My Crofts family

Joseph Crofts was born around 1810 and died before 1862. Details of his first marriage are unknown, but when he married in 1846, he stated that he was a widow. Joseph Crofts married Ann Blower at St Nicholas' Church in Liverpool, Lancashire, England on July 8, 1846. Joseph was a cork cutter.

Joseph lived at 1 Court, Pembroke Gardens in Liverpool, Lancashire, England. The address of 1 Court was most likely a courtyard, in an area behind the buildings fronting the road, and accessed via an arch or alley. Courts were widespread in Liverpool and provided accommodation for a large number of residents in a confined area (one plan demonstrated that 130 houses could fit in an area of less than half an acre - less than two Australian house blocks). The buildings were practically square, varying from twelve to fourteen feet, and three stories high, with one room per floor. The total house area would have measured approximately 500 square feet. The court itself was open to the sky, ten to twelve feet wide and fifty feet in length. The houses facing each other symmetrically across in blocks of three or four. All the houses were back-to-back, and also adjoined the front houses (side to back). The approach was through an arched tunnel, as narrow as two feet in width and twelve feet in length. A series of courts would be built behind each other, necessitating transit through a series of tunnels and courts before reaching a particular residence. Privies were earth middens, with an average of one privy to six houses. Cleansing would have been difficult because of the lack of water (which was distributed by water carts).

Ann Blower was born in 1812 in Hanwood, Shropshire, England and was baptised at Swan Hill Independent Church in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England on September 10, 1812. On February 10, 1862, Ann Crofts, now widowed and aged 50 years, and her three surviving children, Sarah 14, Frederick 12, and John 10, sailed for Australia on board the Star of Brunswick, which departed from Liverpool, England, with 346 passengers on board, bound for Melbourne, Australia. The passenger list describes the family as being of Irish origin, but at this stage I believe that to be an error.

Emigrants would typically arrive at an emigration depot at their port of departure several days before their anticipated departure date. Here they would be rudely awakened to the lack of privacy that would become their way of life for the next few months. Sometimes the delay on boarding would be caused through the refitting of the ship for passengers, for many ships carried greasy wool on the trip back from Australia to England. The voyage to Australia in the nineteenth century was one fraught with danger: icebergs, fire and fever. The voyage was also one of extremes: of both heat and cold. Often the voyage left such an ineradicable memory of the minds of the emigrants that it turned many against their previous idea of returning home after they had made their fortune.

Prior to the gold rush (1852), ships would travel the long route of 13,000 miles, via Brazil, where the ship inevitably encountered a long period of no winds near the equator. But a new route was discovered via the great circle. Whilst first used in 1850, the route was not commonly used until the time of the gold rush. The route was not a true circle, and required expertise in the use of the sextant and chronometer, for a number of specific course changes were required.

The family settled in Wandiligong, Victoria, near Bright. They came to Wandiligong to live with Mrs. Sarah Bowles, an aunt of the children. To date, I have not been able to work out how Sarah Bowles fits into the family framework, nor can I find any trace of her in Australia.

Wandiligong is a valley located about six miles south of Bright in north east Victoria. The area was first licensed to a pastoralist in 1847 being a run on some 28,000 acres. A small settlement was established at Bright in 1853 (formerly called Morses Creek) and shortly after at Wandiligong (formerly Growlers Creek). The time when Ann Crofts and her children arrived in Wandiligong in 1862 was at the peak of the gold rush, the gold finds being the basis for the establishment of both these towns. The official 1861 census puts the population of the area at 1,388 and this included the Aborigines and Chinese, however other sources put the population at the peak of the gold rush as high as 2,500 or even 3,000. Although there is little documentary evidence to support these figures, it is conceivable that the population did rise to this level and then declined sharply as deposits of alluvial gold were exhausted. By 1891 the population had dropped to 670. At that time, this figure would have included at least 22 descendants (including spouses) of Joseph and Ann Crofts.

The community created by the miners was as diverse as any country town. Religion played a large part in the life of Wandiligong residents. The Crofts families were involved with the Wesleyan/Methodist Church of Wandiligong, John Crofts being the organist for over 40 years. The town also had an impressive school building which has now been classified by the National Trust. Other buildings included the post office, police station, library and the Manchester Unity hall. The town also boasted its own brass band of which Fred, John and Bill Crofts (Fred's son) were all members at some time. The town also had a football team (Bill Crofts was a playing member) and a cricket club.

Ann died from senile debility and cardiac exhaustion in Wandiligong, Victoria, Australia on December 1, 1890 and was buried on December 3, 1890 in the Bright Cemetery in Bright, Victoria, Australia.

Joseph Crofts and Ann Blower had the following children:

The family of Frederick James Crofts

Fred and Mary Crofts and family

Frederick James Crofts (father: Joseph) was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England on January 14, 1849 and was known as Fred. He was the eldest son of Joseph Crofts and Ann Blower and came to Australia with his widowed mother, brother and sister, arriving in Melbourne on 29 May 1862. Fred married Mary Ann Hingston Tickell in the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Growlers Creek (Wandiligong), Victoria, Australia on March 25, 1875.

Mary Ann Hingston Tickell was born on July 14, 1853 in Black Down, North Brentor, Lamerton, Devon, England. She was the daughter of John Hingston Tickell and Susannah Jane Vigars.

Fred Crofts and his family lived in Centenary Avenue, Wandiligong. The house had extensive orchards surrounding it as well as a large vegetable garden. His daughter, Nin Crofts was able to identify any type of apple by its smell. Frederick Crofts planted a walnut tree in the garden when they first came to Wandiligong. Fred worked in various gold mines on the Wandiligong field including the Oriental Mill, Diamond Drill and the Gladstone mine. Originally the wages at the Oriental mine were quite high, being £4 per week up to the beginning of 1862, however the rate was then reduced to £3 10/ and a few months later back to £3.

Fred died in Wandiligong, Victoria, Australia on June 27, 1904 after a lengthy illness, miner's complaint having troubled him for some time. Miner's complaint (phthisis) was a great killer of miners, more so than accidents. Operations such as drilling, blasting and shovelling created clouds of dust so dense as to resemble often a thick fog. The introduction of the compressed air percussion drill after 1879 worsened the problem, measurements of air in the vicinity of working drills gave dust counts of up to thirteen million particles per cubic inch. Drills were supposed to be used only with a jet of water to dampen down the dust, but miners could not be bothered to turn on the water and mine owners turned a blind eye to the oversight. Men inhaled the fine, knife-edged particles for eight hours at a stretch. Symptoms of this incurable disease which threatened all miners and their families were a wracking cough and 'black spit'. The average age at death of phthisis victims was 50 but they were weakened invalids for several years before they died. This appears to be the case with Frederick Crofts. He was 55 years of age and suffering from miner's complaint when he died, his final demise resulting from an attach of influenza which was followed by bronchitis. He was too ill to throw it off. Fred was buried on June 29, 1904 in the Bright Cemetery in Bright, Victoria, Australia.

The remaining family left Wandiligong around 1913 after Billy's death (son of Fred and Mary). Mary Ann moved to Kew and then later Alphington, Victoria, Australia. She died at 35 Pine Street in Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia on August 30, 1935 and was buried on September 2, 1935 in the Boroondara General Cemetery in Kew, Victoria, Australia.

Frederick James Crofts and Mary Ann Hingston Tickell had the following children:

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© 1997-2003 Lauren Thomson, Burwood, Victoria, Australia
Last revised: April 17, 2003
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