family photo strip - Ros
Ros Escott's Family History Pages

The Escott family

St Philleigh ChurchThis branch of my family originally came from Cornwall where they had lived for generations as agricultural workers and shoemakers in the parish of Philleigh in the northern part of the Roseland Peninsula, south-east of Truro and north-east over the river from Falmouth. Their 15th century church, St Philleigh is still functioning as a church, but unfortunately, the Philleigh parish volume containing about 185 years (1548-1733) of records of baptisms, marriages and burials has been recorded as lost; it is therefore not possible to confidently trace earlier ancestors.

Most family names have had at least one and often several changes of spelling over the centuries; it is rare to find a current surname spelt the same way as it was in the Domesday Book, the great survey of England completed in 1086. The Escott name is  no exception and there are a number of variations in the records, including Escot, Estcot, Estcourt, Eastcourt, Arscott and Arscot.

John Escott (c1733-1813) and Elizabeth Levers (1727-1777)

Our family’s direct ancestors can be traced with confidence to my great-great-great-great-grandfather, a John Escott/Arscott, who was probably born in 1733. It is likely, but we cannot be sure, that he was the son of John Arscot who married Mary Vercoe in St Cohan’s Church, Merther, Cornwall on 29 December 1732.

John Arscot - Mary Vercoe marriage
"1732 John Arscot and Mary Vercoe was marryed December 29” (St Cohan’s Church, Merther, Cornwall)

At age 27, John and Mary's son John Escott married Elizabeth Levers (32) on 7 April 1760 at Philleigh. (Elizabeth Levers had been baptised in Philleigh on 18 October 1727, the daughter of John Levers and Elinore Warde.) They had four children:
  • John Escott: baptised 15 Feb 1761 Philleigh, Cornwall

     
  • Alice Escott: baptised 25 Dec 1762 Philleigh, Cornwall

     
  • Joseph Escott: baptised 27 Apr 1766 Philleigh, Cornwall; died 18 May 1780 age 14 (killed by a blow which fractured his skull)

     
  • William Escott: baptised 29 May 1768 Philleigh, Cornwall; died 5 July 1780 Phillegh, Cornwall   (my great-great-great-grandfather)

John’s wife Elizabeth Escott née Levers died of consumption on 31 January 1777, age 49.  On 15 July 1780, John Escott (age 47) married again, to Grace Davey née Retallick. She was a 45-year-old widow with at least one child. John Escott died on 27 March 1813, age 80, and Grace died on 17 December in the same year, age 78.


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William Escott (1768-1848) and Bridget Dowerick (c1771-1836)

John and Elizabeth Escott’s youngest son William Escott was baptised in Philleigh, Cornwall on 29 May 1768. His wife, Bridget Dowerick was born in about 1771. She is thought to be the eldest child of Thomas Dowerick of Veryan and Ann Collett, baptised 2 Oct 1748 in Philleigh.

William Escott (24) and Bridget Dowerick (21) married on 30 June 1792 at Philleigh, Cornwall. They had 5 children:

  • Joseph Escott: baptised 12 May 1793 Philleigh, Cornwall
     
  • Elizabeth (Betsey) Escott: baptised 22 March 1795 Philleigh, Cornwall;
    married James Burrows and had 10 children
     
  • William Escott: baptised 15 December 1799 Philleigh, Cornwall; 'waggin' driver;
    married Elizabeth Dungey and had 9 children; William died Jul-Sep 1865.
     
    William and Elizabeth's son, William Escott (c1824-1888) migrated to South Australia with his wife Margaretta née Michell and three sons: William Escott Escott, Francis Escott and John Henry Escott.  They arrived in Adelaide on 10 October 1849 on the Cheapside. Margaretta died on 8 March 1850 and on 7 June 1851 William married again, to Susan Trewartha. They had one daughter, Elizabeth Ann Escott. Susan died on 26 Jul 1871 and William married for a third time, on 11 Dec 1871, to widow Lucy Fisher née Moss. William Escott died on 28 April 1888 at Koonoona near Black Springs, South Australia. He has living Escott descendants in South Australia.
     
  • George Bath Escott: baptised 27 July 1806 Philleigh, Cornwall;
    married Elizabeth Dowerick and had 5 children; George died 9 July 1854
     
  • Amos Escott: baptised 30 October 1808 Philleigh, Cornwall   (my great-great-grandfather)

William’s wife Bridget Escott née Dowerick died on 3 August 1836, age 65.  At the time of the 1841 England Census, William Escott is recorded as an “Agricultural Labourer”, age 70 and living in Philleigh with his recently widowed son George Bath Escott, George's 4 surviving children (aged 7 to 13), and another family (John and Nancy Jewell and children). William Escott died on 5 July 1848, age 80.


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Amos Escott (1808-1882) and Philippa Collett (1804-1845)

My great-great grandfather, William and Bridget’s youngest son Amos Escott, was a shoemaker by trade (as was his wife’s father). At that time and in that area, leather was tanned locally, so it would have been easily accessible.

St Gerrans, Cornwall

Amos married Philippa Collett, who had been baptised in nearby Gerrans, Cornwall, on 11 October 1804. Her parents were Amos Collett (baptised 2 Nov  1760, son of Richard Collett and Bridget née Jennings) and Elizabeth Oates (baptised 23 Oct 1762, daughter of William Oates and Catherine  née Vian).

