FOSTER of Launceston, Australia, Chapter 4.

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This page describes George FOSTER’s life in retirement from 1879 and also looks at what remains of his home and family in present day Launceston.

Launceston Retirement: 1879 to 1899

When George retired in Jan 1879 he had an unparalleled length of service in the Colony with 1(?) year as second mate from 1834, 1 year as assistant harbourmaster, 1 year as leadsman, 22 years as pilot, and finally 19 years as senior pilot in charge of the Low Head station. A total of 44 years service with 41 as pilot! Wayne Shipp's information on the length of service of the pilots in J.G. Branagan "The Historic Tamar Valley" shows George with 42 years as pilot, then the next longest services in order as 32, then 28, 27, 25, 24, 24, 16 and so on. He left the service very highly regarded by the people of Low Head and George Town, receiving a glowing testimonial, which was also placed in the Launceston Examiner. The full text can be seen here.

George FOSTER’s front doorGeorge FOSTER’s front door.
Photo: D. Burbury, 2003

George built his home at 41 William St, Launceston in 1879… it is now permanently placed on the Tasmanian Heritage Register (Id# 4700). A newspaper article on “Town improvements” said:

The general appearance of Launceston has been greatly improved within the past two years by the erection on all sides of buildings of every description, from the unassuming four-roomed weatherboard cottage to the handsome villa, and from the unpretentious little shops of the back streets, to the large establishments which adorn our principal thoroughfares. In this article I purpose noticing only new buildings which have gone up in the past few months… I then made my way into William-street, and there came across a handsome and compact 2-storied residence, erected for Mr Foster, ex-senior pilot. Launceston Examiner; 16 Aug 1879.

The 1880 roll of William-street properties (see "Property") showed that George owned and occupied a house (£42) and owned a house and bakery (£45) occupied by M. Munro.

George made a succession of codicils to his will which throw light on changing family circumstances as well as on people in the Launceston community who were important to the FOSTERs. George's good friend (and father-in-law) John Hammond died in 1870 causing George to make a first codicil to his will dated 28 Jul 1880. In the codicil George called himself "formerly Pilot of Tamar Heads, now gentleman of Launceston". The codicil replaced J. Hammond as executor with George Babington (Town Surveyor). George Babington was Launceston's Town Surveyor from 1853- 1882 and from 1863- 1882 was also Superintendent of Waterworks and Surveyor under the Building Act. G. Babington died on 29 Dec 1888 and George's son Thomas continued residing out of Tasmania, so George made a second codicil on 16 Jan 1889, appointing new executors Peter McCracken (Ironmonger) and Thomas Gladman (Accountant). Peter McCracken ran his own ironmonger's business at that time (from 1883 to 1894 in Charles St.), was elected to the Municipal Council twice after 1894 and was mayor in 1896. He was then elected to the House of Assembly in March 1900 and thus obtained probate for George FOSTER's estate just before his election campaign. Thomas Gladman at that time of the second codicil was accountant to the firm of Douglas & Collins, Solicitors who later acted to obtain George's probate. Thomas Gladman was elected City Treasurer and Accountant in the following year (1890).

The value of George's estate increased. In 1892 the house where George lived was #41 (£40) and M. Munro's rented bakery was #43 (£45) (from 1892 at least, the modern-day street numbers applied). George died in 1899, and in 1900 #41 (£750) and #43 (£850) were still shown as owned by George. In 1910 these properties... #41 (£800) & #45 (£1,000) were no longer owned by the FOSTER family. It is probable that George's properties were sold just before his death at less than their total assessed value of the time of £1,600. The probate value of George's estate was given as £1,296 and no real estate was included in his estate inventory. At that time George would have been quite well off, since as well as his assets he received an annual government pension in 1899 of £186/13/4. To have an idea of the value of money in those days: From a book titled "Australia Through Time"...

"(in) 8 November 1907, ....For the first time a minimum wage for unskilled Australian workers was officially set in the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration ... workers would be paid no less than seven shillings a day - or two pounds two shillings a week from (then) on."

