The local history Marmaduke England, pioneer of Valla

If you have a copy of Norma Townsend's book, Valley of the Crooked River, you will find Marmaduke England, his wife and son pictured on the front cover. He has a prominent grave and headstone at the Nambucca Heads cemetery which reflects his stature as an early Valla pioneer.

Marmaduke England, Anne England and their son

Marmaduke England, Anne England and their son

Marmaduke was born in England in 1829 and was buried at Nambucca Heads in 1913. Unlike most settlers he was educated, being the son of a schoolmaster and reputably spoke French, German and Latin fluently.

Why he did not follow a profession or indeed decided to leave England is unknown. He instead chose a life of farming in a dense and isolated region like the Valley. He certainly applied himself well and became an orchardist, a viticulturist or grape grower, a wine maker, an apiarist, market gardener, maize, sorghum, millet and sunflower grower and pig farmer.

It was Marmaduke's habit to keep a diary and although lacking in description it gives us a good account of the business side of his life and some faint record of his family and emotions, if only from reading between the lines.

Marmaduke, his wife Anne and seven children journeyed from the Liverpool Plains in 1875. This journey, made in a wagon with horses, tools and equipment was added to on the way by the purchase of a pair of working bullocks.

Bullocks are far more suited than horses in clearing land and carting timber. In his diary, Marmaduke did not normally complain but even he called it a "tedious and wearisome pilgrimage". It took them three months to travel the roughly 400 kilometre journey. Marmaduke was joining his friend Andrew Buchanan and were the first settlers at Deep Creek. They were later joined by The Ainsworth and Greer families.

His wife Anne is buried alongside Marmaduke at the cemetery and the headstone records her as Hannah Ann. She had been married and widowed prior to her marriage to Marmaduke and had a daughter from this. She brought some wealth by way of an inheritance to the marriage and I believe Marmaduke tried to keep her in some comfort in return, as unlike most farming wives she and the younger children were spared from heavier labour. Still she faced a hard and lonely life.

The land was heavily timbered and was so dense one of Marmaduke's first purchases was a compass to try to avoid getting lost. He hired labour help with clearing and planting using white men and local Aboriginal men and women.

By 1895, his selection still consisted of the original 110 acres, but during 1895 he negotiated the rent of another farm. By that time he had become too hemmed in to take up more land by additional conditional purchase. Despite the modest size of the original selections even after 20 years the Englands were still stumping and clearing.

The farm had a barn, winery and piggery. He had the original cart, a spring cart and sulky. He sold vegetables and fruit. At this time he was still working long hours six days a week with a weekly trip to Nambucca Heads buying, selling and having drinks with customers and friends.

Mount England at Valla

Mount England at Valla

Cricket was their main form of recreation. Most villages had a team and local pride was very strong. During 1896 the Deep Creek team, which included six of the Englands, played formidably against Nambucca Heads, Bellwood, Macksville, Bellinger Heads and Fernmount. Marmaduke, always the businessman, used the opportunity of the matches to sell fruit, vegetables and wine.

The England family spread by farming to Dorrigo, Taylors Arm, Urunga and Coffs Harbour. Marmaduke was a strong and active supporter of local schools. Mt England which lies between Valla Road and Deep Creek Road is named for him.

At the cemetery Marmaduke was joined by his wife in 1920 at the age of 84. Two of their son are alongside. There are other children interred at Coffs Harbour Cemetery.

This article used information from Valley of the Crooked River by Norma Townsend and the Nambucca Headland Museum.