The Saga of Heritage

by Dr Thomas Hungerford OBE (former Patron of HAFS) (Originally published in HAFS Journal Vol 1 No 1 – May 1991)

Breathes there a man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said
This is my own, my native land?

Sir Walter Scott

Land or heritage or something passed down from preceding generations; a legacy, the status, or lot, acquired by a person through birth, the genetic “gene pool”! I guess this strikes a chord in every single one of us: saga – the long narrative, the recounting of historical and legendary events and exploits of our past.

In this ambience, Ron Prentice, the inaugurator, the founding committee, and all those that have laboured to set up The Hungerford & Associated Families Society, have done a work of crucial significance and climactic importance. They should be warmly commended for nurturing the “roots”, the traditions, the histories, the anecdotes which, down the tide of time, have emblazoned the histories of a number of great families intermarried and associated with the Hungerford family.

It is profitable to ponder the history – the attainments, faults, failures of the past. Those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it.

Most of us remember fragmentary stories, rich in detail but poor inaccuracy, of our ancestors. Ron Prentice has cogently intimated the vast amount of nebulous information existing about our families and their connections, but it is probable that in the minds of many of us it will be similar to that of the man who said “I finally got it altogether and now I forget where I put it”.

Our active company then, so ably chaired by Canon Mel Newth, has invited each one of us as members to send in critical excerpts from the wealth of our information, so that it may be coordinated, written up, and stored for the benefit of all of us, and for our children’s children. As Lord Bacon said, “Writing maketh a precise man”.

Peter Sherlock, in his efficient way, has asked me to write a contribution on my interest in the family history. I will forbear therefore and make a few jottings of some things, which from my youth up, have come to my notice and erupted my interest into a white hot feverent heat to investigate our historical past.


It was fascinating to hear that Lord Hungerford (Hungerforte) accompanied William the Bastard (or William the Conqueror) in 1066. In later years as I stood on the field of the Battle of Hastings and envisaged that great warrior, Harold the last of the Saxon kings, overcome in that mighty battle, I wondered (and wonder) where Hungerfords came from before that and what their history was year by year.

Wandering over England, I chanced upon a ducking chair (as used so shamefully to discipline insubordinate wives) and was reading the brass inscription until suddenly I shot off like a wounded rabbit (before my wife homed in on it) for the officer in charge of this one had been a Hungerford.

In London, I found the College of Heralds. The moment I spoke, the man there said, “Oh, you’re an Australian: you will be searching your ancestry: what is your name?” I said “Hungerford” and instantly he said “Oh, you’re upstairs, you’re Lancaster (with a tinge of scorn and contempt), the red rose, we are York down here, the white rose”. Time stands still. Years earlier as a boy, I had read an historical novel White Wyvell & Red Ruthven in which it was stated “the Tower of London was held for the King by the Lords Hungerford and Scales”.

Wandering over London, I found Hungerford Lane with the name up; it is not far from Trafalgar Square and Charing Cross Station. I walked across Hungerford Bridge, which is still so named on some maps, not on others. I found the Greater London County Council and discovered that they had scores of prints and photos of the “new” Hungerford market. They made many copies for me from their records.

One read “The New Hungerford Market” dated June 1st, 1834, and another “Hungerford Market near York Building, The Strand”, under which they had printed, “Built by Sir Edward Hungerford, Created Knight of the Bath at the Coronation of King Charles II”. The print was dated 1st February, 1825.

As a tourist, the tour conductor through the House of Commons was recounting its interesting history, which suddenly became electric for me when he announced, “the First Speaker in the House was Sir Thomas Hungerford”. Back in Australia, I found in a law textbook The Office of the Speaker1 a splendid photo with a caption “Sir Thomas Hungerford, the first recorded Speaker, from a stained glass window at Farley Hungerford church”.

Motoring into the town of Hungerford, one becomes enfolded with all the past history of the Hungerford family and the past rights held in fief from John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster. Journeying to Farleigh Hungerford castle near Bath one comes upon the past fully preserved the marble effigies of our ancestors, the chapel, the church, the castle with its Lady tower, where Lady Hungerford was imprisoned for four years before she had her husband executed, the oven where Lady Agnes Hungerford, who was later hanged at Tyburn, had her husband strangled and then burned, and all the other events past: great, famous, infamous and scandalous.

We journeyed to Ireland. We knew that Cromwell had sent the Hungerfords over in the Plantation of Ireland, and there at Inchodony, near Clonakilty, we found the very place from where Captain Emanuel Hungerford sailed for Sydney in 1828, with his wife Catherine and his eight children John, Robert, Emanuel, William, Henry, Thomas (my grandfather), Septimus and Anne.

