On 11 June 1836, my great great-grandfather, Richard Robins Warren, was born in Bristol, England but he would live a very full life in Australia.
Richard’s parents were Thomas and Elizabeth (Barnett) Warren. Thomas could trace his roots back to Edwarde Warren in the 16th century Devon where his ancestors lived until Thomas moved the family to Bristol. Richard was born there and baptised in St. Mary Redcliffe church on 7 August 1836.
Although the circumstances are not known, it is understood that Richard emigrated to Australia in 1852, arriving in Port Phillip on the ship Washington Irving at the age of 16 years. It is likely that he was attracted to our shores by the great Victorian gold rush as he is next discovered on the goldfields. Within six years, on 15 March 1858 at Sandhurst (renamed Bendigo in 1891), he married Ann Livingstone the daughter of James and Isabella (Clark) Livingstone. Ten months later, my grandmother Elizabeth was born, the first of their thirteen children. When he married he was a store keeper but within a year he was mining, registering a claim and working at it until at least the mid-1860s, after which he returned to farming.
This was a period of some significant land ownership battles in Australian history. The Land Acts of the 1860s were aimed at breaking the control of the extensive land holdings held by squatters and which involved much of the usable land across Victoria. The battle raged between the wealthy, powerful squatters and those who advocated for small-scale agriculture and housing to anyone who could afford to buy it. It appears Richard was able to take advantage of these land ownership opportunities.
By the time their fifth child James Duncan was born in 1873 he was farming in Marong not far from Sandhurst. A little later in 1877 we see in the Bendigo Advertiser that he was offering for lease a fenced 20 acre Marong property, “bordering on Bullock Creek” with a comfortable weather board cottage containing four rooms, detached kitchen, outbuildings and garden. He was moving to a larger selection, and the 1880 Government Gazette stated that he had been issued a new lease on a selection of 280 acres at Leaghur in Tatchera County located to the south of the Murray River, and to the south west of Swan Hill. He retained that property until 1887 as well as another selection (allotment 36 Leaghur of 169 acres), which he transferred to one George Wilkinson in 1891.
By this time Richard and Ann now had a family of thirteen children of six girls and seven boys.
Interestingly, Richard appears in a number of newspaper articles over time.
One was in respect of his appearance at the Boort Police Court, when a Mr. J. MacDonald proceeded against him for illegally detaining a white heifer. It was claimed that the beast in question was the progeny of a cow belonging to MacDonald’s station at Leaghur. The Warrens claimed that the animal was hand-reared by them and although imperfectly branded, there was no doubt that it belonged to them. The police magistrate said the witnesses thoroughly believed what they had stated. He considered it a striking case of mistaken identity, and, although the decision of the bench might lead to further litigation, the case was dismissed. (Bendigo Advertiser, Fri 11 Jun 1886, page 3).
Another episode occurred after disposing of his Leaghur selection when he seemingly became a boarding house keeper at Swan Hill. Later in 1891 there was a “A Disputed Debt” and at the Police Court. The Bendigo Fruitgrowers’ Cooperative Company sued R. R. Warren to recover the sum of £5 11s 10d, money due in payment for fruit delivered. The result was that the company finally admitted that a misunderstanding had arisen and some mistakes had occurred. The case was dismissed but with costs to the defendant, Warren. (Bendigo Advertiser, Fri 29 May 1891, page 4).
Among his other activities, Richard was a long-term member and official of the Ovens and Murray United District of the Ancient Order of Foresters. The Ancient Order of Foresters, which originated in England in the mid-1700s, established its first branch (Court) in Victoria in 1849. It was set up as a non-profit organisation, the founding principles of the Society being to provide financial and social benefits as well as support to members and their families in times of unemployment, sickness, death, disability and old age. (ANU Archives). For a number of years about 1895, Brother R.R. Warren was the senior auditor of the Court and he was involved in many fund-raising functions for charities.
Business failure in 1895 at Swan Hill, led to Richard being declared insolvent with liabilities of £54 16s 3d and assets of only £34 19s 6d (a deficiency, of £19 16s 9d). He apparently was forced to become a labourer but then in 1897 both his wife Ann and daughter Charlotte Christina died within a month of each other. They were buried in St. Kilda cemetery in Melbourne.
Back in Swan Hill, by 1898 Richard had gained a position as a Government rabbit inspector (or destroyer). Rabbits had become a major problem for farmers in country areas of Victoria (and indeed Australia) multiplying to plague proportions following the release of a handful of animals decades earlier. He apparently worked at this in the Swan Hill area until at least 1903. As a retired civil servant and old age pensioner he moved to Melbourne living initially at 3 Bang Street, Prahran and finally at “Irene” Sycamore Grove, St. Kilda, where he died of senile debility and heart failure on 12 December 1912, aged 76.
A family notice in the Melbourne Age described him as the beloved father of Mrs. Briscoe, and J. R. Warren, and Mrs. C. Johannesen, St. Kilda; Mrs. McCurdy and J. D. Warren, and Mrs. Long, Swan Hill, and R. R. Warren and W. A. Warren. He was buried on 14 December 1912 at St. Kilda Cemetery with his wife and daughter.