Tag Archives: Transportation

Such precipices as would make you shudder

(Continuing with the story of the Hawkins family as they journey from Sydney to Bathurst in 1822. See the entry of 16/2/2011 and onwards.)

After arriving at Springwood on Sunday 14 April and spending the night in less than ideal accommodation, the Hawkins family took four days to get from there to Mount York, arriving (according to Elizabeth Hawkins’ letter) on 18 April (a Thursday). It seems that they took four or five more days to get to Bathurst, apparently reaching their destination late on Monday 22 or Tuesday 23 April. Elizabeth calculated that they were 18 days on the road since their departure on Easter Saturday. Her figures could be a little awry; it is clear that she erroneously dated Good Friday, the eve of their departure, to 4 instead of 5 April; and her description of the days between Springwood and Mount York telescopes the days to some extent. They had a couple of breaks before the Mountains, resting at Rooty Hill on Easter Sunday and spending several days at Emu Island, which they left on Friday 12 April; otherwise they travelled every day, including Sundays, despite government orders to the contrary. From Emu Island to Bathurst took about ten days.

In describing their progress between Springwood and Mount York, Elizabeth emphasises the way in which the road constantly takes detours because of the difficult terrain:

You must understand that the whole of the road, from the beginning to the end of the mountains, is cut entirely through a forest; nor can you go in a direct line to Bathurst from one mountain to another but you are obliged to wind round the edges of them, and at times you look down such precipices as would make you shudder.

The difficulties of the road were exaggerated by the fact that the bullocks were unco-operative. On leaving Springwood they attached three instead of two bullocks to the cart for extra pull, but this only made things worse. One or another bullock would lie down every now and again and the dogs would bark and bite the bullocks’ noses to get them up.

The barking of the dogs, the bellowing of the bullocks, and the swearing of the men made our heads ache, and kept us in continual terror. This was exactly the case every morning of the journey.

Rising and dipping and winding this way and that, the road took them ever upwards towards the heights of the Mountains, between Blackheath and Mount York. The steady rise to Blackheath can be seen graphically portrayed in a recent diagram based on heights above sea level of the modern railway stations along the way. The heights of the landforms are somewhat different, but the general effect is clear. At Mount Victoria the railway line diverges from the old and new roads, going north to Bell and then west to Lithgow.

‘The Mountains in 1822: Lady’s vivid diary, II’, Sydney Morning Herald 7/9/1929, p. 13.

The house at Springwood

(Continuing with the story of the Hawkins family as they journey from Sydney to Bathurst in 1822. See the entry of 16/2/2011 and onwards.)

In recounting the events of Sunday 14 April, Elizabeth Hawkins tells us, rather surprisingly, that a team of bullocks and ‘Hawkins’ horses’ had returned to Emu Island during the previous night. They had started off with two drays pulled by five bullocks each, another dray pulled by four horses, and a cart with two horses. Now they went on with a bullock dray, the horse dray and the cart. They also switched two of the bullocks over to the cart and used the two cart-horses with the bullock team, after their experience of the day before when the bullock teams alone failed to make the grade.

There is no mention of the idea of resting on Sunday. Presumably they could not rest but had to go on. They managed to go nine miles that day, but it was ‘a most fatiguing journey.’ They arrived at Springwood, where there was a house with some grass in front but otherwise surrounded by forest. ‘A good barn in England would have been a palace to this,’ Elizabeth comments.

Stationed there were a corporal and two men, who Elizabeth understood had the job of superintending Government stock; there was also the corporal’s wife. The house had been designed for more people, and had a large room where provisions had been stored, a large kitchen (‘with an immense fireplace’) and two small rooms. There were no chairs in the house. The kitchen had ‘a long table, a form, and some stumps of trees’ for chairs. Also staying there were several travellers on their way from Bathurst to Sydney.

It was getting dark and Hawkins had not arrived. Finally the store-keeper from Emu came to say that Hawkins was on his way but needed some of the horses sent back from Springwood to help him through. To Elizabeth’s relief her husband arrived just before 9 o’clock. The corporal’s wife, a fawning old woman, screamed out, ‘Welcome to Springwood, Sir.’ Hawkins was not impressed by the old lady, and Elizabeth was not impressed by the whole experience of staying there that night.

‘The Mountains in 1822: Lady’s vivid diary, II’, Sydney Morning Herald 7/9/1929, p. 13.

Weather conditions: Sunday 14 April 1822: Lapstone Hill to Springwood, fine. Letter, Elizabeth Hawkins to sister, 7 May 1822, partially reproduced in Sydney Morning Herald 7/9/1929, p. 13.

