Australia Day 2013: The Kents from Sandon, Herts

The 2013 Australia Day challenge was initiated by Helen of the blog From Helen V Smith’s Keyboard. The challenge is to talk about our first ancestors to arrive in Australia, male or female, or perhaps both. My initial reaction hovered around my “swimmers” George Kunkel and his wife Mary O’Brien. While George may have been part of the Victorian gold rush fever, it’s by no means certain, so in the end I decided to go with my earliest identified arrivals. This neatly captured both my great-great-great grandparents, Richard and Mary Kent, but also my great-great-grandmother, their daughter Hannah, who would later marry William Partridge in Ipswich, Queensland.

Hannah Partridge nee Kent 1909, probably taken for Qld's 50th anniversary celebrations.

Hannah Partridge nee Kent 1909, probably taken for Qld’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

Richard and Mary Kent arrived at Moreton Bay with their adult children on 16 December 1854 on board the General Hewitt. Richard Kent (46) was an agricultural labourer whose parents were Richard and Mary Kent, both deceased. Mary Kent was 49 and her parents, John and Mary Camp, were both deceased. Also among the married couples was their son Richard Kent (23) with his wife Mary Kent (23) and daughter Catherine Kent (1). The younger Richard was also an agricultural labourer and of course his parents were on board. His wife’s parents were Samuel and Mary Brittain who were both living in Cambridge. Listed among the single passengers were the older Richard and Mary’s other adult children: Hannah Kent, aged 19 was a servant whose parents were on board; Thomas Kent (19) and John Kent (17) both agricultural labourers. All the members of the family are recorded, not entirely accurately, as born in Hertfordshire. All could read and write except Mary Brittain Kent and John Kent who could read only. They all stated their religion as Church of England.[1] .

Were the Kents among the many passengers who signed the testimonials. Moreton Bay Courier 23 December 1854.

Were the Kents among the many passengers who signed the testimonials? Moreton Bay Courier 23 December 1854.

The immigrants on the General Hewitt, a ship of 965 tons, had sailed from Southampton on 25 August 1854 and arrived in Moreton Bay 107 days later. There had been 16 deaths on board (14 of them children) and 3 births. The brig Sporting Lass went down to the Bay to bring the passengers up to town but the weather was so rough it prevented the brig from lying alongside. After such a long time at sea, the immigrants had a frustrating week waiting to be taken ashore.[2] As they landed only days before Christmas I wonder what how they felt to be in such a different environment.

On arrival 381 immigrants were disembarked and the newspapers report that there was such demand for labour that less than two weeks later there were only 70 adults remaining in the immigration barracks and most of them were hired.[3] The Kents were among the large groups of agricultural labourers and servants looking for work. Presumably they were recruited by an Ipswich employer because this is where they settled. Wages for a married couple were £50 and for female servants £20.

The Kent family came from the village of Sandon in Hertfordshire which had been the family’s home for hundreds of years. In the 1851 census Richard Kent (46) was enumerated at Roe Green near Sandon as a farmer of 40 acres (employing one man) and a beer house keeper.[4] His wife Mary was 50 and their sons, Thomas 17 and John 15, were employed at home. All of the family were born in Sandon. Roe Green is an old medieval settlement and I wrote about my discovery of their pub’s name and more about it here.[5]

Sandon Church and the old Six Bells public house © Pauleen Cass 1992

Sandon Church and the old Six Bells public house © Pauleen Cass 1992

In 1851, Richard and Mary’s daughter Hannah (my great-great-grandmother-to-be) was 14 and a servant working for Mrs Anne Field at Wood Farm, in the adjacent parish of Rushden. Wood Farm has a long history, being an old moated site from the 16th century. Their eldest son, Richard Kent (21) and his wife Mary Ann Kent née Brittain (21) were living at Green End in Sandon where Richard was working as an agricultural labourer. Mary Ann Brittain’s home place is recorded as Melbourn, Cambridgeshire, not Sandon. It is interesting to compare the family’s ages with the stated ages on arrival compared to their actual ages: Richard 46 (actually 49), Mary 49 (53), Richard jnr 23 (24), Mary Ann 23 (24), Hannah 19 (17), Thomas 19 (20) and John 17 (18). Hence all their ages, except Hannah’s, were decreased to enhance their immigration prospects and reduce costs.

