The story of Isaac Westcott & his wife Mary Ann, has been copied by, and is preserved for Posterity – Latrobe Library, Melbourne; Geelong Historical Society; Barrabool Hills Historical Society; Methodist Church Historical Society.
This information is from Mrs. Hilda Blainey – descended through Maria Westcott – her son is Professor Geoffrey Blainey
Isaac Westcott was born at Taunton, Somerset in 1818. He sailed for Australia from Plymouth on August 2nd, 1840 on the Barque Orient -596 tons. The last entry in the list of passengers on the Orient reads – “Unmarried Males” – Isaac Westcott, 22 years, Somersetshire, Protestant, Bricklayer, 19 pounds.
Listed among the “Unmarried Females” was – Mary Ann Maynard, 18 years, Dressmaker, Protestant, can read & write, Wexford, Ireland, 19 pounds.
Also her younger sister, Eliza Maynard, aged 17 years – also a Dressmaker.
On the Orient were 14 1st class passengers in cabins, 7 Intermediate passengers and 243 steerage passengers. (Nine out of ten migrants to Australia in its first 100 years traveled steerage).Isaac was billeted in the forepart of the ship, where a strong louvre board partition with door and lock bolts was to separate a space for single men. A similar partition in the after part separated a space for the single women. This is where accommodation was austere. The floor space was divided into berths, 6’ x 6’ in area. Four people slept in each berth, which was separated from the next berth by a partition 1’ high. (In some ships there was a second tier only 3’ above the lower tier). There was probably no more than 6’ in height of a berth. There was absolutely no privacy – people slept dressed and undressed in full view of one another
Dining conditions were as primitive as ones for sleeping. The steerage messes consisted of about 10 people. The head of the mess went to the galley& received and portioned out the food. The steerage passengers ate it sitting on the decks, as the ship’s contract was only to supply and cook food. The diet? The weekly ration per passenger in 1840’s was 10 ½ lbs bulky food – 51 lbs oatmeal ; the rest in rice, flour, bread or ship’s biscuits – ½ lb molasses to spread on the bread, ½ lb sugar per week and 2ozs tea. Children under 14 years – ½ ration. Dining tables, seats, cutlery & plates were not provided. Probably as little furniture as possible meant more chance of loading a cargo of wool for the return journey. The cargo included 200 barrels of pork, 7 cases if champagne & 7 of Hock – also a Durham bull, cow and bull calf – to be unloaded at Melbourne –(but these were not for the bounty migrants travelling steerage). Emigrants washed their clothes with salt water & marine soap – purified garments were streaming from the rigging.
Sometimes they would be becalmed – at other times there would be gales tearing the sails to shreds – long rolling waves for a week would make timbers creak. Beptune(maybe Neptune) & Co. probably came aboard when they reached the Equator, & gave an excuse for some jollification. The journey was an anxious time for mothers of babies, & dysentery was to be feared, as the infection would spread through the ship.
Imagine the tensions as the ship battled with storms, or still nights in the tropics during the 137 days of the journey. There were no old passengers, & those single migrants found the trip an adventure despite the austerity. Their time was their own – the only holiday from work they would have had for many years probably. They would see many coloured flying fish – there were sea birds. They would probably create some entertainments of their own. Southern Cross stars when sighted would be a topic of interest! They could enjoy the tropical moonlight till 10.30pm when it was lights out for all.
Isaac Westcott & Mary Ann Maynard became engaged. Mary Ann had lived at Wexford in Ireland – an old seaport town settled by the Danes in the 9th Century and it suffered at the hands of Cromwell in 1649. Times were very hard in Ireland, & Mary Ann’s sisters, Rebecca & Alice migrated to South Australia. Mary Ann was an expert with her needle, her embroidery was exquisite.
