Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Monday, December 18, 2017

Understanding the impact of sea level change in Aboriginal New England - a second note

This note briefly follows up on some of the issues I mentioned in Understanding the impact of sea level change in Aboriginal New England - a note.

Storegga Slides

In a comment on the post, JohnB referenced the three Storegga Slides, considered to be among the largest known landslides. Wikipedia states that they occurred under water, at the edge of Norway's continental shelf in the Norwegian Sea, approximately 6225–6170 BCE. The collapse involved an estimated 290 km (180 mi) length of coastal shelf, with a total volume of 3,500 km3 (840 cu mi) of debris, which caused a very large tsunami in the North Atlantic Ocean. In Scotland, traces of the tsunami associated with the last slide have been found, with deposited sediment being discovered in Montrose Basin, the Firth of Forth, up to 80 km (50 mi) inland and 4 m (13 ft) above current normal tide levels.

The Australian slides referred to in my note appear smaller, with the biggest one described as "several tens of kilometres across."  That would still have had a significant if more localised effect.

Climate Change and the Making of Britain. 

The last Storegga slide may have marked the final end of Doggerland (and here), the landbridge connecting England and the European mainland.

An brief article by Tate Greenhalgh and Lisa Hendry (The making of an island, Natural History Museum, 15 December 2017)  traces the interaction between climate, sea levels and Hominin occupation of what are now the British Isles over 950,000 years.

It's very simplified, but it is easy to read and provides an overview of the scale of change.

Post-glacial Sea Level Change in Australia

Following my earlier post, I found a very good review article, Lewis, S.E., et al., "Post-glacial sea-level changes around the Australian margin: a review", Quaternary Science Reviews (2012), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2012.09.006.

It's a very interesting article because of the way it consolidates the current state of the research on the pattern of sea level change and the reasons for  local variations over the period from the lowstand during the Last Glacial Maximum through to the Holocene highstand and then the relatively slight fall to the standstill sea level around the present level. It fills another gap in my research.

JohnB wondered if memories of landslip induced tsunamis might be found in Aboriginal oral history. I don't know. However, in an earlier article in The Conversation ( Ancient Aboriginal stories preserve history of a rise in sea level, January 13,  2015) by Nick Reid  and Patrick D. Nunn concludes that the memory of the impact of the sea rise was preserved in Aboriginal oral tradition.  

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Building a place in history - the remarkable story of builder and philanthropist George F Nott Part 2


Workers at Wade's brickworks Inverell: Sold to Ben Wade in 1909 and later moved, the brickworks was founded by William Nott before being extended by George F. Knott in the early 1900s. This, the forteenth in my series on New England's built landscape and architecture, is the second of four columns on the remarkable life of builder George Nott.  

Next post.

Builder and philanthropist George Frederick Nott was born on the Breeza Plains in 1865, the son of William Randolp (WR) Nott and his wife Mary Ann Northey. I do not know much  about the early life of the Notts.

WR was the son of ex-convict Thomas Edward Nott who had been transported on the “Elizabeth” in 1816. At Sydney Cove, Thomas had met and married currency lass Charity Evans, the daughter of former soldier and then free settler Thomas Evans and ex-convict Judith Francis Bidwell.

Thomas and Charity settled in the Lower Hunter where. WR was born at Maitland in 1839. There WR met and married Marry Anne before moving north, ending up in Inverell around 1878. 

WR was a skilled bricklayer with a love of the material and its application to building, something that his son George Frederick inherited. While timber still provided a core building material, the emerging commercial and professional classes in the growing New England towns demanded bricks, leading to the establishment of local brickworks.

WR prospered. He began making began making bricks on the banks of the Macintyre River at Inverell before establishing a site at nearby Goonowigall. Its not clear when George Frederick became involved in the business, but it seems likely that it happened at an early age.

By 1901, the now 36 year old was in charge of the facility. He had also established his own rapidly growing business empire in Armidale.

George Frederick was a skilled industrialist as well as builder. In 1901, the skilled brickmakers at Goonowigall could only make 1,000 bricks a day each, limiting production to 20,000 hand made bricks a week. Inverell was booming, and this was just not enough.

George Frederick began an expansion program, buying the adjoining Wellis’ brickyard and installing three new large kilns linked by a tramway. Production expanded from 20,000 to 70,000 bricks per week.

In 1909, George Frederick sold his Inverell brickworks to Ben Wade. He continued to build in Inverell, but his main industrial interests were now in Armidale. The brickworks he had established was moved to a new site in 1929, but continued to function until 1974.

In my next column in this series, I will look at George Frederick’s contribution to New England’s life and built landscape across three dimensions, as a builder, as and industrialist and as a philanthropist.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 6 December 2017. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here  2017.   


Monday, December 11, 2017

Understanding the impact of sea level change in Aboriginal New England - a note


Underwater landslip on the downward slope of the continental shelf off Byron Bay. New research shows a large number of such slips, many of which have occurred in the last 25,000 years. These were within the period of Aboriginal occupation of New England, a time of great changes in sea levels.    

