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Thomas Waters’ letter to Bedfordshire – 17 May 1863

November 13, 2018

Thomas Waters was my great great grandfather. He was born on 05 October 1829, at the family farm, ‘Newtonbury’ Dunton, Bedfordshire, England.  He died on 28 June 1913 at Rochester, Victoria, Australia

Some years ago, I obtained from the Royal Historical Society of Victoria, letters that Thomas had written from Kyneton to his family in Bedfordshire, between 1862 and 1874. I have copies of these letters at hand. They make very interesting reading, giving a glimpse into the life of a battling newcomer to Australia in the 19th century, The letters outline his difficulties in trying to support his family without economic or family support.  The homesickness Thomas is feeling for his family in England, is very obvious and heartbreaking to read.
HSV Location: Box 79-2
Item Type: MSS Collection
Item No: MS000976

I have decided to publish these letters over a series of blog posts, in the hope that family members may see them and contact me. I am very interested to make contact with other researchers of this family, so we can compare notes about the Waters family. I have started compiling articles for a book detailing the life of Thomas Waters and his family, both in Australia and England. 


Letter from Kyneton 17 May 1863

Dear Brother (David]

I received your letter last mail, also a paper. I find here unless you ask specially for papers, they never think of looking for them when you ask for a letter. I also received the one you sent previous. On opening the last newspaper, the first thing that caught my eye was some timber to be sold on the *Newton Bury Estate, & the Company to meet in the Cow Pasture.  I suppose then to proceed down to the fen close to the Oak Grove. I fancied all sorts of things. I suppose Mr Pope sells the timber to assist in meeting his demands, as I expect he purchased all the timber with the land.

Father must be very feeble. I hope I shall hear in my next that he has gained strength. I would rather than anything that I could see him, but I am afraid I am too many miles distant in this World. My mind is constantly occupied with home, and about the whole of you.  How you are getting on, and what you are all doing? I would like to be amongst you, but not as I am situated at present.

I still live in hopes of some day making some money in this country, and being able to return amongst you, but I must be more fortunate than I have been the last two months.

Myself and another took a contract (I think I mentioned to you in my last) to sink two water holes each 50 feet long 20 feet wide and 6 feet deep for the sum of 11d per cubic yard. We completed our contract so far as we were allowed and now it appears we may whistle for the money. We placed too much confidence in our employers, and did not get a copy of the agreement. By that means we have no chance with them.

I was greatly in hopes of buying a house and a small piece of land, when that was finished. I had an excellent chance a short time back, but I was not able. Another person took it. There is a four roomed house, half an acre of splendid garden ground, and a well of water. He bought it for £25, and has a good length of time to pay for it. He had a few pounds to pay down, but I can’t say how much.

Now, it is strange if I can’t buy a place. I am getting known. I also begin to know the ways of the country and I am not much afraid, but what I shall get work. I was offered a place the day before yesterday, which I intend to try and buy if I can get sufficient time to pay for it. The house I am living in now I pay £10 per year for. I have paid rent enough, since I have been in the Colony, to buy a good many houses, and I see now if I can only buy one I shall do a great deal better. The one offered to me is a four roomed house (formerly a Store) with half an acre of ground, fenced in, and a well of water. He wants £10 cash down and the remainder in ten or twelve months. Now if I had a horse and dray I would precious soon be the owner of a place like that, and probably in a year or two it might be worth a great deal more money. It is situated near the Railway and handy to the town, the next house to where I am living.

You say in your letter you thought you would be able to send me out a few pounds. If you could it would render_me a very great assistance. I find from one to ten pounds can be sent by Post Office order. When you write let me know what William, Edith, George, Annie, Willie and Tommy Burton what they are doing, and where they are living, and how George met with his bad leg. You omitted that in your letter.

I hope this will find you all well, as it leaves myself wife and family at present. I have had sickness in the house lately but all right again. I suppose Mr Roberts is still living at Bigswell Mills. I hope they are all well. Give my love to them if you should see them. I must write to them this mail if I possibly can, Mary too, you must let me know all about her.

You say George Beecher has been to London, and returned to Port Phillip again. I wish you could get his address and send it to me. I think be might be able to do some good for me. In fact I lent him some money once, which he never had the good manners to pay me again. Mr Franklin might be able to give it to you. Tell him I should very much like to hear from him. I would like to write to him this mail. If I could tell him, he must excuse my not writing, but to write to me as soon as he can. If I did write to him I must direct to you, as he may have left the Rose Edmond St, Camberwell address. I am frequently speaking of my old friends. and his name is often brought in. I was very sorry to hear of his loss – I drove his wife to the Church when they were married and away from the church as far as Putney, and him rushing after me in a cab, and from thence we proceeded to Richmond, and spent the day. He would well remember it if you mention it.

I was too late to write last mail. I will send a paper this mail. I was led astray with the other papers I sent. I addressed them by the over land route, and they were detained for insufficient postage. I shall know better for the future. I would like to send you some where you will see my name in them. You must look for the Lauriston & Edgecombe District Road Board Tenders called. If I get work under that Board you will see my name there.

I have at present got the roads to keep in repair under that Board. I have a mate with me. I have nothing more to say. I have not the money to send my portrait this mail. I wish you would send me as many from home as you can, your wife and children mind, as with trusting this will find you all well, and concluding with my love to all

And Remain Yours truly

Thos Waters

*Thomas’ father farmed Newton Bury Estate

Brief timeline for Thomas Waters

Links to previous letters written by Thomas Waters

Thomas Waters’ Letter to Bedfordshire – May 1862
Thomas Waters’ Letter to Bedfordshire – August 1862

 *Punctuation and paragraphs  have been added to the above transcription for ease and speed of reading
My thanks to Graham Revill, Surrey, England, for transcribing these letters and lodging them with the Royal Historical Society of Victoria.

From → family history

  1. Everything I’ve ever heard about Australia is how hard it was to make a living there. I can’t even imagine how hard life was for your ancestor. Separated from family, financial difficulties and just plain old hard living…it most surely turned him into a very hardy soul.

  2. Reading the two letters so far, I’ve been wondering if it was customary for new immigrants to Australia to have such a tough go of it.

  3. Very much enjoyed reading this detailed letter as a window into the past. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Interesting letter. He sounds lonely.

  5. How wonderful that you were able to obtain your great-great grandfather’s letters! Such a wonderful window into his life. I can’t help but wonder if he was as jolly a fellow as he appears in the photo. 🙂

    • I think it was a sad time for him when he was writing the letters, and missing his family in England. I do hope that his later years were happier. Thanks for visiting Elizabeth

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