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'Certain lands at Manly Beach and elsewhere' Katherine Wentworth and the Bassett Darley estates.

In March 1877 the New South Wales parliament passed a Private Act authorising the trustees of the marriage settlement of Katherine Darley and William Bassett to sell and dispose of certain lands at Manly Beach and elsewhere in the Colony', (1) thereby ending a legal saga the origins of which lay in decisions made half a century earlier.

Katherine was the daughter of D'Arcy Wentworth, one of the early colony's more colourful and controversial citizens. Born in 1762 into an Anglo-Irish family distantly related to the Fitzwilliams of Wentworth Woodhouse, one of England's great estates, D'Arcy arrived in Sydney in June 1790 as assistant surgeon on board Neptune, a ship of the Second Fleet. He had left England under a cloud after being acquitted for the fourth time on charges of highway robbery, (2) the court's decision probably having had as much to do with D'Arcy's aristocratic connections as to any lack of evidence against him.

Once settled in New South Wales D'Arcy prospered in both his public work and private business activities. During the Macquarie era he rose to the positions of Surgeon-General, Superintendent of Police and Treasurer of the Police Fund, and was amongst the most wealthy people in the colony. Yet he never fully gained the respect of many of the military officers and social elite who were aware of his earlier encounters with the law.

D'Arcy finally retired from public life in 1825 and 'left Town in his new carriage, for his magnificent country seat at Homebush' (3) to spend his remaining time with his 'dear friend' Ann Lawes with whom he had lived for the past fifteen years. However, D'Arcy's days were numbered and on 5 July 1827, just two days before his death, he signed his last will and testament in which he bequeathed all his real estate to four executors to be held in trust for the benefit of his children. Two of these, William Charles (b. 1790) and D'Arcy (b. 1793), had been born to Catherine Crowley, a female convict whom D'Arcy had met on the voyage to Port Jackson and who lived with him until her death in 1800. The others--George (b. 1810), Martha (b. 1813), Sophia (b. 1816), Robert (b. 1818), John (b. 1819), Mary Ann (b. 1820) and Katherine (b. 1825)--were by Ann Lawes who gave birth to yet another son, Charles D'Arcy, eight months after D'Arcy's death.

In the closing sentence of his will D'Arcy expressed confidence that his executors, friends John Thomas Campbell, William Lawson and William Redfern, and son William Charles Wentworth, would 'do every justice to the trusts [he had] confided to them'. The trusts were of no mean significance since Wentworth was at that time the largest individual landowner in the colony with holdings amounting to more than 34,000 acres (approximately 13,800 ha) acquired through grant and purchase over three decades. Most of the land was consolidated into six estates, the largest of which lay in the Illawarra and stretched from the southern shore of Lake Illawarra to the Minnamurra River. This alone comprised more than one-third of D'Arcy's holdings. Other large estates were situated on the Nepean River in the districts of Bringelly and Cook, and at Toongabbie, South Creek and Homebush, the Wentworth family home.

The rest of D'Arcy's real estate comprised a number of portions of varying size and it was seven of these that constituted the bulk of his bequest to Katherine. Six lay on Sydney's northern beaches in the districts of Broken Bay and North Harbour. They comprised 400 acres (162 ha) originally granted to James Napper in 1816 and embracing the whole of the Barrenjoey peninsula and what are now the suburbs of Palm Beach and Whale Beach, (4) 700 acres (283 ha) granted to Robert Campbell Junior in 1814 and extending over the southern half of present-day Newport and the northern half of Mona Vale, (5) 380 acres (154 ha) at Manly Vale granted to D'Arcy Wentworth himself in 1815, (6) fifty acres (20 ha) at Freshwater Beach granted to Thomas Bruin the same year, (7) and two contiguous portions at Manly Beach totalling 130 acres (53 ha) granted to Richard Cheers and Gilbert Baker in 1810. (8) Katherine's bequest also included a parcel of land at Duck River in what is now the suburb of Granville. This covered 250 acres (101 ha) and was promised to D'Arcy Wentworth some time before 1823 but because the deed of grant was issued after D'Arcy's death it was cancelled and re-issued in favour of his executors in 1840. (9)

