THE BRANSON FAMILY of BINDA N.S.W.: FROM LACE to WOOL
Prologue: The appearance of 17 covers at one Australian philatelic website sparked my interest in the Branson family. The amount of information concerning this family on the Internet was surprisingly minimal, considering what was eventually learnt from a local source. All 17 covers were addressed to family members at Binda N.S.W. over a period of 29 years, from 1883 until 1912, and unfortunately no letters were still enclosed. The stamps on the covers were very ordinary and the postmarking was relatively unexciting, but the addresses, addressees and senders hinted at a story worth reporting.
With the initial help of the Crookwell Visitor Centre my queries were eventually directed to a local Branson family historian in Binda, who provided me with information, that was quite unexpected in that it provided glimpses into important events in both English and French history, as it pertained to the ancestors of the Australian addressees. The Binda addressees on cover were identified variously as Branson Brothers, Harry Branson, Charles Branson and A.F. Branson.
"Their parents William Branson and Miriam Choulerton were married at New Radford, Notts. Parish Church, England on September 23, 1838. William was a machine lacemaker and two children were born at Stapleford Nottingham, Adah in 1839 and Alfred Frederick in 1842".
Lacemaking was largely centred in Nottingham, and mechanization of the process was supplanting the labour-intensive hand-made lace. The resulting unemployment produced by the advent of machines led to the Luddite destruction of the machines, so that many English lacemaking families including the Bransons moved to France. "William and family moved to Calais, which became a centre for English lacemaking. A second daughter, Annie was born in Calais in 1844. In 1848, there was a second revolution in France and the English workers in Calais were unwelcome and dispossessed, and forced to return to England".
The returned workers were active in petitioning the English government, and the eventual solution was to place the workers and their families on 3 ships (the Fairlie, the Harpley and the Agincourt) and they were sent to the Australian colonies. The Branson family were on the Agincourt which arrived in Sydney on 6 October 1848.
"The family immediately went to Bathurst N.S.W. and William obtained work as a miller at Rockley. Here four more children were born, Harry in 1850, Charles 1853, William 1855 and Adeline 1863. The oldest child, Adah married Henry Carr in 1861 and they went to Binda to live, as did several of her brothers. Henry Carr encouraged the brothers to buy Julong Station at Binda, which was the first property address used on the present covers. By 1870, the entire Branson family were living at Binda".
The Covers: The 17 covers are tabulated, giving points of interest on the front and reverse:
stamp(s) with A.S.C. numbers, name of sender, the name of the addressee, the Binda property, the postmark of origin with the date, transit marks on the reverse, and comments provided by the seller of the covers.
Branson Brothers Covers Table 1
1 (1883): 1d pink pair A.S.C. # 26, no sender name, Sydney/duplex MR 6/83, Goulburn transit, Binda receiving, addressed to A.F. Branson Esq at "Julong", Binda (Figure 1).
2 (1885): 1d pink A.S.C. # 26, BN '10' rays with confirming Carcoar on reverse, Binda receiving, Parramatta and Goulburn duplex BN '35' transits. Endorsed "Circular Only", oval cachet on front J.B. Combes, surveyor, Carcoar, 24.9.85, addressed to Mr./Mrs Harry Branson, Binda, with scalloped sides for inspection.
3 (1887): 1d pink A.S.C. # 26, Sydney duplex JY/87 on Dalgety & Co., Ltd, Sydney, Printed Matter Only cover endorsed "per Book post", scalloped sides to allow inspection, addressed to Messrs Branson Bros, "Julong", Binda.
4 (1887): 1d pink A.S.C. # 26, Sydney/MR 4/ 87 duplex, Binda receiving on reverse with transit Goulburn, inscribed Aungier Brock, Late of Brock Mackinnon & Co/ Stock Station & General Agents/ Young & Sydney, addressed to Messrs Branson Bros, "Julong", Binda.
5 (1888): 1d orange x2 A.S.C. #26, BN '480' rays with confirming Crookwell/ AP 17/ 1888 on reverse, with receiving Binda, addressed to Messrs Branson Bros., Binda.
6 (1888): 2d blue A.S.C. # 27, Goulburn duplex FE 23/ 88 with BN '35', a purple stamped A.M.P. Society/ Goulburn on front, Binda receiving, and a crest of the Australian Mutual Provident Society, Head Office, 57 Pitt Street, Sydney on reverse, addressed to Mr. C. Branson, "Woodlands", nr. Binda (Figure 2).
7 (1889): 2d blue Emu A.S.C. # 50, BN '480' rays with confirming Crookwell/ JA 23/ 1889 on reverse and receiving Binda, addressed to H. Branson Esq, Binda.
8 (1889): 2d blue Emu A.S.C. # 50, Goulburn duplex MR 4/ 89 with BN '35', receiving Binda, with A.M.P. identifications as in cover 6, addressed to Mr Charles Branson, Grazier, "Woodlands, nr Binda".
9 (1893): ½d grey A.S.C. #69, Sydney duplex FE 14/93, Goulburn transit, printed matter rate with side splits for inspection, addressed to Messrs Branson Bros, "Diamond", Binda (Figure 3).
