12a — Whitfields, Ratcliffes, and Wests

As we move back to the 1860s and 1870s, the Ratcliffes enter the Whitfield story. I recall my father mentioning the name, though not often. I really knew nothing about then until very recently. This entry is from  January 25, 2014.

Conjunction of half-remembered stories with new information: re Elizabeth Ratcliffe – born 16 Mar 1838 in Cabramatta NSW Australia, and died 16 Jun 1919 in Picton NSW. She scores her own entry in Australian biographical and genealogical record series 1, 1788-1841, with series 2 supplement, 1842-1899 / series 1 edited by John T. Spurway, assistant editor Allison Allen; series 2 edited by Kenneth J. Cable and Jane C. Marchant.


She is my great-grandmother, wife of William Joseph John Whitfield.

Seems her father Joseph was Keeper of the Chapel at Cabramatta, or, I gather, its caretaker. Earlier:

From the Indent for the Guildford 1824: Joseph Ratcliffe was tried in Suffolk in March 1823. He received a sentence of Life. He was a Brickman and Ploughman at this time. His native place is also stated to be Suffolk. He was 26 , had a brown and freckled complexion, brown hair and dark brown eyes and was a tad over 5 feet 3 inches tall. My research shows that Joseph was recommended for a Conditional Pardon in 31 January 1839 and was approved in July 1839. In 1837 Joseph received permission to marry Sarah Leonard who was 17 and born in the colony. Joseph at this stage was in receipt of a Ticket of Leave (No.32/611). They applied through the Rev. Hassall at Narellan.

Many years ago I can remember Mum, Dad and I having a Sunday drive through the backblocks of Liverpool and Camden. As we passed through Cobbitty Dad pointed out the Anglican Church and told what I thought of as a garbled story of a family connection with it – a connection which somehow involved a marriage and the Reverend Samuel Marsden – the famous flogging parson. This was the 1950s so convicts as such were never mentioned.  Well, not as relatives anyway. (Same applied – more so? – with Aborigines.)  But behold, the story now makes a certain amount of sense.


Heber Chapel, Cobbitty

From the Dictionary  of Sydney:

The area known as the Cowpastures (so named after cattle from the First Fleet roamed there) brought the area to the attention of European settlers. Settlement on the west of the Nepean River was prohibited, with the exception of the Macarthur and Davidson grants, but it was not long before grants were taken up in the lush pastures on the eastern side. Governor Macquarie had named the area Cobbedee, and when Gregory Blaxland was given a grant here in 1812 he called it Cubbady Farm. The larger grants in the area were Wivenhoe, given to the Reverend William Cowper in 1812, and Macquarie Grove, which was acquired by the Reverend Rowland Hassall in 1812. This was later passed on to his son Samuel Hassall. Denbigh was given to Charles Hook in 1815. Matavai was granted to James Hassall. There were also several smaller grants along the banks of the Nepean.

In 1827 the Reverend Thomas Hassall was given the parish of Narellan, which included Cobbitty. There was no church building from which to conduct his ministry and he stayed with his brother at Macquarie Grove. Following the death of Charles Hook, Hassall acquired Denbigh, and as the house there was almost completed he used the materials he had been acquiring for a new house to build Heber Chapel on Pomare Grove (named after the Tahitian chieftain Pomare), a grant obtained for him by his father in 1817. Heber Chapel was dedicated in 1828 by Hassall’s father-in-law, the Reverend Samuel Marsden.

The parish was a large one, with the first preaching stations reaching from Cabramatta to Goulburn. Hassall indulged his fondness for well-bred horses and he rode to the widely scattered areas of occupation. As his father-in-law had been nicknamed the Flogging Parson, Thomas soon became known as the Galloping Parson. The first vault in the churchyard belongs to his brother Samuel who died in 1830.

By 1840 the foundation stone of St Paul’s Anglican Church had been laid and it was completed in 1842. Heber Chapel was used as a schoolhouse during the week and had a schoolmaster’s residence attached. The schoolmaster was John Armstrong. The present Cobbitty Public School was established in 1882, and as well as providing education to the children of the area it has established a fine reputation for the local market it holds once a month.

When the Reverend Thomas Hassall died on 29 March 1868, Denbigh was no longer available to the new minister and a new rectory was built across the road from St Paul’s in 1870…

So it looks as if Joseph Ratcliffe, another of my great-great-grandfathers,  looked after the preaching station at Cabramatta for the Reverend Thomas Hassall, and it was in Cabramatta that my great-grandmother was born in 1838.

Related: Stories of Liverpool.

Stories of Liverpool’ is an exhibition about our community’s heritage filled with vivid accounts of lives of ordinary Australians; stories of gossip, murder, scandal and bankruptcy, as well as of pioneering struggle, endurance, innovation, achievement and occasionally failure. Importantly, the exhibition also tells us stories about the original inhabitants of this place, the Dharug people. Explore Liverpool’s rich heritage through this online exhibition.


Joseph Lycett c 1820

The story of the sailing ship ticket and letter in Wellington NSW


See that name Richard West, a passenger on the brig Grecian?


Visiting my father’s cousin Dorothy West in Wellington in the later 1960s I saw his original sailing ship ticket! I also saw a letter to him from England. All I remember of the letter is a snippet about “knowing you have said you don’t want to die in that country…”

And who was he? It appears he was the father of Caroline Philadelphia West, my great-great-grandmother, wife of William Whitfield. See this interesting note:

Richard Constable West (Widower) and Ann Willson (Spinster) were married on the 10.10.1819 at St Leonards Shoreditch, Middlesex. William Willson was a witness (original document recently listed online). I’ve started searching for Richard West’s previous marriage, as his daughter Caroline Philadelphia West was born in 1817, it is possible his previous marriage may only have been recent to that date.. Mr Richard West & two children sailed from London on the 212 ton brig “Grecian” 23.11.1831, arriving Sydney 17 April 1832. The ship was carrying merchandise. — regards, Vicki

Now I have long wondered about that name Philadelphia. This makes sense.