Daily Archives: January 24, 2016

This Week in Port Phillip 1841: January 24-31


Of course, to us today this week is dominated by Australia Day on January 26th.  As I’ve written about before, Australia Day as a national day is of relatively recent origin (1946, and on the day itself 1994) and until then was known as Anniversary Day. In Port Phillip in January 1841, where the Separation Movement was stirring and beginning to agitate for Port Phillip as a separate colony from New South Wales,there was some resentment at celebrating “their” Anniversary:

We have received too much injustice already from head quarters to make it at all palpable to the Port Phillipians to celebrate the foundation of their colony, with which we want nothing to do.

The Port Phillip Gazette and Port Phillip Herald offered two other dates for celebration that would be more acceptable for the colonists of Port Phillip:

We would, however, suggest that instead of taking the foundation of Port Phillip from the 29th August 1835 as the Patriot recommends, that we should say the 1st June 1836, the day on which the first sale of Port Phillip lands were held, and which gave the Port Phillipians the first legal title to property in our fine country.

Interestingly, the good burghers of our present-day Melbourne have lighted on 30 August as ‘Melbourne Day’, commemorating the day that those on board the Enterprize disembarked onto land.

Whichever way you look at it, it’s dispossession.


During late 1840 and early 1841 landowners were pressuring the government to increase its intake of emigrants as a way of alleviating the shortage of farm and domestic labourers, thereby reducing what appeared to employers to be exorbitant wages.   A bounty scheme was established whereby the NSW government would pay for the emigrants’ passage, either through a government scheme, or by a privatized scheme. Under the private scheme, agents in Britain would select eligible applicants and provide their passage and on their arrival, the £19 fare would be refunded by the government.  The bounty scheme was being funded largely through the sale of land in the Port Phillip District.

The table below was drawn up by the Port Phillip Herald on 8th January to support the argument that bounty migrants (i.e. those that the NSW government paid to come here) should be directed to Port Phillip, rather than sent up to Sydney.  Wages were higher in Melbourne, they argued, because of the labour shortage.

As the Herald itself admits, the methodology is questionable: the Sydney wage rates were affirmed on oath before Magistrates, Commissioners of Requests, Chairmen of Quarter Sessions and Judges or from the lips of workmen. In Melbourne, the rates were not attested on oath but had been “obtained from some of the most respectable masters in Port Phillip” and may have even understated the wages given.  (‘per diem= per day’, There were 12 pence [d] to the shilling; and twenty shillings to the pound)

Brickmakers 10/- to 15/- per diem. Piecework 10/- to 16/- per diem None employed by the day. Piecework 20/- to 25/- per diem
Bricklayers 8/- to 10/- per diem 13/ 6 ½ per diem
Blacksmiths 35/- to £3 per week £3/12s to £4/4s per week
Compositors 8/- per diem 12/- per diem
Cabinet makers and upholsterers 6/- to 8/- per diem 14/- per diem
Farriers 30/- to 50/- per week £3/12 to £4/4 per week
Fencers 3d to 4d per rod 4/6d per rod
Field Labourers 2/9d to 5/- per diem independent of lodgings, vegetables, firing water etc. 7/- per diem without board
Glaziers 8/- to 9/- per diem 10/- per diem
Harness makers 5/6d to 6/- per diem 8/- to [?] per diem
Joiners 8/- to 10/- per diem 12/- to 14/- per diem
Plasterers 7/- to 9/- per diem 12/- per diem
Ploughmen £30 to £40 per year with rations and lodging £52- £60 per year with boarding and lodging
Quarrymen 6/- to 8/- per diem 10/- per diem
Sawyers 8/4d. to 11/- per 100 feet 17/- to 21/- per 100 feet
Shoemakers Shoes 5/6d Boots 15/- Shoes 7/6, Boots 21/-
Shepherds £20 to £35 per year with rations £40 to £50 per year with rations
Wheelwrights £25 to £50 per year with rations £3/15s to £5 per week without rations.


So, if this is what people earned, then what did things cost?  The Port Phillip Herald of 29 January 1841 listed the following prices for local goods:


Imported goods (as you might expect) were more expensive again


Speaking of buying and selling, there was a meeting at the Police Court on Friday 29 January 1841 to discuss a new location for the market. There had been a site set aside for a market in- you guessed it- Market Street, but the market wasn’t yet formally established at this time, and people weren’t happy with the proposed location. They didn’t actually get round to deciding where the market should be at this meeting, just that another spot other than the present market reserve should be found.


The 19th January was the hottest day, with a maximum of 91 degrees (33 celsuis) but the rest of the week was pretty mild.


The Government Gazette reports that the week had “dry weather, generally clear of clouds, but very hazy; strong winds from the south continuing.”