Interesting article in The Conversation (11 December 2017) by Samantha Clarke, Hannah Power, Kaya Wilson and Tom Hubble, Scars left by Australia’s undersea landslides reveal future tsunami potential on evidence for sometimes large underwater landslides on the downward slope where the continental shelf  falls away to deeper water. This diagram from the article illustrates the process.


The focus in the article is on tsunami risk from future landslips. However, I was interested both in the undersea pictures and the reference to frequency over the last 25,000 year for this was a period of substantial sea level change.

Pattern of Sea Level Change

Without bogging down in dates,  the last ice age began about 110,000 years ago. Sea levels fluctuated, falling during glacial periods, rising during warmer interglacial periods. Around 40,000 years ago, sea levels were perhaps 50 metres below present levels. From around 36,000 years ago, the climate became cooler and drier. Then from around 25,000 years ago the climate deteriorated very significantly with spreading ice sheets globally. This climatic regime peaked during what is called the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), 21,000 to 15,000 years ago.

As more water turned to ice, sea levels fell significantly, bottoming around 18,000 years ago at perhaps 120-130 metres below present levels. At this height, parts of the continental shelf slope break line could have been 20-30 metres above water.

The LGM began to ease around 15,000 years ago. The North American ice sheets melted. Around 12,000 years ago, the Antarctic ice sheets began to shrink. The Holocene with its higher rainfall and warmer temperatures had begun. The seas rose and rose again, reaching present levels around 6,000 years ago, a total sea level rise of 120-130 metres over 9,000 years.  .

The erosive effects as the sea rose onto and then submerged the continental shelf must have been very considerable. I wondered what the connection might be between the number of identified slips and this sea level rise. Whether triggered by earth movements or erosion, the bigger slips could have had significant localised impacts.

Discussion

My own research focuses on the broader New England. At the moment, my best estimate is that the Aborigines reached the area perhaps 31-32,000 years ago. We do not have hard evidence for this, but the time is consistent with the pattern of dates that we do have. This means that the climatic and sea level changes described above are of considerable importance. However, we need to understand the local pattern of change if we are draw tentative conclusions about their impact on Aboriginal life. The absence of relevant local material has been a considerable frustration.

The Clarke et al article provides another little building block. In checking the latest material, I also found a 2010 paper that I had not seen before: Alan Jordan, Peter Davies, Tim Ingleton, Edwina Foulsham, Joe Neilson and Tim Pritchard,  Seabed habitat mapping of the continental shelf of NSW, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water NSW, Sydney 2010. This focuses on the current seabed habitat along the NSW, but it contains some of the best local descriptions that I have seen of the shape of the continental shelf.

I have not had time to absorb this properly. I am referencing it here as a record for later study.


Wednesday, December 06, 2017

New England's built landscape - the remarkable story of builder and philanthropist George F Nott Part 1



University of New England graduation. In April 1936, opponents to its establishment had the numbers in the NSW Cabinet to strike it down. They would have succeeded without instant financial support for the proposed College from builder, industrialist and philanthropist George F Nott. This, the thirteenth in my series on New England's built landscape and architecture, is the first of four columns on the remarkable life of George Nott.  

Next post. Building a place in history - the remarkable story of builder and philanthropist George F Nott Part 2

The built landscape we have to today reflects the combined effort of owners, architects, trades people and their supporting workers and the builders who coordinated the construction process. Of those builders, George Frederick Nott was arguably the most important as a builder and as a philanthropist.

It is late April 1936. Fund raising for the proposed New England University College is lagging, opposition to the concept increasing. The NSW Stevens-Bruxner Government is being affected by internal rivalries within the United Australia (now Liberal) Party as Deputy UAP Leader Eric Spooner begins to move against Premier Bertram Stevens.

At a Cabinet meeting, a minister suddenly moves out of the blue “that the item – a University College for Armidale – be struck off the Cabinet list”. We do not know who the minister was, but it seems probable that it was Spooner.

The College’s main protagonist, Education Minister and member for Armidale David Drummond, had been ambushed. Stevens was on leave with Country Party Leader Bruxner acting as Premier. Bruxner was in a difficult position trying to manage the increasing factional divides within the UAP, as well as relations between the UAP and Country Party.

Recognising that if the motion succeeded the university college proposal was dead, Drummond desperately talked out time until the lunch break. But what to do?

Knowing that George Nott was in town, Drummond went to him for help. If this resolution is carried, Drummond pleaded, “not only Armidale, but the whole of the north would lose the greatest opportunity it had ever had.

Nott’s reaction was swift and generous. “Is £1,000 any good to you? I will give you £500 in cash, and another £500 in bricks the day the job is started.”

When Cabinet resumed, Drummond’s colleague took up his papers with an air of finality, and said, “Well, Mr Chairman, I think we had better settle this matter now”.

“Pardon me”, Drummond interposed, “but within fifteen minutes of leaving this room I raised £1000. If the Government will give a firm undertaking to go ahead, the northern people will do their part. I am sure we can get the rest of the £10,000”.

Battles still lay ahead, there would be other threats, but the day had been won.

While critical to the final establishment of the New England University College, George F Nott’s quick and generous reaction was only part of his contribution to New England life, including its built architecture. That contribution was truly remarkable.

