This Month in Port Phillip: July 1841

Oh dear, all my good intentions of writing a weekly report have all turned to dust! I think I’ll just do a quick skate through July 1841 and then take up again in August 1841.

So what did happen in July 1841?


With our own emphasis on roads and across-land transport, we tend to overlook the steamers that plied their way across Port Phillip and Westernport Bays. In July 1841 the coal steamer Aphrasia joined three other regular steamers based in Port Phillip.

There’s a picture of the Aphrasia here.

The Aphrasia plied between Melbourne and Geelong, a 45 mile journey that took about five hours. When the service started in July 1841, it was planned to run twice a week to Geelong on Monday and Thursday mornings and return the following evening.  It was hoped that an extra service could be introduced shortly.  The Aphrasia was captained by Capt. Henry Lawler, and is commemorated in Geelong in Aphrasia Street.

Interestingly, in the last year or so, two new ferry services have commenced in Melbourne. One runs from Werribee South to Docklands, and the other which commenced last week goes from Portarlington to Docklands.


DUEL EXTRAORDINARY.  On Saturday night last, a hostile meeting took place between Mr S___ and Mr D’M_____ near the Flagstaff.  The quarrel originated after dinner, in consequence of a tumbler of whisky toddy having been thrown in the face of the latter gentleman, which not being taken in the Pickwickian scene as intended, a challenge was the immediate consequence.  Mr S. was attended by Mr B., and Mr D’M by Mr R. when by the full ‘light of the moon’ two shots each were exchanged, but happily without effect.  The parties then returned to the house where the quarrel took place, and spent the evening with much conviviality as if nothing had occurred. – It is only necessary to add, that the seconds, unknown to the principals, had adopted the necessary precuation of loading the pistols with powder only! (PPH 6 July 1841)

I assume that Mr S____ was Peter Snodgrass, who was rather fond of the odd duel here and there. Paul de Serville has D’M written as D.Mc____.


Judge Willis had only been in Melbourne since April, but already by July people were starting to grumble about him.  The barrister Edward Brewster and the Police Magistrate James Simpson both fell under his animadversion (what a splendid word!) and public opinion was very much on Simpsons’ side.  When Willis first arrived in Melbourne, there had been gossip about his ‘lack of dignity’ and ‘injudicious temper’ on the bench, but it was largely overlooked in the excitement of opening a Supreme Court in the district. But now, Willis’s “lamentable deficiency of that uniform temperament so desirable in all, but so absolutely important, and in fact indispensable in a Judge upon the Bench” came more clearly into view. (PPH 23/7/41)  The Port Phillip Herald wrote:

A very short period of the continuance of His Honor’s course will be sufficient to render it imperative upon our fellow-colonists, out of justice to themselves, to address His Excellency the Governor upon the subject, and although such petition may not have the direct effect of obtaining the removal of the judge, still the result will be indirectly the same, for it is not probable His Honor could feel comfortable in presiding in the court of a province after the public expression of the colonists’ dissatisfaction with his manner, and under these circumstances we may reasonably infer, that an immediate and voluntary resignation of his seat will be the necessary consequence. ( PPH 27/7/41)

As the good people of Melbourne were to discover, it wasn’t quite that simple….


Land was advertised on the corner of Lonsdale and King Streets. I hadn’t noticed advertisements for this part of town before.

Here’s a Google map street view of it today.

The situation of this valuable property is almost unequalled- being in the most beautiful, healthy and respectable part of the town, and within 150 yards of the telegraph, which is becoming a most FASHIONABLE PROMENADE. This part of Melbourne promises to become in a few years the most eligible part of the town, from the considerable reserves devoted to public buildings, the church, market and others; and this neighborhood has escaped being filled with a dense population, living in skillions, and congregated into rookeries, to the great detriment of public health. Gentlemen desirous of a site for a house in a respectable, quiet, airy and healthy situation are requested to attend this sale.  (PPH 6/7/41)

I don’t think that this was ever the most eligible part of town! However, I noted that ‘Anonymous’ in Graeme Davison’s article thought that the Flagstaff area should become a city square.  I’m interested that so early in Melbourne’s history – after only six years-  there is already being promulgated an almost Dickensian view of Melbourne as a crowded, unhealthy urban space.


It’s just as well that someone was still boosting the economy because prices are falling, land auctions are faltering and wages are being reduced.  And then two more ships arrived…

2 responses to “This Month in Port Phillip: July 1841

  1. The economic difficulties, mentioned in this post and the previous post, are interesting and I have not heard of them. I wonder how they panned out and when the situation improved.

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