My Setford family

James Setford was born in 1794. He was baptised in Streat, East Sussex on January 25, 1807. It is believed that this baptism is for our James, and his (assumed) brother Richard. The approximate age given at the baptism ties in with our James' birthdate. However, little information is given on the actual baptismal register - there is no information on their parents and their ages were only estimated. The actual entry in the register reads: 25 January 1807: Richard and James Setford, about 12 and 14 years, baptised at their own request. Professional researcher, Peter Ewart, offered the following comments:

The last few words are very interesting, suggesting either orphans, or strays, or a change in religious belief. Without those words, one would assume that their parents just hadn't bothered when they were born, or had had them received into a Baptist or Wesleyan church at birth - a common occurrence in the 1790s, sometimes "corrected" by a later baptism in the Church of England. It appears that the boys may not have known their ages, again suggesting they were not living with their parents, though being uncertain about one's age was common anyway. But the most important genealogical point is the omission of the parents' names.

In the 1841 census it stated that James Setford was not born of this county (Kent). It is not yet known which county he came from. Unfortunately James died in 1850, before the next census was taken, which would have included the detail of his place of birth.

He married twice. James Setford married Martha Hollamby in Maidstone, Kent, England on May 31, 1822. Martha was born in 1801 and died from consumption in Hadlow, Kent, England on February 9, 1844. James Setford married Charlotte Elizabeth Mouser at the Parish Church in Hove, Sussex, England on June 17, 1846. Charlotte was born in 1805.

James lived in Hadlow, Kent, England in 1847. In Bagshaw's 1847 Directory of Kent Hadlow was described as an extensive parish with a considerably well-built village. It is located 3.5 miles North East from Tunbridge. In 1841 the parish contained 409 houses and 2108 inhabitants. The Setford family were particular baptists. James had his own business. It was located in Hadlow, Kent, England. The business was a grocery, pork butcher and drapery. James died from a diseased heart in Hadlow, Kent, England on October 9, 1850. His son William was just twenty two days old. Charlotte died in 1873.

James Setford and Martha Hollamby had the following children:

James Setford and Charlotte Elizabeth Mouser had the following child:

The family of James Setford

James Setford (father: James) was born in Hadlow, Kent, England on June 19, 1830. James emigrated to Australia as an unassisted immigrant arriving in December 1852 on the ship Tulloch Castle. The Tulloch Castle had left London, England on approximately August 7, 1852 with 211 adults on board. His occupation was shown on the passenger list as a grocer.

We do know that James Setford went to the diggings at Ballarat and Bendigo when he arrived in Australia, therefore it would be fair to speculate that the reason for his emigration was the pursuit of gold. Before news had reached London about the gold discoveries in Victoria, the colonial land and emigration commissioners had great difficulty in finding emigrants for the colonies. News of the gold discoveries at Mount Alexander, near Castlemaine reached England in May 1852, followed shortly by six ships carrying eight tons of gold. The public went wild with excitement. Newspapers breathlessly described the fortunes being rapidly made on the fields and reported that even those who chose to stay at their normal work earned such fabulous sums as 35/- a week. Men rushed to board ship, James Setford amongst them, and he became one of the 33,000 unassisted immigrants to land at Port Phillip in 1852.

On arrival at Hobson's Bay, James would have encountered a forest of masts. Ships were sailing in at the rate of four or five a day, and were left lying at anchor, often for many weeks at a time, as many crews deserted for the diggings. The crew of the Tulloch Castle had deserted the ship and an advertisement demanding their return to work appeared in the newspapers of the time.

Passengers were put ashore at Sandridge Beach (Port Melbourne) and were likely to leave their heavy baggage to the extortionate draymen and walk the several miles of road through sand hills, scrub and swamp, to the Melbourne township. Soon after arrival, James would have travelled up country to the diggings. Most travelled in large parties composed of shipmates for protection against bushrangers. The journey to the diggings often took a week on foot and in fine weather could be smooth and enjoyable, however late in 1852, around the time that James Setford would have been heading towards the goldfields, the rains came and the trip became a nightmare.

