Wednesday, December 13, 2017

ENGLISH CAUSE PAPERS - Finding Your Ancestor Mentioned


Cause Paper from a Church Court, Morpeth, 1632. Image available under Creative Commons
Bertram Gaire was my nine times great grandfather. I descend from him through my Northumberland born great great grandmother, Hannah Tait GAIR. Before her were three Rogers, two Arthurs and a William, son of Bertram Gaire. Finding records relating to Bertram Gaire (the original spelling of the surname) has been difficult because the further back in time one searches, the less records there are that have survived or that probably existed in the first place. 

English Parish records on Familysearch show a Barthrum Gair marrying Elizabetham Lawsonn in Morpeth, Northumberland in 1599. On Findmypast (Boyd's Marriage Index 1538-1850), his name is transcribed as Bartrum. I have concluded that these names were recorded in Latin and that these were in fact my ancestors Bertram Gaire and Elizabeth Lawsonn. In 1625 a Barthrii Gair married Elizabeth Tower also in Morpeth, Northumberland, again with an obvious Latin variation of the name Bertram. My Gair research is further complicated by the fact that within the timeframe of both of these marriages, a Bartholemew Gaire had children baptised in Morpeth. I have found no marriage for Bartholemew and since the name Bertram appears in a number of variations (Barthrum, Bartrum, Barthrii), I am on a quest to discover whether Bertram Gaire is in fact the same man as Bartholemew, (keeping in mind mistranscriptions of difficult to read old English and Latin name variations). Whether Bertram Gaire is Bartholemew Gaire or not, must wait until I have discovered some evidence. 

St Mary the Virgin Church, Morpeth, Northumberland © Copyright Bill Henderson and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
The parish records I found would certainly have been from St Mary's the Virgin in Morpeth since it is the oldest church in this parish and the only one that was built in the late 16th century which is the period of the church records I am looking at. If you are interested in St Mary's Parish, Morpeth, Northumberland and its Church history or church records, you can read more here.

I am grateful for my ancestor's less common first name of Bertram since it has made him easier to find in records. The search for my GAIR ancestors has been made more difficult though, by variations of spellings of the surname Gair, which include Gaire, Gayre and Gayer. It also appears that this surname has changed over time and various branches of Gairs eventually used different spellings of the name. These type of challenges make research complicated but much more interesting. 

When I am searching for ancestors prior to civil registration, I find it is worthwhile to search beyond the usual parish records of births, deaths and marriages. I look at books, journals, court records and anything else I can find. It was during one of these 'outside the box' searches that I discovered a series of English records called CAUSE PAPERS

These are the records of hearings of individuals in the church courts. From Medieval times to the 19th century these courts oversaw the jurisdiction of disputes and cases such as debts, tithes, matrimonial matters and appeals among other things. The University of York provides a comprehensive explanation of cause papers here

The Cause Paper in which Bertram Gaire's name appears, 1632, Image available under Creative Commons.[1]
The Cause Papers of Yorkshire are a unique set of records which hold a wealth of information about the social, economic and religious lives of English ancestors. They extend beyond the boundaries of Yorkshire to other parts of England and they include cases heard in Church Courts between 1300 and 1858. As you might well imagine this could well be the only place you might find mention of an English ancestor as far back as those early years. There is a Basic Search and an Advanced Search on the Cause Papers Homepage and it was while searching these records that I discovered that my ancestor Bertram Gaire was a bailiff of Morpeth in the 1630's. 

A Bailiff was an officer of the sheriff or the local Landowner. Although I looked up a number of sources to find out exactly what a bailiff did I am going to provide here, the of the duties of an English bailiff offered by Wikipedia since it is free to share under the creative commons law. There are numerous websites dedicated to old occupations which can easily explain what our ancestors did in their daily lives. 

"bailiff (from Middle English baillif, Old French baillisbail "custody, charge, office"; cf. bail, based on the adjectival form, baiulivus, of Latin bajulus, carrier, manager) is a manager, overseer or custodian; a legal officer to whom some degree of authority or jurisdiction is given. Bailiffs are of various kinds and their offices and duties vary greatly. Historically, courts were not always concerned with legal matters, and often decided administrative matters for the area within their jurisdiction. A bailiff of a manor, therefore, would often oversee the manor's lands and buildings, collect its rents, manage its accounts, and run its farms " [2]

This rich information about my ancestor, places him within a clear social and historical context within the community where he lived and worked. These significant details enable me to picture his daily life n a way that I could never have done, simply knowing the dates he was married and had children baptised. To my delight I found two cases in which my nine times great grandfather Bertram Gaire was involved. The first, in 1632, was entitled Violation of Church Rights and it involved the expulsion of a schoolmaster from his office. When I finish transcribing the old english handwriting in the document I am certain this case in itself could make an interesting blog. I am intrigued as to why the schoolmaster required expelling!

Cause Paper CP.H1910B, Bertram Gayre, 1632 [1]
The second case was a Tithe matter involving sheep, cattle and horses which was conducted in 1635. In both cases no libel or sentence was awarded but crucial information about my ancestor was provided. Both records state that Bertram Gaire was a Bailiff of Morpeth, which is the place where I already knew him to live.

My search results for Bertram Gaire [1]
Old English writing is quite lovely in appearance but rather difficult to read so I am still in the process of deciphering the documents. It is important to understand how to read old hand writing (paleography is the study of old handwritings). Not everyone was able to read or write in past times so documents were laboriously procdced, usually by scribes who took great pride in their work but who understandably did not give a thought to future generations of genealogists who might not be able to read their embellished script. In order to find my ancestor's name in the original record I needed to know that 17th century handwriting, commonly substituted a "y" for an "i". Bertram's surname of Gaire was therefore written as GAYRE. It is best to look up some tips on how to read old english writing before you attempt to read the original record images in your search for information about ancestors.

