon, particularly on Sunday mornings, for queues to form. Maintaining hygiene must have been impossible.
Not only that, but children who grew up in such circumstances were inferior in physical terms and general health. It is a reminder that not only was Elizabeth Mashford lucky to be born alive, she was lucky to survive long enough to take ship to Australia and lucky enough to give birth to healthy children of her own. Or perhaps she was born stronger and fed better than we imagine.
It would be some time before death rates for infants and children declined. One of the biggest causes of infant mortality was premature birth resulting from poor nutrition. Diets deficient in milk, butter, eggs, green vegetables and fruit, which was similar to the diet of the Victorian working classes and the poor, caused serious anaemia and contracted pelvises. It also caused rickets which resulted in contracted and deformed pelvises and which complicated childbirth.
Women of the lower classes, at this time, were often seriously underweight and small in stature. Great-grandmother Mary Atkins was particularly small in stature although her sister Elizabeth was not and the one photograph we have of Elizabeth Mashford does not show her as particularly small either.
The other major cause of infant mortality was syphillis .... the scourge of the 19th century. But the disease, also known as the Great Pox had been around for centuries. It first appeared in the late 15th century after Christopher Columbus returned from the New World. While the disease could cause terrible suffering, disfigurement and eventual death in adults it could also be present with no manifesting symptoms .... except, as was realised in the 20th century .... dead babies. Babies born to mothers infected with syphilis could be born 'healthy' but die within days, weeks or months. Such deaths would usually come in 'clusters' with mothers giving birth to healthy babies which survived both before and after losing two, three, four, six or more babies. Babies might live but be blind, deaf and suffering from mental deficiency and bone damage. The disease would weaken at times, no doubt as the body managed to overcome the bacterium, although it would remain present ... and allow the birth of healthy babies.
Perhaps syphilis was the reason why Chrysantheous Christus and his wife Alice Maud lost three children in almost as many years within days and weeks of birth. We know he had gonorrhea from his military records and syphillis would have been just as likely. Syphillis was not brought under control until the development of penicillin in 1929... a few years too late for them.
The common belief these days is that infant mortality has dropped because we have more doctors but the evidence indicates what common sense suggests.... that the major reasons infant mortality has dropped is because women are better nourished and because sanitation has improved dramatically. Both of these factors not only improve overall health but they give human beings a far greater capacity to resist disease in the first place.
But even with so many deaths the population boomed. It was around nine million in 1801 and had risen to 41 million in 1901.Despite the fact that some 15 million people, including Elizabeth Mashford and her family, emigrated to Australia and North America between 1815 and 1914, to escape poverty.
ABOVE: Life in Australia was the choice for many of England's poor. Port Adelaide as it looked when the Mashford family arrived.
For most of the poor poverty was grinding, cruel and endless. For some the only relief came from a belief in a better world to come and the only time they could ‘relax’ was when they went to church.
Organised religion was much more important in the 19th century, but a survey in 1851 England showed that less than half of the population regularly went to church. The poor were even less likely to go to church or chapel although, given the fact that Elizabeth married twice in an Anglican church, there is a possibility that her family was more devout than most.
There is also the possibility that she worked from an early age. Child labour was common at the time and while she would not have worked 12 hours a day in a factory as many children did, she may well have worked as a servant or on the land at harvest time. And she probably did.
Children as young as five, worked underground in coal mines, in shocking conditions and were also employed as chimney sweepers. I look at Elizabeth’s great-great-great-great-grandson -my grandson, Sam and can only wonder at the barbarism of a society which considered itself to be so civilized and superior to other cultures and races and yet which allowed this. But, for so many life was so hard that there was simply no time, energy, nor knowledge which allowed children to be seen as different or to be treated differently. That however was beginning to change.
The first effective law to curtail child labour was passed in 1833 but it mainly applied to factories. It would have been harder to enforce in rural areas. It said that children aged 9 to 13 must not work for more than 12 hours a day or 48 hours a week. Children aged 13 to 18 must not work for more than 69 hours a week. Furthermore nobody under 18 was allowed to work at night (from 8.30 pm to 5.30 am). Children aged 9 to 13 were to be given 2 hours education a day.
Given the fact that all of Elizabeth’s children appear to have been illiterate it is unlikely that she received any sort of education herself... not even the two hours a day.
