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Rediscovering Ginninderra:
John (b.1818) Southwell

Born: 1818; Died: 1889; Married: Lucy Gasson

In Sussex, England, Samuel and Sarah Ann (nee Jackson) Southwell who married in 1810, went on to have eleven children, including the four brothers - William, Thomas, John and Mark - who emigrated to Australia.

John, five years younger than Thomas, was born in 1818 at Salehurst, and married Lucy Glasson in 1842 at St Mary the Virgin Church at Salehurst. They had five children: Harriet (1843), Samuel (1844), Thomas (1850), Mary A. (1853) and George Edward (1856). Sadly a daughter, Jane, died in England in 1856 aged 8 years. Their family home was 'Rose Cottage', Robertsbridge, Sussex, a neat two-storey cottage.

As assisted immigrants, John, Lucy and their children began their voyage to Australia from Southampton on board the 'Grand Trianon' on 12 April, 1858 and after a journey of 130 days, arrived in Port Jackson on 20 August 1858. The ship's log book lists John as being a forty year old labourer who could read and write.

They were met in Sydney by John's brother, Thomas Southwell and his wife Mary. While in Sydney, Thomas had purchased the first chairs for his home, having previously used home-made furniture, and these were used by the ladies on the three week journey, by wagon, to Ginninderra. The new arrivals lived with Thomas's family at 'Parkwood' where they assisted with the running of the 978 acre farm. Here two more children were born, Lydia in 1860 and Ellen in 1863.

John was an Anglican but through Thomas' strong Methodist persuasion, also became a strong supporter. He was an original trustee of the Parkwood Wesleyan chapel built on the property. The fine stone building which replaced the original timber slab chapel is still in good condition today and cared for by Southwell descendants.

In 1873, John selected 80 acres (32 hectares) of land on McLaughlin's Creek near Sutton, where he later settled. He named his home 'Rosevale', probably chosen as a reminder of his English childhood home, 'Rose Cottage'. He added to his holdings over time to bring the total area to 260 acres (105 hectares) by 1885. John experimented with growing hop vines, which proved very successful. He had probably had experience in growing hops in his youth, as it is one of the main crops at Robertsbridge, even today.

John took an active part in the community and with others, was successful in having the Sutton School re-opened in 1881, even though his own children were married by this time.

John died at Sutton on 21 January 1889 aged 70 but was buried in the old Weetangera Cemetery.


• Gillespie, L. L., Ginninderra: Forerunner to Canberra, Canberra 1992
• Gillespie, L. L., The Southwell family – Pioneers of the Canberra District, Canberra 1988
• Smith, L. R., Memories of Hall, Canberra 1975
• Southwell Family Society, Stories from Parkwood and Beyond, Canberra 2013

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