Herring, Lesley

Lesley George Herring (1846-1913) first purchased land in Beecroft in 1887 between present day Chapman Avenue and Hannah Streets and on both sides of York Street.  On this land he built the family home Sheen. (Subject to its own entry on this web site under Houses.) He established an extensive orchard around his home. He continued to add to his holdings and purchased, for example, the orchard of Joseph Lovell in 1901 [1]. Much of the funds to purchase this property came from a marriage settlement (they having married in 1878) on Herring’s wife Kate Emily Tucker – sister of Charles Churchill Tucker of Plympton Beecroft.

Like his brother-in-law, Herring was active in growing new fruit varieties and in promoting their sale. In 1893 he sent 10 cases of his lemons to San Francisco [2].

Tragic struck Sheen when in 1903 Walcot Way, the 25 year old son of his orchard manager (John Thomas Way) who lived on a cottage on the estate with his family, was found to have committed suicide in Chorley’s Scrub just opposite Beecroft railway station. The young man had at various times been an inmate of the Hospital for the Insane at Gladesville. Another of the Way sons had also died a violent accidental death in Beecroft while a third died after being thrown from his horse while working in Western Australia [3].

Herring was a successful woolbroker and businessman becoming Secretary of Mort and Co in the early 1870s and only leaving the firm when it merged to become Goldsborough Mort and Co. Thereafter he remained a trustee for the Estate of the late T S Mort. At the time of his death he was a director of NSW Fresh Food & Ice Co, Mort’s Dock & Engineering Co, Tooth & Co, Australian Alliance Assurance Co, Permanent Trustee Co and Bodalla Estates [4].

Herring took an active interest in community affairs. For instance in 1888 he was part of a deputation seeking a goods platform to be built [5].

Kate Emily Herring, his wife, also contribute to the local community and wrote to the Daily Telegraph in 1897 describing some of her work and setting out her views on charity:

“relief work can be better done locally than collectively as we have proved by our boarding out system. …I assure you that the Australian spirit of independence would have it so, for it is gall and wormwood to them to be compelled by circumstance to accept charity…..Finding myself cramped by rules unable to help genuine distress, and a member of a charity organisation, charity as generally accepted, being an abomination to me. I, with the valuable help of the late Miss Agnes Campbell, started a Dorcas society. We had no committee, no rules, no begging, and spent about L80 a year giving out work. …done more thoroughly, more in the spirit of the Master, and by helping people to help themselves and by exacting a fair days work, and by giving fair pay for the same, has never doled out charity. We did not even help ourselves to charity, not even paying a three pence rental for our mansion in the skies. We gave out work to anyone, but not without enquiry as work, like money, is scarce and we could not afford to help the needless. If strangers came to us, we wrote to the clergyman or priest of their parish and made them vouch for their necessity. Locally, we knew our people and taught them self –reliance and honesty, seeing in the case that the landlord received his rent through us or in others that the tradesman’s bill was paid….But alas! Of our working crew I only am left…and am ordered by my medical adviser to give up all social duties pro tem….” [6]. 

Upon Herring’s death in 1913 (following an operation at Dr McCormack’s Darlinghurst hospital “for an internal trouble”) [7], his widow Kate Emily, received a life estate with the remainder of his estate to be divided amongst his three sons (Nigel, Edgar and Albert) and a daughter, (Mabel Kate, Mrs Witts). Mrs Witts lived in New Guinea [8]. The estate was valued at 23,499 pounds 15 shillings [9]. In addition to the life estate, Mrs Herring had land in her own name including at Batlow, [10] Cronulla and Kurranulla [11]. Mrs Herring no longer continued to live at Sheen but instead moved to live at one of the country orchards.

Upon Emily Herring’s death in 1919 the residence Sheen and 2 acres of vacant land fronting Garrett Street were leased and then eventually offered for sale [12].

Charles Henry Way, who was one of the sons of the manager of the orchard at Sheen, John Thomas Way went on to become the orchard manager for Herrings son, Nigel, at Belmont, Batlow for over 20 years [13].

[1]        Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 20 April 1901 p 10

[2]        Sydney Morning Herald, 15 July 1893

[3]        Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 25 April 1903 p 4

[4]        Daily Telegraph, 16 September 1913 p 15; Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 15 September 1913

[5]        Cumberland Mercury, 11 July 1888 p 3

[6]        Daily Telegraph, 9 October 1897 p 15

[7]        Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 20 September 1913 p 8

[8]        Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 17 September 1910 p 8. It was common professional advice at the time to give to the surviving spouse a life estate and children the remainder. This helped to minimise death duties.

[9]        Sydney Morning Herald, 5 December 1913 p 7

[10]      Tumut and Adelong Times, 28 August 1919 p 2

[11]      Sydney Morning Herald, 3 November 1919 p 3

[12]      Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 5 April 1919 p 8

[13]      Tumut & Adelong Times, 1 March 1938