Wednesday, 9 August 2017

"A malicious conspiracy to defraud"

In November 1837 a conspiracy to defraud Wilberforce farmer, Michael Power of £500 took place. Benjamin Hodghen, a settler and also a constable, along with his daughter Mrs Ann Payton, widow, both of Windsor collaborated with Elizabeth, Michael’s wife, to defraud Michael Power. But then Elizabeth was also swindled. The individuals were all caught and the case was heard by the Supreme Court in February 1838. Many inhabitants from Windsor and Wilberforce attended the hearing.
The Australian 23 February 1838, p. 2. 

Mrs Elizabeth Power was the wife of Michael Power, a farmer of Wilberforce. He apparently ill-treated his wife. So when he was absent from home one day, she broke open a box belonging to her husband and removed £500. She then made away with the money. During the court case, Michael reported that the couple “were always very comfortable; scolding is nothing between man and wife”. He also admitted that he “often struck her, but that is nothing between man and wife.”  The case was reported in details in the newspapers of the time. It reports:
The husband, on discovering his loss, applied for and obtained a warrant from Samuel North, Esq, to apprehend his wife for absconding, and she was taken into custody, but the money was not found upon her person. On the following morning Hodghen, the chief constable of Windsor, took Mrs Power out of the Watch-house, and brought her to his house to breakfast with him, and having sounded her as to whether she had the money, she, after some hesitation, took him to the house where it had been left, and brought it away tied up in a small bag. She then returned to Hodghen's house, where she deposited the money in Hodghen's hat in presence of his wife and daughter, having previously promised him that if he would not deceive her, she would make him a handsome present. On being taken before the magistrate, the money not being forthcoming, Mrs Power was discharged from custody, upon which she returned to Hodghen's house, where she resided about a week. 
Suspicion having been excited that Hodghen had the money, a search warrant was obtained against his house, which was executed in his absence by constables Cobcroft and Armfield, who explored everything in the premises with the exception of a writing desk, and a clock which was locked up and of which they were informed Hodghen had the key. It was subsequently alleged that the money was planted in the clock, Hogdhen afterwards gave Mrs Power £84, as her share of the spoil, and she went to Sydney with a view of proceeding to Van Diemen's Land, where she had a daughter. On the road however, she fell in with her husband, who took the money away from her. She then returned to Hodghen's house, where she demanded a further share of the spoil, and Mrs Payton (Hodghen's daughter, who with the mother had taken an active part in the transaction) and a man named Dennis Dwyer, (who refused, when giving his evidence, to answer whether any criminal intercourse had taken place between him and Mrs Power) then accompanied Mrs Power to Sydney, where a passage to Van Diemen's Land was negotiated for her. Upon being pressed to embark, however, Mrs Power found that only £5 had been given by Hodghen to his daughter to deliver to her, which she complained was not sufficient to carry her halfway on her journey. 

Elizabeth Power refused to go, despite Mrs Payton trying to persuade her, and Elizabeth eventually made a statement before Mr North, the Police Magistrate at Windsor.
On the part of the defence, Mr Foster contended that the present information must fail, inasmuch as it was clear from the evidence, that there had been no conspiracy entered into to obtain the money, which had been previously taken by the wife, and voluntarily handed over to Hodghen. In consequence of this, the learned gentleman contended, that the two first counts in the information, could not be supported. Mr. Foster also contended that the third count was defective—for that a general description of the offence, without specifying the means taken to complete it, was insufficient in law. The learned judge reserved the objections, should there be any necessity for their after consideration. In his charge to the Jury, the Chief Justice recommended them to dismiss the two first counts from their consideration, and to apply themselves wholly to the third, on which, he was of opinion, it was competent for them, if they believed the evidence, to convict the defendants. The Jury, after upwards of half an hour's consideration, returned a verdict of Guilty, upon which the defendants were remanded from their bail until Friday (this day) when they are to be brought up for the judgment of the Court.

Several days later, Benjamin Hodghen was convicted of conspiracy and sentenced to two years in Newcastle Gaol, and was required to pay a fine of £500. His daughter Ann Payton, was sentenced to two years in Newcastle Gaol. It doesn’t appear that a conviction was recorded for Elizabeth. Did she return to live with her husband? One wonders what her story was.