However, before the journey ended, Mary Ann & Isaac had quarreled, & Isaac landed at Geelong without her. The harbour was marred by a bar and only ships with a draught of no more than 10’ could enter, so he would have to disembark at Pt. Henry. Five years previously John Batman had explored Pt. Henry & other areas near Geelong en route to Melbourne where he made his famous purchase of 50,000 acres around Melbourne, but in a separate “deed” he had purchased 100,000 acres around Geelong, both treaties being declared illegal by Governor Bourke. The first store, consisting of several tents pitched on the beach, came in 1838, & the town of Geelong came into existance at the end of 1838 – the first land was not sold until 1839. Landing on 12th December, 1840, Isaac Westcott had arrived at an infant settlement. In 1841 the population of Geelong was 454 people – 304 males & 150 females. There were 70 houses -10 of stone & 60 of wood – all unpretentious.
Isaac seems to have settled early at Barrabool Hills. He had followed the trade of stonemason in Somerset, & the quarry at Ceres or Barrabool Hill might have afforded him the opportunity to use this skill. Lands taking in the Barrabool Hills were surveyed & sold in 1840 in large landholdings to prominent people. In 1842 or ’43 the owners began subletting small holdings to farmer tenants. One of the first tenants of Mr. Willis was Isaac Westcott. (In 1850 this property passed to Heard but the name Westcotts has persisted since 1843). The name (in large letters) seen there now was made by Mr. Jack Westcott, a great grandson of Isaac Westcott, & presented to the present owners).
Isaac Westcott was not afraid of work, & we assume he soon had his acres planted with foodstuffs. My father has said that Isaac’s first house was made of bark. It was not long before he owned a horse, & we gather that he worked as a bricklayer or stonemason, as the circumstances demanded. If there were Wesleyans worshipping in the district, we think he would join them – probably the group which later built in 1855, the sandstone church still standing at Ceres.
Mary Ann & her younger sister Eliza sailed on to Melbourne & landed on 16th December. It was a very different Melbourne from the one we know. The settlement was only 5 years old – the bush was along the river, & even to the shores of the Bay. Houses, sheds & tents were in clusters. Streets were marked out & stores & counting houses were good (for the newness of the settlement). Most streets were dangerous after dark because of the numerous stumps. There were a few weatherboard cottages, but the majority were made of colonial wattle & “daub” roofed with sheets of bark or coarse shingles. The thoroughfares were barely passable in dry weather – but were chains of waterholes in the wet. Trees, tree trunks & stumps were everywhere – clothes lines were across the street at East end. Water in the river was brackish except at low tide & had to be procured by hand buckets. Aborigines were about in twos, threes & half dozens. Wharf accommodation did not exist.
It is not known how Mary Ann & her sister fared when they first reached Melbourne. There was a keen demand for workers, & the bounty migrants, both male & female were quickly engaged in employment. On March 9th, 1841 Mr. Justice Willis arrived from Sydney to take up the position of first Resident Judge in the Port Phillip District. Mary Ann Maynard was only 18 years when she became a member of the household of the notoriously difficult Judge. For the first few months, Judge Willis lived in Melbourne next to Geo Parker’s mansion, Cleveland House, probably in Flinders Street. Mary Ann would be able to see something of the life going on in this growing young town, & perhaps visit its shops – perhaps meet other young people. However Judge Willis then moved to a house which had been advertised “to let” on land owned by John Hawdon at Rosanna, in the then elite district of Heidelberg. (This house was in what is now Dalvey Court but was destroyed by fire some time in the 1920’s). From here Willis traveled daily to Melbourne by his carriage & pair to sit on the bench, even though the track was almost impossible in winter. Ralph Bolderwood writes of the traffic to be seen on Heidelberg Road – ladies on horseback in gay riding dresses, the gleam of rich beavers, ostrich plumes & parasols seen in the carriages. However with no public transport, one wonders if Mary Ann ever had a chance to get to Melbourne – or indeed to go anywhere when employed there. The news of the unpopularity of Judge Willis would be known to the servants.
Judge Willis was a member of the English Bar, & of some competence. However, wherever he went – he soon embroiled himself in quarrels. His brother Judges & the Government in N.S.W. were only too glad to ship him off to Port Phillip as First Judge. Although capable, he was unable to control his bad temper. He was always in a state of hostility to someone, & it is said people attended court sessions to hear him “perform”
I wonder what was the atmosphere “in the lions den” at Rosanna where he lived? Servants at that time wee at the mercy of their employers. Did Mary Ann Maynard ever think that she could have been married to her former sweetheart, Isaac Westcott?
