Heritage: Havering people featured in Australia’s early newspapers

One of the last consignments of felons reached Sydney in 1849 on a convict ship called the Havering.

One of the last consignments of felons reached Sydney in 1849 on a convict ship called the Havering. Picture: Maxine Leckerman - Credit: Archant

With England cricketers Down Under for the Ashes, Prof Ged Martin looks at Havering’s historic links with Australia

Britain founded its first Australian colony, New South Wales, in 1788. Initially an open-air prison for transported criminals, Australia quickly attracted free settlers too.

One of the last consignments of felons reached Sydney in 1849 on a convict ship called the Havering!

By 1830, Australia had a lively free press, which reported news of people from our area.

In the early years, newspapers carried notices about escaped convicts.

Samuel Henry had been sentenced to transportation for life in 1818 – the records don’t explain why. He reached Van Diemen’s Land (later renamed Tasmania) in May 1819.

Nine years later, he absconded from a public works project in the island’s second town, Launceston.

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Samuel Henry was described as “native of Romford”, aged 42, a shoemaker by trade. He was 5 feet 1 inch tall (people were poorly nourished and generally shorter in those days). He had a dark complexion, brown hair, brown eyes, with scars across his right arm and upper lip.

With only 13,000 European males on the island, the description ought to have identified him.

But in 1830, two years later, despite a reward (£2!) for his capture, Samuel Henry was still free. He’d probably escaped to the lawless world of the bush.

Say “bushranger” and you’d think of Ned Kelly – not a shoemaker from Romford.

In October 1831, the Sydney Gazette advertised for another Romford runaway, John Gribbin. Just 23, he was a carver and gilder by profession, 5 feet 6 and a half inches tall, with hazel grey eyes, light brown hair and a ruddy freckled complexion.

Gribbin had only arrived in Sydney on New Year’s Eve 1830, packed into a convict ship with 191 other felons. It was no pleasure cruise.

He was still at large in November 1832. Perhaps he’d managed to work his passage back to Britain.

A sign of a changing Australia was the 1846 announcement in the Sydney Morning Herald (which is still published) that Samuel Wadeson, of Pitt Street in the city’s business district, was “applying for admission as a solicitor” in New South Wales.

He had trained under “Samuel James Wadeson, of Romford, in the county of Essex”, and learned his colonial law in an attorney’s office in the inland town of Bathurst.

Samuel Wadeson had taken articles with his father, a South Street lawyer, back in 1834, when he was seventeen.

As the eldest of at least ten children, he was probably expected to make his own way in the world.

Wadeson first emigrated to New Zealand in 1840, becoming one of the pioneer settlers in Wellington.

But he quickly crossed the Tasman Sea, and was in Australia by 1842.

Wadeson’s story ended unhappily. He suffered from epilepsy, couldn’t maintain his law practice, apparently took to drink, and died in poverty in 1872, at the outback town of Orange.

In 1851, a gold rush turned the new colony of Victoria into a bonanza. Immigrants (“Jimmy-granates” – “pomegranates” – “Poms”) poured in, making its capital, Melbourne, an instant city.

A newspaper advert in 1853 appealed to Mr Thomson, from Hornchurch. “He would oblige Mrs Stephen Collier, from Romford, by writing to her address, Post Office, St. Kilda, as he is supposed to have brought a parcel for her from home.”

St Kilda is a Melbourne suburb, home of a major Australian Rules football team. I hope the parcel was delivered.

Australia welcomed Romford produce as well as Havering people.

In 1845, businessman Octavius Coope invested in Edward Ind’s brewery.

The reorganised company targeted the Australian market. By 1848, Ind & Coope’s Romford Ale was a recognised brand name Down Under.

As a local distributor put it in 1856, Romford Strong Ale had “a good reputation for up-country trade, in consequence of its preservative properties”.

Twenty years earlier, Romford convicts had fled into the bush. Now Romford beer flowed to the frontiers of settlement.