In 2002, figures from the Office of National Statistics indicated there were only 39 Mewburns in the UK. Worldwide, the greatest concentration is now in Australia, followed by New Zealand and Canada.
The Australian population is the result of multiple migrations but the records are patchy and imprecise so it is not always possible to say exactly when these occurred.
These notes cover 13 occasions in the nineteenth century when Mewburns came to Australia. Two Meaburn migrations are dealt with separately.
1. John Mewburn 1810-1891
The first Mewburn ‘emigration’ was that of John Mewburn said to have been born in 1810. He was known as ‘Yorkshire Jack’ so that gives us a possible point of general origin, but no record for his birth is evident in that County. John was a transported convict. He was brought to trial at Beverley in the East Riding of Yorkshire during the summer of 1830, convicted on the 12th of July of receiving stolen goods and then sentenced to seven years transportation. He was transported on the Lady Harewood on the 15th of October 1830.
In Australia he married Mary Ann Bachelor from London. They went on to have ten children including three sons who perpetuated the line. That line continues to this day.
2. William Mewburn 1824-1900
William was the youngest of Thomas Mewburn and Mary Ann Buck’s children. Arguably he was the most adventurous as he was the first of the family to settle in Australia of his own volition. He had married Elizabeth Poulton at Manchester Cathedral on the 25th April 1848, but their first child, Emily, was born at Toorak, Victoria in 1850. There is a record of a couple arriving as assisted immigrants at Port Philip in New South Wales on the 7th January 1849 abord the Maitland from Gravesend. It describes them as “William Newburn, 25, labourer, of Leeds, Yorkshire and Elizabeth Newburn, 23, wife, of Leeds, Yorkshire.” Despite the misspelling there can be little doubt it was them.
3. Robert Wilkinson Mewburn 1827-1891
Robert was born 25 Feb 1827 at Stockton, Durham to Wilkinson Mewburn and Ann Mellanby.
He was convicted at Northallerton, Yorkshire on 9 April 1850 and sentenced to seven years transportation. The Convict Index describes him as a printer and clerk and other accounts claim he was convicted of “stealing boots and larceny”. He was transported aboard the Pyrenees, arriving at Western Australia in May 1853. Robert gained his ticket of leave on arrival and a pardon in 1851. His subsequent career as a schoolteacher at Mandurah is well documented.
He married Emma Eacott 16 Mar 1870. Emma had been one of his pupils and was barely 15 at the time. They had 10 children.
Robert died 19 Sep 1891. Emma was married again to George Woolams in 1897 and died at Fremantle in 1942, having outlived most of her children.
4. Thomas Mewburn 1816-1902
The younger Thomas Mewburn (1816-1902) of Hurworth, perhaps inspired by several years of accounts from his brothers, arrived at Sydney in 1854 then settled at Ballarat, Victoria, as did his sister Mary Ann (1818-1896). The Shalimar arrived at Brisbane in February 1855 with 8 Mewburns on board – Jane (Hurst), the wife of Thomas and her children, Alfred (1), William (3), Jane (6), George (7), Thomas (12), Mary (13) and Emma (15). Missing was James, who would have been about 9, and John the eldest at 16, but they had been sent in advance (one hopes into the care of William) and landed from the Tasmania in October 1853.
5. Mary Ann Mewburn 1818-1896
Mary Ann was the sister of the Hurworth boys. She married George Aldred, an innkeeper then green grocer, 10 May 1835 at Ainsworth in Lancashire and arrived on the Shalimar in 1854. Thomas Aldred, Mary Ann’s first son, was also on the Shalimar. Mary died at Ballarat, Victoria in 1896.
6. George Fox Bruce Mewburn 1817-1882
George was one of a family at St Germans in Cornwall descended from the Acomb line (a great grandson of Simon Mewburn and Mary Tulip). No date for his immigration has been found but it was an early passage and may well have been first to New Zealand since he married Marjory Aitken of Edinburgh there in 1840. His first daughter, Margaret Hannah, was born at Spring Bay, Tasmania in 1845. By 1856 he was on the electoral roll living at High Street, New Norfolk, Tasmania. He died at Hobart, Tasmania in 1882.