Over the next few columns, I will take the life of George F Nott as an entry point to further explore New England’s built landscape and architecture and the life that created it.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 29 November 2017. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here  2017.   

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Remembering our stories: Drummond family wedding in Armidale

This is the twelfth in my series on New England's built landscape and architecture.

Over the last eleven columns I have explored New England’s built landscape and architecture. There is more to say. However, last week I was back in the North after a longish break. This caused me to reflect on aspects of the present and its links to our shared past.

History is about stories, those we chose to remember, those we chose to forget and some that are just forgotten with the passage of time. Each story is multifaceted, capable of being told in different ways, meaning different things to different people.


  Shared past: A 1955 Drummond family wedding, this Armidale Federation style house is a rare example of the form expressed in weatherboard.

This is a photo of a Drummond family wedding from 1955. To family members, it is a story in itself, a reminder of our shared past.

Three of the four Drummond girls are at the front. Edna, the oldest, was ill in hospital. David Drummond stands on the steps to the left. His wife Pearl is on the verandah with members of the groom’s family.

At a second level, the photo is something of a period piece, an example of an important ceremonial occasion. While most major Armidale Federation style houses are brick, this house is a rare example of the form expressed in weatherboard.

As with so many of the larger South Hill houses built in the second half of the nineteenth century, the front of the house with its steps and high verandahs faces south, looking out over the back gardens and tennis court to the city beyond. The street entrance in Mann Street is at the back of the house.

As a regional historian, I see part of my role as interesting and involving those living in New England with their own past. We necessarily live in the present, concerned with problems of work, life, careers, family, school and studies.

One side effect is that our past slips away, especially for new people who do not have a direct lineal connection with that past. The stories that link the present and past are forgotten. Local and regional historians try to redress this.

But I also see part of my role as making New England history interesting and accessible to those outside the North who may have no connection with the area. I believe that out stories are relevant to the broader sweep of Australian history and indeed beyond.

There are practical economic reasons for doing this beyond the questions of interest and relevance in the history itself. Our history draws people to the North and could draw more if it were better known.

Not all visitors are interested in history. Some do come just for the history, including the built landscape and architecture. More come for other reasons, but then sample the history while here.

The more stories we have, the better we tell them, the greater the visitor experience. Our history should be seen as it is, a resource to develop and manage to attract and enrich.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 22 November 2017. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here  2017.   

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

New England's built landscape - Armidale's Brown Street a microcosm of architectural styles


Revival: Built in 1904 for George Baker by George F Nott, architect Ranclaud of Tamworth, Birida is a classic statement of the Queen Anne Revival style.. This is the eleventh in my series on New England's built landscape and architecture.


I said that each of the New England centres had their own style reflecting the period at which they were built.

In Armidale’s case, the old city is predominantly Victorian with a strong admixture of Federation styles. There are also Georgian overlays in things such as the symmetrical rooflines that persisted into the Federation period.

The first vernacular colonial slab and bark buildings clustered around Rusden, Beardy and Dumaresq streets. By the mid 1850s, these were being replaced by a more sophisticated vernacular form with dressed timbers and shingle roofs. Very few if any of these buildings survive.

While brick was available, timber would continue to be an important building material into the twentieth century especially (but not always) in the more modest dwellings. For that reason, a number of architectural styles can be found expressed in timber, including the California Bungalow. style that forms such an important part of the Armidale streetscape.

As wealth increased, the still small merchant and professional class began to build bigger houses on South Hill from Barney to Mann Street. These generally faced north to catch the sun with views over the town.

Workmen’s cottages were also required. By 1870 inns, stores, blacksmiths shops and small factories had developed on the western edge of town including Barnett A Moses substantial tannery. The coming of the railway accelerated this trend. Armidale west of Jessie Street became the working class area.

Armidale’s Brown Street provides a microcosm of all the different styles, one that you can walk or drive using Dr John Ferry’s 2007 book, Brown Street Armidale NSW 2350 as a guide.

The street is book ended by two of Armidale’s most iconic buildings, the railway station in the west, the Armidale School in the east. Opened in 1883, the railway station is an outstanding example of the high Victorian architecture that marked so many railway stations of the period.

The main Armidale School building opened ten years later. Designed by architect Sir John Sulman, it is a Federation Queen Anne style building with both arts and crafts and Victorian elements.


First house: Built in 1863 by builder John Barnes and then sold to Joseph Scholes, Newton Terrace now Marsh House was the first house in Armidale's Brown Street area, laying the basis for the fashionable mansions that would follow.  

The development of Brown Street began when early Armidale builder John Barnes built a house on spec in 1863 and then sold it to successful Armidale businessman Joseph Scholes who named it Newton Terrace. The house survives today as Marsh House.

From this point, development extended along the street. From the railway station to Jessie Street the houses generally began as workmen’s cottages. From Jessie Street you find the more substantial residences that with their counterparts in Mann and Barney Streets form one of Armidale’s most significant architectural precincts.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 15 November 2017. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here  2017.  

