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The story of Kingston Beach’s Hillside
In the second of a five-part series, Lee Weller tells the story of Charles Rawlings, the builder who tamed the Hillside
“Uncle Edward [Bernard Shaw’s brother] cries almost with exultation - ‘I thought I had never seen anything so pretty as the Derwent.’” (Bernard’s Brethren, C. M. Shaw, 1939)
Four months later that sentiment might well have sprung from Charles Rawlings’ heart, when he, too, arrived at the Derwent with his family. Each man had chased his dream to the newly born Swan River Colony, sailing under Thomas Peel’s settlement scheme aboard Rockingham, his third (and last) ship to arrive.
Rockingham’s departure from London was delayed, then bad winter weather along the Channel caused damage requiring repairs. The following voyage, mostly quiet, ended at Swan River on 14 May 1830; Rockingham was successfully piloted through the Challenger Passage into Cockburn Sound to anchor. A week later, still awaiting disembarkation, a raging northwesterly drove Rockingham onto the beach in a days-long wild welcome. This left Peel’s newest settlers wet, bedraggled and discouraged – not at all what they had imagined. Even worse, Peel’s settlers from the Gilmore and Hooghly, who had arrived months before, were still living miserably under canvas by the beach at ‘Peel Town’.
By the end of November 1830, Peel’s scheme had completely collapsed. Officially released from their obligations to Peel, some settlers escaped to the settled Fremantle and Perth communities. Others fled the colony for Hobart Town, as and when they could get passage. Edward Shaw got away in August 1830, but the Rawlings family not until January. So it was that on 30 January 1831 that Charles Rawlings, 36, carpenter of Sherborne in Dorset, and wife Charlotte, 35, sailed up the Derwent aboard the Eagle with their four children: Louisa (almost 13), Ann (nine), James (seven), and Sarah (four). Sadly, they had to leave little George (one) behind them in the make-shift cemetery back of the beach at Peel Town.
Within two years Rawlings had been granted a town allotment lying between Macquarie and Davey Streets just above Antill Street. There he built a large two-storey house (others followed) where they lived for the remainder of their lives: Charles died in 1851, Charlotte in 1865.
With Hobart Town’s continued growth, the demand for Rawlings’ skills during the 1840s ensured his gradual rise to prosperity. This was marked by his increasing role as mortgagee, as well as builder, and culminated (perhaps) in his purchase in 1849 of a ship (Camilla), then apparently a necessary accessory for every successful businessman. During his brief ownership, Rawlings engaged Camilla in trans-Tasman shipping. Fifty years later, in a weird twist of fate, Camilla was plying Fremantle Harbour as a lighter. In 1903 it was deliberately wrecked in Cockburn Sound, 80 metres off Challenger Beach, about where Rockingham first anchored in the Sound before being beached in the gale of
May 1830.
But what of the Hillside at Kingston Beach? Rawlings bought this hundred-acre property from James McKevitt in October 1837. Why? Perhaps owning this ‘country estate’ signified his aspiration to prosperity as much as being an investment?
There’s no sign that any of the Rawlings ever actually lived on this ‘farm’. What evidence there is suggests Rawlings leased it to various tenants, possibly beginning with William Charles Smith (once a draper, then briefly a publican). Although no tenancy was mentioned when Rawlings bought the Hillside, Smith held the lease until December 1839, when he was forced to give it up in partial settlement of his insolvency.
Three months earlier, while Smith was Rawlings’ tenant, Hillside farm’s cottage was licensed as the new Beach Tavern to Joseph Beaumont. Like Smith, Beaumont fell into financial strife, forcing him into a sheriff’s sale and the transfer of his license to Frederick Longey, in February 1840. Although Longey’s license was renewed in September 1840, he must have given it up by the following June when Rawlings advertised Hillside ‘for sale or let’. It didn’t sell and Rawlings’ subsequent application for a license in his own name was refused in September 1841. This finished the Beach Tavern.
