Australian Pioneers, Biographies, International Caldicotts

Alfred Millwater Caldicott 1827 – 1875 – Adventure and Misadventure

Mauritius

Born in Birmingham, Alfred Millwater Caldicott grew up in the industrial Midlands of England, but sought out a new life in paradise. Although his adventures were tragically cut short, his legacy lives on in Australia which he made as his new home.

Alfred Millwater Caldicott was born on 22 October 1827 in Birmingham to printer, Henry Caldicott (brother of Alfred Jolly Caldicott, another Australian pioneer) and Martha Allcroft. He was also the cousin of John William Caldicott, who was headmaster of Bristol Grammar School.

He was the second son of Henry and Martha; his older brother was John Henry Caldicott, who also sought his fortune in Australia. The boys had two younger sisters, Sarah Elizabeth Caldicott and Ellen Caldicott.

He was baptised at St Phillip’s Church (which later became Birmingham Cathedral) on 12 November 1827 at two weeks old.

St philip's church birmingham

Alfred trained as an accountant and was also a skilled shorthand writer and at the age of 21 he decided to make a new life for himself by emigrating to Australia, 4 years before his uncle, Alfred Jolly Caldicott moved there with his family. The opportunity had come about by an offer of employment by the South Australian Provincial Government as a shorthand writer. He later became connected to the Victorian Immigration Department when Victoria became a separate colony.

In Australia he met the woman who was to become his wife, Margaret Jane Buchanan. Margaret was born on 15 March 1827 in Omagh, Ireland, but her parents moved when she was an infant to Canada, where she grew up and was educated in the Province of Quebec, learning to speak fluent French as well as she could her native English.

The spirit of adventure was clearly in Margaret too, as when she was a young woman she travelled the West Indies extensively. Whilst at home in Canada she met her first husband, Captain Alexander Young, a shipowner and they married at the Presbyterian Chalmers Church in Quebec in 1846.

Presbyterian Chalmers Church

Sadly, this marriage lasted only a month as Captain Young was lost at sea. This was around the time of the gold rush in Australia and so the widowed Margaret, along with a companion, Miss Blake, decided to try her fortunes there, as her late husband had merchant relatives in Melbourne. It was here that she met Alfred.

Alfred and Margaret settled in Doncaster, a suburb of Melbourne in Victoria and Alfred commuted to Melbourne every day, walking six miles to catch the steam train at Hawthorn. Being the owner of a gold-embossed railway ticket, he travelled each day “First Class” to Melbourne centre.

Around this time, Alfred had their family home “Glenfern” built. A classic Victorian homestead, the Caldicott home was furnished with a full compliment of domestic staff.

Glenfern, Doncaster, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

The couple had five children, several of which sadly died young.

Alfred Buchanan Caldicott was born on 10 April 1856, but only lived to the age of 3 and is buried at Boroondara Cemetery, Victoria.

Margaret Allcroft Caldicott was born on 25 February 1858, married and lived a long life before she died at the age of 84.

Ellen Buchanan Caldicott was born on 14 December 1860, but sadly died at the age of 4. She is also buried at Boroondara Cemetery, Victoria.

Harold Edward Caldecott (his name is spelt with an ‘e’ instead of an ‘i’ in all records and his children also used this spelling) was born in 1863. He made his career in banking, but went on to become Mayor of Footscray, Victoria in 1907. He married Louisa Gunst and the couple had three children, Harold Leonard Caldecott, Roy Gunst Caldecott and Gwyneth Louise Caldecott. He died in 1956 at the ripe old age of 93.

 

Elizabeth Maud Caldicott was born to Alfred and Margaret on 12 October 1867, but sadly died at the age of 20. Along with her older brother and sister she is buried at Boroondara Cemetery, Victoria.

Tragically, this life of adventure that had led Alfred and Margaret to discover an idyllic life in paradise was to end in misadventure. In the 1860s the Fiji cotton boom broke out and Alfred, along with several other well-known Melbourne gentlemen travelled there to set up cotton farms. However, this venture failed and led to a substantial loss of money for Alfred. He travelled to Mauritius where Margaret was to join him, but just before she set off, Alfred fell ill and died, leaving Margaret a widow a second time by the age of just 47. He was buried somewhere between Mauritius and Australia.

After the death of Alfred, Margaret sold “Glenfern” and moved to Footscray with her son, Harold Edward. She lived there for over 30 years and resided with her widowed daughter, Margaret Allcroft James.

Margaret lived to the age of 90 and died in Footscray, Victoria on 26 August 1917.

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