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  Contributor: Kim ChipperView/Add comments

This article was first published in the West Sussex Gazette in 1993

Whatever happened to two Tarring families who emigrated from England more than a century and a half ago to a new colony on the other side of the world?

A letter I have just received from Kim Chipper in Australia starts to tell the tale:

'A family friend who was in England recently handed me a copy of a newspaper article by yourself about 'Curly' Norris (WSG 4/3/93) in which he talked of the Chippers of Tarring. Being the self-appointed Chipper historian in Australia for about the last 20+ years I was interested to see the article, and it neatly fitted in with some information that came to hand a couple of months ago and started me thinking of contacting a newspaper in the Tarring area for help. I'm hoping all the signs are propitious!

'The things that came to hand were a series of letters written by the members of the Henty family who left England in 1829 on the Caroline for the colony of Western Australia. They took with them a just-married couple: John Chipper as an indentured carpenter's labourer and his wife Mary nee Whidby. When they arrived in WA they gave their 'place from' as West Tarring.

'They arrived safely in Freemantle on 12 October 1829 after four months at sea with only one stop in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on the way.

'Quoting from James Henty's letter to his father on 2 August 1829: 'Captain Bartholomew of the brig Williams of Arundel has good naturedly offered to take letters free of postage and I have therefore availed myself of the opportunity not only of sending our own but many for the men.'

'The Henty letters started me thinking; John and Mary were literate and would have almost certainly written to their parents and friends back home and maybe, just maybe, some or all of these letters survived till today. If so, I would love to read them, either as originals or as copies. The trip to WA would have been quite an adventure for them, from reading Henty's letters.'

Kim is writing a book on this trip, one chapter of which will give the Chippers point of view. As a matter of interest, the Henty letters are held in the Battye Library (the WA State Archives library).

In 1979 Kim organised a 150th anniversary reunion of all the Chippers descending from John and Mary. 'It turned out to be quite an event.'
At the reunion, a Professor of Economic History, Reg Appleyard, spoke on what conditions were like for the first settlers. It was Reg who, prior to the meeting, had had the honour of writing the Chipper family entry in the National Directory of Biography, for which a number of distinguished Australian families had been selected for entry, only a few of which were from Western Australia. The Chippers were among these.

The original Chipper emigrants were servants to Henty, who as a settler approved by the British Government of the day would have been granted land according to the value of capital goods taken with them. If a settler took a plough and shovels, even stock of given value, then he was granted an appropriate acreage of land. This had appealed to farmers in the southeast of England who would be landlords and their indentured servants would provide the labour. In fact for each indentured servant taken to the colony a settler received an extra grant of land. Many of the indentured servants were drawn from the poor houses in the southeast of England and in many ways were unsuitable as potential farm workers. Even so, the first settlers sailed for Australia with much enthusiasm, and that probably includes their servants.

In the closing moments of Reg's historic speech at that 1979 reunion he contemplated what the conditions must have been like for those early settlers:

'Coming half way across the world to such a place has been compared with landing on the moon -- the unknowns were just as great. Given the misinformation that had been disseminated in England before they left, it was almost inevitable that the first settlers would face great hardship when they arrived. Many stayed and 'toughed it out', though many went away. The Hentys went to Tasmania; the Chippers stayed. It was tough going; it was very tough going. Some of them made a lot of money; some of them didn't. Some indentured servants became landowners; some of them went away; and some of them dissipated their wealth and their life in drink. The isolated settlement just hung on. Even 21 years after first settlement there were still less than 5,000 people in the whole colony. It had been one struggle after another. The formative years in any place are the early years. First families became first traders. Churches and schools were built. Children of families intermarried, their children providing much of the new population because so few immigrants came once the conditions faced by the settlers were known back in England.'

It was afterwards that convicts were transported there. Later on came the gold rush and after that the wheat belt settlers.

If you know of a Henty or a Chipper, do show them this article as they may, just may, be in possession of a 19th century letter written from Down Under or might possibly have some other memento.

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Chipper Family
25 Oct 2014
By binge321
If Mr Chipper obtains a copy of the CD of West Tarring Church records of births, marriage & deaths he will find that Chippers have lived in West Tarring for well over 200 years ]

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