Cause Paper CP.H1910B, Bertram Gayre, 1632 [1]
If you look closely at the exerpt below from the image of the original Cause Paper relating to the schoolmaster's expulsion, you will see how difficult it is to transcribe. Bertram Gaire's name is in the centre of this picture. (Gayre)
Cause Paper CP.H.1910B [1]
If you have not yet looked for your English forbears in these documents here is a link to the search page for the Cause Papers in the Diocesan of the Archbishropic of York, 1300-1858. Remember - the records are not just for cases heard in Yorkshire so happy hunting! Do leave a comment below if you have some success finding family.


1.Cause Papers: In the Diocesan Courts of the Archbishropic of York, 1300-1858,,54910,54911,&start=54910, CP.H.1910B, Appeals, Violation of Church Rights: expulsion of school master from office, 13/2/1632 - 13/2/1632, accessed 1 December 2017.

2. Bailiff, Wikipediattps://, accessed 10 December 2017.


Cause Papers: In the Diocesan Courts of the Archbishropic of York, 1300-1858,,54910,54911,&start=54910, CP.H.1910B, Appeals, Violation of Church Rights: expulsion of school master from office, 13/2/1632 - 13/2/1632, accessed 1 December 2017.

Cause Papers: In the Diocesan Courts of the Archbishropic of York, 1300-1858,,54910,54911,&start=54910, CP.H.1910B, Appeals, Violation of Church Rights: expulsion of school master from office, 13/2/1632 - 13/2/1632, accessed 1 December 2017.

Cause Papers: In the Diocesan Courts of the Archbishropic of York, 1300-1858,,54910,54911,&start=54910, CP.H.5402, Tithe, sheep, cattle, horses, 22/2/1/1635 - 19/2/1635, accessed 1 December 2017.

Cause Papers, Borthwick Institute for Archives, University of York,, accessed 11 December 2017.

Cause Papers in the Diocesan Courts of the Archbishropic of York, 1300-1858, Manuscripts Online, Sheffield University,  

Hodgson, John, "A History of Northumberland in Three Parts", Part II, Vol. II, 1832, p. 518.

Morpeth, Northumberland, Church Records,

Old English Paleography, helen E. Jean Cruickshank,

The Publications of the Surtees Society, Vol. 34, Surtees Society, 1858, pp. 193-194, 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Butcher, Baker - What Did Your Ancestor Do? An Ancestral Geneameme

Sharn White

 NSW Rail Carriage built by my great great grandfather, John Morrison c 1890
The diversity of ancestors' and relatives' occupations is quite fascinating. To think that we have become who we are today as a result of the many lives and occupations before us is mind boggling. This is what prompted me to do an alphabetical list of my known ancestor occupations.  I have included occupations of siblings of my ancestors and added other relevant information, such as surnames, timelines and illustrations where I felt it significant. Simply the name of an occupation on its own is interesting enough if you do this geneameme. I have not included the job of every ancestor and I expect that this project will be an ongoing one. I'm certain that listing the occupations my ancestors will give me much food for thought for future blog posts however. I have found it fascinating to list the wide range of jobs my forebears participated!

Now, unless you have a Xylophone player or an undertaker in your family you may not be able to fill in the entire alphabet, but you can always come back to it when you do find that elusive occupation for  U, X or Z! (German ancestors do help with the "Z" occupations).  I hope you enjoy sharing the occupations of your own ancestors as much as I did. 

A: Aircraft Manufacturer (Rex Morley HOYES, Southampton WW2)
     Agricultural Labourer (Ag Lab) (England)
     Accountant (ABSOLOM, Middlesex, England mid 1800's)

B: Bailiff ( Bertrum GAIRE, Bailiff of Morpeth, Northumberland UK, 16th and 17th Century)

MY ancestor Bertrum Gaire would have well known Morpeth Castle c 11th century.

     Builder (John MORRISON, Nottinghamshire, Australia, late 19th century)

Strathfield Council Chambers built by John Morrison, 1887

      Bootmaker (Jacob HÄBERLING, Ottenbach, Zurich, Switzerland, 19th Century)
      Besitzer (Assessor) (SIEGLER, Baden Württemberg, Germany, 1800's)
      Bondsman ( DAWSON, Nottinghamshire, late 1700's)
      Bobbin Winder (HOYES, Nottinghamshire,1851)
      Barrister's Clerk (WESTON, London mid 1800's)
C: Carriage Builder (John MORRISON, Strathfield 1880-1900)
     Coal Miner,  MCDADE, BONNER, Scotland 19th Century

Coal Mining 19th Century Image Wikipedia Creative Commons ©©
     Carpenter, (TURNER, Ipswich, Suffolk, England)
     Carter (RENNIE, Scotland)
     Charwman (TURNER, St Marylebone, London, 1850)

D: Dressmaker (WESTON, Kensington, London 1850)
     Dairy Maid (GAIR, Northumberland, 1851)

E: Engine Driver (EVANS, Rosario, Argentina, 1880)

F: Farmer, ( WHITE, THOMPSON, CLAKE, ireland, NERGER, Darling Downs, Bauer, Maryborough, Australia, Gair, Northumberland England)

G: Gold Miner (NERGER, Gympie. Queensland, Australia)
     Gardener (GAIR, Heaton Park, Northumberland, 1830)

