Archive for 'New South Wales'

English: A map of the British Empire in 1921 w...

A map of the British Empire in 1921 when it was at its height. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Emigration had sharply declined over the course of the First World War. Capitalizing on the potential of Britons wanting to emigrate from post-war England, both Canada and Australia began concerted efforts to encourage renewed immigration. Owing to these efforts, migration gradually increased between 1919 and 1920.

During this time, the British government began implementing schemes of its own – though often in collaboration with the various colonies. A couple of programs were instituted to not only encourage emigration to Australia and Canada, but also to New Zealand, and South Africa as well.

The Overseas Settlement Scheme

The 1919 Overseas Settlement Scheme was passed to assist discharged soldiers returning home from the Great War. The scheme offered free passage to ex-service men and women and their dependents.  This scheme lasted until the end of 1922, and over its duration, over 86,000 migrants were provided assistance. Of this 86,000, 26,560 went to Canada, 34,750 went to Australia, 12,890 went to New Zealand, 5,890 to South Africa, and nearly 3000 ended up in other parts of the Empire.

In Australia, just over 24 million acres was allocated to the settlement scheme. Approximately 23,000 farms were established across the country, and by June of 1924, 23,367 soldiers and sailors had emigrated and settled on the farms. This scheme enabled greater development of land that had been previously uninhabited in territories throughout Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, and South Australia.

New Zealand saw a dramatic shortage of farm labourers after the loss of 17,000 men in the war. In addition to aiding ex-service men, various private sectors in New Zealand also instituted juvenile immigration schemes. The Flock House Scheme, for example, was initiated in honour of the British Navy and Mercantile Marines, and provided homes for the children of sailors who had been killed during the war. Boys received instruction in agriculture, while the girls were trained in domestic and industrial occupations. Through this scheme and others, approximately 2600 children were brought to New Zealand.

The Empire Settlement Act

King George V with the British and Dominion pr...

King George V with the British and Dominion prime ministers at the 1926 Imperial Conference (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1922, the Overseas Settlement Scheme was expanded to provide assistance to any “suitable persons” from the general public who might want to emigrate. This scheme was dubbed the Empire Settlement Act.

This act allowed the British government to collaborate with its Dominion governments, as well as with private organizations and public authorities, to develop emigration schemes. Under this act, married couples, single farm laborers and teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17 were given free passage, and occasionally, training opportunities. In exchange for passage, the emigrants were expected to settle and remain on the land.

A variety of public and private schemes were instituted under this act, including the “3000 Families Scheme” and the “Dominion-Provincial Land Settlement Scheme” in Canada, and various Australian settlement schemes initiated by Dr. Barnardo’s, the Big Brother movement, and others.

Over its duration, the Empire Settlement Act provided assistance to 212,000 immigrants to Australia, and another 130,000 immigrants to Canada.

In 1845, the European population of New Zealand hovered around 6,500. While the 1840s saw the first substantial wave of British migration, the British remained in the minority compared to the nearly 200,000 Maori. The 1840 Treaty of Waitangi had established British sovereignty; however, there were not nearly enough British citizens for the country to run in a British way.

Howick Historical Village

Howick Historical Village (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Advertising campaigns throughout England promoted New Zealand as a great place to live, and this did bring in a trickle of immigrants. Nonetheless, there was still not a large enough population to maintain an effective police or military presence. With the ever present threat of Maori attack, the New Zealand settlements were desperate for protection.

To that effect, Lt. Governor George Grey turned to England and petitioned the government for soldiers to supplement his small force of 1,100 fighting men. In response, the Lt. Governor received a contingent of 900 soldiers from New South Wales, and an additional 702 “old soldiers”.

These old soldiers, or “Fencibles” as they were called, were retired soldiers in their upper 30s and 40s, living on government pensions. A fleet of eleven ships brought the old soldiers, along with their wives and children, to New Zealand.

In return for their military duties, the soldiers (along with their families) were offered free passage and a fresh start in a new land. They were each paid a regular pension and given a cottage on an acre of land. This land would become fully theirs after serving for a seven year term. Officers were given large homesteads and a full 50 acres of land.