You can read the story in full in The Australian 23 February 1838, p. 2.

This article was first published in the Hawkesbury Crier December 2016 pp. 14-15

Friday, 9 June 2017

Who was William Shackfield Newton 1837-1912?

Rev W. S. Newton performed hundreds of baptisms, marriages and funerals for over a decade, for families belonging to the St. John’s Church of England at Wilberforce, St Thomas’ Church of England, Sackville and on the other side of the Hawkesbury River, in the St. James Church of England at Pitt Town, but who was he?

William Shackfield Newton was born in 1837 Ormskirk Lancashire the son of John Newton, a Methodist minister and his wife Hannah. He attended school at Stourbridge and he appears to have taken an interest in the ministry, as a young man and was admitted to Christ’s College at Cambridge. He completed his Bachelor of Arts in 1860 and later in 1869 his Master of Arts.(1) 

He was ordained a deacon in 1860 at Llandaff, near Cardiff in the south of Wales, and then priest the following year. He was appointed the curate at Canton, Glamorgan in Wales in 1860 and was there for two years. He was at Cheptow between 1862 and 1865 and the Brierley Hills from 1865 until 1871.  

His wife Catherine Pugh Morris, who he married in 1862, hailed from Montgomery Wales. Their first born was Edward Rowley Morris Newton who was born in 1865 in Stourbridge, Worcestershire. Daughter Eleanor Jones was born in 1867 also in Stourbridge. Joan was born in Concord in 1878. 

William with Catherine, Edward and Eleanor migrated to Australia in 1871. William was appointed to the Macleay River parish until 1873, followed by Gulgong until 1878. He had a change of occupation in the late 1870s and was the Headmaster of the Collegiate School at Croydon from 1878 until 1889 then Principal of St. Philip’s Grammar School, Sydney from 1892 for four years. He returned to the church with a post at St Matthew’s at Botany in the inner city before being appointed Rector in May 1897 to the incumbency at Pitt Town.

St Johns Anglican Church, Wilberforce

At this stage Pitt Town and Wilberforce still came under the same Parish despite being on opposite sides of the Hawkesbury River. It was a bit of a journey via horseback or cart via Windsor but a much quicker journey via the punt across the river.

Shortly after the arrival of the Newton family in Pitt Town, Eleanor Jones Newton married Henry ‘Harry’ Glanville on 12 June 1897 at St James Pitt Town. William presided over his daughter’s marriage.  Henry was a 37 year old farmer from Wogamia, Shoalhaven. 

The local newspapers provide an insight into some of the daily events of the Newton family in the Hawkesbury. 

In September 1897, Rev Newton, was able to obtain a donation of ornamental shrubs from the Botanical Gardens in Sydney. The plants were used to “beautify the ground attached” to the old St. James' Schoolhouse. Members of the church including older parishioners and residents were invited to attend. Horticulturalist, Mr Phillips, the laid out the plants and the first tree was planted by senior church-warden James Dunstan. Trees were then planted by wardens, Sunday school teachers plus members of the congregation. Rev Newton and daughter Joan also planted trees. Mr T Hillhouse Taylor, the gentleman assisting Mr Newton in his ministerial duties, also planted a tree. The oldest person to plant a tree was Mrs Sarah Horton, aged 96. The tree planting was followed by refreshments.(2)  

In 1903 Rev Newton attended the special ceremony of laying a corner stone at St. Paul's Church in Riverstone.

Early in January 1904, it was reported in the local newspaper that Rev. W. S. Newton had lost his pony. Apparently it “found its way back to Campbelltown, where it was bred. Mr. John Smallwood brought it back to its owner last week.” (3) 

Also in 1904, Rev Newton was reported as being in a “low state, suffering from pneumonia.” Mr. J. Barnett filled in and took the services At Pitt Town while the rector was unwell. He eventually went to Nowra to recuperate and gradually gained his strength.(4)  

On New Year’s Eve (1904) Mrs. Newton was presented a gift from the local parishioners. Mrs. B. Hall given a “handsome and valuable tea-service” while her husband and daughter were also presented with a matching cup and saucer. The gifts were subscribed for by the local parishioners. For entertainment, a gramophone was lent for the event and Miss Sarah Wilbow sang a song, followed by refreshments and games until midnight, followed by a service.(5) 

