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Lockyer, Alfred Brooks (1850–1908)

by Adam O'Neill

Alfred Brooks Lockyer (1850-1908), pastoralist, agriculturalist and thoroughbred horse breeder, was born on 8 June 1850 at Northam, the third son of Thomas Lockyer and his wife Emma, nee Agett.[1] A. B., as he was known, spent his early years on the family property ‘Oakfield’, at Northam. After having gained rudimentary skills in farm management and animal husbandry he worked for his father who held extensive pastoral leases to the north east of Northam.[2] At the age of twenty-one years, Alfred Lockyer married nineteen-year-old Sarah Jane Woolhouse (daughter of the late Jeremiah Woolhouse, an Enrolled Pensioner Guard, and his wife Margaret, nee O’Mara) on 6 February 1871 at the Wicklow Hills Schoolhouse, near Toodyay, by Presbyterian Rites.[3] Young Sarah had been working as a servant girl for Alfred’s mother at ‘Oakfield’, and it was here that he fell in love with her. In her spare time, Emma Lockyer made it her duty to educate Sarah and instruct her in household duties and other undertakings.[4]

Soon after their marriage, the couple ventured to the Goomalling district, twenty-five miles from ‘Oakfield’, where Alfred’s father Thomas operated sheep runs. A road was carved through, and Alfred took up a one hundred acre Tillage Lease, to which the name ‘Chatham’ Farm was given, in remembrance of Sarah Jane's birthplace in Kent, England.[5] With Thomas Lockyer’s assistance, the couple established themselves in their new surrounds.[6] A two roomed mud brick cottage with thatched roof was erected, and the land cropped. Their only neighbour at the time was George Slater and his family, the first European to pioneer the district.  The isolation from civilisation must have been difficult, especially for Sarah. In July 1871, a son, George, was born to the couple. Tragically, he arrived prematurely and died just fifteen hours later.[7] He was buried in a lonely grave on ‘Chatham’, marking the sadness which so many pioneering couples endured.[8]

At this time, Alfred Lockyer made acquaintance with the Indigenous Ballardong Noongar people of the area, a number of whom he employed on the property. In 1873, an Indigenous woman named ‘Fanny’ who was a domestic servant to Lockyer, was speared through the arm by an Indigenous man, known as ‘Long Bill’, to whom she had been betrothed as a young girl but who she had refused to join in partnership.[9] 

Family legend also relates that the Lockyer’s humble cottage was burnt down on three occasions by Aboriginal people. Whether by accident, through Indigenous management of country with fire, or as acts of retribution is unsure. By the time of the third fire, Sarah had given birth to a further two children (in 1872 and 1874, respectively), who as a consequence she and Alfred had to carry to the nearest settler outpost, likely that of a shepherd, at ‘Mindara’ Well five miles away.[10] Perhaps more credence should be lent to another family story, stating that the house’s thatched roof once caught alight by hot embers from the end of a log which had been retrieved from the fire.[11]

As Alfred and Sarah began to rebuild and reassess their situation, they realised that their prospects of survival would be far improved if they joined Alfred’s brothers in the North West of Western Australia, where eldest brother George and their father had established ‘Mulga Downs’ pastoral station in the mid 1860s.[12] By the 1870s, George had amassed a small empire of pastoral runs and was doing well in his enterprise.[13] After the birth of their daughter Maude in 1877 at Goomalling, Alfred, Sarah and their three children packed their belongings and travelled to Fremantle to board the schooner Nautilus for Port Walcott (near Cossack), where they arrived in March 1878.[14] From thence they were conveyed to George Lockyer’s station at Table Hill, about twenty miles south of Roebourne. They were joined by Alfred’s other brothers, Horace Brooks Lockyer and Elliot Agett Lockyer.[15] Alfred Lockyer’s shepherd, Charles Forward, was left to manage ‘Chatham’ at Goomalling.[16]

Alfred, Sarah and their children settled themselves on a portion of Table Hill Station known as ‘Cooyapooya’. Living in temporary accommodation initially, they later employed an Italian stonemason to masterfully construct a drystone house, shearing shed, stables and school room, to withstand the cyclones experienced in the region.[17] The brothers entered into partnership with brothers Frederick and Herbert Hester and traded as Lockyer Bros & Co, and extended their pastoral dominion further into the interior with the addition of Crown leases stretching many miles.   

