Dengate Shop Fire
Susannah Dengate c.1884, Australia
Susannah Dengate was born on the 30th October 1822 in Wittersham, Kent, the daughter of John and Sarah Dengate. She was baptised on the 27th November 1822 in the Wesleyan Chapel, Rye, East Sussex.
The former Wesleyan Chapel, Rye, East Sussex
In March 1838 when Susannah was 16 years old she set sail for a new life in Australia with her parents and siblings onboard the ship 'Westminster'. The family arrived three months later, landing in Sydney on 26 June 1838.
Once settled in Australia, John found employment as a fruit grower. At the age of 27, on 10 September 1850, Susannah married William Smith, a fruit grower like her father. The couple had four children: Rosina Susannah, Serina, Sarah Blanche and William John Smith.
Some time between 1836 and 1854 William Smith purchased a portion of his father's property on Governors Arms Road (now North Rocks Road). The land was just over 13 acres in area. Four years after the couple had married William died at the age of 41 on 10 March 1854 in his home in Pennant Hills, New South Wales. He was buried 12 March 1854. The following notice appeared in the 16 March 1854 Sydney Morning Herald:
'At his residence, Pennant Hills, on Friday last, March 10th, Mr William Smith, eldest son of William and Isabella Smith, in the 41st year of his age, leaving a wife and four children to deplore their loss.'
William's property was dispersed by the following Letter of Administration held at the New South Wales Probate Office: '19 April 1854. This day by Act of Court Administration of all and singular the goods and chattels credits and effects of William Smith was granted to Susannah Smith the widow of the deceased. Intestate died 10 March 1854. Goods sworn under £300. Letters of administration dated the 20th April 1854'.
On 14 January 1857 Susannah married for the second time to George Ward, who was noted as a widow. The marriage took place in St Andrews Scots Church, Sydney, New South Wales. George Ward had been employed as a mariner up to the point of his marriage to Susannah. He worked from 9 January 1854 on the Barque "Acacia", a 227 ton ship, where he was employed as Second Officer, until 28 March 1855. This ship plied between Sydney and Geelong in Victoria. George then went to work on the brigantine "Margaret" - a 142 ton ship with around 10 crew and between none and four passengers. He ceased working on this vessel in August 1856.
George and Susannah had four children together; Albert George, Cornelius Alfred, Lucy Mahala and Maude Eliza. After their marriage, George and Susannah moved out to Pennant Hills, where George took up fruit-growing on the 13 acres which Susannah had inherited from her first husband's estate. New South Wales Electoral Roles for the years 1859-60 and 1861-62 list Ward residing at Pennant Hills on a free- hold grant. An inventory of household effects prepared in 1864 paints an evocative image of George and Susannah's home. The scale of their fruit growing is also indicated in the items listed in the store room: kitchen, cooking stove, large table, seven chairs, couch, sundry knives, forks and spoons; sitting room, one table, chair, four pictures, clock; bedroom, bedstead and bedding, chair, extra bedding; bedroom, bedstead and bedding, table and glass; parlour, five can seated chairs, couch, round table, cupboard containing plates and glasses, table, large picture, lamp, chinnez, unit stand; bedroom, bedstead and bedding, chest of drawers, table and glass, washstand, child's cot, two boxes, one chair; store, eleven fruit cases, chaff cutter, approx 100lb of bacon and ham, a quantity of salt beef and pork, harness, spring cart and harness, common cart and harness, two horses, 28 flower pots, about 3000 dozen oranges on trees, 600 dozen...? on trees.
George Ward also leased a portion of land at Pennant Hills from Robert Smith (brother of Susannah's first husband) between 1 November 1862 and 1 May 1863, for a rent of £50 per annum. Unfortunately, George's efforts at fruit growing met with calamity after calamity and, as a result, he went bankrupt in 1864. A statement made by George during his bankruptcy hearings read:
'The reasons why I am compelled to sequestrate my estate for the benefit of my creditors are as follows viz. During the last four years I have had a succession of very heavy losses in the crops from the orchard occupied by me - my crops have been twice al- most entirely destroyed. Firstly by a very severe hailstorm and next by the ravages of flying foxes, and in consequence of the great abundance of fruit during the last and present season the prices therefore have been exceedingly low.'