An 1851 Post office directory for Hertfordshire confirms that Richard Kent was a beer retailer.[6] The village of Sandon was not a large one, though the parish is a little spread out and in 1851 there were 176 houses with a population of 770 (412 men and 358 women). It seems that the Kents were reasonably well established though not affluent. One wonders why the whole family decided to emigrate and re-establish themselves in MoretonBay. I think their reasons were either economic or to help the adult children get ahead. At one time I thought it may also have been attributable to religious affiliation as in Queensland there were occasional non-conformist links. I now suspect this was not the case.

Richard Kent’s name appears on various electoral rolls and on endorsements of nominees for parliamentary positions in Queensland. Apart from that he seems to have kept a fairly low profile in his new town and without any oral history it is difficult to develop a more holistic understanding of Richard or his wife Mary Kent.

The North Australian, Ipswich and General Advertiser, 30 September 1856, page 1

The North Australian, Ipswich and General Advertiser, 30 September 1856, page 1

Trove has helped me to unearth a clue to the family’s early life in Ipswich with several advertisements throughout 1856, thanks to the recent digitisation of the Ipswich newspapers. Richard Kent was working on Rhossili/Rhossilli, a property in Little Ipswich (now the edge of West Ipswich) where he is listed as “in charge” of stock. Whether this Richard was the father, who had run a farm as well as his public house, or the son who had worked as a farm labourer, is nigh on impossible to know. I like the fact that whichever man it was, had the opportunity to work with skills he’d acquired in England. Perhaps it was even his first contract on arrival in Queensland less than two years earlier.

Rhossilli Ipswich, but is it the right one? 1939. bishop.slq.qld.gov.au:130643 Copyright expired.

Rhossilli Ipswich, but is it the right one? 1939. bishop.slq.qld.gov.au:130643 Copyright expired.

My search for Rhossili in Trove revealed that around this time it was lived in by Pollett Cardew, Commissioner of the Peace. Ipswich Heritage lists a property called Rhossili but states it’s unclear whether this is the first property of that name. My ambivalence rests on the fact that this Rhossili is in Newtown, to the east of the city centre, whereas Little Ipswich was to the west. Conversely, Cardew is mentioned in association with the Ipswich Heritage site, in Pugh’s Almanac and in Trove family notices from 1857. Obviously there’s scope for future research at Queensland archives and libraries now I’m aware of the family connection.

The family’s hopes for a promising new life disappeared with the early deaths of children and grandchildren, leaving the succession limited mainly to the women in the line. On such genetic whims of matrilineal inheritance does my own existence depend.

Richard Kent died, aged 65, on 31 July 1870 at his residence at Pelican Street, North Ipswich. Richard’s place of birth is correctly stated as Red Hill (Sandon).[7] He was buried in the Ipswich cemetery by the Church of England minister.  His wife, Mary Kent, died aged 75, only a few months later on 26 September 1870 at Terrace Street, NorthIpswich, the home of her daughter Hannah Partridge. Plainly her age had been routinely under-stated in the records. Her place of birth is stated as Weston (not Sandon), Hereford (actually Hertfordshire).

© Pauleen Cass


[1] State Records of NSW, Persons on Bounty ships to Sydney, Newcastle, MoretonBay 1848-1866. CGS 5317, microfilm 2466, reference 4/4937.

[2] The Moreton Bay Courier, 23 December 1854, page 2.

[3] The Moreton Bay Courier, 30 December 1854, page 2.

[4] 1851 English census, Hertfordshire, Registration district of Royston, Sub-registration district of Buntingford, parish of Sandon, HO107.

