Ebenezer and Harriettt Hoppitt left Stapleford. near Cambridge, on board the “Boanerges”, arriving in Sydney on 20th October 1857. With them were their children Alice aged twelve, William ten and Sarah Ann eight. According to shipping records Ebenezer, 40 years, was an agricultural labourer who could neither read nor write, Harriettt, 38 years, could read and write, the children could all read. They settled in the St Peters area where, apart from a few years in the southern highlands, they were to spend the rest of their lives.
In 1859, according to the electoral rolls, Ebenezer was living and working on the Waterloo Estate. In the 1863 Sands Directory he was listed as a brickmaker living on Cooks River Road, in 1867 in Camden St and in 1869 Lord St. He also had a leasehold at Waterloo. In 1873 he was living in Unwins Bridge Road (now May St) before moving to St Peters Church rectory where he and his wife were employed as servants. The event is recorded in the curate, Stanley Howard’s letters. ‘We now have a rather elderly party who chose for their name of wedded life Hoppitt. Happily she does not wish to be called Mrs Hoppitt but Harriett’.
By this time both daughters were married. Alice had married Charles Slade and Sarah Ann had married Henry Chappell. Henry was a brickmaker, like his father, who had migrated from Gloucestershire in 1839. The family lived for many years in Hutchinson Street, St Peters, and were noted for their involvement with the Primitive Methodist Chapel in May Street. ‘The Methodist’ paper noted the death of Sarah Ann: ‘One of our oldest and most faithful members at St Peters passed away recently after many years of great suffering. Coming to this country as a young girl she immediately identified herself with the activities of our cause and all that it stands for was very dear to her and in good works she laboured abundantly, ever being to the fore in helping the needy. For many years she was a Sunday School teacher and lives have been influenced for good through her faithful work. Right up to her last illness she was prominent in doing her utmost to build up our church and extend the Kingdom of God. But it was perhaps during her closing years that her sterling qualities were fully revealed. In great affliction, practically helpless and in intense pain almost continually, she never murmured or complained. Patient in suffering and unwaivering in her faith in Jesus Christ she witnessed for Him to the end of her life and fell asleep with His name upon her lips’.
The two bachelor ministers at the rectory approved of the job being done by their new servants, especially Harriett. These comments are recorded:
‘Our new servant Harriett has not been ‘in service’ for some years now and seems diffident in undertaking the laying of the table, but she manages it all very well and we like her. The difference is wonderful between her and the other woman. Fanny was pleased with nothing you did for her and expected all the more, Harriett is pleased with everything and expects nothing. She delights in such little attentions as putting a flower in one’s room, making a cup of arrowroot and the like’.
‘Our servant Harriett (Mrs Hoppitt) is as near a piece of perfection as possible in her way as any woman I ever saw, such a contrast to the other poor creature’
When visitors arrived the servants were of great assistance:
‘The value of our domestiques comes out on such an occasion as this, they seem to take a pleasant interest in making everything as nice and comfortable as possible. I had to give up the drawing room to them (the visitors) also my bedroom, to be annexed to the spare room, as they open into each other. I was not a little astonished to find another room hitherto unfurnished, except a bed and some boxes, turned as if by magic into a comfortable furnished bedroom and study, with a good table, grand horsehair cushioned chairs, an elegant dressing table etc, all accomplished with scarcely more than mere permission from me, by the industrious Harriett. The furniture was what once adorned her‘dining room’ in their own little house and had been brought over for the purpose from some relatives. Isn’t she a gem of a thing in servants?’
One important occasion in 1874 was a family marriage. Stanley Howard wrote: ‘In the evening I assisted Mr Baber in marrying a son of our two servants, quite an event in our quiet life and certainly in theirs’. William Hoppitt, a servant, married Harriett Fenning. Harriett was eighth child of William and Elizabeth Fenning, a farmer at Camden. William Fenning and his son Alfred, who lived in Silver St, are buried in St Peters graveyard.
