Finding Hungerford

Hungerford, Queensland (on the border of New South Wales and Queensland).  Taken from a talk by Lesley Abrahams, given Friday 16 March 2018 at the Dubbo & District Family History Society, Share Your Story series.

Hungerford Town (Qld)
Hungerford Town, Qld. Photo taken by Elizabeth Van Veen c1996

The town of Hungerford is located on the border of New South Wales and Queensland on the Paroo River, which is often only a string of waterholes. However, when in flood, the river provides a good water source for cattle and travellers, at the northern end of the Murray-Darling Basin, 214 km north-west of Bourke in NSW.

Straddling the border of NSW and  Queensland, Hungerford was for many years considered to be in NSW, but in 1879, the survey of the border showed that the town was mainly on the Queensland side.  By 1900 the population was around 90 to 100 persons –  various population counts give the current population between 11 and 23. This is where a cattle camp had developed in the 1850s and 1860s.  In the 1870s it was known locally as Hungerford’s Camp.

The first hotel was opened at Hungerford in 1874, catering for the passing trade of drovers, explorers, bullock drivers, etc.  A Border Customs Post seems to have been established perhaps as early as 1881, but it seems that Customs was collecting taxes and checking for other fees at the border on another station, from some time earlier.  The Customs House was moved to Hungerford, due to the number of mobs passing here, taking advantage of the water in the Paroo River.

A school was applied for in 1891, and built in 1892 and the Police Station was proclaimed in March 1892, and in 1894, the reserve for the Warrego Rabbit Board was proclaimed.

Royal Mail Hotel - Photo taken by Frank Allat 2012

The Hungerford Post Office also had a chequered history due to the dispute about the boundary between NSW and Queensland.   By 1875, a Cobb & Co service had reached Hungerford. The mail was delivered once a week on the coach, to the Hungerford Hotel, coming from Bourke.  The first official post office was opened on the Queensland side in 1880, and the Cobb & Co service was then delivering mail between Hungerford, Eulo and Thargomindah, Queensland.  In 1900 there was a magistrate’s office, a Police Station, Post & Telegraph Office, a school, four churches and some shops and three hotels. Today only the Royal Mail Hotel remains, with a rabbit-proof fence and gate.

Royal Mail Hotel – Photo taken by Frank Allat 2012

Following the Public Water Places Act 1900, public watering places for droving cattle were established.  They stretched across NSW, between eight or 10 miles apart, this being the distance a mob of cattle could reasonably travel in one day. They were frequently established on known permanent water, or swamps, as in the Wingewarra Swamp, Dubbo, which covered over 100 acres where Victoria Park is now.

An example of a typical trough maintained at public watering places, is at Youngeringa, on the road to Hungerford, similar to other public watering places.

The name “Hungerford” comes from the family of Thomas Hungerford MLA [E.6]. He had been born in Ireland in 1823. The firm of Thomas Hungerford & Sons were exploring and droving cattle across New South Wales, into South Australia and Queensland, up through the Channel Country to the Gulf of Carpentaria, from the 1850s, through into 1890s. Members of the Hungerford family had arrived in New South Wales in 1828, on board the Alexander Henry.  Captain Emanuel Hungerford [E] and his wife Catherine Loane [L.I.ii] arrived with seven children, and some other family and employees, making a party of 19. Thomas, the sixth son, was five years old. They lived for a short time on Pitt Street, Sydney, while Emanuel purchased Lochdon, an estate of 2000 acres near Maitland, in the Hunter Valley. The family then moved to West Maitland, where they lived in two houses in Bourke Street, while Farley House was built on Lochdon.  Two further children were born to Emanuel & Catherine.

