Monday, 13 October 2014

The "Enterprize" voyage

Saturday 4th October was a beautiful spring day in Melbourne, bright sunshine and a light northerly breeze, just perfect for a day spent sailing on our fabulous Port Phillip Bay.  Some months ago, my cousin Brendon Gardner had sent out the message to family members far & wide, announcing that he had booked the tall ship "Enterprize" for a day-sail in October.  Something I had been thinking about for years, but never got around to doing anything about!
So this was that day.  45 people spanning 4 generations, descendants of William & Louisa (Arpin) Humphries, met at North Wharf, Docklands, eagerly anticipating a day spent re-acquainting with each other, and celebrating the past journeys of William and Louisa.

One hundred and seventy-seven years ago last month, my 3x great grandmother Louisa Jane Arpin, made a 2nd big move in her life.  After 5 years in the colony of Van Diemen's Land, she packed up her small daughters Amy & Anne and set sail across Bass Strait from Launceston in John Pascoe Fawkner's schooner "Enterprize", bound for the fledgling township of Melbourne to join her husband William Humphries. 

Louisa Jane Arpin had arrived in Hobart as an assisted free settler on board the ship "Princess Royal".  This was the first ship bringing out single women to address the matrimonial requirements of the new colony. The arrival of the "Princess Royal" was greeted with much controversy, both for the character and suitability of the women she carried, and the nature of her arrival - the captain having mistaken the entrance to the Derwent River in a storm and consequently running the ship aground.  In her own recollections, published in The Argus newspaper of 25th May 1905, (see below) Louisa tells how they were promised work at 8 - 10 shillings, but that there were not enough positions available for all of them.  Louisa probably came from a London workhouse, but how she came to be there is not known.  She was born 6 November 1813, daughter of Thomas & Lucy Arpin of Bunhill Row, London.  According to the baptism register, her father Thomas was a victualler.

Louisa Jane Humphries nee Arpin
1813 - 1912

Louisa married William Humphries in Hobart sometime after her arrival, the exact date is not known as records have not survived.  William was possibly, maybe even probably, a convict.  Convicted of larceny in Shropshire in July 1818 and sentenced to 7 years transportation, the convict William Humphries arrived in Van Diemen's Land in the ship "Dromedary" in 1820. There is no definite documentary evidence which connects convict William and 'our' William, but his similar age and place of origin - Shropshire - make it a distinct possibility.  The name William Humphries/Humphreys was a very common one in Shropshire, and there were several other convicts of the same name.  Unfortunately, the passenger lists for free settlers arriving in VDL in the very early years have not survived, so it is impossible to say if there may have been a free settler of the same name.  While it is now considered something to be proud of, in past times people went to great lengths to hide their convict background, so it is unlikely that we will ever know for sure if our William was a convict or not.

Following their marriage, William & Louisa moved to Launceston, where babies Amy and Anne Victoria arrived in 1834 and 1836.  William was, according to Louisa's recollections, a master brickmaker.  The convict William was listed as a labourer, but brickmaking could very well have been a skill he learned during his period of imprisonment.  It would have been a trade in high demand in the developing colony. 

The Enterprize was a 2-masted topsail schooner built in Hobart, VDL in 1830.  After a few years as a coastal trader, the ship was purchased by John Pascoe Fawkner.  In 1835, he made his first venture to seek out a place for a settlement across Bass Strait in what would later become Melbourne. Fawkner himself did not make the first voyage, being unexpectedly detained in Launceston, but he had selected a small group of skilled tradesmen, and had wanted William, a master brickmaker, to accompany them.  Louisa, however, had other ideas.  She did not want her husband going to "that wild place", although I can't imagine that Launceston of the 1830's would have been much less wild.

But Louisa must have had a change of heart, or perhaps the inducements offered by Fawkner proved too much to resist, for in mid 1837, William set sail on the Enterprize for the settlement on the Yarra river.  Louisa and the girls followed him a couple of months later.  Their first home was a small hut in Little Collins Street, before they moved out to Batman's Swamp where William had his brickworks.  This is the site of the Spencer Street railyards today.  In 1850, following a flood which washed them out, William was granted a couple of acres at Flemington.  Another 10 children were born to the couple during this period. Later they acquired land at Bolinda to the north of Melbourne, and this is where they lived out their lives.  William passed away in 1882, aged about 86, and Louisa lived to the grand age of 98, dying in 1912.

