Photoblog recycle: November 2008 — Jacob

The photoblog was on Ninglun’s Specials then and late November 2008 featured the “Looking for Jacob” series.

Surry Hills: Looking for Jacob 1

Posted on November 20, 2008 by Neil

Having eschewed the series and multiple pictures concepts a few days back, here I am reviving both!  But there is a reason.

If you go to my page on my paternal ancestry — Family stories 3 — About the Whitfields: from convict days – you will note that there have been revisions on revisions since I first posted it on Angelfire some years ago. Lately some much more thorough family historians have been on the case, as you will see on that page. They have been teasing out a problem: exactly where did Jacob Whitfield, our convict ancestor, live at the time William Joseph John Whitfield, son of William and Philadelphia, was born in 1836? At William’s wedding William gave his profession as carpenter, and his address as Elizabeth Street. I have seen the marriage certificate which bears Jacob’s signature as a witness, along with the other witnesses Maria Burgess and William Burgess. Jacob appears to have been the grandfather of William Joseph John, who is my great-grandfather.

But where in Elizabeth Street? It is a long street.

William Macdonald's garden in Market Lane 23-9-1834 One of the researchers mentioned above, John Van Luyn in WA, wrote recently: “a possible sighting that is dated 1842. It is a reference to a ‘Whitfield who lives in a hut in a Garden near Jonathan Leake – had a ticket of leave for Windsor and is now free’. The only details I could find were for a Jonathan Leak who was a convict potter. There is a tonne of information on him and his pottery on the net if you search ‘Jonathan Leak’ and ‘convict’ which roughly indicates where his pottery was.” Subsequently John and Bob Starling and Stuart Daniels have narrowed the search and a number of notices like the one on the right have been found.

So with those clues, knowing of course that most of 1836 has been obliterated in this particular part of Sydney, I decided to go in search of Jacob and his hut.

Some street names have changed. Just yesterday, thanks to the Macquarie Hotel* on the corner of Goulburn Street and Wentworth Avenue, Surry Hills, I was able to confirm that Macquarie Street South was renamed Commonwealth Street, so “Market-lane (formerly called Leak’s-lane) leading from the New Corn, Hay, Straw and Cattle Market at the bottom of Brickfield Hill, to Goulburn and Macquarie Streets” may well have become Wentworth Avenue.


On this Google Earth image I have marked Commonwealth St in red, Campbell Street area in green, and the ambit range of where Jacob’s hut must have been in yellow.

Surry Hills: Looking for Jacob 6: Campbell Street

Posted on November 23, 2008 by Neil

So here I am at Campbell Street looking across it from the corner of Macquarie (Commonwealth) Street wondering whether to go on or turn left towards Elizabeth Street. I note the topography. Ahead is the city and, out of sight, Hyde Park. The streets between here and there swoop and twist as they descend what must have been the valley of a creek. There were even more little streets before Wentworth Ave (Market Lane) was widened and redeveloped in the wake of the rat and Plague scare of the early 20th century.

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So I look down Campbell Street noting further evidence of this being the older Sydney Chinatown…

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… and decide to go on, coming back to Campbell Street nearer to Elizabeth.

Surry Hills: Looking for Jacob 9: Market Lane 2

Posted on November 24, 2008 by Neil

Wentworth Avenue, whatever it may have looked like in its Market Lane days, still bends in the direction of Haymarket, and still wears a slightly disreputable air.

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* Alas, closed:

A 100-year-old corner hotel in Surry Hills is reopening with a Caribbean makeover this Friday.

The century old Macquarie Hotel on the corner of Goulburn Street and Wentworth Avenue in Surry Hills unveils its new look this week. It is relaunching as Hotel Harry, with two new places to eat and a revamped public bar, followed by boutique hotel rooms in the near future. The venue draws on its past for its name – alluding to the name of the earlier dining room at the hotel; Harpoon Harry’s. But the food is going in a whole new direction, with acclaimed chef, Paul Wilson (Icebergs, Bar de Thé and Salon de Thé), consulting on the menu with a Latin theme.