James and Christiana Cock

Sydney Morning Herald

16 November 1855, page 6, Advertisement

James and Christiana Cock

James Cock, born about 1822, was brother to Anne Cock who came to Australia with her husband John Parker in 1838. John, a grocer, and Anne settled in Parramatta where they raised a family of 11 children. James was a mason who married Christiana in England in 1851. Christiana was born in 1822 in New Quay, Cornwall, daughter of Richard and Jane (both deceased in 1852). James and Christiana migrated to Sydney, Australia in 1852 as assisted immigrants on the ship Sir George Seymour. The shipping record states that they were both aged 29 and that James was the brother-in-law of John Parker, grocer of Parramatta. There was no mention of children and none were born in NSW. Nor is there any obvious record of James’s death in NSW.

There are a number of references to James Cock, stonemason in Sydney in the Sydney Morning Herald recording James’ bad language and violent behaviour towards his wife and to others. These records begin after 1852 and finish in 1857.

The Sydney Morning Herald of 23 November 1855 reported 4 cases tried in the courts involving James Cock:-

Parramatta Court of Petty Sessions

1) Mrs Cock, a respectable and excellent woman was complaining to the court that James had committed a series of acts of bitter cruelty, which ended by turning her out of doors. James refers in this article that he will cut a stone for payment indicating that he may have been a mason. The Bench ordered Cock to pay his wife twelve shillings per week as maintenance.

2) James Cock filed an information against one Joseph Cregg, charging him with being on his premises at 11 o’clock at night with a gun in his hand. Under cross examination James was not sure of the identity of Joseph. This case was dismissed.

3) The third was ‘The Queen against James Cock for using grossly obscene language in the street; the language was so abominable that Mr. Forbes declined to have it read in court. To this charge the defendant pleaded guilty, and was fined twenty shillings, or to be imprisoned.

4) The same James Cock took action against three persons named Whiles, Joseph Cregg, and his brother, three respectably-dressed young men, who were apprehended on a warrant, and confined in the lock-up, upon a charge of having assaulted, by beating, kicking, and breaking the thigh of the prosecutor. Mr. Roberts was engaged by Cock; and Mr. Nichols, M.L.C., and Mr. J. M. Gould, for the defence. The prosecutor being sworn, stated, I am a stonemason; Joseph Cregg, Joseph Whiles, and the other Cregg, were coming along the road near the Tollbar, I met them; it was between four and five o’clock on Sunday; I had had a glass or two; I met them by accident; the two brothers struck me; Joseph Cregg struck me three times about the head; Whiles was there; I ran and they ran after me; Whiles kicked me when I was down; I said don’t kill me, you have broken my leg; they said get up; I did not attempt to say anything or to strike any of them; Mernot, Thackey, and others, came up or I should have bean killed; my wife and others helped me home, and I have been suffering since. Cross-examined by Mr. Nichols: I swear I did not purposely meet the defendant; I had seen them before on that day at the public-house; I did not say that I would fight them for £5, and go away to get them the money; I was knocked down at Fackney’s public house (Church Street, Parramatta); I said 1 would cut a stone with them for £5; William Jackson must have seen what took place; Whiles and the others rounded and headed me up; I did not try to kick them before they struck me; I might have been coming into town to go to church or chapel; I don’t know what I was coming in for; I came back to get some money; Mr. Colins tapped me on the, shoulder when I was going from home and said, don’t go into a row, but I told him to mind his own business; I did prefer a charge against one of the defendants, which I denied afterwards. The prosecutor called two or three witnesses, whose testimony was chiefly contradicted by those for the defence. The first witness for the defence was Mrs. Shepherd, wife of Mr. Shepherd, boot and shoe maker, of Church-street, who was sitting at her parlour window in the afternoon, and saw James Cock pass; afterwards heard loud words between him and defendant Joseph Cregg; Cock was going to kick him when Cregg pushed him down; prosecutor said my leg is broken; Whiles pushed them away, and tried to make peace; I swear that the Creggs never kicked or struck him; they were squabbling; the place where Cock fell down was very gravelly. Mr, Fackney, innkeeper, deposed that Cock was at his house on Sunday; that from something that passed, he offered to fight or Work the Creggs for £5, and asked me to lend him the money, but on my refusing he went away to get it; Cock is a most violent quarrelsome man. Dr. Rutter deposed that he was called to see James Cock, and on examination found a simple fracture of the legs, with slight abrasions, not contusions, I do not believe they were caused by kicks, but from a fall; a slip from a kerbstone might have caused them; he complained of pain in his side, but I found no marks of violence. The case was dismissed, evidently to the great satisfaction of the crowd. Mr. Gould applied for copies of the depositions, preparatory to taking proceedings for perjury and false imprisonment.

