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Sorting through Uncle Albert's possessions I came across a packet of documents and letters from my mother's side of the family. The historian in me found these to be interesting, but I did not realise just how interesting they would be. So after a few days research here is the little I have so far. Should anyone want to pitch in they are more than welcome.

The year is 1860. Charles Dickens has just published Great Expectations in serialised form. An expedition had just left England to confirm Lake Victoria as the source of the Nile. British and French troops capture Beijing in the Second Opium War, Florence Nightingale founded the first secular school and home for nurses in London...and my maternal grandfather, times by a lot, Mr John Read was living in Winchendon in Buckinghamshire. His brother 'R Read' had 'settled' in Australia several years earlier. I say settled as I don't know how he came to be in Australia. Transportation to Australia as a punishment was not to end for another eight years at this time.

In a modern envelope I discovered letters from several generations of the Read family spanning the dates from 1860 to 1917. The first of these letters is below.

1860 Ryelands 1.jpg

1860 Ryelands 2.jpg

1860 Ryelands 3.jpg

Here's a transcription of the letters. There are some parts I cannot read, no pun intended, but have marked with asterix. If anyone can decipher the missing bits I would appreciate it. But anyway here's what the letter says.

Ryelands 20th September 1860

Dear Brother

I received your letter dated 22nd May, but was unable to answer it by the last mail.

I very much regret to hear of the illness yourself and family have suffered. As regards myself I have enjoyed the best of health with the exception of an attack of influenza which has been very general in these Colonies.

I am pleased to hear your son Richard has chosen a useful trade and trust he will be successful and attentive to his duties in learning his trade.

You mention I am often enquired after by Old acquaintances an one point you can satisfy them, I am not married nor likely to be, that I am aware of, in other respects I am getting on as well as I could wish, I am at present, as I have for years, managing the Station I am living on, for a Gentleman of the name of Taylor, but who **** **, he has an Estate here of about Ten Thousand Acres, besides about 2 Thousand let to Tenants that I likewise have the management of, and I have about One Thousand of my own adjoining, I am about to commence shearing about ten thousand sheep, which will occupy me about five or six weeks, I have no sheep of my own, I keep cattle that pay me very well, I can purchase good cows & Bullocks for from £1 to £2:10 and when fat I can make from £6 to £10 each of them, which you will see pays well from the Capital invested.

We have since the rains set in last March had a most delightful Season, Plenty of Rain but not too much, the crops promise an abundant harvest with the exception of Hay, which consists of ****** Oats Wheat &, which cut green & put together immediately makes excellent Hay, we have not much labour Haymaking, merely mowing and putting together, and Hot Sun, **** sufficiently dries it, I have received 2 ******* lately For which I am much obliged.

And in conclusion you will please remember me to all Old friends and acquaintances as although so far distant they are not forgotten, I should much like to pay you a visit and intend to do so if I can.

And accept my Dear Brother, my best wishes for your and your familys welfare.

R Read.

Mr John Read

Now I can tell you that I have found the obituary of Mr Taylor the Owner of Ryelands Station dated 1865 in the South Australia Register newspaper. Here's a link to it. http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/39118371

I can also tell you that the next letter from J read to his brother is dated 1865 and is not from Ryelands Station but instead from Kensington. So at the time of Mr Taylors death my relative J read was probably not managing the station or was not managing the station on the 26th of July 1865 following the death of Mr Taylor.

One of the most poignant parts of the letter is the admission that my long distant great uncle felt ' I am not married nor likely to be, that I am aware of'.

In the meantime a bit of poking around has discovered someone researching their family history and the Read family of Winchendon. They have managed to get much further back but as of yet I have been unable to contact that person to share information or documents. Or indeed to find out if we are researching the same family.

Next episode 26th July 1865.

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There is mention of Aldeburgh Suffolk in some of the documents I found on the blog of the lady researching the Read family in Winchendon. These I suspect were some of John Read's five brothers. Here's the link to that site. https://rootsresearcher.wordpress.com/ but its not been updated in two years and the contact addresses are no longer working.

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I was taught to write like that at primary school!  I offer the following translations:


Gentleman of the name of Taylor, but who I seldom see.

the crops promise an abundant harvest,  we grow no wheat or crops of any kind with the exception of hay, which consists of lucerne oats wheat & 

and Hot Sun, soon sufficiently

 I have received 2 news papers lately 

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I was taught to write like that at my first primary school, unfortunately the next primary school forced me to change to up and down straight writing, hence my writing has wandered between the two ever since and is generally a mess.

Mean time, Keep up the postings Timbo It's most interesting...