The Ballarat fields in 1852 were described as a honey-combed landscape denuded of trees, dug up and crisscrossed by narrow paths between the shafts. The place was inhabited by dirty, roughly clothed men. Relentless hard work to the point of exhaustion was the basic demand of a digger's life. It is believed that James Setford was one of the luckier diggers who did well on the fields, as he returned from the goldfields sometime around 1854 to commence a business at 42 Bridge Road, Richmond in the painting and decorating trade, presumably using his gold earnings as capital.

James operated his own business. In 1854 Setford's Paperhanging Warehouse was located Bridge Road in Richmond, Victoria, Australia. In 1865 James was a partner in the business Setford and Dean Paperhanging, which was located at Bridge Road in Richmond, Victoria, Australia. In 1865 James had taken James Dean into partnership with him, although it appears that this partnership had ceased by 1871 as the Sands and McDougall's Melbourne Directory 1871 records the entry at 42 Bridge Road to be for James Setford, painter and c. In 1886 James Dean had set up business down the road from James Setford at 112 Bridge Road, Richmond, where he was listed in the Sands and McDougall's Melbourne Directory as an oil and colourman.

He married two times. James Setford married Ann Collins Matthews in a civil ceremony at the Registry Office in Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia on March 23, 1865. Ann Collins Matthews was born on November 19, 1837 at 31 Hall Street in Bath, Somerset, England and was known as Annie. Annie emigrated to Victoria, Australia circa 1863. She was a needlewoman. Annie died from acute gastroenteritis at Bridge Road in Richmond, Victoria, Australia on March 25, 1877. Three of her eight children had pre-deceased her. She was buried on March 27, 1877 in the Melbourne General Cemetery in Carlton, Victoria, Australia.

From 1871 to 1877 James resided on a property in Ringwood, Victoria, Australia. The land was leased, its boundaries on Bayswater Road, Canterbury Road and Dorset Roads. The area is now known as Bayswater, and later became the Fibremakers factory (since demolished). It is likely that James had acquired the land under an Act passed in 1869 which permitted selectors to rent a block under licence from the Crown for three years for an annual rent of two shillings per acre. During this period, the selector was expected to make improvements to the property such as a house, boundary fences and clearing and cultivating at least thirty-two acres. He was required to reside on the land. After conditions had been met, and the settler had resided on the land a further seven years, the land became his.

James fenced his land and planted many fruit trees. Ringwood was an extensive fruit growing and farming district, fifteen miles from Melbourne. Transport at that time would have been by horse and buggy on sub-standard roads and it would have taken a full day to travel from Richmond to Ringwood. Although the children born during that period (Howard, Guy and Heber) had their births registered at Richmond, it is unclear as to whether they were born in Ringwood or Richmond, as it appears that James regularly travelled back to Richmond to his business.

The lease was transferred to a Mr Hosie in 1877, several months after the death of James' wife, Ann. With five boys under the eight years of age, it is likely that James left the farm in order to find someone to care for his young sons.

In the year 1875 James Setford was in partnership with E. A. Ball. The Sands and McDougall's Melbourne Directory 1875 : had the following entry: Setford and Ball (Setford, James; Ball, E. A.) oil, color and paperhanging warehouse, 42 Bridge-rd, Rd. However, it appears the partnership only lasted a year as the 1876 Directory had reverted back to: Setford, James, oil and paperhanging warehouse, 42 Bridge-rd, Rd.

James Setford married Mary Ann Turner on April 8, 1878. Mary Ann was just twenty-one years old when she married James Setford and acquired an instant family of five boys ranging in age from one to eight years. In the following fourteen years Mary Ann bore James Setford a further seven children. The family were Particular Baptists, Mary Ann's father being Reverend John Turner, a Particular Baptist Minister.

