skip to content

Rediscovering Ginninderra:
Martha Rolfe

Born: 1842; Died: 1911; Married: John Ryan

Martha  Rolfe

Martha was born in Norfolk, England in 1842. The Rolfe family has resided at, and and Martha's father Anthony was a farm labourer at Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk, the family seat of the Bedingfields, established in the late fifteenth century. The Bedingfields were Catholics, and suffered for their adherence to Catholicism. The manor house, near Swaffam, still features a 'priest's hole', where a priest could hide if the Hall was raided. Interestingly also, a number of the heads of family, including the builder of Oxburgh Hall, were named 'Edmund'.

In 1849 Anthony and his wife Catherine emigrated to Australia with their five children : George (b. 1836), Marie (b. 1839); Edmund (b.1840); Martha (b 1842) and Sarah (b. 1844). They came to live with Anthony's brother William, a tenant farmer at Joseph Kaye's 'Springbank', Acton. A sixth child Thomas, was born at 'Springbank'in 1851.

William had been transported to Australia for seven years in 1835 for stealing a hare on the Oxburgh estate. He earned his ticket of leave in 1843, which entitled him to choose his employer, and soon after was working on the Acton estate. He married Jane Ridings in 1844, and was granted a conditional pardon in 1849, the year his younger brother and his family arrived. William and Jane had six children (Elizabeth, William, Sarah Ann, James, Julia and Mary Ann). Anthony and Catherine had a sixth child, Thomas, while they were at Springbank.

In 1857 Anthony bought 300 acres of land at Ginninderra, which became known as 'Tea Gardens'. He built the 'Tea Gardens' homestead in 1865.

Martha married John Ryan of Mulligans Flat in 1868, at St Gregory's Roman Catholic Church at Queanbeyan. John Ryan was born under a bullock wagon between Collector and Goulburn. Margaret and William Ryan lived at Mulligans Flat. William had to drive the wagon to Sydney in 1842. Margaret was afraid of Aborigines and did not want to stay at home so she went with him. Giving birth under a bullock wagon possibly the biggest hardship of her life – the lot of a pioneer woman.

They were to have eight children:

Margaret Catherine (1870)
William (1872-1877) born in Yass
Martha Dorothy (1874)
John (1876) born in Queanbeyan
Sarah Ann (1878)
Anthony Thomas (1880)
George Edward (1882-1882)
Edward Joseph (1884)

In 1874, the year her third child was born, Martha's mother died. Her father died two years later. He left his 'Tea Gardens' property to his son-in-law – Martha's husband John Ryan. He was a successful farmer. He eventually replaced the original homestead with a new brick residence.

Martha's son George, born when she was forty, died in infancy She was forty-two when her last child was born. Her son William died at the age of five in 1877. In 1893, when Martha was fifty one, Margaret her eldest child, married John Sullivan of Queanbeyan. In 1900 her daughter married John James Moran at Queanbeyan. Martha died in 1911 aged sixty-nine.

She didn't live to see her daughter Sarah's marriage to Christopher John Lynch at Queanbeyan in 1914 or her sone Anthony's marriage the previous year to May Minnis. Two sons, John and Edmund, never married. John worked as a labourer and died in Canberra in 1923. Martha's husband John Ryan died at 'Tea Gardens' in 1916. After his death Edmund ('Ted') continued living at 'Tea Gardens' until he passed away in 1953. Martha and John are buried at the Riverside cemetery in Queanbeyan.

Obituary : Martha Ryan (Nee Rolfe)

Death reported of an old and esteemed resident of Ginninderra, Mrs Ryan wife of Mr John Ryan of Tea Gardens, which sad event took place at her husband's residence about 1 o'clock January 28th. The deceased lady who was something over 70 years of age contracted a virulent attack of pneumonia the result of a chill a day or two after the burial of her granddaughter, who just a short fortnight ago succumbed to the same complaint. Although Dr Blackall of Queanbeyan and a trained nurse from Sydney were in almost constant attendance all their efforts to preserve her life were unavailing.

The deceased was a sister of Mr Edmund Rolfe of Gold Creek, Mrs W Weir of Queanbeyan and Mr G Rolfe innkeeper of Cooma. Besides her husband deceased leaves a grown up family of six grown up sons and daughters. Two of the daughters being married, one to Mr Jas Sullivan and the other to Mr Jas Moran of Queanbeyan>.

[Wizard's Notes Post 2.2.1911]

Related Photos


< Rediscovering Ginninderra