George and Annie Wilcox Wedding, July 1864
|Father name||George Wilcox|
|Mother name||Annie Fuller|
|Children names|| Edith (1865)|
George Seaborne (1873)
Arguably, there were no passengers who can be more closely identified with the City of Adelaide than George and Annie Wilcox. Having been married only a few weeks, George (26) and Annie (24) first boarded the brand-new ship in August 1864 to sail for South Australia and to set up home in Gawler.
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 Annie returned to South Australia on the City of Adelaide with four of the 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.
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 (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.
Marriage and Children
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 and/or the children may have spent months at a time there before returning on another ship, with or without George. At least two of these voyages were on the City of Adelaide, in addition to the maiden voyage on which Annie migrated with her new husband. These two voyages also proved to be very eventful for the Wilcox family as described below.
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 maiden voyage of the City of Adelaide, 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.
Voyage to Adelaide in 1864
|Voyage to Adelaide in 1864|
|Under command of||Captain David Bruce|
|Departure date||6th August 1864|
|Arrival port||Port Adelaide|
|Arrival date||7th November 1864|
|Voyage duration||93 days|
|Port of Call|
|Port of call||Plymouth|
|Arrival||12th Aug 1864|
|Departure||12th Aug 1864|
George and Annie's first association with the City of Adelaide was when they boarded the brand-new ship in August 1864 to sail for South Australia on the maiden voyage. George (26) and Annie (24) had only been married a few weeks and where heading to South Australia to set up home in Gawler.
The cabin that George and Annie Wilcox had on the first voyage of the ship to Adelaide in 1864 is not known.
Voyage to London in 1873
|Voyage to London in 1873|
|Under command of||Captain Llewellyn Bowen|
|Departure port||Port Adelaide|
|Departure date||14 November 1872|
|Arrival date||24 February 1873|
|Voyage duration||102 days|
In 1938, Sidney related the 1873 and 1874 voyages to his nephew where much of the following information is obtained. Sidney's story as related to his nephew Alan Wilcox can be found on Sidney's biography page.
On this voyage George Wilcox had hired Cabins 2, 4 and 6 and the family occupied Cabin No. 2 at aft. George had Cabins 4 and 6 fitted with cages for thousands of Shell Parrotts, Spotted Love Birds, Blue and Red Finches, Galahs and White and Yellow Crested Cockatoos. Two tons of seeds were loaded to feed them on, and special provision had to be made for drinking water for them.
The ship was to have gone by way of Good Hope and stop at Plymouth on the way to London. However, the winds would not allow it, and the ship drifted so far to the South, that the Captain decided to go by Cape Horn. The prolonged voyage meant that heavily pregnant Annie gave birth to George Seaborne in Cabin No.2 on 30th January, 1873, just off the Scilly Isles.
Voyage to Adelaide in 1874
|Voyage to Adelaide in 1874|
|Under command of||Captain Llewellyn Bowen|
|Departure date||29th May 1874|
|Arrival date||24th August 1874|
|Voyage duration||86 days|
|Port of Call|
|Port of call||Plymouth|
|Arrival||6th June 1874|
|Departure||6th June 1874|
Sidney's story, as related to his nephew Alan Wilcox, also describes the 1874 voyage back to South Australia on the City of Adelaide.
The family was finding England to be "ugly cold and dreary" and the children were all crying out for sunshine. It was decided that Annie and the four children should return to Adelaide in the ship City of Adelaide at the end of May 1874, and that George would return to South Australia earlier Australia on a P&O Mail ship.
The voyage of the City of Adelaide back to South Australia in 1874 was the most eventful in the ship's life. Upon arrival off Semaphore the ship was stranded in a storm on the coast at Kirkaldy Beach, near modern day Grange Beach, on the night of 24th August, 1874. Passengers were taken off after 48 hours by tender.
George who had arrived on the earlier ship was on the beach at 10 a.m. 25th August 1874, but of course could not help.
Originally researched by Ron Roberts, Adelaide, SA. March/April 2008
Sidney Wilcox account provided by ...
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.