George’s will left everything in trust to his wife Lucy and then, on her death, to his daughter Emily, should she be unmarried, the income from £500 plus the use of household furniture and effects in trust. The residue of the estate was to be divided equally amongst the children. The special provisions for Emily were introduced in a third codicil dated 3 Sep 1892, which suggested that she lived with George and Lucy and looked after them when they were old. This last codicil was witnessed by H.M. Latham (Civil Servant) and James Boag (Brewer). This Boag was J. Boag II who lived several door down from George in 1884. Henry Francis Maude Latham was in the Customs Department at Launceston at the time, and the following year (1893) he was appointed Warehouse Keeper and also Collector of Beer Duty for Northern Tasmania. The "Cyclopaedia of Tasmania", Vol II, says James Boag, born at Launceston in 1854, "...joined the staff of the brewery"... in 1870. A leaflet obtained from the brewery in 2000, says he "joined this brewery (...in 1879) to train under his father".

George and Lucy were remembered in an old lady's memoirs of her childhood in the 1890’s. She recalled that: "Next to the Tamar Hotel lived the FOSTERs, a very superior English family".
Source: Veda Veale. Making of Memories: Memories of Launceston. Regal Press; Launceston; 1988: 22.

 

Present Day: Launceston

The photo below shows significant recent change around George's home. In 2000 this area gave a derelict impression. The 2000 photo, on the left, shows the sheet metal gates and overgrown shrubs in George's drive, and the neighbouring Tamar Hotel in need of repair. The 2003 photo, on the right, shows the restoration in 2002 of the Tamar Hotel, the wrought iron style gates on George's drive and the tarred surface and parking area in George’s back yard. The parking area now serves the Tamar Hotel … now the "Boag's Centre for Beer Lovers" which is used for a display centre, guided tours and administration.

George FOSTER's HouseChanges in George FOSTER's House
Photos: PD Strong, 2000 & D. Burbury, 2003

I visited George’s old house in November 2000. It was an impressive two-storey double brick building with a heritage listed facade. The main building was 7.5m × 10m. It was the only residential house in the immediate area and was owned by Boag’s Brewery which had rented it to their employees.

Plaster ceiling rose Plaster ceiling rose
in George FOSTER's home

The inside smelled very musty, due perhaps to the absence of a damp course combined with the modern paints on the thick interior plaster, which did not allow the surface to "breathe".

Upstairs were two large rooms… presumably a front bedroom and a rear master bedroom. There was also a small nursery room (or servant quarters?). Downstairs, there were another two large rooms with 14' ceilings. The front room was a lounge room with an ornate marble fireplace and a huge plaster ceiling rose (pictured on left). The back room was a large dining room. At the back of the house, a passage way led past a pantry and a bathroom to a large kitchen annexe. The toilet was outside. The block of land was quite large and the back yard could have been a good vegetable garden. The yard had a fair sized tree, was overgrown and had a tumbledown garage and shed, both built more recently. I wondered how George managed to heat the house and chop the wood for all his fireplaces. However in the probate documents there was a bill from the gas company amongst the liabilities.

In the 2002 renovations the garage and shed and old garden were removed to make way for the parking area, though the tree remained. George's house has not been changed, though Boags state: "In the future we may decide to renovate it and use it as part of the Boag's Centre for Beer Lovers complex. At this time we do not have any intention in the short term." In 2004 Boags painted George’s house to match their Centre’s colours.

George FOSTER's HouseGeorge FOSTER’s house further renovated.
Photo: Keith Ison, 2004.

John & Lorraine Stevens (descendants of George FOSTER’s daughter Annie STEVENS) visited the house in Nov 2008. Their photo (below) showed that the kitchen annexe had been replaced by a brick store-room with well designed access. They were told by Boag’s Centre for Beer Lovers that the old home is being used by Boags Brewery as an office and store room.

Image of rear of house in 2008.New store room at rear of house.
Photo: John & Lorraine Stevens, 2008.

I searched for George and Lucy’s graves. Sally Vandenberg, State Library Tasmania, Launceston Local Studies kindly wrote saying:

"Some of the headstones in Cypress St Cemetery were moved to the Carr Villa Cemetery prior to the site being turned into a sports field. Those headstones not moved by relatives were removed by Council, a few headstones were placed around the perimeter but most were removed and /or destroyed at the time. The sports field belongs to the Launceston Church Grammar School and is known as Broadland Park."

Source: Vandenberg, S. Pers. comm. Jul 5, 1999.

(I have written to the Archives of the Launceston Church Grammar School and they gave me a list of the monuments or fragments of monuments which remained, and FOSTER was not among them.)

The Story Continues