[6] Post Office Directory Hertfordshire, 1851,village of Sandon, page 222, digitised by Archive CD Books.

[7]Queensland death certificate 1870/C490. His county of birth is shown as Herefordshire not Hertfordshire, a mistake which was repeated on Mary Kent’s death certificate.

Racing through R in Retford, Rotterdam and Rocky

I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. My theme is a genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue (I’m not sure which). Today I am going to keep comments on each place succinct and refer you back to earlier posts.

R is for Retford (Nottinghamshire, England)

Grove St, Retford where Susannah Cass had her school for ladies. © P Cass 2006.

Mr Cassmob’s Cass ancestors lived in Retford where his 2xgreat grandmother Suzannah Cass and her sisters ran a school for young women with her sisters. The women lived in the adjacent area of Moorgate. Back in 2006 we had a great time on this particular leg of our family history adventures. You can read about it here.

R is for Rotterdam (Netherlands)

My 2xgreat grandfather, Laurence Melvin, worked as a merchant sailor, travelling between Leith and the northern European ports. He was a young man, with a wife and three small children, when he took ill on one of his voyages. He died overnight and is buried in Rotterdam. I’m not sure I’ll ever know precisely where.

R is for Rockhampton (Queensland)

Rockhampton was the Queensland hub for my McSherry/McSharry ancestors after they arrived in 1884/1883 respectively. Last year I posted about discovering the sale of my great-grandfather, Peter McSherry’s estate on Trove. More recently I wrote about how his mother, Bridget McSharry, had a boarding house in Rockhampton and the hardships she experienced in her new Queensland life, and the on-going mystery and brick wall of her husband, James McSharry.  Peter, his wife Mary, and mother Bridget are all buried in the Rockhampton cemeteries. Although I’ve visited Rocky briefly in recent decades, for me the mental associationis stopping there on the Sunlander train, and Dad making a mad dash to get us beautiful fish and chips for our lunch.

St Mary's Rushden is just delightful. © P Cass 2010

R is for Rushden (Hertfordshire, England)

Although my Kent (name, not place) ancestors belonged to the Sandon parish in Hertfordshire, it’s likely they also visited the Rushden church from time to time as it was just as close to the Red Hill area of Sandon. I too have visited this church several times over the decades. It may only be “just another 14th century church” to quote a family member, but I love its simplicity and its peace, tucked away up a lane. When the daffodils flower in the churchyard among the graves it is simply lovely. The village has many gorgeous old homes with timber work and thatched roofs. I’m also enamoured with the name of the local pub The Moon and Stars. In one of those flights of fancy I usually never apply to my ancestry, wouldn’t it be nice to think my Kent publicans might have worked there once.

Sandon, Hertfordshire enclosure and the Kent family

Sometimes with family history it’s one small fact that is the key to opening a door. Such was the case with the enclosure documents I’d photographed while visiting the Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies (HALS) last year.  Despite having the information for nearly a year I hadn’t got round to looking at it in detail until I took the Pharos  course on Enclosure Maps and Records for Family Historians.[i]

I won’t attempt to go into the details of enclosure here except to say that it was the process, put simply, whereby formerly common lands were enclosed for private use usually by the bigger landowners of a parish. Also during this process the landowners may have “swapped” their land plots with others in order to consolidate their properties in a more rational and productive way. The National Archives has this informative guide to Enclosure Records.

Roe Green a hamlet in Sandon parish, Herts, but no sign to my Kent family’s former home.

Sandon parish in Hertfordshire, where one branch of my ancestors lived, commenced this process in 1840 and the award was enrolled in 1842. [ii] At the conclusion of the enclosure process a detailed map was produced and all land adjustments recorded. This comprehensive map is available through HALS.[iii]

At the commencement of the enclosure process, a community meeting was held to discuss the ramifications and proposals around the enclosure. The meeting was advertised in advance by notices on the church door and also in the local newspaper, The Reformer. However it was the location of the meeting that was to be my gold key. It was held at the public house of Richard Kent known by the sign of the Anchor at Roe Green, a hamlet in the parish.

