Hawkesbury New South Wales before 1800
In these days, when we hear so much about the cost of living and the
Government have found it necessary to appoint a commission to enquire
into it. It would be as well for those now living in the Hawkesbury to
know how their forefathers fared in that respect.
Prior to the year 1800, almost all business was carried on by barter,
based chiefly on the value of the grain grown by the farming community,
and the value of that grain was fixed by the Governor and was paid
at the Government store, not in cash, but in other goods, or else on a
Government draft payable in cash in London.
The merchants gathered these drafts and sent them home in payment of goods
they imported, but the basis of all transactions depended on the price fixed
for wheat and maize at the Government store, Sydney.
The price of wheat had been fixed at 10/- per bushel and maize at 5/- per bushel,
and the home authorities in England had written Governor Hunter to say
they thought this 'too much'
He replied : — '
"The immense expense of labour upon the ground will show your Grace what a
farmer's situation, with that of his family, would have been, had I persisted
in the endeavour of reducing the price under the present misfortunes of the
people, many of which are the effect of the want, of these public supplies
from Europe, which alone can ease the heavy expenses of this colony to the
Government and encourage the exertions of industry."
It is quite apparent that the merchants and dealers took all sorts of
advantages of the unfortunate farmers for it was only through the merchants
the farmer could get his draft cashed, so Governor Hunter, early in
January, 1800, did what the present Government have done.
He appointed a commission to enquire into the cost of living and sent
their report to England to show he was right in fixing the price of grain.
I attach a copy of that report so that the farmers now living on the
Hawkesbury can think the matter over.
"At a meeting held at the Hawkesbury this 14th day of January, 1800,
by the undersigned inhabitants from the different districts of the
settlement (Hawkesbury) the following average prices for labour and other
necessaries of life were considered and concluded by them in a fair and
impartial manner to have been as follows: —
'To wit, for the cultivation of one acre of wheat as by average computation,
to produce twenty-five bushels.
Cutting down and clearing weeds ... ... £1 0 0
Breaking up and tilling the ground ... £1 6 8
Chipping and covering the wheat and sowing ... ... £1 2 0
Reaping ... ... £3 0 0
Carrying home, stacking and thatching ... ... £2 0 0
Thrashing and carrying in the barn ... ... ... £2 2 6
Carriage to His Majesty's store, porterage, etc. ... £1 19 7
One bushel and a half of seed ... ... 15/-
TOTAL. £13 5 9
'There. is no allowance for first clearing the land in the above estimation,
which is per acre, £6.'
Average price of the necessary articles of life bought at;
Sydney by us : —
Tea, per pound ... ... £4 0 0
Sugar, per pound ... ... 2/6
Spirits per gallon, from £1/10/ to £4/0/0
Soap, per pound... ... ... 6/-
Tobacco, per pound ... ... 10/-
Butter, per pound ... ... 4/-
Cheese, per pound ... ... 3/-
Duck cloth, per yard ..... 5/-
Woollen cloth, per yard... £2 0 0
Irish linen, per yard ... . 5/-
Calico, per yard ... ... .. 4/-
Silk handkerchiefs, each ... 10/-
Linen and cotton checks, per yard. ... 6/-
Hats, each ... ... ... £2 0 0
Flannels, blankets, and all sorts of bedding much wanted, and none for sale.
"N.B. — All other European goods equally dear, though not mentioned in the
Giles William Mower
John Fraser Molloy
I would remind readers, that at that time there was
no plough, horse or bullock in the district, and all farming work of
every description had to be done by hand, and I shall have something
to say on this subject in a future issue, showing the great industry
of those pioneers of the Hawkesbury.
The bronze, 3.5 metre (about 11½ feet) monument commemorating our
women pioneers of New South Wales.
Living a life of tremendous hardship. They were certanly expert
in making the pennies go further.
situated in the Jessie Street Gardens, Loftus St, Sydney