In 1842 a law banned children under 10 and all females from working underground. In 1844 a law banned all children under eight from working. Then in 1847 a Factory Act said that women and children could only work 10 hours a day in textile factories.
More is known about the life of the poor during the time Elizabeth Mashford was growing up because for the first time in history studies were done. And this was despite the fact that the Victorians generally took a fairly callous attitude to the poor. They believed, ironically as many Americans still do today, that poverty was self-inflicted. And, just as many Americans still believe, the Victorians believed that everyone should be self reliant and not look to others for help. Victorians would not feel out of place in 21st century America where a very common belief is that if the poor were just thrifty enough and worked hard enough, they could leave their poverty behind. In other words, if you are poor it is your fault you are poor.
Luckily there were many other Victorians who did not share this somewhat prejudiced and unkind view. One can only hope there are enough Americans today who will help to bring about change for the millions of poor and working poor in that country. I digress, but the 19th century view of poverty which is so common in the United States is not only bizarre it is backward. We should be grateful, as I am sure Elizabeth Mashford (Lewis) Atkins and most of her descendants were, that in Australia the belief is that the poor should be assisted and the greater community has responsibility for that assistance.
ABOVE: Ending up in the workhouse or poorhouse was always a threat to the poor.
For Elizabeth Mashford and her family, life was a constant struggle. Clearly it was a fairly successful struggle because, as far as we know, none of them ended up in the workhouse. Although a few of my ancestors on my mother’s paternal side, tragically did. My great-grandfather Alfred Belchamber was sent to the poorhouse at the age of three along with four of his siblings... the youngest aged one... after his father died. I look at the sweetly innocent face of my three-year-old grandson, Thomas, and want only to weep for the trauma which must have engulfed little Alfred and his brothers and sisters. He was taken out by his mother, at the age of seven along with his remaining siblings after the youngest, a boy and an older sister, died.
The workhouses or poorhouses were hated and feared. They were meant to be unpleasant to deter the poor from asking for help... poverty after all, being their fault. Inmates wore uniforms. Husbands and wives were separated and parents separated from their children. The work was hard – breaking stones or pulling apart old rope. Although, by the late 19th century they had become a little more humane because attitudes to poverty had begun to change. However, in Elizabeth’s time the workhouse must have loomed large as a fearsome fate.
We do not know quite how poor she was but her illiteracy is a sign that the family was pretty poor. Did she have shoes? Possibly not. Many poor children went barefoot and it was not until the turn of the 19th century that organisations like the Salvation Army were founded to help clothe and feed poor children and their families.
Such poverty seems horrendous in a nation which rode on the back of an empire which straddled the world and which saw itself as the most civilized of nations. But, like many empires, wealth was held by the few and by the 19th century there was actually less poverty, not more. In the 18th century nearly half of the population lived at subsistence level; by the time Elizabeth was growing up that was down to a quarter. Elizabeth’s parents and grandparents may have seen her life as far more fortunate than theirs. However, it was not that fortunate and they were still members of the percentage of the population which lived in poverty. And there would be plenty more to take their place. Poverty was and always had been a fact of life. That would not begin to change in England or Australia until the 20th Century.
While conditions may have been simple for Elizabeth in Adelaide and primitive in the Wirrabara Forest, they may well have been more pleasant than anything she had experienced as a child. The poor lived in one room cottages in the main and if the building were larger, possibly a 2-3 room house, it would be shared with extended family. The really poor slept on piles of straw because they could not afford beds.
Food would have been cooked on an open fire ... when there was food to be had. One of her jobs may have been to gather wood for the fire from nearby forests; or to hunt for wild mushrooms and fruits in season.
Windows were often repaired with paper if the glass broke.. that is if they had glass in the first place and light would have come from cheap candles or a fire; that is when the family could afford to buy candles or wood for the fire.
Winters would have been freezing cold in Devon and family members would have slept together to keep warm. Sharing a bed, if they had a bed, otherwise sharing the straw, was common amongst the poor until well into the 20th century. In winter it would have saved lives.
Elizabeth would have woken to the smell of cold ash; the feel of icy floors; the chill of winds whining through flimsy walls and unsealed windows and the teeth-chattering prospect of a quick wash after breaking the ice on frozen water.
A South Australian winter, by comparison, must have been considered mild even if she were living in a tent.
She would have gone to bed when it got dark, sometimes with a full stomach but often with an empty one and she would have gotten up when it was light. There were no public holidays in the early 19th century and Sunday was likely to have been the only day of rest... although not necessarily if one worked as a servant or as a labourer during the harvest season.
