Robert Newcombe, Snr, SV/PROG

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Robert Newcombe, Snr, SV/PROG

Birthdate:
Birthplace: Bishop's Clyst, Devon, England
Death: Died in District Kenkelbosch, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa
Immediate Family:

Son of Robert Newcombe and Frances Newcombe
Husband of Anne Elizabeth Newcombe
Father of Robert William Saunders Newcombe; Anne Frances Jones; Robert Upham Newcombe; Richard Newcombe; Frances Louisa Brereton and 1 other
Brother of Robert Upham Newcombe

Managed by: John Sparkman
Last Updated:

About Robert Newcombe, Snr, SV/PROG

1820 British Settler

Robert Newcombe, 31, Cooper, was a member of John Parkin's Party of 30 Settlers on the Weymouth.

Party originated from Devon.

  • Departed London, 7 January 1820.
  • Arrived Table Bay, Cape Town on 16 April 1820.
  • Final Port - Algoa Bay, Port Elizabeth 15 May 1820.

Area Allocated to the Party : Kariega River. Their location is called Devonshire Farm.

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The following information is the result of my genealogical research into Robert Newcombe during 1991-1993. I hope that family members find this of interest.

According to Robert Newcombe's death notice he was born at Bishop's Clyst, Devon, England and was the son of Robert and Frances Newcombe. Bishop's Clyst is now called Farringdon.

These facts are borne out by an examination of Devon church records. Robert's parents Robert Newcombe and Frances Baker were married at Holy Trinity Church, Exeter, Devon, on the 30th March 1781. Robert Newcombe was born on the 18th December 1782. Robert's widowed mother married William Upham of Clist St Mary on the 21st April 1802. According to the marriage licence, Frances Newcombe was described as a widow of Stoke Damerel. It is interesting to note that Robert gave one of his sons the middle name of Upham, presumably in honour of his stepfather William Upham. Robert Newcombe was a cooper by trade and prior to his departure for the Cape resided at Exeter. The Exeter Pocket Journal for 1816 lists him as a cooper in South Street. At the time of his departure for the Cape he lived at 1 Coombe Street, Exeter.

He left for the Cape on the Weymouth as a member of Parkin's Party which was a joint stock party made up of small tradesmen and husbandmen from Devon. Although John Parkin was the nominal leader, most of the organisation for the departure was done by Newcombe himself who claimed that "any respectable tradesmen or inhabitants of Exeter would vouch for his good character."

No mention was made of Robert's wife and children in the shipping lists. However, he had married Elizabeth Saunders at Holy Trinity Church, Exeter, Devon on the 2nd June 1808. The baptisms of their children are recorded in the parish registers of St. Mary Major, Exeter: Robert William Saunders baptised on the 3rd November 1809 (he presumably died in infancy as there is no further record of him), Ann Frances baptised on the 23rd March 1811, Robert Upham baptised on the 16th November 1817, Mary Anne also baptised on the 16th November 1817 and Richard baptised on the 16th April 1820. As Richard was baptised after the departure of his father for the Cape, it is apparent that they did not accompany him to the Cape in 1820. Robert may have decided to leave his family behind as he did not wish to expose them to the rigors of a lengthy sea voyage. With hindsight, his decision which no doubt must have been a difficult one, appears to have been a wise one, as disease was prevalent in the crowded ships. Twenty children died of measles on the Weymouth alone.

According to M D Nash the author of The Settler Handbook "there is a considerable discrepancy between the official Return of the party ....and the names entered in the muster roll of the Weymouth. Six men more than half those listed in the Return appear to have dropped out shortly before they were due to sail, and one of them was replaced by an unofficial substitute. Charles Canterbury and William Heresgood are known to have withdrawn because of illness; Richard Cross, James Dobson, George Parkin and John Sprague are not listed in the muster roll and are presumed to have remained in England. Christopher Harward, a servant of Newcombe, was smuggled on board the Weymouth to accompany the party in the place of Charles Canterbury..."

