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“Prominent resident of Yapeen”

George Godfree was left two hundred pounds in his father’s will,  which was proved on 1st January 1851, and by the 30th March he was an apprentice grocer, living with his maternal uncle, Thomas Smith, a grocer, in Paddington.

Gold had recently been discovered in Australia and the first gold arrived in London ports in early 1852. In July and August that year, about 5,400 people sailed from the United Kingdom to Melbourne. Two months later the figure was 15,941. Presumably George decided to try his luck too and left Plymouth on the Koh I Noor on 23rd October 1852.

Canvas Town, South Melbourne in the 1850s Wikimedia Commons

He sailed on an unassisted passage which will have cost him between fifteen and twenty-five pounds. Government-assisted immigrants were supplied with rudimentary supplies that included a mattress, bedding, eating utensils, and a canvas bag, however, those like George, paying their own way on private ships, were required to bring their own supplies. As the quality of the water was generally very poor, passengers were advised to procure their own supply, together with a selection of food that could supplement the monotonous and, at times, unpalatable seaman’s diet of salted meat and sea biscuits.

Fryerstown 1860s

The voyage’s route was down the western coast of Africa, past the Cape of Good Hope, and across the Indian Ocean to Melbourne and would have taken about seven or eight months. He had his 21st birthday on the voyage, arriving in Port Philip on 14th February 1853.

The Journey from Melbourne to the Diggings.

In 1856, he was listed as being in Fryerstown, Talbot, Victoria, his “address” being given as Forest Creek, miner’s rights.

“In October 1851, alluvial gold was discovered along the Forest Creek, over eleven kilometres from Mount Alexander and thirty-two kilometres from the Loddon River, into which the creek’s water flowed after its junction with Barkers Creek. Diggers swarmed to the surrounding flats, hills and gullies as further rich discoveries were made.”

Gold sluicers

“When the locality became a township it was renamed Fryerstown and by 1858 boasted a population of around 15,000, 3 schools, about 25 hotels, and 5 breweries. However, news of goldfields opening elsewhere in Victoria coupled with diminishing returns from the numerous mines, resulted in a rapid decline in population.”()

George married Marjorie Christina Laurenson, in Strathallan (north of Castlemaine and Bendigo) in 1857, and between 1860 and 1880 they had ten children.

Marjorie had come to Australia from Scotland, aged 13, the oldest child of Laurence and Catherine Laurenson neé Beggarie. Her parents were married In St Cuthbert’s, Edinburgh on 16th June 1837. Their three oldest children were born in Shetland, they had two more before 1850, and arrived in Port Philip on the Koh I Noor from Leith in December 1852 with 5 children aged from 2 to 13 years old. [Although the ships had the same name, they were not on the same ship as the one on which George arrived.] 

Looking South West across Fryerstown

In 1861, George had a bakery in Castlemaine:

The Argus  Saturday 20 July 1861
Missing friends, Messages Etc.
“GEORGE TAPLEY is requested to write to Edward Thompson, Godfree and Co, bakers, Mostyn Street, Castlemaine.”

George appears in Bailliere’s Post Office Directory, listed as a publican in Yapeen, in 1868 and 1870 and as a hotel keeper in 1869.

“Part of the original Strathloddon pastoral run, Yapeen is located by Campbells Creek, south of Castlemaine. Following alluvial gold discoveries in Donkey and Mopoke gullies, the district became known as the Pennyweight Flat diggings and, by late October 1852, a settlement with several stores had been established. In 1861, it was named Yapeen, the Aboriginal word for ‘green hill’ or ‘valley’. For a time, several quartz reef mines, such as the Golden Lead Mine, provided steady dividends.

In the Victorian Government Gazette of 3rd September 1880, George is listed as a storekeeper in Yapeen, purchasing 520 shares in the newly formed Golden Eagle Mining Company, based in Fryerstown. The majority of other shareholders are listed as resident in Castlemaine, George is the only resident of Yapeen.

In the Gazette of 18th February 1881, he is listed in Castlemaine, Fryerstown and Newstead with contracts numbered 1568, 1586 and 1608 for oats at 6s per cental and bran at 4s 2d per cental, under “Contracts for the Supply of Forage”. He was not a contractor previously.  The following February, he is listed in Castlemaine, Victoria with contract number 2056 for oats at 8s per cental, and had fulfilled previous contracts satisfactorily.

Golden Eagle Mine 

In the edition of Friday, March 17th 1882, George Godfree, storekeeper of Yapeen, is listed as a shareholder of the newly formed Castlemaine Flagging and Slate Company. He purchased 200 shares at 10s each, the major shareholders were the same as for the Golden Eagle Mining Company.

in 1887, George gave evidence at the “Board appointed to inquire into the Sludge question” in which he said that he had been a member of the council until the previous August.

He appears in the directories of 1901, 1903 and 1914 as a farmer in Yapeen.

I wonder: The original General Store and Post Office

Friday 27 August 1909 – The Argus, Melbourne.
Castlemaine. Thursday.
Mr G Godfree, a prominent resident of Yapeen, was taking a horse out of his buggy, when the animal plunged, knocking Mr Godfree down. He sustained a double fracture of the leg below the knee.

