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The legacy of convict Thomas Massey

Launceston’s redeveloped C. H. Smith precinct in Charles Street has a commercial history going back nearly 200 years.

William Sharland’s 1826 map of Launceston shows two private buildings on the site with the landholders listed as Thomas Massey, an ex-convict made good, and his son, Thomas William Massey.

Thomas Massey senior was born in London and was a 30-year-old soldier when he was transported to NSW for life for desertion and burglary in 1789.

He must have been a model prisoner because he was made a convict overseer and received an absolute pardon in 1802 for his “diligence and care.”

In 1804 he joined Colonel William Paterson’s expedition to establish a settlement at Port Dalrymple where he was the principal convict overseer and a district constable.

Later he was superintendent of stock and chief constable at George Town. In 1820 Thomas Massey was granted a grazing licence and became a meat supplier to the government commissariat.

By 1829 he owned, with his son, more than 4000 acres (1619 ha) between Ben Lomond and Campbell Town. His property was called Ellerslie.

Thomas Massey applied to surveyor-general George Frankland for the title to his grant of 2 acres of land in Charles Street in 1834.

George Fuller’s Recollections of Launceston 1836 – 1847 notes that there were two large stores in Charles Street belonging to Du Croz, Smith and Co., although the mention of Smith is a little early.

Charles Henry Smith, an accountant, arrived in Melbourne from England in 1852 and two years later came to Launceston where he was soon working for Du Croz and Co.

In 1854 Gervase Bedford Du Croz, the Launceston managing partner of Du Croz and Co., married Jessie Tasmania Massey, granddaughter of Thomas Massey.

It is likely that Thomas Massey, and his son, would have done business with Du Croz and Co as they had sheep and cattle and probably grew grain.

At some point it seems that the Massey land holding in Charles Street passed to Du Croz and Co and eventually to Charles Smith.

By 1868 Charles Smith had became the local managing partner of Du Croz and Co. and in 1884 the business became Du Croz, Smith and Co.

Its offices were at 41 - 43 St John Street (now Buckby Motors) and its warehouses in Charles Street.

Charles Smith assumed control of the business in 1889 and its name changed to Chas. H. Smith and Co.

The business moved its entire operation to lower Charles Street in 1919 and traded there until the 1980s.

(Written for the Launceston Historical Society and published in the Sunday Examiner on 19 May 2019)

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