Robert Newcombe paid the deposits for Cross, Dobson and Leathern. It was his payment of these deposits which was to later give rise to a dispute between him and John Parkin, the leader of the party. Members of Parkin's Party hired a vessel to take them from Exeter to Portsmouth, their departure from Exeter having been initially delayed by high waters. The Weymouth sailed from Portsmouth on the 7th January 1820.

The voyage to the Cape was not without incident. The Weymouth was fired at and stopped by a licensed slave ship. The Captain explained his action away by stating that he thought the Weymouth was a Spanish merchantmen. A party from the Weymouth was permitted to visit the ship.

The Weymouth reached its destination at Algoa Bay on the 15th May 1820. One wonders what thoughts went through Robert Newcombe's mind as he compared the bleak and inhospitable shores of Algoa Bay with the verdant countryside of Devon.

Parkin's Party was initially settled at Rietfontein and then relocated with Meneze's Party to the Kariega River. They called the location where they eventually settled Devonshire Farm in honour of their home county.

Robert Newcombe was accompanied by William Leathern (* Devon, England 1804 + Pietermaritzburg 28.9.1858), a 16 year old boy. After Parkin's Party's arrival at their destination, William Leathern was apprenticed as a cooper, but later moved to Grahamstown to learn masonry work and carpentry. He married Mary Poulton (* Buckinghamshire, England 1809 + Pietermaritzburg 9.4.1879) at St George's, Grahamstown on the 3rd October 1826. Around 1842 they moved to Natal with their two children William and Mary Ann, where William was for a time a butcher in Durban. Later they ran a hotel in Pietermaritzburg from 1848. In 1851 William Leathern was elected a municipal councillor and in 1857, the mayor of Pietermaritzburg.

Parkin's Party was initially settled at Rietfontein and then relocated with Meneze's Party to the Kariega River. They called the location where they eventually settled Devonshire Farm in honour of their home county.

Robert Newcombe was accompanied by William Leathern (* Devon, England 1804 + Pietermaritzburg 28.9.1858), a 16 year old boy. After Parkin's Party's arrival at their destination, William Leathern was apprenticed as a cooper, but later moved to Grahamstown to learn masonry work and carpentry. He married Mary Poulton (* Buckinghamshire, England 1809 + Pietermaritzburg 9.4.1879) at St George's, Grahamstown on the 3rd October 1826. Around 1842 they moved to Natal with their two children William and Mary Ann, where William was for a time a butcher in Durban. Later they ran a hotel in Pietermaritzburg from 1848. In 1851 William Leathern was elected a municipal councillor and in 1857, the mayor of Pietermaritzburg.

Robert Newcombe's separation from his family would prove to be lengthy. On the 20th May 1821 Robert Newcombe petitioned Sir Rufane Donkin, the Governor of the Cape of Good Hope for assisted passage to enable him to return to England to fetch his wife and children. The petition was refused on the ground that no ship was available.

It appears that the family were reunited only in approximately 1826, as on the 17th July 1826 when Robert Newcombe purchased a portion of Baakens River Farm from John Berry, he stated that he expected his wife and children daily from England.

As mentioned earlier, shortly after the arrival of Parkin's Party in Algoa Bay on the 15th May 1820, a dispute arose between Robert Newcombe and John Parkin concerning the payment of deposits for certain members of ParkinÀ Às Party.

On the 1st July 1820 Robert Newcombe made the following deposition against John Parkin to Captain Trappes, the Magistrate at Bathurst:

"... that he belongs to the party under the direction of Mr John Parkin, and that on Mr Parkins' receiving a letter from the Colonial Office London directing the deposit money to be paid into the hands of Mr ? of the Commissariat Department, he the deponent paid into Mr Parkin's hands, by an order on Messrs Hanbury & Co Bankers in London, the sum of 95 pounds on account of himself and others ... Five of the persons named in the margin viz. Dobson, Leach, Cross, Mayho and Clogg had paid their own deposit into Deponent's hands, the deposit for the other five was paid by Deponent ... making 45 pounds that Mr Parkin has not paid Deponent any part of the first payment of the deposit, and has absolutely refused to do so altho' orders have been given to that effect by the Magistrate. Deponent further states that on application for it Mr Parkin said he would not pay it without a written notice from a magistrate and that he said he did not care a damn for Capt. Trappes more than himself © deponent says a written order was delivered to Mr Parkin to pay said money which he still refused to do without/ he said/ a proper written order from a magistrate, thereby insinuating that Capt. Trappes was no magistrate or that deponent must have forged his Capt. Trappes signature."