Emanuel Hungerford, having eight sons, saw that he needed to extend his holdings so that they could provide for the livelihood of their future families.  Grants of land were available for self-funded settlers, who brought their enterprise to the colony.  Granted land was to be developed, and made productive.  As well as the properties he purchased in the Hunter Valley, Emanuel Snr and his eldest son, Emanuel Jnr [E.3], started exploring further up the Hunter Valley, and beyond.  After establishing a holding on the Baerami Creek Valley, near Denman (Baerami), they explored west, reaching the Barwon River, near its junction with Pagan’s Creek.  Here they took up several holdings in 1852, called Dungalear or Thungalear (aboriginal word dunga meaning ‘water hole’, or thunga meaning ‘waterhole filling’).  The northern boundary was The Big Warrambool river.  A building of pit sawn timber was built, but no evidence of it remained after the run was sold about 1866.  Cattle were also grazing out towards Narran Lake, another 200 km further west. It is recorded that Thomas and two of his brothers were the first white men to cross the Barwon River.   The Dungalear Run was mainly used for cattle grazing and a staging place for droving further west and north.   Some aboriginal stockmen were employed, and possibly other itinerant workers.

Baerami Homestead

Thomas Hungerford married Emma Hollingsworth Wood [E.6=] in 1852, in West Maitland, and they settled into Baerami, a wedding present from Emanuel Hungerford, his father.

Another station was taken up by Thomas, with his eldest son, Edmund Alexander Hungerford [E.6.1a], in 1856 or 1857,  called Gnomery, or Culgoa, on the Culgoa River, near Goodooga.  This station ran sheep but in 1882, it was passed to the Bank of NSW to cover debts on the other properties.

Caldego Station

Exploring further west, following the flow of rivers and areas with permanent or semi-permanent water, a station was selected in South Australia, west of Cameron’s Corner. At this time the Northern Territory, was administered as part of South Australia.  This station was called Cadelgo,  providing employment for my great grandfather , Guy Hungerford [E.6.5a=], who, coming out from Ireland around 1882/3, had met Thomas’s daughter Emma Elizabeth Hungerford [E.6.5a], at Baerami, and they were married in 1886. They were sixth cousins.

Edmund Alexander Hungerford and Cecil Payne Hungerford [E.6.2a] were also at Cadelgo at different times.  A large stone homestead, woolshed, and wool scouring facility were built here. These are now ruins, and the property is part of Cordillo Downs Station.  Though at most times there is water in the Cadelgo waterhole, the severe droughts of 1890s resulted in sand storms enveloping the property, the sand dunes partially covering the homestead and outbuildings.

Edward Kenelm Guy Hungerford [E.6.5a.1b], his mother and small sisters had to walk out, from Cadelgo, under the guidance of their aboriginal staff.  Ken told the story of the lead tracker catching snakes on the way, grabbing them by the tail, and cracking them like a whip, and hanging them on his belt –  “good tucker”  – for a later meal.  The Hungerford home at Milton Street Ashfield, Sydney, became their next headquarters for a short time.

The during the phase of exploration in the 1860s, Edmund Alexander Hungerford, an experienced bushman, and his father Thomas Hungerford, travelled north into Queensland, following the good seasons up the Channel Country, and into the rivers along the Gulf of Carpentaria.  Once there, they started stocking the four main stations they claimed: Dunbar, Strathmore, Stirling and Van Rook.  The route they favoured from central NSW and from South Australia was along the Paroo River, making a regular droving camp at the border crossing. It became known as Hungerford’s Camp.  The other brothers, Cecil Payne Hungerford, Herbert Bloomfield Hungerford [E.6.4a] ,Septimus Hungerford [E.6], and later Thomas Hungerford Jnr [E.6.10a], and Kenneth Stuart Hungerford [E.6.8a], also travelled into the Gulf stations and assisted with stocking, droving, and managing the different stations, and then with the failure of the water sources, with destocking.

Cattle,  sheep and wool were brought back to markets in Maitland, Newcastle, Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne. Wool was sent on to the London markets, and good prices were obtained. Apparently with good transport down the Darling River, wool could reach London markets in six weeks.