10 (1896): 2d blue Emu A.S.C. # 50, Sydney 40 duplex AP/ 14/ 96, Winchcombe, Carson & Co., Wool Brokers and Produce Salesmen, Sydney, addressed to Messrs Branson Bros, "Julong", Binda.
11 (1896): 2d blue Emu pair (double rate) A.S.C. # 50, Sydney duplex AU 2/ 96 with Winchcombe, Carson & Co., identical to cover 9, addressed to Messrs Branson Bros, "Julong", Binda.
12 (1902): 2d blue x2, A.S.C. # 71 perfin L/S (double weight cover), Sydney duplex JU 5/1902, with large crown over A1/ Trade Mark./ Estabd A.D. 1820 on reverse, Goulburn transit, and Binda receiving, addressed to Messrs. Branson Bros. "Julong", Binda.
13 (1902): ½d green pair A.S.C. # 69a (commercial paper rate), Sydney duplex/ NO 25/ 02 with Goldsborough Mort Limited, Sydney "Belt & Buckle" logo on reverse, addressed to Messrs Branson Bros, "Julong", Binda.
14 (1907): ½d green A.S.C. #69a (commercial paper rate), Sydney trip cancel APR 11/ 1907, Goulburn transit on reverse, addressed to Messrs Branson Bros, "Diamond Creek", Binda.
15 (1908): 2d blue A.S.C. #71, Sydney roller cancel/ NO 27 1908 with Dangar Gedye & Co/ Sydney "Belt & Buckle" logo on reverse, Goulburn transit and Binda receiving, addressed to Messrs. Branson Bros., "Yarranoo" Binda.
16 (1909): 1d red Arms A.S.C. # 70 (commercial paper rate), Crookwell/ OC 30/ 1909, with Binda receiving and oval Crookwell Refrigerating / Company Limited cachet on reverse, addressed to Mr. A.F. Branson, Binda.
17 (1912): 1d red Arms A.S.C. # 70 (commercial paper rate), Sydney roller cancel JE 27 1912, no transit or receiving marks on reverse, with Troup Harwood & Co./Accountants, Sydney logo on reverse, addressed to Messrs Branson Bros, "Yarranoo", Binda, N.S.Wales (Figure 4).
Figures 1- 4 are a sample of the covers from earliest (1883) to latest (1912) dates, showing the four properties (Julong, Woodlands, Diamond and Yarranoo) and they are addressed to A(rthur) F(rederick), C(harles) and the Branson Brothers. These are the tabulated covers corresponding to covers 1, 6, 9 and 17.
Epilogue: A local historian (a great grandson of the oldest sister Adah Branson) was able to supply additional information regarding the Branson brothers in 4 subsequent emails, after I supplied him with the information derived from the covers. "The parents, William and Miriam Branson lived in Binda village at Belle Vue, and William died there in 1884 and Miriam died in 1898. They and all their family are buried in Binda".
"Arthur Frederick (A.F. Branson) who died in 1917, did not marry and he lived at Yarranoo with his brother Charles. Harry married Jane Temperance Webster and they lived at Julong. They had no family, and Harry died in 1931. Jane was always known as Temperance (a baptismal name) and she died at almost 100 years. Charles married Elizabeth Kate McDonald and they had 10 children. He lived at Yarranoo and The Diamond (the latter presumed by me to be the same as Diamond Creek of cover 14). Charles died in 1938. The fourth and youngest brother, William who is not identified on any of the covers, married Mary Pagett and they lived at Flowerdale and later Maybank. They had 8 children and William died in 1936. Their descendants still live in the Binda district and own Yarranoo, Glenara at Mulgowrie and The Diamond".
"Branson Brothers was the name under which three of the four brothers, Arthur Frederick, Charles and Harry Branson traded at Yarranoo, Hyde Park, Julong and the Diamond. They were large wool-growers selling about 500 bales of wool each year as well as fattening beef cattle. I do not know of 'Woodlands' unless it was a property they leased". Subsequently, further information was supplied by my informant: "I believe that 'Woodlands' was the name of Charles Branson's house on Julong Station. Charles moved to Yarranoo about 1890. I was interested to see that you were able to obtain a cover from Goldsborough, Mort & Co. The Branson brothers were presented with a canteen of cutlery by them when Goldsborough were celebrating 100 years of wool broking in New South Wales, as the firm of Branson brothers and one other individual were their two oldest clients".
The local historian's information confirmed my initial suspicion that the Branson brothers were men of some substance and worthy of documentation. The past family history in England and France was a distinct bonus with its humble beginnings in lace making and its transition to wool production in Binda over at least 3 decades. It is interesting that after the family landed in Sydney they immediately proceeded to Bathurst, and the covers then document their lives in a relatively circumscribed area shown by the arrows in the map, the distance from Bathurst to Goulburn (in a straight line) is approximately 150 km (Figure 5).
The icing on the cake was the late arrival of a photograph of the four brothers, Arthur Henry, Harry, Charles and William, and unfortunately I lost the key to the placement of the 4 brothers in the photograph (Figure 6).
Acknowledgements: This paper is the result of several people in Crookwell and Binda who were responsive to my requests for information. They referred me to a local Branson family member and historian, Garnet Webster, without whose generous help this paper could not have been started, let alone completed.