Holborow in Australia 7: A Usual Story

The Wiltshire village of Sopworth seems to crop up a lot around here. Not bad for a parish and village whose population has never topped the dizzying heights of 225 people! But we’re back here again, for a specific baptism: that of Henry Francis Holborow on 24 February 1858, to parents Francis and Mary Jane (nee Watts). He was the third child, and second to use the name Henry Francis, to arrive. His older brothers, Isaac John and the first Henry Francis had been buried shortly after their respective births. Consequently it must have been an extra blessing for the couple for Henry to reach his first birthday, let alone reach adulthood.

I should point out that we have already met this family before: one of his younger brothers was John George Holborow who ran a hotel in Santa Monica and was embroiled in a poker scandal.

The 1861 census for Sopworth shows the family. The father, Francis, is doing very well for himself, being recorded as a farmer of 325 acres, employing 11 labourers and 5 boys.

10 years later Francis was living in Old Sodbury with this family, still farming, but employing fewer workers but able to afford to send Henry and his brother Isaac to the nearby Tetbury Grammar School, located in Long Street, Tetbury. Founded in 1610, and known as Sir William Rowney’s School, it still exists albeit in a different location in the town.

41 Long Street, Tetbury, site of the old Tetbury Grammar School, now a medical practice with residential flats above.

Another pupil was Daniel Holborow of Lordswood, Wiltshire. He was a 4th cousin once removed of the brothers.

Another 10 years later, in 1881, Francis and Mary Jane have moved again; this time to Newent in Gloucestershire with Francis farming at Boulsdon Croft. I don’t know if this property equates to what is now known as Boulsdon Croft Manor.

Henry is absent from the family, and indeed from the 1881 census as a whole. He next crops up in a record in the suburb of Waterloo, Sydney: that of his marriage to Emily Ruth Yard in January 1885.

I haven’t found at present a passenger list with Henry listed aboard, but by 1885 he was in Sydney and working on the railway. By this point, New South Wales had only had a working, open public rail line for 30 years, but the 1880s was a bit of a boom time for the railways across Australia, especially in Sydney and New South Wales.

The next year, on 12 April, their first child was born, Herbert Frederick. He was baptised in St Silas church, Waterloo, the same church in which Henry and Emily had married. Two years later in February 1886 Herbert’s younger brother, Henry Reginald was born. He was baptised on 4 March. Sadly, this Henry was buried just two days later, and to compound the family’s grief, Henry senior also died a few months later on 10 June 1888.

Gravestone of Henry Francis Holborow, Rockwood General Cemetery

The cemetery records date of burial as 10 June 1888 with date of death 8 June.

The news made it back to the Old Country:

Searching Trove for any mentions of his death, I came upon a different kind of surprise, and the first time for me running across this in any research:

From The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 June 1888 via trove.nla.gov.au

I did not expect to be looking at Wandering Minstrels in my research! However, I believe that this was a ‘special’ lodge of the Manchester Unity of Odd-fellows. A kind of fraternal and benevolent ‘Friendly Society’ rather than a secret society, members would come from all different trades (as opposed to the guild system, hence being called “odd fellows”) and pay dues which would then tide over members in times of unemployment, and often supplied medical treatment for wives and children of members, as well as being able to avoid the shame of a paupers funeral. Wandering Minstrel seems to have been a unique lodge, formed by a number of actors, often on the road and not available to attend all meetings of a lodge. Was Henry Francis an actor or musician? The Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows in NSW was established in 1840 and still exists today, 180 years later.

Still with a child to support, Emily remarried three years after losing her husband. Her new husband, Edward Thomas Dive was a fellow Australian (ie both her and Edward had been born in Australia). They had four children together, although both daughters died young. At the time of the marriage, he was a commercial traveller and lived in Botany; Emily was still in Redfern. In later city directories, the pair can be found in Hornsby, Parramatta with Edward becoming a brickmaker. Both of them died in 1935.

Herbert Frederick seems to have followed his stepfather into the brick industry and in several electoral rolls he is a brick moulder, recorded as living with his wife, Minnie. He had married Minnie Ellis Smith in 1908.

There is some confusion online regarding Herbert’s death. Findagrave has a death in 1924 in Matraville, NSW. However, inspecting the death entry online at the NSW government site shows that this is for Herbert Richard Stanley Holborow, Herbert and Minnie’s son. Herbert senior died in 1963.

However this line was continued in Herbert and Minnie’s eldest child, John Edward Holborow who was born in 1909 and became a gardener, living most of his life in La Perouse and Matraville with his wife, Isobel, and their children (and grandchildren).

The exact reason or reasons that Henry Francis left Gloucestershire for Australia can’t be known, but seeing an opportunity for a more comfortable way of life than farming as his father had been must have been on his list, especially given that he had been educated ‘properly’. Australia must have seemed to be a land of opportunity, of adventure, where you could write your own destiny. Presumably dying at age 31 a few months after his youngest child probably wasn’t something he had ever imagined happening. Yet his line continued and continues to this day in Australia, despite his son facing similar circumstances with his own two children (albeit he lived to 76).

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