However, this was not the full extent of Katherine's inheritance. In addition to the above, she was given a one-fifth share in three other estates, the remaining shares being held by her brother Robert and sisters Martha, Sophia and Mary Ann. The smallest of these estates was a parcel of thirty acres (12 ha) at Liverpool with frontage to the Georges River. This had been granted to Thomas Moore in 1816 (10) and subsequently acquired by D'Arcy Wentworth. At Appin, the 100 acre (40 ha) estate consisted of portions originally granted to John Clarke and Francis Thompson in 1819, (11) but which had afterwards been transferred to Andrew Byrne who sold them to Wentworth. However, of far greater significance than either of these was Katherine's one-fifth share in the Illawarra Estate, later known as the Peterborough Estate. Covering a nominal area of 13,050 acres (approximately 5,300 ha) it was made up of grants to William Charles Wentworth, John Horsely, James Mileham, Thomas Davey and William Ralph, as well as four separate grants to D'Arcy Wentworth himself. (12)

The question is why, given that all Wentworth's land was freehold and unencumbered, was parliamentary intervention necessary to enable the sale of Katherine's portions almost fifty years after her father's death? The answer lies in the limitations D'Arcy placed on his children's interests in the estates, limitations that applied equally to all of them but which, by force of circumstance, had their greatest impact on Katherine.

The root of the problem lay in the terms of D'Arcy's will, first expressed in relation to William Charles who was to be allowed:
 to possess and enjoy my estates in the District of Cook ... for and
 during the term of his natural life and from and after his decease
 the same to go and descend to his first and other sons and daughters
 in tail in the order of primogeniture males to be preferred to
 females and to the several and respective heirs of their bodies so
 that each possessor shall take only a life estate and interest in
 the same and in the event of the said William Charles Wentworth's
 decease without issue then I give and devise my said estates to
 my said Trustees and their heirs in trust to allow my other children
 hereinafter mentioned to possess and enjoy the same strictly limited
 to life interest and in tail to each of them respectively in the
 order of primogeniture males to be preferred to females in the
 following order D'Arcy the whole brother of the said William
 Charles, George, Martha, Sophia, Robert, Mary Ann and
 Katherine. (13)

The will continued to impose the same limitations in each case so that when it eventually came to Katherine's turn it was only necessary to say that her estates were:
 to be had and held by the said Katherine during the term of her
 natural life and go and descend to the heirs of her body subject to
 the like limitations and conditions as are hereinbefore declared
 of and concerning my said other real estates.

Towards the end of the will, and almost as an afterthought, D'Arcy also made it clear that 'the whole of the remainders hereby created and made are to apply to such only of the issue of my children as shall be lawfully begotten by my said children in holy wedlock', a somewhat ironic stipulation from a man who, while apparently faithful to the mothers of his children, had failed to marry either of them.

The legal import of D'Arcy's words was immense and left no doubt as to his intentions. By limiting his children to life estates in the land and defining so specifically what was to occur after their death, D'Arcy had converted the estates' titles from fee simple to fee tail in an effort to ensure that the land remained in the family. However, his motives for acting in this way are less clear, though possibly he hoped to quash finally the tag of criminality that, deservedly or not, had dogged him throughout his thirty-seven years in the colony, and to establish a dynasty that might fulfil his earlier commitment to his relative and patron William Wentworth Fitzwilliam, the fourth Earl Fitzwilliam, of making' the Name of Wentworth as great and respected as any in this Country'. (14)

According to English law which became fully operative in New South Wales following the passage of the Australian Courts Act 1828, an estate in fee tail was far different from an estate in fee simple. (15) Although both were estates of freehold and inheritance, the holder, or tenant, of an estate in fee simple could, unless otherwise limited, dispose of it in whatever way he or she wished, either by will or through an arrangement such as sale, lease or mortgage to another living person (inter vivos), even for a period extending beyond the tenant's life. Hence, it was up to the tenant to decide whether or not the estate should remain in the family.

Such freedom of disposition was not available to tenants of estates in fee tail. Although the tenant could alienate the land through inter vivos arrangements, such arrangements could not extend beyond his or her own life, so to sell the land outright was not permissible. Furthermore, the tenant's capacity to dispose of the land by will was denied since upon his or her death the estate had to pass to his or her successors in the manner stipulated by the original donor.