Such a scene as I cannot describe

(Continuing with the story of the Hawkins family as they journey from Sydney to Bathurst in 1822. See the entry of 16/2/2011 and onwards.)

After spending Friday 12 April getting away at last from Emu Island and moving perhaps half a mile along the side of the mountains to the point where the road started a steep ascent, the Hawkins family must have spent an uneasy night with the prospect of the task ahead and unable to make a proper camp at this location. It was only on the next night, Elizabeth tells us, that they pitched the tent for the first time.

The first hill was called Lapstone hill, ‘so called from all the stones being like a cobbler’s lapstone.’ They immediately found that their arrangements for the journey were not sufficient. The loads were too heavy for the bullocks to pull. They organised to get a cart from Emu so that they could send back some of their luggage. The horses attached to one of their drays managed the terrain very well. But even with some of their luggage discarded to lighten the load, having got the horse-dray to the top of the hill they had to bring the horses down to help with pulling the two drays drawn by bullocks.

On that Saturday they only covered one and a half miles. The day’s efforts were exhausting for everyone, including the women.

The fatigue to mother and myself was very great every night after the day’s journey in preparing the beds and giving the children their meals, the little ones being generally tired and cross.

Having said at an earlier stage that they set off with three drays and a cart, in describing the scene that evening Elizabeth refers to drays and carts. The nine men kept these carefully in view while they tended to immense cooking fires. In one place ‘our own man’ was roasting two fowls for the journey the next day. In another place ‘the men convicts’ (‘not the most prepossessing in their appearance’) were busy at their tasks. We do not hear how the female servant from the Factory at Parramatta was employed.

It must have been a scene both weird and enchanting. ‘It was a lovely moonlight night, and all was novelty and delight to the elder children.’ The nine men ranged about,

with the glow of the fires and the reflection of the moon shining on them in the midst of a forest, formed such a scene as I cannot describe.

Quotations are from ‘The Mountains in 1822: Lady’s vivid diary, II’, Sydney Morning Herald 7/9/1929, p. 13; other sources should be checked to clarify the original wording.

Weather conditions: Saturday 13 April 1822: Emu Island and Lapstone Hill, apparently fine; fine in the evening. Letter, Elizabeth Hawkins to sister, 7 May 1822, partially reproduced in Sydney Morning Herald 7/9/1929, p. 13.

This most tremendous journey

(Continuing with the story of the Hawkins family as they journey from Sydney to Bathurst in 1822. See the entry of 16/2/2011 and onwards.)

At last the day came, Friday 12 April 1822, when it was time for the Hawkins family to move off on their journey over the Blue Mountains. There was some final loading to do, and many things had to be left behind because they could not fit in all their luggage as well as the provisions required – food for the family and for nine men who accompanied them, and corn for the cattle as there was not enough grass on the Mountains. They had two drays pulled by five bullocks each, another dray pulled by four horses, and a cart with two horses; there were no more carts available. Government officers did as much as they could, says Elizabeth, to make the family comfortable. Sir John Jamison came to see them off and gave them ‘a quarter of mutton, a couple of fowls, and some butter.’ They left with the good wishes of all, ‘not excepting a party of natives who had come to bid us welcome.’

They had not gone far before progress was temporarily halted. No more than a quarter of a mile along the road, still within sight of Emu Island, the second bullock dray became bogged in the sandy bed of a stream that ran across their way. The store-keeper superintendent and overseer at Emu saw them in distress and came to help, and stayed till nightfall. It took an hour to get the dray out, with the horses pulling as well as the bullocks.

After another quarter of a mile of slow progress, they were well and truly confronted with the challenge of the climb ahead.

… and now, my dear sister, imagine me at the foot of a tremendous mountain, the difficulty of passing which is as great or greater, I suppose, than any known road in the world, not from the road’s being bad, as it has been made, and is hard all the way, but because of the extreme steepness of the road, the hollow places and the large and rugged pieces of rock.

The Hawkins were the first family of free settlers to attempt to cross the mountains, and Elizabeth had been left in no doubt about the difficulties to be expected.

I had now before me this most tremendous journey. I was told I deserved to be immortalised for the attempt, and that Government could not do too much for us for taking such a family to a settlement where none had ever gone before.

The day they set off from Emu Island to climb the Mountains was the day that Thomas Fitzherbert Hawkins’ appointment as Commissariat storekeeper at Bathurst was announced in the Sydney Gazette.

Quotations are from ‘The Mountains in 1822: Lady’s vivid diary, I’, Sydney Morning Herald 31/8/1929, p. 13; other sources should be checked to clarify the original wording.