The following year, Rev Newton and one his daughters had an accident. A motor cycle spooked their horse, and the harness and vehicle destroyed. Their injuries were much more serious than originally thought and “Mrs. Glanville, from Nowra, a daughter of Mr. Newton” stayed “at the rectory to nurse the patients."(9) The local congregation collected donations which totalled about £10, which went towards a new whip and harness. The new items were presented at a social event at the Church Hall. The remainder of the money £4 went towards repairing the sulky. While the rector was convalescing, Mr Martin acted as the lay preacher.(6)

He was with this parish in the Hawkesbury until 1911 when he became unwell and retired. After leaving Windsor, the Rev. W. S. Newton carried on his spiritual work amongst the prisoners sent from Darlinghurst to the Long Bay Gaol. He was remembered by the “down and out for his great but old-fashioned virtue called kindness.” (7)

Windsor and Richmond Gazette 21 December 1912, p. 4. 

Daughter Eleanor Glanville died in November 1912 aged 40. She had a 13 year old son. The death of Eleanor greatly affected William and within the month, he passed away. Rev William Shackfield Newton passed away at Randwick on 18 December 1912. His funeral was held at St. James Pitt Town and he was buried in the Anglican Cemetery, Pitt Town. Catherine died in 1919 at Randwick and she was buried with her husband at Pitt Town. (8) 
Newton headstone from Pitt Town Cemetery

1. Alumni Cantabrigienses: A Biographical List of All Known Students ..., Volume 2 by John Venn
8. (1932, November 25). Windsor and Richmond Gazette, p. 18.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

The nineteen radicals

Only small numbers of convicts arrived from Scotland to the penal colony as Scotland's legal system had less capital offences and punishments in comparison to elsewhere. A number of convicts arrived in Sydney in 1821 as a result of discontent in Scotland and one of these went on to have a connection to the Hawkesbury.

Following the French Revolution, unemployment, cost of living and unjust working conditions in Scotland led to workers seeking reform. In 1820 a group of activists planned a rebellion during an industrial uprising at Bonnymuir however it was short-lived.

A number of men were captured, with 22 convicted and 19 of these charged with treason and sentenced to death. William Crawford was freed while John Baird and Andrew Hardie, were executed in September 1820, just a week after another rebel, James Wilson was hanged and beheaded. The nineteen had their sentences commuted to transportation and they became known as the Scottish Radicals. They were:

John Anderson
John Barr
14 years
William Clackson
14 years
James Clelland
Andrew Dawson
Robert Gray
Alexander Hart
14 years
Alexander Johnston
14 years
Alexander Latimer
14 years
Thomas McCulloch
14 years
Thomas McFarlane
John McMillan
Benjamin Moir
14 years
Allan Murchie
Thomas Pike or Pink
Muslin Slinger
14 years
William Smith
14 years
David Thompson
14 years
Andrew White
14 years
James Wright
14 years

One of the radicals sentenced at Stirling was weaver, John Anderson, the son of John Anderson and Janet Stean, born in the 1790s at Camelon near Falkirk in Stirling. His crime was pasting up political posters. He pleaded guilty and his sentence was Life.

The activists were taken to Edinburgh and were kept on a prison hulk until they departed on the ‘Speke’ arriving in Sydney in May 1821.

Ebenezer Chucrh and graveyard. Photo: M. Nichols

The indent describes John as short of stature, he stood 5’ 3½” high with brown hair and hazel eyes. Shortly after John's arrival he was employed by Simeon Lord (1771-1840), emancipated convict and entrepreneur. He was employed by Lord until 1823 when he found employment as a teacher at Ebenezer Church, on the Hawkesbury River. Whilst growing up, John had been given a reasonable education at the local parish school, he could read and wrote a refined copperplate. 

Classes were conducted for local children shortly after the sandstone church, constructed by the Coromandel settlers in 1809, opened. Lessons were conducted in one half of the church. A separate residence was built adjacent to the church, for the schoolmaster. 

Another of the radicals, Thomas McCulloch wrote a letter to his wife in 1821 encouraging her to apply as a free settler. He wrote, “This is a fine country, and will grow anything that will grow in any other country, and in general have three crops a year.” 

In the mid-1830s William IV granted absolute pardon to the rebels, John's pardon was published in the Sydney Gazette 3 November 1836.