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Tim, Totally fascinating. Can't wait for the next "instalment" I love this sort of stuff.. I've tried to trace my own origins but never get very far as my paternal  great grandparents were Prussian, arriving here in the late 1890s and because of the war my father was very reluctant to discuss  this aspect of his family. Indeed  I only discovered this fact by accident when I was 11 years old and any questions directed to my father about this matter were met with  little or no response so   I learned not to ask. Apparently even though my father was effectively brought up by his grandmother she was very tight lipped about her origins and he had the impression that she had come from a very wealthy family and had eloped with someone her family didn't approve of.

One story my father did tell was of the occasion when a German plane flew over their garden  in North London strafing. His gran was hanging out washing and seeing the plane coming was heard to yell "Ach mein Gott, The bloody Germans!"


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Part Two

Love's Labours 1865 Kensington.

As you can imagine, it's been a very busy couple of days but I have been able to do a little more research. First of all I've yet another letter from Australia...so you lucky drongos there will be a brief part three!

I've also found some modern images of the Ryelands Station and a short history of what happened to it after 1865.


This taken from the hills above it.

And this is the modern building that occupies the site of the old station.


The station is situated outside of Adelaide. Here is a brief history of Ryelands post 1865 from the current owners website. Ryelands is now a holiday cottage.

Ryelands" was first taken up by John Taylor in 1845, and comprised 10,000 acres freehold. The Dunn family bought the property in the 1920's and Clayton Dunn - the father of Peter - bought it from his parents in 1936. The property then consisted of 2,393 acres. Clayton and his wife Alva had three children while living at Ryelands in the original homestead. In 1950 the family moved to the property known as "Gum Park" near Tarlee, and the old home gradually fell into decay.

When Gavin Dunn married in 1960, the old house was pulled down, and a brick house was built on the same site. Pete and Sue married in 1969 and moved to this house in 1970. Their three daughters - Sarah, Kate and Annabel were born during the eight years they lived there. They then moved to "Gum Park" and the house was first used by a workman and his family and then turned into Ryelands Farm Retreat. As this was a great success, the Cottage which up until this time had been used as a workman's house, and then rented on a permanent basis, was also used for holiday makers.

After 16 years of running the farm stay accommodation, Pete and Sue decided to semi retire, and as they loved living in the hills early in their married life, they moved back to the brick house, therefore leaving only the Cottage for guests. With ongoing renovations, the Cottage is able to comfortably sleep eight guests, and camping is an extra option for any over flow.

The farm is now in the capable hands of the next generation with Annabel and Jake running the enterprise and help from Pete and Sue when needed.

The various buildings at Ryelands which date back to the early days are the Shearing shed, the stable and the hut, which was lived in by a family up until the 1950's. All are built of local bluestone as was the main part of the original house.

So on with my Great great great great Uncle's story.

The year is now 1865. In this year Alice in Wonderland is first published. Dr James Barry (b 1795) British Army Medical Officer and Inspector general dies. It is later discovered 'he' was a woman. Rudyard Kipling is born in India and my Great Great Great Great Uncle is no longer at Ryelands but is living in Kensington...not yet a suburb of Sydney and is writing home to his brother in Winchendon. It seems there has been a spot of intercontinental family bickering!



Here's the transcription...please do check I've got it right?

Kensington 26th July 1865

Dear Brother

I received your letter of 18th April by the June mail but on account of it being over a fortnight behind its proper time, I could not write by the outgoing mail.

I very much regret to hear of the illness your family has been subject to, but I am glad to find you are all recovered, good health is one of the greatest blessings we can enjoy.

Now you remind me of it I recalled you mentioned about your son being apprenticed, and perfectly remember the remark I made, but as my memory is so good, I cannot account for my absence of mind on that subject and very much regret I made it, as it would appear that I took no interest in your family affairs, as just the reverse is the case.

We have a very wet season here just now, which is very reasonable, but some part of the Colony continues dry, their has been no rain in some of the far North part of the Country for 2 years to do any good and the consequence is most disastrous to stockholders Hundreds of Thousands of Sheep and Thousands of Cattle & Horses have perished for want of good water.

Myself & Mrs Read and I must add baby (Mrs Read having been confined of a daughter on 17th May) are in the enjoyment of the best of health, and trust you are all continuing the same, and to whom we wish to be kindly remembered Mrs joins with me in the kindest love and best wishes to you all, and believe me my Dear Brother.

Your Affectionate Brother

R Read

Mr J Read

So no longer at Ryelands, but now thankfully married and with one child at least!

A very brief part three after the weekend and then we move onto India 1898 and dashing cavalrymen.



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