Thursday, 3 September 2015

Charles Endersbee’s link to Tasmania’s convict past



Ship Manlius, attrib. Fitz Henry Lane, c.1865


Charles Endersbee’s maternal great-grandfather, Horatio Wilks, was born in Market Drayton in Shropshire. In April 1828 he was transported to Van Diemen’s Land for 7 years. He had stolen fourteen hats from a warehouse. It was his third conviction. He’d previously been in prison for stealing linen and stealing marble.

Twenty-nine year old Horatio Wilks left behind his wife Rosanna and children in their home city of Liverpool. Many years after his enforced voyage, his daughter Caroline made her own way to Australia with two of her children. It was 1856, thirty-two years after her father’s departure, and she was going to join her husband Thomas Endersbee on the Victorian goldfields. It is not known whether her father was still alive, or whether they ever met again.

It was not long before Thomas and Caroline Endersbee relocated to the Newlands area of Coburg where Thomas is reputed to have set up as the first quarryman in the area. Here they raised their family, including Thomas George, who was our soldier Charles’ father.

Thomas Endersbee junior married Sarah Jane Daley at Pentridge (as Coburg was then known) in October 1867 and they settled at 74 Bell Street, Coburg, just near the Public Hall and Shire Offices, where the Moreland Municipal Offices are today. He was a warder at Pentridge and in those times warders had to live within hearing distance of the bell at Pentridge, so this was a perfect location. The seven Endersbee children, including Charles, were raised in Bell Street.

In 1888, grandmother Caroline Endersbee (nee Wilks) died at West Newlands and the year after grandfather Thomas died, leaving an estate of £1,152. For the daughter of a convict, Caroline had done well. It is doubtful that the family who stayed behind in England could say the same.

2900 Private Charles Endersbee, 32nd Infantry Battalion (on nominal roll. (51st Btn, 7th Reinfs. on embarkation roll) 



From the Coburg State School Soldiers' Book, page 30.


In 1903 Thomas Endersbee junior died and Charles, our future soldier, lived at home for a while, before making his way to Western Australia, where worked as a labourer on the railways. In 1916, he was living at the 257-Mile Camp, Trans-Australian Railway in the Kalgoorlie area. In July 1916, aged 39, he enlisted at Kalgoorlie and set sail from Fremantle on 9 November 1916. He went to France in 1917 and survived the war without injury.
On his return to Australia in June 1919, he lived briefly in Rodda Street, Coburg before returning to Western Australia where he died unmarried in April 1946.
The following extracts from West Australian newspapers in June 1923 give  an excellent glimpse of what Charles Endersbee’s working life was like. He was a caulker and ring setter based a few miles out of Canderin, working on a pipe track on the WA goldfields water scheme. Here he is giving evidence in the WA Arbitration Court regarding Government employees’ hours and wages. (He was employed by the Goldfields Water Supply Department.)

The West Australian, 28 June 1923, p.7.


The Daily News (Perth), 28 June 1923, p.8.




An interesting sideline:



The Van Diemen’s Land convict records are a rich resource and have been the subject of the long-running project called Founders and Survivors.

One of the very useful things that can be done using the convict records, which are available online through LINC Tasmania and the AIF records, which are available through the National Archives of Australia is compare the physical descriptions of different generations.
The first thing I noticed is that Horatio Wilks, convicted and transported in 1828, was 5 foot 9 ½ inches tall, had brown hair and hazel eyes. About 90 years later, his great-grandson, Charles Endersbee, was described as being 5 foot 9 inches tall, weighed 204 pounds, had reddish hair and blue eyes.  

Many more comparisons between male convicts and their AIF descendants are possible and the Founders and Survivors project has been doing just that in its Convicts to Diggers project. The Victorian team, led by Professor Janet McCalman is now embarking on a new project entitled ‘Diggers to Veterans: Risk, Resilience and Recovery’. This project will cover the period after the war and investigate what happened to the men of the AIF on their return to Australia.




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