I have decided to start posting about James Heneker, my great great grandfather. I have been trying to write this blog in some semblance/order of the dates of events, and as it seems when I post, it is in order of the date I publish, I can’t seem to get the information I want in to publish in order without waiting probably months/years??? to obtain and qualify the information I need. Which is why I decided to now write about James Heneker, the star (in my eye’s anyway) of the family. I think other family members also believe that James was the person who really made his family who they became, at least here in Australia. Of course his parent’s Thomas Henniker and Jemima (nee Willis) were true pioneers by making the enormous decision to emigrate from green lush Kent in England to a very dry and largely unchartered South Australia, and landed here in June 1839 only 3 years after South Australia was declared a colony in 1836. Therefore, they came to a sparsely populated state and a place with little infrastructure in place.
As I have mentioned in a previous post, when Thomas was born, married and emigrated to Australia, the family name appears to have been spelt as ‘Henniker’ or sometimes ‘Hennicker’. Once the family arrived in Australia, more often than not the name appears as Heneker. And certainly on birth certificates, in newspaper articles and official births, death and marriage indexes the name continues as Heneker, although some instances of the spelling Henniker still appear from time to time.
James Heneker was born to Thomas and Jemima whilst they still lived in Westwell, Kent. He was born on 4th December 1826 and died on 3rd February 1917 in Beltana, South Australia. How little these two dates tell us about James and his amazing and full life. James is listed on the shipping manifest as being aged approx. 12 years of age. He also had sisters who had been born in Westwell who came to Australia with him. More brothers and sisters were born after the family arrived in Adelaide in South Australia. Not much is known of James very early life in South Australia, although he would have been old enough to help his father, and even work. A story written about James and his life (in an article about the clipper the ‘City of Adelaide’) states that James related in his later years about being at the opening of the New Port Adelaide. This following piece is taken from a Wikipedia article about Port Adelaide.
The port’s initial location was intended to be temporary. The location for a proper port was chosen by Governor George Gawler, between the original settlement and the Governor’s preferred location at the junction of the North Arm and the Port River. One reason for the chosen site was Gawler’s instructions on leaving England to limit expenditure; the North Arm site would have required more transport infrastructure and reclamation work. Gawler awarded a tender allowing the South Australian Company to construct a private wharf, again partly to limit government expenditure. Along with the wharf they were to construct a warehouse and roadway. The roadway was to be a 100 feet (30 m) wide and run from the port to dry land, a distance of approximately 1 mile (1.6 km). This first wharf was built near the end of the modern Commercial Road.
The wharf, known as Maclaren Wharf, was finished in 1840. McLaren Wharf was 336 feet (102 m) long and 15 feet (4.6 m) deep at low tide. Contrary to usual practice, it was allowed to be built at the low water mark, which made construction simpler. The Wharf, warehouse and road were opened by Governor Gawler in October 1840. The opening procession from the old port to the new included over 1,000 people; then the largest assembly of colonists to date. The procession included 600 horsemen and 450 vehicles, almost all of colony’s wheeled transportation. At the opening a parcel was ceremonially landed from the barque Guiana. Upon opening the port could accommodate vessels up to 530 long tons (539 t). In May 1841 John Hill became the original holder of the land grant for all the land south of St Vincent Street, reaching to Tam O’Shanter Creek (later the Port Canal), comprising 134 acres and known as Section 2112. Much of this land was a tidal mangrove swamp, being reclaimed by successive owners over many decades.
During reclamation work, the ground level was raised by approximately 9 feet (3 m), with mud and silt from dredging work. Early houses had their ground floors below the now raised ground level; some had steps built down from road level. The Port Admiral Hotel’s original ground floor now forms part of its basement. The last major reclamation was of the Glanville Reserve in 1892. By the mid-1840s, with increasing trade, the wharves proved insufficient and some more private wharves were constructed. During the late 1850s the state of the dry and dusty plain, between Adelaide and Port Adelaide, led to the pejorative terms “Dustholia” and “Mudholia” in summer and winter” [Wikipedia : Port Adelaide – Text last modified 23 March 2013]
The section above, which I have put in BOLD type is interesting as it refers to “The New Port” and the opening procession, including 1,000 people, consisting of the largest collection of colonists to date. As this event occurred in 1840, it was very soon after the arrival of James and his family, and one would guess that it is correct that they were there as part of the assembly of colonists. This of course also puts James age at roughly 13 going on 14 years of age. If this information is correct, and the recollections of the older James were right, then he certainly began his new life in the colony at an exciting and auspicious event. And these firsts were only the beginning of James’ experiences. For a family, and indeed a young boy who came from a small Kentish area such as Westwell, and as far as we know his family were mainly agricultural labourers, the amazing “first’s” that James would take part in, must have been so exciting for a lad from an established and somewhat “slower” place.
Apart from this being an interesting story, I had not actually taken much notice of this recently seen piece of information regarding James’ memory of his early life. If this information is correct (and I don’t know where it came from originally as there is no information regarding this in the article I read), it is probably one of the earliest pieces of information about James after he landed in South Australia. And only one of many milestones in the colony of South Australia that James was a part of.
My story about James will continue, however I will publish these posts as I complete each bit of information. If I don’t I may as well write a book!