Stevens Group


The Stevens Group consists of the families related to Lilian May Stevens [7a.11a.4] who married Frederick Henry Whaite.

On the Paternal Line of Stevens, Lilian May is 3.4.4 and the tree ends with the Fourth Generation together with its associated Spouses Families. Some longer trees now in Preparation will be entered at a later date

On the Maternal Line of OBrien, Lilian May is 2.2.4 and the tree ends with the Third Generation and its associated Spouses Families. Some longer trees now in Preparation will be entered at a later date.

Though relatives of Lilian May Stevens are included in both trees, she is only mentioned briefly in Stevens tree, with most of her family and its associated Spouses Families in a cohesive group in the OBrien tree.


Posted 2 November 2011




Although Samuel Stevens’ occupation was given as Lacemaker in 1848 Immigration documents, his exact trade was not mentioned. During the rest of his life in Maitland, Samuel was said to be a Storekeeper and Shopkeeper but no record of him has been found in any 1841 census, so we do not know just what he did in England and France.

However, the lacemaking trade played an important part in the life of the Stevens family in England, as Samuel’s father was a Warper and Framework Knitter, while his mother was shown just as Lacemaker and his father in law John was a Hosiery Manufacturer.

The two trades were very closely connected, as lace making machinery was evolved from the first stocking machine invented as early as 1586 by William Lee in the reign of Elizabeth I. At this time both sexes wore hand knitted stockings, giving employment to thousands of people, so Elizabeth was not interested in Lee’s machine.

However, the French envoy at Elizabeth’s court arranged to have some of the new stocking machines taken to Rouen in France to set up a new industry there. In less than 10 years William had died and his brother James came over and took all the machines back to England, where he settled in Old Street Square in London, to start the hosiery industry.

Hosiery making then was a home industry with stocking machines known as frames being placed in a knitter’s house and agents for the hosiery manufacturer would call periodically to supply more thread, pick up the finished items, paying the Knitter for his work, less rent for the frame. It was the manufacturer who would further process the stockings and finally sell them.

These frames were quite complicated machines and easily put out of order and a whole new group of tradesmen like setters up, whitesmiths, turners and others were employed by the manufacturers to set them up, then repair and update them.

Over many years the trade spread to counties like Nottingham Derby and Leicester but so many frames were in use that by 1800 there was an oversupply and the industry almost collapsed.

Over very many years, attempts had been made to modify the stocking frames, so they could make lace edging. Around 1786, a machine was invented to make looped lace known as Point Net, but it was frail and unravelled when cut, so later improvements added a warp thread to lock the loops.

In 1808, John Heathcoat produced a machine which copied the centuries old practice of using bobbins and the era of the Bobbin Net began. Gradually the width of the lace increased, so that a pattern could be stamped on it, and this would then be embroidered to make items like lace curtains etc. The health of the thousands of young women and girls who did this work was permanently impaired after they had spent up to 14 hours a day stretched over the frames on which the lace was pegged.

While the lace making trade was more or less confined to England, a handful of English entrepreneurs gradually set up their operations in France, despite having to get their machines and mechanics there under various guises. The machines for example would be broken down into smaller parts, so they could be imported hidden in a load of old iron. Even during the Napoleonic Wars from 1800 to 1815, their factories were allowed to operate because they employed so many French workers.

One of these entrepreneurs was Robert Webster, who in 1816 set up a factory to make Bobbin Net in St Pierre a fishing village near Calais. While French workers operated the machines, it was English mechanics who set them up and maintained them. They came over to France, often in family groups and had a much better life than back in England.

It was to St Pierre that Samuel Stevens, his wife Eliza and their children Edward and Eliza Ann came when left their native Nottingham before late in 1842, when their first French child Charles was born. It is likely that Samuel followed his father into the Lacemaking Trade and may have even worked at the Knitting Frame set up in his home, but no record of Samuel’s exact occupation in the Lacemaking trade has been found either in Radford in England or Maitland NSW.

