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William and Eliza Shaw

In 1830 the Shaw family from Leicester in England travelled to the Swan River Colony on board the Egyptian. Accompanying William Shaw (1788-1862) was his wife Eliza (nee Cooper, 1794-1879), sons, Nathaniel Chapman, Charles William, Frederick James, George Edward and daughters, Elizabeth Caroline and Mary Louisa. A further three children would be born in the Colony.
William had been a Captain of the Rifle Brigade, fighting at the battle of Waterloo under Wellington. Upon arriving in the Swan River Colony, they settled at a property located in Upper Swan called Belvoir (pronounced ‘beaver’). Their neighbours included the Irwins, Tanners, Burgesses and Brockmans, all playing a significant role in the early establishment of the Colony. Unfortunately, two of the Shaw sons drowned at Belvoir on 10 November 1830.
William Shaw died in 1862, leaving his wife and large family to fend for themselves. Eliza continued to manage Belvoir with limited assistance from some family members. She was a prolific writer and sent letters home often. In one letter she wrote “Ours is the most friendly neighbourhood you can imagine … I am the richest person in the world possessing the best, the very best of friends in dear Old England, and certainly the most respectable, kind and worthy ones in Western Australia.”
Eliza wrote detailed diaries, one of which is held in the Swan Guildford Historical Society collection. In another letter she documented the early building of Belvoir, describing their original ‘plaster and daub’ home as a structure 39 × 12 feet (11.8 × 3.6 m) that was divided into three rooms by canvas partitions. The main room had a fireplace and two small ‘gothic’ windows purchased in Leicestershire. Her sketch of the cottage, drawn in 1831, shows it with a trellised kitchen behind.
Eliza was also very interested in the natural sciences and painted watercolours of the native flora and fauna. She was an excellent pianist and needlewoman with some of her samplers from the early 1800s surviving today. She taught local children to play the piano and her own children attended the “Brushwood school”, a very early school established in 1839 by the Rev. J Mitchell.

SHAW, William, b. 1788 (Eng), d. 5.5.1862 (Upper Swan), arr. 13.2.1830 per Egyptian with wife, family & servants Ann Heggs & Richard Markham, m. 8.4.1813 (Irel) Elizabeth COOPER b. 1794 d. 18.8.1877 (Geraldton), dtr. of Captain Nathan Cooper. Chd. Nathaniel Chapman b. 1816 d. 1852 (Bunbury), Charles William b. 1818 d. 1830 (drowned Swan), Elizabeth Caroline b. 1820 d. 1873, Frederick James b. 1823 d. 1830 (drowned Swan), Mary Louise Birdsdale b. 1825 d. 1918/9, George Edward b. 1828 d. 1875 (buried with father), Lucy Ellen b. 1832 d. 1906, Robert Casson b. 1824 d. 1919, Hester Frances b. 1838/9 d. 1929. Formerly Capt. Leicester Militia & Veteran of Waterloo. Granted 7,284 acres "Belvoir" Upper Swan. 1861 Member Bd. Educ. His widow sold "Belvoir" & went to her dtr. Mrs John Drummond at Geraldton.
Employed 19 T/L men at "Belvoir" on occasions 1865-1871.

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Garry Gillard | New: 22 May, 2023 | Now: 1 November, 2023