H: Hand Loom Linen Weaver (HOYES, Nottinghamshire, England, 1851)
     House Servant (WESTON, London, England)

I: Interior Designer (REECE HOYES Brisbane, Qld, Australia)

J: Jute Bag Sewer (MCDADE, Greenock, Glasgow, Scotland 1871)
    Journey Carpenter (Morley, Middlesex, London, England, 1851)

K: Kiln Burner (FRASER, Scotland)
Remains of a Lime Kiln Image Creative Commons ©©
L: Law Clerk (WESTON, Greys Inn, London, 19th Century)
     Labourer (England, ireland, Scotland, Australia)
     Letter Carrier (SEALEY, London, 1871)

M: Miller ( MORLEY, Marston and Hougham, Lincolnshire, England)
      Musikant (Musician) (SIGLER, Tiefenbronn, Germany)
      Mill Worker, (MCDADE, Glasgow, Scotland)
      Mason Journeyman, (CAMERON, Glasgow, Scotland)

By Anonymous - L'Iconographie de l'Orgue et du Clavecin, 18th century book, Public Domain,

N: Needlewoman (WESTON, London, England, 1850's)
     Nurse (MORRISON, Queensland, Australia 1900's)
My Morrison family of Nurses who ran the private hospital in Cooroy. Image in the possession of the author. Originally courtesy of the Pomona Museum.
O: Opera Singer (HOYES, Leo, New Zealand and Australia)

P: Publican (FRAYNE, Singelton, NSW, Australia)
    Pantry Boy (FRAYNE, Dublin, Ireland mid 1800's)
    Pianist (MCDADE, Scotland, Australia)

Colin John McDade (my father) Photo in the possesion of the author.

    Parish Relief (BERRY, Nottinghamshire, England 1850's)
    Plumber (HOYES, Nottinghamshire, England 1861)
    Physician (FERRIAR, John M.D., Manchester, UK, late 18th early 19th C)


R: Rail Workshop Manager (MORRISON, Ipswich Qld, Australia)
     Railway Porter (PILMER, Glasgow, Scotland, 1851)

S: Siebmacher (SIEGLER, Sieve maker for wine making, Germany, 16 and 17th C)
    Schuhmacher, (HÄBERLING, Ottenbach, Switzerland early 1800's)
    Surgeon, (Arthur GAIR, Alnwick, Northumberland, mid 18th C)
    Sugeon, Edward Manton WESTON, London and Venezuela, mid 19th C)
    Sexton, ( Edward MANTON, St Mary's Islington, London, 18th C)
    Shepherd, (NERGER, Prussia and Darling Downs, Auatralia)
    Ship's Agent (WESTON, St Clement's Dane, London 1850)
    Soldier (FERRIAR, Carabobo, Venezuela early 1800's)

T: Turncock (MCDADE, Brisbane, Qld, Australia)
     Threadmill Worker (CAMPBELL, Paisley, Glasgow, Scotland 1936)



W: Weaver (William Hoyes, Newark, Nottinghamshire, early 19th C)



Z: Zimmerknecht (Interior Painter) (Germany)

Tuesday, November 21, 2017



No... the winner is NOT Donny Osmond, although I did see him at Rootstech a couple of years ago. As a Rootstech 2018 Ambassador from Australia, I am thrilled to announce that the winner of my free PASS to Rootstech 2018 has been selected. 

Thankyou to all those who entered my "CONNECT BELONG" competition via Instagram, Google Plus, Twitter or by leaving a comment on my blog. Your reasons for wishing to win the pass and attend Rootstech were all wonderfully compelling. I wish I had a pass to give everyone! My winner has been selected and today I am pleased to announce...

WENDY ALLEN  known also as  the geekygenealogist   entered my Rootstech Pass Competition on Instagram. She wrote " I have never been to Rootstech before. I've been doing family history for over 40 years (since I was a kid). I'm now a genealogy librarian in our local archives/public library..." 

Wendy felt that attending Rootstech would help her in her job as well as with her hobby of researching family history. Well, I am happy to say that you have won my Pass Wendy and I certainly hope that this will help you as the geekygenealogist to get to Rootstech in February 2018.


I have notified Wendy and she is very excited. I have sent the winner's certificate to her by email so she can happily claim her PASS TO ROOTSTECH 2018. 

Many thanks again to all those who entered the competition and of course a HUGE thankyou to the Rootstech organisers for allowing me to give away this pass to such a deserving family historian. 

There is so much to learn at Rootstech. Image Sharn White 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017



One of the many reasons I am excited to be an official Rootstech 2018 Ambassador is that I have the opportunity to give away a  FREE 4 DAY REGISTRATION PASS VALUED AT $279. 

Rootstech is a place where you can BELONG ( Roootech 2016 Image)


You will CONNECT with other people who have similar interests.

Rootstech is the largest and most inspiring family history conference in the world and an event not to be missed. I first attended Rootstech in 2015 all the way from Australia and cannot speak highly enough about this conference.

Next year's Rootstech theme is Belong and Connect which is really appropriate for this amazing  event. I have met some inspiring people since first attending Rootstech in 2015. As an Ambassador at Rootstech in 2016 and again in 2017 (remotely due to health problems), I made new connections with many family historians who I now regularly keep in touch with on social media. Meeting new people and reconnecting with friends is a significant part of the social benefits of attending Rootstech.

Sharn White, Jill Ball  from Australia and Laura Hedgecock from the USA, Ambassadors at Rootstech.

