Immigrants who left their mark - Thomas and Eliza Blencowe

Thomas Blencowe

Thomas Blencowe was among the first settlers to take up land in the Robertson district of NSW.

Thomas was born 14.2.1836 in Gawcott, Buckingham, England, son of Thomas (1810-1880) and Frances Blencowe (1808-1884).

The 1851 Census lists him living with his parents in High Street, Gawcott, aged 15. His occupation listed as stone mason. In 1856 he married Eliza Bennett in Gawcott, Buckinghamshire.

Thomas, Eliza and infant son Thomas sailed to Australia on the ship "Matoaka" as Assisted Immigrants. They paid £1.00 for their passage out and were listed as 'Blencawe' on the Immigrant Passenger List. Thomas was 21 years old and could read and write. He was a bricklayer and recorded as being of the Methodist faith. Eliza was 22 years old and could read. She was a housemaid and a member of the Church of England. Her parents, John and Esther Bennett, were living in Gawcott at this time. The "Matoaka" left Liverpool, Lancashire, England on 21.10.1856 and arrived at Botany Bay on the 22.1.1857, a total of 93 days at sea. It was a three masted, full rigged, wooden ship with a 1,323 gross tonnage (old weight) built in 1853 by Willis Gann & Co of New Brunswick.

Thomas and Eliza's infant son, Thomas, born 1856, died on the voyage to Australia. Their second son, John (1857-1935) and first daughter, Frances (1859-1917) were born at Penrith. The births of ten more children were registered at Penrith, Berrima and Burrawang in NSW Australia. Some reports claim Thomas carried on with bricklaying and stone masonry in the early days.

In 1862 Thomas took up a Conditional Purchase on 50 acres, Portion 3, at Wildes Meadow. Another block of 40 acres, Portion 56 was taken up in 1875 as freehold. After some time his holdings were reported to have increased to 500 acres and he named the place "Brookville". Thomas was recognised as a very progressive farmer. He constructed agricultural drains on his property, made wooden packing cases to carry fruit for sale from his large orchard and ran a piggery.

Blencowe Dairy

Blencowe milk house at 'Brookville'

Thomas's main source of income was from his dairy. "Brookville" was famous for its butter. The Sydney Morning Herald (13.2.1884) reports Thomas Blencowe winning a Silver Medal for butter in the Calcutta International Exhibition. In April 1884, at the fifth annual show in connection with the Burrawang Farmers' Club, Thomas took out the first prize for salted butter (Sydney Morning Herald 7.4.1884). "To store the milk in a cool temperature a two-storeyed milk house of local volcanic stone, plastered with cow dung and lime, was built. The roof was at first of thatch, but was later shingled, and still later the shingled roof was covered with iron. The temperature never rose above 68 degrees F. Butter was made from cream, hand skimmed from pan-set milk".

Thomas organised a public meeting to build a government school at Burrawang East. Tender advertising for the "Erection and Completion of the proposed Public School Buildings at Burrawang East" appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald 21.10.1876. Tender forms could be obtained from and were to be addressed to Mr T. Blencowe, Honorary Secretary to the Public School Committee.

Old School House

Burrawang Old School House 1876

In 1877 Thomas was a director and Chairman of the Wingacarribbee Milk Company (Limited). His occupation was listed as Dairyman. The prospectus for the company appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald 14.4.1877. Capital to be raised by selling 15,000 shares for a £1.00 per share. The first depot would be built at Robertson and later depots at Burrawang and Kangaloon — all within easy reach of railway transport to Sydney — the only dairying district in the colony at that time with rail to Sydney. Farmers could deliver milk to the rail for 8d. per gallon and it would be sold in Sydney for 1s 4d. per gallon. The company expected to make a profit of £4,345.17.6 per year from the Robertson depot.

Thomas was ever ready to further the interests of the farmer and was vice president of the Burrawang Farmers Club in its early days. He was also a committee member of the Burrawang and West Camden Agricultural Society in 1879 and was highly valued and very active in community affairs. In March 1889, Thomas delivered an address at Wildes Meadow for the formation of a branch of the Protection Association of NSW. Sixty gentlemen enlisted as members, Mr Blencowe (possibly John — son of Thomas) was elected Honorary Secretary and Mr Thomas Blencowe was elected Honorary Treasurer (Sydney Morning Herald 26.3.1889). Thomas was also a director of the Land Company of Australia (Sydney Morning Herald 9.9.1886) and was a liquidator in the Bulli Coke and Coal Co.

Thomas Headstone

Thomas Blencowe died 6th June 1889 leaving his wife Eliza, 5 sons and 4 daughters to mourn their loss. He is buried in Myra Vale, sometimes called Wildes Meadow or the Wesleyan Cemetery. The church there was Methodist, built in 1874. It is now a private residence.

Reference: Courtesy Berrima District Historical &Family History Society Newsletter Nov. 1996

Nancy Wiese and Ruth Jack
(Great granddaughter and Great, Great Granddaughter)