Simeon Lord and Mary Hyde Collection
Table top bottle opener owned by Mary Hyde
This collection of artefacts relate to two people closely associated with the pioneering of Sydney's shipping and manufacturing business. Simeon Lord and his wife Mary were both emancipated convicts whose full and remarkable lives carved out a new role for local businessmen and women. In addition they initiated what must be considered some of the first large scale manufacturing of local produce to occur in Australia.
Lord was born in England in 1771 and at nineteen he was convicted and deported to Australia for stealing cloth. He arrived in Sydney in 1791 and was assigned as a servant to Captain Thomas Rowley. Lord was emancipated early and in 1798 bought a warehouse, presumably purchased from the money he made trading spirits. By 1801 he had set himself up as an auctioneer and was selling the goods he brought directly from the ships, or acting as the agent of the ships captains.
Lord made huge profits on the back of this trade and attempted to branch out and import his own cargoes. Even though these cargoes were potentially far more profitable it was also a very risky business enterprise and Lord's precious cargoes went down with ships wrecked at sea and in some cases were sold off, along with the vessel, by unscrupulous captains never to be seen again. In 1805 Lord formed a partnership with Henry Kable and James Underwood who had exported whale oil and sealskins to England but by 1807 this partnership had dissolved into a maze of lawsuits which eventually favoured Lord. The monopoly of the East India Company, and his convict past, was a continual bane for Lord who managed his ships and cargoes through a complex network of friends and partnerships. Lord was also involved in some of the early whale oil, seal skin, and sandalwood trade within the Pacific and reputedly brought the first load of Fijian sandalwood to Sydney in 1804.
The ambrotype portrait in this collection is of Lord's widow Mary taken sometime around 1860. But marriage to this important figure was not Mary's sole claim to fame, as her life was equally remarkable. She was born Mary Hyde, in England in 1779, before being convicted of stealing clothing and transported to Sydney in 1798.
One of 95 female convicts on the Brittania II she met, and started a relationship with a ship's officer, John Black, and gave birth to two of his children. She raised both children almost exclusively by herself as her husband was away for long periods before he eventually died on a voyage back from India, in 1802. Sometime around 1805 Mary started a new relationship with Simeon Lord who also became step-father to Mary's two children while Mary became mother to a young girl Lord had adopted. In 1806 Mary bore the first of ten children to Lord and in 1814 their partnership became legal when Mary and Simeon were married at St Phillip's Church in Sydney.
By 1810 the Lords' profits from sealing were in decline and they abandoned the industry looking instead to local manufacture to by-pass the rigid international importation laws. Simeon did however continue to act as an auctioneer and indulged in the occasional trading activity right through to 1820 when he and Francis Shortt were involved in exporting cedar to England. Primary among Lord's manufacturing businesses was the making of hats which was conducted in partnership with his son-in-law Francis Williams. In 1812 they appear to have been interested in expanding their business as they advertised for glass-blowers and by 1813 were offering apprenticeships for weavers, spinners, potters and dyers. Interestingly it was also around this time that they claimed to have produced a perfect set of tumblers, perhaps the very ones in the Powerhouse Museum collection. The firm dissolved in 1813 when Williams went to Tasmania but in 1814 Lord opened a new factory at Botany to manufacture shoes, hats, harnesses and textiles. In 1821 he moved into 'Botany House' located near his factory and died in 1840. Under the terms of the will Mary was made executor of the estate making her one of the wealthiest women in the colony. She continued to manage Lord's affairs after his death and employed many people in the Botany factory before it was closed by the flooding of her land as a part of the Sydney Water Board's development of the area. Mary took them to court to get compensation and four years later won the case and was eventually awarded over £15,000, a sum measured in the millions by today's standards.
Mary died in December 1864 leaving her estate to all her children in an attempt to ensure the daughters were treated equally, and could manage their inheritance in their own right. Unfortunately this was not possible in the eyes of the law and the money passed into the hands of male heirs and husbands.
Geoff Barker, Curatorial, September 2009
D. R. Hainsworth, 'Lord, Simeon (1771 - 1840)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, Melbourne University Press, 1967, pp 128-131
Mary Hyde, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Hyde
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