Captain Joseph Charles NEWTON of Bristol & Australia

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A “little” bit of detective work caught my eye on the Bristol & Avon Family History Society’s Facebook page in mid-Jan:

“Hi, I was wondering if anyone could help. I am researching Joseph Charles Newton he was born in 1849 in Bristol I believe, his father was Thomas Newton and his mother unknown. Joseph, his father and 3 brothers were Master Mariners as stated in his obituary. Joseph married Alice Maria (surname unknown) they had 1 daughter Alice Jessie Newton. At some stage, they came to Epping, Australia where Joseph died in 1903, Alice Maria in 1907 and Alice Jessie in 1908. I know it’s not much to go on but has anyone seen any records of this family? TIA (Tanya Magro)”

Tanya Magro runs the Friends of Epping Cemetery page on Facebook, which she created to tell the stories of the people buried in Epping Cemetery in Victoria, Australia. She found Joseph in the burial register but was unable to find out much about his life before arriving in Australia. I wondered if I might be able to unearth something myself.

The first thing to do was check out the information given in the post. There are death records indexed on Ancestry for all three family members, as well as probate records for Joseph and his wife Alice. The Australian website Trove has searchable copies of old newspapers and was able to find their original death and funeral notices.

Captain Joseph Charles NEWTON

  • “On the 23rd, at his residence, Epping Hotel, Epping, Captain JOSEPH NEWTON, late of Hong Kong, China, beloved husband of ALICE NEWTON, aged 54 years. [Sat 2 May 1903 – The Leader]
  • “The friends of the late Captain JOSEPH NEWTON are respectfully invited to follow his remains to the place of interment, the Epping Cemetery. The funeral is appointed to move from his residence, Epping Hotel, Epping, on Sunday 26th at 2 o’clock punctually.” [Fri 24 Apr 1903 – The Age]
  • “The funeral of the late Captain JOSEPH NEWTON took place on Sunday afternoon last, in the Epping cemetery. The deceased gentleman was a son of Captain NEWTON, Bristol, England, and three of his brothers are well-known Master Mariners.” [Mon 27 Apr 1903 – The Argus]

The Australian Death Index states his father’s name was Thomas NEWTON.

Mrs Alice Marie NEWTON

  • “On the 4th September, at her late residence, Epping Hotel, Epping, ALICE NEWTON, relict of the late Captain JOSEPH CHARLES NEWTON, aged 44 years.” [Thu 5 Sep 1907 – The Age]
  • “The friends of the late Mrs ALICE NEWTON, relict of the late Captain JOSEPH CHARLES NEWTON, are respectfully invited to follow her remains to the place of interment, the Epping Cemetery. The funeral is appointed to move from her residence, Epping Hotel, Epping, tomorrow (Friday), 6th, at 3 o’clock punctually.” [Thu 5 Sep 1907 – The Age]

There is no father’s name added for Alice on the Australian Death Index.

Miss Alice Jessie NEWTON

  • “Deeply regretted. On the 5th September, at the Melbourne Hospital, ALICE NEWTON, only daughter of the late Captain JOSEPH CHARLES NEWTON, late of Epping, Victoria.” [Wed 9 Sep 1908 – The Age]

I also found Joseph’s will online, and the administration papers of his wife as she died intestate. Joseph’s will confirmed he was both a Master Mariner and Licensed Victualler, but nothing about any other family other than his wife.

“I JOSEPH CHARLES NEWTON, “Master Mariner” at present carrying on the business of a Licenced Victualler in “Epping”, “Colony Victoria”, and feeling certain I am now in a sound state of mind do hereby by this my last Will give and bequeath to my wife ALICE MARIE NEWTON the whole of my Estate real and personal for her especial use, and I also appoint her the sole Executor and Trustee of this my last Will.”

