A is for Argyle Cut

Shortly after I first met John he took me to the Argyle Cut in The Rocks, Sydney, to show me the plaque honouring his Great, Great, Great  Grandfather John Sutton.  It stated simply that he was Mayor of Sydney in 1866.  Three or four times since we have looked for the plaque but it seemed to have disappeared.  Only a few days ago we tried again and to our astonishment it had returned.  It looks as though it may have been hidden by a spreading, espaliered fig tree all these years and now that the tree has been chopped back it has been restored to us.

The Rocks has the flavour of old Sydney.  It is an historic area which nearly disappeared under the demolisher’s hammer but was saved in 1973 by Jack Mundey’s Green Ban.  The Argyle Cut was begun with convict labour in 1843 to provide direct easy access between Millers Point and The Rocks but was not completed until 1859, with the use of explosives and council labour.


John Sutton arrived with his wife Ann and two children, James aged 8 and George aged 6 in 1842 on the Marchioness of Bute.  It may say something about his character to read in his journal that he wrote:

Not satisfied with Manchester my Dutie called me to Emigrate and so set sail for Sydney, NSW from Liverpool by the ship Marchionefs of Bute 850 tons on Sunday morning, 12th September 1841 20 minutes before 5 pm and after a long voyage cast ankor at Brown’s Wharfe, Darling Harbour, Port Jackson, Sydney, NSW on Friday morning, January 7th, 1842  five minits past 7 o’clock being 117 days out at that time.  3000 emigrants just arrived, one empty room 14/- shillings per week, rump stakes 1 penny per lb, Tea 1/- per lb, sugar 2 pence per lb, butter 3/6 per lb.  Wages 10/- per day for tradesman every one soon got work.

He set himself up as a builder and slater with premises in Palmer Street. His obituary states he built many of Sydney’s public buildings. John Sutton was Alderman for Fitzroy Ward from 1 December 1858 to 30 November 1866. He was Mayor of Sydney  in 1866.

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Now here is the mystery.  We have in our possession a Grandmother chair.  With it is a photo of the chair from earlier times.  Written on the back it says it was owned by John Sutton and was a wedding present from Mark Foy.

After doing some research on Mark Foy, it appears he and his brother opened a store in Sydney in 1885. It wasn’t until 1908 that they opened their grand department store based on the Parisian Bon Marche´.  John’s wife Ann died in 1876, and the following year he married Melissa Dorcas (Dolly) Stone.  Even if Mark Foy had given John Sutton the chair on the event of his second wedding this would not make sense, as Mark was only 12.

John Sutton’s granddaughter, Grace Elizabeth Sutton was married to William Thomas King in 1887 so maybe that is when the chair was gifted from Mark Foy.  Looks like some further research is needed.


Here is the chair after a makeover in the 1940s and as it looks now after another makeover in the 1970s.   It was actually part of a suite of grandmother and grandfather chairs with a chaise lounge.

Fact or Fiction-Family Stories

I was fortunate to have two wonderful grandmothers who told me lots of family stories which, as the only grandchild, I accepted without question.  Somehow these stories and whether or not they can be verified, will be the topic of this year’s A to Z (2017).  As well, I have in my hands the stories from my husband’s family so will include some of those as well.  There is still much to be discovered in our family history  although we have both been doing bits and pieces for many years.

It is a little unusual, I think, that all my ancestors and those of my husband came to Australia between 1850 and 1870 from England, Northern Ireland and Scotland.  Of course this was a time of massive immigration to Australia, but to have every one of them set sail from Great Britain within a twenty year period is rather remarkable.

It must have been easy to make up stories about one’s past when in a new country. My grandmothers may have elaborated on the truth or maybe they simply passed on exaggerated and tall tales from their parents.  Hopefully by the end of April the  truth will out and future generations of my family will have a clearer idea of where they came from.