It is clear, then, that while D'Arcy wanted his children to enjoy the benefits that could be derived from his estates, his vision extended to the generations beyond. However understandable this might be, his action, though not unique, (16) was unusual for New South Wales where there was little inclination to lock up land in this way. It was much more common in Britain where the landed gentry often entailed their estates in order to preserve them and tie the family to them. Perhaps it was simply that D'Arcy wished to emulate his aristocratic relatives but if so he had gone about it in a curious way since, by dividing his estates amongst his children rather than following the English practice of consigning them intact to one beneficiary, normally the eldest son, he had unwittingly loosened the bonds between family and land.

For all the strength that entailment appeared to have on paper, D'Arcy's children had a relatively easy way out of the legal difficulties it ostensibly imposed--a procedure known as barring (or defeating) the tail. In England this was generally achieved through two types of collusive litigation known as the recovery and the fine, both of which involved some intricate legal manoeuvring. However, in New South Wales, following the passage of the Registration Act 1825, it was a much simpler affair. All the tenant in tail had to do was to register a deed in which he or she transferred his or her interest in the estate to another person for the express purpose of barring the tail. Provided the deed contained the necessary words, it would be acknowledged and registered, thereby converting the title to fee simple.

So if the law itself presented no obstacles, what was the problem? The answer is time. Although the tail would take effect on the birth of the original beneficiary's first child, the child could not register a deed to bar the tail until he or she reached the age of twenty-one. Furthermore, D'Arcy's will specified that males were to be preferred over females so that the tail would automatically go to the first-born boy no matter how many daughters preceded him and regardless of whether or not they had already taken steps to bar the tail. Hence, for Katherine, who was only two-and-a-half years old when her father died, it was going to be many years before the tail on her estates could be defeated.

As if these difficulties were not enough, another problem emerged in relation to the estates Katherine was to share with four of her siblings. In his will D'Arcy had stipulated that these estates were to be held by his children' as tenants in common and not as joint tenants'. This made perfect sense given that the estates were to be entailed. Joint tenancy would have been incompatible with entailment since it would have meant that each tenant had an interest in the entire estate and on his or her death that interest would have been transferred to the other joint tenants. By contrast, each tenant in common of an undivided piece of land holds an interest in only a fraction or aliquot of the whole, even though that fraction is not physically defined. Consequently, such a tenant is free to enter into arrangements concerning his or her share and, where a tail exists, the share will eventually pass intact to the person in tail. (17) Even so, tenancy in common has the potential to provoke disputes if an arrangement, such as a lease, entered into by one tenant without the concurrence of the others, affects the whole undivided estate in a manner that may be detrimental to the other interests. Although no such problems were likely to be encountered in the years immediately following D'Arcy Wentworth's death when the entire trust was administered by his executors, they did eventually arise, particularly in the Illawarra when the husbands of the four sisters exerted their rights to become involved in the running of the estate.

Nevertheless, for many years after her father's death Katherine would have been blissfully unaware of the potential problems affecting her inheritance, and even as she grew from childhood into adolescence it seems unlikely that she would have paid attention to such matters. Throughout these years she continued to live at Homebush with Ann Lawes as one by one her older sisters and brothers left home to make their own lives. By 1840 only Katherine and her younger brother, Charles D'Arcy, remained with their mother though John remained close by. All her sisters were married, Martha to John Reddall, Sophia to Robert Towns, and Mary Ann to Stephen Addison

In 1841 the sixteen-year-old Katherine herself left home, travelling first to Hobart to visit Mary Ann who was living there, and then to Britain where she remained until early 1844, returning to Sydney in June that year accompanied by her sister Sophia Towns on board Robert Towns's barque Royal Saxon. (18) Then, in February 1847, it was Katherine's turn to be married. Her new husband, some fifteen years her senior, was Captain Benjamin Darley, one of Towns's business associates and fellow ship-owner. A month after their marriage the newlyweds set sail for London on board Benjamin's ship Eweretta. (19) On their arrival, Benjamin sold his share in the ship and he and Katherine returned to Sydney on the King William, arriving home on Boxing Day 1847. (20) Soon afterwards they moved to the central west of New South Wales to run a sheep station at Garra, near Molong, where their first child, Kate, was born in May 1848, (21) thereby activating the tail on Katherine's estates. Two years later another daughter, Emily Sophia, was born at Garra but in 1851 (22) the family moved back to Sydney and established their Clapton Hall residence in Darlinghurst.

