Daily Archives: April 30, 2016

This Week in Port Phillip 1841: April 23 -30 1841


Now that all the excitement of the Supreme Court opening was over, the court settled down into its daily routine.  Well, not quite.  Even though the inconvenience of not having a Supreme Court for civil cases was cited as a major reason for sending a Resident Judge to Port Phillip, there were no civil cases reported until 30th April, and even then they were rather minor matters.

The Criminal side of the Supreme Court was more active, though. The Port Phillip Herald of 27 April reported two assault cases: one involving an ‘unnatural offence’ (i.e. homosexuality), and the other domestic assault, albeit with a twist.  The first case involved ‘assault with intent to commit an unnatural offence’ when William Gemmil (or Gemmel), whose status was ‘free by servitude’, came before the court for an assault on hut keeper Richard Bell. The offence allegedly occurred in a sentry box at Roadnight’s pastoral station near Geelong. Bell swore at the committal hearing that Gemmil

put his hand on my privates; I told him I would not allow that and he said “never mind no one else will know except you and me” He then got on top of me and did the same as if I was a woman, he had his trowsers off and put his privates between my thighs in front and remained about five minutes resting upon my person…The defendant came to me every night until the following Sunday and did the same to me, he held me…I complained to my master when he came to the station. (VPRS109 Unit 1 p.537) cited in Paul Mullaly Crime in the Port Phillip District p. 482

Willis jailed Gemmil for two years with hard labour, “being the utmost sentence which His Honor could inflict upon him”.

The second case was described as “as flagrant as one as ever came before a Court of Justice.” Henry (or Harry) Agnew, a former Van Diemen’s Land convict who was ‘free by servitude’ kept a brothel in the Little Bourke Street area. He induced Sarah Chant, who had recently emigrated on the Fergusson, to come to his house as a servant, stating that she would find it the best service in the Colony.

In about a fortnight he produced an agreement and wished her to sign it, thereby binding herself to remain for three months, upon her refusal the unmanly brute knocked her down, kicked her in the side, face, breast and various other parts of her body. This course of treatment was repeated several times, the discolouration arising from the kick in the face was visible at the time of her giving evidence. (PPH 27/4/41)

In her testimony, Sarah swore that:

I left about the beginning of this month from ill-usage- because I would not sign a paper to live there- I would not live there because it was an improper house- he knocked me down and kicked me in the face and side- I got out into the street. http://www.historyvictoria.org.au/willis/book%2011.html#11

Doctor Cussen testified that he saw Chant at the watchhouse and described her injuries, but swore that “I think she exaggerated her case“. Willis underlined these words in his Case Book, which indicates that he considered the information important. Agnew was found guilty.

His Honor, who designated the assault brutal and unmanly, sentenced the fellow to be imprisoned for six months, to pay a fine of £59 and be further imprisoned until the fine be paid. (PPH 27/4/41)


There was always much more mirth to be found at the Police Court than at the Supreme Court, although of course the stakes were higher for any case that found itself in the superior court.  More properly known as the Court of Petty Sessions, this court was overseen by honorary and police magistrates and dealt with summary offence and minor civil cases up to 20 pounds.  A seemingly unending stream of minor robberies, drunkenness offences and assaults found its way into this court.  Two of the cases that wound up before the court on Wednesday 21st arose from the Races the previous week:

Geo Dogherty, an old fool, was charged with ramming-down “Bullet” an Aboriginal native upon the Race Course on Wednesday until the Bullet was ready to go off without the aid of gunpowder.  The Bullet appeared mild and forgiving before the Bench, and said that Doghery was a murry, budggery-fellow. The Bench dismissed the case.  There is no doubt Bullet had been tipped, as he took the thing in such good part.

Henry McDonald, who appeared well charged with Parkins’ compound essence of steam, was charged by Mr Michael David with calling him a Jew and then incontinently flooring him upon the Race Course, at the time there were a number of persons around Mr D, one of whom made a pull at his watch-guard but without effect.  While Mr D. was lying on the ground the fellow again struck him. The Bench sentenced him to pay a fine of £5 or be imprisoned two months.  (PPH 23/4/41)

Then followed a pig case. Ah- pigs! Not a week would go by without a mention of pigs in the newspaper and this week was no exception:

