Before the Napoleonic Wars Britain had completely dominated the world wool trade. However, after the peace, English wool growers were forced to face intense competition from Spain and Germany who had greatly improved the quality of their wool while England was preoccupied with the war with France.
With the availability of superior wool, the market for english wool fell from 2/6d in 1815 to 1/6d in 1820, and less than 9d a pound by the end of that year. For the following three years it was unsaleable.
This quickly plunged the wool growing areas of Lincolnshire, Surrey, Sussex and Norfolk into deep depression, leaving a large percentage of the population unemployed.
However, at the same time, the far distant penal colony of New South Wales originally established to relieve the overcrowding in Britain’s prisons now looked an attractive proposition to rid her of its unemployed.
In 1807, John MacArthur had shipped one solitary bale of Australian wool for which he was facetiously bid 10/4d a pound. By 1840 Australia produced 41,025 bales to Germany’s 63,278; and in 1850 Australia produced 137,177 bales to Germany’s 30,491. The rout was complete and Australia had won its first battle on the international market.
Unparalleled success however brought a danger to the fledgling colony, for despite the collapse of the wool industry in Britain there were still vast amounts of capital looking for a place to invest - and Australia became the country of choice. Indeed, Australia became so prosperous during the period 1839-45 as a result of the influx of British capital that Judge Therry was given to describe them as "marked by prudence in no quarter, unbounded credit, and extravagant speculation everywhere".
Everyone had too much money, sheep at £3 per head, and horses up to 100 guineas a piece, and bullock drivers who drank French champagne.
Things went so far, however, and then stopped. The price of wool fell and in the period from February to December of 1843 the whole social fabric of the Colony broke down. Practically everyone of note failed and a squatter owning 100,000 sheep worth £30,000 a few years before could not now obtain credit for anything.
The squatters were coming in broken men, the merchants had already fallen, and labourers in both the towns and the bush were starving and on State relief. Then on top of this, the banks collapsed.
Thus it was that the Bardens and thousands of others came into the country already broken in England and migrating to a new country in the grip of a great depression.
Acknowledgements | Origins
of the Barden Surname | The Earliest Bardens | The
Reasons for Migration
The First (Barden) Arrivals | The Bounty Migrants | Down to the Beautiful Valley
Publicans, Butchers, Produce Merchants and Landholders | A Family Business | The Barden Hotels
Items from Newspapers | Australian Men of Mark | Sidney Barden | Joseph Thomas Barden
Cooks River - A History
©2007 Peter Noone