On 9 May 1863, George Ward made the following statement with a Mr John Good:
This deed made the ninth day of May in the year one thousand eight hundred and sixty three between George Ward of Pennant Hills in the colony of New South Wales farmer on the one part and John Good of Parramatta in the Colony licensed Victualler of the other part witnesseth that the said George Ward having incurred debts and liabilities which he is at present unable to pay and discharge. Doth bargain sell assign and make over to the said John Good all his the said George Ward's crop of fruit growing and the crops of fruit which for the term of six years succeeding the date of this deed may grow in and upon the land and orchard of him the said George Ward. And also the horse and cart and all other goods chattels personal estate and effects of him the said George Ward upon trust to apply the proceeds of the sale of the said fruit crops and all other proceeds arising from the sale of the said fruit and orchard and other effects of the said George Ward. In the first place to provide a reasonable and proper maintenance and support of the said George Ward and his wife Susanna Ward and her family by him or by her former husband. And in the next place to apply the remainder of such proceeds as aforesaid for and towards the said debts now due and owing of the said George Ward in such saleable or other proportions as may be agreed upon by the creditors of the said George Ward. And after payment and liquidation of the said debts of the said George Ward to apply the remaining part of such proceeds of the said George Ward and the said Susanna Ward and her children as aforesaid. And the said John Good accepts the said trusts but is without responsibility beyond the carrying out the intention of this deed to the best of his ability and discretion. Signed: George Ward, John Good, Charles Bethel Lyons (Solicitor, Parramatta)
This arrangement, however, did not overcome Ward's financial difficulties and he went into voluntary sequestration the following year. On 17 Au- gust 1864 a warrant to the Sheriff in the New South Wales Supreme Court (Insolvency Division) was made out for serving on the estate of George Ward. The estate was placed under sequestration and, Mr John Piper Mackenzie was appointed Official Assignee. The Sheriff entered the property and placed an attachment on all Ward's possessions.
After the third meeting the Official Assignee placed a notice in the New South Wales Government Gazette advertising an auction to be held at the "Australian Arms Hotel" for the purpose of selling Ward's assets, namely the growing crop of oranges, two horses, carts and harness, wheelbarrow, 20 fruit cases, and a chaff cutter. However, the Official Assignee was threatened with legal action concerning the disposal of the fruit still on the trees on the farm at North Rocks. The action was taken by Susannah Ward through her solicitors Messrs Nor- ton and Baker who requested the withdrawal of the advertisement. Susannah's action was successful and the farm was not interfered with. These events were described in the Affidavit of Insolvent:
'I am living with my wife upon a farm and orchard which belonged to her former husband who died intestate leaving my said wife his widow and four children, three daughters and a son all of whom are still living. I am advised that the farm and orchard together with the growing crops thereon belong to the son of my wife's former husband and therefore have not included the farm orchard or crops in my schedule.'
Ward's debts amounted to £192-7-3 1/2. His assets (from the sale of his furniture, carts and horses) amounted to £124-101-0. George Ward died 21 August 1865 at North Rocks, New South Wales. He was buried the following day at the Protestant Cemetery, Pennant Hills, New South Wales. The cause of death was 'softening of the brain, dementia.' He was buried 22 August 1865 in St Paul's Church of England Cemetery, Carlingford. The tombstone has a carving on it with a nautical theme no doubt reflecting his earlier career on the sea.
After the death of Susannah's second husband, the family moved to Orange to live. The precise date of their move and the location of their residence in the town is not known, although it probably occurred between 1865 and 1872. Susannah worked as some kind of a farmer between the years 1872 and 1882.
Susannah died 26 February 1884 aged 61 years at 157 Eveleigh Street, Redfern, New South Wales. She was buried 27 February 1884 in the Wesleyan Cemetery, Parramatta, New South Wales. The following announcement appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday 27 February 1884:
'The friends of Mr William J. Smith are respectfully invited to attend the funeral of his late beloved mother, Mrs Susannah Ward, to move from his residence 157 Eveleigh Street, Redfern, this Wednesday afternoon at half past 1 o'clock, for Redfern Railway Station thence per 2.30pm train for Parramatta Station, leaving there at 3.30pm for Wesleyan Cemetery.
W.H. Wood and Son, Undertakers
307 George Street South and Darling Street - Balmain.'
It appears that after Susannah died the family wanted a photo to remember her by, so they dressed up the corpse, propped her up and took the photograph (top of this page). This bizarre practice is not as uncommon as one might imagine, occurring fairly frequently in the nineteenth century.
The cemetery in which Susannah was buried was converted into a memorial park by the Parramatta Council and her headstone removed.