Mason, Frederick & Eliza

Eliza and Frederick Mason

with their six adult sons and daughters left Wolverhampton, England, in the 1880s and made their home on the newly subdivided Crown Land of Beecroft between 1888 and 1891. Frederick Mason purchased two acres of land in Copeland Road East, four acres in Malton Road, 4½ acres in Hannah Street and over seven acres on the northern side of Copeland Road West. He built a small weatherboard cottage on this latter property which was mostly good orchard land crossed by tributaries of Devlins Creek although a small section was steep and rough bush. By 1889, an orchard with many different varieties of fruit trees had been planted and by 1892 a licensed dairy was being run. In times of drought and before the town water was laid on to local properties, water for the orchard had to be purchased from the standpipe in the village.[1]

Before leaving England, Frederick Mason had worked as a builder, bricklayer and road engineer. He was a well-educated man and was a Wesleyan Methodist. His eldest son Charles went to Pennant Hills to live while the other sons, Frederick and John, worked with their father on the orchard which grew first quality fruit for the city markets. As early as 1897 the local newspaper reported on ‘a prodigious crop of apricots, peaches and apples’ from Mason’s orchard. Seasonal labour was employed and in the 1891 census a Chinese man was recorded as working in the orchard.[2]

The Mason men also engaged in local building and many of the early well-built brick houses of Beecroft and Cheltenham were built by them. ‘The foundations are being laid for an imposing villa residence to contain about 12 rooms for Mr. Mason, who has already built several imposing villa residences in Beecroft’ reported the local newspaper in 1901.[3]

Many of these houses were built to the order of the new residents, such as Edward Seale in Malton Road in 1902, but many also were ‘spec’ homes built by the Masons and then leased or sold. ‘Mason’s Paddock’, a venue for early cricket matches, was land owned by Frederick Mason of Beecroft Road, Cheltenham. Mason Ave was made across it in a 1901 subdivision.

Early Wesleyan services and Sunday School classes were held in the Mason’s home and when the Wesleyan church was built in 1895 Eliza Mason laid one of the foundation stones. Their daughter Gertrude was organist at the church until her marriage in 1901 to Norman Smith of Pennant Hills.

John Mason (1867-1949) married another Wesleyan of Beecroft, Sarah Healy, who was born in England in 1870, and he built a home in Mary Street. They had four daughters and all the family were committed members of Beecroft Wesleyan Methodist Church. John had a fine singing voice and played the mouth organ competently. Frederick Mason and his sons were members of the Beecroft Progress Association. Frederick and Eliza Mason were modest folk. Although comfortably off they were content to live in a small house whilst Frederick built grander houses for other people. However, Frederick laid a bowling green alongside their house in 1912, the first green in Beecroft, and he and Eliza made two trips to England to visit relatives in 1896 and 1909.[4]

As he grew older Frederick reduced his orchard land and in the first subdivision of his property in 1907, Fiona Road, named after his home nearby, was made, and Hull Road extended. A further subdivision took place in 1915.[5]

Frederick Mason died in 1924, aged 77 years, leaving £100 to the Beecroft Methodist Church which he had served faithfully all his days in Beecroft. Eliza died in 1927 aged 82 years. John’s family remembered their parents and grandparents as ‘fine Christian people, well-liked and respected’. They recall grandfather Frederick saying that he was the first permanent resident of Beecroft and that grandmother Eliza bought to the first ticket to Sydney on the opening day of the railway line.[6]


[1] Land Titles Office 1137/194, 988/10, 909/77-8; Cumberland Argus, 20 February 1892, 5 January 1889, 30 July 1892, 24 December 1898.
[2] Cumberland Argus, 16 January 1897. Archives Office of New South Wales, 1891 census. A few Chinese men were recorded as working in Pennant Hills orchards in the 1890s.
[3] Cumberland Argus, 7 January 1901. Such houses today would be referred to as ‘Federation bungalows’.
[4] Cumberland Argus, 24 February 1912.
[5] Fiona Street (as it was then called) was planned on paper as a straight road leaving Copeland
Road at 45° south-west to Mary St which then ran from Beecroft Parade to Burns Road.
[6] Information from Miss Mary Mason and from Miss Alma Mason of Ashfield.