Holborow in Australia 4: Not A Tale of Two Brothers

Cain and Abel. Romulus and Remus. Groucho and Zeppo. We all love a story about brothers (this isn’t one of them!). Although, presumably with fewer beatings. This post is about two such brothers people – Daniel and James Holborow – who both left England and made two very different lives for themselves in Australia.

Warning: long read ahead!

UPDATE: Further evidence (here) has come to light that Daniel and James were not brothers, nor particularly closely related. This is the way of research. You think you have it right, do your checks but … nope – sometimes shit still goes wrong! Whilst James was the son of William Wraxall Holborow and Jane Greenman, Daniel was the son of William Holborow and Jane Day.

Daniel Holborow was baptised on 17 March 1817 in the Gloucestershire village of Cromhall. There was nothing particularly special or auspicious about this date – only that it was a year before his parents – Wiliam Wraxall and Jane (Greenman) Holborow – were married.

His youngest brother, James, was born 20 years later and baptised in the parish church at Dauntsey, Wiltshire. William and Jane had moved to the parish in 1820 or 1821, although would later move again back to Gloucestershire and the parish of Didmarton.

But when did Daniel and James go to Australia? I haven’t managed to pin down the exact date of Daniel leaving England, but can narrow it to a period of a few months in the first half of 1839. On 7 January a 20-year-old (well … close enough) Daniel, a draper of Sherston in Wiltshire, married Mary Jane Hillier in a service in St Nicholas, Bristol (Mary had a short journey to the altar as the street she lived on – Nicholas Street – is the same one as the church).

The next time they appear is on a passenger list of 26 July of the same year when the barque Anna Watson arrived in Sydney after a four-day sail from Launceston, Tasmania.

Daniel very rapidly developed a successful drapery business in Sydney, purchasing a store on George Street at auction in 1862 for £1,270. You would think that linen drapery would be a fairly safe trade. However, given the frequency that thefts are mentioned in the local newspapers running a shop was clearly a risky venture – one ‘customer’ even going so far as trying to hide stolen knives in the pocket of one of the staff! He and Mary would also have 9 children over the next 20 years – although five would die in early childhood. One of the sons, William Hillier, managed the store for many years until Daniel transferred ownership to him in 1871.

By 1861, James had left the farming world far behind him – both figuratively and literally! In the census of that year he is living in the heart of Camden Town, London, working as a 22 year old cabinet maker. He is lodging with another cabinet maker and his family so it is likely that this was his employer.

Ten years later, James had made his way to New Zealand (sadly, I can find no passenger list to date this!) and it was here in Auckland where he married Caroline North, aged 34. I haven’t been able to purchase the certificate yet, but I have a suspicion that she was either divorced or a widow. There is a “Jas Holborow” recorded as a steerage passenger on the Alexandra arriving in Sydney on 17 September 1872 from Auckland. There are no other details given, nor any accompanying entry for Caroline.

The next year it appears that James become a pub landlord. He was granted the license to the Victoria Hotel, Riley Street, Sydney. However, it seems that he would change the name as two months later he appeared in front of the Water Police Magistrate regarding the license of The Carpenter’s Arms Hotel:

Needless to say, Charles did not get the license. However, it was transferred in January 1874 to Arthur Leslie. I don’t know why he transferred the licence.

By this time, though, his brother Daniel’s circumstances continued well. In the mid-to-late 1860s, he bought Gads Hill (alternatively and occasionally Gadshill) Villa in the newly-emerged suburb of Croydon. Located just north of St James’ church, the estate was large – approximately 22 acres, spanning the width of the block between Highbury Street and Edwin Street. This matched the expansion of his business with the opening of another store on Windsor Street, Richmond. Presumably, the transfer of his business to his son several years earlier was in part because he wanted to be more involved in local politics. This he did in spades: first becoming an Alderman and then in 1874 he was elected mayor of the Borough of Ashfield, a post he would hold until 1880.

Sydney Morning Herald 25 July 1874 via Trove

However, before this he and his wife took a trip back to England – presumably to visit family and friends. This trip was extended slightly by the arrival of their youngest child, Laura Louise, in 1857. (Laura would later marry a cousin of hers in 1878, only for it to end shortly after when it came to light that he was already married. He went to jail, Laura reverted to her maiden name and never remarried. His first wife committed suicide three years later and he remarried again two years after that.)

In 1881, Daniel retired from public service. This event was marked by a dinner held at Compagnoni’s cafe on Pitt Street, Sydney, hosted by the new mayor and Aldermen of Ashfield. Compagnoni’s was one of the most chic eateries in Sydney at the time, having had a vast overhaul of its premises the year before. It’s specialite fixe was oysters, but the Sydney Morning Herald only described the dinner as “excellent, and in every respect did credit to the providore”.

