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Jane Steel Walker nee Hart (1832-1870) wife of businessman and philanthropist Thomas Walker of Yaralla

There is little accurate information available on Jane Steel Walker nee Hart, the wife of businessman and philanthropist Thomas Walker of Yaralla.[1] Our understanding of who Jane was is hampered by a lack of primary documentary evidence and by statements in secondary sources that are made about Jane, but which do not appear to be grounded in any primary source. Various writers have continued to uncritically quote these secondary sources which has compounded the confusion. The purpose of this short paper is to clarify what is actually known about Jane and her life.

Jane Hart’s birth

Jane Steel Walker nee Hart

Jane Steel Walker nee Hart

Lack of a birth certificate has led to speculation by researchers as to the age and identity of Jane.[2] According to her gravestone, Jane Steel Hart was born in St Andrews, Scotland, on 2 July 1832.[3] Her marriage certificate records that Jane Hart married Thomas Walker on 25 July 1860 at the Holy Trinity Church, Sydney. We are informed she was a spinster, that she was born in St Andrews, Scotland and that her usual place of residence was Woolloomooloo, Sydney.

On 18 September 1861, Jane gave birth to Eadith and her age was given as 30[4] and on her death certificate of 26 December 1870, her age was stated as 40 years. Her age at the time of marriage, which is information she most likely would have supplied, unlike the information from other documents, Jane is recorded as being 28 years of age; these age variations give approximately the same date and therefore are not significant. On this evidence her birthdate is in 1832, as stated on her gravestone.

In Summary:  Jane Hart was born on 2 July 1832 at St Andrews, Fife, Scotland.

Jane Hart’s family

We know from primary documents that Jane Hart was the daughter of Thomas Hart, merchant, and Agnes Swinton and that she was born in St Andrews, Scotland.[5] In addition to the above, from the newspaper notice of their marriage we learn that Jane’s father Thomas, a merchant of St Andrews, Scotland, was deceased at the time of the wedding.[6]

Thomas Hart, a corn-merchant of Limerick, Ireland, married Agnes Swinton at Falkirk, Stirlingshire in 1815.[7] Records of the birth of several children to this couple while living in St Andrews, the birthplace of Jane, have been found: Margaret Crawford (b.1824),[8] Alexander (b.1825)[9] and Agnes Steel (b.1828).[10]  Thomas Hart, a corn-merchant, is known to have operated in South Street, St Andrews, from at least 1825 until at least 1827.[11] No birth certificate has been found for Jane despite an extensive search, and no birth certificates for other children born to Thomas and Agnes have been located. That there were other children born prior to the first recorded birth of 1824 is likely as Thomas and Agnes were married in 1815 when Agnes (nee Swinton) was 28 years old (b.1787).[12]

In addition to these three children and Jane, there appear to have been two and possibly three sons whose births have not been located. In 1832, the tragic death occurred of a 12 year old boy named Thomas Hart (b.1820), who is described as the ‘third son of Thomas Hart corn-merchant of St Andrews’.[13] In 1873, the will of Thomas Walker twice refers to Jane’s brother George, in Canada.[14] Like his father, George was a corn-merchant and probably lived with his mother until shortly before her death. He remained in Edinburgh from about 1844 until about 1850 after which time his precise whereabouts are unknown.[15] The terms used in Thomas Walker’s will concerning George and Jane, suggest that by 1873 George may have been Jane’s last surviving sibling and/or Jane had a special regard for this particular brother. It may be that George was responsible for Jane after the death of their mother and it is this that accounts for his mention in Thomas’ will. In 1844, the death occurred in Edinburgh of Agnes Hart (nee Swinton) at the age of 57, the widow of Thomas Hart.[16] This means that by 1844 Jane, at only twelve years of age, had lost both her parents.

The only Jane Hart born in St Andrews, Fife, which has been located, is recorded in the 1851 Scottish Census where Jane Hart, a 22 year old music governess, is teaching at the Elm Bank House, Hamilton, Scotland, an establishment for the Board and Education of Young Ladies.[17] This could be Jane Hart, daughter of Thomas Hart and Agnes Swinton.

