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Henry Lock – From Winfrith to South Australia

We can only surmise why Henry Lock uprooted his family from the familiar surroundings of the Clay Pitts area of Winfrith Newburgh to embark on a one way, once in a life-time journey to Australia. It was a courageous decision probably driven by the grinding poverty endured by agricultural workers in Dorset in the mid 19th century and aggravated by a measure of religious intolerance. Henry was a follower of Wesley although he married Hannah Riggs and their children were baptised at the parish church, so he may have been a recent convert.

Henry (40); his wife Hannah (nee Riggs) (41) and their six children: William (18); Harriet (16); Mary (14); John (11); Elizabeth (8) and Edith (3) embarked on board the emigrant ship Marion at Plymouth, which weighed anchor at about 7 pm on the 24th of March 1851. On board there were 350 emigrants from all over the United Kingdom; the Lock family were the only passengers from Dorset.

The Marion was a 3-masted wooden emigrant ship of 919 tons built in Quebec in 1850 and under the command of Captain Kissock. The 350 emigrants had endured 128 days at sea and were within hours of reaching Adelaide when the ship struck the outer edge of Troubridge Shoal at about 10 pm on Tuesday 29th of July 1851. This area of the South Australian coast was known to be treacherous but when the Marion hit the reef only a slight fog and a calm sea prevailed. The ship was wrecked but miraculously all of the passengers and crew made land safely.

The shore was only a few miles away but the Captain ordered the long boats to be launched believing they could carry passengers ashore and return for the crew. Even though the long boats had compasses, some of the boats rowed east instead of west so rowing far more than necessary to make landfall.

Some 18 months later Henry wrote to his old friends and neighbours back in Dorset and he was able to tell them that his family “want for nothing” and that they were making a good life for themselves.

William Goodchild wrote to Henry in 1854. That letter has survived and brings sharply into focus how difficult life was for a labouring man living in rural Dorset in the middle of the 19th century. On a personal level William tells his distant friend that he has been in hospital following an accident and reports the birth of an addition to his family: a daughter, and delivers news of new births and the passing of some old friends and how the fledging church is growing. Henry learns of other friends who have departed for the New World and that still more are preparing to follow him to Australia. William reports on the weather and forecasts a better wheat harvest that year.

Below we publish a full transcript of William Goodchild’s letter, which includes mention of many Winfrith families: it is a gold mine of snippets of information for the family historian. References to “Mr Dear Brother” and people being “on trial” should be read in a religious context.

The number of people of European descent living in South Australia in 1836 was virtually zero and by 1851 when Henry Lock and his family arrived, that figure had grown to 65,000 but in that year there was a major exodus of people heading for the goldfields in the neighbouring state of Victoria. We believe Henry and Hannah’s eldest son, William, was amongst them.

A descendant of William Lock has told us that during the following 30 years as many as 75 people connected with the Lock and Riggs families and to Winfrith Newburgh emigrated to the Gawler area of South Australia.

The Letter

Winfrith April 18th 1854
Dear Friend and Brother,
   After a long absence of time I take the pleasure of answering your kind and most welcome letter which I received in the month of August and should have answered your letter before but about that time I met with an accident and cut off my ear with an axe and was in Dorchester Hospital for a month, but thank God I am quite restored and I hope you are all well, as it leaves us all at present.

I should very much like to see you once more and ………(unreadable)…….what I think upon you ….(unreadable)…. if we never meet again on earth my prayer is that we may meet in heaven.
I’m very glad to hear that you were getting on so well in this life for the times are much worse here now than when you left. Bread now is 10 (?pence) per loaf, Butter (?1 shilling ) per pound, Potatoes 16 s to 1£ per sack. Beef and Mutton is 8d per pound but we can hardly remember the taste of it and I sometimes wished that I lived along with you, for you said you do not want of anything and a sovereign is thought no more of than a shilling but thank God our table has been spread in the wilderness and we have had sufficient while others have been destitute. We have had an increase in our family, a daughter now few months old; Grandmother Hibbs is still alive and living with us.

Dear Brother I suppose you will like to hear some of the news of your native village. The state of our society is much the same as when you left. George Ellis, Stephen Simmonds, Fredk. and John Selby and Sally Chaffey are on trial and I hope they will hold fast to the end. Charles Selby has lost 2 children out of 3. Dairyman Andrews is dead killed by his horse with cart – coming home from Lulworth. Mary Brine, Margaret Bishop, John Farr, Mr John Talbot of Burton, Thomas Hooper and Mrs Scott likewise, young John Baker (killed on the railway) and his aunt Rebecca Simmonds is dead. Mrs Kerley and family are all well and has had an invitation from Daniel Wallis to come to America but I do not think he has decided to go. John Pearce is gone there and is doing very well and several more is going from Oraer (Unreadable) now and John Riggs and his family from here. I am very happy to inform you that our Sunday School is re-established and has got from 50 to 60 children and our congregation is much the same as usual, our members are all well and desire to be remembered to you and family. I am also glad to inform you that they have a nice little Chapel at South Down and it was opened last August when there was 300 to tea there. Old Esquire Greg (Cree?)is dead and John Hibbs has got liberty to hold a class meeting at his house.

Dear Brother, I saw your sister Kitty and family this evening and with tears she desired to be kindly remembered to you and said she should like to see you once more but if not she hopes to meet you in heaven, her son Robert’s wife has got a daughter and her daughter Ann, a son and they are all well. You said that Robert Davis would inform us of how you were getting on but he has never returned and his mother has desired me to ask you where you could give any information concerning him and send home when you write next. Thomas Angel has received the ‘plan’ that you sent him and likewise John Allen ‘the letter’ and Henry Burt and John Allen has been trying to emigrate but I cannot tell whether they will succeed or not. Mrs Reader is much the same as usual and has had 2 or 3 newspapers from Australia and I have had 2, and we suppose they came from you. There is much agitation at present concerning the war with Russia, about 10 or 12 has gone from this parish on board a man-of-war. Please to give my kind respects to John Riggs and family and Thomas Allen and tell them that William Toms has sent 4 letters and received 3 and was very glad to hear of their welfare. They are living now at Clay Pits near me, their son Thomas is dead and Henry gone on board a man-of-war. Sarah is at home and very good to her mother and father and Mrs Toms hopes that Elizabeth is a good girl and takes care of herself the last letter they received was on the 6th of April, they intend to write soon, they received what she sent them and very much obliged it was very acceptable, their kind love to all.

Dear Brother, I do not know but what I have told you all the news, we have not had but a few drops of rain these seven weeks, we had a very wet summer last year but I hope we shall have a very prosperous one this year. The wheat is looking very well at the present.  Betsy Allen has had another child and since that it is burnt to death. Joseph Ellis, wife and family are quite well. I never pass by the house which you used to live without thinking of you. I have to inform you that Mrs Atherton is dead and Mr Atherton married again. Miss Caster (Carter?)is dead where my son was stopping.

Now I must conclude wishing you every blessing in this life and in that which is to come and I desire to be kindly remembered to your dear wife and family and hope that they are all decided for the Lord for that will be better than all the gold of Australia and I hope we shall never grow weary in well doing. I should like to hear from you often and please to answer this as soon as you can make it convenient.
So no more at present
From your Friend and Brother
William Marks Goodchild.

June no 11 1854.


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