Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Lady Jane Mason Barton - Newcastle

Jane (Jeannie) Mason Ross, born in London on 11 June 1851, and later the wife of Australia's first Prime Minister Sir Edmund Barton, spent most of her girlhood in Newcastle, New South Wales. She was the daughter of Scottish engineer David Ross who was to become the well-known and civic minded publican of the Union Inn of Blane Street, Newcastle.[1]

Jane Barton in June 1902, when she attended the coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. National Library of Australia.


St. Andrew’s Church in Watt Street Newcastle was the first Presbyterian church in the area and was very near to the location of the later St. Phillips Church that was erected in 1905. In Mahlstedt and Gee’s 1886 map, the tall building on the left of this photograph is the manse and nearby to the northward was St. Andrew’s Church. It is not confirmed where Jane attended school, however the family were closely associated with St. Andrew's Church life, so she may have attended the school that had been established in the manse. In 1864 on the third anniversary of the church in Newcastle, it was Jane Ross and fellow student Donald Fleming who were chosen on behalf of the Sunday School scholars to present the Rev. James Coutts with a token of their affection and esteem [2]

David Ross

Jane's father David Ross enjoyed a fortunate life at Newcastle and acquired considerable land around the town including allotments at Onbyganba (Carrington) however didn't live long enough to witness his daughter's successful marriage and rise in society. He was a popular figure around town and when he died in September 1868, his funeral cortege was attended by over three hundred people. The funeral service was performed by Presbyterian ministers Rev. James Coutts and Rev. William Bain. [3] The Ross family remained in Newcastle and the Union Inn was taken over by George Ross until 1871.

Edmund Barton

Accomplished and educated, Jane caught the eye of barrister-at-law Edmund Barton when he visited Newcastle for a sporting event in the early 1870s. They were engaged in 1872 and married at the Presbyterian Manse, in Watt Street on 28 December 1877, the Rev. Coutts officiating. [4]. Letters from Edmund Barton to Jane (Jean) addressed to 'my own dear Jean' and sometimes signed 'your devoted Ted' have been digitally uploaded by the National Library of Australia site and make interesting reading. After their marriage the couple resided in Sydney. Select Heritage Locations to find the location of St. Andrews Church and manse on the north west corner of Church and Watt Streets.

Edmund Barton returned to Newcastle while on the campaign trail twenty years later in 1898. He addressed a large crowd at the Lemongrove Hotel at Wallsend and also at Newcastle where he addressed a meeting of about 3000 citizens from the balcony of John Hollinshead's hotel, the Royal Exchange in Hunter Street. [5] Perhaps Jane Barton, by then the mother of four sons and two daughters, took the opportunity at this time to re-visit her old home town, however no mention was made in the newspapers of the day.

Queen Victoria

In March 1900 Lady Jane Barton accompanied her husband on a voyage to England, where with a delegation of Alfred Deakin, James Dickson, Charles Cameron Kingston and Philip Fysh, Edmund Barton lobbied for the successful passage of the Constitution Bill through the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Lady Barton was presented to Queen Victoria on 12 May 1900. [6]

On 9 July 1900, the Bill was enacted, and on 17 September Queen Victoria proclaimed 1 January 1901 the date the new nation would be born.[7]

Coronation of Edward VII

Queen Victoria died on 22 January 1901 and after her death her eldest son, Edward VII became King. In February 1902 Sir Edmund and Lady Barton accepted an invitation by the British Government to celebrate the Coronation of King Edward VII. In London they were entertained by the elite of society. They were present at the review of Colonial Troops at Buckingham Palace in August 1902 when Lady Barton was introduced and shook hands with Queen Alexandra. The Bartons returned to Australia in September 1902 on the Aorangi with other Coronation visitors.


In 1908 a description of Lady Barton was published in the Sunday Times - As the wife of a well-known statesman, she has endeared herself to a large circle of political as well as non political friends. Until the last two years Sir Edmund and Lady Barton lived in their beautiful home "Miandetta: Kirribilli Point. Lady Barton is a charming hostess, and being exceedingly musical, liked to gather round her musical and artistic people, being especially kind to young students. Lady Barton has four sons and two daughters. The eldest son, Mr. E. A. Barton is a rising young barrister; the second was the first Rhodes scholar sent from Australia winning the scholarship at the Sydney University. Since then he has won many scholarships at Oxford. He is at present studying at Gray's Inn for the bar. The other two sons are at present at school. Miss Muffie Barton, the eldest daughter, is a great favourite in Sydney society being most unaffected and girlish in manner and a clever musician. The younger daughter Stephanie is at present at school. The family life of the Bartons is an extremely happy one, they being most attached to each other. Lady Barton has made two or three trips to England. [8]


Lady Barton out-lived her husband by eighteen years. She died at her residence Mona Flats, Mona Road Darling Point in March 1938 and was buried at the South Head Cemetery. She left an estate of £ 7280. Some of the many gifts presented to Sir Edmund by world figures had passed to her after his death including a snuff box given by the King which she left to her son Judge Barton of the District Court. A gold medal given to her husband by a former Pope she bequeathed to her son Oswald. A silver box given when the freedom of the City of Edinburgh was conferred on him was left to her son Wilfred Alexander. [9]

Hunter Street Memories

On her death in 1938 the Newcastle Herald recalled the Hunter Street of days gone by..... The death in Sydney this week removed one who, during her long life, had been a notable figure in the public life of the Commonwealth. This was Lady Barton, widow of our first Prime Minister. Her girlhood was spent in Newcastle. She was the daughter of Mr. David Ross, described by one who knew the family well in those far-away days, as a good type of the old Scot. Mr. Ross was the proprietor of the Union Inn. It has disappeared from the scene; but to older Newcastle people it is remembered as occupying portion of the site on which the warehouse of Messrs. J. Mackie and Company Ltd, stands, at the corner of Hunter-street and Union-lane.

