7a: from “Respectability achieved–and rapscallions left behind?”

Originally posted July 29, 2012.

William Whitfield was born 16 Mar 1812 in Cootehill, Drumgoon Parish, Cavan, Ireland and died 12 Oct 1897.  He had arrived in Sydney 11 Apr 1826 on the Thames, master Robert Frazer, from Cork, Ireland. More on that soon. By 1856 he was in Picton, NSW.


This is my branch of the Whitfields, and we have been fortunate in having a great family historian in Bob Starling. “Jacob Whitfield’s journey from Cootehill County Cavan Northern Ireland to the land down-under : embracing the Whitfield family history /​ by Robert Starling… Research relating to Jacob Whitfield (convict) transported from Ireland 1822. Jacob’s wife Mary and four children migrated on the ‘Thames’ in 1826. Mary and two children died on the voyage. William, the only son of Jacob to survive was responsible for the Whitfield name propagating to towns of Picton, Braidwood and the NSW South Coast.”…

One of the remaining mysteries about [William’s father] Jacob concerns his final years. On Trove I have tracked down the latest mention of him in a case where he wasn’t the defendant!



The rest of that paper is rather devoted to the subject of gold…

So Jacob remained in Market Lane until at least the second half of 1851. In a 2011 comment on “About the Whitfields: Convict Days” Bob Starling wrote:

For some years I have been searching for Jacob Whitfield’s death. It was noticed that Jacob gave his religion as a Quaker on one of his applications to marry. With this fact the Quaker society in Sydney has carried out some research and came up with the following piece of information:

“In searching the incomplete records we have of burials in the Friends Burial Ground within the old Devonshire Street (Sandhills) Cemetery, I came across a reference to:
“Burial Notes missing of … Jacob Whitfield” Unfortunately, there is no indication of his date of death or burial. Burials took place in the Friends Burial Ground from about 1837 through to about 1880.”

Whilst we can now accept that Jacob died in Sydney, probably between 1851 and 1856 we cannot quite put him to rest until we find an exact date.

He was certainly around for a long time.


From Bob Starling

Bit of a villain though, it seems. [I have since moderated my views on this.]



It turns out there is another Whitfield family altogether extant – and with Shire links.

Perilous Seas: The Whitfield Family – Ancestors & Descendants England & Australia 1605-2012

The Whitfield family farmed in the Tyne Valley of Northumberland before moving to iron works on the Derwent River in Cumberland where two daughters drowned in separate accidents. Descendants experienced contrasting fates. One, James Whitfield made a fortune on the Australian goldfields before becoming a successful entrepreneur in Workington. His siblings lived and worked in industrial towns and the youngest, William Whitfield became a master mariner in Australia, experiencing a number of misfortunes before returning to Hull, Yorkshire, leaving his Australian family behind.

Now that is interesting, because my father used to say his Aunty Jessie and one other family member had traced the family to Hull, and there was allegedly a lost fortune there… That must be this family, but there is no doubt there is no close connection.  I suspect OUR Whitfields arrived in Ireland in the 17th century as part of the “plantations”.

And as for Jacob? Given the respectability his son William achieved I am beginning to think he was simply left behind when William and Caroline went south. Certainly he was erased from the family memory as I first encountered it in Picton in the 1950s with yet another William Whitfield – Dad’s Uncle Bill.

You will recall that we “found” Jacob, my convict ancestor, or we at least found the part of Sydney where he is known to have resided in the second half of the 1830s through early 1840s. By the 1860s the family had moved on – Braidwood, Picton… My grandfather was born in Picton in 1867. Him I remember. Just. He died in 1948. His brother William I remember more clearly, because he survived well into the 1950s. That William – son of William, the son of William, the son of Jacob – was still riding horses and ploughing his orchard almost to the year of his death. I remember his house, with its (to citified me) rather magic rural air, and tales of this one and that one, and timber getting, and horse breaking, and blacksmithing, and bullock teams… And Sao biscuits with tomato and cheese…

The tales never went back more than about one generation…

I think I can see why, for several reasons. Sometimes my father would mutter about the Old Testament curse on “the sins of the fathers”… Perhaps too, given what the area they had left behind in Surry Hills had become by 1900, you will see why it didn’t figure in the stories… Anyway, it was not part of my grandparents’ generation’s personal memories. They had become country people.

8 — 1855 — Picton

Posted originally on January 20, 2015 by Neil.

This series of posts is the most comprehensive I have done on family history. I am doing them backwards here so that in due course they will appear sequentially.

The 1850s were certainly a turning point in our history. Mostly this has to do with GOLD! At least one of my family (this item from 1858 confirming oral history I heard when a boy visiting Picton) was involved in this decade, and more later on:


Mogo is now a goldmine theme park. But more happened in this decade: see the My Place site.

William and Caroline Whitfield were settled in PIcton; I visited their descendants there many times through to the 1960s. Indeed I recall having lamb for lunch one day in Picton’s beautiful King George IV Inn (established 1839).

