CAPTAIN J.C. WICKHAM, GOVERNMENT RESIDENT, MORETON BAY
This interesting 1855 blue paper outer was addressed to "J.C. Wickham Esqe, Government Resident, Moreton Bay". It has the imperforate Plate I blue NSW two pence (margins just touching to large) Laureate tied by the so-called 'piecrust' obliterator of Sydney (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Click to Enlarge
The 'piecrusts' appeared in 1855 (not 1856 as stated by J.S. White ) and they were used on incoming loose ship letters, and as in this cover on outwards ship mail. Dates of use between 29 September 1855 and 4 March 1856 have been recorded. The 'piecrusts' were almost certainly withdrawn because they were too elaborate, and subject to excessive ink clogging. A high proportion of the strikes are little more than misshapen blobs of ink. This example of four such 'piecrusts' has been taken from J.S. White's "The Postal History of New South Wales" (1988), and the present example is definitely Type B4a on p. 87 (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Click to Enlarge
The reverse has an unframed SYDNEY/ B/ NO 20/ 1855/ NEW S. WALES postmark as well as a faint 27 mm unframed BRISBANE/ NO 25/ 1855/ NSW arrival back stamp (Figure 3).
Figure 3: Click to Enlarge
Further information can be provided about both these postmarks. J.S. White describes and shows 2 examples (pages 48 & 51) with the use of code letters in Sydney datestamps from 1855, for the time of day. Postmark types S16 and S16a differed mostly in the size and thickness of the print. They are both identified by no crown, NEW S. WALES at the base, the presence of the code letter 'E' below SYDNEY, a two-line date, and the use of fleurons not only at both sides of SYDNEY, but also between the month and the day. The cover's example looks like S16 and the date of NO 25/ 1855 is within the range of use of both subtypes (Figure 4).
Figure 4: Click to Enlarge
Moreton Bay post office opened on 1.1.1841 (Hopson & Tobin, Volume 3, 1998), it changed its name to Brisbane ca. April 1843 and the State name was changed from N.S.W. to Queensland on 1.12. 1859. The Brisbane postmark on the cover thus is of the N.S.W. configuration and conforms to Type 1 (Hopson & Tobin). It is unframed and has fleurons at both sides and between the month and day, a 2-line date, the year in full and with N.S.W at the base (Figure 5).
Figure 5: Click to Enlarge
The name J.C. Wickham produced numerous 'hits' on the internet, but none of them revealed what his initials stood for. However, a site for the ship that he commanded, the H.M.S. Beagle provided his full name and rank in the Royal Navy, Captain John Clements Wickham. The ship was launched in England on 11 May 1820 from the Woolwich Dockyard on the River Thames, at a cost of £7,803 and in July of that year she took part in a naval review celebrating the coronation of King George IV. There was no immediate need for the Beagle, so she was kept in reserve for 5 years, moored afloat but unmanned. She was adapted as a survey bark and took part in three expeditions. On the second survey voyage the young naturalist Charles Darwin was on board, and through his work the Beagle became one of the famous ships of history. A water colour painting with H.M.S. Beagle in the centreis seen in Figure 6.
Figure 6: Click to Enlarge
Captain Wickham was in command in 1839-40 when he explored the north west coast of Australia in the Beagle on the third survey voyage, but he left the navy subsequently on account of his ill health. Between 1843 and 1846 he kept meteorological records at Brisbane, with thermometer readings and rainfall for part of that time. On 15 November 1842 he was appointed Police Magistrate at Moreton Bay, and on 1 January 1853 he was appointed Government Resident of Brisbane. No photo of Captain J.C. Wickham has been found to date.