The Australian history of Thomas Hungerford has been splendidly set forth by Ian Ellis in The History of Baerami Creek Valley2. Thomas arrived in Australia when he was five. When 24, he was in charge of Thungalier on the Barwon River and developed great skills as a bushman, cattleman and pioneer. In 1852, when he was 28, he married Emma Wood at Baerami and in the next twenty years they had 11 children: Edmund (my father), Cecil, Catherine, Herbert, Emma, Frederick, Florence, Kenneth, Thomas, Rose and an infant son Septimus, who died aged five months.

The mighty works of Thomas Hungerford, three times a Member of Parliament, a pioneer, cattle owner, and statesman, are summed up by Ian Ellis, who says of Thomas:

“Thomas of Baerami can be regarded as one of the pioneers of our nation, strong and tough, a man of initiative, intelligence and religion, perhaps not faultless but certainly a man to be respected by all and worthy to be called a great Australia and pioneer. One who helped lay the foundations on which later generations have built and expanded.”

Thomas and his sons developed many station properties: Baerami, Mount Dangar, Yarrowa, Culgoa, Gnomery, Yarran, Strathmore, Vanrook, Dunbar, Stirling, Cadelgo and a number of others so vast that it was said that put together they would equal a strip a mile wide from Melbourne to Cape York.


The depression of 1889, the great drought from 1895 onwards, the ravages of pleuropneumonia 3 and cattle tick, working together destroyed the Hungerford empire so that their bank overdraft had reached a £176,000 in 1901 and taken together with accumulated interest was £250,000 and the bank foreclosed. But so vast were the holdings that even in a disaster sale the debt was recovered with a balance of £17,000. The members of the Hungerford family numbered 15 at that time.

Thomas Hungerford died in 1904 at the age of 80 years and was a pioneer founder of the cattle industry, as Ellis said, “after Kidman and Tyson, Thomas Hungerford came next”.

Edmund Alexander Hungerford, my father, was the eldest son of Thomas. As a pioneer and great bushman, he participated in all the development throughout Queensland and the Gulf country. In the early 1980s, it was enthralling to be invited by the accountant at Dunbar station in the Gulf, to attend the 100th anniversary of the selection of the station by Thomas and Edmund Hungerford. Due to pressure of commitments as Director of the Post Graduate Foundation of Veterinary Science, I could not attend.

Edmund Alexander Hungerford (1853-1937) went to England to meet a local beauty (she had been Queen of the May in her town). She was Rose Beatrice Martin (1866-1931), my mother. She was a dauntless pioneer in the Gulf and in the north, living in conditions of great isolation and hardship (provisions once a year by bullock wagon). She never saw her mother again but, like the great pioneer women of Australia, she battled on and raised a family of six in the outback.

Edmund never rose from the crash of bankruptcy and his children were born into poverty at a time when there was no family allowance, no government relief or child endowment of any kind. The children were Cedric Edmund, Lola Beatrice, Sita Merle, Lionel Norman Disraeli, Hilda Benita and Thomas Gordon.

I am the youngest, and when I won scholarships for education, and finally a traineeship in veterinary science, with the Department of Agriculture, which yielded free university plus £2/2/0 a week ($4.20), I realised that my opportunity had come. Poverty had ceased and I laid hold of our wonderful family motto Dieu et Mon Appui (God my strength, my leaning post, my support). I felt that from Thomas, my grandfather, to Thomas myself, I could say in the Bible words:

What doth the Lord thy God require of thee but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve the Lord thy God, with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind (Deuteronomy 10: 12).

On the 5 September, 1936, I married Hilda Roslyn Schrader, and thus created another great pioneer link, with the Schraders, Sayers, and Coventrys. Our children are: Roslyn Beatrice Hammett (who has four children; John, a doctor; Vanessa Sproule, who has one daughter Lindsay; Julia; and Kristin); Gordon Douglas, a neuroradiologist; Bernard Thomas, a solicitor (who has four children: Robert, Marc, Edward and Richard); and Christine Mildred Symes, who has three children (Victoria, Montague and Nigel).

So the heritage runs on: and so you are invited by the committee to send to them the saga of your past, so that it may be recorded before all is lost and forgotten in the mists of time.

[Correction: In the splendid President’s Report by Canon Mel Newth (HAFS Newsletter No 1, February 1991) he noted in the second paragraph that I had recently retired as Professor of Veterinary Science at Sydney University. This is not so – not Professor of Veterinary Science, but Director for the Post Graduate Foundation in Veterinary Science, which is the organisation charged with keeping all veterinary practitioners in Australia up to date.]

  1. P Laundy, The Office of the Speaker, (London: Casell & Co, 1864) 46.
  2. I Ellis, The History of Baerami Creek Valley, 17
  3. Pleuropneumonia (Mycoplasma mycoides) was introduced into Australia in 1858, and was eradicated by wise veterinary action by 1970. Tick fever (Babesia bovis and other protozoa) was introduced in 1872 and has still not been eradicated.

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