Those were all Joseph Charles NEWTON’s last known records, but could I find anything earlier? Information to go on was:

  • Name: Captain Joseph Charles NEWTON
  • Birth Year: c.1849
  • Occupation: Master Mariner and Licenced Victualler at the Epping Hotel
  • Father: Thomas NEWTON, “Captain Newton”
  • Siblings: 3 Master Mariner brothers
  • Wife: Alice Marie NEWTON (nee unknown) born c.1864
  • Daughter: Alice Jessie NEWTON born c.1885
  • Locations: Epping, Victoria, Australia and Bristol, England

I started with census records looking for any Joseph Newton’s born 1840-1860 with five results, and all but one I discounted after tracing their lives. The best match in the 1851 census was for a Joseph C NEWTON age 4 and born in St George (Easton in Gordano) near Bristol with parents Thomas NEWTON and Elizabeth. His birth was registered Oct-Dec 1846 in the district of Bedminster (which covers St George/Easton in Gordano) and his mother’s maiden name was POWELL. However, this Thomas NEWTON worked as a Thatcher, not a Mariner. I confirmed that Thomas and Elizabeth had nine children in total, three of which were boys. Their son Joseph wasn’t present in any further census record, nor could I find a death record. Their eldest son Thomas (b.1826) worked firstly a Mariner then changed careers to thatching like their father shortly after he married. Their second son George (b.1835) worked as a Master Mariner his whole life.

There were some definite similarities between the known “facts” about the Joseph I was looking for and this Joseph’s family, but also some differences. Could Joseph’s death notice have been incorrect with the information included (his father being a “Captain” and having three Master Mariner brothers)? Joseph’s father’s name of “Thomas” was included on his death certificate, so was more likely to be correct.

I then checked the birth register for Joseph Charles NEWTON or Charles Joseph NEWTON born between 1840-1855, and four showed up (there are several hundred matches if just searching for “Joseph” or “Charles”). I was able to discount two of the matches fairly quickly, leaving the Joseph I found in 1851 plus another one. The second match was that of Joseph Charles NEWTON born in 1841 in Bermondsey to Isaac NEWTON, who was a mariner, and Ann SMITH. The family first show up living in Newington, London where Joseph had one sister and two brothers. By the time the 1861 census was taken their mother and youngest sibling had died and their father absconded. Joseph and his brother were at first in a workhouse, then in the 1861 census, both were described as a “deserted child“, living together in Thanet, Kent. Joseph disappears after this and his brother goes on to be a Coach Painter. I discounted this family but thought their short story worthy of a quick note.

Searching for any Newton’s living in the Bristol area with “mariner” as a keyword led me back to my first family again. There was also another Newton family with a mariner father (John Newton b.1790 in Bristol), but he had no son called Joseph (or Charles). Searching for any Thomas Newton’s who worked as a mariner brought up one match, that of Captain Thomas Brethrick NEWTON born c.1825 in Skirbeck, Lincolnshire. However, he didn’t have a son named Joseph (or Charles) either, and no links to Bristol.

Fairly satisfied there were no other leads to follow, I began to look deeper into the first family again. One aim was to find any further family links to mariners which might help explain the three Master Mariner brothers and “Captain Newton” comments in Joseph’s funeral notice, but my main focus was to try and find Joseph after he disappeared from records at age 4 and hopefully discover something which linked the two Josephs together as being the same person. I traced each sibling in turn, and finally came across two mariner’s records for Joseph which clinched the deal!

Joseph Charles NEWTON

Joseph Charles NEWTON was the eighth of nine children born to Thomas NEWTON and Elizabeth POWELL on 30th Nov 1846 in Pill, Somerset and baptised on 25th Feb 1847 in Easton in Gordano, Somerset

Joseph’s father Thomas NEWTON was born in 1805 in Moreton On Lugg, Herefordshire to parents John NEWTON and Mary ALLEN. Moreton On Lugg is about 70 miles away from Bristol and seems that Thomas and his younger brother William both moved to the Bristol area to marry and settle down. Joseph’s mother Elizabeth POWELL was born in 1809 in St George next to Easton in Gordano, Somerset to parents James POWELL and Martha (surname unknown).

Thomas NEWTON married Elizabeth POWELL on 13th Nov 1826 in St James Church in Bristol before moving to St George next to Easton in Gordano and starting their family (Thomas was 21 and Elizabeth about 17 at this time). Thomas’s occupation on marrying and the baptism of their first child was “labourer”. They lived in Pill between 1829-1835 according to the baptism records of their next four children, with Thomas’s occupation alternating between Thatcher and Labourer. By 1839 the family were living back in St George, and the 1841 census recorded them living at “Vicarage House”. In 1847 the family were back in Pill, then had moved another short distance to Portbury by 1850, and back to St Geroge by 1861 where the census records them living at “Pill Fields, Cross Lanes”. Thomas was now 56 years old and Elizabeth was 52.

This map from 1884 shows how close Portbury, Easton in Gordano and Pill were. St George was the name of the church in Easton in Gordano but am unsure exactly where the specific area would be on the map.

This wider map shows where Bristol was in relation to Easton in Gordano (about 6 miles).

Maps reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

Thomas died two years later on 2nd Jan 1863 at age 58 (although his age is recorded as 56) when his youngest child was age 12. He was buried a few days later in Easton in Gordano, and his probate record shows he had a Will and also letters of administration, with his effects being under £100 (just over £13k today).

Elizabeth had moved to Lawfords Lane in Pill by 1871. Also living with her was daughter Clara age 28 who was working as a dressmaker, seven-year-old granddaughter Harriet Wilton NEWTON, and a 50-year-old lodger named Joseph POWELL who was actually Elizabeth’s brother (widowed, working as a Labourer). Harriet Wilton NEWTON was the daughter of Joseph’s brother George NEWTON by his first wife Harriet WILTON. Harriet’s mother very sadly died just after she was born in Oct 1863. Her father remarried four years later, but Harriet remained with her grandmother and then paternal step-grandfather (Samuel WEAVER, whose son John married Joseph’s sister Clara).

Elizabeth was living at Baker’s Buildings in Pill in 1881, occupation noted as “supported by son“. She died on 4th Nov 1886 in Pill at age 77 and was buried a few days later in Easton in Gordano.

Thomas and Elizabeth had nine children together, born between 1827 and 1850. The only child I’m not sure if married is Sophia, and four of the children I haven’t been able to find death records for.

  1. Elizabeth Newton (1827-?) ~ married Joseph THOMAS 1850
  2. Thomas Newton (1829-1900) ~ married Jane DOGGETT 1856
  3. Emma Newton (1830-?) ~ married James Frederick HAY 1860
  4. Louisa Newton (1833-1886) ~ married James ROWLAND 1861
  5. George Newton (1835-?) ~ married Harriet WILTON 1862, and Elizabeth SLEEP 1867
  6. Clara Newton (1828-1916) ~ married John WEAVER 1884
  7. Sophia Newton (1842-?) ~ marriage status unknown
  8. Joseph Charles Newton (1846-1903) ~ married Alice Marie (surname unknown) c.1885
  9. Alice Celia Newton (1850-1900) ~ married Thomas Davis WATKINS 1874

1. Elizabeth NEWTON was baptised on 30th Sep 1827 in Easton in Gordano and married Joseph THOMAS on 29th Sep 1850 in the same church her parents married (St James’s Church, Bristol). At the time of marrying, Elizabeth was age 23 and working as a Dressmaker whilst Joseph was age 26 and a Mariner. Joseph is not to be found in census records, presumable working at sea. Elizabeth stayed living at home with her parents and younger siblings, and when the 1861 census was taken she was age 33 and had no children of her own. After this point, I can no longer find her in any records.

2. Thomas NEWTON was baptised on 26th Jul 1829 in Easton in Gordano and married Jane Elizabeth DOGGETT on Christmas day 1856, also in Easton in Gordano when they were age 27 and 23. They had eleven children together between 1857-1874. At the time of marrying, Thomas was working as a labourer, but baptism records for their first two children recorded him as a Mariner (1857 and 1859). As he is not to be found in the 1851 census, when he would have been age 21/22, perhaps Thomas was away working at sea (many of the census records taken aboard ship at sea or in territorial waters from 1851 have not survived). By the time their third child was baptised, Thomas was working as a thatcher like his father and continued to do so for the rest of his working life. Thomas died on 31st Dec 1900 at age 71, although he was wrongly recorded as age 76. Jane died mid-Jan 1911 at age 78.

3. Emma NEWTON was baptised on 6th Jun 1830 in Easton in Gordano and married James Frederick HAY on 12 Jun 1860 at St Andrew’s Church in Clifton near Bristol. At the time of marrying, James was age 34 and working as a Mariner, and Emma was age 30. James doesn’t show up in census records, and Emma disappears from records after marrying. The only further (possible) record I have found for James is a crew list from Poole, Dorset in 1872. I haven’t identified any children from their marriage, so perhaps they never had any.

4. Louisa NEWTON was baptised on 12th May 1833 in Easton in Gordano and married James ROWLAND on 1st Apr 1861 at St Mary Church in Redcliffe, Bristol. At the time of marrying, Louisa was age 27 and working as a Dressmaker, and James was age 26 and working as a Waterman. Their first and only child was born around nine months later. The only time James shows up in census records is in 1871 living with his family and working as a Mariner. Also living with them was William George NEWTON, Louisa’s nephew (her brother George’s son by his second marriage), and next door was Louisa’s mother, one of her unmarried sisters (Clara), niece Harriet Wilton NEWTON and uncle Joseph POWELL.

On the morning of Thursday 2nd Dec 1880, James went out of the family home in Pill, into the outhouse and committed suicide with a pistol in the mouth. Leading up to this awful event was a strike of the Pill Pilots, mariners employed to lead large ships up and down the Bristol Chanel. There were 54 licenced pilots at that time, and the job of leading ships was on a first come basis, but over the past few months, the Great Western Line (which owned a majority of the steamships using the port of Bristol) had been exclusively using the same four Pilots for this job, refusing any others who got their first. This began to cause a lot of anger among the pilots and the community of Pill as a whole, culminating in a strike and various mass gatherings. Prior to his suicide, James had been wrongly accused of eavesdropping on the striking Pilots and passing on information to the four favoured men, a fact which was brought up during his inquest. Although James himself wasn’t a Pilot his brother Edward was, with James having of late been working aboard a private yacht. The inquest revealed James had been of ill health for many years, and prone to hypochondria and melancholy.

In 1881 the widowed Louisa was living in Portishead next to the Bristol Chanel working as a Dressmaker, and her 19-year-old daughter Clara was working as a Governess. Louisa died five years later in Apr 1886 age 52.

Newspaper article reproduced with the permission of the British Newspaper Archive and The British Library Board

5. George NEWTON was baptised on 20th Sep 1835 in Easton in Gordano and married Harriet WILTON on 15th Nov 1862 at St Andrew’s Church in Clifton near Bristol (where his sister Emma had married two years before). At the time of marrying George was age 27 and working as a Master Mariner, and Harriet was age 26. Their first and only child was born the following year, swiftly followed by the death of his wife, possibly due to complications during birth. She was buried on 22nd Oct 1863. Their daughter was named Harriet Wilton NEWTON after her mother and was baptised on 13th Dec 1863. George presumably when back to sea and his daughter was raised by his mother Elizabeth. George remarried in mid-1867 to Elizabeth SLEEP in Cardiff, Wales and had two more children: William George NEWTON in 1868 as also mentioned above with Louisa, and Harriet Florence NEWTON in 1870 (both his daughters were confusingly named Harriet). In 1871, George was recorded aboard the steam tug “Atlas” in the Point Tidal Basin near Sharpness, Gloucestershire. He was age 33 with his occupation written as “Cap Mariner“, and was master of the boat having filled the form out himself. Wife Elizabeth and their daughter Harriet Florence were boarding in Cardiff, and her occupation was recorded as “Captain’s Wife”. George isn’t found in census records after this but does turn up in Merchant Navy lists for 1881 as master of the steamboat “Susan Gibbs” between 1st Jan-30th Jun with his residence as Bute Dock in Cardiff. In Jan 1886 he was Master of the steamboat “Frank Stanley” and directories record his residence in 1887 and 1891 as 5 Eleanor Street, Docks, Cardiff (occupation “Mariner”). He was most likely boarding with the TARRANT family, who were living there when the 1891 census was taken. At the same time, wife Harriet was recorded living on her own at 6 Paddock Street, stating to be a widow. I don’t believe George had actually died though as on his second daughter Harriet’s marriage certificate of 1893 he was not noted as “dead” like the marriage below, and the same again for his first daughter Harriet in 1895. Both times his occupation was recorded as “Sea Captain“. When his son William married in 1898 (who was also a master mariner), he was again not noted as dead or deceased. His wife Elizabeth may have died in 1894 at age 50, and George was definitely dead by 1917 when his son “Master William George NEWTON” of Bristol drowned as a result of an attack by an enemy submarine during WWI.

6. Clara NEWTON was baptised on 27th Jan 1839 in Easton in Gordano and married John WEAVER on 24th Sep 1884 at St Augustine the Less, Bristol. At the time of marrying Clara was 43, having been living at home working as a Dressmaker, and John was age 39 and working as a Mariner. Further research shows Clara was the landlady of the Steam Packet Inn in Pill in 1883. They didn’t have any children together, and John only shows up twice in census records: once in 1891 with Clara and her 19-year-old niece Minnie Laura NEWTON, possibly an illegitimate child but I’m unsure of whom (Sophia would be my guess). In 1901 Clara was living on her own in Pill, whilst John was working away on the steamboat “Talbot”, which was travelling from Liverpool to Swansea at the time. John died towards the end of Nov 1910 in Bedminster aged 64. The following year, Clara was recorded living with her unmarried nephew and niece Joseph NEWTON and Elizabeth NEWTON (two of her brother Thomas’s children). She died in 1916 aged 76.

7. Sophia NEWTON was baptised on 12th Jun 1842 in Easton in Gordano. In 1861 she was working as a Kitchen Maid at a school in Long Ashton, Somerset (age 19), and in 1871 as a servant for the RODBARD family in Blagdon, Somerset (recorded as age 26, but was actually 29). After this I can no longer trace her, so don’t know if she ever married or where she died.

8. Joseph Charles NEWTON was born in 1846 but shall leave him for last.

9. Alice Celia NEWTON was the last child to be born to Thomas and Elizabeth on 5th Oct 1850 and baptised on 3rd Nov 1850 in Portbury. She was 5 months old when the 1851 census was taken and her oldest sister Elizabeth had just gotten married. She was just 12 when her father died in 1863. Clara married Thomas Davis WATKINS in Jun 1874, having acquired a marriage licence on 18th Jun. The licence described Thomas as an “African Agent“, and he was age 32 whilst Alice was 23. Their first child was born a year later and her baptism record states Thomas’s occupation was now a publican in Bristol and the same with their next two children who were baptised together in 1878. Their fourth child was born in 1879 (but not baptised until 1891). In 1881 the family were living at 14 College Green, Bristol and Thomas’s occupation was recorded as “Foreman Stevedore“, adding nothing about being a publican. Their fifth and last child was born the following year (and again, not baptised until 1891). The 1891 census is interesting as Alice and her children were living at 18 College Green, and she was described as the head of the household, married and “living on own means“, whilst Thomas was living on his own at the White Hart public house, 95 Thomas Street, Bristol and working as as a licenced victualler. Thomas died at the beginning of Dec 1891 (or very late Nov) aged 49, and Alice died 25th Oct 1900 aged 50.

And now on to Joseph!

Joseph Charles NEWTON was the eighth of nine children born to Thomas and Elizabeth on 30th Nov 1846 in Pill, Somerset and baptised on 25th Feb 1847 in Easton in Gordano. He was age 4 in the 1851 census, and that is the last census he was recorded in.

Joseph was just three when his eldest sibling married in 1850, and by age fourteen his next four siblings had also gotten married. By this time Joseph had started his career at sea and brother George was already a qualified Master Mariner. When their father died on 2nd Jan 1863, Joseph was working aboard a ship named “Mary” and aged 16.

The next time Joseph turns up in records is on 4th Mar 1876 when he applied for his “Only Mate” qualification in Bristol. He was now age 29, but for some reason shaved one year off his date of birth on the application and gave it as “30th Nov 1847” but with his correct place of birth as Pill, Somerset. He was living at 13 Caroline Row in Clifton, Bristol at the time, most likely as a boarder. Part of the application required a list of service from first going to seas, which officially began in 1862 when he was 15, but was likely working on local boats in one capacity or another from a younger age than that. Joseph passed and received his Certificate of Competency as Only Mate a few days later on 10th Mar. As can be seen below, the night that the England 1871 census was taken (2nd Apr) Joseph was working aboard the “Merope”, which travelled from London to Lyttelton, NZ.

Ship’s Name Port of Registry Rank Commencement Termination Time in each Ship
Mary Liverpool OS 18 Sep 1862 7 Jul 1864 1y 9m 19d
Clara St. Johns 2nd Mate 5 Aug 1865 7 Sep 1865 1m 2d
Merope London AB 23 Jan 1871 5 May 1871 3m 13d
Hart? North Shields Mate 30 Sep 1871 18 Jul 1872 9m 18d
Gwendoline Bristol AB 15 Nov 1872 29 Aug 1873 9m 14d
Charles Bristol AB 12 Sep 1873 27 Oct 1874 1y 1m 15d
Great Weston Bristol AB 3 Mar 1875 23 Apr 1875 1m 20s
Great Weston Bristol AB 1 May 1875 18 Jun 1875 1m 17d
Great Weston Bristol AB 22 Jul 1875 28 Aug 1875 1m 6d
Great Weston Bristol AB 14 Sep 1875 16 Oct 1875 1m 2s
Great Weston Bristol AB 25 Oct 1875 3 Dec 1875 1m 8d


Joseph inadvertently made it into the local papers again in Jul 1882 after a man call himself John Davies conned two of his sisters out of money and hospitality, along with several other people as the Monmouthshire Merlin article on the right reported. He first visited the residence of Joseph’s sister Alice (aka Mrs Watkins) in Bristol, telling her he was the part owner of the steamer “Helena”, which her brother captained. It would seem at this time no one in the family had heard from Joseph for over five years and was grateful to hear of his fortunes offered the man board and lodgings. Davies “borrowed” 5 shillings the next morning, and after cunningly gathering more information on Alice’s family, headed over to Pill to visit Clara at the “Packet Inn” (possibly meant to be recorded as “Steam Packet Inn”). He even managed to “borrow” 6s from his cabman on the way. Clara was also most happy to hear news of her brother. Davies later “borrowed” a shirt, umbrella and a sovereign from her, as well as running up a huge bar tab of £2 (about £258 as of 2021). Davies then went off on his merry way, taking a steamer to Cardiff, swindling several more people, and even setting up a fake wedding and dinner until he was finally apprehended at a “disreputable house” in Roath. You’ve got to admire the man’s stamina and nerve! Davies was tried and found guilty of “unlawfully obtaining money by false pretences” on 29th Jul and sentenced to 4 months imprisonment. The newspaper report added he was age 62 and a sailor.

Joseph never captained a steamer called “Helena” (he was actually working on the “Danube” at the time this all happened). Davies may never have even met Joseph, instead gleaning his information elsewhere. I wonder if Joseph ever found out what happened to his sisters.

On 10th Mar 1883, Joseph applied for his “Master” qualification in London. He again gave his date of birth as 30th Nov 1847, and place of birth as Bristol this time. His permanent address was listed as 109 George Street, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, which was actually a hotel called “The Shipwrights Arms”, and his address in London was 3 Everton Road, St Pancras. His application noted his previous qualification as Only Mate, but also that of Master, which he gained in Sydney, Australia on 27th Oct 1879. He passed and received his Certificate of Competency as Master on 6th Apr 1883.

Joseph’s list of ships he worked on carried on from where the last list stopped.

Ship’s Name Rig. Tonnage Port of Registry Capacity Commencement Termination Time in each Ship
Native Peach Bg 192 Swansea 54179 Mate 31 Mar 1876 9 Aug 1876 5m 9d
Native Peach Bg 192 Swansea 54179 Mate 30 Aug 1876 15 Dec1876 3m 14d
Swift Bk 158 H Jan? NS? Mate 16 Dec 1876 8 May 1877 5m 3d
Alveburgh Bk 817 Miport 72924 2 Mate 15 Sep 1877 25 Jan 1878 4m 11d
Springbok Bk 327 Melbourne 30343 2 Mate 6 Feb 1878 8 Mar 1878 1m
Springbok Bk 327 Melbourne 30343 Mate 9 Mar 1878 21 Sep 1878 6m 13d
E M Young Bk 344 Melbourne 63512 2 Mate 16 Oct 1878 30 Nov 1878 1m 15d
John Rush Bk 291 Sydney NSW 24592 Mate 14 Dec 1878 27 Feb 1879 2m 14d
Mary Madley Bgt 159 Napier NZ Mate 16 Apr 1879 1 Sep 1879 5m 13d
Lady Bowen BK 892 Sidney NSW 49557 Mate 19 Jan 1880 28 Jun 1880 5m 10d
Danube SS 561 Leith 62279 2 Mate 31 Jul 1880 9 Feb 1881 6m 10d
Yottewig? SS 258 Hong Kong Mate 24 Feb 1881 18 Jul 1881 4m 22d
Esmeralda SS 395 Hong Kong 2 Mate 12 Nov 1881 28 Feb 1882 3m 18d
Danube SS 561 Leith 62279 Mate 3 Mar 1882 5 Nov 1882 8m 3d
Danube SS 561 Leith 62279 Master 6 Nov 1882 15 Jan 1883 2m 9d