Holidays, hobbies, entertainment and sport would probably have been unheard of for the Mashfords. Although such things were common for the middle and upper classes.
The steam driven printing press was invented in 1814 so newspapers were common but Elizabeth and probably all of her family were illiterate and could not read even if they had possessed the money to buy newspapers or books... which probably they did not. Newspapers were written in a deliberately sensational style throughout the 19th century, to attract readers with little education. Some things don’t change despite readers being better educated.
Elizabeth would have dressed simply; possibly in clothes handed down from others. Then again, that is something which would not change for many of her descendants until the 20th century. In the early 19th century girls and women wore light dresses. By the 1830’s they had puffed sleeves and by the 1850’s frames of whalebone or steel wire called crinolines. The latter can be seen in the one photograph we have of Elizabeth but it would have been her best dress and probably her only best dress. Underwear only became common for women around 1800. Drawers as they were called. Originally they were two garments... one for each leg tied together at the top. One suspects that the poor could not afford underwear.
Henry Fox Talbot took the first photograph in 1835 when Elizabeth was 16, but I suspect the first photograph taken of her is the one we now have. It may well have been the first and the last. Photographs were expensive and more of a middle class indulgence than something for the working class or the poor.
Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, introduced the Christmas Tree to England but I doubt if one ever appeared in a corner of Elizabeth’s living room either in Devon, or later in South Australia. Although I like to think her children took up the tradition. And I doubt she could ever afford to ride on a horse drawn omnibus which first appeared in London in 1829 and which were soon common in other towns.
Seven years before Elizabeth sailed for Australia the Penny Post was invented. However, since she did not write it would have played no part in her life. However, it would for her grandchildren and future generations, all of whom would learn to read and write.
The world was changing, faster than it had before and Elizabeth’s life was about to change dramatically. Why she chose to emigrate we do not know but it is likely that she and her family, like so many others, did so simply to escape poverty and to create a better life for themselves and their children.
Although even Elizabeth’s daughter, Mary Atkins Ross, would live in a house with lime-washed hessian walls so, any changes, while no doubt improvements on her childhood life in rural Devon, would be small and slow.
Even with hopes of a better future, life remained perilous. The concept of welfare would not become any sort of reality until the 20th century and even then it would be a slow process. Britain and Australia would both develop some of the most enlightened and comprehensive welfare ‘safety nets’ in the world. But until that time people were dependent upon their immediate and extended families and if they were lucky, their friends and the community in which they lived. Some would have the support of a church as well, but for most, the family was the only ‘safety net’ they would ever have and therefore, vital to survival.
This is why movement either within a country or even across the world was so often linked to family connections. A move from Winkleigh to Coldridge is most likely to have been made for this reason as was the move from Kensington to Wirrabarra Forest. And the Mashfords may well have had family already living in South Australia when they set sail. Perhaps members of the Lewis family for instance, including Peter, who would be Elizabeth’s first husband.
Or perhaps other Mashfords had gone on before them and we have neither names or records to establish their existence. Whoever was waiting on the far side of the world, if anyone, there is no doubt that Elizabeth and her family left the land of their birth for a new life in the colonies not so much because they wanted to, but because they had to.... and because they could.
Somehow they raised the money to pay for their passage or perhaps the family story is true and Elizabeth's father's family provided the funds to ensure that she left Devon and any 'claims' on them behind. Although I suspect it was neither. Demand for labour was high in the new colony of South Australia and female servants of good character were particularly sought after. As were miners, farm servants, agricultural labourers and shepherds. And, the Government was offering free passage, including food, to South Australia to agricultural labourers, shepherds, female domestic and farm servants, dairy maids, blacksmiths, wheelwrights, carpenters, and others with rural skills. The ships sailed from London and Plymouth; the latter being the port of embarkation for the Mashfords and conditions, to all accounts were more than reasonable. All things being relative however; reasonable for those used to grinding poverty may not be reasonable or even pleasant in the eyes of others. But it was a means to an end.
However they gained passage, the reality is that all of the Mashfords found the motivation to make the move to a strange and unknown land and that in itself suggests they had courage, strength, determination, fortitude and common sense. All qualities which saw them through the voyage itself and into a new life in Australia ... qualities which have been handed down to all of their descendants in greater or lesser measure.