Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Darwin in Sydney

On 12th January, 1836, HMS Beagle anchored in Sydney Cove. Darwin made the following observations about life in Sydney Town. It's interesting to note that the concerns of city dwellers then — high rent, scarcity of affordable properties and the rate of population growth — haven't changed much over the intervening 172 years.
It may be faithfully compared to the large suburbs which stretch out from London and a few other great towns: but not even near London or Birmingham is there an aspect of such rapid growth; the number of large houses just finished and others building is truly surprising; nevertheless every one complains of the high rents and difficulty in procuring a house. In the streets gigs, phaetons & carriages with livery servants are driving about; of the latter many are extremely well equipped. Coming from South America, where in the towns every man of property is known, no one thing surprised me more, than not readily being able to ascertain to whom this or that carriage belonged.

Many of the older residents say that formerly they knew every face in the Colony, but now that in a morning's ride it is a chance if they know one. Sydney has a population of 23,000, and is as I have said rapidly increasing; it must contain much wealth. It appears a man of business can hardly fail to make a large fortune. I saw on all sides fine houses — one built by the profits from steam-vessels — another from building, and so on. An auctioneer who was a convict, it is said intends to return home and will take with him £100,000. Another who is always driving about in his carriage, has an income so large that scarcely anybody ventures to guess at it — the least assigned being £15,000 a year. But the two crowning facts are — first that the public revenue has increased £60,000 during this last year, and secondly that less than an acre of land within the town of Sydney sold for £8,000 sterling.


Duncan said...

Interesting, Snail, thanks for posting this.

Dave Coulter said...

Here's hoping your phaeton is in working order! ;)

Snail said...

Duncan, I'll be posting more excerpts from the Voyage of the Beagle up to the 14th March, which was when the vessel left Australia.

Dave, I always keep my phaeton in working order. You never know when you might need it!

Tyto Tony said...

And he, already a rich man by promised inheritance, hadn't as yet married one of England's most richly endowed women, his Wedgewood cousin. What a happily sad genius!

Snail said...

A visit to Down House is on my list of things to do if I ever travel to the UK again, Tony. I rather like the idea of taking a stroll along the Sandwalk in the (vain) hope that I pick up a speck of genius.