At Rootstech you BELONG to a Community.

We all feel the need to belong - to a family, a community, a nation. One of the reasons why we research our family history is the need to find out where we come form and where we belong in the worl. Belonging is an integral part of understanding our own identity - who we are. Here is a post that I wrote about Rootstech 2016 theme of Seeking and Belonging , if you would like to read more about the importance of belonging. My own experience has shown me that whether you are a beginner or an experienced family historian, Rootstech is a huge welcoming community where, amidst the sense of excitement and thrill of discovery and learning, one cannot help but feel a sense of belonging. I travelled to Roostech all the way from Sydney, Australia, knowing just a few attendees. At the airport in LA  in 2016, before I even got to Salt Lake City, I made my first new Rootstech friend, fellow Ambassador Laura Hedgecock, while we waited for our connecting flight. 

Laura Hedgecock and Sharn White attending the My Heritage After Party

My knowledge about Genealogy and my experience and skills as a Family Historian have expanded and been enriched by attending Rootstech. I have taken away a wealth of information about researching family history while making friends for life. 

Image Sharn White

Family history bloggers are an especially friendly lot! If you see people at Rootstech wearing beads you'll know instantly that you have met a genealogy blogger. If you are interested in blogging your family history but don't know how to get started, talk to a blogger. There are usually talks to attend at Rootstech which can help you begin writing your family stories.

Official Genea-Bloggers at Rootstech

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO WIN A FREE PASS TO ATTEND ROOTSTECH 2018, just follow me on Twitter Google Plus, Instagram or follow my blog FamilyHistory4u. If you follow me on Facebook you may leave a comment below this post there as well. Leave a comment entiteled "Connect Belong"on one or more of my above social media channels about why you would like to win a Pass to attend Rootstech. I will announce the winner of my giveaway pass to Rootstech 2018 on November 22 on my blog FamilyHistory4u and post the announcement on my social media channels. I will then email the winner the instructions with which to redeem the Pass.

This Pass will allow you to attend:

  • More than 300 classes at Rootstech
  • Keynote/General Sessions
  • Roots Tech Classes
  • Innovation Showcase
  • Expo Hall
  • Evening Events
This Pass does not include airfairs or accomodation.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Genealogy Rockstar Voting is Open ....


Image Sharn White Chicago 2015
REID ALL ABOUT IT...(apologies to John D. Reid for the pun). Seriously, you can read all about the Genealogy Rockstar award on John's blog Canada's Anglo-Celtic Connections HERE.

John D. Ried's 6th Genealogy Rockstar Award is now open for voting! You can access voting through a google account. (This limits the voting to one vote per person to make it fair). If you haven't already signed up for a Google account it is simple and you can do it HERE.

VOTING closes this Saturday so don't delay. If you have a favourite genealogist who you think deserving of a ROCKSTAR AWARD VOTE HERE.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Nominations for Genealogy Rockstars

Genealogists can be Rockstars!

Image from "The Great Aussie Invasion" (A family reunion) 2015 Chicago

John D. Reid of Canada's-Anglo Celtic Connections has announced that, by popular request, he will be conducting his Genealogy Rockstar Poll for the 6th time. I think that John deserves a Rockstar Award himself! The Genealogy Rockstar Award 2017 is underway now and nominations are open. If you would like to add your won favourite genealogy personality to John's selected list of nominees (below), you can read about The Rockstar Poll on John's blog.

Image from my blog from previous Genealogy Rockstar Awards

Jill Ball, Australia/NZ
Nick Barratt, UK
Blaine Bettinger, USA
Angie Bush, USA
Peter Calver, UK
Pauleen Cass, Australia/NZ
Else Churchill, UK
Audrey Collins, UK
Schelly Talalay Dardashti, Israel USA
Gail Dever, Canada
Brian Donovan, Ireland
Lisa Louise Cooke, USA
Bruce Durie, UK
Dick Eastman, USA
Roberta Estes, USA
Janet Few, UK
Fiona Fitzsimons, Ireland
Heather Garnsey, Australia/NZ
Maurice Gleeson, Ireland
Chris Goopy, Australia/NZ
Jan Gow Australia/NZ
Kirsty Gray, UK
John Grenham, Ireland
Celia Heritage, UK
Shauna Hicks, Australia/NZ
Kathryn Lake Hogan, Canada
Yvette Hoitink, Netherlands
Daniel Horowitz, Israel
Cyndi Ingle, USA
Debbie Kennett, UK
Thomas MacEntee, USA
Jane MacNamara, Canada
CeCe Moore, USA
Dave Obee, Canada
Lynn Palermo, Canada
Michelle Patient, Australia/NZ
Chris Paton, UK
David Pike, Canada
Mike Quackenbush, Canada
Judy G Russell, USA
Claire Santry, Ireland
Lorine McGinnis Schulze, Canada
Helen V. Smith, Australia/NZ
Megan Smolenyak, USA
Diahan Southard, USA
D. Joshua Taylor, USA
Alona Tester, Australia/NZ
Judy Webster, Australia/NZ
Sharn White, Australia/NZ
Katherine R. Willson, USA
Christine Woodcock, Canada
Glenn Wright, Canada

Image Wikipedia ©©

I am most honoured to be on the above list of nominees, especially since serious heart problems forced me to slow down on my genealogy blogging and speaking over the past year. Recently, however, I made a return to the genealogy blogging world and have added a fourth genealogy blog to my list of blogs as well as giving my others a complete makeover!