Sydney Gazette 3 November 1836

In 1834 John’s sister, Mrs Christiana Stephenson arrived from Scotland and joined him at the Hawkesbury. With his sister acting as housekeeper, several students were able to board at the school. Apparently, the “chapel was partitioned and at one end had an upper floor where Mrs Stephenson and the girls were quartered.” . It was recorded that Anderson was a “burning and shining light of scholarship on the Hawkesbury for many years” and some of his pupils went on to fill important positions.

When he was in his early sixties, John married Lucy Watson at Ebenezer in 1854. Lucy was the daughter of shipwright James Watson and was apparently a much younger woman.

Anderson had a reasonable knowledge of music and acted as Ebenezer’s precentor, the person who led the congregation in its singing at the church.  After devoting himself to teaching at Ebenezer for over thirty years at Ebenezer, Anderson retired in July 1855. A well-liked member of the community, he was held in high regard and he was given a presentation and a purse of twenty-eight sovereigns as part of his retirement.

Family Notices from The Sydney Morning Herald 7 August 1858

John Anderson died at Ebenezer aged 65 years on 16 July 1858 and his death notice proudly states his participation in the Bonnymuir political uprising. John is buried in the churchyard where his wife erected a fitting headstone to his memory. More recently a monument was constructed at Bonnymuir in Scotland in memory of those who fought for their democratic right.

Anderson grave at Ebenezer. Photo: Jonathan Auld 2016

Margaret & Alastair Macfarlane, The Scottish radicals : tried and transported to Australia for treason in 1820, p. 21 (Stevenage, Hertfordshire : Spa Books, 1981)
A. J. Gray, 'Anderson, John (1790–1858)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University 
NSW BDM - ANDERSON  JOHN 5763/1858 Parents listed as JOHN & JANET. Registered at WINDSOR  

Sunday, 21 May 2017

The Sundial at Wilberforce

On the northernmost wall of Wilberforce’s St. John’s Anglican Church is a vertical sundial with the initials J.W. and the date 1859. Who was J.W. and what was the significance of the year?

The vertical sundial carved by John Wenban. Photo: M. Nichols

A sundial tells the time of day from the position of the sun, and the one at Wilberforce was carved by John Wenban, the local schoolmaster, to commemorate the consecration of St. John’s Church by the Bishop of Sydney, Mr Barker. 

Wheelwright John Wenban was from Hawkhurst, Kent, and accompanied by wife Mary and six children migrated to Australia in 1838. The couple had seven children but eight months prior to departure, their infant son Walter died. The family travelled on-board the immigrant ship the “Maitland” which recorded over thirty deaths throughout the voyage, mainly from typhus and scarlet fever. Heavily pregnant throughout the journey, Mary delivered her eighth child, Emily, five weeks after landing. Two more daughters were born in Wilberforce.

On arrival John was employed by Mr McDonald at Pitt Town and then later moved his family to Wilberforce.  In 1842, he was appointed as the Schoolmaster of the Parochial School at Wilberforce, replacing William Gow, the first schoolmaster and Parish Clerk. Classes were conducted at the Wilberforce Schoolhouse, built in 1819 at the request of Governor Lachlan Macquarie, and operated as a school during the week and a church on Sundays. As well as occupying the position of schoolmaster, John was appointed Parish Clerk. He also was a musician, providing music to accompany hymns for church services.  The organ was not purchased until the 1870s. 

In 1846 a committee was established to plan a new church in Wilberforce. The public were asked to make donations towards the cost of the building. John Wenban donated £3/3/- to the building fund. Money was raised and plans were drawn by architect Edmund Blacket, however it was 1856 before the foundation stone was laid. The exact date the church was completed is not known but it was consecrated in 1859. 