Amos Escott (23) and Philippa Collett (27) were married in St Gerrans church on 2 October 1832. They were recorded as bachelor and spinster. They lived on the coast at Pendower, in Philleigh parish. Their 6 children were born in Pendower and baptised at the Philleigh church (as per parish records – all recorded as Arscotts at baptism, but knows as Escotts):

  • William Henry Escott: baptised 27 January 1833 Philleigh, Cornwall;
    moved to the Scilly Isles, Cornwall; married Mary Edwards and had 6 children; there are numerous Escott descendants in the Scilly Isles, to whom we are distantly related

  • Amos Escott: baptised 25 May 1834 Philleigh, Cornwall;
    married Jane Bennett and had 4 sons; Amos died 1915 in Truro, Cornwall.
    His eldest son Charles Escott (born 1857 in Philleigh) emigrated to Australia, arriving in Sydney on the Loch Fergus ex Liverpool on 10 Sep 1877. He married Miriam Coulson in Newcastle 1879, settled in the Belmont NSW area, and had 8 children: Amos, William, Mary Jane, John, Myra, Samuel, Harold and Bessie. Charles Escott died in Morriset NSW in 1953, age 95. They have living Escott descendants in New South Wales. [Information per Janine Dormor née Escott, NSW, 2008]
     
  • James Escott: baptised 13 March 1836  Philleigh, Cornwall (his age on his marriage and death certificates suggests that he was born early in 1835)   (my great-grandfather)

  • Elizabeth Collett Escott: born 1838 Philleigh, Cornwall;

  • Asenath (Phillis) Escott: baptised 20 February 1840 Philleigh, Cornwall;
    married William Cock and had 4 children; Phillis died 1922 in Cornwall.

  • John Escott: baptised 6 April 1842 Philleigh, Cornwall;
    John married three times and had 14 children; he has many Escott descendants including in USA; John died 21 Nov 1915 at Twelveheads, Kenwyn, Cornwall.

Pendower Beach 2008At the time of the 1841 England Census, Amos and Philippa Escott are recorded as living at Pendower with their first 5 children, including James aged 6. Amos gives his occupation in this and subsequent census returns as “shoemaker”.

Amos’s first wife Philippa née Collett died in January 1845, age 40, and was buried in Philleigh on 10 January 1845. There is no record of her cause of death.

Amos Arscott (Escott) married again on 24 January 1850 to Johanna Olver/Oliver and they had one child: Johanna Arscott, born 21 September 1851.

At the time of the 1851 Census, Amos Escott was living in Philleigh with wife Johanna and his youngest children from his first marriage, Phillis (Asenath) (11) and John (8). Johanna was not yet born. Ten years later, at the 1861 Census, Amos Escott was living in Philleigh with wife Johanna and their daughter Johanna (9).

Amos’s second wife Johanna née Olver died in December 1865.  At age 66, Amos Escott married for the third time, on 7 January 1875, to Charlotte Sandoe (age 42) who was a widow with a young son, Wybert Sandoe (born 1867).  In the 1881 England Census, Amos Escott (shoemaker) is living in Philleigh with wife Charlotte (plain needlework) and stepson Wybert (general labourer).

My great-great-grandfather Amos Escott died in Philleigh in 1882, age 74. It seems that his son James had not had any contact with him since James was a child.


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James Escott (1808-1882) and Elizabeth Andrew (1804-1845)

James EscottMy paternal great-grandfather, James Escott (1836-1897), described himself as "an orphan, raised by maiden aunts". It is not known whether he had any further contact with his father or siblings after his mother died in 1845 when he was aged 9. It is likely that he was sent away to live with his aunt/s when his mother died, or perhaps earlier if she was unwell or unable to cope with six children. His claim that he was an orphan suggests that James had no further contact and was not aware that his father had survived to old age and married twice more.

In the 1861 census, James Escott is living in Truro with his maternal aunt Margery and her husband. Margery née Collett, spinster, had married Philip Nicholls, bachelor, on 29 Oct 1837 in Kenwyn when she was age 42 and he was a year older; they had no children. Philip had been a merchant’s clerk and then became a grocer and 'lime burner' with his own business. In 1861, the Nicholls had two nieces (not Escotts) and nephew James Escott living with them; James was still a scholar at age 15. It is possible that this childless couple took in nieces and nephews and gave them an education. This also appears to be where James learnt his trade as a Master Grocer. That Philip Nicolls was important in James Escott’s life is evidenced by the fact that James named his third son Phillip Nichols Escott.  Uncle Phillip Nicholls the grocer may have been more of a father to James than his real father, Amos Escott the shoemaker.  

During the 1850s, after he had finished his apprenticeship as a Master Grocer, James Escott moved from Truro to St Ives and set up in business as a grocer and importer. It is likely that his uncle Phillip Nicholls helped set him up in business as James is unlikely to have had the necessary capital in his early 20s, or perhaps the grocery and import business in St Ives was somehow associated with his uncle’s business in Truro.

Elizabeth AndrewOn 22 August 1859, James Escott (24) married Elizabeth Andrew (21) at the Wesley Rock Chapel in the village of Heamoor, near Penzance, Cornwall. At the time of their marriage they were bachelor and spinster, living at Fore Street, St Ives, and Market Place, St Ives, respectively.  A Richard Andrew and a Charles Andrew were witnesses. 