If you happen to have a favourite speaker, blogger or genealogy personality who you think is deserving of a Genealogy Rockstar award then please nominate them for the award now. Nominations are open until Ocotber 14 2017, and voting will start around October 15. Stay tuned to John's blog for more details.

Once again, many thanks to John D. Reid for his tireless efforts to promote peer recognition for contributions to family history and genealogy. Best of luck to all and no matter who wins remember that ALL Genealogists are Rockstars!

Image from "The Great Aussie Invasion" (A family reunion) 2015 Chicago



Family Convictions - A Convict Ancestor

Sharns Genealogy Jottings

Where 'er I Wander - Journeys of a Genealogist

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Tower in My Grandparents' Garden - Places in our Lives

The Heritage Listed Paddington Water Tower, Brisbane

Paddington Water Tower,  Sharn White 2015 ©

When I was growing up in Brisbane, I thought nothing extraordinary about my grandparents having a 70 foot high water tower in their garden at 16 Garfield Drive, Paddington Heights, Brisbane. Many years later, looking back on my childhood, I realised that I had not understood the significance of the tower as a city landmark or as a fragment of the city of Brisbane's history.  knew as a child, that my grandfather was employed by the Brisbane Water Board and that his job was connected to the Brisbane water supply. On many occasions, he took me with him to show me how to check the  water levels in the various city water reservoirs. 

Perhaps I have misplaced a childish awareness of the water tower's purpose over the years. Although the Paddington Water Tower is interwoven in the fabric of my childhood memories, I don't recall knowing anything about its history. What I do remember clearly is that the tower presented a significant personal challenge to me, since I was determined to climb to the top! When I was found scaling the ladder, my grandfather cleverly clad the lower section of the ladder in slippery sheet metal. As I grew older (and even more determined to climb the tower), the metal cladding was added to, higher up the ladder. My grandfather must have had the patience of Job! He never once scolded me, as he repeatedly placed and removed that metal covering in order to climb the tower for his work. I see now the depth of my grandparent's love.

 Sharn White 2015 ©

The concrete water tower stood to the side of, and overlooked the Queenslander house in which my grandparents lived in. I know now, that the house was provided by the City Metropolitan Water Board for my grandfather to live in because my grandfather had the responsibility of taking care of the water tower. In my childhood, the house at 16 Garfield Drive, with a huge mango tree magisterial in the back garden, a  panoramic view of much of the city and the water tower beside it, was simply my grandparents' home. I was close my paternal grandparents and I spent many school holidays staying with them. For a year, when I turned 7, we lived beside the water tower at number 16 Garfield Drive with my grandparents, while we built a new home at The Gap.  

The Paddington Tower, sits affectionately among my childhood memories - sometimes it was an imagined fort, other times a castle. Its strong concrete columns were perfect to hide a child playing hide and seek. The tower was an integral element of the garden, beneath which and around the columns of, my sisters and myself, cousins and neighbourhood children played.

As a young child, I was unaware that the Paddington Water Tower was a prominent Brisbane landmark. Its wonderment to me was that it simply existed my grandparents' garden, monumental among the fruit trees and frangipanis. I never thought to ask why it was there.

 Sharn White ©

In 2015, I returned on a brief visit to Brisbane and I took a drive to 16 Garfield Drive to revisit the house and garden which had afforded me many pleasant childhood memories. The tower and the land on which it stands had been fenced off from the house. The house, now numbered 14 Garfield Drive, was undergoing significant renovations. Places of the past are significant to me as a family historian, and on this visit, as  I looked at the water tower, I saw it with a different perpective to my childish view. While it had always existed as an important part of my own life and identity, I suddenly realised the tower as a significance  element of the history and identity of  Brisbane City.

Google Earth Pro view of the Paddington Water Tower
Sitting in my hire car, parked beside the water tower, with time to spare before my flight back to Sydney, I wondered why I had not thought to research the water tower before this. I googled the Paddington Water Tower on my iphone and  discovered that the tower had been State Heritage Listed on June 23, 2000. Obviously, it had long been regarded as a significant Brisbane landmark. Reading government websites and blogs, it occurred to me that while I remembered the the water tower as a place of significance in my childhood, I had overlooked its valid place in the city of Brisbane's history.

The Queensland Heritage Register informed me that the Paddington Water Tower was constructed in 1927, (the important interwar period) and was State Listed on June 23 2000, based on the following criteria: [1]

Criterion A

The place is important in demonstrating the evolution or pattern of Queensland's history. 

Paddington Water Tower is important in demonstrating a phase in the history of Brisbane's water supply and the technological difficulties of providing reticulated water to elevate sites.

Criterion B

The place demonstrates rare, uncommon or endangered aspects of Queensland's cultural heritage,

The Paddington Water Tower is a rare example of an elevated reinforced concrete water tank. It is probably the only one of its type in Queensland being a reinforced concrete tank elevated on concrete columns.

Criterion E

The place is important because of its aesthetic significance.

The Paddington Water Tower is important for its aesthetic qualities as a readily recognisable landmark. It is one of Brisbane's most prominent landmarks.

The Telegraph, 26 January 1929, Trove [1]

If you are interested in Brisbane City's history, you may read a charming account of the Brisbane suburb of Paddington, "Paddington - Its Charms and Contrasts", from the Sunday Mail, 6 January 1929, [2] from the National Library of Australia's digitised newspaper website, Trove. This article declared that 'Even the Paddington Water Tower, perched on a hill near the tram terminus, is a rather handsome structure, as reservoirs go, giving the impression that the Water Board and the Sewerage Board felt the attractiveness of this portion of the district, and took exceptional care not to disfigure it by erecting the usual ugly structure that makes an artificial water basin an eyesore instead of an attractive acquisition to a district.'

