1830-1898, Hackenthorpe to Bairnsdale

Francis Staniforth was born at Hackenthorpe in the parish of Beighton, Derbyshire on November 18, 1830. He was the illegitimate son of Mary Staniforth, daughter of Thomas Staniforth of Hackenthorpe, and, as his baptism states, Erasmus Steele. He was baptised at nearby Handsworth on December 12, 1830.

Due to Mary being an unwed mother, she was likely sent away during her pregnancy, as was common in most parishes at the time. By 1836 she is living with her parents, however Francis appears to have been raised by John and Elizabeth Ward of Woodhouse Commonside. He is with the Ward family on the 1841 Census alongside John and Elizabeths' children John and Sarah.

Francis emigrated to Australia in 1849 at the age of 21/22, his detsintation was Victoria. He would have likely departed from Liverpool. In Australia, a Mr. Staniforth appears on a list of assisted immigrants sailing from Port Philip on the vessel 'Melbourne' to Hobart Town in June 1852. He appears to have departed at Sale and by 1860 he met a young Scottish girl named Margaret Sheilds, the daughter of a Glasgow miner. During this time he was working as a stockman and she was a domestic servant. When he asked Margaret to marry, they had the ceremony at Sale where he purchased land. On their marriage certificate, Francis states that his father is Thomas Staniforth, a Sickle Maker, and his mother Mary Staniforth nee Ward.

Within their first year of marriage they had a son, Roswell Staniforth, however he did not survive the year. Their next son was William, he also died in infancy in 1865m the cause of death being 'Brain Fever' which was likely meningitis. By this time the couple were living at Omeo.

By 1867, Francis and Margaret had moved to Bairnsdale. One day in July, Francis was splitting posts and noticing he was out of wood, he started to fell a nearby tree. When the tree was on the verge of falling, a puppy ran under it, eagerly chaced by Francis' eldest daughter Amy. Margaret rushed to get her but was held back by Francis. They watched on helplessly as the tree crashed, with a branch striking the child on the side of the head. The force killed her instantly, Francis describes how he 'went and picked up the child and found her lifeless and carried her into the house about 200 yards distant. I reported the occurance to the police'. They buried her in their garden.

In the disposition inquest, Francis calls himself a 'Labourer' however in 1873 when Margaret gives birth to twins, he is described as a 'Farmer'. He excersised his right to purchase 20 acres in Wy Yung Parish in Bairnsdale having lived there for more than the minimum statutory period of 2 and a half years. After living her for five years they had seven surviving daughters and a son.

In November 1879, his mother Mary died at Ivy Cottage, Hackenthorpe. Tradition has it that when the letter from England arrived in Australia announcing the death, Margaret snatched it out of his hand and threw it onto the fire saying "Now there will be no more money from England, so you will have to go out and find work.

In her will, Mary Staniforth, Ivy Cottage, Hackenthorpe, Spinster, she states 'To my son Francis (now in Australia) £300 if dead to his widow for maintenance of children under 18 years.'

In January 1898 Francis advertises in the local newspaper offering services as a Town Crier, Bill Poster, and Chimney Sweep. By February he and Margaret went to Melbourne to attend the marriage of one of the twins, Mary Ann to Joseph Vercoe, but on May 14th, Francis died at the Charity Hospital in Bairnsdale of Pulmonary Congestion and a Senile Heart. He was once again described as a labourer.

His son if Law George Mersuglia registered his death and gave the name and occupation of his father as Roswell Staniforth, Ironmonger. Due to Francis naming his first son Roswell it seems likely he was led to believe this was the name of his father.

Over the course of their marriage, the couple had the following children:

  • Amy Elizabeth Staniforth (1862-1867)
  • William Henry Staniforth (1863-1865)
  • Christina Staniforth (1865-1948) married George Mersuglia
  • Francis William Staniforth (1866-1930)
  • Elizabeth Amy Staniforth (1868-1948) married John Thomas Charles Winterton
  • Sarah Ann Staniforth 1871-1947 married William Graham Melrose
  • Frances Margaret Staniforth 1873-1914 married Michael Mullin
  • Mary Ann Staniforth 1873 married Joseph Alphus Vercoe
  • Grace Louisa Staniforth 1876
  • Florrie Staniforth 1878 married Alfred Henry Hopwood