James Escott and Elizabeth née Andrew had 8 children, 5 of whom survived infancy (see further down the page for more information)
  • Charles James Escott: born 1860 in St Ives, died 1936  in Brighton, Victoria, Australia.
  • Catherine (Kate) Escott: born 1861 in St Ives, Cornwall, died on 1863 in St Ives, Cornwall. 
  • Kate Escott: born 1863 in St Ives, Cornwall,  died 1863 in St Ives, Cornwall. 
  • William Henry Escott: born 1864 in St Ives, Cornwall, died 1937 in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.
  • Phillip Nicol Escott: born in Sept 1866 in St Ives, Cornwall, died 1946 at Fullerton, South Australia.
  • Richard Andrew Escott: born on 1868 in Truro, Cornwall, died 1958 in East Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 
  • A son Escott: born premature & stillborn in 1872 in Truro, Cornwall. 
  • Katie Andrew Escott: born in 1875 in St Ives, cornwall, died 1944, in Adelaide, South Australia. 

In the 1861 England Census, James (26) and wife Elizabeth (23) are shown as living above the shop in Fore St, St Ives, with two young children and a servant. His occupation was Grocer. By the 1871 Census, James and Elizabeth had 4 young sons, 2 grocery assistants and two servants in their household.

James went on to establish himself as a grocer, lime and coal merchant, with business interests in Truro and St Ives.  His uncle, Phillip Nicholls, died in 1870 and James probably inherited his business. From at least 1868, the family were living in Truro.

But the Cornish economy was declining; there were large scale job losses as cheap wheat from America and the Black Sea flooded the British market, and the Cornish fishermen began to experience competition from steam trawlers and drifters with massive nets. Jobs in mining had also declined as the alluvial copper ran out and deeper mines were required to access the tin underneath. There was mass emigration of Cornish people to the Americas, Australia and South America in search of work – newspapers from that time are full of advertisements from shipping agents offering passage and great opportunities, including free passage for labourers.

On 10 September 1875, James Escott, grocer, lime and coal merchant, Truro and St Ives, was adjudicated a bankrupt at the Cornwall Bankruptcy Court held at Truro, on the petition of the Devon and Cornwall Banking Company. By 15 October 1875 he is listed as an absconding bankrupt. A week later, James and Elizabeth's youngest child, Katie, was born in St Ives, where Elizabeth's parents live. It is thought that James had already absconded and left the country by then; he does not appear on any shipping lists so presumably travelled under an assumed name. 

Six months later, Elizabeth, the two younger children (Phillip and Richard) and baby Katie sailed from Plymouth, England, on 26 Apr 1876 aboard the sailing ship Lincolnshire. This was one of the ships of the once famous Blackwall Line that carried Australian wool to England and bought some passengers on the return voyage. The older boys, Charles and William, were apparently left at boarding school in Cornwall and joined the family later.

A description of the voyage is recorded in Phillip Nichol Escott's letter to The Age, published c1934: 

Escott re Lincolnshire voyage

Elizabeth Escott née Andrews and her three young children arrived in Melbourne on 18 July 1876; there is a record of  a Mr Escott coming from New Zealand to Melbourne soon after, presumably the absconding James. The family then went to Christchurch, New Zealand to settle. The older boys, Charles and William, joined them there when they finished school, Phillip went back to Cornwall to do his secondary schooling there, and the younger children, Richard and Katie, went to local schools in Christchurch.

Phillip was sent back to England for his education and the 1881 Census records a Phillip N Escott as a 14-year-old boarder at Hart House School, Fore Street, Tregony, Cornwall. One of his fellow pupils, Albert Henry Yelland, kept a diary in which he recorded on 1 July 1880 "Escott ran away. He went to Truro to his uncle's. Just as he went in the door the telegram did with him. Mr O sent his carriage and had him brought back".  He was only the second boy to run away during Yelland's time. In the diary, there is no mention of any repercussions following either incident and the school appears to have been a liberal and caring place. Apart from lessons they enjoyed frequent trips to the beach, picnics and half holidays. [Information kindly provided by Albert Henry Yelland's grand-daughter Margaret Morgan]

So far, only one record has been found of James and Elizabeth’s time in New Zealand. In April 1882, James Escott purchased land for £46: Section I Block III in the new township of Burnside East (a suburb of Christchurch). It must have been a prime section as it was the highest price paid in the auction, with most sections selling for £10-£15. At the time that his grandson Bruce Escott was born in 1894, James Escott (the informant of the birth registration) was living in St Albans, Christchurch.

On his son's marriage record in 1893, James Escott’s occupation is listed as “Clerk”; on his death certificate in 1897, his occupation is listed as “Accountant”. On his son’s death certificate in 1958, his father’s occupation is listed as “Librarian”.

James and Elizabeth came to Australia from New Zealand in late 1895.  James Escott died in Armadale, Victoria, Australia on 3 February 1897, age 62. His will left everything to his wife Elizabeth during her lifetime and then to his daughter Katie Joynt née Escott. At the time of his death his estate was worth £435/10/- consisting of furniture, a gold watch and chain, and Mt Lyell shares valued at £205/10/-.