Image Sunday Mail 6 January 1929, Trove

My grandparents moved from the Paddington house in 1968 and my grandfather passed away in 1969. I left Brisbane in the 1970's and the water tower was no longer a part of my life. When I returned to visit in 2015, with the intrigue and curiousity of a family historian, I realised that as much as the Paddington Water Tower had been a part of my childhood, it must have occupied a much significant role in my grandfather's life. As an adult returning to this place of my childhood, I felt remiss, that I lived with this fragment of Brisbane City's heritage right beside me, and I knew so little of its history. 

The Paddington Water Tower from Macgregor Terrace, Brisbane 1929.
 Image Unknown - Macgregor Terrace in Bardon, ca. 1929[3],
 John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, 1929, Wikipedia Public Domain.

Newspapers are filled with a wealth of historical information, so I turned to the National Library of Australia's website, Trove [4] to find information about the Paddington Water Tower. In my search, I came across a construction drawing, (pictured below), that appeared in the Brisbane Telegraph, 7 July 1927, in which is shown a small pumphouse below the tower. Memories flooded back from my childhood, of a small building that sat below the water tower, and from which I recall a persistant humming noise resonating. I do not remember understanding that little building encircled by my grandmother's cumquat trees was a pumphouse. Perhaps I was told and I have since forgotten, for as children we are apt to take much for granted. The little pumphouse, perched among the spreading cumquat trees, was simply the place where I helped my grandmother pick fruit for making jam.

"Water Tower for Padington", Telegraph, 7 July 1927, Trove

The news article accompanying the plans for the tower's construction provided the following  information about the water tower itself:

'In a few months the skyline of Brisbane's Western Range of hills will be broken by a huge water storage tank, which the Water Supply and Sewerage Board intends placing on top of a tower over 70 feet high, now being erected on the crest of Rutledge's Hill, Paddington. It is expected that the work, which commenced in January, will be finished in September. The top of the tank will be 342 feet above sea level. The object of the tower is to give an adequate supply of water to residents living on and around Paddington Heights. At the present time the pressure in the mains is too weak. Consequently, if water is being freely used in the lowlands, a supply cannot reach the higher levels. The cost of the tower and tank, which will have a capacity of 100,000 gallons, also alterations to the mains will be about 12.000 pounds. The water will be pumped into the tower from the ordinary mains, the machinery for this being installed in a building at the foot of the tower. The tank, which will be constructed of reinforced concrete, will rest on 12 pillars of the same material. The highest structure of the kind hitherto constructed by the Board is only 202 feet above sea level.'[5]

The Paddington Water Tower was clearly unique as a water tower, in its design and height.

 Sharn White 2015 ©

The Queensland Government website where I found the Water Tower's Heritage Listing provided me with a comprehensive history of the tower,[3]  I discovered that the house my grandparents had lived in was especially built beside the water tower, for the Water Board's turncock to live in. The turncock was the person who had the responsibility of maintaining the water level in the tank. The Oxford Dictionary definition of a turncock is - 'A waterworks official responsible for turning on water at the mains.' [6]  

This job description brought to mind a story that my grandmother had told me many years ago when she explained to me why my grandfather had not fought in World War II. According to my grandmother, he was prevented from  enlisting in the army, although he had attempted to, because he was needed in Brisbane for the important role of keeping the city supplied with water. My grandfather was accordingly unhappy that this was his only contribution to the war effort, particularly as he had brothers overseas fighting. Consequently, he arrived home regularly, with American soldiers, having met them over an after work beer, and having invited them to enjoy my grandmother's home cooking. My grandmother never minded, and somehow managed to make the meals extend to the unexpected guests. I began to see that there were layers of significance that the Paddington Water Tower had for my grandparents as well as for Paddington and the city of Brisbane. 

The Paddington Water Tower, Sharn White 2015 ©

Newspaper reports covering many years, tell the story of a continuing problem of water supply to Paddington in Brisbane. The earliest account I found was in the  Brisbane Telegraph, which published a letter written by Arthur Rutledge, a resident of Garfield Drive, in which he complained about the lack of water supply to Paddington. This letter, of 16 January 1882,  provides some insight into the problems that existed with getting a water supply to the elevated suburb of Paddington Heights. Sir Arthur Rutledge, a Queensland barrister and politician who lived in Garfield Drive, (alternatively known as Rutledge's Hill and Archibald's Hill) was the author of the letter below, addressed to 'The Board of Waterworks'. [7]

The Telegraph, 26 January 1882, Trove

Below, is the reply to Mr Rutledge  from Lewis A Bernays, Secretary of the Board of Waterworks, detailing the intended solution to the problem of extending the water supply to  Paddington Heights. The intention was to replace an existing 3 inch main with a 6 inch one on Petrie Terrace. 