The eye of this empire, ‘Cooyapooya’, was situated on the banks of the Harding River, commanding picturesque views of the countryside, known as the Tableland, set against the backdrop of Table Hill. Sheep farming was carried out on a large scale, and other cattle were run on the station. Thoroughbred horse breeding occupied the rest of their attentions. A large herd of Hereford cattle were also kept to supplement the homestead’s stores with beef, milk and butter.[18]

Alfred and Sarah Lockyer had a further seven children in the North West, born from 1880 to 1893, Sarah being assisted with each birth by an Aboriginal midwife.[19] There were many hardships which Alfred and his family faced. The long, intense summer months eliminated vegetables and other perishable staples from the diet. Early on, they learnt the way to self-sufficiency. As the duties of the household expanded, a Chinese cook was employed to relieve Sarah Jane of some of the burden of station life.[20]

Throughout the 1880s, the Lockyer Bros profited from favourable grazing conditions in the North West and topped the market for ‘greasy’ wool for a number of years.[21] Shearing time each year proved to be the height of activity. One year, 45,000 sheep were shorn by nineteen Aboriginal men under the instruction of Billy Grey. Afterwards, the wool clip would be conveyed by dray to Cossack, to be sailed to England; in return, yearly provisions for the station would be sent back, including farm requisites, sweets for the children and rolls upon rolls of material for sewing.[22]

Education was clearly one of the matters in the forefront of Alfred Brooks Lockyer’s mind, having contracted the erection of a schoolhouse at the time the homestead was constructed. A permanent teacher was employed, but as the children grew up, they were sent to Perth to further their education at private schools, staying with their paternal grandmother Emma Lockyer as weekly boarders.[23]

The station become a thriving nucleus of activity for miles around. As well as the fifty or more Aboriginals who worked as indentured servants, fifteen white and Chinese station hands also lived on the property on average.[24] It was a requirement that for each Indigenous workman employed, the Lockyers would have to feed, clothe and sustain their family too.[25] The main road from Roebourne to the hinterland passed through ‘Cooyapooya’, also bringing pastoralists, prospectors and explorers through Lockyer’s Station.[26] 

At ‘Cooyapooya’, Alfred had the opportunity to indulge in his favourite pastime of horse breeding and training. Racing had been in his blood and he had been acquainted with the racetrack since his teenage years. The annual race meetings of the Nor-West Jockey Club, one of the major social attractions of the year in Roebourne, were always well attended and included many festivities. Preparation for Race Week, as it was known, occupied twelve months previous, with jobs ranging from the training of horses to the sewing of garments being attended to.[27] One of the main events at the races was ‘The Ladies’ Bracelet’, which Alfred won, as jockey four times, and on each occasion proudly presented the bracelet, valued at £20, to his wife afterwards.[28]  

During the 1880s and 1890s, Alfred also served on the Roebourne Roads Board,[29] relinquishing his position in 1896.[30] He had previously been made an Honorary Sheep Inspector in 1885.[31] Not accustomed to the harsh environment of the North West, brother Elliot Agett Lockyer left Table Hill Station and travelled back to his birthplace, Northam in the late 1880s. The Lockyer Bros purchased the Avon Bridge Hotel there in 1888, and Elliot was installed as the manager.[32] The partnership later dissolved in 1892 and Elliot purchased the Hotel from his brothers outright, the Hester brothers having previously relinquished their shares in the partnership in 1890.[33]