It appears that, even at the time of her marriage, Katherine had not fully understood the nature of her inheritance, for just prior to her wedding, and as part of a marriage settlement, she had conveyed her estates to solicitor Randolph John Want in an effort to bar the tail. (23) While her attempt was ineffectual since it was to her children, not her, that the estates were entailed, she was not alone in her misapprehension, her brothers John and George having earlier tried a similar ploy so that they might sell their estates. (24) Their efforts were also deemed invalid and when both died without lawful issue, their estates reverted to William Charles, exactly as D'Arcy had intended. In fact it was William's son, Fitzwilliam, who, in 1861, was the first member of the family to defeat the estate tail. (25)

Katherine could certainly be forgiven for not comprehending the nature of the estate tail. Prior to her marriage she had played no role in the running of her estates, responsibility for their administration having rested with the trustees of D'Arcy's will, or more particularly with her half-brother William, the only trustee who remained active. However, now that she was married, her new husband had an interest in her estates and quickly began to take things out of William's hands. In early 1848, only a few weeks after he and Katherine returned from England following their extended honeymoon, Benjamin wrote to the Collector of Customs, Colonel Gibbes, claiming that William had exceeded his powers in allowing a Customs House to be erected on Katherine's land at Barrenjoey without asking for any rent. (26) Benjamin was probably apprised of this by Robert Towns, who, for some years, had been trying to interpose himself between William and Katherine, and had earlier attempted to extract an annual rent of twenty-five pounds for the Customs Station, a demand that had outraged the then Customs Officer, John Broadley Howard. (27) Eventually, Benjamin and the Collector of Customs agreed the terms of a lease whereby a rental of ten pounds per year was paid.

The problem still facing the Darleys was that the estate tail precluded them from selling any of the land bequeathed by D'Arcy, and the only way in which they could derive a benefit from it was through leases that would be expected to terminate within Katherine's lifetime. Of the estates Katherine held in her own right Mona Vale was at that time the most valuable, the farm there having been occupied by David Foley and his family since 1825. However, after Foley's murder in 1849 the farm went into decline and in 1858 the Darleys issued a new ten-year lease to Henry Jefferson Bate at an annual rent of 120 [pounds sterling]. (28) This was well below the level that the property might have commanded had it not been for the lawlessness of the area. As a popular magazine later reported in lurid language, the history of Mona Vale should have been 'written in blood, for if ever red-handed crime flourished in any country, it flourished and triumphed here, till it brought ruin and death to honest people'. (29)

Katherine's other estates were not in great demand at that time. In 1855 Henry Gilbert Smith took a twenty-one year lease on the land at Manly Beach at a rental of 35 [pounds sterling] per year. (30) Smith afterwards sub-let various parts which were largely used to establish commercial attractions for day visitors from Sydney. No leases seem to have been issued for the land at Freshwater or Manly Vale, though an error in the Surveyor-General's Department allowed James Jenkins to occupy part of the latter estate for almost a decade during which he built a stone house there and constructed a road through the property. It also appears likely that the land at Duck River was let informally to adjacent landholders although the first registered lease there was not taken up until 1863. (31)

The estates Katherine shared with her sisters and brother presented a different problem. Following their marriages to Sophia and Mary Ann respectively, Robert Towns and Stephen Addison gradually assumed legal responsibility for managing the shared Peterborough Estate in the Illawarra. Towns was particularly active in this regard and it was he who in 1837 brought out fourteen Scottish families to settle on the property. Six years later, during a period of severe drought and massive unemployment, Towns arranged with Caroline Chisholm for thirty families of immigrants to take out clearing leases on the estate, rewarding them with five months supplies and a schoolteacher for the children.

John Reddall, Martha's husband, also involved himself in the shared estates but the transactions he initiated became increasingly erratic and in 1844 Martha took action to protect her interests from his unpredictable behaviour. (32) Reddall was later declared insane and on Martha's premature death in January 1847 her son, Thomas Alexander Reddall, inherited her share of the estates.

Robert Wentworth's share had become equally problematical owing to his indebtedness. Legal action by his creditors led the courts to instruct the Sheriff to dispose of his shares which, in 1849, were acquired by Towns and Addison, (33) leaving Robert with no direct say in the future administration of the estates.

