This Week in Port Phillip 1841: February 1-7, 1841


You’ll remember that while he was collecting the survivors from the wreck of the Clonmel the observant Captain Lewis noticed navigable access to what he hoped would be an inland sea. [link] This ongoing fantasy- the inland sea- reminds us that although there were established routes etched onto the Port Phillip District, there were still vast expanses ‘unexplored’- at least by white settlers.  They weren’t wasting any time: by the 3rd February the barque Singapore was heading back to investigate further, bearingDr Steward, Messrs Kinghorne, Orr, Rankin, Brodribb, McLeod, Kirsopp and McFarlane

A number of enterprising colonists are about to proceed by the barque Singapore ,to country discovered by Count Streslecki on his land route from Sydney and designated by him Gippsland. Captain Lewis has discovered an excellent approach by sea, and the Singapore will proceed to either this entrance or Corner Inlet.

Port Phillip Herald, 5 February 1841.


Meanwhile, those left at home could amuse themselves at the Caledonian Hotel, as part of the audience for the Amateur Concert. The Caledonian Hotel was located on the southwest corner of Swanston and Lonsdale Streets. Originally built by Rev. Clow it was quite large with 13 rooms, dormer windows, French doors, outhouses. The licence holder was Mr Robert Omond. See   It was later a Temperance Hotel owned by the improbably named Mr Tankard in 1845.

But on 3rd February, the place was rocking:

On Wednesday evening the Amateur Concert came off at the Caledonian Hotel with great éclat. There were above 150 ladies and gentlemen present, composed of the wealth and fashion of Melbourne and its vicinity, amongst whom we noticed His Honor and lady, whose entrance was greeted by the orchestra striking up the national anthem. The room was well lighted, and the platform so elevated as to afford the audience, even at the furthest extremity, a full view of the performers. Madame and Monsieur Guatrot lent the aid of their brilliant talents to add additional effect to the pleasures excited by the Amateur band. The ladies and gentlemen were in ‘full dress’ and the tout ensemble presented an animated scene both “rich and rare”…although the performance was rather protracted, every soul seemed to enjoy the whole to the last with those enlivening and hallowed emotions which it is the special province of music to inspire… At eleven o clock the party rose simultaneously with buoyant and loyal hearts to respect by the echo of their feelings to Britain’s national air “God save the Queen!” This of course closed the evening’s enjoyments and the gay assemblage dispersed with reluctant hearts, but with fond hopes that the generous and gallant band of Amateurs would soon again repeat the attractions which had drawn them together, and which had so charmed their souls and so effectually secured their gratitude.

Port Phillip Herald 5 February 1841.

You’ll note the presence here of Superintendent La Trobe and Mrs La Trobe, ensuring that the concert was a respectable one.  The practice to sing the national anthem at the end of the performance might seem strange to those of us who can remember standing up for the national anthem at the cinema before the pictures started. However, this practice started in Drury Lane in 1745.The anthem was also played when royalty entered the theatre, but I don’t think that the designation ‘royalty’ quite stretched to Superintendent La Trobe at this stage.


When a low-level government position needed filling, it was not uncommon for the governor to look to the convict population. Although the ability to dispense patronage in the form of a job was an important aspect of power, it saved money if a convict could be found who had the skills, especially in the trades. And so:

Assignees of convicts in this District are required to furnish me with as little delay as possible the Names of any Men in their employ, who are either Compositors, Printers, Pressmen or Bookbinders, the Government requiring their services. Men will be assigned in lieu of those returned to the Government. James Simpson Police Magistrate 4th Feb.

Port Phillip Herald 5 February 1841

The substitution of one convict for another reminds us that even though Port Phillip was not, ostensibly, a penal colony, the assignment of ‘servants’ was still a bureaucratized system.


The boggy state of Elizabeth Street was often remarked upon by the newspapers.  As I’ve written about before, Williams Creek runs under Elizabeth Street, and in times of downpour it became very muddy. But the Port Phillip Herald was pleased to see that a gang (most probably of convict workers) were on the job:

We were glad to perceive on Wednesday that the Police Magistrate had placed a gang of twelve men to convert Williams River into a street to be called Elizabeth-street.

Port Phillip Herald 5 February 1841

The good people of Melbourne needed to be chided to keep their dogs – and other animals- off the streets:

Caution to Owners of Dogs &c. The Magistrates have given instructions to the Police to destroy all dogs found about the town without collars. This is as it should be, and if a similar order was extended towards unclaimed pigs it would be of infinite service to the public as the devastation committed by the animals is great, and the soon their destructive pursuits are got rid of the better

Port Phillip Herald 2 February 1841


According to the Government Gazette, it was “fine open weather, with fresh and strong winds, frequently clouded by Cumuli”. The maximum temperature for the period was 92 degrees (33 celsius) and the lowest minimum was 56 degrees (13).  There was no rain.





One response to “This Week in Port Phillip 1841: February 1-7, 1841

  1. Pingback: This Week in Port Phillip 1841: April 15-22 1841 | The Resident Judge of Port Phillip

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