Rawlings again offered Hillside “to be let, sold or exchanged” in July 1842. His advertisement describes it as “a FARM of 100 acres of capital Land at Brown’s River, where there has been considerable outlay in fencing and making roads; it is a good situation for boatmen, a first-rate one for an inn, or any one industriously inclined. A better prospect is scarcely to be met with of realising a handsome
independence…”
The mention of roads here suggests that Rawlings was the one who laid out the original course of Roslyn Avenue, from one end of Hillside to the other, probably during the summer of 1841/42, and perhaps also renovated the house? Probably he found another tenant for it, since the advertisement wasn’t repeated and he still owned the property when he died in 1851.
He willed this property to his elder son James, who had shifted to the mainland several years earlier, before becoming a successful railway coach builder in Melbourne. With his interests lying elsewhere when his father died, James Rawlings sold the Hillside farm in 1854 to the rector of St. Clements, Reverend Edward Freeman.

Earning a crust
Anyone interested in genealogy or history in general will have come across occupations that require a little investigation. For instance, a ‘cab driver’ in times past did not drive a shiny black taxi cab around London but was more likely to drive a horse-drawn ‘Hansom cab’. 
Why ‘Hansom’? The vehicle was named after its inventor Joseph Aloysius Hansom. Originally called the ‘Hansom safety cab’, it was designed in 1824 to combine speed with safety, with a low centre of gravity for safe cornering. Cab is a shortening of cabriolet, reflecting the design of the carriage. The cab replaced the hackney carriage as a vehicle for hire. With the introduction of clockwork mechanical taximeters to measure fares, the name became taxicab.
‘Ag lab’ is a term which often appears on old documents, especially UK census records. It is an abbreviation of ‘agricultural labourer’.  Agriculture in the 19th and early 20th centuries was labour intensive and seasonal. According to Who Do You Think You Are magazine, “Many agricultural labourers did not have security and were employed on
a casual or annual basis, having to supplement their family income by women and children working in cottage industries such as lacemaking or straw-plaiting.
“During Queen Victoria’s reign about half the population relied on agriculture for their livelihood, despite England being a progressive industrial society.
“Many local occupations supported the agricultural community, including blacksmiths, wheelwrights, and millers, each of them reliant upon the prosperity of the agricultural community, which suffered a number of
economic depressions.”
Wheelwright is an occupation that comes up a lot, possibly handed from father to son, in my own family. Wheelrights built wheels from wood, originally with a wooden rim but later with
a metal one.
Many old occupations have disappeared for various reasons.  Anyone who watches historical documentaries will have been amused by the ‘groom of the stool’, who, from Tudor times, dealt with all the English king’s toilet-related needs. The groom would accompany the king to the toilet – a bowl of water and towel in tow. While the job might sound (literally) crappy, it was a powerful position. Because of the intimacy involved, it was common for the groom of the stool to become one of the king’s closest confidantes. The role gradually evolved into an administrative one.
Coal mines featured heavily as places of employment in our ancestors’ times. In the early 1800s, some tunnels were only 2 feet (70cm) high. Coal was transported up these tunnels in baskets, which were pushed and pulled along a system of rails. The people doing the pushing and pulling were known as ‘hurriers’, small boys or girls, sometimes as young as four. Because the tunnels were so tight, many hurriers pushed the coal by crawling.
In the UK it was not until 1842 that the Children’s Employment Commission drew up an act of parliament that prescribed
a minimum working age for boys in mines, though the age varied between districts and even between mines. The Mines and Collieries Act 1842 also outlawed the employment of women and girls in mines.
In 1870 it became compulsory for all children aged between five and 13 to go to school, ending much of the ‘hurrying’. It was still a common profession for school leavers well into the 1920s.
Another occupation we no longer hear of is a ‘sluggard-waker’.
It was often difficult to keep eyelids open during a dull sermon, especially for those doing long hours of manual work. In 18th-century England, this was remedied by the ‘sluggard-waker’, a man whose job was to prowl the pews and wake sleepy parishioners, sometimes by hitting them over the head with a brass-tipped stick.
Some readers will be old enough to remember the night soil men? Night soil is a historically used euphemism for human excreta collected from cesspools, privies, pail closets, pit latrines, privy middens, septic tanks and so on.
This material was removed from the immediate area, usually at night, by night soil men. Sometimes it could be transported out of towns and sold on as
a fertiliser. Just one of the jobs of yesteryear that makes office life seem suddenly appealing.
Marian Hearn

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