Robert Oman was fined five shillings for permitting a pig to walk about and breathe fresh air and look upon the scene in the town of Melbourne. Mr O said that the pig was of the feminine gender and shortly previous had a charming litter, which as soon as he could conveniently manage he removed to a neighbour’s, who was in the habit of luxuriating upon a sucking pig nicely browned. The mother of the pigs, having a presentiment that her progeny was to be tickled in the throat by the relentless butcher, spurned all soothing and buckets of choice mash, and with a perseverance worth a better cause, burrowed her way into the street and finding her little ones undergoing the operation of fattening in an adjacent yard, to which access was denied her, she set up a wail in that peculiar shrill key which can be only drawn forth from the Pigean bagpipes, which drew the attention of the informer.  The bench, however much they admired the maternal feelings of the pig, must inflict the fine.  (PPH 23/4/41)


The primative i.e. primitive Albion Hotel Great Bourke St. Melbourne

The Primative Albion Hotel Great Bourke St Melbourne by William Liardet. Source: State Library of Victoria.


A bench of magistrates and worthies assembled to hear the applications for Publicans’ Licences. Headed by James Simpson, the Police Magistrate, the bench included James McArthur, F. A. Powlett, G. D. Mercer, E. Brewster, W. Verner, A. Furlong and Doctors McCrae and Martin.  Here’s a list of existing licenses they approved:

COLLINS STREET Thomas Halfpenny ‘William Tell’ (conditional);  Thomas Anderson ‘The Lamb’; John Davis ‘Imperial’; Thomas Graham ‘Edinburgh Castle’.

LITTLE COLLINS STREET Benjamin Hancock ‘Freemasons’ Arms’; William Evans ‘Builders Arms’; John Bullivant ‘Waterloo’ (conditional); John O’Shaugnessy ‘Australasian Hotel’.

BOURKE STREET  James Dobson ‘Albion’; James Jamieson ‘Eagle’; William Sidebottom ‘Golden Fleece’

ELIZABETH STREET Francis Henry ‘Irish Harp’; (conditional); James Coulstock ‘Melbourne Tavern’; R. A. Roberts ‘Union’

QUEEN STREET  John Byng ‘Victoria’; John Shanks ‘Royal Highlander’

FLINDERS STREET William Coulson ‘Melbourne Hotel’; A Greaves ‘Yarra Hotel’

LITTLE FLINDERS STREET James Shaw ‘Shaw’s Hotel’; Robert Brottargh ‘Adelphi’, Lewis Pedranna ‘Dundee Arms’ (conditionally)

MARKET PLACE  William Harper ‘British Hotel’

LONSDALE STREET William Mortimer ‘Crown’, Robert Omond ‘Caledonia Hotel’

BEACH A Lingham ‘Marine Hotel’, W.F.E Liardet, ‘Pier Hotel’

They didn’t necessarily approve all existing licence-holders.  They knocked some people back if they were persons of bad character, or if their hotels were frequented by people of bad character or, as in one case, if the applicant was living “in a disreputable state”.

They approved new licences too, just to add to the proliferation of hotels


BOURKE STREET J. S. Johnstone, John Stevens (conditional)

ELIZABETH STREET Matthew Molony; E. Matthysons (Wine and Beer only)

LITTLE FLINDERS STREET. John Grant; Francis Hobson

COLLINS STREET  Philip Anderson; Henry Davis


LITTLE BOURKE STREET William Athorne; Matthew Cantling

ELIZABETH STREET William Smith (conditional)


They didn’t approve any licences for New Town (Fitzroy). It seems like the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) forces were already mustering in 1841:

There were three applications for New Town but these were strenuously opposed by Mr Montgomery, the Crown Solicitor as an inhabitant of the place, backed by a memorial signed by the most respectable of the inhabitants.  The Bench would willingly grant one Licence at New Town as they thought it hard that the labouring class, many of whom reside there, should be compelled to come into Melbourne to procure their beer but… there is no constabulary force to overlook, much less look after a publican at New Town. (PPH 23/4/41)


Although there were boats buzzing backwards and forwards along the coastal ports between Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Launceston and Hobart, occasionally we are reminded that for some unlucky passengers, it could take a very long time to make the journey.

The Gem, for example, left Launceston on 4th April but did not arrive until 26th April. It was sighted by the Lady Emma on 17th April about 40 miles of Cape Liptrap, under gib and storm stay-sails.   Meanwhile, the Augustus, described as a “very dull sailer” took three weeks to sail from Sydney- so long that it had to be supplied with fresh water by the Australian Packet which ‘spoke’ it on the journey.


Well, in 2016 we’ve just had an unseasonably warm last week in April with three consecutive days over 25 degrees.  In April 1841 the highest temperature for the period 22-30th was 72 (22.2) and the lowest 49 (9.8). The wind was generally light. It was dull and wet on 22-24 April, with fine weather afterwards.