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.

19 thoughts on “A is for Argyle Cut

  1. I love that you have a journal from family so long ago. What a treasure. Wherever the chair came from – it is a pretty piece to have in your home.


  2. I have an affection for Australia even though I live half a world away in the U.S.A. I even named by dog Sydney. One of these days I want to make the journey to see your fabulous country.

    I am laying out the plot of a new historical fiction novel over my 26 A to Z posts. I’d love to have you stop by.

    The Steel Horse Saviors is a story about three civil war veterans who head west in 1866 with their Steam Locomotive to seek their fortune. They encounter a beautiful redhead trying desperately to save her family business.

    Joe @ the Fiction Playground visiting from the A to Z Challenge

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Linda, I look forward to seeing you in July. If I remember correctly Mom said that two of the chairs came to the Currys. Nita Pinkerton had one, I have a picture of me sitting in it around Dec of 69. A red crushed velvet cover worn, but the wood was in wonderful condition. love Rick

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Linda, you piqued my curiosity with that chair.
    Prior to their larger department store, the Foy brothers opened a store in Oxford Street in 1885. Have you searched the the old newspapers on Trove at all? I’ve spent many, many hours in there. I did a quick search in there and found this, but I didn’t correct the text:

    Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Friday 1 April 1904, page 4


    As usual, Mr. Mark Foy makes an admlrablo display, which serves as an excellent index of the extensive stock which is always to be found at the well-known Oxford-street estab-lishment. Furniture Is hore a strong .point, and the eye Is iustantly attracted by tho hand-some suites of various kinds. Among these I may bo mentioned a richly carved antique oak dining-room sulto in green morocco, a “Te-nters” sidoboard in antique oak beautifully carved, mantels and ovormantols also In w’ tique oak, a very massive extension table o? the same material, the carved legs being a ,1 markably Ano piece of work. Thero arei nu? mérous superb bedsteads, couchos, settees an* chairs, and magnificent drawing-room rosewood suites In silk tapestry. Many beautiful can; nets aro also on vlow, and the exhibits als« includo squares and carpets of the hlÉw qualities. 6 °’

    An exhibit which has attracted a great dial of attention is nn ingenious machine known-‘ as “The I.ltUo Wonder Patent Evaporator’s. The Inventor of which is Mr. J. Sutton Ti-lias been constructed specially with a’view1 to Australian requirements, nnd the patente«’ claims that an exhaustive trial has proveí that by this process fruit can bo dried morí effectively and with less expense than by an« of tho American systems. Those interested] in fruit culturo will do well to inspect the machine.

    I also had one of my great something grandmothers who was working as a convict nurse maid in The Rocks maid, clearly not of the same social standing as John Sutton:
    On arrival, Mary Jones was assigned to William George Barker who was the eldest son of the late Lieutenant William Collins Barker , R.N. William had married Hannah Phelps in 1830 at St Phillips Anglican Church, Sydney and they had two children: Amelia born in 1831 and William born 1832. At the time, they were living at Prince Street which was a more affluent part of The Rocks. Mary was a child nurse prior to her conviction, so it’s a fairly safe bet that she helped take care of the couple’s children. I don’t know much else about her time there. However, in October 1832, she was joined by a fellow convict and servant Maria Newton who came from the Female Factory at Parramatta and did “allwork” .
    Best wishes,


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