                                                                                              

Benjamin Leach, William Clogg and James Mayho made depositions in support of Robert Newcombe's allegations.

In reply, John Parkin deposed that:

" ... he knows nothing of Newcombe paying the deposit for any other person than for himself and Leathern, his agreement was to repay each, individually 10 pounds and that he considers himself bound to do so. Deponent further states that he has already paid the first payment that is 1/3 of the deposit to Leach, Mayho and Clogg, and in short he has paid his whole party, with the exception of Newcombe for himself and Leathern, Dobson and Cross in England, but are expected out. Deponent does not know of Newcombes having paid any money on their account.

With regard to the latter part of Newcombe's deposition deponent declares it to be a gross falsehood, and states that he always considered Capt. Trappes as the Chief Magistrate in the District and has never made use of such an expression.

Deponent further states that Newcombe brought on board without his knowledge or approbation, and in direct opposition to the orders of the Earl of the Bathurst a man named Harwood, who was not entered on the list sent to Government and who was not victualled on board until the ship had sailed, when he was obliged to be victualled to prevent starvation. No deposit money has been paid for this man yet Newcombe insists that he is entitled to 100 acres of land for him. Newcombe has also taken 100 acres of land for his lad Leathern who is only 16 years of age and an apprentice making in the whole 300 acres taken by Newcombe. Newcombe owes deponent 10/. and has had his first deposit tendered him on repaying this sum."

It is not known what was the outcome of the dispute.

By 1821 Robert Newcombe was employed at Sweet Milk Fountain near Sidbury and later moved to the vicinity of Port Elizabeth.

Robert Newcombe also experienced some difficulties with the colonial authorities. On the 26th June 1827 he appealed against a fine for illicit sale of liquor. He had apparently sold a bottle of brandy to two Hottentots.

On the 20th September 1832 he appealed against a fine for employing two Xhosas without passes. The fine was reduced on appeal from five pounds to five shillings as it was accepted that Newcombe had acted from humanitarian motives

In common with many settler families of that period, the Newcombes experienced their share of privations during the Sixth Frontier War.

On the 21st December 1834 nearly 20,000,00 Xhosas crossed the Fish River to make war. They bypassed the military posts in a westward movement in columns, and isolated the garrisons where possible. Their first division crossed by Trompetter's Drift. The force on the frontier was too small to repel then and onward they swept.

On the 5th January 1835 the family were attacked by invading Xhosas at Doornkloof near the Bushmans River. As he attempted to protect his cattle from the raiders, Robert Newcombe suffered an assegaai wound to the right arm which left him permanently disabled. Although he lost his cattle and the family home was burnt to the ground, the lives of seventeen people were saved.

After this ordeal the family decided to move back to Algoa Bay for a while where Robert carried on trade as a cooper. He made wooden barrels, pails and butter kegs which he sold to the local inhabitants. Robert Newcombe also prospered in his farming activities. He produced butter, wool, hides, wheat, barley, bacon and hams. An Extract from his diary reads as follows: " March 1844 Attended the fair at Uitenhage with butter and hams, won the prize for both. "

Monetary disputes with various local inhabitants also coloured Robert Newcombe’s life.

He mentions in one of his diaries that on the 3rd March 1849 he went to Cape Town accompanied by his son Robert on board the steamer and arrived at Cape Town the following Tuesday morning. He went to see Mr Watermeyer about Benjamin Leach cutting certain bills. He instructed Mr Watermeyer to defend him at the next Circuit Court sitting at Uitenhage. The matter went to trial on the 27th April 1849. It appears that Leach lost the case and was ordered by Judge Mentze to pay the costs of suit and gave him a stern reprimand. Subsequent to the case Leach presented all his bills to Robert for payment and threatened him with court action should he fail to make prompt payment. It appears that Robert settled them.

