Surry Hills: Looking for Jacob 1

Having eschewed the series and multiple pictures concepts a few days back, here I am reviving both!  But there is a reason.

If you go to my page on my paternal ancestry — Family stories 3 — About the Whitfields: from convict days – you will note that there have been revisions on revisions since I first posted it on Angelfire some years ago. Lately some much more thorough family historians have been on the case, as you will see on that page. They have been teasing out a problem: exactly where did Jacob Whitfield, our convict ancestor, live at the time William Joseph John Whitfield, son of William and Philadelphia, was born in 1836? At William’s wedding William gave his profession as carpenter, and his address as Elizabeth Street. I have seen the marriage certificate which bears Jacob’s signature as a witness, along with the other witnesses Maria Burgess and William Burgess. Jacob appears to have been the grandfather of William Joseph John, who is my great-grandfather.

But where in Elizabeth Street? It is a long street.

William Macdonald's garden in Market Lane 23-9-1834 One of the researchers mentioned above, John Van Luyn in WA, wrote recently: “a possible sighting that is dated 1842. It is a reference to a ‘Whitfield who lives in a hut in a Garden near Jonathan Leake – had a ticket of leave for Windsor and is now free’. The only details I could find were for a Jonathan Leak who was a convict potter. There is a tonne of information on him and his pottery on the net if you search ‘Jonathan Leak’ and ‘convict’ which roughly indicates where his pottery was.” Subsequently John and Bob Starling and Stuart Daniels have narrowed the search and a number of notices like the one on the right have been found.

So with those clues, knowing of course that most of 1836 has been obliterated in this particular part of Sydney, I decided to go in search of Jacob and his hut.

Some street names have changed. Just yesterday, thanks to the Macquarie Hotel on the corner of Goulburn Street and Wentworth Avenue, Surry Hills, I was able to confirm that Macquarie Street South was renamed Commonwealth Street, so “Market-lane (formerly called Leak’s-lane) leading from the New Corn, Hay, Straw and Cattle Market at the bottom of Brickfield Hill, to Goulburn and Macquarie Streets” may well have become Wentworth Avenue.


On this Google Earth image I have marked Commonwealth St in red, Campbell Street area in green, and the ambit range of where Jacob’s hut must have been in yellow.


The section of map on the left is taken from the excellent Plan Of Sydney With Pyrmont 1836 from Mapco. Go there for detail.

That stream, which is mentioned in the Macquarie Hotel information, resurfaced, I recall, when they were building the Light Rail through Chinatown. I remember looking into the excavations and seeing it flowing quite strongly under Haymarket, an area named for the markets the land sale ad above refers to. So on that 1836 map one of those little black boxes may well be Jacob’s hut. It could be under the current railway line to Museum or Town Hall, it could be under the law courts complex – which would be mildly ironic – and of course it could be anywhere else in the area indicated above. We will probably never know.

If you compare the map on the left with the Google Earth image above, you will note that Wentworth Ave (Market Lane?) appears to follow the line of the creek.

Of Jacob, Stuart Daniels had this to say in September this year: “Jacob was born May 1774 and was sent to Australia for life after being convicted for horse stealing 1820. The details was published in ‘The Belfast News Letter’ of Friday 4 Aug 1820, no 8084, page 4 column 3.” Sent to Australia for life was usually an alternative to capital punishment. Result: there are quite a number of Whitfields and their collateral branches here in Australia… 🙂 The 19th century ones had very big families, and often a very limited repertoire of given names, which can make family history a puzzle. Or so I found. All power to Bob, Stuart and John for unravelling as much as they have. I find the social history of it all quite fascinating.

In the rest of this series, beginning today, I will present photos taken yesterday in the red, green and yellow zones marked above.

* Some additional details on Jacob may be found here in a note by Bob Starling dated 24 July 2008, including a September note: "he appeared in the 1841 Census living in Market Lane now Wentworth Avenue".

Chinatown 30: not all Chinese

There is a bit of a jacaranda war between this blog and Stumbling on Melons. Marcellous has scored with Sydney’s best known jacaranda, but on the other hand he rightly says the short jacaranda season has peaked. Nonetheless, here is yesterday’s jacaranda in Belmore Park around 4 pm. Still looking for THE light!

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I’m still fascinated by park sleepers… Except these have kept most of their clothes on. So Sydney, this.

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Chinatown 27: Central Station to Chinatown 4

There is now a large office complex on the block running from Barlow Street to Hay Street on Pitt Street, which aside from a number of government offices also hold the Zilver Chinese Restaurant. When it was built some heritage features were preserved.

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“1821: The Benevolent Society Asylum opened for the ‘poor, blind, aged and infirm’ at the Central Railway site.” The Benevolent Society still exists. “Since The Benevolent Society was established in 1813 we have been pioneering social change in response to community needs.” You will find some more early history here. “The Benevolent Society of New South Wales was originally known as the New South Wales Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and Benevolence in these Territories and Neighbouring Islands. The original Society was founded by a group of evangelical Christians including Edward Smith Hall (1786–1860) in 1813. In 1818 the Society promoting Christian knowledge and Benevolence lapsed and the Benevolent Society was formed with Governor Macquarie as Patron.”


1841 map

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Chinatown 26: Central Station to Chinatown 3

Still there, even if dwarfed by its surroundings, is Christ Church St Laurence.

Christ Church St Laurence is an Anglican Parish in the Anglican Church of Australia. We are of the Anglo-Catholic tradition and are in Communion with Canterbury. We acknowledge and respect the historical role of the Archbishop of Canterbury within the Anglican Communion.

Now you will appreciate that as an ecclesiastical nose-thumb directed to St Andrews Cathedral further up George Street…

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