Tag Archives: Orphan Grant

The Colonnade, Bridge Street: a chronology

A number of articles and comments on the Unhurried Traveller website refer to the Colonnade, Bridge Street, Sydney. The partial chronology given below is intended to co-ordinate some of the information relating to the Colonnade. Also included are some biographical details concerning people associated with the Colonnade, and some details concerning developments in the general vicinity.

Grateful acknowledgement is made of information contributed by a number of readers in comments; see in particular ‘The Colonnade, Bridge-street’ and comments there. It is hoped that further chronological details can be added from time to time.

c. 1820s – 1830s. Lumber yard on southern corner of George and Bridge Streets.

1827. Land known as the Orphan Grant (or Orphan House Ground), bordered on the west by George Street and on the south by Bridge Street, subdivided into six lots and sold.

1828. August. John Edye Manning (in England) appointed registrar of the Supreme Court of New South Wales.

1828. 27 December. John Verge, previously and later architect, now farmer, arrived in Sydney ‘with his son, a shepherd, a flock of Hampshire sheep, various supplies and agricultural equipment’; settled at 70 Pitt Street; received land grants; ‘Most of his architectural work in Sydney appears to have been done between 1830 and 1837, when he retired to Lyndhurst Vale and later to Austral Eden’; ‘his time of maximum activity, 1830-34’; ‘His domestic buildings were the colony’s high-water mark of the Regency style, in its austere stucco vernacular, and in this context he was one of the earliest and most important practitioners of the Greek Revival in Australia’; ‘The pre-eminent early nineteenth century country house in Australia, and Verge’s masterpiece, is Camden Park, Camden, designed for John Macarthur in 1831-32 and built in 1832-35’; ‘One of the richest and most spatially dramatic interiors in early Australian colonial architecture is seen in the hall at the massive Elizabeth Bay House … designed in 1833, and built in 1835-37’; ‘The important terraces, shops and bazaars designed for such businessmen of Sydney as Samuel Lyons and John Edye Manning, father and son, have all disappeared. The only surviving Verge terrace house is the pair designed and built for the Sydney tradesman Frederick Peterson in 1834-36, 39 and 41 Lower Fort Street, which remains as an example of Verge’s many routine commissions for city frontages’ (ADB).

1829. May. Manning arrived in Sydney with his wife and five children.

1830. Thomas Brett established a wine and spirit warehouse, known as (or including?) St. John’s Tavern, on the northern corner of George and Bridge Streets.

1831. February. Verge bought land on the site of 346 Sussex Street, and built his house there.

1831. November. Manning received two land allotments at Rushcutters Bay. Eventually, ‘His large land holdings included houses and stores in Queen Street, Sydney, land at Brisbane Water, Melbourne, Carcoar, Goulburn and Wollongong, and a lease of Vermont near Camden’ (Australian Dictionary of Biography).

1831. 5 December. An ‘illumination’ (display of lights) for the newly arrived governor General Richard Bourke; St. John’s Tavern participated.

1832. 18 June. Supreme Court: Thomas Brett, of St. John’s Tavern, was sued successfully by Rebecca Miller for breach of promise.

1833. 29 July. Sydney Herald, p. 2: William Jones, printer, and Mrs. Mary Jones and Lucilla Jones, arrived from London.

1833. August. A piece of land was purchased from Thomas Collins by John Edye Manning; he commissioned John Verge, architect, to design for the property a terrace of seven houses and shops, called the Colonnade.

1834. 7 October. Sydney Gazette: shops include those of Mrs. Boatwright (seminary for young ladies) and Mr Metcalfe; some shops yet to be let.

1834. (Details from a number of newspapers of various dates.) Colonnade, no. 1: Commercial Banking Company of Sydney (newly established). 2: Joseph Pritchard (selling assorted goods). 3: H.J. Sloman, Boot and Shoe Depot; and Spyer Brothers (selling various goods); and later in the year Mr. Grace, solicitor. 4?: Mrs. Metcalfe (selling bonnets). 6: Mrs. Boatwright, School for Young Ladies. 7: Mr. G.W. Evans (bookseller and stationer; formerly surveyor and explorer).

1836. 9 January. Sydney Gazette advertises the whole of the Colonnade for sale (via auctioneer Samuel Lyons).

1836. 22 January. Australian: Colonnade, no. 1: purchased by Mr. A. O’Reilly (Anthony O’Reilly, currier, established a leather and grindery warehouse at the Colonnade). 2: Mr. Joseph Pritchard. 3: Messrs. Spyer Brothers. 4: Mr. W. Moffitt. 5: Mr. W. Jones.

1840s. Colonnade, no. 17: Thomas Revel Johnson operated from no. 17 a newspaper, Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Reviewer (1845-1860; subsequently entitled Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Chronicle, 1860-1870).