There is a record of James Cock refusing to pay his wife’s Christiana’s debts in 1855, see above. This indicates Christina may have left him after all these problems and adds credence to the idea that the violent James Cock is indeed our James. Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 16 November 1855, NOTICE – The public are hereby cautioned against giving credit to my wife, Christina Cock, as I will not be answerable for any debts that may be occur. – Dated this 13th of November, 1855. JAMES COCK.

However Christiana seems to have returned to James for in 1857 James is again in the newspapers. The Sydney Morning Herald: Thursday 23 April 1857 reports:-

MURDEROUS ASSAULT – James Cock appeared before Mr. F. O. Darvall, P.M., and Mesers. Forbes, M’Dougall, Byrnes, and Oakes, J.P.’s, to answer the complaint of Mr. Fitzpatrick, innkeeper, of Church-street. From the evidence of the prosecutor and others, the following facts were gathered. On Sunday evening last the wife of the defendant ran into the residence of the plaintiff and cried for protection from the violence of her husband, James Cock; Fitzpatrick desired her to go up to the second floor, which she did; shortly after defendant followed, and finding his wife up stairs, pushed her down; Mrs. Lynch ran away, and defendant knocked her down; Mrs Cock managed to get out at the front door; defendant Seeing she was gone, turned to prosecutor, and said you b-w–, she is gone, and I will pay you out for it; so saying, he took up a pewter tankard and struck prosecutor, cutting him severely about the head and neck, the blood flowing profusely, on which he staggered, but caught hold of defendant; Mrs. Fitzpatrick threw her arms around her husband, and cried out, Are you going to murder him ? Cock then took a stone jug, and inflicted other wounds on prosecutor’s head, breaking the jug, but still using the fragments; prosecutor ultimately got from his hands, but fell on the floor from exhaustion and loss of blood; Mrs. Fitzpatrick fell on her husband, and defendant struck her several blows on the head; Dr. Rutter was sent for, and dressed the wounds; prosecutor swore he had no previous quarrel with defendant, but was on such good terms as to become his bondsman for the tollgate. Mrs Fitzpatrick was not able to attend Court, owing to the injuries she had sustained. Defendant brought a charge of assault against Fitzpatrick, but utterly failed to prove anything to his advantage; and the Court, after expressing their disgust at the grossness of the swearing, sentenced James Cock to pay a fine of £5, or to be sent two months to gaol.

By 1857 James was working as a toll gatekeeper in Parramatta.

The Sydney Morning Herald of Saturday, 5 September 1857 reports under the heading Parramatta – Correspondent, two cases involving James Cock:-

1) CRUELTY OF A SON TO HIS AGED MOTHER.- James Groves, for whom a warrant was issued, surrendered himself to answer the charge of his mother, for having assaulted her and used most violent and threatening language. It appeared that on Sunday last the mother and her youngest son were standing together, near their residence in Church street North, and James Cock was near them. The prisoner, who was about twenty-one years old, came up and said that he would fight with Cock. The old lady rebuked him, and said that Sunday especially was no day for fighting; prisoner took up stones and threw at his mother, and she escaped being injured by watching and stooping as they were thrown; he then pulled down a paling and swore he would knock her b-y brains out; also, that he would not go until he had one of them stiff and then be hanged like a b-y dog. The Bench sentenced James Groves to one month hard labour in gaol.