Eventually Judge Willis assailed Captain Lonsdale who complained to the Government in Sydney. On 25th June, overland news from Sydney brought word of the suspension of the Judge. There was much public emotion about this. Although his supporters collected signatures & called a meeting, his fate remained unchanged. He & his wife & family were to sail from Melbourne.
Isaac Westcott, over 50 miles away at Barrabool Hills heard the calls of a man who was lost – brought him into his home & gave him shelter for the night. The lost traveler told him the sensational news of the sacking of the First & only Judge in Port Phillip District (later Victoria). Although there was only a rough track, & rivers would be swollen, Isaac Westcott wasted no time. He saddled his horse & rode to Melbourne, & on to Rosanna to see Mary Ann. The quarrel was made up & again he asked her to be his wife. Mary Ann said this would not be possible, as her belongings were already stowed away with the luggage of Judge Willis & his wife, who were keen to retain her services, on the Glenbervie. It was arranged that the luggage would be taken of at Adelaide, & sent back to Geelong, & the wedding was arranged for July 17th 1843 at St James Church of England (Melbourne Old Cathedral), the day before the Willis family sailed. It would be a quiet wedding, & Mary Ann probably had to be married in a dress she had. This marriage (596) is listed in the Pioneer’s Book contained in a glass case in St James Old Cathedral, the original records being in safe keeping of the Government Statist.
Isaac Westcott took his wife, Mary Ann, to his home in the picturesque Barrabool Hills. His home would be modest because he was a tenant, not owner of the land. There was a bad depression in Port Phillip at this time. They would grow as much of their food as possible. Isaac was a willing & reliable worker, & he apparently got enough work. Isaac was know as a man of integrity, with an even temperament, loyal & affectionate. Mary Ann was very happy as mistress of her simple home. She would have received a thorough training in all home duties in the home of one of the colonies foremost citizens and she would be anxious to help Isaac as much as she could. Soon Mary Ann’s clever fingers were sewing by hand, & embroidering a long christening robe & underslip in the finest cotton available in Geelong for her first child. Thomas was born at Barrabool Hills on 30.4.1844 & was baptized in the gown as were also Fred 1846 and William 1848.
In 1849 Isaac is listed in the Directory as owning a freehold property in Ryrie Street. In 1850 – House & shop – Lt. Malop St. 1851 – Bricklayer - Lt. Malop St. His eldest daughter Elizabeth (later Mrs. Freeman) was born 3.5.1850 at Little Malop Street. It would appear that Isaac Westcott moved from Barrabool Hills into Geelong where he seems to have pursued his trade of bricklayer & stonemason, possibly building a home & selling it at a turnover profit. He became a partner in the firm of Smith, Westcott & Wilkinson. My father told me they built the first building of Geelong College, & also gained the contract to build St Paul’s Church of England in Latrobe St., Geelong.
Bishop Perry (1st Anglican Bishop in Port Phillip)visited Geelong & decided that Geelong would probably become the capital of Port Phillip District, so insisted that the church building must be a worthy one, able to accommodate hundreds of worshippers. Bishop Perry laid the foundation stone of St. Paul’s on December 2nd 1850, the Government had granted the land in 1848. The building was still incomplete when the exciting news of the discovery of gold at Ballarat came in July 1851, & a rush for the gold fields set in.
The men working on the church were eager to go – no other workmen could be obtained. They were persuaded to wait another 24 hours to complete a certain stage of the building, which was then covered with tarpaulins. & the partners, Smith Westcott & Wilkinson went off to Ballarat to try their luck too.
Eighteen months later work was resumed on the building of St. Paul’s & the first service in the completed building was held in May 1854. (In 1940 the vicar of St. Paul’s at that time told me there was a photo of the church & the tarpaulins). This building is in excellent order still, & is one of the oldest Victorian Church of England Churches in continuous use. The sanctuary has been extended beyond what was the far wall of the church. There is a small gallery in the Tower on Latrobe Terrace side of the church, where the coachmen sat during service.