The speeches made about Daniel were as hearty as the meal:

… untiring attention … displayed in performing his duties as Mayor, and to the courtesy, urbanity and gentility which he had invariably shown … whilst conducting the Council meetings …

Each and all regretted his retirement … their admiration and approval of the faithful services rendered … gained the respect and esteem of all with whom he had come in contact …

And what did he do in his retirement? Well, one thing was apparently greyhound racing – although this too was not without risk as he was to lose one of his dogs in 1884:

(I should point out that it was not named “slut” – this is an unfortunate term for a female greyhound.)

He also took to growing fruit, winning awards for his pears, apples and quinces. A life of calm repose and reflection.

Perhaps less so for his younger brother. Although often listed in Sands Directory as a carpenter in Concord (and very often directly underneath his brother!), business possibly wasn’t that good. James landed the wrong side of the law in 1893. Firstly, at the start of September, he was found to be the cause of a “nuisance” to the rear of a property on Botany Street and notice was given for him to stop it. (I should note that nuisance often refers to household drainage, so presumably, his sewage was being discharged into the lane.) A few weeks later, James was back in court answering a charge brought against him by Frederick Christian, who stated that James owed him £200 plus interest. James denied having signed any such document. He was found guilty and ordered to pay the £202 12s. But that wasn’t the end of the matter …

The next hearing was due on October 14, but was delayed until November and then again until early December 1893. James was found not guilty by the jury, but the judge again had some interesting final comments:

This action then laid onto James applying for a voluntary sequestration order in January 1894, which was made by the Registrar accordingly, followed by a meeting of creditors in March.

However, if this was a ploy to stave off his creditors (well, presumably to spite just the one) then he was wrong, as happened in August, but seemingly James had the last laugh:

Two years later on January 7th, Daniel passed away at his home, Gads Hill Villa, “in his 78th year”. Reports made it into the newspapers of News South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania and Victoria, and all commented on his being an “old colonist”, his political standing and his son, Colonel William Hillier Holborow (more on him at a later date). His widow, Mary, died in 1900.

No additional family is mentioned in any of Daniel’s obituaries, so I assume they weren’t close. It seems slightly strange that two brothers in the same city had no contact with each other – but perhaps given their age difference they were never close. After all, Daniel left for Australia when James was just two.

The new century didn’t bring any futher joy for James. On 17 July 1902, the Liverpool Asylum for the Infirm and Destitute welcomed a new inmate – James Holborrow [sic]. The building itself dates back to the 1820s – and the sweat of convicts – when it was constructed as the Liverpool Hospital. In 1851 it came under the care of the Benevolent Society and was run to provide care for sick, aging and destitute members of the New South Wales population. However, in 1862 the Government took control back from the Benevolent Society and it remained a government asylum and hospital until 1958. After being empty for two years, it became Liverpool Technical College, as it is today.

James only stayed for three weeks, but his admission paperwork throws up a few questions:

Thankfully it confirms that he married Caroline North in Auckland, and that he was in “the States of the Commonwealth” from around 1872 and specifically in New South Wales from 1874 – so perhaps it wasn’t him on the passenger list! Its interesting that it mentions the Hero as the ship he arrived on. This was the name of several convict ships, but there is an entry recorded in January 1872 that the Hero arrived in Sydney from Auckland in December 1871 carrying “upwards of 15,000 ounces of gold”. In fact, the Hero is mentioned several times travelling backward and forward between Sydney and Auckland in the 1870s.

In addition to confirming James’ parentage (William and Jane), the admission paperwork shows he and Caroline had no children. The most interesting thing, however, is that James didn’t know his wife’s address. They were clearly separated by this time (Sands Directory lists entries both for James Holborow and Mrs James Holborow), and didn’t reconcile. By the time of Caroline’s death in 1909, she is living with a friend in Cowper Street.

It seems that she was taken in by a friend as she was alone (described as “an old age pensioner”) and unfortunately fell down some stairs. However, when the hearse went to collect her body for burial, they were unable to do so as an coroner’s inquest was required.

It was to be another nine years before James died. He appears in the Australian Death Index, with his parents named as William and Jane, but there is no associated newspaper entry recording his death. Neither can I find any burial records for James or Caroline.

James seems to have left no mark to record his life – no children, no legacy. Although Daniel had a large number of children, only three lived to adulthood and he only had one son to carry on the Holborow name (one daughter, Elizabeth Australia Holborow married and had 10 children, and we have already seen that the only other daughter who married had a less than successful run at it!). I’ll come back to William Hillier Holborow and his family in a later post as he followed his father into politics and had a military career.

But there is one other thing that Daniel left. South of his home, in the Borough of Croydon, there exists today …


  1. Just as a by the by, the street in Ashfield is somewhat an enigma. Growing up I was informed that there was another branch of the family who were of a different religious persuasion, and were therefore ‘not spoken to or about’ and as such when the street was named, on one corner it is spelt Holborrow, on another Holborow, and finally as Holborow. Such are the feuds of the past.
    Bryan Holborow

    Liked by 1 person

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