The Langford-Sidebottom Family of Mickleham

We would like to thank Don Sutherland who is a descendant of the Langford-Sidebottom family.  Don wrote these pages and provided us with the following information on the Langford-Sidebottom family and generously allowed us to use the pages below on our website!

'Oh what a wicked web we weave when first we practice to deceive'

By Don Sutherland

The Langford/Sidebottom family came from Cheshire, England. The parentís were Thomas Langford and Mary Sidebottom who married in the parish church at Mottram-in-Longdendale on 10 Jan 1798. They had 11 children over the next 20 years. Two of them died as infants, one stayed in England but all of the others, including their father, eventually emigrated to Melbourne and several of them settled at Mickleham and were amongst Micklehamís earliest settlers.

The Langfords were staunch and proud Wesleyans back home in Cheshire but 1825, William Langford, the second eldest of the children brought shame to the family after being arrested for stealing from Mr Howard one watch to the value of £2 and one pair of keys to the value of one penny.

When arrested, William gave his mother's maiden name Sidebottom as his surname, perhaps to save family embarrassment at his folly or more probably, in the hope of getting some favourable treatment from the courts, as his mother's distant relatives were very prominent in the cotton industry back in Cheshire. The ruse obviously didn't work and William was sentenced to life imprisonment and transported to Tasmania. He was therefore committed to continuing to use his mother's name out here for fear of getting into further trouble with the authorities if ever it was discovered that he had given a false name.

William Sidebottom, as he was now known, had a somewhat colourful career as a convict. After arriving at Hobart Town just before Christmas 1825, he appears to have had some difficulty with the master he was assigned to. This led to several punishments with lashings and he also spent time on Maria Island as a repeat offender. However he eventually obtained a pardon and moved to Launceston where he became active in the liquor industry and after acquiring a useful Ďstarting capitalí moved to Melbourne in 1837 to become one of its earliest settlers.

William continued to use the name Sidebottom, still concerned that he might be in further trouble with the authorities if ever his deceit was discovered. But in Melbourne he prospered. Like so many ex-convicts, his sentence of transportation was to prove to be the best thing that ever happened to both him and his family. William became a very successful businessman in the first years of Melbourneís development, principally through land dealings and hotels - he owned some four or five hotels at one stage and was one of just a handful of licensees operating at the first race meeting at the Flemington racecourse. 

William kept in constant touch with his family back home in Cheshire. By the time he moved to Melbourne, most of his siblings had married and begun to raise families of their own. William began a campaign of enticing them all to join him in Melbourne. His tales of the riches that were to be made here sounded so attractive to his siblings who on the whole, were struggling to survive by scratching out a living in various areas of the by now failing cotton industries of Cheshire. Further, William told them that he had done so well with his business interests that he was in a position pay for the passage of each of his siblingís families and as well, would be able to help them get them established here on their arrival. His only proviso was that like him, they must use their mother's name of Sidebottom, as despite the wealth he had accumulated, he was still fearful of the consequences if the authorities ever learnt of his ever giving that false name. Brothers with different names could arouse suspicion that could still lead to big trouble for him.

It was an offer that was just too good to refuse and by 1840 two of his brothers, Robert and Joseph had decided to try their luck with him, leave the rest of their family in Cheshire and join William in Melbourne. In 1841 they were all rocked with the death of their mother. Her passing seemed to release the shackles that had hitherto held most of the family in Cheshire and over the next 8 or 9 years, his father and all except one of his siblings, accepted Williamís generous offer and made their way to Melbourne. All of the boys used the Sidebottom names at least initially, but some with varying degrees of resolve. William died in 1849 before he was really able to reap the benefit of his benevolence towards the rest of his family. His passing removed the need for the brothers to continue the subterfuge but by now, for some of them, it was too late. Most of them reverted to Langford, some to the hyphenated Langford-Sidebottom and others were forever Sidebottom. Williamís unfortunate deception has resulted in much confusion within the family ever since.

As the Langford/Sidebottom families started to arrive in Melbourne, William retained his interest in hotels but also established a farming enterprise in partnership with his brother Robert along the Merri Creek at Pentridge, the original name for Coburg. He also built the first hotel at Pentridge, which opened on the Sydney Road in 1842, one of the first inns in Melbourneís thinly populated suburbs during the 1840s.

His father appears to have been involved in the management of this business and its also likely that he later helped his brother Thomas set up a greengrocery shop in Bourke Lane (Little Bourke Street) to handle the sale of produce from the farm. Other members of his family were employed on his farm and still others established on farms of their own. All of Williamís siblings and their families came to enjoy a much better lifestyle than they might have had had they remained in the over-industrialised smoke stained hills of Cheshire. William had certainly honoured his commitment to look after his family if they were to join him in Melbourne. The family were also involved in purchasing land and building the first Wesley Church at Pentridge.

After Williamís death, Robert and Thomas were influenced by rampaging land prices to sell up their Merri Creek properties and move way out into the country to a place called Mickleham where land was available for selection at just £1 an acre. They were amongst the earliest settlers in that district and were joined at various times by other members of their family. Robert and Thomasí names appear as purchasers on the first of the Mickleham land sub-divisions. They both established farms there and in time they both became active members of the new community. They were involved in the building and development of the Wesleyan Churches and Primary School at Mickleham.  Thomas Langford provided the land for the Mickleham Cemetery and Robert Langford-Sidebottom also served on the Road Board and Council for many years.

 The following pages are extracts of the life and times of the Langford Sidebottom brothers and their families and tell of their time at Mickleham.

 

Extracts from the story of Thomas Langford & Hazel Grove

Extracts from the story of Robert Langford Sidebottom & Hyde Park

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