Reply to Mr Rutledge, The Telegraph, 26 January 1882, Trove [7]

It appears from further news reports, that little success was achieved by the Metropolitan Water and Sewerage Board to improve the supply of water to the affluent elevated Brisbane suburb of Paddington Heights after Mr Rutledge's public complaint in 1882. In 1911, 29 years later, another notable resident of Paddington Heights, Sir Arthur Morgan, also corresponded with the Board concerning the same issue. [8] The Brisbane Courier published an article pictured below, in which it was explained that 'A communication was received from Sir Arthur Morgan [9] complaining of the board's failure to supply water to his residence at Upper Paddington.'[10]

The Brisbane Courier, 19 April 1911, Trove [10]

Just how severe the water shortage in Paddington and surrounding elevated areas of Brisbane was, can be seen in a news article which the Maryborough Chronicle carried on February 17, 1912. Here it was stated, with regard to the residents of Paddington and Red Hill in Brisbane, that 'Those people of Brisbane have no hope of water through the day. Only at night is there any possibility of supply, and even then the actuality often ends in expectation.'[11] 

Maryborough Chronicle 17 February 1912, Trove[12]

More than 40 years later, the article below, the Brisbane Water Board was still responding to complaints to the water crisis in Paddington Heights. The following report which appeared in the Daily Standard, on 3 June 1925, shows that water supply problems to Paddington had still not been resolved and that Paddington Heights 'residents could not get enough water for a showerbath'.[9] Residents of Paddington had been fighting for an adequate water supply to their homes for over 40 years.

Daily Standard, 3 June 1925, Trove [11]

 "PADDINGTON WATER SUPPLY, The Engineer stated that the question of an improved water supply to Paddington was a very complicated one. He had not been able to get on with this work, but he anticipated that full plans and particulars would be ready by the end of August."

Telegraph, 15 July 1925, Trove [13]

If the residents of Paddington, who were unable to take a warm 'showerbath' in the middle of the July winter were happy to read the above news, their joy was to be short lived. In December of 1925, the Brisbane Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board was still making promises with regard to the 'urgency' of improving the water supply to Paddington. [10]  The news items I have presented here are just a few of the numerous articles which appeared regularly in Brisbane and other Queensland newspapers year after year, all filled with complaints about the difficulties of supplying water to Paddington. These and other news reports found on Trove, have provided me with a timeline of events leading to the construction of the water tower at 16 Garfield Drive.

The Telegraph, 9 December 1925, Trove [14]

It must have been with considerable relief that Paddington residents finally witnessed the commencement of construction of the Water Tower on the top of Rutledge's Hill at 16 Garfield Drive in 1926. "The New Water Tank at Rutledge's Hill, Paddington Heights" promised to "increase the water supply of Paddington and adjacent areas." [15] The Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board had been promising this service for over 40 years while residents endured little or no water supply to homes in an otherwise affluent suburb of Brisbane. The Brisbane newspaper, The Telegraph, [15] proudly displayed the water tower under construction in September 1926 (pictured below). The article further below, in March 1927, from the Daily Standard, proclaimed the tower to be a  'new landmark' for Brisbane city.

The Telegraph, 4 September 1926, Trove [15]

Daily Standard, 5 March 1927, Trove [16]

My grandfather, Colin Hamilton McDade, arrived in Brisbane, Queensland, from Glasgow in mid 1923 on the ship Largs Bay. Along with his father and brothers, the 21 year old had left behind a hard life as a Scottish coal miner. He settled in Brisbane finding work with the Metropolitan Water Board as a labourer.  I found my grandfather in the Australian Electoral Rolls on  and discovered that while the water tower at Paddington was being constructed, he was living in Bellevue Street, Milton only 2.3 km down the hill from Garfield Drive, via Fernberg Road. It is very likely that my grandfather watched the water tower being built. Working for the Metropolitan Water Board, in 1927, he would surely have understood the the tower's significance to the Brisbane city water supply, although in all likelihood he would not have known that he three decades later, would be living beside it, and responsible for it as well as a number of Brisbane's other water reservoirs.

Garfield Drive to Milton.  Google Maps

Paddington Water Tower from Fernberg Road, Google Maps

To learn more about my grandfather's career with the Brisbane Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board I am planning to visit the Queensland State Archives where the Board's records are held [17]  and so that story awaits a future blog post.

  Queensland State Archives Website [17]

The Paddington Water Tower was officially opened in March of 1927 with a "ceremony of importance to the residents of Paddington".[18] 
"A marquee had been erected on the gounds upon which refreshments were provided and a number of toasts honoured." [18]

Finally, after a struggle spanning almost 50 years, by residents of Paddington to have a water supply to their homes, "the power for the motor which hoists the water into the tank was then switched on by Mr. J.J. Roberts, who referred to Paddington Heights as the dress circle of Brisbane,"[18]

The president of the Metropolitan Water Board, Mr. E.J.T. Manchester declared that 
"it had always been the aim of the Water Board to afford facilities to the residents on elevated land to be given a full water supply,"[18]

The following news report which appeared in the Brisbane Telegraph on 5 March 1927, dates the construction of the house in which my grandparents lived, to after the opening of the tower itself.[19] 

The Telegraph, 5 March 1927, Trove [19]

"It is proposed to erect a caretaker's cottage beside the tank, a tender for this work having been accepted. The surroundings will be beautified by gardens."[19]

 My grandparents moved into the house, numbered 16 Garfield Drive, Paddington Heights between 1954 and 1958 when they appear on the Australian Electoral Roll residing there. Prior to the move to Garfield Drive, and after their marriage in 1930, my grandparents lived at 49 Lewin Street, Bardon. Google Maps calculates the walk from Lewin Street to the nearest shops and the tram stop, in Macgregor Terrace as 12 minutes. I know from my grandmother's anecdotes that she regularly caught the tram from Macgregor Terrace to the city to do her shopping, so the water tower in Garfield Drive would have been a familiar sight to her long before she lived in the house beside it. Each time she caught a tram to the city and back she would have seen the water tower at the top of Garfield Drive. I can only assume that she never once imagined that she would one day live in the 'dress circle' [18] of Paddington Heights, Brisbane right next to the tower.