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Don's Maps - a useful site for those interested in palaeolithic archaeology (and bushwalking)

Chatting to Don Hitchcock at drinks in Armidale last Saturday, I discovered that he had a website, Don's Maps, providing resources for the study of palaeolithic European, Russian and Australian archaeology. It also includes some of John's tramping adventures. He is a dedicated bushwalker. The photo shows Don on a European field trip.

Back home, I had a chance to browse. It's a very useful and interesting site that I have added to my must-read list. Do have an explore. Navigation is quite easy. You can also use his photos with appropriate recognition.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

New England's built landscape - the towns build their identity


Grand designs: Opened December 1904, Armidale's Richardson's is perhaps the grandest example of the old department stores that form part of the urban streetscape in many New England towns. This is the tenth in my series on New England's built landscape and architecture.


Each town in New England has its own history reflected in that town’s built landscape.

Tamworth, for example, began as two villages, one a private Australian Agricultural Company town, the second a government settlement. That slowed urban growth, as did the locking up of land in the big pastoral runs which impeded farming on the rich Liverpool Plains. It wasn’t until the Great Northern Railway reached Tamworth in 1878 that growth really accelerated.

While Armidale lacked Tamworth’s rich agricultural hinterland, it also faced fewer constraints to growth. Its role as an administrative and then educational centre provided a base for growth that can be seen in the city’s buildings and especially the largely Victorian period old city that forms the core of the heritage area. Armidale has very fine Federation buildings, but the Victorian feel remains.

Inverell is different again. Its main building period was later, the first two decades of the twentieth century.

"Inverell also suffered more than any other Northern town from a fire problem."

Inverell also suffered more than any other Northern town from a fire problem. The town was largely built of wood, while the water supply was inadequate. There were major fires in the central business district in 1900, 1901, 1902, 1913, 1914 and 1916.

The great Otho Street fire that broke out on 22 April 1902 destroyed 23 shops and businesses in 15 buildings. The Byron Street fire of 1914 destroyed 11 businesses in four buildings.

Inverell was booming because of mining and the growth of closer settlement. People rebuilt on larger scale in brick. The now prized central Inverell streetscape with its solidly constructed, ornamented, two story buildings dates from this time.

The first buildings in these little settlements were inns and stores with a smattering of official buildings. With time, professionals were attracted, along with other workers. A hierarchy of buildings emerged as wealth accumulated.


Snapshot of the past: Built in the 1880s, the former Trim & Co store is Armidale's oldest surviving retail store building

John Trim came to Armidale in 1838 as a convict assigned to Crown Land Commissioner Macdonald. Granted a ticket of leave, he returned to Armidale around 1846 and built a store near a ford over Dumaresq Creek. In 1856, he added a bridge to attract traffic.

With increasing wealth, he opened a second store on the old Great Northern Road in the 1880s. This survives today minus its original verandahs as Armidale’s oldest commercial building. When John Trim died in 1892, the former convict was an alderman, a former mayor and left an estate valued at £12, 000.

John Trim was not the only merchant to achieve success. In most Northern towns, the old department stores are some of the most significant surviving buildings.

Perhaps the most iconic example is Armidale’s Richardson building. Opened in December 1904, Richardson’s was Armidale’s dominant department store for almost 100 years. 
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 8 November 2017. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here  2017.  

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

New England's built landscape - building order in the bush

Vision: John James Galloway, the surveyor who created the core street patterns for many inland New England towns.This is the ninth in my series on New England's built landscape and architecture.


The golden age of New England homestead construction that began in the 1800s and extended to the outbreak of the First World War also saw expansion in town building.

Like the homesteads, the first town buildings were roughly constructed from timber slabs with bark roofs near main tracks and water supplies. Those little centres were straggly places.

At Armidale, the biggest Northern settlement outside the lower Hunter in 1851, horse races were held in the dusty main street, while stringybark huts dotted the landscape. It was a rough and ready male dominated place. Order needed to be imposed.

To the Government in Sydney, order was necessary to allow proper registration of land title and collection of revenue from land sales. The Government was also concerned about the development of private as opposed to official townships. Surveyors were appointed to undertake the necessary mapping.

Born in Leith, Scotland, in 1818, John James Galloway came to Australia with his family in 1837. In 1847 he was appointed surveyor for New England and Gwydir and setting about his task of imposing order. In so doing, he created the basic grid structure that would underpin the later streetscape in inland New England.

Sometimes he had to compromise. When he surveyed Armidale in 1848, Galloway had to deal with existing buildings. The grid was meant to run north-south, east west, but Galloway was forced to shift this slightly to accommodate those building, giving Armidale streets in the old city that slight skew that exists today.

The area covered by the grid pattern that would become the Armidale municipality and then city was limited in size to a bit over 3.2 square miles, 2,060 acres, on the old measurement. It remained this way until 1961 when the city boundaries were finally extended.

You can see the effects today if you look at a map. The old city grid is clearly evident, set within the more varied surround of later developments.

A government desire for order was not the only force at work. In social terms, the male oriented frontier society was progressively replaced by families who (and especially the women) demanded an ordered society and increasing comfort. Shops, schools and churches were needed, while those who could afford it began to demand bigger, more ornate dwellings.

