JOHN MOON BRYANT OF "ROYAL TERRACE," FITZROY


[Royal Terrace]

"Royal Terrace," Nicholson Street, Fitzroy.
( Image Source: State Library of Victoria )

Stretching northwards from the corner of Nicholson and Gertrude Streets in Fitzroy is a row of ten stucco and bluestone homes known as "Royal Terrace." When this three storey building was given a major facelift and the individual homes put up for auction in May 1981 the Australian Heritage Commission regarded it as the most important terrace in Melbourne and "of national significance." "The cast iron palisade fence, the austere classical decoration and simple composition reflect our early history." Former residents include John O'Shanassy, politician; Nicholas Chevalier, artist; Dr. Louis Lawrence Smith, medical practitioner, and Professor George Britton Halford, physiologist.

"Royal Terrace" was built in 1854 for John Moon Bryant. The actual builders were John and Charles Barwell and the bluestone was quarried in Brunswick, though practically all of the fittings were imported from England. On completion, Bryant took up residence in the northern-most home with his family. At the time this was known as No.10, Royal Terrace, Nicholson Street but when the houses were renumbered it became 68 Nicholson Street, Fitzroy. He died there on 6 October 1891 but his children continued to live there until the last surviving child, also known as John Moon Bryant, died there on 22 February 1955.

In his obituary in the "Argus" newspaper, John Moon Bryant, senior, was said to have been "born in Somersetshire, England, in 1809. He arrived in Sydney in 1842, and after a short stay went to Tasmania. Not caring to stay in that colony, in 1846 he came to Victoria, and carried on an extensive business, as a general storekeeper and timber merchant, his premises being situated upon the site now occupied by Messrs. Robertson and Moffatt, in Bourke Street: and so prosperous was he, that in 1853 he retired from business the possessor of considerable wealth. Being thoroughly impressed with the belief that Victoria was destined to become a great and prosperous colony he invested nearly the whole of his capital in the purchase of land in and around Fitzroy, and for many years past he has been the largest property owner in that locality. In 1862 he was elected a councillor for Fitzroy, a position which he subsequently resigned, (and) retired into private life."

His death certificate also gives his place of birth as Somerset, England, but no birth or baptism record for him can be found for that county. The death certificate gives "not known" for both parents. It also states that he was married in Hobart, Van Diemen's Land at age 35 years to Sarah Eliza Rawlings. A marriage record does exist for John Moon Bryant and Sarah Rawlings at the Melville Street Wesleyan Chapel in Hobart on 29 October 1846. However this does not give the names of their parents, though from her death certificate one learns that Sarah's parents were Charles and Charlotte Rawlings and that she was born in London, England.

Fortunately, from a researcher's point of view, something happened in 1872 that revealed Bryant's past. At the time he was on the committee of a Benevolent Asylum in Melbourne and laid a charge of dishonesty against their Collector, Mr. R. Clegg which resulted in Clegg being dismissed from his position. Clegg retaliated by commencing an action against Bryant for slander. In Clegg v. Bryant, Clegg sought to discredit Bryant with a claim that Bryant was a former convict who had been transported to Van Diemen's Land in 1835. Bryant denied this, but an investigation was made into his past.

In the Supreme Court of Victoria Bryant claimed that he came out to Sydney in 1842 on the "Sir John Byng" free. He also said that he had been in Hobart in 1844, 1846 and 1847. However a witness named William Payne appeared who said that he had been acting superintendant of convicts at the Prisoners' Barracks, the Military Barracks, and the Cascade in Hobart Town, Tasmania in 1835 and he identified Bryant as a convict who had arrived on the "Mangles" in 1835 and had been in his charge. When asked if he had any doubt about his identity he said "None at all. There is a peculiar mark I recognise him by: one eye is bigger than the other, and when you speak to him his eyelid falls." However Bryant continued to deny having been a convict. He stated that his father's name was Peter Moon and his mother's name was Ann Bryant. He had been born in Somersetshire and was apprenticed in 1829 to a man in Bruton, in Somersetshire, for seven years. In 1836 when he was out of his time he left and went to Berkshire.

Bryant admitted to having once being charged with forgery. He explained that "there was a baker named Dunlop in Sydney, in 1844, and he assisted him with money to the extent of £75. He wanted further advances, which I refused to give. He then asked for an accomodation bill, and I signed one for £20 for three months. I took it to a storekeeper named Iredale to cash, but he would not discount it, and I returned it to Dunlop. He said he never signed it, but Iredale proved that he admitted having done so, and the case was dismissed." Another witness named Thomas Sutor said that he knew Bryant in Sydney in 1842, and that Bryant had arrived in 1842, and left in 1843 before the charge about the forgery was brought.