Maria Westcott (our”Grandma”) was born on 23.10.1851 at Ashley, while her father was at Ballarat diggings. Mary Ann Westcott would be more comfortably housed in Geelong, but she must have had problems caring for her little family at such a time. Maria was born at a dramatic time in Victoria’s history – when gold had recently been discovered, & the “Rush that never ended” was at its vigorous beginnings.
Isaac Westcott & his partners would find the problems of inflation when they returned to complete the church building, & it would have been difficult to get good workmen.
We presume that Isaac Westcott must have become more prosperous. He is listed in a Directory 1854 – Isaac Westcott, Barwon Crescent, Chilwell. This house “Rosebank” is still standing though not in its original form. It is Classified C by the National Trust. It was described in Rate Books as a seven roomed house constructed of stone belonging to Isaac Westcott. (This house is mentioned in a big book Historical Places in Australia Volume 1 Page 7). It was in a choice position (next door to Barwon Grange, built later & now restored by National Trust) overlooking the Barwon River, with a view up the valley of the Barwon. The house must have been occupied by Westcotts earlier than 1854, as the birth of Rebecca Alice 24.11.1853 & her death one month later are listed at Chilwell. The young sister, also named Rebecca Alice, was born at Rosebank, Chilwell 30.4.1855.
Geelong Historical Society say – “Obviously Isaac Westcott was a well known personality in Geelong’s earliest years, a sterling worker for the Methodist Church. The foundation stone of the Noble Street, Chilwell Methodist Church was paid for by him in 1854”.
The original Parish Plan of Geelong shows that Isaac Westcott purchased 25 acres on the west side of the city – east of the present Fyansford Cement Works towards Shannon Ave. “It is embraced in the 1st class residential suburb of Herne Hill, & its current aggregate value would certainly keep all Westcott descendants in opulence for life!”
In 1855 Isaac Westcott left Geelong & went to Black Lead (near Buninyong)where he carried on business in a General Store. One wonders why he took his wife & family from the comforts of a substantial home in Geelong – to the rough atmosphere of a mining field. It was not financial stringency – Rosebank was let to a solicitor (which reveals it’s standard of comfort -& he did not face bankruptcy (Lists checked))
When gold was discovered by Hiscock near Buninyong on 21st August, 1851 –by 9th September large crowds had arrived from Geelong. Isaac Westcott & his partners, as well as their workmen joined the gold rush & perhaps Isaac had had some success in this district. Black Lead was 2½ miles from Buninyong & 6 miles from Ballarat, & Hiscocks was one of the nearer settlements (where Buninyong cemetery is now). If Isaac established a store – it would probably be a large tent for a start, with a flag, or a string of coloured handkerchiefs displayed on a pole at the front to advertise its presence. Like the Myer Emporium of today, but in a humbler, simpler way, it tried to meet all the needs of the customers.
In 1855, a year after Eureka Stockade, Isaac Westcott bought a general store at Black Lead, Ballarat (near Buninyong) & the family made their home there for about 8 years. The store catered for the varied needs of the diggers – food, clothes, boots, tools, ropes etc., & I guess Isaac was kept busy while the gold was to be found.
During Isaac Westcott’s early years at the store, many of the people would be living in tents (until 1861 one-third of total Victorian population lived in tents or huts). If the Black Lead proved rewarding, the tents would be replaced by simple wooden cottages. The climate there would be wet & cold in winter – altitude about 1,400 ft. Three more children were born to Isaac & Mary Ann while they lived at Black Lead – Ann (1857), Celia (1860), and Lewis (1862). While they lived at Black Lead, Rebecca Alice – the second child in the family to carry the name of Mary Ann’s two sisters who had migrated to Adelaide – died.
