Photograph of William Norris from the Jean Welch collection courtesy Carol Roberts.
Venturing into research on members of the Norris family in the Hawkesbury can prove confusing, especially if researching William Norris. The reason being that, as with many old families, there are many generations with the same name. The William Norris who features in this article was born at Cornwallis in 1840, the son of William Norris and Lucy Upton (Brown) and grandson of Richard Norris and Mary (Williams). William, who married Susannah Martin, was the brother of Emma Amelia (married William Wood), Alfred (married Mary Ann Hand), Jane (married George Cupitt) and Henry.
Susannah was the daughter of farmer and sawyer Charles Homer Martin and Ann (Forrester) of Freemans Reach. Although the Martin and Forrester families were mainly of the Protestant faith and the Norris family was predominantly Catholic, an agreement was reached and Susannah’s marriage to William Norris in 1861 was recorded by the pioneer Presbyterian clergyman Reverend George Macfie who served the parish of Ebenezer and Pitt Town from 1842 to 1867.
William and Susannah’s children Emma, Clara, Ada, William, Albina, Charles and Hilda were all born on the farm at Cornwallis while the youngest, Nellie (born 1879) was born in Windsor. Interestingly, the first five children were baptised at St Matthew’s Catholic Church in Windsor and the last three were baptised at St Matthew’s Anglican Church in Windsor.
Numerous disastrous floods through the 1860s and 1870s would have taken their toll on the family’s livelihood on the farm at Cornwallis, so in 1879 William Norris took over the Farmers’ Home hotel on the SW side of Argyle and Macquarie Streets in Windsor. In 1881, he was granted an extension of his liquor license for two days to allow him ‘to sell fermented and spirituous liquors on the Hawkesbury Race Course’. By the end of the year Norris had also purchased the Railway Hotel from Mrs Susan Hopkins, who built the hotel in the mid-1860s.
Norris had both hotels until about May 1882, although the Farmers’ Home was vacant for some time. It is recorded that his daughter, Ada Amanda, met her future husband, John (Jack) Lamond, while assisting her father in the bar of the Farmers’ Home as a young girl. However, success eluded William Norris, who by his own admission was a drinker and gambler. By the end of 1882 he was brought before the Insolvency Court, having had to sell his property to repay debts. He admitted he owed money to several people and over the previous two years (1880-1881) had gambled away about £2,000.
William Norris died in 1887, aged 47, and was buried in St Matthew’s Catholic Cemetery in Windsor. Susannah struggled for years to raise her family and finally went to live with her daughter Ada. She died in 1900, aged 58. Described as ‘well-respected, good-hearted and sympathetic’, Susannah was buried in St Matthew’s Anglican Cemetery with her daughter Albina, who had died in 1898.
Carol Roberts 2019
I completed the basis of this article for the Hawkesbury Gazette published on Wednesday 17 October 2018 for Colo Shire Family History Group as ‘Focus on the Norris family’.
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Louise Wilson, Southwark Luck: the story of Charles Homer Martin, Ann Forrester and their children, Louise Wilson, South Melbourne, 2012.
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