H is for Hall – Sarah and George

My grandmother wrote to my mother, “Your father’s parents on your father’s side were married at Westminster Abbey, London and had two children when they sailed for Australia.”

“Grandfather Hall was the first man to open a drapery business where Bourke Street, Melbourne is now – somewhere about where the GPO stands.  Bourke Street was all tents at that time.  His people before him were all business people.  Grandma Hall was noted for her wonderful personality and business ability.  They were in the drapery business all their life, the latter being at Williamstown where your own father was born and died.  They had seven children.  George died in early manhood.”

Sarah’s early life was a far cry from weddings in Westminster Abbey.  She was born in Norwich, Norfolk in 1835.  When she was 4 her sister Agnes died.  Aged 7 she lost her father to Asthma.  That year her sister Elizabeth also died of Whooping Cough.  When she was 12 her sister Susannah died of Consumption and a year later she lost her mother, also to Consumption.  Three years later she was a lodger in Norwich working as a shop assistant.  Her siblings, Emma (7), Edmund (8) and Robert (10) were boarding with two sisters,  Caroline and Mary Williams and another sister Victoria (11) was living with her Aunt Mary and Uncle Robert Barker.

Things improved for Sarah when in 1857 at the age of 22 she married George Hall and 16 days later they left Liverpool on the ship, “Planter” bound for Melbourne.  I noted the marriage took place in Norwich, Norfolk, not Westminster Abbey!  Also there were no children at that stage.  Much to my frustration there is no mention of George Hall in the 1851 Census although his parents were by then Inn Keepers.  He appeared in the 1841 Census along with seven brothers and sisters when his father was a Carpenter.  His father George died in 1855, two years before Sarah and George’s departure to Australia. Also of interest is Sarah’s sister Emma, who married William Banham in the same year as Sarah’s marriage but who stayed in England.

Sarah Barker Hall

The first child, Sophia,  was born in Richmond, Victoria and subsequent children were born in Williamstown so they were not in Bourke Street for very long.  Walter Sydney Hall (my grandfather) was born in Williamstown in 1870.

When searching on Trove I found a rather disturbing article titled “Inquest at Williamstown” dated Tuesday, 12 February, 1861. It concerned the death of Agnes Victoria Elizabeth Hall, the infant daughter of a draper from Williamstown.

It appears she died from complications of measles and was not attended by a doctor, although a prescription was written sight unseen.

After consulting for half an hour, the jury returned the following verdict : ” That the deceased died from natural causes ; that, without wishing to impugn the affection of the parent, they consider it was an error of judgement not to have called in medical assistance ; that they are of opinion that there is no blame attachable to Mr. Beaney, but that the practice of giving prescriptions in dangerous cases, without seeing the patient when possible, is open to great objection.”

I was fortunate to receive some information from Janet Hall several years ago.  She was fascinated by Sarah’s early childhood and ordered death certificates to find out what happened to the family.

Janet sent me a copy of the Probate  Form on George Henry Brown Hall, who died in 1896.  That would make him 69 which is hardly “Early Manhood”.  He didn’t seem to own property or much of any value but Sarah doesn’t strike me as  the type to give up.  She was 59 when she lost her husband but lived on to 72.

When she was 42 she gave birth to her last child, Edgar.  Not long before she died, Sarah asked that this cameo be given to “Baby” Edgar’s future wife (he would have been 30 by then).

Sarah's cameo

It has been passed down through the generations and given to the wife of the eldest son.  Janet told me the cameo was called a “Mourning Locket”, made in South Australia 1870-88.  I can’t tell if the photo in the locket is of Sarah butI doubt it was her mother as photography was in its infancy at the time of her mother’s death.

5 thoughts on “H is for Hall – Sarah and George

  1. Beautiful lockets and what an interesting tale. I guess they thought no one in far away Australia would have any idea of where they had married. Family lore at its best.


  2. Another wonderful post. Is that one locket with two sides or one locket? It’s beautiful. I am very sentimental and loves stories like this. All such family stories are like the building blocks of the Australia we have today…all those little people, layer up on layer. So many gems!
    Best wishes,


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