BESWICKE, Mabella (née Mayall) (attributed)
Writing case belonging to Mabella Beswicke (Mayall), wife of Port Phillip pioneer Charles Beswicke of Moodie Yallo Station.
[Between 1835 and 1840]. Portable case for writing accessories and paper, of thick card covered with hand-sewn floral-patterned purple velvet trimmed with corduroy, the underside covered in black silk, 220 x 285 x 30 mm (slightly irregular), with four flaps opening to 460 x 460 mm; the exposed card of the interior floor and flaps with extensive annotations in ink by the original owner, as well as a small pen and ink sketch and pen trials; two of the inscriptions on the flaps read: ‘Mabella Beswicke Mayall, Clare Cottage, Waterhead Mill, Oldham’ and ‘Mabella Beswicke Mayall’s Writing Case’; the lengthy inscription covering the floor of the case gives a chronology of emigration to Port Phillip, Van Diemen’s Land and New South Wales by various members of the Beswicke and Kenworthy families between 1834 and 1844, Mabella including the voyage of herself and her husband Charles in 1840; the wording of the last part of this inscription confirms that it was written by Mabella in 1844, a short time before her death in Port Phillip.
A remarkable piece of early Port Phillip realia.
The Beswicke and Mayall families both hailed from Waterhead, near Oldham, Lancashire, and both were involved in the textile industry. Charles Beswicke (1804-1885) ran a drapery firm in partnership with his wife Mabella (Mayall) and his sister Eliza. It is highly likely that Mabella sewed this charming writing case with her own hands, at some point in the late 1830s. When, in late June 1840, Charles and Mabella emigrated to Australia, where they were to start a new life in Port Phillip, Mabella took her writing case with her on the dangerous voyage.
The following notice regarding the dissolution of the Beswickes’ business partnership was published in the London Gazette in June 1840, shortly before Charles and Mabella’s departure: ‘Notice is hereby given, that the partnership heretofore subsisting between us the undersigned, Charles Beswicke, Mabella Beswicke, and Eliza Beswicke, as Drapers and Grocers, at Waterhead Mill, near Oldham, in the County of Lancaster, under the name or style of Charles Beswicke, is this day dissolved by mutual consent. All debts due to and by the said partnership will be received and paid by the undersigned Eliza Beswicke, by whom the said business will in future be carried on. Dated this 15th day of May 1840. Charles Beswicke. Mabella Beswicke. Eliza Beswicke.’
It appears that Eliza, the sister who stayed behind to run the family drapery business, married Mabella’s brother, John Mayall, as baptismal records of the Holy Trinity Church at Waterhead show that John and his wife Eliza’s fraternal twins, Mabella and Charles – affectionately named in honour of their absent aunt and uncle – were baptised on 8 July 1847.
Charles and Mabella, in company with Charles’ sister Isabella, departed from Liverpool on the Clydesdale at the end of June 1840, and arrived at Port Phillip on 9 November, where they were reunited with Charles’ brothers John and James Lomax Beswicke. The latter had arrived in Hobart Town in 1836 and had also lived in Sydney before heading to Port Phillip to seek his fortune.
Isabella Beswicke, at the age of just 26, died within a few months of her arrival in Port Phillip. At the time of her death she is recorded as a ‘spinster’ residing in Collins Street; she was buried in Melbourne on 13 February 1841. A short time later John was drowned while attempting to ford Dandenong Creek, and in April 1844 James Lomax would die in a horse-and-cart accident on the Western Port road.
Occupying the traditional lands of the Bunurong people and covering most of the area now known as Mordialloc, Moodie Yallo Station was established by the squatter Michael Solomon in 1837. It was the first sheep run in the Mornington area, and when it was acquired by Charles Beswicke in 1841 its 10,000 acres constituted the largest depasturing licence in Port Phillip. Charles, in company with his wife Mabella, ran Moodie Yallo until 1843, when the property was sold to George Keys. Frustratingly, we have not been able to determine the precise date of Mabella’s death, but presumably it occurred around 1845 or 1846. Charles married his second wife, Elizabeth Keys – daughter of George Keys – in 1846, when she was just 18. The second of their five children, John, would become one of the most notable architects in the colony. Charles and Elizabeth named their first daughter after Charles’ first wife, Mabella (or Mayebella, also known also as Belle or Bella), and some time before 1850 the family settled in the Geelong district, where Charles had established a farm.