For almost 6 years, the Stevens life in St Pierre continued as before, but near the end of February 1848, Louise Phillipe of France abdicated and the whole country was in turmoil and foreigners were no longer welcome.

The Calais area was a safe haven protected by the local authorities and English groups from other places like Valencienes, Lille and Dunkerque came there, hoping to be able to get back to England. The French lacemaking factories had been closed when their English owners fled back home, leaving their English and French employees destitute and with all the banks closed, they shared the desperate conditions with many French people.

A petition to England brought some relief, but the Lacemakers were not wanted there because of the great pool of unemployed people especially in the Midlands area. Eventually, it was decided to send them as Emigrants to Australia and English authorities chartered three ships to take them there. The “Harpley” was sent to Adelaide, while the “Fairlie” and the “Agincourt” were to go to Sydney. A few small groups of Lacemakers were sent out on other emigrant ships.

The Stevens were allocated to the “Agincourt”, which was moored at Blackwell Reach on the Thames and it already had on board about 100 people, who had left Calais earlier. Later a tug took the ship downstream to Gravesend where it lay at anchor waiting for the rest of the emigrants. It was on 6 June 1848 that the last of the English emigrants left Calais on the steamboat “Tourist” and they and their baggage were transferred straight to the ship, which on 12 June, began the voyage to Australia.

A detailed account of the emigrants’ voyages to Australia is in Gillian Kelly’s “Well Suited to the Colony” [1998] Australian Society of the Lacemakers of Calais


It was late on Friday 6 October 1848 that the “Agincourt” arrived at Sydney Heads and later anchored near Tank Stream. Next day, the clerks from the Immigration Board came to the ship and passengers were given the option of being taken to Bathurst or Maitland. Samuel and his family were amongst 106 people who chose Maitland, so on the evening of 9 October, the paddle steamer “Maitland” pulled aside the "Agincourt" and they and their baggage were put aboard, ready to sail up the coast to Newcastle and on to Queens Wharf at Morpeth. This was the “port” for Maitland area and on the afternoon of 10 October, they were unloaded on the wharf, from which they had to walk during stormy weather to Immigrants Depot, which was ready for them in Banks Street, East Maitland.

It was not until 18 November that Samuel and Eliza found employment as general servants with board and lodging at 18 pounds per annum, at the home of Lieutenant William Beckford, who lived quite close to the Depot.

Thomas’ 1855 baptismal record shows Samuel as a Storekeeper, so before then, the family may have bought a store or more likely, were running it for some one else. They still had it under the name of Stephens at King St Maitland in 1872 Post Office Directory. That must have been a great help with the family's expenses after Samuel died and the family still had it at the time of Eliza's death in 1891.


Their eldest son, Edward was a drover by 1861, when he was the informant re Samuel's death and in 1876 he married at Emmaville, Susanna Ezzy descended from a family who had been in the Colony since 1792. He and his family settled in Glen Innes area, where Edward died at Glencoe in 1914, while Susanna was in Royal North Shore Hospital Sydney when she died in 1928.

The eldest daughter, Eliza Ann never married and had been paralysed for 13 years when she died in 1904, at the Ashfield home of her sister, Louisa Paton.

The second son Charles was only 32 when he died after a fall from a horse in 1874 in Dalby Qld and he seems to have spent his life in rural areas.

Louisa was still living in Maitland when she married 1876 a Londoner, David Paton, who had come to NSW with his family in 1855 on "Euphrates". After their marriage the Patons lived in Berrima and Walcha until 1883 when their son Frank was born in Glebe. Both of them died in Sydney - Louisa in her home in Ashfield in 1918, whilst David lived until 1936 at the Ashfield house, though he died in hospital.

