The History

While there is a fairly extensive history of William and Mary Ann in Australia, and the facts are quite clearly documented, other than their marriage certificate, and the passenger list for the Himalaya, which brought them out to Australia, to my knowledge, there is no known documentation relating to either of them prior to them arriving here.

Granted, I am not an historian, and my research is anything but perfect, but after many months of extensive research, all I have managed to establish is that in the 1841 census, there were 4 William Ledgers aged 15(his age in 1841) in Kent, one in the poor house, one based in the Chatham Barracks, one who I have established is definitely not related and one in which I cannot decipher any of the writing. Given that he was born in Halstead, and married in Sevenoaks, I have (probably incorrectly) assumed that he remained in Kent all his life and would have been included in the  Kent census in 1841, but so far I have found nothing more which I can relate to my Great, Great, Grandfather.

William was, according to his marriage certificate, a butcher, although he was listed on the passenger list as a farm laborer. He was assigned to a Mr. Venn , a butcher,  on his arrival in Australia. After acquainting myself with William’s background, it is fairly clear that he was a well educated man, and had a style and manner which indicated that. It may have well been that there was a high demand for laborers in Australia, and that he saw that as a way of settling here with his wife, as one cannot help but think that William came to Australia with a purpose, and a desire to succeed at whatever he did.

After initially settling at Albert Town (Alberton), which was near Port Adelaide, William and Mary, with their first born, moved to the seaside town of Brighton. It was either 1857 or 1858; he received a subsidy from the Central Board of Education, and established his first school on the corner of Hulbert Street and Brighton Road. It was noted that he was a more than able teacher, well versed in the 3 R’s, and capable of teaching music and languages. By 1859, there were 49 children enrolled in his school.

In 1859, William took on the role of rate collector in the Brighton district, and in the same year, he became a member of the Manchester Unity of Oddfellows Friendly Society,and was a very active member who worked his way up in the Lodge.

By 1861, there were 35 pupils enrolled in his school, and the school was teaching writing, arithmetic, grammar, geography and history, singing, and a foreign language. An outstanding accomplishment, in view of the fact that he came to Australia to work as a butcher.

In 1861, William applied for the position of Town Clerk of Brighton.It was during his time in that position that he was charged with larceny, and on 20th February 1862, was found guilty and imprisoned for 6 months. The official history in the Brighton Historical Archives state that it was not William’s intention to steal the money, but he still had to face the charges, and pay the price. By now, he and Mary Ann had 6 children, and William’s school had been suspended because of the embezzlement charge, so William now had to find another way to support the family. He tendered to the council (for four pound) to clean the drains and gutters in the community, which he was granted. About this time, he joined the Brighton Institute, and became Secretary and Librarian, and by 1868, William was again conducting a school of 90 pupils, assisted by Mary Ann, although attendances were spasmodic, due to children having to assist with home duties and harvesting.

In 1869, William was elected as Council Auditor by the people of Brighton, and his school continued to expand. By 1873, he had 189 students, and his daughter, Lizzie was assisting him.

William’s school was taken over by the Education Department in 1877 to become the nucleus of the Brighton state School. Children attending other small schools were absorbed into the larger school, and William was appointed the first headmaster. The department was extremely pleased with the standard of the education from William, and by 1880, a new school, and schoolmaster’s residence had been built. By then, William and Mary Ann had been educating children in the Brighton District for 24 years, and had established a reputation of turning out young men who had become successful in their adult life,

William Died on the 22nd June 1885, and by that time, he had established himself as a well respected member of the Brighton Community. For 27 years, he had been an educator of the children in the community, he had been active in the Brighton Institute, where he was Secretary and Librarian for almost 20 years, was Auditor to the Brighton Corporation for 17 years, and had served as Chapel Steward to the Wesleyan church for 17 years.

It would appear that by the time he died, he had long been forgiven for any misdemeanor which he may have been held responsible for, and his community involvement, and spirit, at a time when the Town of Brighton was a mere village, is something that the Ledger family can be very proud about.

His Wife, Mary Ann lived for another 24 years, and supported herself as a seamstress, and was also a guardian to State children. Besides assisting William in educating the children of Brighton, she gave birth to 12 children, six of whom died as children. She was also active in the church, and was a well respected member of the community.

William and Mary Ann are buried together in St Judes Cemetery, Brighton. Their 6 children are buried together, also in St Jude’s.