Family Names

Monday, 17 July 2017

When did John Bassett come out to Australia?

Article - 7 John Bassett of Madron (1790- 1868) 

After initial research, it appeared that John Bassett first came out to Australia in 1861 as part of a large family group on the SS Great Britain (Voyage 21) which arrived in Hobson’s Bay, Williamstown, Victoria on the 23rd Dec 1861.[i] 

SS Great Britain

Artist unknown, SS Great Britain in 1853, showing her four-masted sail plan following her refit from five masts. She was later refitted again, to a traditional three-masted, square-rigged pattern. From Maginnis, Arthur J. (1900): The Atlantic Ferry: Its Ships, Men and Working, Whittaker and Co., London and New York. Wikipeda Commons Accessed 14 July 2017 [out of copyright]

Travelling with him were his wife Martha, and daughters Ann Davey and Martha Rowe, their husbands and children and soon to be daughter-in-law Eleanor Symons.

Previous visits to Australia

More research, however, revealed that John Bassett (Snr) may have made several trips between Australia and England before he moved permanently with the rest of the extended family in 1861.  This is supported by a reference to John Bassett in “The Methodist History of Victoria and Tasmania: Originally published in the Spectator, Volume 2, 1989 onwards”  
"Mr John Bassett, known as Grandfather Bassett, was a much-loved and esteemed local preacher and class-leader; also was Mr. T. Featonby and others, whose names cannot be erased by time, as their works follow them. Mr. Bassett was called Home at 80 years of age in 1869".   
Professor Ian Breward the archivist at the Uniting Church archives in Victoria Australia, felt that such terms of endearment "much-loved and esteemed local preacher" indicated that John Bassett (Snr) must have arrived earlier than 1861.

Research further afield found a John Bassett on the Marco Polo 1853 which may have been our John Bassett accompanied by his John Bassett (Jnr). (The ages match perfectly).  Listed on the passenger list were John Bassett, aged 53 & John Bassett, aged 32.

The Marco Polo

 Llithograph artist unknown,  The celebrated clipper ship Marco Polo, as she appeared in the Mersey after the completion of her two unparalleled voyages from Liverpool to Melbourne and back in 11 months and 21 days, including detention in Australia, Liverpool : W. H. Hammond and Co. Lith. ; [ca.1860] [out of copyright]

A  notation on a mining lease application made in Victoria, Australia for ground in Specimen Hill, Sailors Gully on the 4th February 1861 which included the following special remarks that 
“The applicant had been in possession of the ground for 5 years”( Bendigo Lease Register, Department of  Energy and ……. Registry of Applications) indicating that John Bassett [probably John Bassett Junior] was already mining in the area on this site in 1855.  

It is likely that John’s second eldest son was involved in mining activities for English mining investors and may have travelled back and forth to organize funding and arrangements for future mining operations, his father may have accompanied him on several of these trips, perhaps to help with some of the details and laying the groundwork for the eventual arrival of other family members.  John Bassett Snr may have also been the courier of important correspondence between the Australian operations and the British investors for his son. 

Photographer Alexander Fox,  Miners wearing their best clothes near Bendigo, 1853, digital image, Museums Victoria Collections, Accessed 17 July 2017 (CC BY 4.0)
The links between British investors and John Bassett Jnr still need to be explored.

Next week I hope to trace the rest of the Bassett Family coming over from Cornwall to Australia. 

Previous Articles in this Series - John Bassett of Madron, (1790-1868)

Article 1 -  Who is John Bassett?


[i] Victoria, Australia, Assisted and Unassisted Passenger Lists, 1839-1923 [database on-line].  ( : accessed 13 July 2017) Passenger List of S.S. Great Britain 19 October 1861, marked p.9, Line 14, John Bassett, age 70;[ Series: VPRS 7666; Series Title: Inward Overseas Passenger Lists (British Ports) Public Record Office Victoria, North Melbourne, Victoria.]

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