Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Edgecombe House

King-street Newcastle

74 King-street, Newcastle

At 74 King-street, Newcastle - across the road northwards from the Newcastle Club and to the north-east of the former Christ Church Burial Ground, an aged two-story wooden dwelling now stands. In its prime, it may have held a certain grandeur, offering vistas of the city and the harbor. Presently, however, it languishes in abandonment and neglect, its future endangered by impending development.

The plot of land it stands on was initially granted to Susannah Nash and was owned by three others before eventually falling into the possession of architect Mortimer Lewis junior, the son of Colonial Architect Mortimer Lewis senior.  The origins of the current standing structure remain unclear, whether it was erected by Mortimer Lewis himself or a previous owner. However during Mortimer Lewis and his family's residence in King Street, either this dwelling or its neighbouring structure was recognized as Edgecumbe House.

Susannah Nash

The first grantee of the allotment was Susannah Nash, the wife of a convict.

Susannah, nee Styles, married William Nash, a cutler and dealer in Thorley, Hertford, England on 24 December 1821. Susannah gave birth to two daughters Ann and Susannah before William was convicted of robbery on 6th December 1827 at the Old Bailey, London. While William was sent to the Old Bailey and then to the Leviathan Hulk on 21 December 1827 to await transportation to Australia, Susannah embarked on the ship Caroline with her two children Susannah aged 3 and Ann aged 7, arriving in the colony in 1828

The convict ship Phoenix with William Nash on board arrived in Sydney on 14th July 1828

William's details are recorded in the ship indents - Age 26; reads; Protestant; married with two children. Native place Hertford, occupation Cutler and dealer. Convicted of Robbing the Person on 6 December 1826, he was sentenced to transportation for life. He was 5ft 5 inches with a dark ruddy complexion and brown hair. The indents also record that on arrival in the colony William was assigned to John James, Under Sheriff (Sydney).[1]

By the time of the 1828 Census taken in November, William was stationed at the Hyde Park Barracks. Susannah is recorded as a shop keeper of Pitt Street, Sydney in the same Census. Her two children resided with her. [2] . She sold various items of haberdashery, drapery and other goods for women and was resourceful and feisty as an article in The Australian in 1829 revealed she was not afraid of taking on an itinerant Jewish man who pilfered some of her stock. Although William Nash had been initially assigned to John James, Susannah applied to have him assigned to her and by 1833 the 'Directory' for Sydney recorded the shop under the name of William Nash, draper, 23 Pitt-street, Sydney.

Susannah, whose residence was still Sydney, was permitted to purchase two allotments of land in Newcastle dated 5 March 1838. The first, Allotment 168 was situated in Perkins-street, Newcastle and the second in King Street, Allotment 97 (later known as 74 King-street). Each were purchased for £19 12 shillings. She also held allotment 193 in Scott-street which in 1907 was acquired by Albert Augustus Dangar [3]

The description of allotment 97 in King-street from the Register of Land Grants and Leases is as follows:

"Bounded on the South by ninety-seven and a half links of the North side of King Street, bearing West seven degrees North; on the East by ninety-two links of the East boundary line of the Market place bearing North seven degrees East; on the North by a line dividing it from Allotment No. 98 bearing East seven degrees South ninety seven and a half links; and on the East by a line dividing it from Allotment No. 96 bearing South seven degrees West ninety-two links. Being the Allotment sold as Lot 45 in pursuance of the Advertisement of 27 September 1836." [4]

William Nash was granted a conditional pardon dated 20 November 1837 and an Absolute Pardon dated 1 October 1840

When the gold rush began in the 1850s William was well-placed to start in business as a bullion merchant. In 1855 he was in partnership with his son-in-law Robert Forbes and their business was spectacularly successful for a time. He and Susannah had acquired a great deal of property. The merchant premises were in King-street, Sydney. Each day when they closed the doors, the gold would be removed in a wheelbarrow to the bank, Nash keeping guard with a loaded pistol. They became very wealthy however in 1855 William and  his son-in-law Robert Forbes were accused of dishonest dealings in weighing the gold. After two trials, they were eventually found guilty and both were sentenced to two years in gaol with hard labour. They were admitted to Sydney Gaol and then Parramatta Gaol where it was recorded the sentence was 12 months imprisonment and fines of £1000 for William and £500 for Robert had been imposed. Gaol Records [5]

Susannah Nash died aged 56 in June, 1860, at her residence, Castlereagh-street, Sydney. William Nash died 15 September 1864 aged 61, at his residence in Castlereagh-street, cause of death dropsy. His remains were interred in the vault beside his wife Susannah in the Camperdown cemetery.

An article in 1898 about the life of William and Susannah Nash records that William re-visited England after his release from gaol and when he returned to Australia he lived in the cottage in Castlereagh-street, Sydney which was on the site of later Hotel Australia. [6] The Hotel Australia was demolished c. 1971 and the MLC Centre built in its stead at 25 Martin Place, Sydney

Although allotment 97 (74 King-street Newcastle) was acquired by Susannah Nash, there is nothing to suggest so far in the records that Susannah or William ever resided on her allotments of land in Newcastle or that a dwelling was built on the site at the time of their ownership

Mortimer Lewis junior

Allotment 97 passed through several hands until it was acquired by Mortimer Lewis junior, architect.