When Isaac first reached the goldfields, gold could be plucked from the earth, or washed from the creek & riverbeds. By the sixties this gold had been harvested and the remaining gold was found in quartz mines at a greater depth. The Victorian Gazeteer of about 1865 says of Black lead –“There are no manufacturers or flour mills, but 6 quartz crushing mills all in full work. The principal quartz lode is known as Hiscocks – which is now being profitably worked at a depth of 200 feet”. (There were also 3 Hotels to serve the miners). Population was 1,050 with 250 dwellings. Isaac & his wife had, in Geelong, been faithful supporters of the Wesleyan Church, & I have received the impression he was a loyal participator in activities in the very early days of the Ballarat West Circuit.
Duffy’s Land Act of 1862 unlocked the lands to those who wanted to own them. When the land of Bullarook Forest was available for selection, Isaac Westcott secured 30 acres. Isaac & his wife left the community served by the store for their new property in the forest, which could be seen from the high spots near Buninyong. (Lal Lal Gardens, Millbrook).
Ballarat had a population of 60,000, so an excellent market for produce was near at hand. Isaac tried to produce many things. He had 150 pigs until the orchard came into production. Rhubarb was taken to Ballarat daily in season – 2 men pulling the rhubarb & 3 men were employed to tie it in bunches. Sugar was brought home almost daily for jam making.
At one time 7 pickers were employed picking gooseberries, & it is recorded that 1,000 quarts were picked one day. A wagon, heavily laden with rhubarb, gooseberries, cherries & currants started for the Melbourne Markets at 3pm – arriving there in the morning. In the height of the season 50 people were employed – young girls were preferred to boys for picking. (Two school inspectors told my father they were employed at the orchard in their ten years – “Happiest days of my life” said one).
Jam was made on the premises (in a small brick building which was used as a garage when I saw it). Two girls were employed to continuously stir the jam. One man was employed to make packing cases, three men were employed continuously labeling the jam jars. Each labelled 60 in 5 mins. Isaac Westcott was proud of the quality of his jam – it kept well, & his raspberry was not diluted with pumpkin as was often the case elsewhere. Geelong Grammar School bought all their jam from him. Cabbages, turnips, peas & corn, oats & barley were grown. There was a flock of sheep on the farm – some pedigreed, some for weekly feeding of the large household.
Joseph Jenkins who wrote a daily diary while working on farms in Victoria 100 years ago (“Diary of a Welsh Swagman” now in paperback) worked there for 2 years and 2 months. He said “all the men here are decent people, & all the workers, apart from myself have a stake in the farm”. However he complained bitterly that the family were religious & would not allow him to do his washing on Sunday. He appreciated the good table for workmen as well as family. The farm became well known as “Lal Lal Gardens”
Isaac & Mary Ann’s family was completed here- John Henry was born in 1864, & Mary Ann (much loved “Auntie Polly” to us) in 1867. Family prayers, where Isaac read a portion of the Bible & followed by a prayer, were a daily beginning of the days activities. The Westcott home was made available on Sundays for services for 15 years, till a church was built (Millbrook Wesleyan). The gardener played the organ – about 30 people would attend. (I was taken to this home about 1939 by a Mr. John Tinney who used to attend these services). They were held in the room where we had just eaten. Two rooms had been made into one – it was still not very spacious for a church service. Mr. Tinney said, “Most of those who came to church stayed for tea, & the table was so crowded that one could hardly get one’s fork to one’s mouth. They were very hospitable people”. He also pointed out the row of Lombardy Poplars & Walnut trees etc., planted by Isaac Westcott in 1863, & still visible from the Ballarat/Melbourne road. He said Isaac was a good organizer & kept things in fine order.
Surveyors came to the farm in 1878 deciding the course of the new Gordon/Warrenheip railway track – two routes were in view, both passing through this farm, & it was thought would spoil it. When land in the Mallee was thrown open for selection, Isaac Westcott selected land in the name of himself, his wife, and all his children over 18 years. – 320 acres each. A condition of selection was that a dwelling had to be placed on a selection, & it must be lived in by the selector for a certain amount of the year. This started a series of regular pilgrimages from Millbrook to Catumnal near Boort from 1874 on. Sometimes Isaac was away for some months, sometimes it was Mary Ann & her son & daughter who drove in the “spring waggonette” 156 miles over bush tracks – a 3 day journey!