While Harriett may have been a ‘gem’ Ebenezer seemed to struggle with the tasks assigned to him. Two occasions are recorded of his activities
‘I have had some wholesome outdoor exercise today superintending the work in the short drive up to the church from the road. It is a straight piece up a rather steep incline and the ground rises on each side of the road. We are having this shelved off into a nice slope and covered with sods. It requires much more care than at first sight appears, and tho’ Hoppitt understands the manual labour of sod cutting, he doesn’t at all comprehend – the engineering part of it and I had to do my poor best to guide them. I think we have been fairly successful on the whole’.
In 1876 there was a severe drought:‘I had a little trouble with a refractory cow which took up some of my time. We get no milk from her now and there is scarcely a morsel of feed in our paddock. It is all as dry as a stick,so it costs me about 8/- a week even at a low allowance,but I can put her in a paddock (or meadow as we English would say) for the sum of 2/-, and it doesn’t want much knowledge of economy, or any other science,to convince me that the paddock is preferable for all parties concerned, especially the cow. She, however, failed to see the case and in no modest terms refused to go away from home. When I came home from a few visits I found Hoppitt, mounted on the horse, with the cow before him heading towards the river. But her head only turned that way as far as the first fence. Then away she went in all directions,Hoppitt after her,flourishing his stick. I went and helped him as far as propriety would allow me. But it was no use. Hoppitt was not at all at home on Veno, he might as well have mounted the cow herself, so that was given up. The next thing was to bail her up,i.e. to entice her to put her head through some upright bars into a bucket which she supposed would contain bran or chaff. Then one of the rails, fitted for the purpose is slipped close up to her neck, behind her head, so that she was safe. Then we secured a rope round her horns and Hoppitt was to lead her quietly (forsooth) down to the river. When she got outside the shed,didn’t she lead us indeed and that not quietly either. She went blundering about, plunging into shrubs, gateposts, rosebushes, anything. I thought she would surely smash Mr Wilson’s buggy in the yard. Presently we put on a strong halter which was rather better and the last thing I saw,after Hoppitt and his lusty son,William,had been dragged full tilt after her all down the paddocks below, was a great procession of three slowly wending their way down the road towards the river,where I hope she is safe’
Frances Chappell, Henry’s mother also wrote of the drought in a letter to her sister and brother in England: ‘it is nearly three years since we heard from you wee thought that something must heave happen to you wee heave had a very dry season this summer wee heave had to bye our water here lately that is a new thing for us to do ……..things dont look very well here for it has been so very Dry and it makes work scarces thinks is very dear hear and there are likely to be iff it dose not com any rain wee have a deal of sickness in this country with the fever and there has been a Great many deaths round a bout hear lately’
Ebenezer is listed in the minutes of the Church meetings as a “free seater” and being paid for doing various jobs around the church. The couple worked at the rectory until 1878. It is interesting to note that although Ebenezer was listed as not being able to read or write he was able to sign his name as witness for a couple of marriages at the church.
In 1879, when Stanley Howard returned from England with his wife, he employed the Hoppitts to work at Bowral, his new parish. ‘Harriett Hoppitt has left the parsonage. We are to see her today, and shall probably engage her for at least 3 months. We shall have to pay her about 14/- a week though I expect, everything found. We should like to give her husband a trial: but he does drink a good deal I fear. Still he might do better in a new place: I like him: he is trustworthy in every other respect and a very handy man about the place. He would be a capital hand at clearing the 40 acres of glebe’. The account books for Bowral in 1879 show they were each paid £3 per month.
Harriett proved to be useful, ‘Our good Harriett Hoppitt is as good a nurse for a baby as ever you could find’, but not everything was to Stanley’s liking, ‘The empty fireplace Mrs Hoppitt adorns with graceful sprays of the abundant eucalyptus, which is not at all bad in effect only she puts them standing in an old fruit tin, which looks vulgar’. Ebenezen had good times
‘paid a visit with Hoppitt to the glebe. Found Hoppitt very useful if not ornamental’, and bad, ‘Hoppitt is inclined to overfeed horses and all livestock, about which we have had -well, conversations I will call them’.