The late 1880s witnessed the arrival of another relative at the station, Alfred’s cousin Albert Lockyer, who wished to forge a life as a pastoralist after failed attempts at other careers. He became a skilled bushman, stock handler and friend of the Aboriginal people.[34] Severe drought in the North West in 1890-1891 depleted Alfred Lockyer’s strength, with the bank later foreclosing on ‘Cooyapooya’.[35] Soon after, he entered into partnership with Albert, who trained Alfred’s horses.[36] They purchased, at a bargain price, the ‘Springs’ Station of 100,000 acres, thirty miles from Roebourne on the Harding River, which had a more reliable water supply than ‘Cooyapooya’.[37]

In 1898, when Albert Lockyer married his second cousin and Alfred and Sarah’s daughter, Maude, he left the North West to take up a farm in the Avon Valley.[38] About the time of their marriage, disaster struck the region, resulting in huge financial pressures for Alfred Brooks Lockyer. The severe droughts of the 1890s had not been kind to northern Western Australia but followed by torrential rain and a cyclone which tipped twenty inches of rain on the region in only twenty-four hours, pastoral activities in the area were utterly crushed.[39] For Alfred, stock and sheep numbers were reduced from 42,000 to 10,000 before his eyes.[40] It was to signal the end of two decades of dedication, blood, sweat and tears poured into the pastoral industry by Alfred Brooks Lockyer.

Alfred, Sarah and family left Roebourne and returned to the Avon Valley in early 1899.[41] After staying with Alfred’s brother Elliot at the Avon Bridge Hotel at Northam for a time, the family returned to their old home at Goomalling in April to reforge their lives and re-establish the Lockyer presence on the agricultural scene at Goomalling with what little means they had left.[42] It was around this time that the new stone homestead was probably erected. A new era had begun.

On his return, Alfred Lockyer immersed himself in the developing facets of community affairs in the district. As agricultural expansion pushed out further east through Goomalling and beyond, it became apparent that a means of transport was necessary to support the agriculturalists in the region. In 1896 the Goomalling Railway League had been established, and construction works commenced in 1900. Lockyer played an essential role in finalising arrangements for the railway. The Goomalling Railway was finally opened in 1902.[43]

With the rise of Goomalling around the railway terminus and its situation close by to ‘Chatham’ Farm and other settlers with young families, the need for decent education facilities was realised. Motivated by the Reverend E. S. Clairs, Alfred Lockyer headed a petition with ten other parents and residents to the Inspector General of Schools in 1899 calling for the establishment of a half-time school in the district’s agricultural hall at Silver Hills. His five youngest children were listed as eligible to attend.[44] The school was opened five months later, in October 1899, and served the district until a new school was opened within the town of Goomalling in 1906 as a result of efforts from Alfred Lockyer and other parents beginning in 1903.[45]

As the town of Goomalling began to rise around the railway terminus, Lockyer’s involvement with the community increased. His freehold land at ‘Blinminning Well’ was used to grow vegetables for the townspeople and also supplied water for their needs.[46] He was the inaugural chairman of the Trap Well (later Jennacubbine) Race Club and was well known in racing circles; became a trustee for the Goomalling Agricultural Hall; was a foundation member of the Goomalling Loyal Lodge of the Manchester Unity Independent Order of Odd Fellows; was a valued member of the Anglican community; and was commissioned a Justice of the Peace for the Northam district in 1906.[47] He was invested in the sporting activities of the region, and thoroughly enjoyed horse racing, cricket and football. When he went to watch one of his sons play football on one wet July day in 1908 he contracted pneumonia, and died from its effects at ‘Chatham’ on 3 August 1908.[48] He was laid to rest two days later in the Anglican portion of the Northam Cemetery.[49] He left behind an agricultural empire in Goomalling consisting of nearly 8,000 acres of freehold land (not to mention the vast leasehold tracts), including the properties of ‘Chatham’, ‘Gimbodine’, and ‘Croydon’.[50] His estate was sworn for probate at £14,202.7.0.[51]