One evening in late November 1859, as the Wenban family was returning home in a spring-cart, an accident transpired. While turning a corner near the Wenban home, one of the wheels hit a pot-hole and John was thrown out. The horse bolted and the cart overturned with two of the children also severely injured. Twenty minutes after the accident, John succumbed to his severely fractured skull. The Sydney Morning Herald  5 Dec 1859 reported the accident,
On Sunday evening last, just after sundown, Mr. John Wenban and family, of Wilberforce, were returning home in a spring-cart. In turning a corner, near his own house, one of the wheels of the cart went into a hole; the vehicle gave a sudden jerk, and Mr. Wenban was thrown out with great violence on the ground. The horse immediately became unmanageable, when the eldest daughter of Mr. Wenban jumped out and caught him by the head, but was unable to hold him. The animal then bolted off, and capsized the vehicle with three of the children underneath. Soon afterwards the horse got away from his harness, but not until two of the children were severely hurt. Mr. Wenban's skull was so severely fractured that he expired in about twenty minutes after the fall. A magisterial inquiry into the cause of death took place before Dr. Day, J P. (in the absence of the coroner) on the following day, when the foregoing facts were elicited - Mr. Wenban had filled the office of Church of England teacher at Wilberforce for several years, and was much respected by the inhabitants, very many of whom sorrowfully followed his remains to their final resting place on Wednesday.

An enquiry was held the following day with Dr Day acting as coroner. Aged only 56, John Wenban was buried in the local cemetery, a sad loss for his large family and the community.

John Wenban’s headstone at Wilberforce Cemetery. Photo: M. Nichols

Mary died on 30 August 1883 in her 77th year at her daughter’s home in Richmond. She was supposedly buried at Wilberforce however there is some dispute about this.

Today the sundial can still be seen on the outside wall of St. John's Church, reminding us of John Wenban’s contribution. 

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Alfred Stearn, a man of quiet ways

When able seaman Alfred Charles Stearn arrived in Sydney as part of the crew on the sailing ship “David Brown” in 1877, he liked what he saw and chose to remain. 

Alfred was born in London in 1857 and with his limited education elected to go to sea. After arriving in Sydney he found work in an oyster saloon and regularly visited Windsor in his spare time. He was fond of Windsor and eventually moved to the town, where he established the Windsor Oyster Saloon which also sold prawns several days a week. In 1881, he married Mary Jane Mills in Sydney. Mary was born at Rouse Hill, the daughter of James Mills although she was adopted by James and Cecilia Hough as a baby, when her mother died. At the time of his marriage, Alfred’s occupation was recorded as an oyster and fish salesman. The couple had five children, Alfred James, Elysse Marie and William Oswald with Clara and Erich dying as infants. 

Alfred Stearn’s shop, 74 George Street Windsor.
Detail from postcard, personal collection

Eventually he expanded his business to include a general store situated in George Street where he was able to offer a wide selection of goods and services. During the 1880s he held a hawker's license, allowing him to travel around selling goods. Later, Alfred purchased land in Thompson Square opposite the Macquarie Arms Hotel, and constructed a shop with a residence above. It was two-storey with a cast iron verandah, and the parapet was decorated with a lion. Officially opened in August 1907, the building still stands today at number 74.  In the new store, Alfred continued to conduct his grocery business, as well as selling fancy goods and produce. The business also sold tobacco, fireworks, musical instruments, jewellery, optical glasses and insurance.

Stearn was described as, “Good-hearted and generous natured, he was one of the fine old type of Englishmen, but he loved the country of his adoption.” On every patriotic occasion he flew a selection of flags and was an admirer of the Monarchy and Empire plus a respected member of the local Masonic Lodge.

With a love of music, he often sang in concerts and musicals in Windsor and was a committee member of the Windsor School of Arts.

His death on 14 June 1925 was quick. He “came out to the front of his shop at about 10.30 o'clock where he collapsed and fell on the footpath. He died almost immediately.” His lengthy obituary appeared in the Windsor & Richmond Gazette, partially duplicated below. At the time he was aged 68 years old. Alfred was buried in St. Matthews Anglican cemetery, Windsor. In his memory, flags were flown at half-mast in Thompson Square, as well as at the Fire Station and McQuade Park.  Mary Stearn and her children were staunch Catholics. She died in 1940 aged 76 years and is buried in the Windsor Catholic Cemetery. Her husband Alfred was known as “a man of quiet ways and dealings — inoffensive and unassuming” an honest and respected resident of Windsor, the likes of whom not often seen today.

Obituary from Windsor & Richmond Gazette 10 June 1925, p. 3
Today, Stearn’s shop, 74 George Street Windsor houses Windsor Seafoods.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Pictorial History Hawkesbury - revised, reprinted & for sale

Pictorial History Hawkesbury by Michelle Nichols has recently been revised and reprinted and is once again, available for sale.