Elizabeth Escott née Andrews died in Queenscliff, Victoria, Australia on 10 October 1912, age 74.  At the time she died, she was living with her youngest (and only surviving) daughter Katie, whose husband Capt. Henry Joynt was a Port Phillip pilot.

 

James and Elizabeth Escott's children:

    • Charles James Escott was born in June 1860 in St Ives, Cornwall; his birth registration records his name as James Charles, but he always used Charles James Escott, probably to distinguish himself from his father. He was not a passenger on the Lincolnshire when the rest of the family came in 1876, as he stayed in England to complete his education and came later. In 1888, at the age of 18, Charles was working as a newspaper clerk in Christchurch NZ and was charged with embezzling £110, which he received at various times from newspaper runners and did not enter into his books; he absconded to Melbourne, where he was arrested and returned to New Zealand; he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 2 years probation, to refund the amount embezzled and to pay expenses of prosecution, £31. Charles apparently managed to pay the fines and put all this behind him; he moved to Melbourne. His later occupation is not known as it is recorded as "independent means" in the electoral rolls. In 1891 he had married Alice Maud Farrell (c.1872-1950) in Melbourne; they had 3 children: Helen Maud Escott (1892-19750, Rupert Charles Escott (1894-1969) and Cyril James Escott (1898-1964); Charles James Escott died in 1936 at his home in Brighton, Victoria, Australia. He has no living descendants.
       
    • Catherine (Kate) Escott was born in Oct 1861 in St Ives, Cornwall and died on 27 Apr 1863 at age 2, of what appears to be measles encephalitis; she is buried in Barnoon cemetery, St Ives.
       
    • Kate Escott was born in May 1863 in St Ives, Cornwall and died on 15 Aug 1863 at age 3 months of whooping cough; she is buried in Barnoon cemetery, St Ives.
       
    • William Henry Escott was born on 1 Nov 1854 in St Ives, Cornwall. Like his older brother Charles, he was not a passenger on the Lincolnshire when the rest of the family came in 1876, as he stayed in England to complete his education and came later. William Henry Escott went to Tasmania as a representative of the AMP Assurance Society, but later had his own business as "Clarke, Sly & Escott - Estate Agents, Stock and Sharebrokers; he was a Member of the Hobart Stock Exchange. He was very musical and played the organ at his church. In 1899, he married Mary Clarissa (Minnie) Duff (1865-1944) in Melbourne and they had two sons, William Duff Escott (1900-1976 who had a very successful career in the Commonwealth bank) and Edward Collett (Tas) Escott (1901-1953 who worked for a period as a bank clerk in Geeveston, Tasmania, before he had a breakdown; he did not work again and died of tubercular toxaemia in New Norfolk in 1953).  William Henry Escott died 1937 Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. He has living descendants in New South Wales.

    • Phillip Nicol Escott was born in Sept 1866 in St Ives, Cornwall. He sailed on the Lincolnshire with the rest of the family in 1876 (see below for his letter to The Age about this voyage). Phillip was sent back to England for his education and the 1881 Census records a Phillip N Escott as a 14-year-old boarder at Hart House School, Fore Street, Tregony, Cornwall. One of his fellow pupils, Albert Henry Yelland, kept a diary in which he recorded on 1 July 1880 "Escott ran away. He went to Truro to his uncle's. Just as he went in the door the telegram did with him. Mr O sent his carriage and had him brought back".  He was only the second boy to run away during Yelland's time. In the diary, there is no mention of any repercussions following either incident and the school appears to have been a liberal and caring place. Apart from lessons they enjoyed frequent trips to the beach, picnics and half holidays. [Information kindly provided by Albert Henry Yelland's grand-daughter Margaret Morgan].  From at least 1887, Phillip had a New Zealand Certificate of Competency as a Second Mate, Foreign Trade, and apparently spent many years at sea. He later worked as a painter and decorator in Melbourne. Phillip did not marry and died on 9 September 1946 at Fullerton, South Australia.

    • Richard Andrew Escott was born on 16 Mar 1868 in Truro, Cornwall    (my grandfather, see below)
       
    • A son Escott was born premature & stillborn on 15 August 1872 in Truro, Cornwall.
       
    • Katie Andrew Escott  was born in October 1875 in St Ives, and left Cornwall with her family at the age of 4 months. She was educated in New Zealand and probably came to Australia with her parents in late 1895. In 1897, age 21, she married Henry (Harry) Francis Joynt (1870 - 1926), a Captain with the Union Steamship Company, and later a Port Phillip Pilot. He had been a Second Mate in the same service as her brother Phillip. They lived in Queenscliff for a period, and it was here that Katie's mother (Elizabeth Escott nee Andrew) died in 1912. They later lived at 26 The Strand, Williamstown.  They had one child, Wilbur Francis Joynt (1898-1969) and one grandchild, Pamela Joynt (1928-1984). Katie’s husband Harry died at aged 55 on 3 Oct 1926 and is buried in the McLeod-Escott grave in St Kilda cemetery. Katie died at age 69 on 26 Dec 1944, in Adelaide, where she was living with or near her son. She has living descendants.

 
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Richard Andrew Escott (1868-1958) and Margaret Ann McLeod (1867-1940)

Richard Andrew EscottMy grandfather Richard Andrew Escott was James and Elizabeth Escott's fourth and youngest son. He was born on 16 March 1868 in Truro, Cornwall. At the age of 8, his family relocated to Christchurch, New Zealand.