The result was a period of town construction that gave us much of the built landscape that we value today. To a degree, the pattern of that built landscape is all about money, as well as time, materials and changing fashion and technology..

In my next column, I will look further at the evolution of that built landscape.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 1 November 2017. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here  2017.  

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Designs with success in mind - grand designs of New England


Langford, Walcha: Completed in 1904 and designed by Maitland architect J W Scobie for grazier William Fletcher, the 22-room Langford with its five-storey tower is an assertion of prosperity and success.This is the eighth in my series on New England's built landscape and architecture. 


The new homestead construction across the North that began in the 1880s accelerated into the 1890s and the early part of the twentieth century. This was also a period of substantial building activity within the towns. Many of the buildings now so prized by local communities date from this period.

The 1880s saw the construction of Stonehenge near Glen Innes(1887), St Aubins at Scone (18817-90), Saumarez(1888 stage one) and Booloominbah (1899) at Armidale.

Homesteads constructed during the 1890s include Moonby House near Tamworth, Clerness, Torryburn and Abington near Bundarra. In the 1900s construction included Langford at Walcha, Inverell’s Blair Athol, Gostwck near Uralla, Belltrees at Scone, Waterloo, Palmerston at Armidale and King’s Plain’s Castle near Glen Innes.

There were many more, including more modest if still substantial constructions such as The Croft (c1886-90) near Armidale.

We are now firmly in the age of the architect.. Today we forget just how important Maitland was as the North’s first big town. By 1861, its population had reached 8,922. It would be 1870 before Newcastle equalled Maitland in population.

The majority of private clients wishing to use architects chose from either Sydney or Maitland.

In building Booloominbah, the grandest of the new homes, Frederick White chose Sydney based John Horbury Hunt as his architect.. In building Saumarez, his nephew Frederick chose Maitland’s John Wiltshire Pender. J W Pender was also chosen by the Hunter Valley Whites to design Belltrees.

Arguably the most prominent Northern architect in the colonial era, J W Pender was born in Scotland in 1833 and trained as an architect at the Royal Academy in Inverness. In 1863 he established his architectural practice at Maitland, building a big practice whose clients extended as far north as Armidale.

Pender was not the only influential Maitland architect. Another was the prize winning architect J W Scobie who was commissioned by William Fletcher to design a mansion suitable for his growing wealth and success.

Completed in 1904, Langford is a rather spectacular grand two story building constructed of locally produced red brick, featuring 22 rooms and a five story central tower that overlooks the circular entrance driveway and extensive surrounding gardens.

The majority of the bigger homesteads were built of brick, although Stonehenge south of Glen Innes is a rare example of concrete construction. The architectural styles adopted generally reflected prevailing fashions across the three decades that marked the height of the building period.

I will look at those changing styles next week and also introduce you to the changing patterns of urban architecture. 
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 25 October 2017. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here  2017. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

New England's built landscape - a new wave of mansions begins


Aberglasslyn House: The monumental Georgian pile designed by architect John Verge for George Hobler remained unfinished following Hobler’s insolvency in the crash of the early 1840s. This is the seventh in my series on New England's built landscape and architecture. 


The economic collapse in the early 1840s that followed the excesses of the previous two decades brought to an end the first phase of mansion building.

At Aberglasslyn outside Maitland, Aberglasslyn House, the monumental Georgian pile designed by architect John Verge for George Hobler, remained unfinished following Hobler’s insolvency.

At Dalwood, George Wyndham took his family north in search of new opportunities, leaving Dalwood House vacant for a number of years. At Port Macquarie, Lake Innes House went into decline as Archibald Clunes Innes’ financial difficulties worsened.

While severe, the downturn was relatively short and was followed by four decades of economic expansion. Wool prices were good, while the gold rushes created a demand for meat and other agricultural products. With greater security and more funds, the squatters began to invest in new homesteads.


 Yugilbar Castle: It took Ogilvie and his German workers six years and £8,000 to complete the 40 room dwelling to Ogilvie’s satisfaction.

In 1859, Edward Ogilvie returned from Europe with his new wife. Determined to establish a home that would match his dynastic ambitions, in 1860 he began construction to his own somewhat idiosyncratic design of the building that would become known as Yugilbar Castle.

Built from local materials with imported decorations and finishings, it took Ogilvie and his German workers six years and £8,000 to complete the forty room dwelling to Ogilvie’s satisfaction.

Another surviving homestead from this period is Strathbogie near Glen Innes. Built for Hugh Gordon in 1868 to a design by Sydney architect John C Dury, the twin gabled homestead is built from local pink granite.

In 1861, the passage of the first Robertson Land Act had a significant effect on the New England built landscape. The legislation was intended to break up the big squatting stations making land available for closer settlement, but had two opposing effects.

Some land was opened for closer settlement. The free selectors had to occupy and improve their blocks, leading to the creation of smaller and simpler homesteads, the development of new small settlements. We can still see this pattern in the local landscape.

While some land was open to closer settlement, the squatters were also able to use the legislation to expand their own freehold title, using a variety of sometimes dubious techniques such as dummying. This involved sponsoring someone to select land on the basis that they would subsequently sell it back to the squatter.