Their daughter Maria was courted by Henry Scott Lanyon, whose cousin Richard Lanyon had been working at Lal Lal Gardens. They were married at home in 1874 & they selected land at Catumnal too, in Scott & Maria’s name. They went there to live in April 1876 when their son Maynard, who was born at Millbrook was six weeks old – the baby travelling in a cradle suspended from the axle of the dray.
When the Westcotts arrived at Boort, they once more made their homes available for Wesleyan services. Isaac’s home was not so central, so services were held at his son Thomas’s home( he also led a weekly class meeting) & at the home of Scott Lanyon. Isaac Westcott eventually sold out his & his wife’s selections to his son-in-law Scott Lanyon, & returned full time to Lal Lal Gardens. His sons later sold their selections & gained other employment.
In 1887 Isaac Westcott & his wife “retired from active work in comfortable circumstances”. They received a Tea & Coffee Service & an Illuminated Address from their friends at Millbrook Wesleyan Church. (This address has been presented to Melbourne University & will be located with the Joseph Jenkins Diaries).
Isaac Westcott built a Terrace of five single fronted cottages at Bridge St., Northcote, near Ruckeia? Hill. He was to rent 4 out at 5/- (50cents) per week, & live in the fifth. Two of his grand-daughters recall staying at “Westcotts” in a large brick house which must have been the first Northcote home. Unfortunately the collapse of the “boom” years hit him, as well as many another. (My father told me his grandfather – Isaac Westcott, made money three times & suffered reverses three times.
Isaac Westcott “genteleman” died at Northcote on September 18th 1894, the day before his youngest son who had taken over Lal Lal Gardens, was to be married. He was buried at Ballarat Cemetry(Old) Wesleyan section. At his death, in his obituary he was described as a “truly devoted husband, & affectionate father – his was a useful & saintly life. His house was ever open to hospitably entertain friend & strangers. Every worthy object had his support & benevolence. He rests from his labours, & his works do follow him”. Death Certificate says, “Illness, 6mths Ascites, Jaundice & Diabetees”.
Isaac Westcott mentioned by name in “Century of Methodism” by Rev. C. Irving Benson. Also in “Spirit Moved on Bald Hills” and “Smoke From the Hill”.
I once heard a conversation about the pioneering days at Catumnal, between my Grandmother, Mrs. Scott Lanyon (nee Maria Westcott) & Mrs. Willie Westcott (nee Mary Moyle – sister of Priscilla – married to Thomas Westcott)…”Do you remember Maria, that you had three chairs & I only had two - & remember the day you drove to church in style in a “Spring Cart” and we came by dray? How happy we were”.
Amy, a daughter of Mr. Lewis Westcott(Dec’d) whose wedding had to be postponed because of his father’s death, had a letter written by the bridegroom on Sunday 16th, which his bride received on 17th September, to say the wedding (planned for 19th Sept.) must be postponed because of his father’s serious illness, & his mother was troubled by her heart. The wedding breakfast would have been held at the Bride’s home , so this must have been rather a complication for the family.
Attention in “ A Glance at Australia in 1880” by Frank Westcott & son Isaac, Moorabool Creek
Mary Ann Westcott must have missed her husband very much. They had shared so much since they sailed on the Barque Orient 54 years before. They had shared the austerity of a steerage passage (with 243 others) crossing not only half the hemisphere, but from an old country rich in tradition, to a new & undeveloped land. When Mary Ann Maynard worked in the household of Melbourne’s first & only Judge, she would be well trained in the organization & performance of household duties. Judge Willis was the son of a Doctor who attended King George 111, & thanks to his difficult nature, he would have lived in various parts of the world. His salary of 1,500 pounds per year, would mean a good standard of living, & Mary Ann would become versed in the tastes & social manners of a home of people of standing. The quality of the garments she made would be good, & the styles suitable for their social position. However, Melbourne was very new, & the household equipment would probably be similar to that of McCrae Homestead – cooking in a detached kitchen with an open fire & iron kettles, boilers & pans suspended over it. The large wooden kitchen table would be scrubbed daily with sandsoap & a scrubbing brush. The flat irons would be stood upright in front of the open fire, to heat before ironing the voluminous dresses of the day. She probably had to sit in the kitchen in the evenings when her tasks were finished. Perhaps she started a patchwork quilt by kerosene light, as they were the vogue then, & there might have been scraps from her sewing for Mrs. Willis.
