DALWOOD RAINFALL RECORDS 1865 – 1893
By Don Seton Wilkinson
Colonial era weather records are few and far between. The Bureau of Meteorology considers that the Rainfall records from Dalwood, Branxton, NSW are the oldest accurate rainfall records in its collection. Between 1865 and 1885 the monthly rainfall was recorded by John Wyndham at his Dalwood Vineyard, Branxton.
There are several reasons John Wyndham kept an accurate record of rainfall. It was an important element in the management of his vineyard. He was following the example of his father, George Wyndham, who noted various weather events in his Diary 1830-1840. Unfortunately, any formal records have not survived. George’s father and siblings kept weather records at Dinton Park, Wiltshire, as rainfall and temperature figures are frequently recorded in their letters to George from 1827 to 1870. George also kept a record of the flood heights at the Dalwood Ford, as these are mentioned a number of times in the Maitland Mercury.
The 1865 to 1885 figures were recorded in one of John Wyndham’s Letterbooks. The second sheet, includes the annual figures from 1886 to 1893, and probably recorded by John’s son, Harry, who took over the management of the Dalwood Vineyard following the death of John in 1887, after a ten-year battle with tetanus.
The records passed from Harry Wyndham to his daughter, Barbara Arndell, then to her son, and on to the Dalwood Restoration Association, which is in the process of donating its collection of Wyndham family documents to the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.
1827 MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE
By Don Seton Wilkinson
When George Wyndham and Margaret Jay were married in the House of His Britannic Majesty’s Ambassador at Brussels in 1827 by Margaret’s cousin, Rev. Evan Jenkins B.A., a simple statement to that effect, witnessed by two men attached to the Embassy, George Edgecumbe and Harry Mainwaring, is the surviving evidence.
George had hastened back from a trip to Canada with his friend, John Galt, well-known Scottish novelist, to be in time for his wedding to Margaret, whom he had first met on Christmas Day 1825 in Rome, Italy. He had gone to Canada with Galt, as a prospective purchaser of land being developed by the Canada Company, with a view to settling there following his marriage. Galt was the initial chief executive of the Canada Company. Wyndham decided that the climate was too cold and quickly left. In fact, it was an abnormally cold winter. However, as Galt still thought that Wyndham would be the first purchaser of the land being developed from the ‘Huron Tract’, when he founded Guelph in April 1827, he named the main street Wyndham Street in honour of his friend George Wyndham.
Following his marriage, George decided to emigrate to New South Wales as the government was offering free grants of land for settlers with capital. It was George’s expressed intention to develop a vineyard, as he had studied viticulture and winemaking in France during 1825, as well as having grown up next door to a vineyard in Wiltshire, which had been owned by his father at the time of George’s birth in 1801.
Colony of New-South Wales Australia. Private Report. From The Executive Secretary for the Colony of N. S. Wales, upon the Colonial Wines exhibited at the International Intercolonial and General Export Exhibition of Amsterdam, 1883. (31.6Mb PDF File)
Colony of New-South Wales Australia. Private Report. From The Executive Secretary for the Colony of N. S. Wales, upon the Colonial Wines exhibited at the International Intercolonial and General Export Exhibition of Amsterdam, 1883. (2.4MB Reduced Size PDF File)
Report on Dalwood Wines Exhibited at Amsterdam International Exhibition 1883
By Don Seton Wilkinson
The success of the Australian Wine Industry in International Wine Shows in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries is well known. That this was not the first time Australian wines achieved international success has been largely forgotten. Between the 1860s and the 1880s, Hunter Valley wines were recognized as some of the best in the world.
At the 1883 International Intercolonial and General Export Exhibition of Amsterdam, John Wyndham of Dalwood, Branxton, was awarded a Diploma of Honour, the highest award for the Colonies of New South Wales and Victoria. Alex Munro of Bebeah, Singleton, received a Gold Medal. A number of other Hunter Valley vignerons also received Gold, Silver or Bronze Medals, or Honourable Mentions.
The General Remarks about the Dalwood wines, in a Private Report written by Henry Bonnard, Executive Secretary for the Colony of New South Wales stated inter alia, “The most successful red wines of Dalwood are certainly the finest of Australia, and those best suited to European use.”
The Report was recently found among a collection of documents held by a descendant of John Wyndham of Dalwood. This collection is part of a larger collection of Wyndham family documents donated to the Mitchell Library by the Dalwood Restoration Association.