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Thomas Waters’ Letters to Bedfordshire 9 October 1871

May 21, 2019

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. 

9 October 1871

Dear Brother & Sister

It is now such a long time since I received a letter from England, that I scarcely know how to commence writing. For a long time past I have been thinking, well I shall have a letter next mail, but no such luck, and yet when I think over the matter, I can blame no one but myself. I know it is my own neglect in writing. How are you to know whether I am still alive, or where to write to?

I wrote a letter some months back, but too late for the mail. I carried it in my pocket some time intending to post it for the next mail and it got destroyed. I had until the last 12 months been employed in a Lawyers Office, not constantly, but nearly so for upward of 5 years, and out of my salary I only received a few shillings per week, or occasionally being led to believe I should get my money in a lump sum, and it would then be of service to me, so that I might be able to purchase a piece of land and make my family comfortable. But to my great disappointment, my employer became insolvent. The office was broken up, and I did not get half as much as paid my debts, for in debt, I was bound to run, when I was not receiving my wages. I tried a plan (after every thing else failed) to start an office myself, but unfortunately the times being so bad, there was no business to be done. I put an advertisement in two of the papers for 6 months. The enclosed is one I cut out for you to see, but I did not earn as much with the office, as would pay for the advertisement.

It may appear strange to you, my offering money to lend and buying mining shares. Through my being in a lawyer’s office, I became acquainted with some of the money lenders, and they offered me a percentage to lend their money on freehold security, but I stand no chance, as there are so many poverty struck lawyers in the place. They look too sharp after these people, as they are aware that a mortgage must be prepared by a legal man – and if per chance I get a deed to engross, I may hunt them about a long time for the money – in fact I am quite tired, striving to get a living in the town.

I am in hopes that I shall be able shortly to get my eldest boy apprenticed to some trade or other, as I find that a good tradesman, no matter what, is seldom or ever idle. My family consists of 5 children, 3 girls and two boys, and have buried 2 girls and one boy. When you write I hope you will give me a history of your family, how many, what they are doing – and all about them.

One fortunate thing for me is I have a little place of my own which has saved me many pounds in rent, otherwise I do not know what I should have done of late. The buildings here are principally wood. It is strange too, for this is one of the finest countries in the world for stone. That is to say for building purposes, and I think a great many vessels bring them to England for ballast and realise a large sum of money.

Provisions and clothing are not [now?] very dear here. I will send you a paper occasionally and then you will probably be able to learn more about the ways and customs of this part than I am able to explain.

The harvest will be on in about 3 months from this time and if we are blessed with good crops, I do not fear, but there will be plenty employment during that time. I always live in hopes of something better turning up. The farmers appear to be the only ones that make money in this country and it is a simple matter to get land. Say for instance with about £150, a person would be able to procure a hundred acres by paying one shilling per acre half yearly in advance, until the land is paid, which will be at the rate of about £1 per acre. Of course the locality must be studied and the quality of the land. Any one coming from England at first think this a frightful rough country and have to go through great hardships. Although this appears a warm climate we suffer more from cold, a great deal than I did when in England, owing to the weather being so very changeable. One day we can walk about in our shirt sleeves, and the next want a top coat.

You will think this a rather curious note. I am running from one thing to the other in it. I hope I shall be able to furnish you with better news in my next. I hope you will write as soon as possible, and don’t forget to give my love to all and beg of them to write to me. I trust this will find all well. I am happy to say that myself, wife & family are at present in good health. I have nothing more at present but accept the love from self, wife & family.

And remain

Your Affectionate Brother,

Thomas Waters

I am sorry to say that I have not received the sight in my eye as yet. I will send you some portraits shortly.


Brief timeline for Thomas Waters

Thomas Waters’ Letters to Bedfordshire 23 February 1866
Thomas Waters’ Letter to Bedfordshire – May 1862
Thomas Waters’ Letter to Bedfordshire – August 1862
Thomas Waters’ Letter to Bedfordshire – 17 May 1863
Thomas Waters’ Letter to Bedfordshire – 23 May 1863
Thomas Waters’ Letter to Bedfordshire Kyneton 23 May 1864
Thomas Waters’ Letters to Bedfordshire 23 March 1865
Thomas Waters’ Letter to Bedfordshire 20 September 1866
*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. Loved this! My great great grandfather was born about the same time and left Yorkshire for Massachusetts in the United States around the same time period. I have his journal of his trip to America.

  2. What a great treasure to have these letters. It’s enjoyable to read and see a glimpse into life back then.

  3. I have been reading many of your “Letter” posts. Just like in the letter above, it is almost heartbreaking to hear the homesickness in his writing. He is almost begging to hear something back from his family. Keep posting these letters. I would love to read that his circumstances eventually improved.

    • Hello Dianne. I also find these letters heartbreaking. There are only a couple of letters to come. Stay tuned

  4. I agree… your heart just aches for him as he longs to hear from family at home. Did any of your letters come with the promised portraits I wonder?

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  1. Thomas Waters’ Letter to Bedfordshire 23 December 1865 | Tracking Down The Family

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