Established in 1839 George IV Inn, is one of the oldest colonial inns, still operating as a hotel. Constructed from local hand hewn sand stone, the George (as known by locals) still contains that great colonial and vibrant heritage. Constructed on the banks of Stonequarry Creek, the stables (now know as the great hall) dates back to 1810 being one of the first buildings in Picton and possibly the oldest.

The Inn has a rich history with the transportation of convicts. Convicts were kept over night shackled in the cellar while en-route to Berrima prison from Sydney. You can still see some of the shackles behind the bar. In it’s early days the Inn has been providing accommodation for travelers over the decades, on the Great South Road from Sydney. Giving access to the areas of Bong Bong (Southern Highlands) and Argyle County (Goulburn).

Another early inn (established 1849) has changed function somewhat:


And here is one of the district bigwigs in William Whitfield’s day:


James Macarthur (1798-1867)

James Macarthur (1798-1867), landowner and politician, was born on 15 December 1798 at Elizabeth Farm, Parramatta, fourth son of John Macarthur. He was educated privately at Parramatta by the Breton emigré, Huon de Kerilleau, until March 1809, when he left for England with his father and his younger brother William. He went to a school at Hackney, London, run by Dr Lindsay, classicist and Unitarian, until in 1813 he was apprenticed to a broker in a London counting house. From March 1815 to May 1816 he travelled with his father and William in France, Switzerland and Northern Italy. In September 1817 the three arrived in New South Wales. The elder John Macarthur had decided that his eldest son, Edward, should take up a military career in England, that the most intelligent son, John, should read law and represent the family’s interests in England, while James and William administered the colonial holdings. For the next decade James devoted himself to estate administration, although he also served as unpaid magistrate in the first Court of Petty Sessions in the Camden district and helped to establish churches, schools and other local institutions….

The gold rushes had accentuated the trend to increase the power of the popular party. Macarthur was becoming increasingly disillusioned: in 1854 he felt like selling all his assets except Camden Park and going to England. He displayed some interest in education, supporting the foundation of the University of Sydney and becoming a member of its first senate. He continued his political activities, albeit with gloom. In 1856 he was elected to the new Legislative Assembly for Camden. To enable Donaldson to form a cabinet, Macarthur agreed to serve briefly as colonial treasurer, for certain conflicts could not otherwise be resolved. When Donaldson had the support he needed, Macarthur resigned his seat and the portfolio and was re-elected for West Camden. In 1859 his unhappiness reached its peak: he retired and refused Governor Sir William Denison‘s offer of a knighthood. In 1860 he returned to England, his whole life seeming wasted. In the 1820s he had opposed representative government. In the late 1830s he adopted delaying and compromising tactics so as to make the constitutional change of 1842 as moderate as possible. In the early 1840s his economic affairs were suddenly changed when he began squatting, and he found that imperial control of immigration and land policy conflicted with his new interests; he began to work with desperate hopefulness for a conservative Constitution, partly to obtain independence from Britain, partly to forestall the liberals. But his constitutional checks and balances had been reduced and the nightmare of his whole life, popular anarchy, appeared imminent….

In that 1856 election one of his supporters was William Whitfield. See also Respectability achieved–and rapscallions left behind? but note that I now believe William’s father, the convict Jacob, was left in Sydney mainly because of his age. There I noted:

Here’s a bit of history.

The demands for self-government by the free settlers of New South Wales and the other colonies were largely met when the Imperial Parliament passed the Australian Colonies Government Act of 1850. This authorised the Legislative Councils in the Australian colonies to pass bills establishing themselves as bicameral legislatures. In 1853, proposals were submitted to the Imperial Parliament from the New South Wales Council. After some amendments, the Imperial Parliament passed a Constitutional Statute in 1855, (Imperial Act18 & 19 Vic. No.48 Cap.54). This authorised Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, to assent to a bill passed by the Legislative Council of New South Wales (New South Wales Act 17 Vic. No.41) giving New South Wales a fully responsible system of government, with two Houses of Parliament.

It was not, however, fully representative government. The franchise was still property and gender based, with only men able to vote; but it was a very low property qualification and it was a poor man who could not vote. To register, potential voters had to be male adults of over 21 years who owned freehold property of at least 100 pounds per year, or leased property with an annual value of at least 10 pounds per year, or occupied lodgings or rooms with a rent of at least 10 pounds per year or had an income of at least 100 pounds per year. In the nineteenth century, women were not considered capable of making a rational choice at the polls, so were therefore not given the franchise.

The property qualification for Members was lowered, but because Members of Parliament still received no salary, only those who were wealthy could afford to run for Parliament.

The first New South Wales Parliament established under this new Constitution met on 22 May, 1856. The population of the colony was approximately 300,000.

And here from 26 March 1856:



It does seem William and Caroline Whitfield have come a long way in the ten years since leaving Strawberry Hills.

And Picton? Still a place full of history – and ghosts, apparently.