These actions came at a cost, leaving station owners with smaller runs, more freehold title, but also greater debts that had to be serviced. As debt reduced, the now second generation owners began to plan new homesteads.

The result was something of a building boom, creating some of the bigger mansions that now form such a prominent part of the built landscape.

 Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 18 October 2017. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here 2017. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A note on the latest DNA results for Tianyaun Man.

Regular commenter JohnB pointed me to this piece by Ann Gibbons in Science that I had missed, Was this ancient person from China the offspring of modern humans and Neandertals?
(Oct. 12, 2017).

Tianyuan Cave (photo) is near modern Beijing. In 2007 researchers found human remains radio carbon dated to between 42,000 and 39,000 years ago. That is well after the first groups of Aboriginal people arrived in Australia. Now the results of new DNA analysis have been published in Current Biology. The formal summary of results follows. Further comments follow the summary.
Summary 
By at least 45,000 years before present, anatomically modern humans had spread across Eurasia, but it is not well known how diverse these early populations were and whether they contributed substantially to later people or represent early modern human expansions into Eurasia that left no surviving descendants today. Analyses of genome-wide data from several ancient individuals from Western Eurasia and Siberia have shown that some of these individuals have relationships to present-day Europeans while others did not contribute to present-day Eurasian populations. As contributions from Upper Paleolithic populations in Eastern Eurasia to present-day humans and their relationship to other early Eurasians is not clear, we generated genome-wide data from a 40,000-year-old individual from Tianyuan Cave, China, to study his relationship to ancient and present-day humans. We find that he is more related to present-day and ancient Asians than he is to Europeans, but he shares more alleles with a 35,000-year-old European individual than he shares with other ancient Europeans, indicating that the separation between early Europeans and early Asians was not a single population split. We also find that the Tianyuan individual shares more alleles with some Native American groups in South America than with Native Americans elsewhere, providing further support for population substructure in Asia and suggesting that this persisted from 40,000 years ago until the colonization of the Americas. Our study of the Tianyuan individual highlights the complex migration and subdivision of early human populations in Eurasia. 
Melinda A. Yang, Xing Gao, Christoph Theunert, Haowen Tong, Ayinuer Aximu-Petri, Birgit Nickel, Montgomery Slatkin, Matthias Meyer, Svante Pääbo, Janet Kelso, Qiaomei Fu, 40,000-Year-Old Individual from Asia Provides Insight into Early Population Structure in Eurasia, Current Biology, Volume 27, Issue 20, p3202–3208.e9, 23 October 2017
Recognising my knowledge limitations, I drew the following main points from the latest results. My indebtedness to Anne will be clear if you look at her article. :
  • The date ranges mean that Tianyaun Man. is probably at least 20,000 years younger than the first Aboriginal occupation of Sahul, the name given to the bigger Australian continent when sea levels were lower.
  • The DNA results show elements of Neanderthal genes but no trace of the Denisovan genes to be found in Aboriginal DNA. On the basis (as seems to be the case) that the Denisovans were reasonably widely spread across Eurasia, this suggests to my mind that  Tianyaun Man came from a later migration wave,
  • Tianyuan Man shares DNA with one ancient European—a 35,000-year-old modern human from Goyet Caves in Belgium. But he doesn’t share it with other ancient humans who lived at roughly the same time in Romania and Siberia—or with living Europeans.
  •  Tianyuan Man is most closely related to living people in east Asia—including in China, Japan, and the Koreas—and in Southeast Asia, including Papua New Guinea and Australia.This suggests that the Tianyuan Man was not a direct ancestor, but rather a distant cousin, of a founding population in Asia that gave rise to present-day Asians. 
  • Tianyuan Man was a distant relative of Native Americans living today in the Amazon of South America, such as the Karitiana and Surui peoples of Brazil and the Chane people of northern Argentina and southern Bolivia. But he is not an ancestor to ancient or living Native Americans in North America, which suggests there were two different source populations in Asia for Native Americans. 
Postscript 28 October: 2017

Current Anthropology has an interesting article by Professor Robin Dennell, "Human Colonization of Asia
in the Late Pleistocene: The History of an Invasive Species" (Current Anthropology Volume 58, Supplement 17, December 2017) The summary reads:
 Narratives of “Out of Africa 2”—the expansion of Homo sapiens across Asia—emphasize the pattern of human dispersal but not the underlying processes. In recent years, the main debates have been over the timing and frequency of dispersal. Here, I treat these issues as subordinate to biogeographic ones that affected the behavior of humans in Asia as an invasive species that colonized new environments and had negative impacts on indigenous hominins. I suggest that attention should focus on three issues: (i) geographic factors that molded human dispersal across Asia, (ii) behavioral changes that enabled humans to overcome previously insurmountable barriers, and (iii) demographic considerations of human dispersal and colonization of Asia, including interactions with indigenous competitors. Although a strong case can be made that humans dispersed across southern Asia before 60 ka, this should not detract from attention on the underlying processes of dispersal and colonization.
I found the article provided a useful summary framework. The geographic analysis in particular filled a gap in my knowledge The MIS in the paper, by the way, stands for Marine isotope stage. I wasn't really familiar with the term so looked it up. According to Wikipedia:

