Letter of Mr John Rogerson (1840-1923)

After leaving Australia in 1894, Thomas Merchant (1852 – 1837) remained in contact with friends from his time working in Australia, one of them being John Rogerson who worked as the general manager for the Messrs Dangar who ran station John and Thomas worked on. Transcribed here is a letter John wrote to Thomas on the 29th May 1919.

Dalkeith

Redmayre Road

Strathfield

Sydney

New South Wales

29th May 1919

My dear Merchant

I received your long and interesting letter of the 4th November and was pleased to hear Mrs Merchant, self and family are all well and all doing so well. It is nice having them so near you and able to go round and see them for a change all on the land. I think there is nothing like the land. What a wonderful crop Tom had and what a price he got for it, he must be making a mint of money even after paying rent and taxes.

What a blessing the War is over, the peace treaty is not yet signed but the Huns will sign it or will be much worse for them. What a terrible unsettled state the whole world is in at present but I think as soon as the peace treaty is signed every nation will settle down to make work and peace again as they cannot afford to keep up wasteful strife.
You are having your own industrial strife in England. Unions Agitators are never satisfied, when they get all they want now, they are soon out for more. There is always a giant unrest after every war. Men that never did anything before when they come back want good billets which they are quite unfitted for and are supported by the mob who say they saved our country and must be well treated so does everyone but the nation cannot go into extremes or would ruin its self.

Ireland is the great thorn or cancer in Britain side there is only one way of healing it i.e. make a good honest liberal law and makes them abide to it or jail or death, if 1000 or 2000 were treated with the latter the others would soon give in.
Our soldiers are now returning, many of them never did a days work in their lives, lived on what they could steal and get out of the garbage lives and slept in the domain or in a close of some kind. Many of these never were at the front, gammoned sick or something else. They kicked up pows on the boats coming home. Now they want the government to do all sorts of things for them. They are being well treated getting billets which they can’t keep, getting land fenced and a home built and you can give that class everything they want and they will do no good. But every decent man will get on if he intends to work and will be well supported by the government and people and so they ought.

Three of the McMaster 2nd Family went to War. two of them have returned home alright. one of them brought a young English wife with him last week. The third is still in France. They are all officers. The fourth remained here to look after their property which is near Warialda. The Australians as a rule or principally made splendid soldiers being so resourceful and brave.

The influenza pneumonic broke out here six months ago through soldiers returning and has been pretty severe all over the states. Have been many deaths and such a number affected by it. I am pleased to think it is much better now and seems to be dying out.
We are almost in the grip of an industrial upheaval here as unions are getting beyond all bounds and most unreasonable. Wages are no sooner increased then they want more. The Irish Roman Catholic element has a lot to do with it. I have always said universal suffrage was the ruin of this country and the women’s vote made it worse. We have a so-called nationalist government in power just now but they are weak and have to give into almost everything Labour wants. Some of the Labour members are about the worst class of men in the country.

We have had one of the worst droughts I have seen in the country lasting over nine months but I’m pleased to say we have had a nice general rain this month which will relieve everyone.

Sydney has had almost too much but just along the coast the losses of stock has been very great and prices so high. Crops have been very bad, in some district failures. Chaff and corn are now very high, some spent thousands in feeding stock will now be relieved.

It was very sad Clive Dangar’s death he was invalided home and died in Melbourne on the way from an internal trouble. The stud flock at Gostwyck are going back in my opinion, were going in for fine wool too much and neglecting the carcass. Rodney Dangar is principal executor in Clive’s estate. Clive bought I think about 6 or 700 acres of Mooki and doing well with it. Rodney sold more than one fourth of Mooki to 2 or 3 which I have told him was a great mistake, his father would rather have increased the area than reduced it but what I can make out Mooki is not well-managed. He sold Waterloo near Walcha which was a mistake in my opinion, a good well grassed and watered new England property. He bought 6 or 7000 acres near Gloucester at a high price which is not as good as Mooki. None of them any equal to their father.