Weather conditions: Friday 12 April 1822: Emu Island, apparently fine. Letter, Elizabeth Hawkins to sister, 7 May 1822, partially reproduced in Sydney Morning Herald 31/8/1929, p. 13.

A family travels from Sydney to Bathurst in 1822

In an Order of 11 April 1822, the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Thomas Brisbane, announced several appointments relating to the Commissariat. These included the appointment of Mr. Thomas Fitzherbert Hawkins, Purser to the Royal Navy, to be Commissariat Storekeeper at Bathurst, ‘His Pay to commence on his Arrival at that Station.’

Thomas Fitzherbert Hawkins (1781-1837), born in England, became a purser in the Royal Navy in 1800 and served in that position during the Napoleonic wars. At the end of his service he was lame from an injury and out of a job, and he turned to business but without success. He had married in 1802, and in 1821 he emigrated with his wife Elizabeth (1783-1875), mother-in-law and children, arriving in Sydney in January 1822. Some three months later he received the appointment as store-keeper and the family left Sydney for Bathurst six days before the date of the Order.

This entailed a journey of over two weeks, described in detail by Elizabeth in a letter of 7 May 1822 to her sister in England. A century later the letter was published in the Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Australian Historical Society (1923). The letter was reproduced in two instalments in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1929. There are typescript copies in the State Library of New South Wales and the National Library of Australia.

At the beginning of her letter Elizabeth says, ‘We have accomplished it,’ a turn of phrase that might carry a hint of the modern ‘We’ve done it.’ It was no small feat, and she describes for her sister the difficulties that had to be overcome to reach their destination.

It was necessary first to arrange for a house in Bathurst and to be sure of the support of the Governor. They were ready to leave by Good Friday, 4 April [actually 5 April], and they departed the next day, sent off in an emotional farewell by many well-wishers.

Their luggage was fairly substantial: a table and twelve chairs, ‘earthenware, cooking utensils, bedding, a few agricultural implements, groceries, and other necessaries to last us a few months,’ together with their clothes. To carry themselves and their luggage they had a waggon drawn by six bullocks, a dray with five bullocks, a cart with two bullocks, and a ‘tilted cart’ drawn by two horses to carry Elizabeth, her mother and the seven children. ‘Hawkins and Tom rode on horseback.’

The weather was fine on leaving and the road to Parramatta good, ‘equal to any turn-pike road in England.’ Elizabeth remarks that there is a forest on each side but the sun gets through (contrary apparently to what one might expect in England) because the trees are high and branch at the top. Progress was slow. As they neared Parramatta, Thomas rode ahead to the Female Factory, procured a servant there and was back in time for dinner, which was had ‘at the foot of a tree.’ After a journey of 25 miles they arrived late that night at Rooty Hill and were received at Government House.

They rested the next day, tired out and forbidden to travel on Sunday by general orders. ‘I could have been contented to have remained there forever. The house was good, and the land all around like a fine wooded park in England.’

(To be continued.)

‘Government and General Orders’, Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser 12/4/1822, p. 1. ‘Hawkins, Thomas Fitzherbert (1781-1837)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 1, 1966, pp. 524-525, and online. E. Hawkins, with introduction by H. Selkirk, ‘Journey from Sydney to Bathurst in 1822’, Journal and Proceedings (Royal Australian Historical Society) 9(4), 1923, 177-197. Approximately the first third of the letter is reproduced in two instalments in the Sydney Morning Herald: ‘The Mountains in 1822: Lady’s vivid diary, I’, Sydney Morning Herald 31/8/1929, p. 13 (‘Her correspondence as here presented is practically as in the original, little editing having been required’); ‘The Mountains in 1822: Lady’s vivid diary, II’, ibid. 7/9/1929, p. 13. Mrs. Elizabeth Hawkins, ‘Journey from Sydney to Bathurst in 1822’, in George Mackaness (coll. and ed.), Fourteen Journeys over the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, 1831-1841 (Australian Historical Monographs, New Series, 22-24), Part 2: 1819-1827, Sydney, Ford, 1950(1951?), pp. 102-117. Elizabeth Hawkins – Crossing the Blue Mountains. The diary of an early traveller across the Blue Mountains, on the website of the Ambermere Rose Inn (Little Hartley).

Weather conditions: 6 April 1822 (Easter Saturday): Sydney, morning fine and sunny. 7 (Easter Sunday): Rooty Hill (near Parramatta), fine. 8: Rooty Hill – Nepean area, fine. Letter, Elizabeth Hawkins to sister, 7 May 1822, partially reproduced in Sydney Morning Herald 31/8/1929, p. 13.

Dating: Elizabeth says in her letter that Good Friday was 4 April. However it was in fact 5 April.