Mary Ann Turner was born on August 2, 1857 at her parents home in Condell Street in Collingwood, Victoria, Australia. She was the daughter of John Turner and Lucy Barnes.

The family remained at the shop at 42 Bridge Road, Richmond until approximately 1885 when they moved to Box Hill, then a semi-rural area. The railway line from Melbourne was opened to Box Hill and Lilydale at the end of 1882 and Box Hill's land boom then began. Box Hill was promoted in the Building Society's Gazette as offering: those who were tired of living in crowded neighbourhoods, such as Emerald Hill, Carlton, Fitzroy, Collingwood and Richmond, the advantages of a block of land upon which they could reside and produce in their spare time all garden products for their families' consumption.

The Setford family settled between the area of Springfield and Whitehorse Roads. Festus Frank Setford died whilst the family was in the Box Hill area (1887) and is buried at Box Hill Cemetery. In Box Hill, by Andrew Lemon, Lemon states: As 1888 approached, the land boom moved into its third stage, by far the most frenzied and ...within the next few months every piece of land at Surrey Hills and Box Hill seemed to be changing hands.

It appears that the Setford family may have taken advantage of the 'extraordinary' prices being paid for Box Hill land, for by 1889 the family had returned to Richmond. After the family's return from Box Hill, the decorating business of 'James Setford and Son' was conducted from 'Beulah', 39 Stanley Street, Richmond. 'Beulah' was to remain in the hands of the Setford family until 1910. When advertised for auction in 1910, the property was described as a 'brick and wood villa' with 'eight rooms and conveniences'. Various members of the family lived at 'Beulah' over a number of years with the property finally being sold in 1910 pursuant to the will of James Setford.

James Setford was considered a wealthy man. He had been successful at the goldfields and had a well established business. He also owned 25 properties in Richmond. Even though many of these were mortgaged, his financial position was considered to be good. The Setford household was able to employ a domestic servant and James had some horses.

James Setford murdered his son Frank Elslie Setford on August 24, 1894 in Richmond, Victoria, Australia. Frank was almost two years of age. As he was still breast fed, and his mothers health was failing, his father James Setford thought that it would be best if she was "relieved of the child". At his subsequent trial, James Setford was found to be insane.

James SetfordFrom the Herald newspaper, August 27, 1894:


The scene at the Melbourne Morgue this morning was one of the most pathetic description when Mr Candler, the City Coroner, held an inquest on the body of Frank Elsie Setford, the two year old son of James Setford, killed by the latter yesterday morning.

The unfortunate man was brought to the Court by Constable Robinson, and took a seat in a corner of the room. He is a man of 64 years of age, and looked utterly broken down, but watched the proceedings closely. He was quite calm, and between him and his wife there was a display of the deepest affection. The poor woman who has always lived on the most affectionate terms with her husband, took a seat beside him, while both his hands were closely locked in hers. The pecuniary losses sustained recently by the husband, are said to have preyed heavily on his mind, and he finally developed the hallucination that he would die before his wife who, in that event would be unable to look after the children owing to her indifferent health. The taking of the life of the child was regarded by him as one way of removing the trouble from his wife.

The Coroner, in placing the case before the jury, apprehended, from the nature of the police report, that the father had killed the child for it appeared he yielded himself up to the police. He described exactly the position of affairs, and that had been found to be substantially correct by the police.