 Marine isotope stages (MIS), marine oxygen-isotope stages, or oxygen isotope stages (OIS), are alternating warm and cool periods in the Earth's paleoclimate, deduced from oxygen isotope data reflecting changes in temperature derived from data from deep sea core samples. Working backwards from the present, which is MIS 1 in the scale, stages with even numbers have high levels of oxygen-18 and represent cold glacial periods, while the odd-numbered stages are troughs in the oxygen-18 figures, representing warm interglacial intervals. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

A note on the Sunghir DNA results from an Australian perspective


ANCIENT NETWORKERS  DNA from four Stone Age people — including the two shown here as they looked when excavated, top, and at the time of death, bottom — suggests that hunter-gatherers have long formed groups with few close relatives. Aside from discouraging inbreeding, that social structure encouraged cooperative ties among groups and rapid cultural advances, scientists say. 

Interesting piece in Science News by Bruce Bower, Ancient humans avoided inbreeding by networking (5 October 2017) on the results of DNA analysis of four individuals from the Sunghir site in Russia, Sunghir is situated about two hundred kilometres east of Moscow, on the outskirts of Vladimir, near the Klyazma River.

The story is based on an article that appeared in Science. If you follow the link through you can access the original article, You will need to register, but that is free. The article's abstract reads:  
Present-day hunter-gatherers (HGs) live in multilevel social groups essential to sustain a population structure characterized by limited levels of within-band relatedness and inbreeding. When these wider social networks evolved among HGs is unknown. Here, we investigate whether the contemporary HG strategy was already present in the Upper Paleolithic (UP), using complete genome sequences from Sunghir, a site dated to ~34 thousand years BP (kya) containing multiple anatomically modern human (AMH) individuals. We demonstrate that individuals at Sunghir derive from a population of small effective size, with limited kinship and levels of inbreeding similar to HG populations. Our findings suggest that UP social organization was similar to that of living HGs, with limited relatedness within residential groups embedded in a larger mating network.
Martin Sikora1, Andaine Seguin-Orlando, Vitor C. Sousa, Anders Albrechtsen, Thorfinn Korneliussen, Amy Ko, Simon Rasmussen, Isabelle Dupanloup, Philip R. Nigst, Marjolein D. Bosch, Gabriel Renaud, Morten E. Allentoft, Ashot Margaryan, Sergey V. Vasilyev, Elizaveta V. Veselovskaya, Svetlana B. Borutskaya, Thibaut Deviese, Dan Comeskey, Tom Higham, Andrea Manica, Robert Foley, David J. Meltzer, Rasmus Nielsen, Laurent Excoffier, Marta Mirazon Lahr, Ludovic Orlando, Eske Willerslev, "Ancient genomes show social and reproductive behavior of early Upper Paleolithic foragers", Science 05 Oct 2017. eaao1807, DOI: 10.1126/science.aao1807
Bruce's report focuses on what the results might show us about mating patterns among hunter gatherers (HG). I looked at the results from a slightly different perspective. First to summarise some key points as I understood them:

  • The DNA of four individuals was analysed. The remains dated from around 34,000 years ago.
  • The DNA of the three individuals buried together share both mitochondrial and Y-chromosome lineages  That is, they formed part of the same group. However, none of them were closely related (that is, third degree or closer). Third degree relationships includes first cousins, great grandparents and great grandchildren. 
  • Modelling provided a refined estimate of the time since admixture with Nenaderthals at 770 generations (95% CI 755-786). Accounting for the uncertainty of both the admixture estimate and 14C ages, this corresponds to an admixture date between the ancestors of Sunghir and Neanderthals of between 53.6 and 58.1 kya (at 29 years/generation. However, the results from one individual suggested that there could have been a more recent admixture.
.The Aborigines arrived in Australia perhaps 60-65,000 years ago. That is before the estimated admixture date between the Sunghir and Neanderthals. They too carry Neanderthal genes, although they also carry Denisovan genes, suggesting a later mixing with Denisovan peoples. So the evidence continues to suggest that we are dealing with long and overlapping periods of interaction between different hominin species.

 I am not quite sure what conclusions to draw from the DNA results so far as breeding patterns within the Sunghir group are concerned. However, it would not be surprising if they had kinship arrangements designed to prevent in-breeding.. Aboriginal kinship arrangements have that effect while also fitting people into social structures. Those arrangements probably evolved with time. We cannot assume that those holding among Aboriginal people at the time of European occupation were the same as those holding 65,000 years before.

Too a degree, too, this type of arrangement depends upon population size. In-breeding is more common among smaller groups.    

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The construction of comfort: building upon the necessities of shelter


Balala Station: one of the original slab hut homesteads subsequently extended. This is the sixth in my series on New England's built landscape and architecture. 
Next post.

While the first mansions such as Dalwood House or Lake Innes House were emerging in the Hunter or at Port Macquarie, the first slab huts now being built on the New England by the European occupiers remained rough structures, quickly constructed to provide shelter and a base.

This was a male society in which comfort ranked second to the basic necessities of shelter. Even then, there were some who wanted more. Crown Land Commissioner George James Macdonald was one such.

