caswell crescent

Lt William Caswell one of the first European settlers in Tanilba Bay

Caswell Crescent is named for Commander (Retired Royal Navy), formerly Lieutenant William Caswell, one of the first white settlers to Tanilba Bay, who received his original land grant in 1831 (Tenilba), for his distinctive service rendered to the Royal Navy.

What Would Make an Englishman Leave His Home?

Lt William Caswell was an Englishman of reputable standing so why did he leave his homeland with his family and venture into isolated bushland in a new colony of New South Wales?

When you read their documented history and their personal letters home you may begin to understand what motivated them to change their lifestyle so dramatically.

Caswells Settle in Tanilba

Lieutenant William Caswell RN (Retired) settled on his grant at Tanilba with his wife and family where he built Tanilba House in 1831. ‘Tenilba’, now spelt Tanilba, was named by Governor Ralph Darling on the land grant as the indigenous place name signifying ‘tenil’ meaning ‘white flowers’ and ‘bah’ meaning water.

In 1837 the construction of Tanilba House began.

Tanilba House was completed in 1839 and still stands today.

Drought and Recession

The summer of 1837 marked the onset of a prolonged drought, which proved disastrous for many gentlemen farmers like William Caswell. In 1838, Governor Bourke assigned William a lease of 50 acres at Tanilba, yet despite this grant, he was still required to pay Quit Rent.

Failed Crops & Loss of Convict Labour

The combination of failed crops, the loss of convict labour, expenses incurred in paying and feeding replacement workers, purchasing feed for livestock, and managing the upbringing of their family – two of whom were already teenagers – alongside the Quit Rent, pushed the Caswell’s towards bankruptcy.

Insolvency Act Gives Relief

By December 1842, William Caswell, along with hundreds of other bankrupt settlers, sought relief under the new Insolvency Act. Debtors could continue to reside on and cultivate their properties if they could demonstrate profitability in their land management, indicating a potential for future financial recovery. William Caswell was among over a thousand applicants granted continued possession of his property, with debts waived, enabling him to embark on a fresh start. They persevered through this challenging period, known as “The Hungry Forties.”

Caswells Relocate to Balickera

For approximately ten years, Lieutenant William Caswell and his family resided in Tanilba House. However, in 1844, after 15 years of settlement in Tanilba, William and his family relocated to a less grand and smaller dwelling, the farmhouse on the Williams River at Seaham, where he built Balickera.

William Promoted to Commander

In 1857, Lt W Caswell received notification from the Admiralty that he had been promoted to Commander W Caswell, Retired, and was now attached to the Naval Reserve, receiving the higher half-pay of his new rank. This promotion eased life considerably, especially as many members of the family were now leading their own lives.

Return to England

In 1859, upon reaching the age of 70, Commander Caswell decided it was time to fulfill his promise to his wife, Susan, to take her home to England. Susan, aged 54 at the time, had not seen her family for 30 years.

Commander Caswell Dies at Sea

Commander Caswell embarked for England aboard the Light of the Age. However, tragically, he never reached his destination. On April 29, 1859, he passed away at sea and was laid to rest with a sailor’s burial in the very ocean on which he had served so faithfully.