Week 20 – Textile

The decline of the woollen mills in Bradford- Upon- Avon was likely a contributing factor in my husband’s fourth great grandfather, George Orchard, deciding to leave the UK and move his family to Australia in search of a better life.

River Avon and former factory, Bradford-on-Avon – geograph.org.uk, downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.org

George Orchard and Caroline Mallett

George Orchard was born in Bradford-Upon-Avon, (Bradford) Wiltshire England in 1817. Although the exact date of his birth is unclear, he was baptised at Holy Trinity Church in Bradford on April 7, 1817.[1] George married Caroline Mallett on Feb 02, 1836, at Holy Trinity Church in Bradford.[2] Their first son Henry was born shortly after their marriage on March 03, 1836.[3] Over the next 21 years, George and Caroline lived, worked, and raised their children in the town.

On the 1841 census, George and Caroline are found living in Kingston Square, Bradford. George’s employment is listed as dyer.[4] In the 1851 census, they are living at 165 Morgan’s Hill, Bradford with George’s employment listed as wool dyer and Caroline’s occupation listed as wool picker.[5]

Bradford, an industrial town, had for centuries been a thriving community based around the woollen cloth industry. By the beginning of the 18th century, there were 25 clothiers. The population of Bradford was increasing, with many moving to the town to work in the thriving cloth industry. The industry continued to thrive into the second half of the 18th century, but by the beginning of the 19th century the number of clothiers had reduced to 17 and by 1830 there were only six. This decline in the cloth industry resulted in hardship for the town, as it had been the only industry for nearly three centuries.[6] In 1848 Kingston Mill, one of the largest woollen mills was sold to Steven Moulton to open a rubber mill.  According to Explore BOA, “The town offered everything he was looking for” including “redundant woollen mills”, and “a skilled (and unemployed) workforce used to factory conditions.”[7]

It can never be known for sure why George and Caroline decided to leave England and settle in Australia. It is likely the decline in the woollen industry which had employed both George and Caroline for over a decade was a determining factor.

Although their financial position at the time of emigration is unknown, according to James H Treble in the book Urban Poverty in Britain, the average wage of a labourer in 1857 was 15 to 17 shillings per week.[8] According to the passenger list of the ship the Orchards sailed to Australia on (the Zemindar), George paid £2.10 for his passage.[9] This amount, based on the average wage of a labourer, amounts to approximately three weeks’ wages. Although they were relatively poor, they had managed to save at least a small sum of money for passage, and to make necessary purchases upon arrival.

On May 20, 1857, George and Caroline Orchard and five of their children, George 16, Maria 14, Arthur 12, John 9, and Samuel 7, left Plymouth for Sydney on the ship the Zemindar.[10] According to history recounted by a family member, “the Orchards had come to Australia to start a new life for they had heard there was enough firewood for everyone’s fires and all the tea you needed.”[11]

According to stories passed down by family members, the Orchard family were originally booked to sail on the Dunbar but had to change their plans and delay their departure by three days. Maria had fallen ill with red spots, so they booked on the Zemindar instead. The two ships raced each other trying to be the first to arrive. It wasn’t until the family arrived in Sydney that they learned the fate of the other ship.[12] On the night of August 20, 1857, the Dunbar which had departed Plymouth on May 31, 1857, was driven into a reef as it attempted to enter Sydney harbour. All but one of the 121 on board perished when the vessel broke up and sunk.[13] The Zemindar arrived in Sydney on August 23, 1857, after a voyage of 95 days.[14]

Maria later recounted the horrific scene that they encountered upon arrival with bodies floating past their ship and expressed the sentiment that someone must have been looking out for them.[15]

Research to confirm the departure dates of the two ships question the facts of the story as handed down from family members. It is possible that some elements of the story are true; they may have originally wanted to sail on the Dunbar, but that is something that may never be known for sure.

On the Zemindar’s passenger list there is a notation that Caroline had an uncle living in Sydney.[16] Her uncle, James Maltman who had been transported to Australia for life for housebreaking, arrived on the Planter in 1832.[17] No other information has been found, so it is unknown if the family had any meaningful contact with him.

Upon arrival in Sydney, George purchased a dray, loaded up their possessions, and headed north.[18] Sadly, it wasn’t long until tragedy struck. In November 1857, George and Caroline’s son George had been riding on top of the dray. He fell off and was run over by one of the wheels.[19] According to the diary entry of Andrew Brown dated Nov 20, 1857, George died on November 19, 1857, after holding on for nearly two weeks before finally succumbing to his injuries. During the time he laid dying, the family kept a constant vigil of prayer at his bedside.[20]

Following the death of George, the family continued their journey north. George worked as a Shepherd at Redbank near Paradise Creek, and at Rosebank. Other jobs he did were fencing and tin mining although not much is known about either of these employments.[21]

The family eventually settled in Tingha and the remains of the family home can be found on Guyra road.