On the 1st July last, Arthur bought “Pikedale” Station 20 miles from Stanthorpe railway station and joining Pikes Creek which he bought 10 or 12 years ago, it contained 50,000 acres of Freehold land all grazing, no agricultural except little flats along the river or creeks. He bought 10,000 acres of it 3 years ago now, he has the lot. It belonged to Charles White, eldest son of the late F.R White of Boolmimba, Armidale. He was not strong had only one son and two daughters and his son was not strong and he hate land and stock, so he sold it. His wife and daughters said it was too far from town or city so he offered it to Arthur at a fair price on very good terms and many years to pay it in. It is well improved rabbit netted all round and it was always considered the safest station from the drought in the district. It is splendidly watered. This last drought was the worst ever known there. Jen Alfie and I went up there three weeks in October during shearing. It was very dry all the time, he commenced shearing middle of September and lambs after shearing. He had a very poor lambing and had also a poor calving had 500 cows calving, his losses among sheep and cattle were not very great but still too much for the first year. It is only 4 miles between the two head stations Pikedale and Pike Creek. He shears all the sheep at Pikedale and sold the wool in Brisbane fleece 22 to 26 1/2. Necks 21 1/2. Broken 17 1/2. Bellies 12 all splendid prices.

About the 1st February he had over 2 inches of rain at Pikedale and an inch a week after and at the end of February had 11 inches of a storm at the head of the river and 4 to 6 inches at the lower end of the river. Which brought the river down in the highest flood ever known, doing great damages to fleeces but lost no stock. The grass grew splendidly and soon had first-class feed, that was not a general rain. Some few miles away had almost none, it is very good up there now and looks first rate for winter.
I never was a speculator or might have made more than I did, still I am content, Have enough for myself and have given all the others a fair amount as well. Had to do it to save too much probate duty. You said to me at Eastleigh I was making a mistake to live in Sydney and not remain in the country. I made a mistake and have regretted it ever since.

Arthur makes Beaufort his headquarters being so well situated. His eldest son John is living at Pikedale and in charge. Colin his other boy lives with them at Beaufort, it does not take long to go from Beaufort to Pikedale. Train leaves Glen Innes at 6 am. Gets to Stanthorpe at 10.30 and the car takes you to Pikedale before lunch. Arthur’s eldest girl leaves school the end of this year. The other two have a governess at home. Una and Sheila are both well. Sheila left school the end of last year and is now at the University I do not know what to do.

I took a nasty illness beginning of December a heart attack, had a nurse for three weeks I got a little better and she left. I got on fairly well for five or six weeks then got another bad attack had another nurse for three weeks got a little better and she left. And has been much better since but oh the pain I have suffered has been most dreadful. I feel much better now but have to be most cautious and careful what I do or eat or the pain might come at once. I can do no work of any kind nor stoop but can walk about the garden or road on the level and can go for a drive and have been in Sydney twice last week on business, Alfie with me had lunch and got back before four and felt no bad affects. The doctor made me sleep downstairs and feel the better of it as I always got pain going up the stairs. It is almost impossible to get domestic maid at any wage. Jen and Alfie are with me here and are well. Trusting this will find Mrs. Merchant and the other members of your family and yourself well.

Kindest regards to you all. Yours Sincerely

John Rogerson

p.s I did not write all this at one sitting, for fear of causing a pain in my chest. I will send you a paper so as you will see the prices our fat stock are bringing in Sydney.

Retracing Ancestors

A little while ago I went on a trip to Devon to retrace some of my ancestors steps. They were farmers from around Barnstaple, Devon before moving up to Kent around the 1920s/1930s

There was one house from Devon that I had a partial photograph of which was Eastleigh Barton, where the Merchants were living on the 1901 and 1911 census.

The photo was taken on 11th September 1901 on the wedding day of John Ashton Glass and Mary Maude Merchant.