To purchase an autographed copy $25.00 + $10 P&H go to Order Form For orders of 2-5 copies 5% discount and P&H $15. Copies are also available to pick up in Windsor or Richmond, please contact the author 0408 694 919. Copies are also available from Tizzana Winery at Ebenezer and most bookstores.

The Hawkesbury district was originally occupied by the Darug and Darkinjung tribes and following European settlement in the 1790s the Hawkesbury district developed into one of the major settlements in the colony. Many Australians can trace their origins, both convict and free, to this district and many descendants still live in this historic region.

Chapters of the book cover:

  • Setting the scene
  • Original Occupants
  • Exploration & early European Settlement 
  • Macquarie Five Towns

The publication also includes a history of Hawkesbury localities which extend from Bilpin, Colo, Ebenezer, Kurrajong, Mount Tomah, Pitt Town, Richmond, Wilberforce, Windsor, St Albans and Wisemans Ferry illustrated with almost 200 black and white historic photographs giving a fascinating overview of the history of the area from Aboriginal to modern times.

Michelle Nichols has worked as a Local History Librarian for over 30 years. She published 'Disastrous Decade: Flood & Fire in Windsor' in 2001 and co-authored 'Hawkesbury 1794-1994' with Jan Barkley Jack. She has been the editor of several journals as well as the 'Hawkesbury Pioneer Register 1 & 2.' Michelle received an OAM for her work on local history. A keen photographer, she transcribes Hawkesbury cemeteries  with her husband, Jonathan Auld. 

This is part of a series of pictorial histories and is also available for sale through the publisher Kingsclear Books 

ISBN 0-908272-78-2

Monday, 28 November 2016

Death of an astronomer: Hawkesbury's John Tebbutt 1834-1916

On this day, 100 years ago (29 November 1916) astronomer John Tebbutt, passed away. In Australia he was known for his devotion to astronomy yet internationally he was greatly admired. Tebbutt’s observations assisted in advancing astronomy throughout the world yet he rarely left the Hawkesbury. 
John Tebbutt at the Pensinsular Observatory, Windsor 1915 [Source: Early Days of Windsor by J. Steele, 1916]

The son of John and Virginia Tebbutt, John was born in Windsor on 25 May 1834. His grandfather, also called John, arrived in Sydney as a free settler with his family on the ‘Nile’ in 1801. Soon after their arrival in the Hawkesbury, the family purchased properties and established businesses. In the 1840s Tebbutt’s father, purchased land on the Peninsula near South Creek and built a two-storey house.

Educated in Windsor, it was parish clerk Edward Quaife, who instilled in the young John Tebbutt a love of astronomy. Tebbutt was later taught by the Presbyterian minister, Reverend Matthew Adam, then Reverend Henry Stiles the Anglican minister. He was tutored in the classics including Latin and Greek and in later years, taught himself French and German. To work in the field of astronomy an understanding of not only science, but also higher mathematics was required. Tebbutt was fascinated with all types of machines and studied various mechanisms as well as steam engines. 

With his aptitude for astronomy, Tebbutt purchased his first instrument, a marine sextant in 1853. With advice from John Stiles a retired Royal Navy midshipman and brother of his tutor, Tebbutt commenced his examination of the skies in earnest. The results of one of his earliest observations appeared in  the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ in 1854. 

Tebbutt's letter to the Editor, Sydney Morning Herald 13 May 1854, p. 5

Tebbutt also prepared detailed observations of the Donati comet which was discovered in 1858.

In 1857, Tebbutt married Jane Pendergast at St. Matthew's Anglican Church, Windsor. The couple who made their home in Windsor, had six daughters and one son. Tebbutt was a deeply religious man, and a member of the St. Matthew’s Anglican congregation. Tebbutt had expressed that, "The truth shall make humanity free whether it be religious or scientific and we scientists have to fight for that freedom."

In the early days Tebbutt’s instruments were simple but in 1861 he purchased a refracting telescope and the following year, a set of meteorological instruments. In later years he was able to purchase more substantial telescopes and equipment. He meticulously recorded meteorological statistics and Hawkesbury River flood levels throughout his life. During 1861 he discovered the Great Comet which gave him international recognition then twenty years later discovered the Great Comet of 1881. When William Scott (1825–1917) the first government astronomer resigned in 1862, Tebbutt was offered the position however he declined in order to concentrate on his own efforts. Despite not accepting the position he was still considered as one of Australia’s foremost astronomers by his international peers, which caused some repercussions throughout his career. 