Endnotes

[1] Pauline Benzie, “Alfred Brooks Lockyer”, (unpublished typescript, n.d.), Lockyer Family Papers; Birth registration 1850/1475, Department of Justice, “Online Index Search Tool”, retrieved from https://bdm.justice.wa.gov.au/_apps/pioneersindex/default.aspx

[2] Benzie, “Alfred Brooks Lockyer”; notes on Thomas Lockyer’s leasehold lands have been supplied by Mrs. Barbara Sewell. 

[3] Marriage certificate of Alfred Brooks Lockyer and Sarah Jane Woolhouse, 1871, Registration 128, Western Australian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

[4] Benzie, “Alfred Brooks Lockyer”; Benzie, “The Woolhouse Family”, (unpublished typescript, n.d.), Lockyer Family Papers

[5] Lease Book 4, Tillage Lease 6761, Cons 5000/1290, State Records Office of Western Australia (hereafter SROWA), [this lease subsequently became Special Occupation License 796, and was later granted as freehold land to A. B. Lockyer as Avon Location 1737 in 1890]; Pastoral and Tillage Lease Descriptions, Tillage Lease 6761, Cons 5000/1244, SROWA; Pauline Benzie, “Chatham Goomalling”, (unpublished research notes, n.d.), in private possession; Pauline Benzie, “Lockyer Family Notes”, (unpublished typescript, n.d.) Lockyer Family Papers

[6] Benzie, “Chatham Goomalling”

[7] Death certificate of George Lockyer, 1871, Registration 5057, Western Australian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

[8] Barbara Sewell, “The Lockyers of Goomalling”, Goomalling W.A.: Past and Present, vol. 3, (unpublished, 1984): 2 (the infant child is incorrectly named as William Lockyer in this source).

[9] Regina vs Long Bill, Depositions of Witnesses, Cons 3473/68, Case 594, 1.10.1873, SROWA

[10] Benzie, “The Woolhouse Family”; Benzie, “Alfred Brooks Lockyer”; Barbara Sewell. Goomalling, a backward glance: a history of the district. (Goomalling: Goomalling Shire Council, 1998), 42

[11] Arnold Lockyer, telephone interview with the author, August 28, 2021.

[12] Benzie, “Lockyer Family Notes”

[13] The various pastoral leases were located in Lease Registers, Cons 5000/1293 and Cons 5000/1294, SROWA

[14]  Benzie, “Alfred Brooks Lockyer”, unpublished typescript; “Commercial Shipping Report”, The Inquirer and Commercial News, March 3, 1878

[15] Benzie, “Lockyer Family Notes”; “Commercial Shipping Report”, The Inquirer and Commercial News, March 3, 1878

[16] Sewell, Goomalling, a backward glance, 42

[17] Benzie, “Alfred Brooks Lockyer”; Benzie, “Lockyer Family Notes”

[18] “More Nor’ West Stations”, Western Mail, April 3, 1886

[19] Yvonne Haywood, telephone interview with the author, August 21, 2021.

[20] Benzie, “Alfred Brooks Lockyer”

[21]“More Nor’ West Stations”; “Occasional Notes: Local and General”, The West Australian, April 20, 1880

[22] Benzie, “Alfred Brooks Lockyer”

[23] Benzie, “Alfred Brooks Lockyer”

[24] “More Nor’ West Stations”

[25] Benzie, “Alfred Brooks Lockyer”

[26] Heritage Council of Western Australia, “Register of Heritage Places – Assessment Documentation [Cooya Pooya Station]” Accessed October 17, 2021. http://inherit.stateheritage.wa.gov.au/Admin/api/file/64fc689d-ffeb-5543-9d45-64d0574d2b4c

[27] Benzie, “Alfred Brooks Lockyer”; Benzie, “Lockyer Family Notes”