Just over One hundred years later, I took the photograph off the wall at my Grandparents house to scan it to the computer. Taped to the back is an envelope, inside written in my Great Grandmother’s handwriting (John and Mary’s daughter) are the names of everyone in the photograph she knew, missing only a handful.

So while travelling around Devon, I decided to go visit the property. The family there were extremely welcoming and showed us round the property and farm yard explaining how it would have been back in the 1900s. The current farmer’s father walked round with us as he grew up nearby and remembered hearing about the Merchants.

Eastleigh Barton, Devon

Mystery House

I went to visit a cousin recently who has quite a few family albums in their possession which I’ve been really eager to look through. In them there were hundreds of old photos, while most were labelled and named a few were not.

The ones that stood out to me were some hunting photos in front of a stately home. Where photographs of people are hard if not impossible to identify, I thought surely I could find this house.

So I started by asking relatives who still live in the area is they had any ideas of where this house could be from, most likely it was in Kent but there is a slight possibility the house was from Devon where that side of the family originated.

Having no luck with members of the family I decided to just try some searches online. I started with Lost Houses of Kent, while scrolling through the many photographs I was amazed by how many houses in Kent we have lost, and in the country.

Half way down the search I found it, Calehill House of Little Chart, Kent which was demolished in 1952.

Calehill House, Little Chart, Kent Hunt
Photograph found in the family photo album

Calehill was first mentioned in AD 839 when it was presented to the Monks of Canterbury. The estate belonged to the Sir William Darell and his family from 1410 until the 20th century. Over the years there have been three houses known as Calehill, The first house was built by Sir John Darell who died in 1438. The ruins are just south-east of current house, it is stone rubble which includes a 15th century window.

The house from the photograph was built in 1740 by Philip Darell to the south east, the house was demolished in 1953 after it was considered too badly damaged from being used in the Second World War. However one of the side wings still survives as it houses the chapel which as a consecrated building could not be destroyed.

Before the house was demolished the whole estate was sold off at auction on 1st July 1952 at The Saracen’s Head Hotel, Ashford Kent. The estate was auctioned by Messers Knight, Frank & Rutley, Hubert F Finn-Kelcey and amalgamated by King & Ashenden.

The Auction Catalogue lists details and some photographs of the estate. There was a total of 54 lots being sold ranging from the mansion house to small cottages, the whole extending to about 1,433 acres.

Described in the catalogue “The Georgian mansion is of imposing elevation with two bell turrets and is built in mellowed brick with slated roof. It was erected in 1740. A wide terrace with stone balustrading and steps lead to the columned Porch of the Main Entrance.” the house accommodation is listed after which includes a Music Room, Snuff-Bottle Room, Chinese Room, The Armour Hall, The Library and a Chapel on the ground floor. Upstairs there are eleven bedrooms across two floors.

There is also staff accommodation, with three men’s bedrooms and a bathroom with W.C on the first floor. In the first floor wing there are ten maids’ bedrooms with a bathroom with W.C.

The domestic offices in the ‘downstairs’ part of the house consisted of a “large light Kitchen with tiled walls, double oven range;  Scullery tiled walls and three deep sinks; Serving room (next to the Dining Room); Housekeeper’s room with fireplace. On a lower level, off a wide corridor: Butler’s Pantry, Servants’ Hall, Larders, Cellerage, Strong Room, and Boiler Rooms for central heating and hot water service.”

The gardens and grounds looking over the hills to the north-east with sloping lawn, wooded banks and shrubbery. To the South-west are spreading lawns shaded by ornamental trees and park-like timbering, a graveled terrace, an old walled garden. Lowers lawns with pond and a swimming pool about 80ft by 20ft (24m by 6m). The water main connects the swimming pool to the fire hydrants around the house. The Kitchen garden is entirely walled with espalier and other fruit trees, Peach House and cold frames.

Calehill House is just one of 1,991 houses that have been lost in England since 1800s, through demolition, severely reduced in size, or are ruined. You can view the list here, Lostheitage.org.uk are aiming to have an image and history of every house in their list.