View of the Paddington Water Tower from Macgregor terrace heading towards Brisbane CBD, Image Google Maps.

A closer view of the Paddington Water Tower travelling along Macgregor Terrace towards the City

The places where we and our ancestors have lived and belonged to are an inherent part of our own identity - of who we are. Understanding the history of the places we relate to, helps us to have a better sense of belonging, and some understanding of our own place in history. When I visited the Paddington Water Tower in 2015, I was visiting a place I had belonged to in the past. By researching the water tower I have been able to place myself, my family and my grandparents within an historical context of the the city of Brisbane where I grew up.

Extra Reading

The Rockhampton, Morning Bulletin published  An Historical View of Brisbane's water supply on 8 March 1828.


1. The Telegraph, "Water Towers", 26 January 1929, p 4., Trove, National Library
    accesed 19 September 2017.

2.. Sunday Mail, "Do you know your Brisbane - Paddington its Charm and Contrasts", 6 January
    1929, p. 4., Trove, National Library of Australia,  
   accessed 19 September 2017.

3. Photograph, "The Paddington Water Tower from Macgregor Terrace, Brisbane ,1929"
    Image Unknown Macgregor Terrace in Bardon,  ca. 1929[3], John Oxley Library, State Library 
    of Queensland, 1929, Wikipedia Public Domain.

4. Brisbane Telegraph, "Water Tower for Paddington", 7 July 1927, p. 16., Trove, National Library 
    of  Australia,

5. Queensland Government Website, Heritage Register, "Paddington Water Tower," History,
     register/detail/?id=601831# / accessed 20 September 2017.

6. English Living Oxford Dictionaries, "Turncock",
     accessed 29 September 2017.

7. Telegraph, "Paddington Water Supply", 16 January 1882, p 2., Trove, National Library
    followup=8fe039342cad2ae9bc05e21baae3caf3&print=true / accessed 30 September 2017.

8. Brisbane Courier, "Water and Sewerage Board, Upper Paddington Water Supply", 19 April
    1911,  Trove, National Library of Australia,
    searchTerm=paddington%20water%20supply&searchLimits=l-state=Queensland# accessed
    18 September 2017.

9. Australian Dictionary of Biography, "Morgan, Sir Arthur", (1856-1916) / accessed 2 October 2017.

10. The Brisbane Courier, "Water and Sewerage Board, Paddington Water Supply", 19
    April 1911, p. 3., Trove, National Library of Australia,
    searchTerm=paddington%20water%20supply&searchLimits=l-state=Queensland# /
    acessed 17 September 2017.

11. Maryborough Chronicle, "Water Supply," 17 February 1912, p. 5., Trove, National Library of 
    2 October 2017.
12. Daily Standard, "Paddington Heights, Water Supply Problems", 3 June 1925, p. 1., Trove, 
    National Library of Australia,  
    searchTerm=paddington%20water&searchLimits=l-state=Queensland# / accessed 1 October 2017.

13. The Telegraph, "Paddington Water Supply", 15 July 1925, p. 16., Trove, National Library of
    earchTerm=paddington%20water&searchLimits=l-state=Queensland# / accessed 3 October 2017.

14. The Telegraph, "Paddington Heights, Water Supply Urgency", p. 15., Trove, National Library of
    searchTerm=paddington%20water&searchLimits=l-state=Queensland# accessed 30 September

15. The Telegraph,"Improving Paddington Water Supply", 4 September 1926, p. 14., Trove, National    Library of Australia,      
    followup=e33ab58d7d2dbaa28aff2477c13f1014&print=true / accessed 1 October 2017.

16. Daily Standard, "New Landmark, Water Tower on Paddington Heights", p. 6., Trove,
    National Library of Australia,
    searchTerm=paddington%20water%20tower&searchLimits=l-state=Queensland# /
    accessed 17 September 2017.

17. Queensland State Archives, Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board, Agency ID 1385,
    accessed 1 October 2017. 

18. Brisbane Courier, "NEW WATER TOWER, Paddington to Benefit", 5 March 1927, p. 7.,
    Trove, National Library of Australia,
    searchTerm=Paddington%20water%20tower&searchLimits=l-state=Queensland# /
    accessed 1 October 2017.

19. The Telegraph, "New Tower at Paddington, The Official Opening", 5 March 1927, p. 9.,
    Trove, National Library of Australia,
    searchTerm=Paddington%20water%20tower&searchLimits=l-state=Queensland /
    accessed 4 October 2017.

Other Sources 

Australian Dictionary of Biography, Bernays, Lewis Adolphus (1831-1908),  / accessed
    1 October 2017.

Australian Dictionary of Biography, Morgan, Sir Arthur (1856-1916), / accessed 2 October 2017.

Morning Bulletin, City of Brisbane, "The Water Supply, An Historical Review", 8 March 1928,
    p.4., Trove, National Library of Australia, 
    searchTerm=Paddington%20water%20tower&searchLimits=l-state=Queensland# / accessed 1
    October 2017.

Australian Dictionary of Biography, Rutledge, Sir Arthur (1843-1917), / accesed 2 October 2017.

Queensland Government Website, Queensland Heritage Register, Significance, "Paddington Water Tower"
  register/detail/?id=601831# / accessed 20 September 2017.

Your Brisbane: Past and Present,  Paddington Water Tower, / accesssed 25
    September 2017.

Wikipedia, Paddington Water Tower, ,
    accessed 19 September 2017.

Wikipedia, Sir Arthur Morgan, Queensland Politician, / accessed 29 September