7. Henry John Mewburn 1816-1858
Henry John was one of the dynasty of London silversmithing Mewburns and was admitted to Freedom of the City of London by the Company of Goldsmiths on 03 July 1844 by right of his father Henry John (1796-1836).
He married Frances Friend at Islington in 1845 and they appear to be the only possible candidates for the Mr and Mrs Mewburn who travelled steerage on the Tam O’Shanter to Port Jackson, NSW, arriving on the 8th March 1848. He established his business in Sydney at Australia House on Market Street and by 1857 was living at 80 Hunter Street, Sydney. John died in December 1858 without leaving any children; Frances may have been remarried in 1860 to a Christopher Bennett.
8. Augustus William Mewburn 1820-1894
Augustus was brother to Henry John of the London silversmithing Mewburns. He was admitted to Freedom of the City of London by the Company of Goldsmiths on 06 December 1843 by right of his father Henry John (1796-1836). He was still living and working in London, unmarried, at the time of the 1851 census but had gone by 1861. The most likely record for his emigration is that for “Mr Mewburn 10 Oct 1854, Sydney NSW from Melbourne” aboard the London. It was an unassisted passage, and he travelled steerage.
Letters from the case over probate for his brother Joshua (who probably died in New Zealand) show that he left Sydney for the goldfields of Turon Diggings in April 1855 (there was a gold strike there in 1852 and an immediate gold rush). He was back in Sydney and wrote to his brother, Barak, in October 1859 describing how he had been travelling around the gold fields for four years.
He married Emma Fensum in Sydney in 1860 and established a jewellery business there. In 1862 they had bought a 17-room house – Wakatah House at Kiama – that they intended to operate as a boarding house, while he continued to sell watches and jewellery. His son Henry died of diarrhoea while they were moving house. A daughter, Emma Jane, was born in 1864 at Kiama. She remained single dying in 1941.
Augustus (“Bill”) died in 1894. Emma remarried.
9. Catherine Elizabeth Mewburn 1797-1872
The earliest-born Mewburn to live in Australia was Catherine Elizabeth, born 1797 in Demerara in what was then British Guiana. Catherine was the daughter of Thomas Mewburn (1768), believed to be descended from the Danby line, who went to Demerara as a planter. There he married Johanna de Bruyn. Catherine was their first daughter. She married a Scottish surgeon, Alexander McAllister, himself an immigrant to Demerara from Skye. They returned to Scotland to settle issues of inheritance then moved to Australia. There is a record for a “Dr McAllister” travelling from Glasgow to Sydney on the Mooltan in 1857, but alone. There is no very plausible record for Catherine unless she was the C McAllister travelling with Master McAllister to Sydney earlier in 1855 on the Governor General.
10. William Mewburn c1848-?
On 31 December 1877 the Trevelyan brought a family of Mewburn’s to New South Wales. William 29 was listed as a coal miner and travelled with Elizabeth, 27, Ellen, 6, William, 4, Francis, 2, and Thomas, I, an infant.
There is no trace of them in England and the record of their Australian arrival is smudged. They may in fact have been real Newburns.
11. William Alderson Mewburn 1856-1898
William was a descendant of the Armstrong Mewburn line of ship builders. He worked as a ship plater in Sunderland where, in 1874, he married Elizabeth Robson. They emigrated to Queensland with their four surviving children (two were already dead) and then had four more. It seems likely that William arrived at Melbourne on the Te Anau in December 1885.
12. Ernest Rutter Mewburn 1858-1928
Ernest was distantly linked to the Danby Mewburns but as the son of a miller turned station-master had no advantages. He joined the Royal Navy as a cook, married Catherine Kidd at Birkenhead in 1876 (where presumably he had docked at some point) and had four children at Liverpool in the next four years, three of whom died in infancy while the fourth died aged just seven.
His arrival in Australia has not been found though it must have been at some point in the early to mid-1880s. Further details are given later in this chapter.
13. Ralph Mewburn 1862-1923
Ralph arrived at Hobart on the Dora on 27 May 1891 (listed as a Gentleman) and died at Coogee, NSW in 1923 – with the index identifying his parents as William and Ann (William Henry Mewburn and Ann Bell of Blanchland from the ‘Stainton’ line). He married Charlotte Neumann in 1921, too late for a family. At his death he was identified as Ralph Rackstraw Dawson Pease Mewburn.