Despite his claims that he attended ‘Christ College' in Christchurch, records show that he attended what was then known as Christchurch West High School, previously known as the Boys Academy or Christchurch Academy, founded by the Rev. Charles Fraser, the first minister of St Andrew's Church; it is now known as Hagley Community College. 

His high school years were much briefer than that of his older brothers who had been educated in Cornwall. It appears that he left school to go to work just before his 14th birthday; perhaps the family were again having financial difficulties.

During his long life Richard took many parts. In his early days in Victoria he travelled the country districts as a representative of the AMP Assurance Society. This was done either on horseback or by buggy, complete with a doctor to carry out the necessary medical examinations. During this period he won the Omeo Gift, a professional foot race. There was apparently much local comment about the race being won by an Assurance man, coached by a doctor.  

He told his daughter-in-law, Gwen Escott née Keogh, many years later that he knew Gwen’s uncle, Joe Keogh. Joe was was classed a professional because he had won the Omeo Gift (and presumably accepted the prize money, which he had to refuse if he wanted to stay amateur). Richard said there had been an argument as to who was the fastest runner -- Keogh or Escott. Richard was an amateur and therefore could not race against Joe Keogh because he was a professional. However, a race was secretly arranged. Gwen asked who won, but Richard claimed he had forgotten!

Richard Andrew Escott married Margaret Anne McLeod on 23 Oct 1893 at St Mary’s Anglican Church in Merivale, a suburb of Christchurch NZ. They were both age 25. Richard, was or had been working for AMP Assurance, and was possibly marrying his boss’s daughter. His wife’s late father, Donald John McLeod, had come to Australia from New Zealand as an agent for AMP in the mid to late 1870s and by the time of his death in 1892 he was the District Agent for the AMP Assurance Society, which was apparently a senior position covering a large district. Richard's older brother William Escott was also a representative of AMP.

The seven Escott boysRichard Andrew Escott and Margaret Ann née McLeod had seven sons (see further down the page for more information):

  • Bruce Escott: born 1894 in Christchurch, New Zealand; died 1916 in Melbourne
  • Leslie Escott: born 1896 in Armadale, Victoria; died 1966 in Victoria.
  • Richard Keith Escott (known as Keith): born 1899 in Armadale, Victoria; died 1985 in Armadale, Victoria.
  • Douglas McLeod Escott: born 1900 in Australia; died in 1933 in Melbourne.
  • Gordon Escott: born 1902 in Gundagai, NSW, Australia; died in 1942 in Ambon, Indonesia.
  • Stuart Andrew Escott: born 1904 in Gundagai, NSW; died age 79 in 1983 in Bundoora, Victoria, Australia.
  • Wallace Septimus Escott: born 1906 in England; died in 1991 in Queensland.

Following his marriage, R.A. Escott and his accountant brother-in-law Luther (Lu) McLeod had gone into business in Australia as manufacturers’ agents, obtaining a number of good English agencies and importing goods, including shoes. In doing this he made two trips abroad by himself, and then after the birth of his second son Leslie, with his wife and two boys. He later claimed to have been back to the UK about 10 times in total, all by ship.

Lu McLeod, who looked after the financial side of affairs for the import business, died of TB in Sydney on 4 Jun 1901, aged 27. This coincided with the advent of new government protectionist policies which came in at Federation. R.A. Escott was caught with stock in several states in Australia and the business apparently folded.

From 1902-1904 the Escott family lived in Gundagai, NSW, Australia where R.A. Escott had an imported goods store (probably mostly from England). He was also active in the Gundagai Pastoral and Agricultural Society, which ran the local Show. The local Heritage Centre still has the handwritten minutes book of the period he was on the committee and at times he wrote and signed the minutes.  On one occasion he was reimbursed for purchase of ribbons for the show prizes. On another he was sent to Sydney for the Royal Easter Show to report back on a particular breed of cattle. He resigned on 29 Nov 1904, prior to leaving Gundagai. His son Keith later wrote that the store was ruined by a severe drought, when most of the men on the land could not pay their bills.

After leaving Gundagai, there was a period in Sydney until June 1905, when Richard, his wife Maggie and the children (now six sons) left for England. It was his hope to find success there through the numerous contacts he had made with his former agencies. This voyage was on the Nordeutscher Lloyd steamer Bremen, one of a line on which he had travelled previously. On arrival at Southampton, several of the boys, who had been left largely in the care of a German governess, were said to have spoken German quite fluently. 

In England, R.A. Escott went back to Life Assurance, and in 1906 he was living with his family in a house called “Papanui”, 4 Bloomfield Road, Mosely, Birmingham. He then had the title of Chief Superintendent of the British Equitable Assurance Co. Ltd. This must have been quite well paid as, at that time, the family had three servants: a cook, nurse and housemaid.

The older boys attended The Woodrough’s School, an English Prep School in Mosely, run by a Cambridge graduate. They wore a bowler hat and cane to church (Les on left), while at school they wore an Eton collar and tie, jacket, knickerbockers and long socks (Keith on right). The three older boys were Boy Scouts, amongst the first in England. Scouting had been started by Baden Powell in 1907, the year before they returned to Australia.