 In summary: we know that Jane Hart was born in St Andrews, Scotland, in 1832 to Thomas Hart originally of Limerick, a corn-merchant of St Andrews, Scotland, and his wife Agnes Swinton (1787-1844). She had at least five or six siblings consisting of at least three or four boys and two girls. By 1844, both her parents and one sibling Thomas, had died. At least one   sibling George, who was a corn-merchant, was living in Edinburgh from 1844 to 1850 and was  thought to be still alive in Canada in 1873. It is possible that Jane was a music governess.

 

Jane’s Father’s place of business

In an Australian Dictionary of Biography article[18]and using information from Jane’s marriage certificate, W. Joy records that Jane is ‘Jane, the daughter of Thomas Hart, merchant, of Woolloomooloo’. This ambiguously constructed sentence has led people to believe that Jane was the daughter of a Woolloomooloo merchant, Thomas Hart. What the marriage certificate actually indicates is that it is Jane who lived in Woolloomooloo and that she was the daughter of a merchant whose location is not given in this primary document. Thus it is that Ian Jack, in his otherwise excellent article, also says that Jane was ‘the daughter of another substantial Sydney merchant, Thomas Hart of Woolloomooloo’.[19] There appears to be no evidence that there was a Thomas Hart of Woolloomooloo who was a merchant, and certainly none that he was a ‘substantial’ merchant in this location.[20] When he married Agnes Swinton, Thomas Hart was described as a corn-merchant of Limerick and he appears to have been a corn-merchant in St Andrews, Fife, from at least 1825 until 1832. Prior to this date his place of business is unknown, but a corn-merchant of that name operated in Edinburgh from at least 1804 until 1822[21] and Thomas died sometime between 1832 and 1844. In 1870, at the time of her death, Jane was meant to have only been resident in the colony of NSW for approximately 16 years. This makes it highly unlikely that Thomas was ever a merchant in Woolloomooloo.

In summary: there is no evidence that Jane’s father was a merchant in Sydney.

 

When and how Jane came to NSW

Skehan says that in his late fifties and on a trip back to Scotland, Thomas Walker met and proposed to Jane Hart the daughter of Thomas Hart of St Andrews, Fife,[22] and it is also said that he brought his fiancée back to Sydney with his youngest sister, Joanna, acting as chaperone.[23] The marriage took place on 25 July 1860.[24]

These statements on where Thomas and Jane met, and how she came to NSW, are not supported by any primary documents. On Jane’s death certificate it is indicated that she had been in the colony of NSW for ‘about 16 years’ which would make her arrival around 1854[25] and this, even allowing for the approximate figure given,  is a considerable period of time before her wedding to Thomas. A detailed search of passenger shipping lists for 1850 to 1860 has not revealed any record of a Mr Walker, Miss Walker and Miss Hart coming together into Sydney. Indeed, given Thomas’ busy life in this decade, he does not appear to have left the colony and Joanna, who came to NSW in 1845, also does not seem to have been absent during this period.[26] Thus it would seem that this story about their meeting and Jane’s arrival in the colony is unlikely to be accurate.

In summary: what is known is that Jane came to NSW around 1854, resided in Woolloomooloo and married in 1860.

 

The death of Jane and the care of Eadith

Jane died on 26 December 1870 when Eadith, her daughter, was nine years old. Skehan says that:

Jane Steel Walkers Grave

Jane Steel Walker’s Grave

Devastated at Jane’s loss, and left with a young child to raise, Thomas turned for help to his only surviving sister. Joanna Walker had returned to London with them years earlier, and remained with relatives. She responded to his pleas, arriving in Sydney several months later.[27]

It is certainly true that Joanna was to play a significant role in the raising of young Eadith, but Joanna had not remained in London and was not overseas at the time of Jane’s death. Joanna did return to Britain in 1861 and was absent from Sydney when Eadith was born.[28] Joanna, however, returned to Sydney in July 1862 while Thomas, Jane and Eadith were still overseas.[29] She probably remained in NSW from that time until the death of Jane when she is recorded as being a witness at the burial.[30]

In summary: Joanna was resident in Sydney at the time of Jane’s death and played a significant role in Eadith’s upbringing.