The Grey River, Mount Grey, Greytown, Greymout...

The Grey River, Mount Grey, Greytown, Greymouth and Grey Lynn all derive their name from Sir George Grey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Howick Settlement

The Howick settlement was originally part of a claim established by William Thomas Fairburn. Fairburn had purchased 40,000 acres of land at the insistence of local Maori tribes, and had established a mission station at Maraetai.

After the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840, the government took back 36,000 acres from the Fairburn claim. Some of the land was sold off to settlers and some was returned to the Maori; however, a substantial portion was used to establish Fencible settlements of Howick and Otahuhu.

The Howick settlement was named after Lt. Governor Grey, who was the 3rd Earl Grey and Viscount Howick, as he was largely responsible for the Fencible immigration scheme. Each old soldier was given land with the understanding that they would be called up as a defense force in wartime. Their name “Fencibles” was in fact derived from the word “Defencible”, meaning capable of defense.

While the old soldiers never were called upon to honour that defense contract, they did establish a thriving permanent settlement – some of which can still be seen today in the Howick Historical Village. Many of the old soldiers became successful farmers, and a large number of their descendants still live in the area today. In fact, it is estimated that over 600,000 New Zealanders can trace their roots back to this first group of old soldiers and their families.

Few things spark the adventurer’s spirit like the promise of gold. People are willing to leave the security of home for the dream of striking it rich on the gold fields. Time after time, gold rush fever has struck the general population, spurring massive migration to the latest gold find. Few truly find a fortune, yet this rarely stops folks from trying.

Britain has not been immune to gold fever. There are always those who are beguiled by the potential for instant wealth, and each new strike has spurred heavy migration as fortune hunters flock to the find.

English: Sailing to California for the Califor...

Sailing to California for the California Gold Rush (originally published in 1850s). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

America: The California Gold Rush (1848)

When James Marshall struck gold at John Sutter’s mill on January 24th, 1848, it went largely unnoticed. News of the find moved slowly and it wasn’t until late in the year that gold fever really caught on in El Dorado County. Sam Brannan was a store owner at Sutter’s Fort, and he immediately saw the potential for gain. He began advertising the strike in San Francisco and from there, the word spread like wildfire.

By June, nearly 5000 miners were working in the gold district. When news of the strike was legitimized by a statement from President James Polk, news began to spread across the country. Stories of gold, free for the taking, could hardly be contained and by 1849 immigrants were pouring into the country from the UK, China, Europe, Australia, and South America. According to the census in 1850, there were some 3,010 Britons living in California.

English: Australian 'Gold Rush' house The vill...

Australian ‘Gold Rush’ house ‘The Adelong’ was built by a local who made his fortune in the Australian Gold Rush! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Australia: The Victoria & NSW Gold Rush (1851)

Bathurst in New South Wales was little more than a backwater penal settlement when Edward Hargraves discovered gold there in 1851. Within weeks, however, thousands of settlers had flocked to Australia and were digging frantically for a fortune. The governor of Victoria saw potential in the new settlers and offered a reward for anyone who struck gold within 200 miles of Melbourne. Diggers took up the challenge and soon found gold in even greater abundance.

By the end of 1851, the Australian gold rush was at full steam. Tens of thousands of settlers arrived, tripling Victoria’s population to 237,000 in 1861, and doubling it again to 540,000 by 1861. New South Wales also saw a significant population increase, reaching 357,000 by 1861. Of these immigrants, 290,000 came from the British Isles and quickly became the dominant nationality in the region. In fact, by 1861, 60% of the population was from the UK.

South Africa: The Kimberly Gold Rush (1886)

The initial riches of South Africa were found in diamonds; however, in 1886, George Harrison discovered an enormous amount of gold-bearing conglomerate along the reefs of the Witwatersrand Basin. Unlike previous strikes, there were no nuggets to be found. Instead, there were miles of low-grade ore covered in thousands of feet of hard rock.

News of the strike spread quickly and men came flocking, but only those with capital could get in on the action. A number of men who had made a fortune off of Kimberly diamonds quickly grabbed control of the gold fields. Claims were soon staked along the fringe of Johannesburg, and new techniques were being developed for extracting gold from the ore.

