Wilcox, George and Annie

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They were aboard the same ship on a trip to revisit England, when Annie gave birth at sea to a son, George Seaborne Wilcox, on 30 January 1873, 25 days before they docked in London. In the following year George returned to South Australia on the City of Adelaide with four (unidentified) Wilcox children.

At least two large shipments of goods were sent from London to the Wilcox business in Gawler on the City of Adelaide – 636 packages in 1864 and 492 cases in 1865. It is little wonder that a descendant arranged to have a model of the ship built many years later.

George Wilcox (1838-1908) was born in St Neots, Huntingdonshire, the second son of Joseph Wilcox, a master tailor/draper who employed seven men. In 1850 George started work in a local grocery business, and subsequently served a five year apprenticeship in the trade. In December 1857, at the age of 19, he sailed from Liverpool to Melbourne on the Royal Charter, landed in mid-March 1858 and reached Adelaide a week later.

His elder brother Thomas, a draper like his father, had preceded him by migrating to Gawler. George first took a job there as a clerk at 20 shillings per week, but in September 1858 he established a small grocery shop in Murray Street. Two years later he merged with the Barker & Wilcox drapery to develop it into a general business based on grocery and drapery under the name of J and G Wilcox. His father was the financial partner, but he never came to Australia. The enterprise became extremely successful, and his younger brothers Emery and Joseph also migrated to Gawler to work on the drapery side of the business.

Annie (Fuller) Wilcox was born in 1840 in the village of Eynesbury, Bedfordshire which today is a suburb of St Neots, now a regional town that spans the boundaries of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire. George Wilcox returned home to marry her there in mid-1864, and within weeks they sailed to make their home in South Australia.

Living on the eastern outskirts of Gawler (as George’s three brothers and their families did also), Annie gave birth to Edith 1865, Sidney 1866, and Nellie 1867 before George Seaborne was born at sea in 1873, and Murray at Adelaide in 1874.

The success of George Wilcox’s first business was based on his acumen in buying and importing goods from Britain and Europe, and selling them in South Australia. He made no less than thirteen trips back to England to closely supervise each end of his intercontinental trade.

As a consequence, Annie had many opportunities to return with the children to Eynesbury/St Neots, and even give birth in England. (She did not make it in time in 1873.) She and/or the children may have spent months at a time there before returning on another ship, with or without George. We can only speculate on which children travelled on the City of Adelaide in 1873 and 1874, and some may have been nieces and nephews.

In 1872 George sold his Gawler interests to his brother Joseph, and moved his family to live in Adelaide where he purchased a mansion on 14 acres of land in Lower Mitcham (now Kingswood). They purchased the mansion from William M Letchford, whose children were also on the City of Adelaide's maiden voyage, and named it Eynesbury after the village in which Annie grew up.

George took on a new challenge, and established himself as a wool and produce merchant, specialising in hides and skins. He was equally successful in building up this venture, and as it expanded, branches were opened in Melbourne and Albany WA. In 1886 a branch was set up in Young Street, Sydney and became so large that he closed the Victorian and Western Australian branches to concentrate on NSW and SA. He took his eldest son Sidney Wilcox and G G Legoe into partnership in 1889, and they were joined by two other sons, George Seaborne Wilcox and Murray Wilcox, when George withdrew from active participation in 1894.

Annie (Fuller) Wilcox was described as having a most happy disposition and winning the respect of all those with whom she made contact. In April 1897, at the age of 57, she died suddenly while sitting in a chair at their ‘Eynesbury’ home, leaving two daughters in Adelaide and the three sons in business in Sydney.

For many years, George Wilcox was also a director of the Hamley Copper Mine near Moonta. He built the Apollo Soap Works at Hindmarsh and, when it had become established 3½ years later, he sold it to Burford & Sons. He was a very successful business man whose straightforwardness and unassuming nature made him very popular. He lived quietly in retirement, devoting his attention to sheep farming, until he died in March 1908 at the age of 69.

Researched by Ron Roberts, Adelaide, SA. March/April 2008




Sources

1 History of Adelaide and Vicinity, ed. J J Pascoe, Hussey & Gillingham, 1901.

2 History of Gawler, E H Coombe, The Gawler Institute, 1908.

3 Adelaide Observer.

George & Annie Wilcox's Wedding
George & Annie Wilcox's Wedding
George Seaborne Wilcox
George Seaborne Wilcox
Annie Wilcox
Annie Wilcox

 


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