Mr. Ross did more than manage his hotel. He interested himself, as did the late Ald. M, J. Moroney-several times Mayor and for many years a member of the City Council - in matters affecting the progress of the district. He was one of the first elected to the infant Borough Council.

His hotel was known far and wide, and always attracted its share of visitors and guests. It was here that Jean Ross - the Lady Barton of later days-spent many years. Here she met her future husband who was destined to take so distinguished a place in the 'political and judicial life of this continent. In those days there was, as there is to-day, a frequent steamer service between the two cities. It is only within the Last half-century that travellers could make the journey between Newcastle and Sydney by train. About 50 years have elapsed since the bridge across the Hawkesbury River was built. Week-end excursions by steamer were frequent before that.

Edmund Barton was first to the New South Wales Parliament of which he was Speaker; and when Federation came he was the first Prime Minister. The 'speech of his career' was delivered at West Maitland. One of those who spoke at the same meeting was Mr. Alfred Deakin, the Victorian statesman, who was also the occupant of the Prime Ministership in later years. "There are many beside myself who will recall the gilt sign on the old Union Inn," said the citizen referred to. "In fancy, I can see it now - the figure of a man, bending a bundle of sticks across his knee, while beneath the picture were the words. 'Unity is strength.' Australia's march to nationhood began with the Inauguration of the Commonwealth on January 1, 1901."

As the Commonwealth has grown, so has Newcastle. Hunter-street to later generations is a much-altered thoroughfare. The Union Inn has gone, leaving no trace either of itself or its interesting and sturdy custodians. To the east of it, there was an equally famous place known as the Black Diamond Hotel, and nearby the original home of the founders of the 'great firm of James and Alexander Brown. Within recent years these have been demolished to make way for the Civic Block. The old home stood where Wheeler-place is now, the full-grown pines in the front ground being familiar to the Hunter (or Blane) Street traveller as the new buildings are to the present generation. Black Diamond hotel was at one time held under lease by the late Mr. Colin Christie, who was Mayor and Alderman of the city. His son, who is one of the members of the Greater Newcastle Council, was born there. He, too filled the Chair in the Newcastle City Council, and for 20 years was one of its aldermen.

Observers who watched the demolition of the buildings 10 years ago were interested in the unique pattern chosen by the Brown family for the palisading that ran along the front balcony. The coat of arms of New South Wales - with an emblematic emu and kangaroo - was set in the central section. It probably all went to a nearby foundry, there to be melted down. Another of the licensees of the Black Diamond Hotel in the early days was Mr. Robert Hackworthy, father of the present Secretary of the Newcastle Building and Investment Co. Ltd. (Mr. A. H. Hackworthy).

A third hotel of note in its day stood on the site of Ginges' store. It was known as the Carpenters' Arms, and was kept by Mr. Fitzarthur Hogue. His son was afterwards a member of the New South Wales Parliament for a lengthy period, and was also a Minister of the Crown. The hotel was reconstructed and converted into a grocery store, kept by Mr. F. Witherspoon. The next step was to demolish the building. The present structure was then erected.

Since the days of David Ross, everything in the neighbourhood has been changed. Hunter-street extended to the large steel bridge that crossed from the highland to the waterfront above Winn's. To the west of this was Blane-Street. The bridge has gone; and of Blane street (so-named after one of the early officials of the Australian Agricultural Co.), the Newcastle citizen never now hears mention

Notes and Links

1). Papers of Sir Edmund Barton

2). On his death in 1884 Rev. Coutts left a large sum of money to found the Coutts Sailors Home in Newcastle East.

3). Newcastle in 1870

4). Edmund Barton was the son of William Barton a former accountant of the Australian Agricultural Company who arrived in Australia on the Frederick in 1827
in 1827

5). Photograph: Jane Barton in June 1902, when she attended the coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. National Library of Australia. Barton Papers MS51.


[1] Certificates for Publican's licences. State Archives NSW; Series: 14403; Item: [7/1509-1510]; Reel: 1240 1858

[2] Newcastle Chronicle 11 June 1864

[3] Newcastle Chronicle 19 September 1868

[4] Sydney Morning Herald 5 January 1878.

[5] Goulburn Evening Penny Post 26 May 1898

[6] Maitland Daily Mercury 14 May 1900

[7] Parliament of NSW

[8] Sunday Times 23 February 1908

[9] The Albury Banner 13 May 1938

[10] Newcastle Morning Herald 26 March 1938