Monday, November 3, 2008

The FURRILL families of Woodchurch, Kent

I've received the death certificate for William FURRILL and am starting to piece his story together. This has been helped immeasurably by the preence of on-line transcripts of the All Saints Parish registers in the village of Woodchurch, Kent. Many spelling versions of the surname FURRILL appear over the course of William's life, probably due to a varying literacy amongst the family in England and after moving to Australia, and these have probably limited the range of records uncovered.

William was the sixth of nine children born to Michael FURRILL and Judith (oftem written Judea) nee WATSON. Based on his death age, Michael was born around 1781 (he was not baptiesd at Woodchurch and there are no clues in the IGI), and Judith was baptised 'privately' at Woodchurch on 27 Oct 1782, daughter of to Nicholas and Hannah Watson. Michael and 'Judea' were married after Banns on 2 Sep 1803 at Woodchurch, both previously unmarried and of the parish, and Michael signed his name, transcribed as 'VURRELL' rather than 'FURRELL'.

Michael and Judith's first four children were baptised the the All Saints parish church, the remained at the Wesleyan (Methodist) church. In several entries, Michael's occupation is given as 'labourer' and the family abode is Woodchurch, and the name is always transcribed 'VURRELL'. William was born 15 May 1812, and baptised the next month. His siblings were (Drusilla 1803-1836), Joseph (1805-1862), Mary (1806-1822), James (1808-1825), John (1811-?), WILLIAM, Stephen (1815-1858), Elizabeth (1818-?) and Sarah (1820-?).

William next appears when he marred 1833. Banns were published three times at Woodchurch for Michael 'VIRRELL' or 'VIRRELLE' to wed Susanna Perceval RANSLEY in January 1833 and they were wed on 9 Feb 1833. Both were of the parish, and signed with their mark. We know that Michael 'Virrell' was our Michael Furrill from a number of records - for example William's death certificate: "Place of marriage, age and to whom: Kent England, 21 years, Susan Percivel". Willam and Susan baptised two children in Woodchurch, Sarah Ann 'FIRRALL' in Dec 1835 and Kitty FURRELL in Jan 1838. In both baptisms William's occupation was given as 'labourer'.

Three months after Kitty's birth, the family of four embarked for Australia on the 'Westminster'. With them for the trip was his sister Elizabeth (a 'servant' on her marriage certificate), who married Jonathan WILLIS in Woodchurch just 12 days before embarking!

The Westminster sailed from Gravesend, Kent, England, on Monday, 26 Mar 1838 with 251 emigrants. The Master was Alexander Molison and the Surgeon was Dr James Lawrence. An excerpt of the

Barque Westminster

A description of the voyage from Gravesend to Sydney by the Ship's Surgeon, James Lawrence:

"The grand objects kept steadily in view during the whole of the voyage were the preservation of the Emigrants' health and the improvement of their minds. The means employed for effecting the first object were daily inspection of the people and of the ship, the utmost attention to cleaning, ventilation and to the victualling and clothing of the Emigrants; their comfort and medical treatment. My mode of cleaning the berths and decks was by scraping and dry rubbing and then spreading with chloride of lime and sometimes vinegar. When within the tropics the lower deck was washed several times but all moisture was avoided as much as possible. In high latitudes the swing stoves were in constant use for the purpose of promoting warmth, dryness and a _______. Abundance of soap and water were allowed for each and the people were cleanly in their persons and happy. There were on board a good band of musicians who assembled on the poop at suitable times for the purpose of playing which promoted cheerfulness and _______ amusements.

The whole of the Emigrants were Protestant. Divine Service was performed every Sunday then closed with a sermon and religious tracts were distributed amongst all the Emigrants.

On the days the children who were able, amounting to 36 boys and 25 girls, attended school conducted by John Morgan, one of the Emigrants, under whom were seven teachers: four for the boys and three for the girls. They taught the children reading and writing and arithmetic very well. They were also taught daily, the chief truths of the Christian religion by use of the catechisms and the senior classes became so perfect in their knowledge as not only to have committed the catechisms to memory but to have a clear understanding of them.
I took care before leaving England to be provided with an abundant supply of school books and I was most fortunate in having such a man as John Morgan for schoolmaster, for a more indefatigable, zealous teacher I have never met.