A pioneer who witnessed almost the beginning of Victorian settlement is Mrs. Louisa Humphries, of Bolinda, near Romsey. Mrs Humphries is probably the oldest woman in Victoria. She was born in London in 1813, and is consequently in her ninety-second year. She is still active and strong, has a wonderful memory, and a fund of anecdotes about early Melbourne, which was a little bush village just two years old when she first knew it.  
"I came out to Van Diemen's Land," she said, in a recent chat, "in 1832, in the Princess Royal, the first emigrant ship which arrived there. There had been frequent requests for free domestic servants, and our ship brought out nearly a couple of hundred girls. We had been promised   positions at 8/ to 10/ per week, which was regarded as good wages in those days. We soon found that there were too many of us, and it was extremely difficult to get good places.  
"A year after I arrived I married, and we went to live at Launceston. There my husband worked occasionally for John Pascoe Fawkner, who was a neighbour. When Fawkner came over to Port Phillip, in 1835, he wanted my husband to engage with him, but I objected to his going to such a wild country. After Batman and Fawkner settled at Port Phillip, all the talk in Launceston was of the new country, and, work being slack, my husband, who was an expert brickmaker, engaged with Fawkner, and left about the middle of 1837, promising to send for me in a month. But the schooner was five or six weeks beating about the Straits before they were able to enter the Heads. I was sent for at last, and arrived in the Yarra in the Enterprise (Fawkner's schooner) on September 14, 1837. Mr Wedge, I remember, brought over four horses in the schooner and there were two other passengers, brothers, named Birch. It was on a Saturday evening when the Enterprise was tied up to a tree on the river bank, and Mr. Humphries took me and our two children through the bush to a little wattle and daub hut, which stood in what is now Little Collins-street,   between Elizabeth and Swanston streets. My husband and a mate were brickmaking close by.
"On Sunday morning Mr. Humphries had to go up Batman's Hill to Fawkner's for rations, and I was scared by the arrival of a number of blacks, who begged 'white lubra giv' it bread'. There was another hut a short distance away, and the woman sent her husband over to tell me not to be afraid of the natives. We lived in that hut from September, 1837, to July, 1839, when we moved out to what was then called Batman's Swamp, where the Spencer- street railway yards now are.
"Melbourne during that period was a scattered village in the bush, without streets, and with few houses, mostly huts. Henry Batman (John Batman's brother) was chief constable, and Buckley was also a policeman, and a dull, stupid fellow he was. Where Elizabeth-street is now was a gully, through which a creek, often dry, but sometimes quite a torrent, ran. The first schoolhouse was erected where St. James's Church now stands. Miss Osborne was the first teacher, and after her, Mrs. Dutton. It was built of sawn timber, cut in a saw- pit in what is now Elizabeth-street. I well remember John Batman's funeral in 1839.   He was buried in what is now the old cemetery, adjoining the Victoria Market. Then it was neither cleared nor fenced— just a few graves in the bush. Another woman and I started out to look for them but without success. As we were returning we met the funeral. Poor John Batman was an invalid for some time before his death, and used to be wheeled about in a chair. He left a family of eight daughters and a young son, who was afterwards drowned in the Yarra. His brother Henry died in October of the same year (1839).  
In confirmation of Mrs. Humphries excellent memory it may be noted that the inscription on Batman's tombstone in the old cemetery is as follows :—
Bom at Parramatta, New South Wales, 1800.
Died at Melbourne, May 8, 1839.
He entered Port Phillip Heads, May 29, 1835, as leader of an expedition which he had organised in Launceston V.D.L., to form a settlement, and founded one on the site of Melbourne, then unoccupied.
This monument was erected by public subscription in Victoria, 1881.
Continuing, Mrs Humphries said:— "The   first watch-house, the gaol, such as it was and the stocks were somewhere near here the Western Market now is. The gaol was a tea-tree shanty, which was burned down by some blacks who were imprisoned for stealing potatoes from a settler named Langhorne. The natives, who escaped, told how they fired it by rubbing two sticks together. The policemen used to call the hours during the night watch, and it was a standing joke afterwards to call out to   them, '2 o'clock, and all's well, and the gaol's burnt.' I had never seen stocks before, and I was curious to know what the men were doing who were sitting on a bench with their legs stretched out through the frame day after day. My husband laughed at my stupidity.
"After moving out to Batman's Swamp like many of the other neighbours, we kept a couple of cows, and I was summoned to court one day for allowing them to wander through the streets of the village. The
courthouse — the only one I was ever in as an offender — was a little wooden shanty, with a few rough boards laid on the ground for a floor. Mr. James Simpson was the magistrate. He asked me if I stood in my husband's shoes. I told him I stood in my own, and with a laugh he fined me £1. He was known to everybody as 'Jimmy' Simpson, and was very popular. Another well-known citizen was John M'Nall, who built the first butcher's shop in the settlement, in Collins-street, near the corner of
Swanston-street.  George Scarborough, quite a character, was the first poundkeeper, and the first pound was near the river bank, between Swanston and Russell streets. We went to the first races, held at Flemington in 1840, in Scarborough's bullock-dray. Coming home Scarborough was three sheets in the wind, and we came down Batman's Hill, through Collins street, at racing pace, Mrs. Scarborough and I, who were sitting on the bottom of the dray, being nearly tipped out when the bullocks rounded into Elizabeth- street."  
Referring to the early race meetings, Edmund Finn, in "Chronicles of Early Melbourne," says the first race meeting was held on March 6 and 7, 1838, on a race-course on Batman's Hill; the starting post was where the North Melbourne rail-way station now is, and the grand stand—a couple of bullock drays lashed together—was on the site now occupied by the Spencer-street station. The jumps for the Hunters' Plate were made of logs and gum branches, and the jockeys (gentlemen riders) rode in red or blue flannel shirts, cabbage-tree hats, and leather leggings. In 1839 the second race meeting was held on this course, but the following year it was moved to Flemington. John McNall, to whom Mrs. Humphries refers, was clerk of course in 1839.  
"In November or December, 1849," Mrs. Humphries continued, "a great flood occurred, and all Batman's Swamp was under water. Our house was flooded and the children and I were taken off in a boat. My husband's brickyards were destroyed, and we did not go back to live at the swamp, but moved out to Flemington, where we had a couple of acres of land."  
In the "Chronicles of Early Melbourne" this flood is described as a very severe one.   On the night of November 26, 1849, it rained with great fury, and on the 27th there was an immense flood in the Yarra, and the brickmakers were driven out from their holdings. Towards evening the river was almost as high is it had been known to be. The 'Western Swamp" was littered with furniture, wood, and dead animals. Two thousand five hundred sheep at Philpot's boiling-down works perished. The dead bodies of a woman and her child, clasped in her arms, were seen floating down the river.
"Provisions," Mrs. Humphries went on to say, "were often scarce, and dear in the early days of Melbourne. The settlement had to depend on Launceston and Sydney for its flour, and often bad weather would delay the trading schooners, and leave the place very short of food. Sometimes bread ran up to 1/ to 3/ a loaf.
When the diggings broke out, Mr. Humphries, like most of the men folk, went off  to make his fortune, but he was not very successful, and in 1858 he came up here (Bolinda), and obtained this farm (200 acres), and here I have resided for over 46 years. Twenty-two years ago I lost my husband, and last year my eldest son, who was over 70, died. I have seven children still living, 45 grandchildren, two of whom are living with me, and nearly as many great grandchildren. My memory has always been good. I can remember going, as a little girl, with my mother to St. John's Church, Bedford-road, London to hear the funeral service for George the Third in 1820. I was with her in the streets to witness the celebrations of the crowning of George the Fourth, and can distinctly recollect the  
public sympathy for Queen Caroline, whom he would not allow to be   crowned.  In 1830 I saw the celebrations when William the Fourth came to the throne, and in 1831, just before I left England, the public processions for Parliamentary reform. Just 67½ years ago I landed in Melbourne. It is nine years since I saw it last, but I hope to see it once again."
EARLY VICTORIA. (1905, March 25). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 4. Retrieved October 12, 2014, from 
As we motored down the Yarra, before hoisting the sails when we entered the Bay, the Captain related how the voyage up-river had taken ten days for the original Enterprize, relying on horses and rope-lines to haul her along. 