The first witness called was Mary Setford, wife of the prisoner. She said: "Yesterday morning at 9.30 o'clock my husband came in to me and said, "On account of your ill-health I have relieved you of the child. My dear, I did it for the best".
The Coroner: Did you know what he meant? - He was so cut up that I quite understood what he said. He said, "You need not fret. He died without a struggle."
What did he say then? - "I am going to give myself up to the police." I would not let him go then I caught hold of him. I kept him a little while and got him a little lunch. He did not each much of it.
Did he say anything else to you? - Yes; he said "I am sure you will drop"
Setford here looked up and said, "No, love, I said 'collapse'".
Mrs. Setford: Yes, that was it dear - collapse. He said "I can see it in you. I saw as you were at breakfast this morning that you could not keep up"
Setford made some inaudible remark and the Coroner gently said, "Don't have any conversation just now. Did he do anything? - He gave me some papers and money, which he took out of his pocket.
Well, did he go to the police? - Yes, and Constable Robinson came to the house. I gave him the key of a house in the yard, and he went and saw the body.
Had you seen it previously? - No.
Where did you get the key? - He locked the door and left the key in it. I went and got it and gave it to the constable.
Has your husband been despondent lately? - Yes, very.
What was the cause ? - Monetary troubles.
Did you ever think it necessary to put any restraint upon him? - No. He used to wonder why I would not go out and leave him. He said he thought his troubles would send him out of his mind. (Setford here broke down). I was very fidgety about him.
Had he ever shown an enmity towards the children? - No, never. On the contrary, he was a most loving father to all of them. (Here the prisoner again sobbed piteously).
Had he ever hinted anything? - Never.
Mr. W. H. Fort (who was present on behalf of Setford, who is in custody on a charge of wilful murder) : You are his second wife, I believe? - Yes.
How many children have you by him? - Seven. Three are now living with me at 39 Stanley street, South Richmond.
Your husband owns 25 houses in Richmond? - Yes.
The Coroner: I don't think one need go into that.
Mr Ford: I believe your health is not good? - No; it is not. That is the cause of a great deal of my husband's despondency.
Did he say anything to you at breakfast yesterday? - Yes, He said. "You are looking very bad; you are not fit to rear the children. I did not expect to see you up to breakfast this morning."
Did the child do anything to him? - The boy came into the room and took hold of his hand. They both went into the yard. I thought he was going to mind him. In about a quarter of an hour he came back and said what I have told you.
How long has he been worrying about money? - About 18 months, but not so greatly so during the last few weeks. A fortnight ago he lost a favorite horse, and that depressed him greatly.

Constable Robinson gave evidence to the same effect as that published in The Herald last night. Setford came to the South Richmond Police Station, and said, "I have done wrong, I have put away a child. I have cut its throat" He told witness where he lived, 39 Stanley street, and witness went there, He entered a shed, and found the body of the boy as described by the father. Its throat had been cut. Its arms and head were quite cold though the body was not altogether cold. A knife was lying on a bench near the child. The child's clothes were not disarranged in any way and there was no evidence of a struggle. Witness returned to the police station where Setford had been detained by Constable Clarke. He said to Setford "You are now charged with wilful murder of your child." He replied, "I know I have done wrong, and I should not have done it." He was put in a cell. He subsequently said, "This thing was not premeditated, I just did it on the instant. I have had a lot of trouble lately. My wife has been ill for the last few days. I was afraid she was going to die, and I would be left with all these children on my hands."
Mr Ford: Did he state when he first came to the police station why he had killed his child? - No. It was after I had given him the usual caution.
What was his condition? - He was very depressed and spoke in a way which was hardly intelligible.

Amy Atkinson, servant employed by Mrs Setford, said that Setford appeared in his usual state of mind yesterday morning. At about half-past ten o'clock he asked witness if she had seen his knife about. She replied that she had not.
The Coroner: Was he usually in low spirits? - Yes.
Did you think he was out of his mind? - No.
To Mr Ford: I did not know what knife he referred to. Setford always treated his children kindly. Setford (with tears in his eyes) The police have got my knife.

Dr. Neild described the result of his post-mortem examination of the deceased. Across the front of the throat there was a clean-cut wound 4" long, 2 1/2 in. below the right ear, and 2 1/2 in. below the left. The cause of death was haemorrhage from the wound.
The Coroner: How long do you think the child lived after receiving the cut? - Not more than three minutes at the outside.
I don't suppose the child could cry out when it had received that wound? It could not utter a sound as the windpipe had been cut right through. Surgical assistance would have been of no use whatever.