After the people had got over their sea sickness, there were very few days during the whole passage, although the latter part of it was very stormy; that the school was not regularly kept. It commenced at 10 o'clock a.m. and was dismissed at noon and met again at 2 p.m. and finished at four. I also took to have on board a pretty good collection of books of such a description as I thought would interest the Emigrant and promote a taste for reading and enquiry amongst them such as voyages and travels - history of nations and work so elementary of different scientific subjects as to be easily comprehended. There were likewise on board from different sources a sufficiency of bibles and prayer books and other religious and moral books.

(Signed) James Lawrence, Surgeon."

There were 9 births and 10 deaths during the voyage. Sadly, one of these deaths was William's daughter Kitty, who apparently died a few days shy of Sydney. There is no burial entry in the NSW BDM indexes, and Kitty would have been buried at sea.

The 'Westminster' arrived in Sydney, NSW on Wednesday 27 Jun 1838, and it was reported the following day in the Sydney Gazette:
"ARRIVALS. From London, yesterday, whence she sailed the 26th March, the ship Westminster, 618 tons, Captain Molison, with 251 Agricultural Labourers and their families, from the County of Kent, under the change of Doctor James Lawrence, R.N. Passengers Mrs Lawrence and the Rev. John Walters." The passengers unloaded at Campbell's Wharf in Sydney Cove (now Circular Quay). An 1842 lithograph of Campbell's Wharf, Sydney, by Joh S. Prout conveys to isolation of Sydney in that era.

campbell's cove

Two weeks after their arrival, the Sydney Gazette (Thu 12 Jul 1838) reported that "The emigrants by the ships 'Westminster' and 'Duncan' are nearly all engaged. The number of souls by the former vessel were two hundred and forty one; of these were fifty six married couples, ten single persons, and one hundred and tweny three children. The men were mostly farm labourers, and they and their families have been employed chiefly by settlers in the interior." Despite having only lost their child a matter of weeks earlier, the family made their way 190 miles overland to Yass in the middle of winter. A year later Susanna gave birth to their third chld, Stephen (perhaps named after William's brother), baptised on 20 Sep 1839 in the Yass area.

Tragedy again struck the family only three months later when in two days infant Stephen died on 10/12/1839. Susan died one day later, age 31, buried in Yass by Charles Ferdinand Brigstocke (1807?-1859), the first Church of England minister in Yass who had arrived the year before. The exact location of the burial performed in the 'County of Murray in the District of Yass' is not clear, and no headstone exists for Susanna or Stephen. This is not surprising as, if buried in the cemetery at Yass at the time, it would have been at the Mud Flat burial ground next to the first church was built "by 1840". It was located on the south bank of the river upstream from the town, and used till 1854 when heavy rains caused the river to rise. The flood completely destroyed the cemetery. For many years afterwards each flood unearthed evidence of the cemetery, 'exposing human bones, the remains of unknown pioneers'.

Inside the space of 2 years William had sailed from England to Australia, and lost his wife and two of his children - only Sarah Ann remained with him, aged 5. There seems to have been an extended Furrill family with him in the district - William's sister Elizabeth gave birth to a son James WILLIS in 1839 but her husband Jonathan WILLIS died the same year. In 1840 Eizabeth married Isaiah BARKER at Gundaroo and they had at least seven children over the subsequent years.

In the meantime, two more families had embarked for the colony of New South Wales from Woodchurch on another ship. 9 months after William and Elizabeth's respective families had arrived on the 'Westminster', the 'Cornwall' departed from Gravesend (12 May 1839) carrying 387 passengers, predominately Kentish farming families and arrived on 1 Sep 1839. Among the passengers was William's brother Joseph 'FURILL', a labourer aged 34, his wife Eleanor and daughter Maryann (aged 4). Joseph and Eleanor did not marry in Woodchurch (marriages were often held in the bride's home village) but their first daughter Philadelphia was baptised in 1825, and buried aged 7 days. Joseph and Eleanor had at least four other children in Woodchurch, James (1827-1933), Michael William (1832-1833), Elizabeth (1838-1838) and Maryann (baptised as Mary Angeline), so only one of their five children (Mary Ann) was alive to make the long journey. It appears that Joseph and family stayed in Sydney (where they had several daughters) - the Sydney Sands Directory for 1861 has an entry for 'Furrell, Jas, tin-plate worker, 160 Reservoir-terrace, Campbell St'.

