Trimmers Down Under

by Doris M Yarde

Brentford & Chiswick Local History Journal 1 (1980)

One of Brentford’s most famous residents was Sarah Trimmer, a leader of the movement which established Sunday Schools in this country. Her own school still stands beside St. George’s Church and her name is remembered in Trimmer Walk on the Haverfield estate. One of her sons was William Trimmer, who died in 1811 leaving a wife and seven children.

Arthur, Spencer and William were three of these children. They had a cousin, Douglas Thompson, whose father was one of the partners in the Griffin Brewery at Chiswick. It was these four who, while young men, left Brentford to start a new life as pioneer settlers in Western Australia. Unlike the convicts who were transported to other parts of Australia, these settlers were men wealthy enough to pay their own passage out, carrying enough stock and equipment to get themselves started. Spencer Trimmer and Douglas Thompson left in 1829 taking cattle, horses and merino sheep. These sheep came from a flock imported from Spain by George III and cared for by Sarah Trimmer’s son, Joshua, at Syon Park. Two years later William and Arthur joined them, taking 100 merinos, flax plants and seeds from a Chiswick market gardener.

Letters sent home to Brentford described the terrible overcrowding on the ship during the 5 month voyage, their impressions of their landing place (later to become the port of Freemantle) as “miserable to behold”, their disappointment that there seemed to be very little uncultivated land left for them to settle though they had been promised 40,000 acres, the extreme heat (120°F in the day, 84°F at night) and the fleas! They ate salt beef, kangaroo and cockatoo (which tasted like carrion crow) and thought the natives ugly.

By 1832 they were established on their 40,000 acres beyond the coastal hills. Their flock of merinos numbered 300 and they had exported their first two bags of wool and a quantity of mahogany back to Brentford. Spencer and Douglas built a house, using the skills they had learnt from their grandfather’s brick-making business; this later burnt down.

Another member of their party was George Cheney who took out 67 boats and some wooden houses to establish a whaling station at King George’s Sound. It appears from the Registers of St. Mary’s, Ealing, that William Trimmer fathered a natural child, Emily; she was adopted by George Cheney and also went to Australia.

Sadly three of these pioneers were dead within 15 years of their arrival. William drowned while making a trip up the Swan River in 1835 – his death was attributed to apoplexy. Douglas drowned in another boating accident, crossing the Swan at night in a leaky boat, and Spencer died of heart disease in 1843.

Arthur Trimmer lived to become rich and influential – he married the daughter of the Governor of the colony. One of his (Arthur’s) daughters became the third wife of the next Governor and another married that Governor’s son! Arthur himself died in 1877, but his great-grand-daughter is still living in Western Australia and has collaborated in the research into the family’s history.

Mrs D M Yarde is the author of The Life and Works of Sarah Trimmer, published by the Hounslow and District History Society, 1972, 75p

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