Oswald Charles Setford, said he saw his father yesterday morning. He was in his usual state of mind, but while chatting about his property he became very despondent. There was no cause for this. The matter of laying out of 1.2 or 1.3 to keep a tenant in one of his houses seemed to make him very despondent. Once he had threatened to commit suicide about six months ago. Had heard him say he thought he would go out of his mind.
Mr Ford: You know your father's financial position? - Yes.
Have you not repeatedly told him that there was no necessity for him desponding over his position? - Yes.

On the advice of his solicitor the prisoner said he had no statement to make.

The Coroner, in summing up, told the jury that there could be no reasonable cause of doubt of the death of the child. It had been killed, and they could reasonably take it that its father had taken its life. Then came the question of the state of his mind. But that point must be left to another court to determine. Their verdict should be one of wilful murder. There was a large amount of evidence to indicate that the man's mind was unhinged to a very considerable extent but whether to the extent as to have brought about the death of his own child was a matter which could not be disposed of in that court.

The jury then retired to consider their verdict.

The jury found Setford guilty of wilful murder. The accused was committed for trial.

The newspaper report mentioned that James had been worried over monetary matters. This may well have been the case. Melbourne was in the grips of a severe depression at the time of the murder. Around April 1893, twelve Melbourne banks had closed during a six-week period. There was a general feeling of gloom in the city and a severe housing problem in as much as there were far more houses built than here was population to fill them. In Richmond alone, the population had decreased by some 6,486 people by 1894. Being a landlord of some twenty five properties, and a businessman in the middle of a depression, would have given James some financial worries.

He was imprisoned at Her Majesty's Gaol in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on August 25, 1894 arraigned on a charge of murder. He was tried in the criminal court for the murder of his son, Frank on September 17, 1894 in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. He was found to be insane.

One theory suggested by Eril Wangerek (great-granddaughter of James Setford and Setford family historian) is that James' insanity may have been caused from lead poisoning, as painters in that era, had to grind their own lead for their paints. Symptoms of lead poisoning include fatigue, weakness and personality changes. The most serious effects of lead poisoning are on the brain and nervous system.

He was imprisoned at Melbourne Gaol in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on September 17, 1894. When committed, he was described as five foot, three inches tall, of medium build, fresh complexion, grey hair and bald. James was transferred to the Ararat Asylum on October 31, 1894.

Ararat, two hundred kilometres north west of Melbourne, opened its Asylum in 1867. Located three kilometres from Ararat, on 270 acres, the Asylum was basically self-sufficient, the patients providing farm labour. In 1894 it housed 668 patients. During his stay, James resided in a cottage on the property and worked at gardening.

The case notes of the Asylum record that he was depressed and melancholic during his stay and suffered various health problems relating to his bladder. He wrote letters which the authorities considered "too religious" and in the early days talked incessantly of his crime. James was transferred to Kew Asylum "at the request of friends" on October 6, 1897 and was released several months later.

James died from chronic encephalitis hemilplegia at 39 Stanley Street in Richmond, Victoria, Australia on April 8, 1898. His illness, which lasted twenty-one days, is described in Patricia Lay's Deadly Details as:

an inflammation of brain substance due to viral or bacterial causes. Symptoms would have been headache with nausea and vomiting, progressing to coma and eventual death. Paralysis of one half of the body because of a cerebral haemorrhage or thrombosis.

James Setford was buried on April 9, 1898 in the Boroondara General Cemetery in Kew, Victoria, Australia.

Mary Setford (nee Turner) died at 21 Denman Avenue in East St Kilda, Victoria, Australia on July 29, 1939 and was buried in the Boroondara General Cemetery in Kew, Victoria, Australia with James Setford and their daughter Gladys Prycilian Setford.

James Setford and Ann Collins Matthews had the following children:

James Setford and Mary Ann Turner had the following children:

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