Tebbutt built the first of several observatories on the family property in 1863. This building constructed by Tebbutt himself, was wooden with a slate roof, and included a transit room. The following year he purchased a transit instrument and a chronometer. In 1874 he built a circular building, a few metres from his original observatory, to house his 4½ inch equatorial telescope. To assist with his observations, he purchased a Dublin made, Grubb 8 inch equatorial refractor. In 1879 an extensive brick observatory was constructed on the property. It included a meridian room, a fire proof office which contained a library. An Equatorial room was built in 1894 replacing the older wooden building. 

Tebbutt’s consistent observations and astronomical computations were highly regarded by his international colleagues and assisted in progressing astronomy worldwide. In 1867 he received the silver medal of the Paris Universal Exhibition for his paper on the Progress of Astronomy in NSW. Tebbutt was elected a member of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1873 for his contribution to astronomy and when the British Astronomical Association formed the NSW Branch in 1895, Tebbutt was elected as the founding president. For his service to astronomy in Australia he was awarded the prestigious Hannah Jackson nee Gwilt gift and bronze medal from the Royal Astronomical Society, London in 1905 “for his important observations of comets and double stars, and his long-continued service to astronomy in Australia, extending over half a century.” Aged seventy he retired from his routine recordings but maintained his interest in astronomy. 

This can be read online

During his career he published almost 400 articles. He also published the “History and description of Mr. Tebbutt's observatory, Windsor” and "Astronomical Memoirs". The following year, despite his retirement, Tebbutt observed and recorded Halley’s Comet.

View of Tebbutt's vault at St. Matthew's Anglican Cemetery, Windsor and inset below

John Tebbutt died on 29 November 1916, aged eighty-two, after being unwell for a few weeks. His cause of death was recorded as cerebral paralysis. His funeral was held in Windsor’s St. Matthew's Anglican Church and was reported as one of the largest ever held in the Hawkesbury. The prominent astronomer was buried in a vault which he personally designed and had constructed several years before his death. The four corners mark the four points of the compasses and are topped with a globe with longitudinal and latitudinal lines. It rained heavily on the day of the funeral. His coffin travelled by hearse to the church followed by mourning coaches carrying the family, long lines of pedestrians, horsemen and motor cars. 

During the service, Rev Fielding paid tribute to Tebbutt, "one of the most eminent Australians” and noted that “perhaps his character and his remarkable work were not appreciated in their true value in the town…where he spent the whole of his long life.” Many important citizens travelled to Windsor to join with family and the local community to bid farewell to the gifted astronomer. 

After his death, Tebbutt continued to receive accolades. The International Astronomical Union renamed a lunar crater on the moon in 1973 to commemorate his achievements. Tebbutt also appeared on the first Australian $100 banknote in 1984, this was replaced in 1996. 

Hawkesbury Council acquired his Grubb telescope many years ago, and it is on loan to Tebbutt’s observatory. Descendants still live on the property where the original house alongside two of Tebbutt’s remaining observatories. His globe is on display in Hawkesbury Regional Museum. A distinguished astronomer, John Tebbutt remains a name respected amongst eminent stargazers. 

In 1984, Hawkesbury Council reprinted Tebbutt's 1908 "Astronomical Memoirs" - this was the same year the $100 banknote was introduced. It is still available for sale at Hawkesbury Library.

LATE MR. JOHN TEBBUTT. (1916, December 2). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 14. 
ASTRONOMER DEAD. (1916, November 30). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 8. 
DEATH OF MR. JOHN TEBBUTT (1916, December 8). Windsor & Richmond Gazette (NSW : 1888 - 1954), p. 2. 
VALE! JOHN TEBBUTT (1916, December 15). Windsor & Richmond Gazette (NSW : 1888 - 1954), p. 2.
Harley Wood, 'Tebbutt, John (1834–1916)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, , published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 28 November 2016
Biographical Entry, John Tebbutt (1834 - 1916) from Encyclopedia of Australian Science Archival and Published Resources