Mary Ann & Isaac settled happily in their simple home at “Westcotts” Barrabool Hills. There was a bad depression at this time, & they would be anxious to grow as much of their food as possible & indeed to make anything they could because goods had to be carried along the poor track from Melbourne, with unbridged streams – or if it came by ship, there was no anchorage thanks to the harbour bar, & good had to be carried up a steep slope at Point Henry. She would have a water butt if possible (152 butts were in the cargo of the Orient in 1840). Water would he a problem, but probably Isaac carted some from the Barwon, as a breakwater was built to keep back the tidal salt water.
Mary Ann sewed & embroidered a Christening Gown of very fine white cotton for her first child, Thomas, who was born at Barrabool in 1844. (This gown has been transferred by National Trust to Barwon Grange, Latrobe Crescent, & is said to be displayed in the nursery).Fred 1846, & William 1848, were also born there. Mary Ann probably enjoyed living in Geelong from 1849 because she would be living near “The Tank” (90 feet in circumference & 6 feet high, in Market Square, into which William Gray pumped water through pipes laid from the river, & which was sold to the carriers at 4d. a load). She was living in Ashby (then the area near St Paul’s Cathedral of England, Latrobe Terrace) which the firm Smith, Westcott & Wilkinson were building.
When gold was discovered in Buninyong on 21st August 1851 there was an immediate exodus of most able bodied men from Geelong. The workmen of Smith, Westcott & Wilkinson waited 24 hours & then left for Buninyong too. Mary Ann coped somehow with her four young children, & Maria (our Grandma Lanyon) was born 2 months later – an early Victorian citizen, as Victoria had just been declared a State. After about 18 months, the partners (Smith, Westcott & Wilkinson) returned to Geelong, found more workmen & the building of St. Paul’s was completed.
Isaac seems to have done well at the diggings, as he built “Rosebank” in Barwon Crescent, Chilwell (now classified C by the National Trust). The second story was added after it was sold to A. Gray of the Woollen Mills about 1860. Their daughter Rebecca Alice was born there on Nov 24th 1853 & died one month later – a sad Christmas that year. The next child, Rebecca Alice (the second child to be named after Mary Ann’s sisters who had migrated to Adelaide) was born there in 1855. Mary Ann would have shared Isaac’s concern for the work for God, done by the Wesleyan Church in Geelong. What did she feel when Isaac leased “Rosebank” to a solicitor, & they all went to live on the gold field of Black Lead, bear Buninyong – where Isaac ran the store?
He would try to cater for most of the needs of those living in the settlement. The implements needed by the diggers, such as – boot, serviceable clothes, bread groceries, hay etc., would be sold there. Gold field prices at Ballarat in 1854 (year before Isaac took over the store) were Beef – 1d. per lb.; tea – 3/6;salt – 8d.; bread- 4d.; blankets – one pound ten shillings; boots – one pound ten shillings. The store keeper could charge his own prices – goods were expensive because they were in short supply - & had to be imported from Europe & then by slow bullock drays from Geelong. The Storekeeper was paid in gold or gold dust by those who had more of that commodity than money.
The storekeeper would meet many people – it was in its way a social centre in a day when there was little entertainment. The women, having no facilities for storing food, would have to shop frequently. They would have their babies & small children with them & would probably be glad to chat with others while waiting to be served. State Education had not yet arrived, & the children would probably be around the store.
Probably the store was housed in a large tent at first & Mary Ann & the children might have lived in one too. The dwelling, when they built one would be simple & makeshift. There would be mud everywhere in winter. However, as the store supplied the daily needs of the community, Mary Ann & Isaac would have many friends. They were also interested in the work of the Wesleyan Church (Ballarat West Circuit).
