The Haunted House in Wingham, New South Wales.

In 1857, James Northam, a 35 year old farm labourer born in Zeal Monachorum arrived in Sydney, Australia, aboard the sailing ship “Fitzjames”. He was accompanied by his wife Eliza (nee Webber from Cheriton Fitzpaine) and their four children, one of whom was born during the voyage. They settled in Dungog.

 

As a young man in Devon, James had worked for George Snell Hill (born in Bow in 1778), who farmed at Gill House, Zeal Monachorum. (George Snell Hill’s cousin, Mary Wreford, married Dr Samuel Budd, and his wife Mary Fewings Arscott’s brother was Exeter Surgeon Robert Fewings Arscott.)

 

Hill’s son, also named George Snell Hill, had emigrated to Dungog in New South Wales a few years previously. James Northam started working for Hill, clearing land and felling cedar. He soon moved to Killawarra where he lived for 72 years. He had 13 children and was a much respected pioneer farmer.

Northam died in nearby Wingham on 10th August 1920. There was some doubt about his age but he was widely believed to be a hundred years old. At that time John Kenneth Mackay and his wife Ellen were living locally. Ellen Mackay née Partridge, was born in Nymet Rowland in 1862. Her brother John Leonard James Partridge was still living at Nymet Rowland at the time James Northam died and asked the vicar of Zeal Monachorum to check the baptism records. This showed that James Northam had been baptised on 29 December 1822 so was probably only 98 when he died. It also showed that his mother Mary was unmarried when he was born. (John Northam, whose wife died in childbirth in Bow in 1877, was James’s cousin.) Ellen Mackay however did live to be 100.

 

GS Hill Junior fathered two illegitimate children in Australia before he married Adelaide Hooke in 1849 in Dungog. They had ten children before his death aged 57 in 1869. He was buried in his Bungay Estate overlooking the Manning River. Adelaide lived to be 89 and died at her home in Wingham in 1922. The house she lived in is called “Zeal Cottage”, which must be a reference to her husband’s birth place. It is said to have been built in 1902 although there are references to a “Zeal Cottage” as far back as 1898. It is reputed to be haunted by the ghost of Mrs Adelaide Hill.

 

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