The Escott boys c1907

In late 1908, my grandfather had a severe breakdown in health and was advised by his doctor to return to Australia where he would probably live longer. This he did, with his wife and sons (now seven sons as Wallace had been born in England in 1906).  They left England in May 1909 on the White Star Liner Runic, arriving back on 3 June 1909.

Back in Australia, without any previous experience, he decided to go on the land. The cost of the long illness and the return to Australia made it necessary to borrow money to buy a dairy farm at Clyde, South Gippsland, Victoria. My father wrote that at this time there was little knowledge of the use of lime or anything else except superphosphate. The land grew beautiful wildflowers, which were no use as cow fodder, and there was a constant fight against bracken, sorrel and rabbits -- thousands of them. The boys trapped them for their skins; the carcasses (of no value) were cooked for the fowls.

R.A. Escott was the first farmer in the district to install the ‘new fangled’ milking machines. On the ship coming back from England he had met a Mr Gillies, a co-inventor of the LKG (Lawrence, Kennedy, Gillies) milking machines. These were worked by steam expelled from a wood-fired boiler, creating a vacuum. At times the suction would drop off and so would the milking machines. However, they were moderately successful, although the cows had to be stripped by hand afterwards. The boys helped with the milking before and after school. In spite of coping with the pests and the burden of debt, a living was made until the place was sold in April 1914. Then followed two years on a small rented farm “Burnbank” at Berwick and a short period at “Emily Park”, Ballan

On 23 March 1916, my grandfather bought, in a complicated deal, nearly 1000 acres at Sydenham, beyond Keilor (now semi-suburban). There at “Wongaburra”, the older sons successfully carried out hay growing and some grain production. The land 'grew' more rocks than anything else; as fast as they were cleared and used for fencing, more reappeared.  Keith, still a teenager, ran the property and kept a detailed journal of his activities.

RA Escott and family
Richard Andrew Escott, wife Margaret Anne, and six of their seven sons (Bruce deceased)
standing: Keith, Richard (grandfather); Stuart, Wallace
seated: Les; Douglas, Margaret (grandmother), Stuart


In April 1919, R.A. Escott decided to make a move to Shepparton, Victoria. This was rather disastrous as, although the property “Wanganui Park” had a fine homestead (now on the Register of the National Estate), the land had apparently been soured by bad farming and over-irrigation. The sale of this place, in April 1922, saw the start of the break-up of the Escott family, with Les and Gordon going to Dookie. Keith had already left and was working in Ardmona. 

Mernda DairyMy grandfather then had a period dairying at Epping, a year or so at Balnarring, a return to Epping, and then the start of ‘Mernda Dairies’, a retail milk distribution business at Brunswick which was run by two of his sons until it was sold in 1961.

My grandmother, Margaret Anne Escott née McLeod died in 1940 in Melbourne, age 73, of breast cancer.

In his declining years, my grandfather continued to live with youngest son Wallace in the house attached to the Mernda Dairy in Brunswick. They apparently went to the pictures on the same night each week, at the same theatre. Domestically, they were ably looked after by a housekeeper who had been with the family for many years, affectionately known as “Mary at the Dairy”. His days were mostly spent dozing in his car which was positioned to catch the warmth of the sun and moved around the yard as necessary. He had trouble with his feet – the doctor told him they had simply worn out!

RA Escott at Mernda DairyFamily meals with grandfather, such as at Christmas, were a formal affair. The head of the table carved the roast and the plates were passed to order around the table. Children were permitted to use their fingers to nibble on a bone if they first asked permission of the oldest person at the table – grandfather!

In March 1958, my father organised a 90th birthday party for his father and most of the extended family attended, including some not seen for years. R.A. Escott was in good health and able to enjoy the evening. 

Six months later, my grandfather Richard Andrew Escott died at the Freemason’s Hospital, East Melbourne, on 22 Sep 1958, of bronchopneumonia; he was 90 years old. He and his wife are buried in the McLeod-Escott family grave in St Kilda cemetery.

Richard and Margaret Escott's seven sons:

  • Bruce Escott was born on 8 Aug 1894 in Christchurch, New Zealand where his grandparents James and Elizabeth Escott lived. Bruce died age 22 on 1 November 1916 in Melbourne while undergoing an operation for a respiratory problem; his death certificate states that he died of “septic bronchiectasis 15 years, myocarditis, sudden heart failure”, and his brother Keith later wrote that “Bruce had been ill for some years with an unknown complaint, although it could have been TB, given the family history” (three of his mother’s siblings had died in their 20s of TB). His mother is said to have never gotten over the death of her first-born son, and wore a locket with his photo for the rest of her life. Bruce is buried in St Kilda Cemetery with his grandparents and other family members.


  • Leslie Escott was born on 28 June 1896 in Armadale, Victoria, Australia. He enlisted on 27 Feb 1917 from the family address at Wongaburra, Sydenham, Vic. and served in France with the Artillery until he was severely wounded at Fleurbaix on 10 Oct 1918; he carried these wounds for the rest of his life. He disembarked from the hospital ship Wandilla in Melbourne on 18 May 1919, was met by his parents, and brought home to Shepparton by train two days later.

    In 1922, Les went on the land as a soldier settler at Coolart, Dookie, initially with his younger brother Gordon, where they grew wheat and did mixed farming; he played cricket for some years, mainly as a wicket keeper, for Shepparton and Cosgrove. In 1926, Les married Enid Valerie Claudia Permezel (1896 - 1983) and they had two daughters. Les remained farming at Dookie until his death on 30 November 1966, at age 70. He is buried at Dookie East Cashel Cemetery with his wife Enid and their daughter Margot Escott (1932-2007).


  • Richard Keith Escott (known as Keith) was born on 9 April 1899 in Armadale, Victoria, Australia. With several of his brothers, he was educated at the Woodrough School in Mosely UK, Clyde State School and Malvern Grammar School, where he and his brother Doug boarded with a nearby family. He won a scholarship to continue his education, but his father refused to let him take it up – he was needed to milk the cows and help on the farm. A highly intelligent man, he regretted his curtailed education for the rest of his life.

    Keith left the family property, Wanganui Park in Shepparton, in January 1922 and had nearly 2½ years with Frank Pullar on a very large orchard at Ardmona. Then followed eight years on an orange orchard at Lancaster, near Kyabram, where his brother Gordon joined him. They were happy years in an active social group. Keith and Gordon played tennis and even built a tennis court on the property; tennis partners included the Dickens twins, Viv and Zara (who later married Harold Holt). Keith lost the Lancaster property in the 1932 Depression when it cost more to transport the fruit than it fetched at the market. He had no qualifications for anything else so, after six months in a dried fruit shed at Nyah West, he had two years in the family dairy business. For a while during the Depression he had a menial job with the Argus newspaper, but he also wrote and had published several humorous articles. He later worked for a period as a salesman for Shearers agricultural machinery manufacturers, when he was almost constantly on the road, travelling through Northern Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, wherever wheat was grown.

    Keith left Shearers in July 1940, the second year of the war, when the death of his mother and the enlistment of brothers Gordon and Wallace brought him back to the family milk business. Mernda Dairies was at that time quite small, but with acquisitions over the years had become quite large when they eventually sold out twenty years later, in 1960. Keith later wrote: “It was necessary but unfortunate; I had to spend 20 years in the milk business – seven days and nights a week, although fortunately I had little of the night part. But for one who had the bush in his veins, to be virtually chained to an office chair was a form of punishment. Eventually, in 1960, my younger brother and I sold out and about the best thing I did was to buy 20 acres of bush at Upper Beaconsfield. It was while living in Clyde as a boy that I had grown to love the bush, and I never lost it.”

    In 1944, Keith Escott had married Gwenyth Dorothy Price Keogh (1907 - 1990) and they had two daughters. He had courted Gwen for about 10 years and sent her letters and postcards when he travelled, but it was not until he was settled in Melbourne that marriage was a possibility.

    Keith had a very long association with the Amateur Sports Club, was made a life member in 1964 and President 1970-74. He was also involved with Banks Rowing Club and rowed recreationally for years. He said he was looking for a sport to take up in his 40s and it was the only one where he could sit down. He had a keen interest in rowing and served on the Henley on the Yarra Committee for many years.

    In his later years, Keith became the Escott family historian. He had always been a writer, so it was a natural progression to record the family history as he remembered it. He left copious notes and stories about his life. Keith died in Melbourne in 1985, aged 86.


  • Douglas McLeod Escott was born on 9 August 1900 in Armadale, Victoria, Australia. He was initially on the land at Balnarring, and then at Sea Lake in the Mallee. In 1925 he married Helen Stuart Bolton (born 1900, died 1983) who was a school friend of his cousin Vivian McLeod Johnson (who married Helen's brother Tom Dalzell Bolton). Doug and Helen had one son. Doug had contracted hydatids, but a misdiagnosis by a local doctor meant that he sought specialist help too late. He died at age 32 on 30 Mar 1933 of meningitis, as a result of the hydatids.


  • Gordon Escott was born on 23 Jul 1902  in Gundagai, NSW, Australia, where his father had a store. He left the family home in 1922 to go to Dookie with his brother Les. When Les married in 1926, Gordon joined Keith on an orchard at Lancaster. He subsequently bought a nearby orchard of his own in Orange Grove, Kyabram. In 1929 he married Ruth Elcho Thomas (born 1907 in Riverton SA; died 1969) and they had three sons and a daughter. Gordon left Kyabram in the mid thirties when he lost his orchard during the depression (fruit sent to the markets in Melbourne would result in a net loss from the freight charges). He had a period selling insurance and on a dairy farm at Epping before being admitted to Gresswell Sanatorium in Bundoora, Melbourne with TB. Soon after being discharged he enlisted for WW2, on 14 June 1940. He passed his medical and was reportedly fit and healthy in active service, even though older than most of his battalion. After several camps in Victoria, he was in Darwin for a long period before his battalion, the 2/21(known as Gull Force), were transferred to the island of Ambon. Gordon was killed at age 39 on 20 Feb 1942 on Ambon, after the Japanese invasion.


  • Stuart Andrew Escott was born on 9 May 1904 in Gundagai NSW, where his father had a store. He spent most of his adult life dairy farming at Epping, Victoria. On 21 Dec 1929 he married Ivy Chappell (born 1906 in Dandenong Vic; died 1990s); they had one son and three daughters. Stuart enlisted for WW2 at Royal Park on 7 May 1941 and saw service in the Middle East (where he wrote the poem below) and New Guinea.