With Benjamin Darley's introduction as yet another person with an interest in the shared estates the administrative difficulties were intensified and by 1850 they had reached the point where the several principals and their legally appointed trustees decided to attempt to reach a solution by contriving a legal conflict which they took to the Supreme Court. The ultimate aim of their collusion was to have the estates partitioned so that the five co-tenants could gain individual title to a defined portion of each of the three shared estates. In May 1850 the Chief Justice, Sir Alfred Stephen, referred the matter to the Master in Equity, Samuel Frederick Milford, and ordered the appointment of two commissioners to look at how the estates might be partitioned. Later that year, the Master in Equity, having received the commissioners' recommendations, adjudicated on the interests held by the various parties and the court ordered that each estate and the Village of Peterborough be divided into five more or less equal parts labelled A to E. These were to be conveyed to Randolph John Want, the family solicitor, in trust for the parties. Allocation of the various portions was then decided by drawing lots, with Katherine Darley drawing lot D. The final deed of partition was dated 22 September 1851. (34)

It is interesting to note that, subsequent to these proceedings, all the parties behaved as if the partition were effectual and the Darleys soon began issuing leases on Katherine's portion of the Peterborough Estate returning almost 200 [pounds sterling] per year. (35) Even so, questions as to the legality of the partition persisted. Randolph Want, the trustee to whom all the shares had been conveyed, failed to sign the indenture, and neither of the parties who were minors at the time the deed was made got round to executing it when they reached the age of twenty-one, as was required. Although they eventually did so in a separate indenture made in 1876, the relevant deed was not received into the Registrar General's Office until July 1900. (36) In fact, it was not until 1919, when the New South Wales parliament passed the Wentworth Estate Partition Act, that the deed of partition was rendered fully and retrospectively effectual. (37)

Between 1854 and 1862 Katherine and Benjamin Darley had four more children. Their first son, Benjamin Wentworth Darley, was born in 1854 and, under the terms of his grandfather's will, immediately assumed the estate tail. Edith Mary arrived two years later, followed by Arthur Sidney and Ada Grace. Sadly, the last two died in infancy and Benjamin Darley himself died in June 1864 only a few days after his small daughter. They were buried together at St Jude's, Randwick in the tomb that already held the remains of young Arthur Sidney.

With Benjamin's passing, Katherine's future became uncertain and the administration of her estates, although formally in the hands of her trustees, in reality rested with her alone. However, she was financially secure and she remained in Sydney until February 1867 when, accompanied by her daughters, she left for London on the Parramatta (38) with the intention of visiting Benjamin's nephew, Henry Darley, and his wife Maria Louisa, at their home near Dublin. Also on board the Parramatta was William Thomas Bassett, a native of Cornwall who had been in Australia for the past decade working on farms owned by his relatives, the Christian family.

Whether or not Katherine and William knew each other before they came together on the voyage is uncertain but only a few months after arriving in London they were married at St Martin in the Fields, Westminster. Katherine, however, was not inclined to place her inheritance at risk and four days before the wedding she took steps to safeguard her interests by executing a marriage settlement placing her whole estate in the trust of George Osborne, the husband of one of her nieces, and Edwin Daintrey, a Sydney solicitor.(39) The settlement ensured that the estate be kept 'for her sole and separate use and benefit ... free from the debts and control of her intended husband'. This meant that William, unlike Katherine's first husband, was to play no part in the administration of her estates and were he to incur debts he could not draw on them for payment. In 1869 Daintrey was replaced as trustee by Alexander Stuart, a prominent Sydney merchant and business partner of Robert Towns. (40)

Katherine and William were married for thirty-one years but appear to have spent little time together. They had one child, Isobella Augusta, born in 1869 but in 1875 William returned to New South Wales where he spent most of the rest of his life. Meanwhile, Katherine remained in London where her son, Benjamin Wentworth Darley, joined her. He attained his majority in 1875 and the following year, while resident at the Pall Mall Club in London, and with the consent of the trustees of his mother's marriage settlement, he executed a deed 'for the purpose of defeating and destroying the said estate tail'. (41) His 'inheritance in remainder expectant on the determination of the said estate for life of the said Katherine Bassett' was transferred, in trust for Benjamin's own benefit, to George Penkivil Slade, a solicitor and accomplished amateur artist who had studied under Conrad Martens.

Now that the tail had been barred, Katherine had more freedom with regard to the use of her estates but was still limited by the fact that her marriage settlement with William Bassett, made while the tail was still in effect, did not contain a power of sale. Accordingly, she could not take advantage of the property boom then under way, particularly in places such as Manly Beach, even though it was considered to be in her best interests to sell her estates rather than simply lease them.

