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The Lynton Convict Hiring Depot was at Lynton townsite in the midwest region of Western Australia. It is part of a larger rural district known as Yallabatharra. Lynton is situated at the mouth of the Hutt River, 7.6 kilometres by road from Gregory – between the larger towns of Northampton and Kalbarri. Lynton is also the name of an (agricultural) station. Gregory was formerly called Port Gregory, and before that, Pakington.

Lynton Station is on the left of this photograph from the Google Maps satellite. Sandford's house is at the top. The position of the ruins of the hiring depot is indicated by the pin on the right.

Anonymous drawing of the depot c. 1856. Marshall Clifton Collection SLWA 7293B.

Ruins of the Hiring Station (after some restoration)

The Lynton Hiring Station is located on the road to Port Gregory and was established in 1853 to serve the Geraldine Mine and pastoralists in the area. The depot served as an employment agency where ‘ticket-of-leave’ holders could be hired by private enterprise. Lynton House was also the residence of Captain Sanford.

Rodrigues and Anderson:
The advent of convict labour and their pensioner guard soldiers in 1853 saw a small community struggling to exist in the area. Life was hard for the families of pensioner guards who were still living in tattered tents in 1855, while five single women from ‘Bride ships’ are also recorded to have arrived at Lynton. On 1 March 1854, the Government officially proclaimed the twin town-sites of Pakington (Port Gregory) and Lynton, with building lots available for purchase. The name Pakington was chosen to try and secure the favour of J. S. Pakington, the Secretary for the Colonies at the time, who disagreed with the project and felt the money being spent on Port Gregory was a waste. The Lynton Hiring Station was abandoned in December 1856 due to the harsh conditions and continued problems with transporting ore from the Geraldton mine. (Rodrigues and Anderson: 9)

The Lynton Convict Hiring Depot (1853–1857) was the first convict depot north of Fremantle, Western Australia. It was established on 22 May 1853 with the arrival of the 173 ton brigantine Leander, which transferred 60 ticket-of-leave convicts and Pensioner Guards (retired British soldiers) who had arrived at Fremantle on the Pyrenees on 1 May. It was established to supply labour to the Geraldine Lead Mine, 64 kilometres (40 miles) north of the site on the Murchison River, and to local settlers. The depot was closed by order of Governor Kennedy on 3 January 1857 due to the high cost to the government of its maintenance.
Lynton Convict Hiring Depot is situated approximately 6.3 km (3.9 mi) east-southeast of Gregory, Western Australia.
By 1856 a store, bakery, depot, lockup, hospital, lime kiln and administration block had all been built but a lack of fresh vegetables had seen the convict population ravaged by scurvy. It was decided to close the settlement and the convicts were transferred with the officer in charge to Champion Bay in 1857. The transfer seems to have been due to the growing importance of the town of Geraldton, and the need for public works in the district.
Five women from the "Bride Ships" were known to have arrived in Lynton.
Lynton remains the most intact example of a regional convict depot in Western Australia. Entered on the Register of the national estate and vested in the Northampton Shire Council, conservation works are in progress via the Northampton Historical Society. Wikipedia.