The first property that Robert Newcombe bought was Kuyga or Greenbushes. The property had originally been granted to the widow of the late Pieter Schouw on the 10th October 1821. Robert Newcombe purchased a half share from her on the 1st January 1822 and the other half share from Charles Taylor her husband on the 18th November 1822. The transfer of this property was complicated and delayed by the remarriage of the widow Schouw, the involvement of the Orphan Chamber on behalf of her children, and the difficulty of tracing Charles Taylor.

According to a diary of Robert Newcombe, he called Kuyga " the safe place " as during the frontier wars he and his sons would move their livestock from their outlying farms to Kuyga for safety.

On the 17th October 1849 Robert Newcombe entered into an agreement with Mr Kitchingman the missionary at Bethelsdorp to graze the mission cattle on Kuyga Farm for the sum of 30 pounds.

On the 4th December 1824 Robert Newcombe purchased a portion of Baakens River Farm from John Berry. Robert Newcombe resided at Doornkloof in the Alexandria district in May 1839 when he applied to take transfer of the property. As he did not take transfer of the property within six months of the purchase he incurred penalties of 8% of the purchase price. This was reduced on application to the Lieutenant Governor of the Cape of Good Hope Major General Richard Bourke.

It does not appear that Robert Newcombe and his family ever occupied Baakens River Farm. Robert let the farm to various tenants over the years.

At the time of Robert Newcombe's death the property was leased by Johannes Gates who ran a hotel on the property. The hotel was situated on the present Cape Road at the intersection with Fourth Avenue.

                     

This hotel had rather a chequered history. On the 12th September 1861 it was reported that Margaret McMullen had opened the Fairview Hotel. An advertisement in the Eastern Province Herald on the 17th September 1861 for the hotel reads as follows:

“The undersigned begs to inform her friends, on whose patronage she now depends, That having fitted up her new Hotel, Is now prepared to entertain then well,

Both Man and Beast will find accommodation Where of late then only found starvation, With a guid Scotch Gill, ye noo may wet y'er whistle With the choicest Whiskey from the land of Thistle.

All Wines, Brown Stout and other fare, Of the best description you will find there, With good attendance and comfort too, So call kind friends at Fair View."

After Margaret McMullen’s death the hotel was taken over by J S Reed. During December 1863 a 5 year lease for the hotel was sold by J S Reed as her husband was regularly drunk and in May 1864 was bound to keep the peace. In August 1874 application for a new licence was made by Johannes Gates but it was refused as the local farmers were not in favour. In 1902 the hotel was closed under martial law and in July of that year burned down.

A restricted water supply had retarded the northward and westward expansion of Port Elizabeth. At the turn of the century a proposed increase in the water supply rendered the property a valuable proposition for speculators and acquisition of the property was therefore hotly contested at the auction. It was purchased by Richard Newcombe. After his death in 1901 the property was purchased by the Fairview Suburban Estate Company.

At the time of his death Robert Newcombe owned twelve farms in the districts of Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage and Alexandria and town properties in Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage. 

According to Robert’s Last Will and Testament none of his property was to be sold until after the death of both his sons, Robert and Richard, or the advent of the year 1900, whichever was the sooner. The income from the residue of the estate was to be shared between his sons Robert and Richard. As Richard the youngest son was still alive in 1900, all of Robert Newcombe's property was sold by public auction on 9th January 1900.



      
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Robert Newcombe, Snr, SV/PROG's Timeline

1782
March 30, 1782
Bishop's Clyst, Devon, England
1808
June 2, 1808
Age 26
Exeter, Devon, England
1809
November 3, 1809
Age 27
1811
March 23, 1811
Age 28
1815
October 18, 1815
Age 33
1817
November 16, 1817
Age 35
1819
1819
Age 36
1861
September 7, 1861
Age 79
1862
July 3, 1862
Age 80
District Kenkelbosch, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa