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Gasworks Hotel

Chief-street, Brompton

Elisha Rundle & Josephine M. B. Rundle


Licensed Dealers in Wines and Spirits

Licensed Dealers in Colonial Wines


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History > Man Sells Wife




On Saturday 17 July 1847 the South Australian Register and sister journal Adelaide Observer reported an auction of a very unusual nature.

I. The Report

LOCAL INTELLIGENCE. A novel, and happily in the annals of South Australia an unexampled occurrence, took place at Hindmarsh on the evening of Tuesday, being nothing more nor less than the sale by auction of a wife by her husband, a person of the name of Jarman, resident in the neighbourhood.


The well-known capabilities of the maids and matrons of the locality as a medium of disseminating information was considered a sufficient announcement, without having recourse to the more expensive process of the printing press ; and strange and divers were the opinions respecting the same. Some affirmed that the affair was nothing more than a hoax— while others doubted the prowess of our fair heroine, and went so far as to affirm that she would not be forthcoming.


However, soon after the sun had disappeared below the horizon, all these surmises were at once set at rest by the appearance of the fair one— a smart and comely dame, apparently of the age of five-and-twenty, accompanied by her ignoble lord, wending their way to the appointed place— viz., the back parlour of the 'Land of Promise,' on the Port Road ;  and soon after their arrival the well-known symbol that business was about to commence— viz., the ringing of a bell— announced that the appointed time— half-past seven — was approaching.


The vendor having very cunningly expressed his conviction that the powers of the licenced auctioneers did not extend to the fate of wives, the onerous duties of Knock 'em Down were entrusted to a Knight of the most noble order of St. Crispin, residing in the neighbourhood of the Tam O'Shanter Belt, who, from his long experience in the use of the hammer, was considered well calculated to fill the office.


Numerous and motley was the assembled group, and curiously anxious the personages who congregated together, upon an occasion unprecedented in South Australia; a large majority being of the softer sex, with a sprinkling of contemplative bachelors, waiting for the business to commence.


All things being ready, the heroine was led by a halter tied round her waist, the tether-end being held by her worser half, into the midst of the assembled throng. A sharp but short competition ensued, until the biddings reached £1 7s 6d, when the Knight unexpectedly knocked down the fair heroine, just as a too cautious bachelor was screwing up his courage for an advanced bidding.


The fortunate purchaser was declared to be one Charles Goble; and much dissatisfaction was expressed at the abrupt decision by many procrastinating remanets in the condition of single blessedness, who found upon this occasion, as they had often found before, that they were 'a day behind the fair.' The bargain and sale being so far settled, the cash was handed over by the purchaser, and duly attested documents, signed by all the parties concerned, were formally exchanged. During the drawing out of the duplicate documents, the 'fair one' requested that the date might be correctly attached, which having been done, the vendor delivered his 'bargain' to the purchaser.


Previous to the final separation, the parties concerned regaled themselves with 'deep and potent' libations of port wine, and then retired amidst the shouts of the assembled throng, ' the principals' being evidently well satisfied with the business of the evening. — Communicated.

II. A Little Strange

The report is a little strange. Although suggesting it appalling that a man might sell his wife, the report is a jolly one. The main characters celebrated with drinks at the end. The reporter is unidentified, the story being labelled simply as “communicated”.


Could this report then be an invention? If not, did the parties get away with their transaction? I decided to try and find out.

III. The Husband

Finding the identity of the husband was helped by a newspaper article some five months after the auction. The South Australian Register reported that George Jarman, a labourer from Hindmarsh, had absented himself from the service of a tanner, George Bean. Jarman had made an agreement to work for Bean for a year in October 1846, but had recently quit ahead of term. A sensible judicial resolution meant he avoided a prison sentence.


This simple timeline helps identify Jarman, and his wife:

1840-07-07   Arrival in Adelaide on migrant ship Fairlie

1841-??-??    George Germain (under 50), wife (U35), son (U7) in census in Milner Street Hindmarsh

1844-05-25   Son Benjamin born to George Jarman and Jane (nee Hendy)

1844-06-27   Son Charles died, aged 2, Hindmarsh

1846-09-24   Son George died, aged 6, Hindmarsh

1846-10-31   Entered service of George Bean, tanner

1847-07-13   Wife sale

1847-12-22   Newspaper report of court appearance for absconding from service


After that, George seemed to disappear from the obvious records. But unclaimed letters in 1851 and 1855 suggest he, like many others, may have gone to the Victorian goldfields. He seems to be the intended audience for this July 1853 advertisement in MESSAGES TO THE DIGGINGS, &c.


IF GEORGE JARMAN is in this colony, he will much oblige his friend, Charles Godfree (who came out in the ship Omega), by writing to him, and letting him know where he is.


This notice raises more questions than it answers. The identity of Charles Godfree of the Omega remains elusive. Could it be a pseudonym for Charles Goble, with George’s ex-wife, about to head to the goldfields? Intriguingly there is an unclaimed letter to Charles Godfree at the Adelaide Post Office seven months later.