A sometimes melancholy and in the end tragic poet, Macdonald was a neat man whose sensibilities demanded order and a degree of comfort. When in March 1843 a party travelled up from the civilisation of Port Macquarie to attend the Armidale races, one of the party (Mrs Annie Baxter) expressed surprise at the Commissioner’s hut. While small and badly finished, it was well and tastefully furnished.

As women and then children arrived over the first decade after occupation, more was required. In some cases, the original homestead was extended or incorporated into new structures.

At Balala south of Uralla, the original homestead built by George Morse and Thomas Toule in 1841 became part of a complex around a courtyard. On one side was a slab schoolroom and bedroom, on the other bedrooms built in part of basalt and granite.

In other cases, new buildings were constructed. On Ohio outside Walcha, Abraham and Mary Nivison purchased the Ohio run outside Walcha in 1842 and moved into the original slab homestead standing on the property. Nivison wanted a better home for his family and began construction of a new homestead.

The first stage was finished in 1845. It included four bedrooms, a hipped roof structure and chimneys in every room and was built of stone rubble and covered with a lime mortar render. The design and construction method drew in part from Dumfriesshire in Scotland where Abraham and Mary were born.

With increasing prosperity, the homestead was renovated in the 1850s. A new kitchen and store were added, while the roof was raised to accommodate a loft. Six dormer windows were installed which remain a distinctive feature of the home’s appearance today. .

To my knowledge, dormer windows are not a feature of colonial New England architecture. I can’t help wondering, I don’t know, whether or not Ohio’s windows influenced the later design of Armidale’s Mallam House.

I will continue this story next week looking at what was, in may ways, the golden age of New England homestead and construction design.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 11 October 2017. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015, here for 2016, here 2017. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Local history stories New England media - weekly round up 2

It is actually just over two weeks since my last round-up, but I do want to maintain the weekly format if I can. Please let me know if there are stories that I have missed. That way the series builds up as a resource for all those interested in local histories within the North.You can find the whole series by clicking on local history under labels on the sidebar.

To this point I have not included my own columns in these round-ups because I post them here anyway, if with a lag. However, it does seem sensible now to include them, partly for the sake of completeness, partly because some columns run in more than one paper. Because my columns often span areas, I am including them under a new heading, broader New England.

Broader New England


Balala Station: one of the original slab hut homesteads subsequently extended to increase comfort and meet new needs.

I have continued my series on the built landscape and architecture of New England. The latest columns:are:
  • Number six in the series: The construction of comfort: building upon the necessities of shelter looks at the extension and replacement of the initial crude slab hut homesteads to increase comfort and accommodate families. 
  • Number seven in the series: A new wave of mansions (the first wave was in the Hunter and at Port Macquarie) traces the start of the second major homestaed mansion building phase begun by second generation settlers as wealth accumulated.   . 
Northern Rivers

At ABC North Coast, Kim Honan's Curious North Coast: Why were camphor laurel trees introduced in the Northern Rivers region? (4 October 2017) looks at the story of an introduced tree loved by many, loathed by others.

Newcastle and the Hunter

In The Singleton Argus, Elise Pfeiffer reports (11 October 2017) on problems facing the Singleton Museum. It's a good museum. I took the kids several times on our way north to Armidale. In an earlier story in the Argus that I had missed ( Ready for its official launch 'The Round Ball' the history of Association football in Singleton), Louise Nichols reports on the launch of a history of soccer in Singleton.

At Muswellbrook, the Muswellbrook Chronicle's Betina Hughes reports (Muswellbrook Shire Local and Family History Society launch two books for 2017 History Week, 5 September 2017)  on the launch of two local history books written by former Muswellbrook High School teacher Bruce James, Muswellbrook in Picture 1985 and an updated version of Another Walk Through the Town.

Greta Migrant Camp. Photo Maitland Mercury

In the Maitland Mercury, New England's oldest surviving newspaper (the Armidale Express is second), Lachlan Leeming's Memories of a Greta camp kid: Paul Szumilas reminisces on migrant camp childhood ahead of reunion (12 October 2017) records the memories of one of those who lived at the Greta Migrant Camp. This camp forms an important part of Australia's post war history. Lachlan's articles includes links to earlier articles that between them create a valuable picture of the camp and those who lived there for a period.

In the Newcastle Herald, Hunter valley military historian David Dial's Centenary of the Great War (4 October 2017) provides a snap shot of that war along with Hunter Valley enlistments and deaths for the period 1-7 October 1917. For those Facebook, David has a page dedicated to Hunter military history.

Western Slopes and Plains

Back on 2 July 2017, the Northern Daily Leader's Gunnedah's AgQuip celebrates 45 years in August provided an overview of the history of this iconic event. I hadn't seen it before and record in now because it is an interesting and important story that forms part of a bigger canvas.

On 12 October 2017, the Moree Champion had an advertising feature Moree Uniting Church is marking its  150th anniversary that provides a useful overview of the history of the church in Moree.

Northern Tablelands

In the Glen Innes Examiner, Eve Chappell  continues her explorations into local history:
In the Inverell Times, the history reports include: