21 June 2012

Sarah Horsey, greengrocer

Carole from Heritage Genealogy posted on council rates assessment books the other day, and I was totally unaware that they were available. Both the City of Sydney Council Rates Assessment books 1845-1948 (transcriptions and images) and the Newtown Rates and Assessments 1863-1892 (transcriptions) are available online.

Looking up some of my ancestors, I knew that Josiah Horsey worked as a corn and hay dealer in George Street, Sydney, and also owned a fruit shop in Hunter Street, so I started off with him. He and his wife Sarah are listed a number of times.

Year Name of ratepayer Name of building owner Address Building type Building description Annual Value
1855 Josiah Horsey Samuel Oakley 499 George St House Wood and shingle, 1 floor, 3 rooms £50
1856 Josiah Horsey Saml Oakley 499 George St House Wood and shingle, 1 floor, 3 rooms £50
1861 Josiah Horsey John Woods 46 Hunter St House and shop Brick and galvanised iron, 1 floor, 2 rooms £60
1867 Sarah Horsey John Woods 46 Hunter St House and shop Brick and shingle, 1 floor, 4 rooms, out of repair £76
1877 Sarah Horsey D Clarkson 183 Liverpool St House Brick and iron, 1 floor, 4 rooms £50
1880 Sarah Horsey Thomas Buckland 183 Liverpool St Shop Wood and iron, 2 floors, 6 rooms £72

Correlating this with entries in the Sands Directories I found the following:

Josiah was working as a fruiterer/greengrocer at 46 Hunter Street from around 1861 until (presumably) his death in 1863. His wife Sarah then took over the business and stayed at 46 Hunter Street until at least 1869, even though the conditions of the building were clearly deteriorating. We then have a gap of almost 10 years where Sarah apparently disappears and then she pops up again in 1877 at 183 Liverpool Street, once again as a fruiterer, though 1879's Sands Directory describes her as a dealer - presumably the shop had morphed into a "mixed business". By 1880 (the year Sarah died) the business was obviously doing well enough to have taken on quite a bit more of the building, with 2 floors and 6 rooms instead of 1 floor and 4 rooms. Or possibly extra space was taken up by Sarah and Josiah's youngest son, Josiah jnr, who was listed in 1880 at the same address as a hay, corn and produce dealer, the same occupation his father once had.

As for the missing years for Sarah, I've searched and searched and searched. I wondered if she might have ended up in the clink for some reason, though there's no evidence of that. There are a few clues in Trove though.

In December 1864 a Sarah Horsey, greengrocer, was convicted of having light weights in her barrow, which she used as a stall, and she was fined 20s plus costs. Although I am aware that there was another Sarah Horsey in Sydney at around the same time - the other was convicted of habitual drunkenness after my 3x great grandmother had died, there is nothing to suggest the other Sarah Horsey was a greengrocer like my relative was. So I think this probably was my Sarah Horsey. It would appear from the fact that she was using a barrow as a fruit stall that she had given up the shop in Hunter Street. Despite her inheritance from Josiah's estate, had she fallen on hard times?

In October 1873 a lost and found notice appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, for a missing milking cow, advising enquirers to apply to Mrs Horsey, fruit shop, Lyons Terrace. Lyons Terrace was a series of elegant terrace houses in Liverpool Street, opposite Hyde Park. Knowing that Sarah lived and worked at 183 Liverpool Street, a look at Google Maps showed that address was itself opposite Hyde Park. Other advertisements in the Sydney Morning Herald show that there was a fruit shop in Lyons Terrace as early as 1868, although there is no evidence that Sarah owned or managed it at that time. So I think she was probably still working as a greengrocer/fruiterer during the missing years, though where she actually lived, with her children, for some of that time is a mystery. (And as an aside, thinking of Hyde Park today, I do find it amusing to imagine a lost milking cow wandering around the park!)

There is one other reference in the Sydney Morning Herald to a Sarah Horsey that is notable: in November 1876 a Sarah Horsey was fined 20s by the Inspector of Nuisances for allowing unwholesome matter to remain on her premises. Although it does not give an address for this Sarah Horsey, it may have been that she was selling bad fruit or vegetables from her fruit shop, if it was her.


  1. Hi Prue
    You are the master investigator. What a brilliant find.
    these are the sort of documents that bring our ancestors to life and give a little meat to the basic facts and figures.
    We will definitely have to catch up when we get home.
    The meeting with Tobias and Elaine was great. He mentioned you several times and really appreciated your input.
    I got a copy of the book and the CD - I am stumbling through little bits of the book (I hve no German and a tiny amount of French)
    The archives have a massive amount of information particularly genealogy but as you are aware it is all Men related women only are mentioned in relation to men daughters wives etc.
    Elaine photocopied some A3 pages of Jean Gaspard relatives and she is going to scan and email them to me.(I will forward it straight to you.)
    Thanks for all your work

  2. So glad the meeting went well. I have no German or French which makes reading the book extra hard! I look forward to catching up when you get back.

  3. Welcome to the GeneaBloggers family. Hope you find the association fruitful; I sure do. I have found it most stimulating, especially some of the Daily Themes.

    May you keep sharing your ancestor stories!

    Dr. Bill ;-)
    Author of "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories" and family saga novels:
    "Back to the Homeplace" and "The Homeplace Revisited"
    The Heritage Tourist at In-Depth Genealogist: http://www.indepthgenealogist.com/

  4. I'm so glad to have found your blog thanks to GeneaBloggers. What a task you have tackled to find your Sarah Horsey! Perhaps locating a graph of economic cycles for those times in the Sydney area may help overlay the bigger picture upon Sarah's own business cycles. I know being able to see the bigger picture often helps me understand what has happened in my own ancestors' lives from year to year.

  5. I love finding Aussie blogs on Geneabloggers :)

  6. That's a great idea Jacqi - thanks.

    Thanks to all of you for dropping by. : )

  7. Great research there Prue and a great tip from Carole. I've used NSW and Qld rates' books to good advantage for research. They're something of a hidden treasure.