2) James Cock, a toll-gate keeper, preferred a charge of assault against three persons, named Joseph Ward, Peter Haughton, and George Graham. From the evidence it appeared that on the 17th of last month these persons came through plaintiff’s gate, on their way from the – Hawkesbury to Sydney, with their respective teams. They paid the toll and got tickets, which should have cleared the next gate, kept by Mr. Moxham; but on presenting the tickets they were refused because they were not dated, and they had to pay again, and get other tickets for the purpose of showing plaintiff the expense they were put to through his neglect. On their return from Sydney they came to Cock’s gate at dawn of day, and one of the three settlers shewed him a ticket, and requested him to return him the money, on seeing which plaintiff made a snatch at it, but missed it, and then the assault complained of, which was of a trifling nature, took place. Mr. Lyons hoped the Bench would consider the hardship to which his clients had been subjected, in being brought some thirty, or forty miles from their business find their families, and make the plaintiff pay the costs. The Court dismissed the case against the three defendants, and ordered the plaintiff to pay the £1 1s. expenses in each of the three cases. This case occupied the time of the Court half the day.
The Sydney Morning Herald of 21 March 1860 records:- A return shewing the amount of work done by the prisoners confined in Parramatta Gaol, from the lst January to the 30th November, 1859; specifying the names of persons for whom such work was done, and in each case the quantity, estimated value, and sums actually paid for the game. James Cock was among those listed as cutting stone in Parramatta Gaol. He cut 95 feet of stone at 2d a foot, £1 3s 9d.

The Sydney Morning Herald of Friday 16 May 1860 under the heading Parramatta, records James Cock, for assaulting Thomas Atkins, was bound over to keep the peace for twelve months.

Never the less James’ skills as a mason may have been in demand for his tender to work on additions to the Protestant Orphan School, Parramatta is accepted. The Sydney Morning Herald reports:- ACCEPTED TENDERS.-The following tenders have been accepted by the Government -For the erection of additions to the Protestant Orphan School, Parramatta, Messers James Cock and George Neil, in the execution of certain works on the 2nd District of the Great Southern Road :-Contracts 27 and 39, contract 29.

James was employing a carpenter and appeared again in court as the Sydney Morning Herald of Friday 2 August 1861 records that in Parramatta Police Offices:- James Steer summoned James for refusing to pay £6 3s., a balance of wages due to the complainant, who was employed by defendant as a carpenter at Penrith on the 17th of June: the agreement being for eleven shillings per day, with allowance for extra work; complainant left on the 3rd July, when defendant refused to pay the balance sought to be recovered. Evidence was produced by the complainant of the extra work performed by him. The Bench ordered defendant to pay to complainant the amount, £6 3s., together with 10s., witnesses’ expenses, and 5s. 4d. costs.

James still needed a carpenter so in the Sydney Morning Herald of 24 August 1861, he was advertising for tenders for a carpenter to work on a house. He gave his address as Church Street Parramatta.

In 1862 James was still working on the tollgates and still liked to take people to court. The Sydney Morning Herald of Tuesday 20 May 1862 reports:- Saturday, 17th May. – Before the Mayor and Messrs. Langley and Neale – The time of the Court was chiefly occupied in the part-hearing of several cases, in which the lessee of the Broken Back Bridge Toll-gate, James Cock, and Daniel Kennedy and his wife, were alternately complainants and defendants.

In the first case, in which the lessee was charged with a breach of the toll regulations, Mr. Roberts appeared for defendant, and took objection to the information as containing several distinct charges. Mr. Overton, for complainant, withdrew the information. The other cases having been partly gone into were consented to be withdrawn, on both sides.

The Broken Back Bridge Tollgate was on the road between Parramatta and Windsor. This was the last report in the Sydney Morning Herald relating to James Cock.

Christiana seems to have either left James or James had died by 1871, for by 1871 Christiana Cock had returned to England. She was recorded in the 1871 census as aged 49 and a mason’s wife, born in St Columb Minor Cornwell and visiting at St Mabyn with her sister in law Mary Ann Cock (50, born at St Merryan, Cornwell) a farmer of 30 acres with her children, all born in St Mabyn:- James S Cock (17, farmer), Elizabeth (13, farmer’s daughter and scholar) and Christiana (15, farmer’s daughter and scholar). In 1881 Christina was then aged 59, a pauper, living with her sister in law Charlotte Cock in St Breock. She died in St Breock in 1885.

Many thanks to Gaye Gibbs and Joy Wilson for this contribution – June 2010

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