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Today in History - April

Glance through the history of New South Wales and the State archives day by day and month by month. Highlights for April include: 1881 the first simultaneous census of Australia and the rest of the British Empire took place (3rd); 1820 the foundation stone was laid for the building that would eventually became the Queen Victoria Building (4th); 1891 the second simultaneous census of Australia and the rest of the British Empire took place (5th); 1817 the Bank of New South Wales was established (8th); 1865 bushranger "Mad" Dan Morgan was shot dead by Police (9th); 1811 the first toll bars came into operation on the newly completed turnpike road from Sydney to Parramatta (10th); 1870 gold was discovered in Gulgong, sparking a major gold rush for the area (14th); 1880 school was made compulsory for children aged 6 to 14 years in NSW (16th); 1911 the first twelve migrant boys arrived from England to begin their agricultural training at Scheyville Farm (21st).

April 1

On this day in 1857 the Fitzjames arrived in Sydney. Matron Susan Austen was chaperone to 98 single females onboard the ship. She kept a diary of the voyage and it records the dramas which unfolded; tantrums, thefts and insults!

April 2

On this day in 1844 the first purpose-built synagogue in Sydney was opened.  A number of Jews arrived in the Colony with the First Fleet and then in 1821 the first free Jewish settlers began arriving.  Regular services were held in the home of Philip Joseph Cohen before moving to rented premises in George St and Bridge St. The new synagogue was built on York St and was designed by James Hume.  The Great Synagogue on Elizabeth St was consecrated in 1878.

April 3

On this day in 1881 the first simultaneous census of Australia and the rest of the British Empire took place. The population of Australia was 2,250,194 with NSW being the second most populous state behind Victoria, with a population of 749,825. Sydney had 224,939 inhabitants.

Unfortunately no census records for 1881 have survived that record individual names. The records were destroyed in the Garden Palace Fire of 1882.

April 4

On this day in 1820 the foundation stone was laid for the building that would eventually became the Queen Victoria Building (QVB) on George, Market, York and Druitt Streets in Sydney. The site has a long history as a fresh produce market and was also at one time the Central Police Court. The Romanesque architecture of the QVB as we now know it was designed by George McRae and completed in 1898.

April 5

On this day in 1891 the second simultaneous census of Australia and the rest of the British Empire took place. The population of Australia was 3,240,985 with NSW now topping the million inhabitants mark, with a population of 1,127,137. Sydney had 387,434 inhabitants. Unfortunately only householders are listed and not every individual name.

April 6

On this day in 1895, George Dean, a ferry captain, was convicted of intent to murder his wife and sentenced to death. After a public outcry and a royal commission into the case Dean was granted a free pardon. His lawyer later admitted that he was, in fact, guilty. This murder case has continued to capture the public interest. On 26 February 1983 the ABC television broadcast a dramatisation of the events in Verdict: The Dean Case.

April 8

On this day in 1817 the Bank of New South Wales (BNSW) was established. It was the first bank in Australia and was founded by Governor Lachlan Macquarie. Bank branches were initially restricted to NSW and it wasn't until 1850 that the bank began to expand to Brisbane, followed by Victoria (1851), South Australia (1877), Western Australia (1883) and Tasmania (1910).

April 9

On this day in 1865 bushranger "Mad" Dan Morgan was shot dead by Police. Morgan's life of crime began on the Victorian gold fields from 1847 until 1854 when he was arrested and sentenced to 12 years jail. He absconded and then turned up in the gold district of Lambing Flats, NSW, were he committed a number of murders. A reward of £500 for Morgan's capture was published in the NSW Police Gazette in January 1864. A physical description accompanied the reward notice stating that Morgan about "35 years old, 5 feet 10 inches high, long black hair, long beard with brown tinge on points, long nose and straight down face." Morgan was buried in the Wangaratta cemetery. There are also a number of letters related to Dan Morgan in the Colonial Secretary's Papers from 1864-65.

  • Police Gazettes up to 1930 can be viewed on microfilm in our reading room
  • The Colonial Secretary's Index covering 1864-65 can be searched in our reading room
  • See the Bushrangers Gallery

April 10

On this day in 1811 the first toll bars came into operation on the newly completed turnpike road from Sydney to Parramatta. One toll bar was at the George Street end in Haymarket and the other was at Boundary Road in Parramatta.

April 12

On this day in 1917 Matilda (also known as Tilly) Twiss married James Devine at the Sacred Heart Church in Camberwell, London. The newly married Tilly Devine came to Sydney as a 'war bride' and went on to be a major player in the Razor Gangs Wars.

April 13

On this day in 1841 the first photograph supposedly taken in Australia was published. The photograph (now lost) was a view of Bridge St, Sydney and was taken by visiting naval captain, Augustin Lucas. It was published in the Australasian Chronicle.

April 14

On this day in 1870 gold was discovered in Gulgong, sparking a major gold rush for the area. Tom Saunders found 14oz of gold at Red Hill and by 1872 the population of the town of Gulgong had swelled to 20,000 people. The rich alluvial deposits were close to the surface and prospectors could mine with hand tools.

April 15

On this day in 1882 the Agricultural Society of NSW's first show at Moore Park concluded. The Show opened on April 8 and ran for eight days. The Colonial Secretary's Papers has many references to various local A&P associations throughout NSW. This index can be searched in our reading room. The Royal Agricultural Society also shows up in NRS 5174 General Correspondence of the Homebush Abattoir Corporation.

April 16

On this day in 1880 school was made compulsory for children aged 6 to 14 years in NSW. The Public Instruction Act 1880 required attendance for a period of not less than 70 days every half-year. As a result the number of schools and pupils increased throughout the State.

April 21

On this day in 1911 the first twelve migrant boys arrived from England to begin their agricultural training at Scheyville Farm. The Dreadnought Fund established the farm meet the demand for trained agricultural workers in the State. Between 1911 and 1939 over 5,500 boys were brought out from England.  In 1913 the name of the farm was proclaimed as the Government Agricultural Training Farm, Scheyville.

April 24

On this day in 1803 the HMS Calcutta and supply ship Ocean left England to establish a new penal colony in Port Phillip. Included in the transport were convicts, free settlers, civil officers and 50 Royal Marines, all led by Colonel David Collins, a former judge advocate in Sydney. They arrived at Port Phillip in October 1803 and settled at Sullivan Bay, near the entrance to the bay.   Ongoing problems, including access to water and timber, meant that the site was abandoned in January 1804 in favour of Van Diemen's Land.

April 25

On this day in 1929 the Cenotaph in Martin Place, Sydney, celebrated its first Anzac Day service. The Cenotaph was commissioned by Premier Jack Lang and designed by Sir Bertram Mackennal.  It was dedicated in 1927 and officially unveiled on February 21 1929.

April 26

On this day in 1800 William Balmain recieved a land grant of 550 acres on the east side of Cockle Bay, an area which was to become the suburbs of Balmain and Rozelle. Balmain was an Assistant Surgeon on the First Fleet and continued working as a surgeon in the Colony until 1802 when he returned to England. He died in the following year.