Chapel Street drunks

>I’ve spent most of the past decade living in South Yarra, an inner suburb of Melbourne. One of my favourite things to do on the weekend is to go to Prahran Market and do the grocery shopping, have a coffee, and after that’s done go for a wander down the south end of Chapel Street for more coffee, antique shops, op shops and second-hand shops. I’d like to live around here for the rest of my life, though we don’t get much choice about such matters.

As it happens, I’m not the first of my family to live here. In 1857 a brickmaker, Sampson Lees, arrived in Port Philip with his wife Emma and their five children aboard the ‘Castilian’ as government assisted immigrants, and settled in the area. The family hailed from Tipton, Staffordshire; Sampson was born in nearby Wednesbury in 1812, and Emma was born in the Strand, London, about 1807. This was not their first venture abroad. Sampson had travelled to the United States in 1843 in search of work, perhaps intending to bring his family out, while Emma stayed behind and earned money as a governess.

At first glance the move to Melbourne seems to have been a good one. The family eventually settled in Vine Street, Windsor: their small cottage was demolished a century later when Dandenong Road was rebuilt. The eldest daughter Emily, my great-great-great-grandmother, married Hugh Chalmers Rose, a chemist, whom I’ve blogged about elsewhere on this site. The next daughter Charlotte married David Prichard in 1864, and youngest daughter Alice (who lived with the Rose family) married Thomas John Marlow Trader in 1869 in Wagga Wagga.

But not all was well. Emma, who was midwife at the birth of her first grandchild Emily Rose in 1859, died on 1 August 1867 from phthisis (tuberculosis) after an illness lasting 7 months. She was buried at St Kilda cemetery and a fine headstone was erected, that included inscriptions for her two infant Prichard grandchildren. The headstone survives at the grave, broken off at the base.

Sampson remarried just over a year later, taking as his bride a widow, Elizabeth Cozens formerly George, a schoolmistress who was living with him at Vine Street at the time of their marriage. The marriage did not last long. Elizabeth died on 7 October 1871. The inquest recorded that she had last been seen going out for a beer around 10pm, then leaning against a fence, when a neighbour took her indoors and called the doctor. She died shortly thereafter from heart disease and apoplexy.

Three years later Sampson sold his Vine Street property, and disappears from the historical record for some years. The penultimate record of his life comes from the Victorian Prisoner Registers: he was convicted in June 1887 for being idle and disorderly and sentenced to twelve months jail, then again in January 1889 for vagrancy when he received a sixth month sentence. He had been arrested twice before in 1877 and 1883 though not tried. He was five foot three inches, of fresh complexion, and had a broken nose and a missing upper tooth. Charming. Sampson died in the Melbourne Gaol at 6am on 9 March 1889 aged about 76, having spent the whole of his time in custody in a bed in the Gaol hospital. Although there was an inquest, oddly no death certificate was lodged. Sampson’s place of burial is unknown – a far cry from his first wife’s monument.

The daughters did reasonably well for themselves, raising large families and taking a step up in the world from their parents’ circumstances. They passed on their mother’s maiden name, Ashford, to their children, but their father’s name of Sampson disappeared entirely. The Rose, Prichard and Trader families fit the would-be Australian dream of upward social mobility and improvements in health and wealth.

The sons, however, reflect their father’s fate. Frederick Lees died in the Echuca hotel in 1876 aged only 28 from diphtheria and croup, where he was working as a groom. Arthur Lees also never married and like his brother worked with horses. In 1866 he was fined £1.1s for using foul language whilst drunk in St Kilda, and again in 1867 for drunken behaviour in Prahran: the Argus recorded that: ‘Arthur Lees, a young and respectable-looking man, was brought up as having been drunk and disorderly’, during which time he’d thrown a volley of stones through someone’s window. His defence was that it was ‘a mad freak’, and he was fined 5s. plus damages and costs. Life went seriously downhill for Arthur from that time. He was repeatedly before the courts for drunkenness, threatening language and stealing money through the 1870s and 1880s, and spent several months in prison. Arthur finally died on 12 March 1913 – at the Yarra Bend Lunatic Asylum – aged 66 years.

Emma Ashford (c.1807-1867)
= 1836 Sampson Lees (c.1813-1889)

Emily Lees (1838-1883)
= 1858 Hugh Chalmers Rose (1835-1885)

Emily Jane Rose (1859-1932)
= 1882 Gerald Francis Goodwin (1858-1925)

Kate Gwendolyne Goodwin (1894-1981)
= 1911 Adrian Hastings Newth (1882-1971)

Emily Elizabeth Newth (1920-)
= 1943 Charles Henry Sherlock (1918-2007)

Charles Henry Sherlock
= Peta Robin Sproule

Peter David Sherlock


1 Comment

Filed under Family History

One response to “Chapel Street drunks

  1. Thank you for this. I am researching for the Fraser family who fall under Charlotte Lees and Walter Pritchard.

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