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Thomas Waters’ Letter to Bedfordshire – 23 May 1863

November 22, 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. 


Kyneton May 23rd 1863

My Dear Brother & Sister

You must of course think it very strange, my not writing to you. Had I not been able to write, there would have been no excuse, but I must admit I have been very neglectful to my relations in England.  Some people here are very fortunate, but I as yet have not been able to move ahead.

There was a time when I was in Adelaide, I thought I should get on, but unfortunately my master took ill and died. I lost my situation. I then held the office as Bailiff, in a local court. That answered very well, the first six months. After that time, business began to fall off, and I found I was losing what little I had accumulated previously.  In that case, I could not leave my office at a weeks notice. I was bound to stick there until some other person was appointed. There is no salary for such office. You merely receive fees for mileage and service, for different processes, issued from the Court.

I then made up my mind to try my luck,  Melbourne side of the country. Bad luck seemed to attend me where ever I went. As soon as I arrived there, my youngest child took ill, and died, and in about a week I was penniless. The doctors in this colony are beyond all reason. When I had paid for advice, and buried the child, I was left exactly in the state I have now mentioned, and not a soul did I know, or work could I get, so I will leave you to guess my feeling.  But I mentioned all that in my letter home, some time back.

In answer to that letter, I received the news of my Fathers illness, and the great change that has taken place at Newton Bury. I would like to see my Father. I am constantly thinking about him, wondering how he is. I am afraid I am too far off, ever to see him again in this world.

I occasionally hear from David. He knows my circumstances. I am sorry for not being able to supply him with better news, but I hope some day or other, doing better. I am getting known here, and am in hopes of getting more constant employment. The chances are a thousand to one against one meeting with a permanant situation.

The principle employment here is road work, and I am now pretty well initiated in that branch. I could do very well, if it was not for the draw back of paying house rent and horse hire.  Sixteen shillings per day for horse and dray, which I have often paid, when I had a contract on hand.  That is the thing that prevents me from buying one for myself. House rent again, pay you must. Those things will not allow me to make a start.

This last week I have resolved to try another place. A person offered me a house, with four rooms, half an acre of garden ground attached, and a well of water, for the sum of twenty five pounds. I was to pay ten pounds down, and the rest in six months. A friend has lent me ten pounds to pay down, which sum will stand for the rent, if I am not able to pay the remainder of the purchase money. I am greatly in hopes of meeting the demand and having a comfortable home. I dare say I shall be able to let it stand over for twelve months, if I have any difficulty in getting money from my employers.

In this colony, we are often times obliged to wait a few months for money. For instance I take a contract to make a piece of road, say for forty or fifty Pounds. I get a subsist, perhaps at the end of a month or so, as the work progresses, to pay the hire of  horse and dray.  By the time the work is completed, there is but little left to my share but for all, I am in hopes of conquering all such difficulties. My first thing now is to make and scrape up the borrowed money.

I suppose you heard from the letters I sent home, that I have a wife and family, three sons now living, and one as I mentioned, died in Melbourne. The eldest is named Thomas William, the next George Burton the youngest, David. My eldest is about five years and six months old, the next two years and six months, and the youngest five months. They are very nice children, and I am happy to say, I have a very industrious wife, and tries her best to make a happy home. I do intend as soon as ever I can to send home the whole of our portraits. I find it will not cost much.

My wife’s parents are very respectable people living in Adelaide. There is a large family of them. I believe they have nothing more than will bring up their family,  in a respectable way. When we left Adelaide, they were renting a section of about 80 acres of land, getting a comfortable living and nothing more. Without a little capital to work land,  it is not much use to you.

Any person to come out here with say £500, it would be a good start, and I think a fortune could be made in a few years. I will endeavour to give you more information about the colony in my next. I will write again shortly. I hope I shall hear from you, as early as you can, as I am anxious to know how you all are, and what kind of a home you have at Welwyn.

I have nothing more to say than hoping this will find you all well. My wife has been poorly the last few days, myself and children are quite well and remain with

Love to yourselves and children,

Thomas Waters

Brief timeline for Thomas Waters

Links to Thomas Waters letters:

Thomas Waters Letters to Bedfordshire – May 1862
Thomas Waters Letter to Bedfordshire – August 1862
Thomas Waters’ letters to Bedfordshire – 17 May 1863

*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 stories

  1. Laura Hedgecock permalink

    Wow. What a difficult life. This letter is a treasure!

  2. flissie permalink

    How wonderful to read your GG Grandfather’s letters – but how sad to read about the bad luck he is having. It must have been so hard to get a good long-term job

  3. Jennifer, thank you for sharing such a treasure! Your great-great grandfather must have been a very strong person. From reading these last two letters, he had such a difficult life up to this point. I do hope that things got a little easier for him over the rest of his life.

    • Thanks for your comments Dianne. Life was certainly harsh back then. I wish I could say life became easier but unfortunately there are more hardships ahead.

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  1. Thomas Waters 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. #52ancestors | Tracking Down The Family

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