The Port Gregory Immigrant Depot at 'Lynton' was located near the mouth of the Hutt River at a Convict Hiring Depot which served the labour needs of the Geraldine Mine on the Murchison River, as well as the handful of pastoralists who were as widely dispersed as the Bowes and Irwin Rivers. This region known as the Victoria District was opened for settlement only three years before. Geraldton was chosen as the official centre, where a small detachment of soldiers were stationed, but Port Gregory was the site for the Hiring Depot because it was almost midway between the Murchison River and Geraldton and therefore halved the distance for the loading of ore as well as the selection of labourers. Also Resident Magistrate Burges conducted official business from his station at 'The Bowes' which was many miles north of Geraldton.
The Convict Hiring Depot was established in January 1853 under the superintendence of Captain Henry Ayshford Sanford (brother of the Colonial Secretary in Perth). He had ambitious plans for developing a pastoral station around a model farm and homestead where he could grow produce for provisioning the mines as well as the convict settlement. He sailed from Fremantle with a company of Enrolled Pensioners and their families to guard a number of convicts and large quantities of stores and building materials from the Imperial Stores. The vessel successfully negotiated the tricky passage through the reefs which obstructed the entrance to Port Gregory.
A townsite was already surveyed, but Sanford was granted freehold of the choicest land within its boundaries where he set his men to work building a two-storey homestead which he named 'Lynton'. A substantial bam, mill tower and outbuildings were also erected. Other men cleared the land and planted a crop of wheat to be milled in due course. While these buildings were being erected he lived in a small stone cottage. This he offered as an Immigrant Depot for five women who were sent up in a small sailing ship, the Hero in September 1853(83). Adverse winds made them stand out to sea for three days before they could negotiate the entrance to Port Gregory, and die women suffered miserably. One of them was joining a ticket-of-leave husband, three of them married ticket-of-leave men a few days after landing, in brief ceremonies conducted by Sanford. One of them discovered afterwards that her husband had a wife in England. She lived in misery in a tent, like the Pensioners' families, and died in childbirth. Her husband soon was married again, and years later he nominated his English daughters as assisted immigrants.
'Lynton' was some miles up the Hutt River, backed by a picturesque cliff of breakaway country, with distant views towards the sea whence came cooling breezes during the hot summer months. The Convict Depot was hidden in a narrow valley behind the break-away, in a pretty location, but it was sheltered from the cooling breezes and was open to the biting winter winds. The health and morale of the Pensioners their families and ticket-of-leave men deteriorated.
Sanford's requests for another contingent of single women were not heeded, possibly because the vessel which was serving the Depot’s needs was wrecked off Port Gregory. In 1857 the Geraldine Mine was flooded. Questions were being asked about Sanford's use of government building material on his homestead; Pensioners’ complaints about their tent homes were listened to; and Sanford’s ambitious plans came to an end. He leased 'Lynton' and later sold his property to R.M.Habgood, a wealthy colonist who held an interest in the Geraldine Mine, as well as owning other properties in Western Australia. The Pensioners were moved to Geraldton and some chose Pensioner blocks at Greenough. The Port Gregory Hiring Depot was closed.

References and Links

Four of the images are from Google Maps. The second one is from Wikipedia.

Anderson, Ross 2018, 'Pakington whaling station inspection, Port Gregory', report, Dept Maritime Archaeology, WA Museum, no. 328.

Erickson, Rica 1992, The Bride Ships: Experiences of Immigrants Arriving in Western Australia 1849-1889, Hesperian.

Gibbs, Martin 1999, An archaeological survey of the Lynton pensioner guard cottages and Sanford’s Mill, Lynton Station, Gregory, Western Australia—Midwest Archaeological Survey 1998/99, Northampton Shire Council, Northampton, Western Australia.

Gibbs, Martin 2001, ‘The archaeology of the convict system in Western Australia’, Australasian Historical Archaeology, 19:60–72.

Gibbs, Martin 2006, ‘Convict places in Western Australia’, in J. Sherriff and A. Brake (eds) Building a colony: the convict legacy. Studies in Western Australian history No. 24, University of Western Australia Press, Nedlands, pp. 71–97.

Gibbs, Martin 2007, 'Lynton: convicts, landscape and colonisation strategies in midwest Western Australia', Australasian Historical Archaeology, 25.

Oldman, Diane nd, 'Port Gregory (Lynton) Convict Depot', online.

Rodrigues, Jennifer & Ross Anderson 2006, 'Pakington Whaling Station', Report, Dept Marine Archeology, WA Museum, no. 214.

Wikipedia page for Lynton.

Wikipedia page for Lynton Convict Hiring Depot.

See also: Henry Ayshford Sanford.

Garry Gillard | New: 21 July, 2020 | Now: 23 August, 2023