[28] Benzie, “Lockyer Family Notes”, unpublished typescript

[29] Western Australian Government, Government Gazette of Western Australia, March 18, 1886 18.3.1886, 172; Western Australian Government, Government Gazette of Western Australia, April 27, 1893, 435

[30] Western Australian Government, Government Gazette of Western Australia, February 21, 1896, 251

[31] “Government Resident Roebourne – Honorary Sheep Inspector Roebourne, A. B. Lockyer appointed vice Robinson”, Cons 527 Item 1885/5011, Colonial Secretary’s Office Correspondence Files, WAS 675, SROWA

[32] Memorials of Deeds, vol. 10, Memorial 400, Cons 1800, SROWA; Benzie, “Lockyer Family Notes”

[33] Western Australian Government, Government Gazette of Western Australia, January 19, 1893, 57; Memorials of Deeds, vol. 11, Memorial 747, Cons 1800, SROWA; Western Australian Government, Government Gazette of Western Australia, July 24, 1890, 566

[34] Pauline Benzie, untitled, (unpublished research notes, n.d.)

[35] “Stock and Station News”, Northern Times, August 15, 1908, p. 2

[36] Benzie, “Alfred Brooks Lockyer”

[37] J.S. Battye, ed. The Cyclopedia of Western Australia: an Historical and Commercial Review, Descriptive and Biographical Facts Figures and Illustrations: an Epitome of Progress. (Adelaide: Hussey & Gillingham, 1912-1913), 2: 548; Pauline Benzie, “Alfred and Albert Lockyer, Partners”, (unpublished typescript, n.d.), Lockyer Family Papers; Benzie, “Alfred Brooks Lockyer”

[38] Benzie, “Alfred Brooks Lockyer”

[39] Benzie, “Alfred Brooks Lockyer”; Sewell, “The Lockyers of Goomalling”, 3

[40] Benzie, “Alfred Brooks Lockyer”

[41] “Local and General News”, Northern Public Opinion and Mining and Pastoral News, January 18, 1899

[42] Benzie, “Alfred Brooks Lockyer”; Alfred B. Lockyer to Sir John Forrest, April 17, 1905, Acc. 532A/128, John Forest Papers MN 34, Battye Library.

[43] Sewell, Goomalling, a backward glance, 83-89

[44] Sewell, Goomalling, a backward glance, 102, 340; “Establishment of half-time schools at Quelquelling and Goomalling”, Cons 1497 Item 1898/868, Education Department Files, WAS 24, SROWA.

[45] Sewell, Goomalling, a backward glance, 343; “Goomalling – buildings and works”, Cons 1497 Item 1903/714, Education Department Files, WAS 24, SROWA.

[46] Arnold Lockyer, telephone interview with the author, August 28, 2021; Yvonne Cleggett. “The History of the Goomalling District”, thesis, Claremont Teachers College (1958), 5

[47] Sewell, Goomalling, a backward glance, 124, 367; “The Late Mr. A. B. Lockyer”, Northam Advertiser, August 8, 1908; Western Australian Government, Government Gazette of Western Australia, November 23, 1906, 3533

[48] Benzie, “Alfred Brooks Lockyer”; “Death of Mr. A. B. Lockyer”, Northam Advertiser, August 15, 1908; Death certificate of Alfred Brooks Lockyer, 1908, Registration 88, Western Australian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

[49] “The Late Mr. A. B. Lockyer”, Northam Advertiser

[50] Alfred Brooks Lockyer probate file, Cons 3403 Item 1908/185, Supreme Court Probate Files, WAS 34, SROWA; Goomalling Shire Rate Books, Central Ward, 1917 and 1918, Goomalling Museum; Sewell, “The Lockyers of Goomalling”, 4