Drawing all this material from primary sources together and removing unsupported secondary source assertions we learn that:

Jane Steel Hart was born on 2 July 1832 at St Andrews, Fife, Scotland, to Thomas Hart originally of Limerick, a corn-merchant of St Andrews, Scotland, and his wife Agnes Swinton (1787-1844). She had at least five or six siblings consisting of at least three or four boys and two girls. By 1844, both her parents and one sibling, Thomas, had died. At least one sibling, George, who was a corn-merchant, was living in Edinburgh from 1844-1850 and was thought to be still alive in Canada in 1873. It is possible that Jane was a music governess.

There is no evidence that Jane’s father was a merchant in Sydney. Jane came to NSW around 1854, resided in Woolloomooloo and married Thomas Walker on 25 July 1860 and on 19 October 1861, Eadith Campbell Walker was born to the couple.

Joanna Walker, Thomas’ sister, was resident in Sydney at the time of Jane’s death on 26 December 1870 and played a significant role in her niece Eadith’s upbringing.

Dr Paul F Cooper, Research Fellow, Christ College, Sydney


The appropriate way to cite this article is as follows:

Paul F Cooper. Jane Steel Walker nee Hart (1832-1870) wife of businessman and philanthropist Thomas Walker of Yaralla. April 19, 2016. Available at https://phinaucohi.wordpress.com/2016/04/19/jane-steel-walker-nee-hart-1832-1870-wife-of-businessman-and-philanthropist-thomas-walker-of-yaralla/


[1] The name ‘Steel’ is on her gravestone in the cemetery at St John’s Anglican Church, Ashfield, NSW.

[2] Personal communication with Patricia Skehan 26/2/2016. It was thought she may have been, because of the similarity of the name, Agnes Steel Hart.

[3] St Johns Anglican Church, Ashfield, NSW.

[4] Eadith’s Birth Certificate NSW BDM dated 19 October 1861, no. 1913

[5] Jane Hart/Thomas Walker Marriage Certificate NSW BDM, 514/1860.

[6] Sydney Mail, August 4, 1860, 5.

[7] ‘27 August 1815 Thomas Hart, Merchant in Limerick Ireland and Agnes Swinton in this parish.’  Scotland’s People SWINTON, AGNES (O.P.R. Marriages 479/00 0090 0188 FALKIRK)

[8] ‘7 January 1824 Margaret Crawford daughter of Thomas Hart Merchant St Andrews and Agnes Swinton 7th Jan 1824 and Baptised 21st Feb 1824 by Dr Haldane.’ Scotland’s People HART, MARGARET CRAWFORD (O.P.R. Births 453/00 0190 0044 ST ANDREWS AND ST LEONARDS)

[9] ‘10 August 1825 Alexander Hart son Thomas Hart Corn-merchant of St Andrews and Agnes Swinton b 10 August 1825 Baptised 8 October 1825 by Dr Haldane’. Scotland’s People HART, ALEXANDER (O.P.R. Births 453/00 0190 0046 ST ANDREWS AND ST LEONARDS)

[10] ‘2 July 1828 Agnes Steele daughter of Mr Thomas Hart Corn merchant St Andrews and Agnes Swinton was born 2nd July [1828] and baptised 27th August 1828 by Dr Buist Witnessed Mrs Buist and Mrs Margaret Yule’. Scotland’s People HART, AGNES STEELE (O.P.R. Births 453/00 0190 0064 ST ANDREWS AND ST LEONARDS

[11] Scottish Post Office Directory for 1825.

[12] Scotland’s People 12/08/1844 Hart, Agnes (OPR Deaths 685/02 0610 0037 St Cuthbert’s).

