Eldridge, William and Norah

Full name:

Eldridge, William and Norah

Dates recorded for being in Berrima:

1841 - ? (at least 1848)

Occupation if known and land ownership:




William Eldridge, aged 14, was convicted at the Old Bailey, London, in 1825 and sentenced to transportation for 14 years. He had been found guilty of stealing forty-eight pairs of shoes, to the value of £2/5/-. He arrived in Sydney on the Asia VI in March 1828, the ships ident showing him, perhaps unsurprisingly, as a shoemaker’s boy from Oxford with a mermaid tattooed on his left arm.[1]

He obtained his ticket of leave in November 1834 and his certificate of freedom in December 1840.[2] Both documents give Berrima as his place of residence so he was possibly originally assigned to one of the district’s settlers and could have been one of the townships’ first residents.

Eldridge may not have remained squeaky clean as when in Berrima as his name does appear in the entrance lists of Berrima Gaol for 1840, no crime listed and possibly a debtor.[3]

At the time of the 1841 Census Eldridge was living with another single man, also an ex-convict, in a wooden cottage in Wingecarribee Street, both of them listed as ‘Mechanics and Artificers’ (tradesmen).

In 1844 Eldridge sought permission to marry Norah Callan. At that time Norah held a ticket of leave, having been sentenced to ten years and transported to the colony on the Planter in 1839.[4] She had been convicted in 1838 at London Central Criminal Court in 1838 but she is recognised on the Irish Convicts website which shows her crime was stealing money and that she came from Cork and was a kitchen maid.[5]

Regrettably Norah Eldridge died in July 1848 aged 28 years and is buried in the Catholic section of Berrima cemetery along with Maria Eldridge, her daughter, who died seven months later. Norah presumably died in childbirth, her daughter soon following her.

Following the death of his wife and daughter Maria in 1848 there is one, rather sad, mention of Eldridge, written under the pseudonym of ‘Reminiscences of Old Tom’ in the Scrutineer and Berrima District Press of 12 April 1902.

Billy Eldridge, an old identity, was a most respectable bootmaker doing well, but unfortunately his wife died and a change took place. Billy took to drink and endeavored (sic) to go to the devil as fast as possible. He drunk his money, furniture, and everything that he could sell to satisfy the thirst that seemed to increase till at last he became a notorious vagabond. He would go as a journeyman when he could not get more drink, keep steady for a few months till he got a rig out and then start again drinking. He would exchange his new kit for old ones to get boot (sic) so that he could carry on; he would keep on the spree for months. Tom well remembers one wintry day when old Billy was suffering a recovery in miserable rags, and shivering with cold, when he determined to drown himself, and he requested a few topers to see him take his exit from this world of woe. They accordingly followed him to the river; Billy always was a bit of an orator, and there on the river bank in the cold wind he held forth: ‘Men and boys you see before you to-day an example of the cussed drink, it has been my ruin. Shun it, and take me as an example of its evil influence. I was once respected, a good townsman, and had a happy home and every comfort, but now, alas ! alas ! good-bye.’ He then went into the river up to his knees, ducked, stood up again, mouth open, shaking with water and shivering with cold, he turned to his audience saying,’ ”I can’t stand it, it is too d—-d cold; I will try again when the water is warmer ‘ Billy eventually went to Liverpool Asylum where he died.

The family website cited above suggests there had been another daughter, Emily, born in 1845. Their records show an Emma (Emily) Eldridge married a John Couch on 13 April 1866 in Yass NSW. Her parents were given as William Eldridge, a shoemaker, and Nora. Her place of birth is given simply as New South Wales but a more specific place of birth – Berrima – is given on the birth registration form of her son, John William, born 10 May 1868 and confirmed on the birth registrations of her twin sons, born two years after Michael, also at Yass. She died at Yass on 16 Feb 1893, her age given as 50. The death certificate records her father as a shoemaker, and though the name given was ‘John’, not ‘William’, given all the other evidence it does seem likely Emily was William and Nora’s daughter born, in Berrima soon after their marriage in 1844.

Family records suggest William died on 22 Nov 1879 at Liverpool aged 71 and was recorded as a bootmaker.

[1] SRNSW NRS 12188; Item: [4/4013], fiche:669 and http://members.iinet.net.au/~rgkje/eldridge/we9.html

[2] SRNSW Convict Records, Ticket of Leave No 34/317, 4/4420; Reel 2688A Certificate of Freedom No 40/2016, 4/4363; Reel 1008

[3] NSW Gaol Description and Entrance Books 1818-1930

[4] The NSW BDM records show Norah Callan marrying a William Richards at Appin in 1844 (V18442458 93/1844). No confirming record for a William Richards could be found.

[5] http://members.pcug.org.au/~ppmay/cgi- bin/irish/irish.cgi?requestType=Search&ship=Planter+(2)+[1839]. Accessed 2017