[51] Alfred Brooks Lockyer probate file

Bibliography 

  • Alfred Brooks Lockyer probate file, Cons 3403 Item 1908/185, Supreme Court Probate Files, WAS 34, State Records Office of Western Australia.
  • Battye, J.S. ed. The Cyclopedia of Western Australia: an Historical and Commercial Review, Descriptive and Biographical Facts Figures and Illustrations: an Epitome of Progress. Adelaide: Hussey & Gillingham, 1912-1913.
  • Benzie, Pauline. Lockyer Family Papers. Unpublished typescripts, n.d. In the author’s possession [Copies of some available at Battye Library, WABI collection, Acc. 3724A/443-450].
  • Benzie, Pauline. Lockyer family research notes. Unpublished manuscripts, n.d. In private possession.
  • Cleggett, Yvonne. “The History of the Goomalling District”, thesis, Claremont Teachers College, 1958.
  • “Commercial Shipping Report”, The Inquirer and Commercial News, March 3, 1878
  • Death certificate of Alfred Brooks Lockyer, 1908, Registration 88, Western Australian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.
  • Death certificate of George Lockyer, 1871, Registration 5057, Western Australian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.
  • “Death of Mr. A. B. Lockyer”, Northam Advertiser, August 15, 1908
  • Department of Justice. “Online Index Search Tool.” Accessed September 20, 2021. https://bdm.justice.wa.gov.au/_apps/pioneersindex/default.aspx
  • “Establishment of half-time schools at Quelquelling and Goomalling”, Cons 1497 Item 1898/868, Education Department Files, WAS 24, State Records Office of Western Australia.
  • “Goomalling – buildings and works”, Cons 1497 Item 1903/714, Education Department Files, WAS 24, State Records Office of Western Australia.
  • Goomalling Road Board Rate Books, 1917 and 1918, Goomalling Museum.
  • “Government Resident Roebourne – Honorary Sheep Inspector Roebourne, A. B. Lockyer appointed vice Robinson”, Cons 527 Item 1885/5011, Colonial Secretary’s Office Correspondence Files, WAS 675, State Records Office of Western Australia.
  • Haywood, Yvonne, telephone interview with the author, August 21, 2021.
  • Heritage Council of Western Australia, “Register of Heritage Places – Assessment Documentation [Cooya Pooya Station]” Accessed October 17, 2021. http://inherit.stateheritage.wa.gov.au/Admin/api/file/64fc689d-ffeb-5543-9d45-64d0574d2b4c
  • Lands and Surveys Department Records, Cons 5000, State Records Office of Western Australia.
  • “Local and General News”, Northern Public Opinion and Mining and Pastoral News, January 18, 1899
  • Lockyer, Arnold, telephone interview with the author, August 28, 2021.
  • Marriage certificate of Alfred Brooks Lockyer and Sarah Jane Woolhouse, 1871, Registration 128, Western Australian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.
  • Memorials of Deeds, Cons 1800, State Records Office of Western Australia
  • “More Nor’ West Stations”, Western Mail, April 3, 1886
  • “Occasional Notes: Local and General”, The West Australian, April 20, 1880
  • Regina vs Long Bill, Cons 3473/68, case 594, October 1, 1873, Supreme Court Criminal Indictment Files WAS 122, State Records Office of Western Australia.
  • Sewell, Barbara. Goomalling, a backward glance: a history of the district. Goomalling: Goomalling Shire Council, 1998.
  • Sewell, Barbara. “The Lockyers of Goomalling”, Goomalling W.A.: Past and Present, vol. 3, unpublished, 1984
  • “Stock and Station News”, Northern Times, August 15, 1908, p. 2
  • “The Late Mr. A. B. Lockyer”, Northam Advertiser, August 8, 1908
  • Western Australian Government, Government Gazette of Western Australia

Original Publication

Citation details

Adam O'Neill, 'Lockyer, Alfred Brooks (1850–1908)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/lockyer-alfred-brooks-32206/text39821, accessed 17 August 2022.

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