    A Sentry’s Dream
    by Stuart Andrew Escott

    Leaning on my rifle as I do my two hour shift.
    Not very regimental but my thoughts can't keep but drift.
    And I dream about the farm at home and the family left behind.
    The nights we spent together keep running through my mind.

    I see the children playing and riding Pet about.
    As they bring the cows from the top paddock and let old Billy out.
    And I hear the engine starting it is time I left my bed.
    For the job that must be always done and the cattle that must be fed.

    I see old Telstone in his stall with the saddle on his back.
    Impatiently he waits for me to come once more to follow the pack.
    The stones, the hills and gumtrees. The magpies jackass and bushy tail possum.
    While across the road in neighbour Jim's I can see the wattle bloom.

    Some day I'll stop my dreaming of the home that’s far away.
    For I'll be back in Australia. I'll be home to plurry well stay.

    Middle East  1941.

    Stuart was discharged from service on 12 Aug 1944. Returning again to dairy farming. He was President of the Epping RSL for a number of years, which included a rebuilding program, and he was also a Councillor of the Whittlesea Shire at a very important time in the history of the Shire, when the area was moving from country to semi-urban. He and Ivy were active in the local Hunt Club. Stuart died at age 79 in 1983 in Bundoora, Victoria, Australia.

  • Wallace Septimus Escott was born on 10 Apr 1906 in Essex, UK while the family were living in England for a period. After a couple of years at Lancaster, Victoria with brother Keith, he joined his father in a dairy business. He enlisted on 8 Jul 1940 and saw service with the 2/11 Field Artillery Regiment in the Middle East and the Islands; he was subsequently President of his Army Unit Association for 26 years. After the war he went back to the family's dairy business. In 1956, Wal joined Melbourne Legacy and served with distinction, particularly as Chairman of the Camps and Holidays Committee.

    Keith and Wallace were joint partners in Mernda Dairies, when they sold out in September 1960. During the following years, Wal gave support to his late brother Gordon's sons at Cobram/Berrigan, and bought a property there. In 1976, Wal was operated on in Melbourne for a rare form of stomach cancer; always lean, he lost a lot of weight and became extremely sensitive to cold weather so he relocated to Noosa Heads, Queensland. He was the Honorary Treasurer of Sunshine Coast Legacy and served on the Committee of the Noosa Homes for the Aged, Carramar, as their Public Relations Officer; in 1985 he was awarded a British Empire Medal (civil division) for services to the community. Wallace did not marry and died at Nambour, Queensland, in the 1990s.

 

Escott Coat of Arms 

Origins of the name Escott

There are a number of suggested origins of the Escott name, but most likely it is an Anglo-Saxon name derived from the Olde English words “est” (east) and “cot/e” (cottage or shelter, especially one for animals and usually sheep). Escott could be a topographical surname, denoting residence “at the east cottage”.

Alternatively, the name could indicate a person from any one of several similarly named places in England such as “Estcott” in Cornwall or “Escot” in Devon. This explanation is more likely, as the Cornish, in earlier times, were known for giving their children a unique given name, followed by the father’s given name and then their place of abode as a surname. Until 1736, it was also quite common to change surname on moving to another place, so that brothers could eventually have different surnames.

A Robert Estcott at the time of King Richard I (1157-1199) is recorded as having two sons, Stephen Estcott (his heir) and a younger son William Totworthy de Totworthy -- who presumably moved to Totworthy, changed his name, and started his own dynasty when he did not inherit the family estate (a female descendant of his married back into the main line of the Estcott family 5 generations later).

Other sources suggest that the Escott name is derived from the older French form of Estcott, and that they moved to England with William the Conqueror in 1066. There are numerous instances of the name “d’Escot” in France, including a Chateau d’Escot and Les Fontaines d’Escot, a former 15th century monastery in the Pyrenees, now a thermal resort.

Most family names have had at least one and often several changes of spelling over the centuries; it is rare to find a current surname spelt the same way as it was in the Domesday Book, the great survey of England completed in 1086. The Escott name is no exception and there are a number of variations, including Escot, Estcot, Estcourt, Eastcourt, Arscott and Arscot.

Cornish surnames, in particular, are characterised by a multitude of spelling variations because of the linguistic differences between the people of Cornwall and the rest of England. The Cornish spoke a unique Brythonic Celtic language (related to Welsh and Breton) which was first recorded in written documents during the 10th century. Cornish mostly became extinct as a spoken language in 1777 but its influence has predominantly continued as a distinct “West Country” dialect.

Old records of names, including parish and census records, were usually made from oral information and often provided by people who were illiterate, so dialect could easily determine how names were recorded. Also, the Olde and Middle English languages lacked definite spelling rules, so phonetic spelling could result in variations between records of the same person.

Common to all these family names (Escott, Estcott, Arscott, etc.) appears to be a Coat of Arms which depicts six silver escallops, positioned three, two and one, on a black shield.

The Crest is one of three options: a lion, half black and half white; a red ostrich with a gold horseshoe in its beak; or an erect gull with wings expanded. Each different Crest may have been unique to a different individual or branch of the family.

The consistency, at least in the shield, suggests that the various versions of the Escott names may have a common origin. Alternatively, it may be a more recent attempt to link the name retrospectively to a known Coat of Arms