Frank the first Australian son was born but 20 days after Eliza arrived in Maitland and he only lived until he was 13 GET CERT

Henry born in 1851 was the fourth son and by the year of his marriage 1877 had a drapery store at Central House in Melbourne Street East Maitland. He wed his English bride Mary Jane Milton in 1877 in the Sydney suburb of Woollahra. Mary had arrived in 1855 on "Speedy" and she died in Auburn in 1906. All their family were born in Maitland, but when the drapery store was badly damaged in the flood of 1892, the family went to Sydney to live and Henry got a job with the emporium of Anthony Hordern & Sons, but it was in Newcastle that he died in 1933.

Details of most of the Stevens family above are from Robin Gordon.

Samuel and Eliza's last child was Thomas Place whose life is detailed below


For some reason or other, it seems to have been Thomas Place's birth in July 1855, that prompted Samuel and Eliza to have their last four children baptised in Independent Congregational Church Maitland. Samuel's parents in Nottinghamshire had all their children baptised as Presbyterians, so this was probably the nearest equivalent church where they lived.

In 1879 at Maitland Thomas married Mary Ann O'Brien, the daughter of a soldier who served in 99th and 12th Regiments of Foot in Tasmania and New Zealand. Her father James was discharged near Napier NZ and had come to Maitland in 1868 be a warder in Maitland Goal. Their 8 children were all born in Maitland, the last Ivy being only 2 years old when her mother died from Tuberculosis in 1897. This disease had taken her father James in 1884 as well as 2 of her children and later her husband Thomas who died in 1907.

“Maitland Mercury” 9 Jul 1897. Death of M A Stevens 5 July 1897. Died on July 5 from Consumption Mary Ann beloved wife of Thomas P Stevens leaving a husband and seven children to mourn their loss age 39 years.

Thanks The undersigned desires to send his sincere thanks to all those kind friends who extended sympathy in his late bereavement. Thomas Stevens Horseshoe Bend

It seems that Thomas worked mainly as a foreman cabinet maker firstly for Robert Hyndes who had a Furniture & Bedding Warehouse and later as foreman for W R Norman & Sons and was able to have a housekeeper to look after his family when their mother died in 1897.

“Maitland Daily Mercury” Monday Sep 9 1907 p4 Obituary Thomas Stevens

“The death occurred at his residence Hunter Street on Saturday evening of Thomas Stevens a well known and respected resident of West Maitland. Deceased who had been ailing for some time was a native of East Maitland and was 52 years of age. Though he experienced very indifferent health of late, the late Mr Stevens attended to his work of foreman of cabinet making business W R Norman & Sons up till 5 weeks ago. For some years, deceased was foreman of late Mr Robert Hyndes establishment, but for the greater part of his life had served as a cabinet maker with Mr W R Norman. He leaves a family of 2 sons and 4 daughters, his wife having predeceased him some years ago. One of the sons, Mr Harry Stevens is a member of clerical staff of Messrs. E P Capper & sons”

Thomas and Mary Ann had 8 children, but lost two of them, Effie Louise and Maggie Adele as infants.

Their eldest son Harry Place worked in Maitland as a clerk to Pepper & sons, but that business failed in 1930’s, so for a while he lived with his sister Lilian at Holdsworth Avenue. He died in 1938.

His sister Lilian May married in 1911 at Cessnock Fred Whaite and her story is included in details of the Whaite family.

Nothing is known of the life of their second son Charles Herbert, who also died of Tuberculosis when only 34 years old and he was in TB Sanitorium at Waterfall when he died in 1922.

His sister Lena Mary born 1890 was only 18 years old when she died in 1908 from Tuberculosis, having married Benjamin Hickling just 2 years earlier.

Jean born in 1893 called herself Effie Jean and she married Charles Snowdon with the consent of Guardian of Minors, because she was not yet 21 years old. They went to live in Sydney, but Jean had a stroke and was cared for by Charles for many years before she died in 1962.

The youngest child born 1895 was named Ivy but took the name of Ivy Louise. She married 1915 in Sydney Edward Davies, who died in 1948, but Ivy lived for another 13 years.