WILLIAM BLACKWELL 1837 - 1916
William has been a bit of an elusive ancestor to find out much about, but what little there is known, along with a little of the early history of Melbourne makes very interesting reading
William Blackwell was born on 1st February 1837 in Birmingham, Warwickshire, England. His parents were Thomas Blackwell and Elizabeth Ann nee Walker. Thomas and Elizabeth were married at St. Johns Church, Coventry, Warwickshire on 10th March 1835. Thomas and Elizabeth had two other known children.
1. Harriet, born, 1836 in Birmingham, Warwickshire
2. Henry John, born 1842 in Birmingham, Warwickshire
Nothing much is known of William's early life. When he was about 13 years old he was apprenticed to a bricklayer. While he was serving his apprenticeship he had an accident, breaking his arm. He apparently finished his apprenticeship and became a tradesman, as he gives his trade as bricklayer on the documents he filled out when he applied to join the Royal Engineers.
William joined the Royal Engineers on 5th December 1857, at the Bristol Recruiting District. He was issued with service number 150 and proceeded to Chatham Barracks, where after his basic training he was attached to the 18th Company on 1st January 1858. Soldiers of the Royal Engineers frequently changed their companies, so by 1859, William was attached to 3rd Company.
It is tradition that all members of the Royal Engineers must as part of their service spend part of their enlistment on the Rock of Gibraltar, as this is where the Corps was formed, to dig the tunnels and gun emplacements that form the defences of the “Rock of Gibraltar”, and the entrance to the Mediterranean sea.
It is known that William was there in 1862, as he married Maria Besura de Belgaca, at the Methodist Chapel in the City of Gibraltar on 23rd July 1862. Maria Besura was born in Spain on 21st May 1836. Her Father was Juan Besura, her mother's name is unknown.
On the Certificate of Marriage to William Blackwell, Maria's Conjugal status is given as widow. Her first marriage was to a Spanish Naval Officer by the name of Belgaca (Christian name unknown).
1. Annie, born 1864 Gibraltar.
2. Catherine Jane, born 1866 Warwickshire, England.
3. Henry, born July 1868 Warwickshire, England
4. Ada Somerset, born on 9th December, at sea off the coast of Australia. Maria also had one child from her first marriage. Emily, born in Spain birth date unknown. As can be seen by Catherine's birthplace, William had returned to England by 1866 and was once again stationed at Chatham Barracks.
Nothing further is known of William until 1868, when the Corps called for volunteers to go to Melbourne, Australia, to install the smelting and coining machinery at the Melbourne Branch of the Royal Mint, then being proposed by the Government of Victoria.
Early on the morning of 21st October 1871, William and the other men of the contingent were issued with new uniforms for their journey to Melbourne.
From Chatham they proceeded to Gravesend, where along with their families they boarded the “S.S. SOMERSETSHIRE” for the long voyage to Melbourne.
On arrival at Melbourne, the Victorian Government billeted William, and his family, until he was able to find suitable private accommodation. He was billeted at Queensberry Street, Carlton, which was reasonably close to the Mint.
William was allocated to the smelting section of the Mint, as a melter. He was to work in this section of the mint until his retirement in 1902.
In 1873 the Victorian Government, with the approval of the Royal Engineers offered the members of the Royal Engineers who were working at the Mint a gratuity of £30-00 ($60-00) if they would resign from the Engineers and remain in Victoria as settlers, with guaranteed work at the Melbourne branch of the Mint. William took up this offer and was discharged from the Royal Engineers on 31st December 1875, under the conditions of the Royal Warrant dated 9th May 1973.
William received his £30-00 gratuity payment on the 7th July 1876. He received a further £65-00 on 15th February 1877, from which £4-00 was deducted as a fine for drunkenness. This money was probably enough for him to buy his first house at Barnett Street, Kensington.
William received his Certificate of qualification as foreman of melting on 28th July 1876, with the annual salary of £175-00 ($350-00). The original three-page document is held at the Public Records office in Melbourne.
Not a lot is known about Maria's life with William, but she would have been kept very busy, first raising her own children. Then according to their birth certificates, she acted as midwife for most of her 25 grandchildren.
William died of Cerebral Hemiplegia (stroke) at 32 Barnett Street, Kensington on 28th February 1916. At this time the house was occupied by his daughter Catherine and son in law William Henry Morgan.
William was buried in the Melbourne General Cemetery on 1st March 1916, in the same grave as his wife Maria, who had predeceased him on 10th March 1896 and was buried 12th March 1896.
When he died, William left an estate valued at £2555-4-0 ($5110-40) a quite large sum for that time. This included six houses in Kensington and a Farrier's shop, also in Kensington. All of these premises are still standing and in good order despite the fact that they are all over 100 years old.
CHILDREN OF WILLIAM & MARIA BLACKWELL
Annie was born in 1864 at Gibraltar. Nothing is known of her early life until she married William Henry Henderson at the Wesleyan Church in Hotham Hill (North Melbourne) on 27th June 1883.
William and Annie had thirteen children.