While I’d known from the 1841 and 1851 census enumerations that Richard Kent (and indeed his father) was a publican I had never known the name of the pub. This snippet giving its name was indeed the key to learning more about his life before he, his wife and adult family emigrated in 1854.

The next strategy I applied was to ascertain whether the pub was one of the UK’s listed buildings. I figured if it had been around for a couple of centuries, this might be possible.

Believe it or not, Roe Green really was this green! But which of these heritage houses might have been where my ancestor lived? © Pauleen Cass

There were two pathways to this information:

1. The first, through British Heritage, enables a search of a locality http://list.english-heritage.org.uk/. I used the advanced search to locate Sandon in Hertfordshire and not others.

2. The second provides the same information but you go directly through the Listed Buildings site at http://www.britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/england/hertfordshire which let me then choose the parish and the building.

Both provided me with a listing for The Old Anchor as it was also known in subsequent years. Both also provided me with detailed descriptions, but overall I think I prefer the first option as a search tool. So what did I learn about the building? The full description is subject to Crown Copyright but you can read it here. In essence, it is a former public house dating from the 17thcentury and is grade II listed. It also provides its grid reference and a local map. It must be said though that the location of the building on the map can be a little imprecise.

The (Old) Anchor on Roe Green, Sandon, Herts in 2010. © Pauleen Cass

Armed with this additional information, and the alternative title, I googled the name for more information, using various search combinations. This turned up a range of information ranging from real estate sales to renovation approvals, hiking/walking trails and general information. All of which are grist for the family history mill.[iv] One site in particular deals with the common lands, remaining after enclosure, in Sandon parish and specifically in the locality of Roe Green.

Google images provided me with a great photo of the house taken by Mark Jordan for Panoramio. It was so evident it was the Anchor, that I went back to my own photos, taken on a scattergun approach before I learned the name of the family’s public house and knew its location.  Lo and behold I had taken a photo which did show the anchor over the front door but it is nowhere near as obvious as on Panoramio. I’m indebted to Mark and his photo for giving me the “tipoff”. (Rhetorical question: why do you always learn pivotal information after you’ve visited the place??)

Another useful site I came across shows images of listed buildings circa 2001, at the turn of the 20thcentury.  Images of England is linked to the National Monuments Record website. The Old Anchor is photographed on this site and the copyrighted image can be seen here.

There are also a couple of sites which deal with old pubs or inns in Hertfordshire and mention this public house. They are a Flickr discussion site and Dead Pubs though both discuss later periods. Previous to learning the pub’s name I hadn’t had enough detail to know in which property at Roe Green the Kent family had lived. Now I could go back and trace it through all the decennial census records from 1841 through to 1911 using Findmypast UK: while not every census gives the actual name of the building, a couple do, which makes it possible to link them up. Historical Directories also provide useful information on the inhabitants over time.

What becomes apparent is that while Richard Kent classed himself in 1851 as a publican, as well as a farmer of 40 acres, presumably through a lease agreement. This was not the case with subsequent owners/tenants of The Anchor. Why was this so? Had his land lease been taken away? Was this one of the reasons the family left for Australia in 1854? Did the next tenant simply not want to take on the farming lease given they already had a trade? So many questions which only further research both in reading and in the archives might address.

Meanwhile I’m looking forward to learning more about the background by reading Behind the plough: agrarian society in nineteenth-century Hertfordshire by Nigel E Agar and Brewers in Hertfordshire – A historical gazetteer by Alan Whittaker.

This research is © P Cass September 2011.

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[i] These courses provide historical context for family history research and are excellent.

[ii] The Award is also available from The National Archives at Kew at CP 40/4003.

[iii] HALS reference QS/E/85. Sandon parish is also fortunate to have the Tithe map from 1840 as well. DSA4/90/2