Her children, Anna Louise, Celia & Lewis were born there & little Rebecca Alice died there at the age of three. Willie when aged about five, lost the sight of an eye when it was accidently flicked by a whip. I think Mary Ann would be happy with the move to Lal Lal Gardens at Millbrook. The weatherboard home(still standing) was set among the trees of the orchard & the row of Lombardy poplars Isaac planted & the oak tree, now large & spreading, would remind her of “home”. Although they employed a cook, she must have been a good organizer, as there were 35 for meals, more at the height of the season. Morning devotions for family & staff started the day, & Joseph Jenkins who worked there for 2 years records in the “Diary of a Welsh Swagman”, that Mrs. Westcott took the devotions – something for a family woman in Victorian times. Someone who attended church services held weekly in the house for 15 years (with about 30 people attending) told me that Mary Ann was very hospitable & most people stayed for supper.
When Isaac, who is described in “The Spirit moved on Bald Hill” as being a born adventurer, selected land at Boort(Catumnal district near Boort)in 1875 in the name of not only himself, but his wife & his children aged over 18 years, this meant another upheaval for Mary Ann. A dwelling had to be placed on each selection & there was a clause requiring residence on the blocks. This meant from time to time a “pilgrimage” of 150 miles in a “spring waggonette” over rough tracks, & camping by the wayside at night. There would be a shortage of water, heat, dust & flies, & a house lacking in the comforts of that at Millbrook – but faithful wife that she was, Mary Ann stood it to the best of her ability.
No sooner were they at “Catumnal”, Boort, than Isaac held Wesleyan services in his home – however later these were transferred to the home of his daughter Maria (Mrs. Scott Lanyon). Mary Ann was a motherly & open hearted woman. Not only did she have her own twelve children, but when it was time for Maria’s eldest boy Maynard to start school, he was brought 50 miles by dray, & then by train to live with Isaac & Mary Ann so that he could attend school with his young aunts at Millbrook. Her grandchildren were made welcome, & so were the children of her sisters & their children. When her eldest son Thomas – a JP & a leader in his local church affairs, died at the age of 41 years at her home – leaving 7 children, the youngest only a fortnight old (Bert Westcott), she & Isaac took one of the boys & reared him. Her youngest son John, died at Millbrook result of an accident with a horse at the age of 16 years.
When Isaac left Millbrook in 1887 to live in retirement at Northcote, the illuminated address presented to them says, “Your home was ever open to hospitably entertain friends & strangers. Your devoted wife has at all times been ready to lend assistance”.
Two of her grand-daughters tell me that they can recall a holiday at a large brick house, & later at the house in the terrace in Bridge Street. She suffered from heart trouble at the time Isaac died. I heard it said about a grand-daughter – “She suffered from the curse of the Westcotts – a failure of memory”. I do not know if this applied to either Isaac or Mary Ann.
She must have been a woman of some personality – her family name of Maynard was given to Maria’s selection – “Maynard Park” & Maria’s son was called Maynard, & this name has appeared from time to time in the generations since then.
Judging by her daughters whom I have known, I would say she was reliable, cheerful, loving, devoted to her husband & family, a caring person. She died on 11th July 1895 at Northcote, less than a year after her husband, & was buried at Old Cemetry, Ballarat in the same grave. We, the descendants of Isaac & Mary Ann Westcott, are proud of the example they have set.
Notes: Mary Ann’s christening robe would be used for all of her 12 children & possibly for some of her grandchildren. It came to me in 1930 when Geoff was a small babe & we dressed him in it & took some photos. It was used for his christening, also for Ellis & Donald Blainey & Beth Parker. The next generation were not interested in using it, so I presented it to the care of Come(National Trust) where it is carefully preserved, & may be seen by Mary Ann’s descendants on request. Has now been transferred to Barwon Grange, Geelong & is displayed in the nursery. This place is next door to “Rosebank” where the first 6 of the Westcott children who had worn the gown, lived in 1854.