A search of shipping records shows that there was a ship named the "Sir John Byng" that arrived in Sydney, New South Wales in 1842 but that she had been making coastal trips, including voyages from Hobart, Van Diemen's Land.

A search of convict records shows that a convict named John Briant or Bryant, alias John Moon, had arrived at Hobart on the "Mangles" on 1 August 1835. He was the son of Peter Moon, a baker, and his mother's name was Ann. He was 24 years of age at the time and his native place is given as Nunay (Nunney). He was convicted at the Wiltshire Quarter Sessions on 6 January 1835 of stealing oak and elm boards from his employer and sentenced to transportation for 7 years.

A search of baptism records for Somerset shows a John Moon was born on 2 May 1810 in Somerset and baptised on 4 June 1810 in the Ebenezer Wesleyan Church, Shepton Mallett, Somerset, England, one of a number of children of Peter Moon and Ann.

Further research shows that though John Moon Bryant may have visited Port Phillip in 1846, he had become insolvent in Van Diemen's Land in 1848. In May 1848 he was actually named as one of the creditors in the Port Phillip District who petitioned to have a Road Surveyor and Contractor named Richard Wayman declared insolvent.

In March 1850 he was the local preacher of a newly opened Primitive Methodist Chapel located in La Trobe Street, Melbourne. In June 1862, at the Travellers' Rest Hotel, Nicholson Street, he was installed as the Worshipful Grand Master of the King Solomon Lodge of the order of Freemasons for the ensuing six months.

[Royal Terrace in 2013]

"Royal Terrace," Nicholson Street, Fitzroy in 2013.

The known children of John Moon Bryant and his wife Sarah Eliza (nee Rawlings) were:

1. Emma Moon Bryant, born 10 November 1849 in Bourke Street, Melbourne; baptised 27 March 1850 in the Primitive Methodist Church, Melbourne; died 2 May 1930 in Victoria and was buried 3 May 1930 in the Melbourne General Cemetery, Carlton, Victoria.

2. Louisa Moon Bryant, born about April 1852; died 3 August 1853 in Victoria, and was buried 3 August 1853 in the Melbourne General Cemetery, Carlton, Victoria.

3. Peter Moon Bryant, born circa 1854; died 25 February 1861in Victoria, and was buried 26 February 1861 in the Melbourne General Cemetery, Carlton, Victoria.

4. James Charles Moon Bryant, born circa 1857; died 14 January 1889 at 10, Royal Terrace, Nicholson Street, Fitzroy, and was buried 16 January 1889 in the Melbourne General Cemetery, Carlton, Victoria.

5. Elizabeth Moon Bryant, born circa 1859; died 3 December 1951 in Fitzroy, and was buried 5 December 1951 in the Melbourne General Cemetery, Carlton, Victoria.

6. Joseph Moon Bryant, born 1863 in Fitzroy, Victoria; died 2 April 1933 in Canterbury, Victoria, and was buried 3 April 1933 in the Melbourne General Cemetery, Carlton, Victoria; married 14 February 1894 in Parkville, Victoria, to Catherine Lamont McMurtrie, born 1866, died 15 July 1945 at 2 Thorn Street, Camberwell, Victoria, and was buried 16 July 1945 in the Melbourne General Cemetery, Carlton, Victoria, daughter of William McMurtrie and his wife Christina (nee Wilson). Issue:

- 1. Christina Wilson Bryant, born 1895 in Carlton, Victoria; died 9 February 1977 in Victoria and was cremated 14 February 1977 at Springvale Crematorium, Victoria.

- 2. Helen McMurtrie Bryant, born 1897 in Carlton, Victoria; died 4 February 1973 in Geelong, Victoria.

7. Andrew Moon Bryant, born 1865 in Fitzroy, Victoria; died 8 February 1888 at 10, Royal Terrace, Nicholson Street, Carlton, Victoria, and was buried 9 February 1888 in the Melbourne General Cemetery, Carlton, Victoria.

8. John Moon Bryant, born 1868 in Collingwood, Victoria; died 22 February 1955 in Fitzroy, Victoria, and was buried 23 February 1955 in the Melbourne General Cemetery, Carlton, Victoria.

9. Moses Bryant, born 1870 in Collingwood, Victoria, died 1870 in Collingwood, Victoria, aged 1 day.

[Bryant Family Grave]

Bryant Family Grave, Melbourne General Cemetery.

( Contributed by Alexander Romanov-Hughes - PPPG Member No. 52 )


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