With Joseph and family was his niece Mary Ann DITTON, daughter of his sister Drucilla DITTON nee FURRILL. She had married Robert DITTON (transcribed as Drusilla FUNNELL) at Woodchurch, Kent on 08 Nov 1824, and had a daughter Mary Ann in abt 1825 (village not yet identified). It is not known whether they had any more children during their marriage, however 'Drusilla' was buried in Woodchurch on 07 May 1836, aged 32, leaving her daughter Mary Ann DITTON. Later that year (30 Oct 1836) the widower Robert married Jane WALLER, and they had a child in Woodchurch, Jane, who died on the passage to Australia on the 'Cornwall'. William, Joseph and Elizabeth's niece Mary Ann DITTON married two years after arriving, in 1842 at Cobbity (near Camden) NSW to William COBLE, and by 1847 they too had settled in Yass near her uncle William and aunt Elizabeth. The families were clearly connected, as when William's daugher Sarah Ann FURRILL married George BLISS at Yass in 1850, her cousin Mary Ann COBLE was a witness at their marriage.

By 1841, three FURRILL siblings, Joseph, William and Elizabeth were living in NSW, as well as the only child of the deceased Drusilla. Their father Michael was buried in Woodchurch in 1833, and the mother followed in 1849. The only sibling to reach adulthood and stay in England appears to have been Stephen, who married but does not appear to have borne chldren. Neither William nor Jospeph had a son, so while they have many descendents, the FURRILL name in Australia died with William at 'Spring Creek, Yass', buried '27th November 1886, C.E. Cemetery Yass'. There are many headstones that remain from that period, but nothing in the monumental inscriptions for Yass, which suggests his headstone also no longer remains.

There is still much to learn of William. A record exists in 1852 for the marriage of a William 'FARRILL' to Ann FOLEY, a widow, at St Clement's Church Yass, though no other trace has yet been found of her, and she is not listed on William's death certificate. I also know little of his working life in Yass.


wendy.duggan said...

Hi, you asked for comments if related: My family is related through Elizabeth who married Isaiah Barker. Their daughter, Sarah Jane had a son Oliver with Thomas Samuel Preston of Boorowa BUT shock horror, they did not marry! She went on to be Sarah Jane BARDEN and had heaps of children, Oliver we presume was brought up by the Prestons, he always gave his name as Oliver Preston and his father as Thgomas Samuel Preston, and mother as Sarah Jane Barker. There has always been a great veil of mystery in the Preston family about his parentage. He married Charlotte Eva PERKS daughter of Josiah George Swift Perks and Isabella Maria or Ann Shelbourne. Oliver and Charlotte had children Eva Charlotte Preston who married John Rowlands, Oliver John, twins Lindsay Gordon and Victor, Mary Gladys Isabel who married Bob Speers, Bessie Alma who married Aub Kirkman, Cecil Abraham my father who married Muriel Isabel Rae Mewburn, and Normand Roy. Don't know if any of this is of any interest.
Isaiah was a very interesting person, came to Australia as part of 1st 11th Devonshire Regiment and stayed on, He served in his regiment in Sydney, Bathurst and South Australia under the governorship of Captain Grey. Returning to Sydney he was appointed to the police force and was police sergeant at Diamond Flat, Bathurst, Hartley, Yass and Burrowa.

m@ said...

Hi Wendy,

I'd definitely like to hear more - can you email me at

Unfortunately i just wrong a long reply which was lost in trying to reply, but you comment was very interesting. Have you worked out what happened to Elizabeth's first son James?

The 11th connection is amazing - I am descended from a bunch of members of the 11th, one, William Hodge, also became a policeman, serving in Sydney, then Gundagai.

I look forward to hearing from you.


paul davidson said...

Hi Wendy ,my name is Paul Davidson .Oliver John Preston was my grandfather on my mothers side of the family .Would greatly appreciate getting in contact with you .Kind regards Paul Davidson

wendy.duggan said...

Hi Paul, There were two Oliver John Prestons, so there can be some confusion. If you would care to leave your email I will give you more details.
Cheers Wendy

paul davidson said...

Hi Wendy ,thankyou so much for your reply .My email is .My mothers maiden name is Margaret Jill Preston daughter of Oliver John Preston and Ilma Amy Turner .Kind regards Paul Davidson.

Terri said...

Hi Guys
I am a descendant of Robert Ditton and Jane Waller, Their son James Ditton and his second wife Catherine Ann Vidler are my great great grandparents