James William ROSE

1880s, Wando Vale & 'Harpfields', Victoria, Australia

I am looking for information on WANDO VALE and 'HARPFIELDS', Victoria.

My great-grandfather James William ROSE, known as Will was born at Harpfields, Burford, Shropshire, England in 1861. He appears on the 1861 census as 10 months old. His father, 35 and grandfather, 77 years of age were both called James and were living at Harpfields with their wives. I have recently been given a photocopy of a letter which Will wrote in Nov 1884 to the young woman who was to become his wife and my great-grandmother, Emma MORRIS of a neighbouring farm, Burford Farm.

When Will wrote he was on board the SS Roma with some other local farmers’ sons, including Tom BROWN. They were bound for Australia and were hoping to find work in Wando Vale. Will wrote of an acquaintance they had made on the boat, “He is a Scotchman of the name of George F SIMPSON and he is coming with us to Wando Vale to try and get work with us, he is a fine, big young fellow, and looks something like Charlie PARTRIDGE.”

Will appears to have arrived safely and made his way to Wando Vale where he was soon working on a large station. Within a few days of starting his boss told him to get ready to go on a long ride to a station some distance away. He told Will to prepare some food and water for himself and the horse and to take a blanket, as he might be a day or two on the road. Will set off and rode for a day without seeing any sign of his destination. After sleeping in the bush he rode on again and still found no sign of the station. He knew he must be on the right road as there was only one track! On the second day he passed a farm with the name Harpfields, which struck him as an amazing co-incidence. However it was not his destination so he rode resolutely on, but the name kept niggling him, and after he had gone on for another hour, he felt impelled to turn back and find out more about the other Harpfields. He rode up to the farmhouse and knocked on the door. When it was opened he introduced himself, “I am Will ROSE, and I come from Harpfields in the Old Country.” A frail old man was sitting in a chair and when he heard Will, he said, “Canna be, canna be.” The old man then told the following story.

Near the farm of Harpfields, Burford, was a small cottage in which a widowed woman lived with her small son. She was extremely poor and made a little money by working on the surrounding farms, carrying her child with her. One day there was a tremendous fall of snow, and the farm hands who lived in at Harpfields commented that they had seen no smoke from the widow’s chimney all day. When they finished work they took some logs and food and went down to the cottage. They could hear her dog barking but could see no other sign of life. When they pushed the door open they saw the woman lying dead on the floor, with her child and the dog cuddled up together for warmth by the body. They wrapped the little boy up in a blanket and took him up to the farmhouse, and placed him in front of the fire with a bowl of warm bread and milk to help him thaw out. Once he was warm he was taken up to the bed of one of the labourers, and put into a big feather bed after it had been warmed with a warming pan. The labourer slept with him to keep him warm, and he stayed at Harpfields for several days, or even weeks until the roads were passable and news could be got to the widow’s family. Eventually a family member arrived to take the child away, but he never forgot the warmth and kindness shown to him at Harpfields and resolved if he ever had a home of his own to call it Harpfields. He did not stay long with his relations, but was put into a children’s home. At the time, which I estimate would be between 1810 and 1830 many orphans were shipped out from children’s homes to the colonies to make their fortunes, or at least provide cheap labour. He was one of these children, who had eventually been able to acquire a house and some land of his own. He had fulfilled his childhood dream and called the property HARPFIELDS. It was probably Will’s grandfather who was 77 when Will was born who was living at Harpfields at the time of the widow’s death.

I was fascinated by this story and wonder if I can trace the name of the old man/orphaned little boy through the Harpfields connection. It was probably within a day or two’s ride of Wando Vale.

Any help or further information would be most welcome.

Also researching CHENHALLS – miners from Cornwall

Please contact Sue Fleetwood, UK; email - sue-fleetwood@themail.co.uk.