Not many were able to capitalize on this gold rush; however, Cornish hard rock miners had just the skills that were needed to extract diamonds and gold from the mines.  Over 2500 Cornishmen migrated to South Africa and soon made up a large percentage of the white workforce in the South African mines.

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Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the British correctional system became severely overburdened. The population of England rose dramatically, and London soon became overcrowded. Poverty and social injustice were rife, child labour and long working hours were widespread, and living conditions were squalid and filthy. Many were unemployed, and crime was rampant.

English: Black-eyed Sue and Sweet Poll of Plym...

Black-eyed Sue and Sweet Poll of Plymouth taking leave of their lovers who are going to Botany Bay (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Britain’s police and penitentiary system were practically non-existent. In fact, many government officials saw the concept of a circular prison as a very American concept, so for years, the “Bloody Code” dictated the death penalty for hundreds of crimes – many as insignificant as petty theft or minor property damage.

Fortunately, the Bloody Code was put to rest when lawmakers and judges felt that the death penalty was too harsh for many crimes. The few existing gaols of the day were so overcrowded, however, that the government converted old war ships into floating prisons moored in coastal waters. The prison hulks were horrible floating dungeons, infested with vermin and disease, poorly lit and with little ventilation.

Even by the standards of that day, the prison system soon was considered unacceptable treatment of convicts. With nowhere else to turn, the British government conceived the idea of transportation as a humane alternative to the death penalty and a practical solution to overcrowded prisons.

Initially, convicts were transported to America; however, with the onset of the American Revolution, Britain had to look elsewhere. They found a viable solution in Australia, and the first convict fleet set sail in 1787

On January 18, 1788, the fleet of ships arrived at Botany Bay, a spot that had been selected as appropriate for a penal colony. Upon arrival, however, the fleet found that the harbour was unsafe and lacked a fresh water supply, so they quickly moved on. Several days later, Captain Arthur Philip, the fleet commander, raised the British flag at Sydney Cove. A group of 751 convicts and 252 marines, along with their families, disembarked and there established the colony of New South Wales. This colony eventually became the modern city of Sydney.

Two more fleets followed quickly in 1790 and 1791. Captain Phillip, who became Governor of the colony, put convicts to work according to their particular skills and regardless of their previous crimes. Men laboured as carpenters and brick makers, farmers, shepherds, and cattlemen. Educated convicts were put to work in record-keeping.

Women, on the other hand, were considered best fit to being wives and mothers. When a female convict got married, she was freed from her servitude and released to care for her husband and subsequent children.

If convicts were well-behaved and productive, they could earn a ticket of leave, giving them greater freedom. Once a convict completed his sentence (usually seven years), he was issued a Certificate of Freedom, with which he could either return to England or settle in Australia.

New penal colonies were eventually established in Port Arthur, Tasmania and Norfolk Island. These communities were considered to be places of secondary punishment where convicts suffered harsher labor and solitary confinement.

In 1803, 300 convicts arrived in Sullivan Bay near modern-day Sorrento, Victoria. While this settlement was quickly abandoned due to poor environmental conditions, others were established and between 1844 and 1849, around 1,750 convicts arrived in the region from England.

In 1850, new convicts were beginning to arrive in Western Australia. Between 1850 and 1868, 9,668 convicts were transported to the new colony on 43 convict ships. The initial convicts were sent from the New South Wales colony in 1826 with the mission of establishing a settlement there.

By the 1830’s, opposition was growing toward the transportation of convicts to the colonies. Members of the Independent Congregation Church in England were especially outspoken and influential in ending the transportation of convicts.

By 1840, convict transportation to the New South Wales colony had ceased, and Brisbane had stopped receiving convicts the previous year. For some years Van Diemen’s Land continued to receive prisoners; however, the practice was under steady attack by the anti-transportation movement.

The last convict ship to arrive in Australia arrived on January 10, 1868. Approximately 164,000 convicts on 806 ships were relocated to Australia throughout the 80 years of convict transportation.

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