Charles Thomas Hewett

Charles Thomas Hewett

Much has been written about Charles Thomas Hewett by other members of the Hewett family. Therefore this will be only an abridged story of his life, extracted from the family books, "History of Charles Thomas Hewett and His Second Child", and "Four Hewetts Venture North".

Charles Thomas was baptised 14 June, 1795, South Pool, Devon, England, which indicates he was probably born in 1794 or early 1795. (Most records of the time only recorded baptisms.)

He was the fourth son of John Hewett (yeoman farmer, and a rope maker for church bells) and Mary Ann Torr, daughter of another Devon farmer.

At 17 he was appointed clerk of a fishery in Labrador. During the first year he was appointed manager, a position he held for nine years.

During this period he travelled twice to America and Canada. It is reported that on one occasion, while returning from America, the Captain of the vessel died. None of the officers understood navigation, so Charles took over the log and navigated the ship safely home.

This experience was apparently repeated on another occasion when returning from Newfoundland.

The rigours of life in Labrador began to affect his health, so he returned to Dartmouth, in Devon, where he set up a business as a wholesale and retail butcher.

He became Superintendent of the St Peters Church Sunday School where he met, and later married, Hannah Jane Moore.

After the birth of their first three children they moved to Cornworthy, where they leased Coombe Farm, just outside Ashprington.

It was here that the twins, Charles Shallum and Hannah Huldah, were born.

Charles Thomas was a man of strong political opinions, as can been seen from reading the history of his life in England and later in South Australia.

The research done by the Hewett Family Reunion Committee is enormous, and gives a glimpse, not only of the man Charles Thomas Hewett, but of the difficult times in which they lived in England.

It was England’s repressive laws which decided the fate of the family history in Australia.

Along with another Devon farmer, William Colton, they decided to emigrate to South Australia, where they could take up land for one pound ($2) per acre.

It is believed they chartered the ship, "Duchess of Northumberland"
, and on the 6 August, 1839, along with another married couple and Colton’s maid-servant and all their goods and chattels (including cattle) left London bound for South Australia; a journey of four and a half months.

The tree mentioned here may have been the tree in which they lived.

Charles was, apparently, a very good farmer, and from copies of his letters back to the Directors of The South Australian Company, London, he had little time for, and was very disparaging of, all those who came expecting the country to hand then a wonderful life for little effort.

From a comfortable farm in Devon, there first shelter in Australia was inside a hollow tree, reputed to be 14 feet in diameter.

Although the tree can no longer be found, it was on land adjoining that of William Colton, whose home still stands as part of Maxwell’s Winery in McLaren Vale.

Charles and Hannah had nine children, before Hannah died on 29 January, 1846, only a few weeks after the birth of her last child.

Charles remarried on 29 September, 1846, to Catherine (Kate) Westlake (nee Stumbles). Kate had two children from her previous marriage and another four to Charles.

He died 5 April, 1871, at Mount Barker Springs, South Australia, at the age of 77.
He and Hannah Jane are buried together in the Congregational Church Cemetery, McLaren Vale, South Australia.

It is believed that he built the first Congregational Church which still stands beside the cemetery where he is buried.
Headstone of Charles Thomas Hewett and Hannah Jane Hewett.   Left: The headstone of Charles Thomas Hewett
and his first wife, Hannah Jane, at McLaren Vale.

Right: First Congregational Church at McLaren Vale, reportedly built by Charles Thomas in 1844. His headstone can just be seen behind the right of the building.

  First Congregational Church.
William Colton's house still stands.   Left: William Colton's old home, beside which the old tree stood, is now part of Maxwell's Winery in McLaren Vale.
(Photo 1996)

Right: Remains of Myponga Jetty School and original Hewett home at Myponga. Torr House can be seen in the background.

  Remains of Myponga Jetty School.
Remains of Myponga Jetty built by Charles Hewett.   Left: Remains of Myponga Beach Jetty built by Charles Thomas Hewett.