Mortimer Lewis junior married Ellen Stacy, daughter of Dr. John Edward Stacy of Newcastle in 1847. John Edward Stacy arrived in Australia with his wife Jane and family on the Magnet in 1828. He was employed as company surgeon by the Australian Agricultural Company. In the 1850s John Stacy resided in the Military Barracks at Newcastle

In 1852 Mortimer Lewis junior was employed as Clerk of Works at Maitland and they resided at the Stockade at Maitland when Ellen gave birth to their daughter

By November 1854 they were residing at the Military Barracks, the premises leased by Ellen's father at Newcastle, when daughter Florence Jane died aged 2 years 9 months of scarlet fever and a fortnight later Lillah Lewis died aged 9 months. The girls' grandmother Jane Stacy (wife of John) also died of scarlet fever in November 1854.

Mortimer Lewis acquired title to 21 perches of land in December 1856 [7], however the family continued to live at the Military Barracks indicating perhaps that either the house on allotment 74 had not yet been constructed or perhaps the 21 perches was a different acquisition

At the Military Barracks in 1858 Ellen gave birth to a son Frederick George and in 1860 she gave birth to Emma Ellen. In 1865 Mortimer Lewis was employed as Clerk of the Works at Newcastle and still resided at the Military Barracks. While stationed in Newcastle William Mortimer junior worked on much-needed refurbishments to the old Newcastle Court House that had been designed by his father William Mortimer senior.

Edgecumbe House

Some time between the years 1865 and 1871 Mortimer Lewis and family moved from the Military Barracks to reside in King-street as in 1871 Ellen gave birth to another child and their address was given as Edgecumbe House, King-street. In 1872 when their daughter Ellen Elizabeth Rose married Lieut. James Thomas their residence was still Edgecombe House and in 1873 at the birth of another child they were still in residence. What appears to be the house can be found on this Gibbs Shallard & Co map across the road from the Burial Ground.

The building still standing at 74 King-street (pictured above) may be one of the few timber-built residences of the era (c. 1870s) remaining in Newcastle. Find out more about other buildings and people at Newcastle in 1870 here

Obituary 1899

The late Mr Mortimer William Lewis, who died at Kogarah on Saturday last at the age of 78, was born at Regents Park, London, in 1820, and was amongst the oldest residents of the colony, having come out in the year 1830 with his father, who was one of the Royal military surveyors appointed by the Earl of Mulgrave in 1811, afterwards first town surveyor of Sydney and Colonial Architect. Mr. Lewis was appointed in 1835 at the age of 14 to the Royal Engineers Department, under the late Colonel George Barney. In 1837 he received an appointment in the Surveyor General s Department, under the late Colonel Sir T. L. Mitchell, and in 1843 was appointed to the Colonial Architects Department, where he served until his retirement on a well-earned pension in 1891, after a faithful service of 56 years, 54 years of which were spent in the colonial service and two years in the Imperial service.

In the Colonial Architect's Department Mr. Lewis was in charge of the northern district from Cooranbong to Newcastle, Tenterfield, Narrabri, and Walgett, in the days that travelling had to be done on horseback or coach, before the railways came into operation, and all the principal Government buildings then in the northern district were designed and carried out under his supervision, as well as the Banks of Australasia at Newcastle and East Maitland, St. John's Roman Catholic Church at West Maitland, now the Cathedral, and many others, the latter buildings having been erected at the time public officers were allowed to do private work. Part of the Newcastle Breakwater was also carried out under his supervision. [8]

Notes and Links

1873 plan of Newcastle showing allotment 97 owned by Susannah Nash

See Mahlstedt & Gee's Map dated 1886 Newcastle, New South Wales [cartographic material] : [a fire insurance map] / Mahlstedt & Gee.

The house that was built on the allotment can be seen by enlarging the Panorama of Newcastle 1889 on the Living Histories site. The house is in King street directly north of the Christ Church burial ground.

Photographs (5) and (6), dated 1870 on Greg Ray's Blog site - 'Some of the oldest photographs of Newcastle', show the location of the house on the left of the photo

It may also be visible in the 1874 town lithograph

Find the location of 74 King-street Newcastle at Locations of Heritage Buildings and Places of Interest Newcastle Region


[1] Bound Convict Indents State Archives NSW; Series: NRS 12188; Item: [4/4013]; Microfiche: 669

[2] 1828 New South Wales, Australia Census (TNA Copy)

[3] Government Gazette 11 September 1907

[4] State Records Authority of New South Wales; Registers of Land Grants and Leases; Series: NRS 13836; Item: 7/475; Reel: 2700

[5] Gaol Records

[6] The Truth 1 May 1898

[7] Maitland Mercury 10 January 1857

[8] Maitland Weekly Mercury 14 January 1899