There are three mentions of Joseph as captain of the SS Danube in consecutive years from 1883, 1884 and 1885. Two are shipping reports, and the last one mentions Joseph as part of a Marine Court. All three were printed in the “Overland China Mail” newspaper.


It can’t have been long after gaining his captaincy that Joseph met his wife-to-be Alice Marie as their daughter Alice Jessie NEWTON was born in 1885. Looking at Joseph’s life so far, he doesn’t seem to have had any time to put down roots, so when he married Alice he was aged about 38 (whilst she was about 21). I’m unsure when they settled down together in Australia, or if Alice ever accompanied her husband whilst he worked.

Joseph and Alice were living in Epping, Victoria, Australia by 1891 where they ran the Epping Hotel. In his Will dated 1893 he referred to himself as Master Mariner but “at present carrying on the business as a Licenced Victualler“. Perhaps his patrons even called him “Captain“! Joseph’s death notice referred to him being “late of Hong Kong“, so seems likely he was still working at sea from time to time, possibly leaving Alice to run the Epping Hotel in his absence.

During his time in Epping, Joseph was a Counsellor and Returning Officer for Epping Riding (1891 until 1894), and was also the secretary of the Epping Cemetery Trust, meetings being held in his hotel up until he died and then transferred to the Victoria Hotel.

Joseph died at the Epping Hotel on 23rd Apr 1903, recorded as being age 54 but he was actually 56 and was buried a few days later in Epping Cemetery. He left his entire estate to his wife Alice in his Will dated 9th September 1893.

Alice took over the running of Epping Hotel after her husband died, but passed away herself on 4th Sep 1907 at age 43. She didn’t leave a will so, therefore, died intestate. Instead, there are pages and pages of information from her creditors filed between 1907-1910. One statement mentioned that Alice Jessie NEWTON was her only daughter and next of kin, and another recounted a conversation where she stated she had no relatives in Australia but possibly had some living relatives in England.

Daughter Alice Jessie NEWTON inherited what was left of her mother’s estate after bills were paid, including the weatherboard Epping Hotel. Alice sadly died almost exactly a year after her mother on 7th Sep 1908 at the Melbourne Hospital at age 23. She actually died before her mother’s estate was finalised, and likely died intestate herself. The Epping Hotel was sold shortly after Alice Jessie’s death on 8th Dec 1908 for £490. I wonder what happened to the estate she inherited from her mother, and any personal estate of her own? She was an only child, so anything she owned should have gone to either her maternal grandparents (if either were still alive) or any aunts/uncles. Her aunt Clara is the only confirmed close paternal relative who was still alive at that time, without knowing her maternal origins. I suspect that Alice’s estate was unclaimed and went to the government in due course.


There are a couple of obvious inconsistencies in Joseph’s funeral notice to the family I believe he came from. Firstly, his father was a thatcher, not a captain. It was his brother George who captained ships. Secondly, Joseph had two rather than three brothers, only one of which had a full career as a master mariner. However, four of his five known brothers-in-law were also mariners so perhaps it was to three of them this comment referred. It’s hard to say how “well known” any of them were, or if any of his brothers-in-law even became master mariners due to the lack of records found. At least one of Joseph’s nephews was a qualified master mariner too, and he also lived in Bristol. Perhaps these descriptions were simply exaggerations of the truth or misremembered comments taken by a newspaper reporter during Joseph’s funeral. Whatever the reason, I’m pretty certain after concluding my research that Joseph Charles NEWTON of Epping, Victoria, Australia is the same as Joseph Charles NEWTON of Pill, Somerset, England. Perhaps one day his wife Alice Marie’s story will also be discovered.

ARE YOU RELATED TO THE NEWTON FAMILY? If so, I would love to hear from you if you have any more information I can add to my research. You can contact me here.

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