This Week in Port Phillip 8-15 January 1842

Twelfth Night

Well, it was the week after New Year and some people celebrated Twelfth Night (which I gather is more significant in England than it is here in Australia). Twelfth Cakes were available from Mr Burgin the pastrycook in Collins-street.

twelfth-cake-with-feathers

http://www.historicfood.com/John%20Mollard’s%20Twelfth%20Cake.html

From the Port Phillip Gazette:

TWELFTH NIGHT. The shop of Mr Burgin, pastrycook of Collins’ street exhibited on Thursday evening a splendid variety of Twelfth Cakes, of all prices and dimensions, capable of suiting all parties and pockets.   The larger class were gaily ornamented with a variety of beautiful French ornaments, lately received by Mr Burgin. [PPG 8/1/42]

The Port Phillip Patriot had a similar report:

TWELFTH NIGHT The lovers of good old English customs duly celebrated Twelfth Night in all its routine of harmless merriment on Thursday last, and great was the run on the vendors of pastry for the occasion. The tempting display of twelfth cakes made by Mr Burgin, deserves particular mention, being such as would have done credit to the shop of the first pastry-cook in London.[PPP 10/1/42]

Infrastructure

During January 1842 work commenced on two infrastructure projects that had been demanded for some time.  The first was to construct a weir in the Yarra River at ‘The Falls’ at the bottom of Queen Street. ‘The Falls’ is a rather generous description: it was a small rocky outcrop that separated the salt water coming up from the bay from the fresh water coming down from the Yarra catchment. It may have been small, but it was very important because the town’s water supply was taken from the freshwater section, and when the falls were swamped by flood water or high tides, the fresh water supply was contaminated.

melbourne-from-the-falls-from-a-sketch-oct-1838

[Melbourne from the falls, from a sketch Oct. 1838] [picture] / Robert Russell. State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/41843

There had been an attempt to build up the falls in 1839, and now with many unemployed labourers congregating around Melbourne, they were put to work on the weir (also a rather generous description.)

A gang of hands are now employed on the Weir; in the first instance only one wall will be built, after which a second will be added, and the intervening space filled up with puddling clay; the whole width of the Weir will be twenty-seven feet; and when there is no fresh water in the river will serve the purpose of a bridge [PPG 8/1/42]

It is sobering to realize that the Yarra did not have a properly constructed bridge across it until 1845. Until then, people were reliant on punts. I’m not sure that the weir was ever used for crossing purposes, and these works soon deteriorated just as the 1839construction  did.

The second infrastructure project was to build a road from ‘the beach’ (i.e. Port Melbourne) to Melbourne town. After mooring in Hobson’s Bay, visitors to Melbourne had two choices: to travel up the Yarra by steamer, or to travel overland from Port Melbourne to town. It was a rough track, for which Mr Liardet had the contract for a conveyance service.  It was not unknown for people to be held up by thieves en route. Clearing the road was a good project for the unemployed labourers:

WE are glad to learn that a number of the newly arrived immigrants are employed in constructing a road between Melbourne and the Beach. This, perhaps, is one of the most crying of “our wants” and we trust that its satisfaction is only the prelude to the many and important benefits which His Excellency intends to confer on the dwellers in Australia the Happy [PPP 13/1/42]

and

THE NEW ROAD. At last the Government have commenced the line of road from the site of the projected new bridge to the beach. The surveyors are hard at work laying out the line, and all the unemployed immigrants are employed in felling and stumping in all directions. They are allowed four shillings a day, but find their own rations. [PPG 12/1/42]

Although no doubt people were pleased to see this infrastructure finally being built, the fact that it was being constructed by unemployed labourers as a government scheme was a sign of market failure.  These labourers had been encouraged to Port Phillip with the promise of abundant work, prior to the recession which was just starting to bite. They were never intended to be a burden on the government.

Things getting worse

A sign of the deterioration of economic conditions was the falling price of land.

FALL IN LAND.On Tuesday was brought to the hammer by Mr Sugden, the Sheriff’s Baillif, a piece of land in the upper end of Little Flinders-street, which was knocked down to Mr F. E. Falkiner at 27s per foot. About two years since the same land was purchased by the proprietor on whose account it was sold, at £4 4s. per foot. [PPG 12/1/42]

A change of government overseas

I’m writing this entry in the week prior to Donald Trump’s inauguration. It is a political event that Australia has been powerless to influence, but which  will affect Australia and the rest of the world nonetheless.  In early 1842 the Australian newspapers were digesting the just-received news of the appointment of a new Conservative government in September 1841, headed by Sir Robert Peel after six years of Whig government. This situation, like Trump’s inauguration this week, had the potential to bring a new political stance to matters affecting the Australian colonies.   Although it was not likely that a Conservative government would lean towards either representative or responsible government in the Australian colonies, the Sydney Gazette thought that the change of government offered a good opportunity to agitate for representative government in local affairs:

No time could be more opportune than the present to petition our gracious Queen and the Imperial Parliament. The Conservative party are actuated, no doubt, with a strong desire to conciliate not only the people of Great Britain, but the millions that constitute her immense Colonial Empire. The cause that has led to this change of opinion, and to the appointment as Colonial Minister, of Lord Stanley, one of the most talented , all will admit, of the men who now sway the destinies of the British Empire, can be traced to the long expulsion of the Tory party from the sweets of office. Desirous, as most statesmen are- whatever their creed- of place, pay and patronage, we cannot imagine that the Conservative body are so indifferent to their own advantage, as to neglect strengthening their power by adopting a more liberal policy towards the Colonies than any Ministry have yet thought it incumbent on them to do. [Sydney Gazette cited in Port Phillip Gazette 15/1/42]

A portable house

The advertising columns carried this advertisement for a ‘portable cottage’. Many of the early buildings- including La Trobe’s cottage still standing in Melbourne- were prefabricated structures that were shipped from London. These were wooden structures, which were later replaced by portable iron houses (I wrote about my visit to the portable iron houses in South Melbourne here.)