Caroline died at Kangaroo Camp, on April 11, 1872, the cause of death is listed as Dropsy.[22] George went on to live a long and healthy life.[23] According to family history, he was the first person in Tingha to receive an aged pension when it was introduced.[24] (The first aged pension was introduced in New South Wales and Victoria in 1900).[25] George died in Tingha on Nov 23, 1904.[26] He was buried in Tingha cemetery and a wooden cross was erected to mark his grave. During bush clearing years later, an out-of-control fire destroyed the cross, so the exact location of his grave is unknown.[27]


[1] Baptism transcription for George Orchard, 18 April 1817, Bradford on Avon, England, United Kingdom, Wiltshire Baptisms Index 1530-1917, FindMyPast.com, accessed 10 June 2021.

[2] Marriage transcription for George Orchard, 02 February 1836, Bradford on Avon, England, United Kingdom, England Marriages 1538-1973, FindMyPast.com, accessed 10 June 2021.

[3] Christening transcription for Henry Orchard, 1836, Bradford on Avon, England, United Kingdom, England Births and Christenings 1538-1975, FamilySearch.org, accessed 16 June 2021.

[4] Census record for George Orchard, aged 25, Kingston Square, Bradford, Wiltshire, England, 1841 England and Wales Census, The National Archives, HO107/1066/2, Ancestry.com, accessed 16 June 2021.

[5] Census record for George Orchard, aged 35, 165 Morgan’s Hill, Bradford, Wiltshire, England, 1851 England and Wales Census, The National Archives, HO107/1066/2, Ancestry.com, accessed 16 June 2021.

[6] Ross Dunning, ‘The Woollen Industry in Bradford’, Wiltshire OPC Project, 2013, https://www.wiltshire-opc.org.uk/Items/Bradford-on-Avon/Bradford-on-Avon%20-%20Woollen%20Industry%20in%20Bradford.pdf, accessed 12 June 2021.

[7] Explore BOA, ‘The Hall’, https://www.bradfordonavon.co.uk/explore/the-hall/, accessed 12 June 2021.

[8]James H. Treble, Urban Poverty in Britain 1830-1914, Routledge, Oxfordshire, UK,pg 15, Google Books, accessed 12 June 2012.

[9] Passenger list entry for George Orchard and family, Zemindar, arriving Sydney, 23 August 1857, New South Wales, Australia, Assisted Immigrant Passenger Lists, 1828-1896, Ancestry.com, accessed 18 May 2021.

[10] Passenger list entry for George Orchard and family.

[11] Melissa Nelson to John Cornelius Thorn, letter, 1996, Transcribed copy held by Rhonda Audsley, Ancestry.com, accessed 05 June 2021.

[12] Nelson to Thorn, letter, 1996.

[13] New South Wales State Archive and Records, ‘Wreck of The Dunbar’, https://www.records.nsw.gov.au/archives/collections-and-research/guides-and-indexes/stories/the-wreck-the-dunbar, accessed 12 June 2021.

[14] Passenger list entry for George Orchard and family.

[15] Nelson to Thorn, letter, 1996.

[16] Passenger list entry for George Orchard and family.

[17] James Maltman, Planter, 1832, Bound Indentures 1832-1833, New South Wales State Archives, NRS12188, pp. 93-94, New South Wales, Australia, Convict Indents, 1788-1842, Ancestry.com, accessed 12 June 2021.

[18] Nelson to Thorn, letter, 1996.

[19] Nelson to Thorn, letter, 1996.

[20] Diary entry for 20 Nov 1857, Andrew Brown, ‘Andrew Brown Journals, 1838-1893’, State Library of New South Wales, Microfilm, MAV/FM4/3096 (B 968-972), transcribed excerpt held by Diane Archer, NSW.

[21] Nelson to Thorn, letter, 1996.

[22] Death Certificate of Caroline Orchard, died 11 April 1872, Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, New South Wales, 4399/1872.

[23] Obituary for George Orchard, Armidale Chronical, 30 Nov 1904, clipping held by Diane Archer, New South Wales.

[24] Nelson to Thorn, letter, 1996.

[25] Australian Bureau of Statistics, History of Pensions and Other Benefits in Australia, https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/94713ad445ff1425ca25682000192af2/8e72c4526a94aaedca2569de00296978!OpenDocument, accessed 17 June 2012.

[26] Death registration of George Orchard, died 23 November 1904, Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, New South Wales, 14991/1904 (index only; no image currently available), Ancestry.com, accessed 05 June 2021.

[27] Nelson to Thorn, letter, 1996.

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