Annie died at her home in Collins Street, Preston, on 30th July 1915. She committed suicide by taking strychnine. She was buried at the Melbourne General Cemetery on the 31st July 1915.
Annie and her family are covered in more detail in the Henderson
chapter of this history.
Catherine Jane 1866-1948
Catherine Jane was born in 1866, in Warwickshire, England, after William and Maria had returned there from Gibraltar.
Nothing is known of Catherine's early life, until she married William Henry Morgan in 1885. William was born in Adelaide, South Australia in 1862, the son of Elijah Morgan and Mary nee Phillips.
William died at East Melbourne in 1915. Catherine died at Box Hill in 1948.
William and Catherine had four known children.
1. Adelaide Victoria, born 1886 at 32 Barnett Street, Kensington. She married Francis Larsen, born Williamstown, Victoria in 1884, the son of Michael Larsen and Elizabeth nee Hunter.
Francis and Adelaide had four children. Louis William, born 1904 at Kensington. Died 1969 at Kew. Francis Blackwell born 1907 at Kensington. Died 1972 at Box Hill. Harold Frederick born 1909 at Kensington and Adelaide Elizabeth born 1912 at Kensington.
2. Edith Claris, born in 1888 at 32 Barnett Street, Kensington. Died at Kensington on 21st August 1888.
3. Elizabeth, born in 1889 at 32 Barnett Street, Kensington. She married a chap named Sawers. Elizabeth died at Camberwell in 1966. Nothing further is known.
4. Alfred, born in 1895 at 32 Barnett Street, Kensington. Nothing further is known.
William Henry 1868-?
William Henry was born in Warwickshire, England in July 1868. There is some mystery about this child. He appears on the Royal Engineers List of Women and Children in the Melbourne Detachment and on the passenger list of the “Somersetshire”. After that nothing else is known. An extensive search of the Victorian marriage and death indexes has failed to find any trace of him.
He may have died prior to the detachment's departure from England, and his name not taken off the passenger list, or he may have died during the voyage, but this would have been written up in the “Somersetshire Gazette” and the Surgeon's Log.
He is listed among Maria's children on her death certificate as being deceased, which means he must have died before 1896. But when and where?
Ada Somerset 1871-1930
Ada Somerset was born at sea off the coast of Australia 9th December 1871. Her second name is an abbreviation of Somersetshire, she was named after the ship she was born on. Her parents were going to name their child after the Captain, but when it turned out to be a girl they used the name of the ship instead. The announcement of her birth was made in "The Somersetshire Gazette", a Newspaper printed on board ship during the Voyage. CLICK HERE
to view excerpts
There is also confusion about her first name, she was always known as Edith, or Edie. It is thought that when William went to register her birth after their arrival in Melbourne, he was supposed to give her name as Edie, but with his broad accent, the clerk must have thought he was saying Ada.
Nothing is known of Ada's early life, until she married Charles Henry Wilson on the 15th March 1893.
Charles was born at Warrnambool, Victoria on 12th July 1862. His parents were George Wilson and Louisa nee Bond.
Charles and Ada had six children.
1. Charles William born on 26th May 1897 at Kensington. Died 22nd June 1897 at Kensington.
2. Martha Mary born on 18th September 1898 at Kensington. Married, Cyril Stanley Begbie 1919. They had one child. Raymond Wilson, born 1920. Died at Oakleigh on 18th September 1995.
3. Lillian Edith born on 17th September 1900 at Hawthorn. Married William James Cahill in 1921. William died at Hampton in 1953. Lillian died at Brighton in 1983. They had one known child. Marjorie.
4.Alfred George born on 20th July 1904 at Hawthorn. Died on 30th July 1904 at Kensington
5. Alice Maude born and died on 24th November 1909.
6. Henry Edward born on 6th November 1910 at Kensington. Died on 9th January 1911 at Kensington.
Emily Belgaca 1853-1906
Emily Belgaca was born about 1853 in Spain. She was the daughter of Maria from her first marriage. Her father's Christian name is unknown. All that is known about him is that he was a Naval Officer.
Nothing else is known about Emily, until she married Charles Baker in 1874. Charles was born in Cambridgeshire, England. His parents are unknown.
Emily died of cancer at the Austin Hospital, Heidelberg on 28th September 1906. She was buried at the Melbourne General Cemetery on 29th September 1906. Charles died at East Melbourne in 1917.
Charles and Emily had two children.
1. John Charles. Born 1875, at North Melbourne. He married Annie Falkiner in 1899. Annie was born in Queensland on 20th April 1874 the daughter of Robert Falkiner and Elizabeth Ann Kingston.
John and Annie had five children all born at Kensington. Lillian Annie Amelia. born 1900. Married a McCarthy. Died at Parkville in 1980. John William George born 1901. Married Sylvia Victoria Ratcliffe Olsen in 1923. Daisy Dorothy Trinder born 1905. Nothing further is known. Charles Frank Albert born 1909. Nothing further is known. George Leslie Allan born 1912. Nothing further is known.
2. William Alfred. Born 1878 at North Melbourne. William died at East Melbourne in 1919. Nothing further is known.