Other Notable Settlers & Pioneers
- W.J.T. ‘Big’ Clarke - Who settled Little River 1837 and became one of the wealthiest men in the colony.
- Alfred Langhorne - Who settled at Laverton.
- Charles Franks at Mount Cottrell.
- Synott Family.
In this early period of Settlement there were no large homes and mansions, instead there were Settlers slab huts with earthen floors.
Student Activity 5: Life in the area in the 1830’s and 1840’s
If you were asked what would life have been like in Wyndham in this period what would you say?
- Read the extract from Werribee: the first one hundred years by Ken James and Lance Pritchard below.
- Make a table showing the main occupations and wages of the early male settlers.
- Note: the land and farm labourers/workers also received bed and board.
- Do the same for females
- In England at the same time skilled workers received £40 to £50 per year, unskilled less than £20, and women less than half of these figures. Was life better in Australia or England for workers at the time?
- Describe daily life for a pioneer woman.
- In what way would people’s lives have changed by leaving the United Kingdom and coming to places like Wyndham?
- Focus on the paragraph beginning “We might well ask…?” How would these settlers have viewed their lives compared with how we regard their lives? Why is this the case? What is the danger of looking at the past with modern eyes?
- Why are there very few remains of the early homes in which the settlers lived?
Werribee: the first one hundred years, by Ken James and Lance Pritchard p. 11-12
Let us first look at them from the point of view of the wages they received and the prices they paid. All the figures that follow, both wages and prices, represent average figures for the quarter ending 31st December 1841. Agricultural labourers and butchers received £35 a year, with rations while farm overseers and gardeners received £30-40 a year, with rations. Shepherds, house servants, bullock drivers, stockmen and grooms earned £25 a year with rations. Blacksmiths, carpenters, painters and stone masons received a daily wage of ten shillings: saddlers and harness makers, nine shillings; boot and shoe makers four shillings and sixpence and bakers, three shillings and sixpence.
On the whole, women received a far lower rate of remuneration. The following yearly wages apply to women workers but only if they were ‘of a superior description’ – cooks, £18, dressmakers, farm servants, general servants, housemaids, £12; laundresses £15, needle-women £8, nursemaids £11 and nursery governesses, £40.
What was the value of these wages? To understand this, they must be related to then current retail prices. Some of these per pound were: fine flour 3½ pence, beef and mutton 4½ pence, tea five shillings, sugar 4½ pence, soap 5½ pence, salt one penny. Clothing prices are of interest. A fustian or moleskin jacket cost 10 shillings, and the same sort of trousers 9 shillings, a shepherd’s coat 20 shillings, check shirts 24 shillings a dozen, lace-up boots 13 shillings a pair, and blankets twelve shillings and sixpence a pair. A hut suitable for the country dwelling of an agricultural labourer could be obtained for about £10.
What chance did a newcomer have or work? The demand was mainly for single men and married men without families. The workers most in demand were farm servants, shepherds, stockman, bullock drivers, stone masons, and quarrymen. The demand for single men and married men without children was so great that they were never out of work for more than a few days. Married men with families often found work difficult to obtain, largely because squatters were unwilling to burden themselves with the support of a family. Family men who failed to find work were required to labour on public works at a daily remuneration of four shillings. Strange as it is may seem today unemployment relief existed in Victoria some 170 years ago.
The names of women rarely appeared in early records and the reason is obvious. The housewife was a work from early morning until late at night at her housewifely duties. Long hours and strong muscles of back and arms were the main conditions ensuring cleanliness of the homes and children, the good repair of clothing and the provision of simple but adequate food. The blessing of reticulated water and electricity came to Werribee long after the pioneer women had departed this earth. The pioneer women had little or no time for public duties; and the simple mention of her existence was often no more than the brief announcement of her death.
Well might we ask, ‘Did the Good Old Days ever exist’? Surely the shepherds in the days of unfenced properties had a simple pleasurable life? – but what of the monotonous round of daily duties, what of the monotonous rations of meat, flour and tea for every meal; what of life in the earthen floored bark or sod hut devoid of conveniences; what of the long periods of isolation from one’s fellow pioneers!