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

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

History Revisited - twist in Taylor's fate with wool price crash

EARLY 1840s. The long NSW pastoral boom ends in perfect economic storm. While William and Margaretta Taylor were able to consolidate their position at Terrible Valley, cousin Archibald Clunes Innes faced possible bankruptcy and the destruction of his business empire. 
The first fleet arrived in Sydney in 1788. Reflecting both the penal nature of the new colony and the difficulties of settlement, the initial growth of the non-Aboriginal population was relatively slow.

In 1798, ten years after the first fleet, the non-Aboriginal population had reached 4,588. By 1808, it had more than doubled to 10,263 including the new colony in Van Diemen’s Land. It more than doubled again over the next ten years, reaching 25,859 in 1818. Growth now accelerated.

By 1828, the population had increased to 58,159 and then to 151,808 in in 1838. By 1840, the year that William Tydd Taylor and Margaretta Lucy Lind arrived in Port Macquarie, the population was 190,408. The following year it grew to 220,908.

This long growth cycle has been supported by British Government spending on the penal system. Early fortunes were made by supplying the commissariat or, indeed, appropriating stock from the commissariat to build personal herds. Convicts supplied the labour required to develop estates.

This early growth was replaced by one based on pastoral expansion. High wool prices provided a value product that could support high transport costs. Settlement exploded as people sought new land. Demand for stock to meet the needs of an expanding frontier made sheep, cattle and horses valuable property.

The merchants and ship owners such as Joseph Grose prospered, supplying both the settler and growing urban population. Money was made from real estate as land values increased. Growing wealth was invested in mansions and the trappings of civilized life. It was a real boom.

In the early 1840s, the boom went into reverse. Wool prices collapsed. This added to a collapse in the value of stock associated with the end of rapid pastoral expansion that had supported stock prices as settlers bought stock to fund their new runs.

A practical man, William Taylor seems to have focused on consolidating his position as depression emerged. By the end of 1842, he owned Terrible Valley in partnership with Joseph Middleton as well as Oakville in the Hasting Valley, splitting his time between the two. 

Taylor had become a magistrate soon after his arrival in 1840. With Commissioner Macdonald, the nearest legal authority, some distance away in Armidale, Taylor was required to dispense justice.

He built the first woolshed on Terrible Valley, while the station store became a source of supplies for settlers further inland whose drays were delayed bringing supplies up from Maitland and the nearby river port of Morpeth on the Hunter.

In November 1843, he was able to make a major advance, buying Middleton’s share of Terrible Valley for £400. The price was a sign of the difficult times, for Taylor and Middleton had paid £3,500 for the run just three years before.

William and Margaretta now had a relatively secure base. That could not be said for his cousin, Archibald Innes, who was facing possible bankruptcy. Its resolution will introduce a new and very familiar name to our story, that of Dumaresq. 
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 1 June 2016. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited 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.

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