Marjorie died in 1916: Melbourne Argus – Tuesday 13 November 1917 GODFREE In fond remembrance of my dear wife, who died at Yapeen, Castlemaine, November 11, 1916. (Inserted by her loving husband and family.)

George died on the 16th June 1919, aged 87, of senility and exhaustion, and was buried in Campbells Creek Cemetery the following day.

The Argus (Melbourne) reported on Saturday 12th July 1919, that: “George Godfree, Yapeen, left by will dated 13th June 1907, real estate valued at £1,616 and personal property valued at £7,827 to his children, subject to small legacies to his relatives.”

His real estate consisted of 15 allotments in Section 4 and 5 allotments in Section 5 at Yapeen, comprising 100 acres 3 roods 31 perches or thereabouts. On this was a seven roomed brick and weatherboard dwelling which was his residence, also chaff and engine house, store, stables, barn etc. The land is fenced with post and wire fences subdivided into seven paddocks and used by the deceased as a farm. Assessed at an annual value of £60 and valued at £1416.

He also owned land of about 10 acres in sections 4 and 21 in Guildford.This had a small brick wood and iron building on it. This land was divided into two paddocks and is used for cultivation. It was leased out for £10 a year.

His personal estate included a recently sown crop of wheat, oaten and wheaten hay, 3 cows, 3 horses, 2 ploughs,  a set of harrows, roller, scarifier and a half share in a seed drill. A chaff cutting plant and works. He had 2 drays, 1 spring cart and an old double seated buggy, saddles and harnesses for heavy cart and ploughing and sundry farm tools. His household furniture was described as very old and he had a silver watch. On the financial side, amongst other things, he had substantial share holdings in the Castlemaine Woollen Co. and in the National Bank of Australia as well as money in current and fixed deposit accounts.

 View Larger Map Godfree Lane, Guildford Victoria 3451

In his will, written on the 13th June 1907, he left £20 to his wife’s brother, Samuel William Laurenson and William Lawrenson. The trustees were to sell or convert anything that was not ready money and then the residue after was to be divided into ten equal parts, one for his wife Marjory Christina for her  own use absolutely, and one to each of his nine children “now living” for his or her own use absolutely. “and I hereby declare that it is my wish that the share given to my daughter Laura shall vest in her only on the death of the survivor of myself or my dead wife and upon such vesting such share may be invested by my said Trustees or the the survivor of them should they deem it in the interest of my said daughter to do so in the purchase of an annuity or annuities in any assurance office in Victoria in favour of my said daughter in order that my said daughter shall have permanent and inalienable provision for and during her life AND I further declare that should my said wife survive me my homestead property at Yapeen shall not be sold during her life without her consent”. If any children predeceased him without lawful issue then their share would be divided up amongst the surviving children and his wife and to the issue of those who died in my life time (in loco parentis) share and share alike. He appointed his two oldest sons George Lawrence and Arthur William and his wife as executors and trustees.



The photographs of Fryerstown are from the collection of Dave Timson on Fryerstown Gold and are used with his kind permission.

Historic Australian Newspapers, 1803 to 1954
Electronic Encyclopedia of Gold in Australia
Publicans of the 19th Century in Victoria
Historic Gazettes (1836 to 1997)
‘Reminiscences of Fryerstown’ by Mr. G. O. Brown

Public Record Office Victoria:
Index to Wills, Probate and Administration Records
Parish and Township Plans
Index to Unassisted Inward Passenger Lists to Victoria 1852-1923
Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages

George and Marjorie’s children: Residents of Melbourne

Week 8: Prosperity

Week 8: Prosperity

George Godfree was my great x2 uncle, the sixth child and second son of George and Mary Ann, nee Smith, Godfree of Great Rissington. His father died in 1850, leaving the farm to Mary, "if she wants it", and then to George's older brother. Like many other younger sons...

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Week 23: Wedding

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Marrying the sister of a deceased wife was illegal in Victorian England. " ...under the Marriage Act of 1835, which had the support of the established Anglican church, it was prohibited for a widower to marry his wife’s sister on the grounds of a passage in Leviticus,...

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Week 27: Solo – choice or circumstance?

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Catherine Godfree, born in 1844, was the youngest child of George and Mary Ann Godfree of Great Rissington. She had three older brothers and seven older sisters. Five of the sisters married and had large families, two sisters married but had no children, while two of the brothers never married and the one that did had emigrated to Australia following the death of his father.

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The Godfree Daughters

George and Mary Godfree had 9 daughters. The oldest daughter, Elizabeth, was baptised on 7th June 1824 in Great Rissington. She married George Osborn of Charlton on Otmoor, Oxfordshire on 16th January 1850 in Great Rissington. They had four daughters and a son. In...

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The Ascott Martyrs 1873

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Residents of Melbourne

  Only one of George and Marjorie's ten children married, their youngest, Ernest Graham. He followed a very different path altogether to his older siblings. Laurence, the fourth son died soon after birth. Charles John, the fifth son, stayed on the farm in...

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William Godfree of Kaanlang

  William, the youngest son, was left the same sum of money as his brother George and by 1861, was farming in Fifield, Oxfordshire where he was still in 1881. He appears several times in the advertisements section of the Jackson's Oxford Journal selling wood at...

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