IV. The Wife and the Successful Bidder

The auction report identified the successful bidder as Charles Goble. In fact, the auction seems to have been rigged to achieve this outcome. Less than nine months after the auction, in 1848, Jane German and Charles Goble had a son in Port Gawler. In 1849 and 1850 they were back in Hindmarsh bearing two more children (giving her maiden name this time as Jane Hendy). It is known they further grew their family in the Victorian goldfields from 1856 onwards.


Incidentally, purchaser Charles Goble arrived on the same ship as Gasworks Hotel’s Robert Laundy Ingham – the Eden in 1838 and seller George Jarman’s employer George Bean was Ingham’s former partner in the Thebarton Tan Yards.

V. Conclusion

The characters are clearly real. This confirms the identity of the separating couple as George Gates Jarman and Jane Hendy. Having married in 1837, George and Jane arrived in South Australia on the Fairlie in July 1840. Together they had a son, Benjamin Gates Jarman, b. 25 May 1844, Adelaide.


Who knows whether they all lived happily ever after? But at the least, it seems the transaction was both celebrated by and a useful means to an end for the main participants in it. Not only that, but it made for a great evening’s entertainment at the pub.


MORE WILL BE REVEALED of this story and its players if and when (2018?) I finish a rewrite of Deaths at Josephine’s Gasworks Hotel.

VI. Footnote One

The “Land of Promise Inn”, as it became known then, was the location for the focal Coroner’s inquest in the historical investigation into the Deaths at Josephine’s Gasworks Hotel.

VII. Footnote Two

On 4 March 1881, the Narracoorte Herald reported a similar case. However the comparison with other cultures, the lack of details such as source, names, date and exact place cast great doubt on the authenticity of this report.


Other unsourced curious tales are told in this paper that month (and presumably over a much longer period). The tone of this report is quite different from the Hindmarsh one. The Naracoorte report is generally disparaging of wives whereas the Hindmarsh report suggests a pleasing outcome for all of its participants.


The Naracoorte tale was given further life by being repeated in:

Castles, Alex C. & Harris, Michael C. (1987). Lawmakers and wayward whigs : government and law in South Australia, 1836-1986. Adelaide: Wakefield Press


The best one could say about this article is that there is no way it can be substantiated.


But I would go further and say this Naracoorte myth is now BUSTED!

VIII. Footnote Three

On the English habit of wife selling and reflecting on its mythology:


“In brief, they entertain a legal ‘superstition,’ if we may use the term as meaning something which has ‘stood over’ from a prior state of civilisation. Long, however, after wife selling had ceased to receive a semi-lawful recognition, the practice crops up in the history of causes celebres ... It will require several more severe sentences to eradicate this persistent belief in those sections of England which are black—morally, mentally and physically.

The Standard. (Source: 29 Jan1884 Kapunda Herald.)

IX. A Family Tree

I am researching this story and its characters for a fully revised 2016 edition of Deaths at Josephine’s Gasworks Hotel. Please contact me if you are also researching this family, especially if you have any BDM certificates. Certificates already sighted are noted with * below:


Jane HENDY, b. 12 Apr 1820 Andover HAM, d. 1895 Carlton VIC

+ George Gates JARMAN, b.c. 1816, m. Q3 1837 Stockbridge HAM, d. 1870 Moolooloo SA

|-- Mariam JARMAN, b. 1838 Andover HAM, d.?

|-- George JARMAN, b. 1840 prob. at sea, d. 1846 Hindmarsh SA.

|-- Charles JARMAN, b. 1842, d. 1844 Hindmarsh SA.

\-- Benjamin Gates JARMAN, b. 1844, d. 1918 Forestville SA

|   + Jane Ann BARWIS, b.c1842, m. 1871 Adelaide, d. 1909 ...

+ Charles GOBLE, b.c. 1810, m.* 1856 Castlemaine VIC, d. 1887 Carlton VIC

|-- Charles GOBLE b. 1848 Port Gawler SA

|-- Jane GOBLE b. 1849 Hindmarsh SA

|-- Harry GOBLE b. 1850 Hindmarsh SA

|-- William GOBLE b.c 1854 SA, d. 1856 VIC age 16m.

|-- Thomas GOBLE b. 1856 Forest Creek VIC, d. 1870 VIC.

|-- Letitia GOBLE b. 1858 Forest Creek VIC, d. 1859 VIC age 13m.

|-- John GOBLE b. 1860 Forest Creek VIC

|   + ? Lavinia Jane PEACOCK, m. 1885 VIC, d. 1933 ...

|-- James GOBLE b. 1861 Castlemaine VIC, d. 1862 VIC age 10m.

\-- George GOBLE b. 1863 Chewton VIC

    + Margaret Ann Teresa KEELEY, m. 1884/85 VIC ...


© David Coombe, 2013-16. Last updated 28/6/2018