Although it might have been possible to rectify this problem through the courts, the only assured way of doing so was to take direct action through the legislature. The use of Private Acts of parliament to overcome impediments created by deficiencies or omissions in legal deeds was not unknown in New South Wales though it had seldom been employed. But, interestingly, in 1873 a Private Act had been used to rectify problems relating to the entailed estates left by a contemporary of D'Arcy Wentworth, James Underwood, who died in 1844 having framed his will along the same general lines as D'Arcy's. (42) This constituted a convenient precedent for Katherine who was also fortunate in that one of her trustees, Alexander Stuart, was ideally positioned to guide a Private Bill through parliament. Stuart had been elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1874 as representative for East Sydney, and in February 1876 was appointed Treasurer in Sir John Robertson's government, a position he held until the government fell in March the following year.

On 29 September 1876 a notice appeared in the Government Gazette announcing that during the next parliamentary session an application would be made:
 on behalf of Katherine Bassett and Benjamin Wentworth Darley, for
 leave to introduce a private Bill to vest in fee simple, in George
 Osborne and Alexander Stuart, esquires (the trustees of Mrs
 Bassett's marriage settlement), certain lands at Broken Bay, North
 Harbour or Manly Beach, and Duck River, in the Colony of New South
 Wales, devised by the will of D'Arcy Wentworth, deceased, upon trust
 for the said Katherine Bassen (then Katherine Wentworth, spinster),
 for life, with the remainder to the said Benjamin Wentworth Darley
 in tail, to confer upon the said trustees power to sell and convey
 the said lands.

The application was approved and the Bill itself subsequently passed the parliament, receiving vice-regal assent on 21 March 1877.

Appearing in the Government Gazette of 27 April 1877 the Bassett Darley Estates Act (40 Victoria) occupied twelve pages most of which were devoted to a recital of prior events. However, the critical sections of the Act specified in great detail the powers of the trustees, most importantly the power of sale. The trustees were also empowered to alienate the land in other ways, to donate it for religious or educational purposes, and to retain for themselves five per cent of the money arising from each sale after deduction of commission and other costs. With regard to the three estates in which Katherine had a share, the Act did not accept that the partition had been effectual, but it nevertheless authorised the trustees to sell Katherine's undivided share of each estate.

Despite the comprehensiveness of the legislation, some uncertainty regarding the estate tail must have been raised because in 1881, five years after Benjamin Wentworth Darley had acted to bar the tail, his older sister, Emily Sophia, also executed a disentailing deed in which she transferred all her interest to Alexander Stuart and Hugh Robison for the tidy sum of 500 [pounds sterling], (43) and in 1883 Kate, Benjamin's eldest sister, followed suit. (44) Presumably there was some doubt as to whether or not Benjamin's action had been totally effectual. Given that D'Arcy had entailed his estates in order of primogeniture, with preference to males, the question might have arisen as to whether, after the only male had barred the tail, it could have reverted to his elder sisters in the order of their birth. With thorny matters such as these it was considered prudent to take all possible precautions and have the two sisters lay to rest any possible claim they might have on the estates.

However, this was not something that troubled Osborne and Stuart immediately following the passage of the Bassett Darley Estates Act. As trustees they were the legal tenants of the estates but their principal responsibility was to ensure that whatever actions they now took would benefit Katherine and her son in the short- as well as the longer term. They had obviously prepared the ground well, for within three weeks of the legislation coming into force a notice appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald announcing that a public auction of lots in the Bassett Darley East Brighton Estate at Manly Beach was to be held in early May. (45) The estate embraced the whole of what had originally been Richard Cheers's and Gilbert Baker's grants and by the end of 1877 the trustees had sold almost three-quarters of the available lots for an amount exceeding 35,000 [pounds sterling].