William and Louisa, along with the other adventurous early settlers of the 1830's, would never have imagined the city which grew from their efforts, shown to such advantage on this sunny Spring day.  Nor could they have imagined how many people today can claim descent from them, via their 72 children and grandchildren.

Melbourne skyline, October 2014


  1. What a fabulous story! You are Victorian royalty! I love how the family celebrated Louisa's life and journey with that trip on the Enterpize. Must have been wonderful. :)

  2. Thanks Jenny, it was a wonderful day, and we are so lucky to have Louisa's memoirs.

  3. I don't know what impressed me more - the imaginative way to pay tribute to your ancestors with a sail in their honour, or Louisa's published memories. I can imagine that the day on the water would have been an emotion charged day, realizing this is what they did. And for Louisa to see Melbourne from a hut in Collins St grow to all the magnificent buildings that were there when she died, well the mind just boggles. Perhaps they'll say the same about me and the changes with computers, TV and knee-hi stockings !

  4. I really enjoyed reading this story, Katrina. Love the combination of old and new.

  5. Christine Williams18 October 2016 at 18:00

    This has been wonderful to read as William and Louisa Humphries are my great great grandparents. Their son Richard Horatio is my great grandfather. His son John Edward is my grandfather and then his daughter Emma Hazel Humphries married my father Alexander Wilson. There are many relatives in Ballarat that would have loved to have known about this wonderful journey. Thank you for writing this it has been lovely reading. Your distance cousin Christine Williams

  6. Thanks Christine, I'm pleased you enjoyed it.

  7. I have a large collection of old photographs (few hundred) mostly 19th cen. (on glass, tin and card). I found this page because I have a photo of Mrs Humphries with the basic info printed on it. Born 1813 - Arrived in Commonwealth 1832. Its a different photo to the one above but she is a similar age. I am still trying to find out if she is related in some way.

  8. Follow up. Not my ancestor but related via the Donelly family.

    Mary Anne Donelly
    my Great-grandfather's sister
    June 12 1858
    May 12 1946


    Arthur James Humphries
    Sep 16 1857 Jan 2 1943

    Arthur was the son of Mrs Humpries

    So now I know why she is included in the collection

    1. Wow, how lucky you are to have such an extensive collection of historical photos! I'm pleased you have been able to make the connection to Louisa. Thanks so much for commenting. If you see this reply, could you please send me a message using the "contact me" email form at the right of this page? I would love to see the photo you have of Louisa, if you didn't mind sharing it.