Baerami in the Baerami Creek valley, near Denman, remained their base station, and major improvements were made and a new homestead built in 1861. As well as Shorthorn cattle, feed crops were grown, and an orange orchard planted. The old homestead was still used for employees, and visitors, and officials on tour of the area.

The droughts of the 1890s caused many problems for the over capitalised Hungerford properties. They had a number of large mortgages.  Even though in later years, the younger brothers claimed that with some patience and re-organisation, they could have traded out of their difficulties, the Bank of New South Wales was unwilling to wait, and one by one the stations where handed over or sold, and the cattle sold on, either to cover part of the debt, or into the hands of the Bank of New South Wales, who continued under different management to run the properties into the 1900s.

Part of the destocking process was carried out by Kenneth Stuart Hungerford, through the Pastoral Butchering Co at Croydon Queensland.  However cattle with the Hungerford brands from all the stations, continued to make their way to market for about seven or eight years, suggesting that some stock had been held in other locations following the resumption of each station by the Bank of New South Wales. Were they on the “long paddock”?

The name Hungerford comes from the family of Hungerford, living in the Saxon village of Hungerford (or “Ingleflod”), in Wiltshire, England, prior to and following the Norman invasion of Britain by William the Conqueror.  The rewards for those who supported William were grants of land, and the “good” holdings went to Normans, and around the Kennett River, the poorer lands went to Saxon farmers. As most people in the working or lower classes only had one name, or used their father’s name, some were called by their town or place of origin, for example, “Thomas de Hungerforde” (Norman village “Ingleflod”). There are a number of people in the records with this name, and some family trees can be traced back to one of these. It is possible that others might not be related to the Hungerford family as we know it today, just that they were a “Thomas” living in the village of Hungerford.  It is a deduction that the “hunger”’ comes from the reality of the poor areas of land, which were not able to support a family.

The Hungerford family that migrated to Australia came from Co Cork, Ireland. Their ancestor had led military forces there in 1649 from Wiltshire, England, supporting Cromwell.    Even though the Hungerford family (several branches) had therefore lived in Co Cork for 350 years, by the early 1800s, they were still regarded as English by the Irish, as they held landed estates, and employed the locals as tenant farmers.  All the Irish families had experienced hard agricultural times, and crumbling properties which could not be sustained.  The family home at Cahirmore Co Cork, was burnt to the ground in 1911.

Further details are set out in The Hungerford & Associated Families Society Journal. A few references are listed here:

  • Crowley, Betty [E.16a.4b], Hunting for Hungerford, HAFS Journal, Vol 3, No 1, May 1995, pp 2-12.
  • Abrahams, LJ [H.4a.1b.1c.1d/E.6.5a.1b.1c.1d], Dungalear or Thungalear, HAFS Journal, Vol 11, No 4, Nov 2012, pp 11-16.
  • Abrahams, LJ [H.4a.1b.1c.1d/E.6.5a.1b.1c.1d], Cadelgo – South Australia, North East Corner, HAFS Journal, Vol 12, No 2, Nov 2013, pp 14-26.
  • Abrahams, LJ [H.4a.1b.1c.1d/E.6.5a.1b.1c.1d], Edmund Alexander Hungerford [E.6.1a] – Remarkable Bushman, HAFS Journal, Vol 12, No 2, Nov 2103, pp 14-48.
  • Ellis, Ian Thomas Hungerford [E.6] and Baerami Station, HAFS Journal., Vol 4, No 3, May 1998, pp 25-44.

Hungerford is also famous as the subject of a short story written by Henry Lawson about his 1893 trek from Bourke to Hungerford (and back) – a journey of about 450 kms.1

  1. In the early 1890s the editor of The Bulletin, JF Archibald, (after whom the Archibald Prize is named) challenged Henry Lawson to get away from Sydney and seek the true Australian outback in search of material for his writing.  Archibald offered Lawson a rail ticket to Bourke and a £5 note. Lawson accepted the challenge and in the mid-summer of January 1893 undertook the journey.

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