1841. Manning ‘became a victim of the depression, for his property and stock were heavily mortgaged and his shares worthless’ (ADB).

1841. 5 July. ‘Directory of the Public Institutions and Government Offices in Sydney’, Sydney Herald: the office of the Australian newspaper is in Bridge Street, in the ‘lowest house in the Colonade’.

1846. 5 August. Sydney Morning Herald, p. 1: William Walker a new occupant at the Colonnade.

1846. 7 September. Sydney Morning Herald, p. 2: Colonnade, no. 17, known as the Dolphin Hotel, ‘together with the premises adjoining’, advertised for sale by William Jones, proprietor; used as a printing office; ‘The situation is first-rate … being the principal entrance from George-street to the Circular Wharf, Customs House, and all the public Government Offices…’

R.J.M. Newton, ‘Manning, John Edye (1783–1870)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 2, 1967; and online. Harley Preston, ‘Verge, John (1782–1861)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 2, 1967; and online.

A memorable December

In the early 1830s, walking along George Street from Sydney Cove, one soon came upon St. John’s Tavern, on the north corner of George and Bridge Streets. On the other side of Bridge Street and extending along that street was a Lumber Yard.

The Tavern was one of a number of buildings that stood on what used to be called the ‘Orphan Grant’ or the ‘Orphan House Ground’, which stretched between George Street and the ‘Stream of the Tanks’, and was bordered on the south by Bridge Street and on the north by the allotment of James Underwood. This ‘Orphan Grant’ was subdivided into six separate lots and sold off in 1827. Offered for sale at the same time was the Orphan School Grant at Cabramatta (6,000 acres), subdivided into lots, and offered for lease was farming land near Bathurst also known as the Orphan School Grant (1,000 acres, of which 20 were reserved for a possible church and school).

In October 1830 we find Thomas Brett advertising his recently opened ‘Wholesale and Retail Wine and Spirit Warehouse. St. John’s Tavern, Opposite the Lumber Yard, George-street.’ He acknowledged the ‘flattering patronage’ he had already received, and assured his friends and the public of ‘his determination to persevere in the sale of the finest articles that can be produced, and at such prices as cannot be undersold by any house in the trade.’

The name of St. John was appropriate to a tavern that housed Masonic Lodge Rooms where the Australian Social Lodge held its meetings. The feast-days of St. John the Baptist (24 June) and of St. John the Evangelist (27 December), six months apart, were particular occasions of celebration for the Masonic movement. In December 1831, for example, to honour the anniversary of St. John the Evangelist, the Australian Social Lodge ‘regaled their friends’ at ‘Brett’s, St. John’s Tavern’, while the Leinster Marine Lodge assembled at the Royal Hotel and the Military Lodge gathered in the Non-commissioned Officers’ Mess room at the Military Barracks.

December 1831 was a memorable month. On the 2nd General Richard Bourke arrived to become the colony’s eighth Governor, and on the 5th the town held an ‘illumination’, in which St. John’s Tavern took part. It was also a personally memorable time for Thomas Brett, but the outcome was not what he had originally intended. Nor was it the outcome expected by Rebecca Miller, whose guardian was Mr. William Bennett, baker, of Parramatta. Thomas met Rebecca at Mr. Bennett’s home, became an admirer, made frequent visits, wooed and won Rebecca, and received Mr. Bennett’s approval to marry her. The wedding was set down for around Christmas time, or New Year’s Day at the latest. Wedding clothes were prepared and guests invited.

However, there was a hitch. The Bennetts received warning that Thomas was already married. Enquiries were made and the family were able to satisfy themselves that Thomas had no wife in England, as had been rumoured. But by this time Thomas found himself no longer willing to proceed with the marriage, and he wrote to Mr. Bennett to that effect on 23 December.

We learn these details from the newspaper report of the court case which eventuated. The matter was heard before Justice Stephen and a common jury at the Supreme Court on 18 June 1832. Rebecca Miller, under age, through her guardian, was suing Thomas Brett for breach of promise of marriage, and seeking compensation of £1,000. William Charles Wentworth was counsel for the plaintiff, while counsel for the defendant was Mr. Macdowell, who professed himself in awe of the fame and ability of his learned colleague.

[To be continued.]

Orphan Grant land for sale: Australian 7/4/1827, p. 2. St. John’s Tavern, recently opened: Australian 29/1/1830, p. 1. Anniversary of St. John the Evangelist: Sydney Monitor 31/12/1831, p. 2. Court proceedings: Australian 22/6/1832, p. 3. Louis Green, ‘Macdowell, Edward (1798-1860)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 2, 1967, pp. 164-165, and online. Michael Persse, ‘Wentworth, William Charles (1790-1872)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol 2, 1967, pp. 582-589, and online.