The Wentworth Estate, comprising all the land at Manly Vale, was put up for auction in November 1881 and the lots were eventually sold for a little over 7700 [pounds sterling]. The fifty acres at Freshwater were purchased by Charles Albert Laurence for 350 [pounds sterling] in 1883. (46)

Further north at Broken Bay, the only purchaser of land on the Barrenjoey Estate before the turn of the century was the government which, in 1878, paid 1250 [pounds sterling] for the headland in order to build a permanent lighthouse, (47) and nine years later bought a small plot which it reserved for a future public school. (48) At Pittwater the Bassett Darley estate was sold in two parts. In 1880 Charles Edward Jeanneret and George Pile paid 732 [pounds sterling] for 118 acres on which to establish the New Marine Township of Newport, (49) while the remaining land, apart from a one acre lot purchased by the Church of England, was bought by John William Cliff for 8000 [pounds sterling] in 1886. (50)

The land at Duck River had also gone by the middle of 1881, sold for a total of almost 8000 [pounds sterling]. (51) It became the site of the Hudson Brothers heavy engineering company, originally known as the Clyde Works and later the Clyde Engineering Company, at one time the largest manufacturing and fabrication enterprise in Australia producing everything from enamelled baths to locomotives.

Not a great deal is known about the small portion at Liverpool for which there appear to be no registered dealings until 1901 when it was resumed by the Minister for Public Works to enable drainage works to be conducted for the Liverpool Asylum. (52) There are also some missing links in the story of the land at Appin which, together with three of the four other shares, eventually found its way into the hands of Bridget Kelly for 300 [pounds sterling]. (53)

Katherine's share of the Peterborough Estate proved more lucrative. As noted earlier, once the partition had been made, the various parties behaved as if the deed had been effectual. One consequence of this was that when the Sydney to Kiama railway arrived in the district in 1887 a two mile section of the line ran through Katherine's portion, enabling her to claim 1265 [pounds sterling] from the Railways Commission by way of compensation. (54) In addition, much of her land both outside and inside the township of Shellharbour was leased to local farmers and residents, thereby generating a steady income. However, it was not until the turn of the century, after Katherine's death, that her daughter, Emily Sophia, brought the land under the Real Property Act and began selling it. (55) At that stage the land outside the township was valued at more than 28,000 [pounds sterling].

Katherine died at her Kensington home in London on 14 November 1898, leaving an estate valued at 73,296 [pounds sterling] 5s 6d. She was survived by only one of her children, Emily Sophia who was married to Arthur William Savage and, like Katherine, resided in England. Of her other children, Edith Mary had died at Folkstone in 1885, Isobel Augusta Bassett in 1887, Benjamin Wentworth at Hove in 1892, and Kate in London in 1896.

Katherine's remains were returned to Sydney and laid to rest at St Jude's, Randwick alongside those of her first husband, Benjamin Darley and two of their children. As to William Bassett, with whom Katherine had spent so little of her later years, he stayed on in New South Wales, living on his relatives' property at Hinton in the Hunter Valley until his death in December 1906 at the age of seventy-nine. He was buried in a simple grave at St John's cemetery not far from the Christian family vault.

The full tale of the lands that became the Bassett Darley estates, and of the people involved with them, is, of course, much longer and more convoluted than related here. However, it is interesting to observe that despite D'Arcy Wentworth's efforts to bind his estates and his family together, all of Katherine's lands in New South Wales, and almost all of the rest of D'Arcy's estates, had been transferred to people outside the family within two generations. Even so, the family continued to prosper and D'Arcy's dream of having 'the name of Wentworth as great and respected as any in this Country' was eventually realised, largely due to the achievements of William Charles Wentworth, the man commonly regarded as the founder of the Wentworth dynasty. But that is another story.

Newport Beach, New South Wales Member RAHS


I am indebted to Kenneth Charles Wentworth Miles for providing me with some of the information included in this paper. Ken, a great-great-grandson of D'Arcy Wentworth, is an authority on the extended Wentworth family after spending more than two decades compiling a detailed family history.


(1) NSW Government Gazette, Supplement 27 April 1877, No. 138, pp. 1717-28.

(2) The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, ref.t17891209-1.

(3) Sydney Gazette, 26 May 1825, p. 2.

(4) Land Titles Office, Grants Register Serial 8, p. 104.

(5) Land Titles Office Grants Register Serial 12, p. 32.

(6) Land Titles Office Grants Register Serial 11, p. 35.

(7) Land Titles Office Grants Register Serial 11, p. 37.

(8) Land Titles Office Grants Register Serial 4, p. 202, Serial 5, p. 45.

(9) Land Titles Office Grants Register Serial 28, p. 199, Serial 56, p. 21.

(10) Land Titles Office Grants Register Serial 8, p. 164.