 LONDON BUILT PORTABLE COTTAGE. A very superior cottage built by Manning of London, is for sale by private bargain. Its area is 59 X 20 feet, one storey high, built in the Gothic style. The accommodation consists of dining and drawing rooms, five bedrooms, one dressing closet, store room, water closet (with patent apparatus) and an attic 59 X 13 feet, which may be divided into sleeping apartments, &c &c. There are slates and lead for the roof and plaster laths, for the ceiling together will all the necessary fittings for its due completion; in fact its one of the most complete and well arranged cottages that has ever been sent out tho this colony, and as the party for whom it was built have taken up their resident in Sydney, it will be disposed of on very moderate terms.  Apply at the stores of Messrs Dunlop McNab & Co, where a sketch will be shown and every other information given. [PPG 8/1/42]

It seems to fit rather a lot into its 59 feet and I assume that the five bedrooms were rather cosy!

The Police Court

Miss Fanny Ross (AKA ‘Flash Nan’) appeared in the police court after a well-intentioned (I’m sure) attempt to entertain the immigrants. She had been enjoying a quiet pint with her cousin, and once he left her and feeling the spirit move her, she bought tooth-picks for the lately-arrived immigrants and amused herself imitating ‘L’Esmeralda’ from the Hunchback of Notre Dame by dancing the tarantella with a tamborine accompaniment. She was fined five shillings for her trouble. (PPH 11/1/42]

Meanwhile Peter Tuite and his wife Catherine were jointly indicted before the Supreme Court for keeping a brothel

The facts of this case are of too gross a nature for publication. It was proved that the prisoners kept a most disreputable house, in a land leading from Sidebottom’s public house, to Bourke-lane, where drinking, fiddling, and all sorts of disturbances were of nightly occurrence (PPP 10/1/42)

They were both found guilty by the jury and Judge Willis sentenced them both to two years jail at hard labour, and a fifty pound fine for Peter Tuite.

A singular coincidence

Amongst the prominent legal personalities in Port Phillip at this time were James Croke, the Crown Prosecutor, and Redmond Barry, who was the Commissioner of the Court of Requests as well as a barrister in the Supreme Court.  In January 1842 he was particularly well known for his defence of the Aboriginal Van Diemen’s Land prisoners who, yes, were still languishing in jail (and of whom we will read next week).

SINGULAR COINCIDENCE. The worshippers at the Episcopal Church in this town on Sunday last were provoked into a breach of decorum which had almost brought down upon their heads the rebuke of the reverend chaplain, by an awkward similarity between the names of two of the aspirants to the felicities of the married life, and those of two gentlemen learned in the law, whose position as officers of the Government necessarily brings them often before the public. The worthy clerk had just discharged the preparatory hems with which he is wont to preface his matrimonial announcements, and finding the congregation all attention proceeded to publish the banns of marriage between “James Croke, bachelor, and Mary Barry, spinster, for the third and last time”. Now Mr Croke, the barrister- not Mr Croke, the bridegroom, being a sober, steady-going bachelor, and a most unlikely butt for Cupid’s shafts, every body stared with astonishment on finding the the learned gentleman in such a predicament, and expectation was wound to the highest pitch while the clerk, who by the way is none of the quickest, proceeded to give the name of the enslaver of the heart of Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecutor. When at last the name of “Mary Barry, spinster” was proclaimed, the air of astonishment was changed to a universal titter, for every-body supposed that a hoax was being played off of which Mr Croke, Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecutor, and Mr Barry, the Commissioner of the Court of Requests, were the victims, and the worthy clerk the unconscious instrument, and it was not without some difficulty and until after several very ominous looks from the reverend chaplain that order was restored and the service proceeded  [PPP 13/1/42]

How’s the weather?

The official weather report noted ‘Fine agreeable weather’ with showers on the 12th and 13th and a top temperature with an ‘attached thermometer’ of 86 (30C) degrees.   The Port Phillip Patriot, which published its own weekly meteorologic report, reported

Jan 9  – Max: 72/ Min: 53; Jan 10- Max: 80/Min:58; Jan 11- Max:80/Min:59; Jan 12- Max:81/Min:64; Jan 13- Max:80/Min:53; Jan 14- Max:68/Min:50; Jan 15-Max: 67Min:/50 [PPP 17 January 1842]

So, all in all, pleasant summer weather with cooler weather on 14th and 15th January.  Interesting, though, that the warmest night was 64 (17.8 degrees), with most nights in the  50’s (12-15 C)

 

 

 

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4 responses to “This Week in Port Phillip 8-15 January 1842

  1. Even a Bolshie republican like me can’t help but love that cake!

  2. Re: the weather report. Melbourne’s weather would have been significantly controlled by the nearby water mass, and there would have been none of the present higher temperatures due to city generated heat.. I remember many frosts thick fogs in the 1950s, and even snow on occasion in the south west suburbs.
    Brian

    • Yes- the city generated heat is quite noticeable (and seems to be becoming even more so). My cousin really badly skinned his knees falling on frost on the way to school in the 1960s.

  3. It hadn’t occurred to me that the Yarra River wasn’t originally navigable up to the falls. (in the 1970s you could see small ships as far up the river as Spencer St). I guess there was a bar at the mouth and hence ships had to be berthed at Port Melbourne and Williamstown

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