THE MANTONS OF PORT PHILLIP

[Margaret Kaan]

Margaret Kaan Told of Fortunes Won and Lost by the Mantons of Port Phillip

Of the nine children born to Joseph Manton and Mary Ann Aitkens, four of their sons, Henry, Frederick, Charles and John Augustus spent time in the Port Phillip District as did their cousin Gildon Manton.

[Joseph Manton]

Joseph Manton

Joseph Manton, born 1776 in England, was a master gun maker of high repute. In 2001 a pair of his flintlock officer's pistols sold for $52,875. He was also a maker of chronometers, one of which is housed at Scienceworks Museum in Melbourne.

The cost of making guns was high and many of his wealthy customers were slow at paying. Legal disputes with the Board of Ordnance over payment for work done for the British Army led to him losing his fortune. In 1826 he ended up in the debtor's prison, his workshop seized and his entire stock sold. His son Henry who looked after the purchase of precious metals for gun making joined his father in prison. This might have been the reason why the four sons came to Australia. They had already travelled outside of England. In 1824, Frederick was sent to India to establish a branch of the gun making firm and his brothers Charles and John both spent time in India also.

Frederick Manton was the first to migrate to Australia. He arrived in Sydney, New South Wales in 1829 from Calcutta accompanied by 17 year old Marie Emilie Blanchard, known as Emilie, who was of French descent having been born in Mauritius. Soon after their arrival they married in a Presbyterian Church and then again in a Roman Catholic Church. Frederick was 29 years old. Frederick was granted 2,560 acres in Yass in a parish later called Manton. They called their property 'Mon Reduit' (My Retreat) and were aided by the 24 convicts assigned to them. They had four children whilst living in Yass.

Henry was the second son to migrate to Australia. He arrived in 1830 and was granted 1,920 acres on the Murrumbidgee River, fourteen miles from Frederick. This property named 'Cavan' was sold in 1834 and Henry moved to Sydney. In 1849 in Melbourne he gave evidence in an insolvency hearing for his brother Charles after which he returned to England, dying in 1857. Unmarried, he left his estate to his half-sisters Caroline and Charlotte.

In 1837 Frederick and Emilie moved to Sydney. Emilie's siblings and her mother had joined them in 1836 and Emilie's eldest brother, Julien Blanchard, worked with Frederick. When Frederick and Emilie decided to return to England in 1837, their property in Elizabeth Street was sold and Julien Blanchard was left to manage 'Mon Reduit.'

In 1839 with six sons, Frederick and Emilie came back to Australia. On this trip Frederick's brother Charles and his family accompanied them. Charles had married his half-sister Caroline Wheatley in 1827 and they travelled to Australia with three children. Prior to this Charles had been working at the Tower of London as Master Furbisher. The intention was to set up a Mercantile Agency in Port Phillip for shipping wool and after they arrived in Port Phillip at the end of 1839 they proceeded to erect two, two storied buildings in Elizabeth Street. They named their business 'Manton & Co.'

Frederick requested permission from Superintendent C. J. La Trobe to use the water below the falls, opposite the town of Melbourne, to run a flour mill. He wished to purchase 20 acres of land with a frontage to the river. This request was refused because land was only sold by auction but eventually he purchased Lot 7, Flinders Street and 'Manton & Co.' established a saw and flour mill in a three storied bluestone structure. The flour mill was in operation by January 1841.

Frederick was on the board of numerous companies including 'The Melbourne Bridge Company,' 'The Coal Mining Company' and the 'Melbourne Steam Navigation Company.' He was on a commitee for the introduction of Coolie labour to the colony, his brother-in-law Charles Blanchard having had experience with Coolie labour in Mauritius.

[Charlotte Manton]

Mrs. Charlotte Manton

During this time the fourth of Joseph Manton's sons to migrate to Australia arrived. John Augustus Manton like his brother Charles had married a half-sister, Charlotte Wilkinson/Wheatley and in 1832 just after their marriage they lived at the Tower of London with Charles Manton.

In Melbourne John Manton became involved with 'The Melbourne Bridge Company' in a bid to build a bridge over the Yarra River. When a wooden bridge was erected in 1845, he was the engineer.

In 1841 Frederick, John and others offered to drain West Melbourne Swamp and develop a new suburb. This scheme in what is now Docklands was rejected.

The Manton families had numerous pastoral estates. In 1845 Charles and John were living in Tooradin in the Westernport area. In the summer they drove their cattle from their Goulburn River runs to Melbourne and from there the catle were shipped on their own steamship, the "Vesta" to Gippsland for grazing. The "Vesta" was one of several steam vessels which they owned, but attempts to find a ready source of coal in Gippsland for their steam engines was not successful.

The Manton's cousin Gildon Manton arrived in Sydney in 1838 and worked as a Customs Officer and Tidewaiter. He commanded the "Lady of St. Kilda," owned by 'Manton & Co.' from Port Phillip to Canton, China in 1842 and was master of several vessels before becoming insolvent in 1843 not long after his marriage in Melbourne to Julia Ann Walsh. They returned to England where Gildon died in 1865.

In 1842 the partnership between John Augustus and Frederick was dissolved. Frederick and Emilie with their children and Emilie's brother Charles Blanchard and his family sailed to Valparaiso in Chile to purchase wheat for their mills in Melbourne. When the 1844 wheat crop in Chile was a total failure Frederick turned his interests to copper mining. They remained in Chile for 10 years, returning to Australia in 1853, but then lived in N.S.W.

The Manton's best known mining foray in Australia was in Queensland. John Augustus became aware that copper had been found at Peak Downs and he purchased the rights for a nominal amount and secured a lease. Frederick's adult sons worked the mine but unfortunately they all became insolvent.

Frederick and Emilie's home, 'Tahlee House,' in Port Stephens, N.S.W. burnt down in 1860 and they moved to Darlinghurst, N.S.W. where Frederick died in 1863, aged 64. Emilie died in 1887.

Charles Manton appears to have stayed on the land for much of his life but not without trouble. In 1846, the most valuable portion of a run along the Goulburn River was acquired by the government for a Aboriginal Station. Charles also complained that the government was not honouring contracts he had with them to supply rations and forage to the Border Police. He was declared insolvent in 1849 and his 'Giaour' run of 64,000 acres was sold. He then applied for numerous government jobs, including the position of Secretary to Charles La Trobe. He died at his home, 'Mindah' in High Street, Armadale, Victoria in November 1885, three months after his wife Caroline had died. They are buried at St. Kilda Cemetery in Melbourne. They had nine children.

John Augustus Manton with H. M. Gerrard won a contract to survey the Yarra River and Corio Bay. John had already laid private buoys in both areas to warn pilots on 'Manton& Co.' steamships of dangerous areas and the survey was completed in 1844. He became insolvent on two occasions and died aged 43 in 1852. His wife Charlotte was a widow for 44 years. She is listed in the biographical register for Ferdinand Mueller's female plant collectors.

PPPG member Margater Kaan is descended from the youngest child of Frederick and Emilie Manton. She has acquired a huge amount of information about the Manton families and hopes to eventually publish a book. The early residents of Port Phillip were indeed living in turbulent times. So many of them like the Mantons became insolvent, but always found another way to earn an income.

( The above is a report on Margaret Kaan's address at the General Meeting on 18 February 2017 )

( Contributed by Jan Hanslow. PPPG Member No. 1057 )

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Source of Images: Margaret Kaan's Collections


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