In September 1883 when Stanley Howard died his widow received a letter from Harriettt. It was addressed ‘Care of Mr J. Bell Esqre, Greenhills, Meryla Siding’ (now Werai, near Moss Vale)
‘Dear Mrs Howard
you can not think how very Much we feel and think a bout you in your grate trdiel of berevement and your Dear littel ones but i hope the Lord will give you strenth to bear it as i now you you feel it is his will he gives and takes away and athough he has thought fit to take your dearest one away you can still say blesed be his name i do wish we all could say that and that we ware all like him who he just gone before us i can not tell you how we both felt at the sad news as we only heird it a littel befor three on Friday and was reding his speach in the paper and was so pleased and that he was better but he has got a better home now i littel thought i should never see that clear face no More but May we Meet him in heaven kiss the dear littel ones for me i hope i shall see you and the dear lillel ones before you go as i heird you ware going home i would try and get to see you if i new when it would be convenant to you hopping the Lord Ma give you strenth for all your troubel i remain your Humbel Servant H Hoppett’
By 1885 the Hoppitts had returned to Sydney and were living at 64 Brown St, St Peters. It was here that Harriett died in 1895 and was buried in the graveyard at St Peters Church. Ebenezer died in 1900 at Hutchinson St, St Peters, where his daughter Sarah lived.
Number 64 Brown St, was the family home for many years. A photo of the house appears in the Stanley Howard photo collection and is labelled “Hoppitt Hall, St Peters, Sydney”.
The Hoppitt’s son William and his wife Harriett lived there with their family of six children, one girl and five boys. Amy married Charles Drane and only one son, William, married. Of the other sons Edwin and Alfred died as children and were buried at St Peters, Frederick died in his thirties and Harry in his eighties. William worked as a labourer and driver.
William married Lily Dreis in 1904. Lily was the daughter of Folden Dreis and Elizabeth Ann Lee. Elizabeth’s father, was a stone mason at Cooks River. Folden’s father, Kasper, had migrated from Germany in 1855. His first wife died on the voyage or shortly after arrival in Sydney. He placed his three children into the Institute for Destitute Children in Paddington where he obtained a job as a cook. Folden was the son of his second marriage. Folden worked as a carter, storeman, coach driver and bus proprietor and lived in May, St Peters, Barden and Sutherland Streets. Lily war born while they were living in a terrace house in Barden St, Tempe. Her brother Charles was a lifetime resident of the district. For many years he had a butcher shop in Terry St.
William and Lily had thirteen children; ten sons and three daughters. It is said that his father was worried about the Hoppitt name dying out, but ten sons meant that this was not to be. In his younger days, William played rugby union with the “Newtown Pirates” and in later years he was a cricket umpire for the Church competition. In married life they lived at 64 Brown Street at the time of the births of their first two children. They then moved to 19 St. Peters Street until their family increased to eleven and then moved to 23 St Peters Street, where their family increased to thirteen. They remained here until William’s death in 1958. During his life, William had worked as a carter and labourer, working at \Varragamba Dam, the Captain Cook Dock and the Water Board. His final job was at the ‘Rosella’ factory.
The family connection with the St Peters area continued when their children grew up and married, six of them lived there for many years. Three worked locally and were still living in the area when they died.
Seven generations have lived and are still living in the area. The family has spread far and wide, but anyone with the name of Hoppitt in Australia is related to the original family that migrated from England.
NSW State Electoral Rolls
‘Fenning Family 1841 – 1991’
NSW Register of BDM’s
‘Stanley, a young man’s colonial experience’ edited by Laurel Horton
Stanley Howard family papers and photographs
State Records – Shipping lists
‘The Methodist” 14.5.1921
Uniting Church Archives