 Right: Torr House as it stands today (photo 1996) was built by Charles Thomas Hewett in 1854. This magnificent building demonstrates the quality of building techniques employed in those days.

  Torr House as it is in 1996.
The wells with water piped to the kitchen.  
Left and below: The below ground wells that were the water supply to Torr House from the beginning are still in use today.
They are constructed of stone and domed over, a feat that must have been quite difficult in the mid 1800’s. They have an opening in the top for access to the inside for cleaning and repairs.

The water was piped into the kitchen, presumably pumped from the old pump seen embedded in the dome. This appears to me to be the type of pump designed for pumping bilges aboard ships. There are two of these wells, as can be seen clearly in the second photo.

  The pump may have used to pump the water through.
The fireplace at Torr House made from bricks used as ship's ballast.   Left: The beautiful fireplace in Torr House is constructed from bricks that apparently came from England as ballast in a ship. Their finish puts to shame some of the bricks seen manufactured today.


Following are copies of letters written by Charles Thomas Hewett showing the honest and forceful attitude he took in all his dealings.

"6 August 1851


"Hon. Sir,
I beg to state for His Excellency’s information that I have not received any further information regarding those points reserved for the opinion of the Judges by the two Councils in the case of Vox and Clark and Hammond and Another on the Sand Tax in Willunga Local Church. We verily consider that it is of the greatest importance that the Case should be decided without any delay. It has been so long in hand that our opponents say they have gained the day. Until it is done we are tied and cannot either call in any of the arrears.

Yankalilla Council Chambers.

Yankalilla Council Chambers
with Charles Thomas Hewett in top-hat
near doorway.

Neither do we consider that we are justified to lay out any more money and many places are impassable, and as we may soon expect to see the dry weather set in when we should be ready to repair as much as passible before harvest, but shall be prevented unless this is at once settled. And as I am informed that the Act is to be amended by the new Council I think there is much room to fear that we may be left in a very unpleasant position between the Old and the New. I can account for Mr. Parkers delay but am quite at a loss to conceive what can be the object with Mr. Allan. We find also that Mr. Lang is appointed Stipendiary Magistrate for Willunga. We are also informed that the Law requires Mr. McDonald to give Verdict on those cases tried by himself. Of this we must leave with his Excellency trusting that the Case may be closed without delay.
To C. J. Sturt
Colonial Secretary
I have the Honour to be Sir
Your Obedient Servant
C. T. Hewett
Chairman of D.R.B. Willunga"

"Oxenberry Farm
McLaren Vale
April 18 - 1853
I beg to state for his Excellency the Lieutenant Governor, information that I have not tendered for the erection of the wharf or jetty at Port Willunga in consequence of the Plan being so altered that I do not consider it would remain one year if so erected. In several instances my plan is not specified and others altered so that I consider it worthless. The flooring bed to hold the stores there is now the No of Piles at the head of the Jetty is not half enough. The substitute of Gum tressles for both is much cheaper (as about two tons of iron is required) but without the bolts I do not think it worth the labor. A carrot might as well be used as most of the Gum for tressles.
The Blackwood and Shee Oak is the only wood here fit for tressles. The Plan of Mr. Hayes which was shown me is very objectionable. The cross pieces to the Piles will surely lift them and to erect it by Piles the timber will have to be got from a great distance and the Bed of the Jetty will have to be ballasted with some weighty substance.

The House of Assembly, 1867-1868

The House of Assembly, 1867-68.
More can be read of this era in Charles' life in the book, "Four Hewetts Venture North".

Again the delay in issuing the Tenders must cost the best and proper time for doing the work - and the men are none merrier these last summer months.
Should no Tender have been accepted I am still willing to Tender for the erection but upon my own plan and specifications which you may offer to the Public for competition - as I only want the Jetty erected. But from what has come to my knowledge but few in this part of the Colony have had any experience in this work.
To .................Esq.
Colonial Secretary
I am Sir
Your Obedient Servant
C. T. Hewett"