Henry Rowdon - Mason and Dairyman

Henry Colston Rowdon, born in November of 1859, was the first of James and Eliza's (née Gillard) four children. The place of Henry's birth, Bristol in England, indicates that his father had already moved the 80 miles, or so, away from his family roots at his home village of Colebrooke, Devon. However Henry was taken to the village in the summer of 1860, for, his baptism is recorded there in the registers of St Andrews church in August of that year. James, like his own father, was a tailor and it may have been that there was not enough work to go around in the small Devonshire village on the northern reaches of Dartmoor. Thus, in search of more work and maybe excited by the idea of travel James, with his new wife Eliza, had settled in Bristol. But not for long...

Within a few years James, and his family, took an adventure to the other side of the world - to Melbourne, Australia. Although it is not clear exactly when he made the arduous journey we do know that his two youngest children were born in the developing town of Victoria. His third child, an unnamed boy born in 1866, did not survive a year, possibly indicating the very poor survival rate in the pioneering conditions. Son Henry did make it however and, perhaps thinking it a secure job in a developing city, eventually became a stonemason...

The story is better taken up by Henry's grandson, Clarrie Rowdon, who remembers his younger years working in the Dairy...

"Somewhere about 1866 James Rowdon arrived in Melbourne from Bristol, England with his wife Eliza and 6 year old son Henry Colston. James, a Collins street tailor, was only in Melbourne for 6 years until 1872 when he died from tuberculosis. His son Henry was then 13 years old and did not follow in the family tailoring tradition but became a stonemason instead, working in the Melbourne area. Three days before Christmas in 1881, at the age of 22, Henry married Alice Mary Grey from Geelong and soon the family started growing. Within twelve years they had a daughter and six sons.

The story goes that somewhere around 1900 or before (there had been a huge land price crash, times were very tough), Henry came home from work one day with his low pay and handed it over to Alice, whereupon she threw in on the floor. "How do you expect us to survive on this?, we will have to make a move in a different direction, try something else". Now Alice had been brought up with a farming background so the Henry Rowdons moved to the western outskirts of Melbourne, Williamstown. One at a time milking cows were purchased, the milk was sold locally, the herd got bigger... and bigger. All the brothers worked hard in the growing business. Two thousand acres of farm land was obtained at Altona, three miles from the depot at Verdon Street, Williamstown. The business grew and flourished and by 1915 the herd had reached 500 cows. The cows were milked twice a day and the milk had to be transported the 3 miles from the farm to the depot... so this is where the milk cart comes into the picture. As well as supplying milk to Williamstown the Rowdons also had an ice making works on the same premises. Ice for the iceboxes was delivered to hundreds of houses daily. The Rowdons were hard working and generous. Through the years, during some tough times, needy families never had their milk supply stopped. "Pay us when you're able to".

Milk Cart

The year is 1912... Williamstown, Melbourne, Australia. The picture above shows George Clarence Rowdon (1890-1973) holding the reins and his brother Frank Barron Rowdon(1893-1947) riding "shotgun" alongside him on the milk cart. George and Frank had 3 other surviving brothers, Henry Joseph, Claude Francis and Ernest Henry. Their brother fourth brother Harold did not get past his third year. They also had a sister Alberta Clara. These were the children of Henry Colston Rowdon (1859-1938), the son of James Rowdon (1835-1872). The photo below shows the gang of snaggers (the men who manually milked the cows) with cook! - circa 1920.

Snaggers & Cook

In 1949, after 60 years without even one days break in supply, the business was sold. Within this short story of the Rowdons at Williamstown there are hundreds of more stories."

I am indebted to Clarrie for his contribution to this page. Do you have memories of Rowdon's Dairy in Williamstown? - email them for this page.

green arrow Find Henry and his family in sept 3 pedigree chart.