[13] ‘Thomas son of Mr Thomas Hart Corn Merchant died here [St Andrews] on the 4th and was buried on 7th of November 1832.’Scotland’s People HART, THOMAS (O.P.R. Deaths 453/00 0210 0057 ST ANDREWS AND ST LEONARDS). “On Saturday 3d [1832] … two miles east of St Andrews … third son of Thomas Hart, corn merchant a youth about 12 years of age  [birth date about 1820] fell … and fractured his skull.” Johnstone’s Political Register 4, Vol 1, December 1, 1832, 40.

[14] These references are says Walker ‘a token of affection for his late sister and in consideration of his being my daughter’s uncle (her mother’s brother)’ ‘Last Will and Testament of Thomas Walker,’ August 26, 1873. NSW State Records, 13660, 3, 17/2169, Series 3-13992 Thomas Walker, Date of death, September 2, 1886, Granted on 22 November 1886.

[15] Scottish Post Office Directory Edinburgh for 1845-46, 46. Entries are in each year directory after this date until 1850-51.

[16] Scotland’s People 12/08/1844 Hart, Agnes (OPR Deaths 685/02 0610 0037 St Cuthbert’s).

[17] Scotland’s People 30//03/1851 Hart, Jane (Census 1851 647/00 010/00 016).

[18] W. Joy, ‘Walker, Thomas (1804–1886)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/walker-thomas-1101/text3929, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 21 March 2016.

[19] Ian Jack, History of Yaralla Estate, September 2005, 9, City of Canada Bay Heritage Society Archives.

[20] An extensive search of contemporary newspapers can locate no mention of a Sydney merchant by the name of Thomas Hart.

[21] Listed in, various Scottish PO Directories for that period variously at Constitution Street Edinburgh (1804-1810) and Cotefield Lane Edinburgh (1811-1822). [Scotland, 1825] Pigot & Co.’s New Commercial Directory of Scotland, for 1825-6, 27-28. Johnstone’s Political Register no 4 Vol 1, December 1, 1832, 40.

[22] Patricia Skehan, The Walker Family and Their Philanthropy, Nurungi, No 182, City of Canada Bay Heritage Society, October 2011. Marriage Certificate Thomas Walker and Jane Hart July 25, 1860. NSW BD 514/1860.

[23] Patricia Skehan, Walker, Thomas, Dictionary of Sydney, 2011, http://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/walker_thomas, viewed 18 December 2015.

[24] Empire (Sydney, NSW), July 30, 1860, 1. Thomas’ age on his wedding certificate is listed as 58. Jane is listed on her wedding certificate as 28, on Eadith’s birth certificate as 30 and on her death certificate as 40. No birth certificate has been found in that name. The children of Agnes Swinton and Thomas Hart found are Margaret Crawford Hart (b. 7 Jan 1824), Alexander Hart (b. 10 August 1825) and Agnes Steele Hart (b.2 Jul 1828). “Scotland Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950) FamilySearch.

[25] If this date is correct a “Miss Hart” who arrived in Sydney on the Scotia from Plymouth on April 2, 1854 could be Jane. The Shipping Gazette and Sydney General Trade List, April 3, 1854, 62.

[26] A plot of every newspaper occurrence in Trove http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/ of Thomas and Joanna’s names indicates they were within the colony of NSW for most of this period. This seems to indicate that their absence during the period 1850-1860 is unlikely.

[27] Patricia Skehan, The Walkers of Yaralla, (P. Skehan Publishing, Concord, 2000), 208.

[28] Thomas Walker (1842-1865) Diary entry 1 January 1861, np. J.T. Walker in his notes on his life “A Birthday Retrospective , 1903, 10 (Canada Bay Heritage Society) records Joanna as being in London in 1861 (‘staying in Orme Square, and enjoyed my esteem in spite of making me feel small at times by her “candid friend” criticisms’).

[29] Empire (Sydney, NSW), July 14, 1862, 5. See advertisements inserted in the newspaper by Joanna shortly after her return. SMH, August 12, 1862, 1; September 9, 1862, 1.

[30] Jane Hart Death Certificate, December 26, 1870 NSW BDM. Jane was buried on December 28, 1870 at Ashfield, NSW.

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