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More on Henry Hall of 'Charnwood'

15 April 2010

In part one of Why 'Hall' I explained the Village of Hall was named after one of Canberra's earliest pioneers and Ginninderra's first resident landholder, Henry Hall Esq. JP of "Charnwood".

Henry Hall was born in Loughborough, England, in 1803, to John Hall of Loughborough and Mary (nee Middleton). He arrived in Port Jackson, NSW, from England, in 1823 aboard the brig "Francis", stopping in Hobart Town in August of that year (Sydney Gazette 4/9/1823). He carried with him a letter of introduction from British Home Secretary, Sir Robert Peel.

Soon after, Henry accepted the position as overseer of "St Heliers", a 1000 acre property at Lake Bathurst, south of Goulburn, granted to his cousin, Edward Smith Hall, by Governor Lachlan Macquarie in 1821. Edward Smith was well known at the time for founding The Monitor (later the Sydney Monitor) newspaper in 1826, published in a lane off George St., Sydney. Edward's editorials caused controversy in a number of ways including critisising the government. He was jailed at one stage, and while there continued to write his editorials, earning himself more jail time! The paper closed in 1842. Edward Smith was also the first Secretary of the Bank of New South Wales.

From 1830-1835 Henry was employed by the Australian Agricultural Company (AACo) as Superintendent of cattle, stud and agriculture. Following him in these positions in 1841 was Philip Gidley King. The AACo is still operating.

After a complex dispute with his cousin involving land at "St Heliers", Henry was granted 3472 acres of land in compensation (authorised by Sir Richard Bourke), in the Parish of Ginninderra, County of Murray. He named it "Charnwood" after the forest of Charnwood in Leicestershire, England, location of the Hall family residence. To imagine the property today it ranged from 2 kilometres north of Wallaroo road, south to almost Kippax, west to the Hall's Creek/Gooromon Pond junction, east to Mt Rogers.

Henry was married to Mary Fisher in St Philip's church, York Street, Sydney, by Chaplain William Cowper on 22 March 1837. Mary, born in London in 1816, was the daughter of Lieutenant C W Fisher, employee of the East India Company and later HM Customs Service.

Henry and wife Mary spent 40 years successfully running their property "Charnwood". They also leased "The Mullion", a sheep station across the Murrumbidgee River, north-west of "Charnwood" and a station at Yaouk, where he ran cattle. Yaouk was a long way south - around 75k m as the crow flies from "Charnwood", just outside today's Namadgi National Park, adjacent to the Murrumbidgee River.

The couple had 11 children (4 daughters and 7 sons), the first born in 1838. The children were:

1. Mary Elizabeth
2. Henry Fisher
3. Charles Middleton (twin)
4. Edmund Wingate (twin)
5. Lucy
6. Anne Jane
7. John Francis
8. Thomas Turner
9. William Sydney
10. Robert Leicester
11. Eleanor

All, except possibly the first, were born at "Charnwood" and were baptised in Queanbeyan then at St John's the Baptist Anglican church, Canberry (now Reid, Canberra). While we have most details of dates of birth, marriages and deaths of the children, many details are missing and need to be investigated. Some interesting facts we do know (in part 3).

Stock kept by the Hall's at "Charnwood" included 3-4000 sheep, cattle, dairy cows, angora goats, donkeys, fox-hounds and horses, including, as it was stated at the time '...the best Arab that ever came to NSW, 'Abdula'...' (Queanbeyan Age). Hall bred high class Arabian horses, not so much for racing, but as utility horses with pace and endurance.

Trees planted at "Charnwood" included conifers, quinces, olives, oaks, grape vines and, an unusual species, osage orange or bow wood (maclura pomifera). This tree, native to North America, was used by native Americans to produce a bow (as in bow and arrow) due to the flexibility of it's wood. It produces a strange looking, grapefruit size green fruit which local kids have called "brain fruit" for years due to it's wrinkled appearance. Why this species was planted is a mystery - possibly for experiment as a crop? Surviving at the homestead site today are 2 huge olives, quinces and the osage (all of which still bear fruit); some conifers, oak and others.

Henry and his family were well involved in the community. They held one of the first pews at St John the Baptist Anglican church in 1845, the year the building was consecrated, along with Charles Campbell, George T. Palmer and others, and was no doubt involved in some way with it's establishment. Henry was one of the first church Wardens, from 1854-55 and in 1857-61. It was noted only last year that, most, if not all, early Wardens are remembered with a plaque on the wall inside the church - but as far as we can see, not Henry. We may see if that can be rectified. Henry was involved with opening and running of new schools in the district, such as Ginninderra, and was on the board of Glebe school in 1869.

The Hall's became well known for their hospitality with Mary described as a gentle, refined and gracious lady and Henry a good, all-round, rough and ready farmer. Henry may have had repairs done at the blacksmiths shop (est. 1860), still standing on the southern carriageway of the Barton highway near Gold Creek, or enjoyed a beer at the Cricketers Arms Hotel (also known as One Tree Hotel), licensed in 1864. We know he was a regular guest at George Palmer Snr's "Palmerville" attending the numerous functions held there such as fundraising balls, dances and sporting events. He is thought to have played cricket with Ginninderra Cricket Club along with George Harcourt and others.

Henry was also known to be a hard master. There are a number of descriptions of his assigned convicts appearing before the police magistrate in Queanbeyan on, what would seem today, trivial infractions. These included poor Robert Wright who received 50 lashes for refusing an order and 25 lashes for mis-placing or not producing his boots. The census of 1841 lists about 32 persons residing at "Charnwood", including assigned convicts (more about them in part 3).

The photo shows the view of Charnwood homestead site looking west from Tillyard Drive, Fraser.

[Our thanks to By Mark Stockall, Great-Great-Great Grandson of Henry Hall of "Charnwood"]

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