(11) Land Titles Office, Grants Register Serial 11, p. 61, Serial 11, p. 62.

(12) Land Titles Office, Grants Register Serial 12, p. 132, Serial 12, p. 134, Serial 12, p. 135, Serial 12, p. 136, Serial 12, p. 137, Serial 12, p. 138, Serial 12, p. 258, Serial 33, p. 34; Special Grants Register No. 3, Serial 198, p. 292.

(13) Last will of D'Arcy Wentworth, Wentworth Family Legal Papers 1794-1948, Box 1, Mitchell Library, ML 321/53.

(14) John Ritchie, The Wentworths: father and son, Melbourne, 1997, p. 123 and note 28 chapter 5.

(15) Peter Butt, Introduction to Land Law, Sydney, 1980, pp. 63-74.

(16) See, for example, James Underwood's will, NSW Supreme Court--Probate Office: Series 1 No. 1551.

(17) Butt, pp. 169-72.

(18) Colonial Secretary, Reports of Vessels Arrived, 1844, State Records New South Wales (SRNSW), 4/5225.

(19) Colonial Secretary, Register of Arrival and Departure of Vessels, 1847-1850, SRNSW, 4/7734.

(20) Colonial Secretary, Reports of Vessels Arrived, 1847, SRNSW, 4/5232.

(21) The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 June 1848, p. 3.

(22) NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, 34A/1849; The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 October 1849, p. 3.

(23) Land Titles Office, Old System Deeds Book 12, No. 441.

(24) Land Titles Office, Old System Deeds Book 5, No. 26; Book 9, No. 280.

(25) Land Titles Office, Old System Deeds Book 80, No. 730.

(26) Collector of Customs, copies of letters sent to the Colonial Secretary, 26 Feb 1847--16 Nov 1849, p. 129, SRNSW, 4/5051.

(27) Collector of Customs: Letters received from individuals, 4 Nov 1840--24 Dec 1845, p. 225, SRNSW, 4/5113.

(28) Land Titles Office, Old System Deeds Book 55, No. 250.

(29) Town and Country Journal, 6 January 1877, p. 20.

(30) Land Titles Office, Old System Deeds Book 41, No. 26.

(31) Land Titles Office, Old System Deeds Book 81, No. 702.

(32) Land Titles Office, Old System Deeds Book 9, No. 447.

(33) Land Titles Office, Old System Deeds Book 16, Nos. 940 and 941.

(34) Land Titles Office, Old System Deeds Book 38, No. 25.

(35) Land Titles Office, Old System Deeds Book 36, Nos 908 & 909; Book 44, No. 344; Book 58, No. 223; Book 55, No. 625.

(36) Land Titles Office, Old System Deeds Book 668, No. 342.

(37) Statutes of New South Wales (Public and Private), passed during the session of 1919, Sydney.

(38) The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 February 1867, p. 6.

(39) Land Titles Office, Old System Deeds Book 116, No. 637.

(40) Land Titles Office, Old System Deeds Book 116, No. 638.

(41) Land Titles Office, Old System Deeds Book 169, No. 379.

(42) NSW Government Gazette, Supplement 22 April 1873, No. 99, pp. 1199-1202.

(43) Land Titles Office, Old System Deeds Book 236, No. 219.

(44) Land Titles Office, Old System Deeds Book 280, No. 596.

(45) The Sydney Morning Herald, 7 April 1877, p. 12.

(46) Land Titles Office, Old System Deeds Book 280, No. 452.

(47) Land Titles Office, Old System Deeds Book 234, No. 606.

(48) Land Titles Office, Old System Deeds Book 373, No. 465.

(49) Land Titles Office, Old System Deeds Book 201, No. 916; Book 224, No. 576.

(50) Land Titles Office, Old System Deeds Book 340, No. 647.

(51) Land Titles Office, Old System Deeds Book 218, No. 926; Book 219, No. 454; Book 220, No. 313.

(52) NSW Government Gazette, 13 September 1901, No. 766, pp. 7093-94.

(53) Land Titles Office, Certificate of Title Vol. 1628, Fol. 67.

(54) Land Titles Office, Old System Deeds Book 462, No. 745.

(55) Land Titles Office, Primary Applications 11372 and 11375.
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Author:Dawson, Tony
Publication:Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society
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Date:Dec 1, 2005
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