Joseph Trickett (1817-1878)

Arrival in Sydney and career at The Sydney Mint

Joseph Trickett, an English civil engineer, arrived in the colony of New South Wales on 14 March 1854, onboard the Scottish clipper Maid Of Judah. Trickett, the Clerk of Works at Woolwich until his transfer to Sydney, was a senior member of a detachment from the Royal Engineers, sent under orders to establish the first mint in the Australian colonies. This facility was also notable in being the first branch of the Royal Mint to be set up outside England.

Joseph Trickett

The establishment of the Sydney branch of the Royal Mint, initiated by an order of HM Queen Victoria dated 19th August 1853,  was the direct result of the discovery of gold in the colony of New South Wales, and the consequent mining ‘rushes’. To protect the official currency and suppress the unregulated circulation of unprocessed gold, the product of the Australian goldfields was at first shipped to England for coinage, and returned minted. The institution of a mint in Sydney, a measure urged by the Legislative Council of New South Wales and colonial officials in London, streamlined that process and was an important step forward for the young colony.

Trickett’s appointment in England was followed by a period of training at the Royal Mint in London prior to his embarkation. Shipping intelligence published in the local press recorded the arrival of ‘Mr Trickett, the superintendent of the Mint to be established here’, accompanied by his wife and son. The latter was a reference to Elizabeth Trickett (nee Buckshell) whom Trickett had married in 1841 on Portsea Island, Hampshire and William Joseph Trickett, their son, born in Gibraltar, 2 September 1843.

As the supervisor of the works for the building of the Mint, Trickett had a formative influence on the choice of site and structure that was to house the new facility. Having surveyed a number of prospective sites in Sydney, Trickett recommended the adaptation of the south wing of Sydney’s first hospital, the so-called ‘Rum hospital’, built between 1811 and 1816 under Macquarie’s orders. This decision incidentally ensured the preservation of part of one of Sydney’s earliest building projects from the governorship of Lachlan Macquarie. The design of the hospital, by an unknown colonial architect, had distributed its services over three wings. Of these, the central wing was demolished in 1890, while the northern wing survives as the NSW Parliament House. The southern wing chosen in 1854 by Trickett for his Mint building today houses the working headquarters of the Historic Houses Trust.

The Sydney branch of the Mint was officially opened on 14 May 1855 by the recently arrived Governor Sir William Denison, under the charge of its Deputy-Master, Captain Edward Wolstenholme Ward (later Major-General Sir Edward Ward). From this point, Trickett’s temporary role of Clerk of Works supervising the construction of the Mint gave way to his permanent appointment as Superintendent of the Coining Department and Second-in-Charge of the overall facility. Joseph Trickett retained this position for the ensuing seventeen years. A report in the Sydney Morning Herald published in March 1872 announced that Mr Joseph Trickett of the Sydney Branch of the Royal Mint was about to retire on a pension.

Contribution to colonial life

Joseph Trickett’s influence through his position at the Mint was more far-reaching than his oversight of local coinage might suggest, as the Mint was locally viewed as a repository of scientific knowledge, and accordingly fulfilled a broad scientific and technical role in the colony. For example, in 1858 a series of experiments examining the properties of certain NSW timbers was carried out at the Mint under Joseph Trickett’s supervision. Earlier, in 1855, both Trickett and Ward had appended their signatures with other prominent colonial engineers and architects (George Barney, John Hilly and John Bibb) to declare that the newly completed railway from Sydney to Parramatta was in their opinion ‘perfectly secure for general traffic and might be safely opened to the public’.

Governor Denison, himself a former Royal Engineer, took a strong interest in the world of science and education. He formed the Philosophical Society of New South Wales as a forum for the discussion of matters relating to science, art, literature and philosophy lay. Members of the original Mint staff were well represented among the founding members, Trickett included.

Other aspects of public service to the colony of New South Wales received Trickett’s attention. He served as a magistrate and was a founding member of the Sydney Volunteer Rifle Corps, formed in 1854 as the reaction to the outbreak of the Crimean War. Trickett was appointed by the Governor as a Lieutenant, in September 1854.

Joseph Trickett’s status in the colony is reflected in his presentation to the departing Governor, Sir Chares Fitzroy, at the farewell levee held in honour of his Excellency in January 1855, and in Trickett’s similar inclusion in other vice-regal receptions evidenced through newspaper reports.

Joseph Trickett and Woollahra

Joseph Trickett’s contribution to the history of Woollahra can be seen as an extension of his engagement in the life of the colony of New South Wales and the settlement of Sydney. Trickett was perhaps initially drawn to the area through the availability, from the mid 1850s, of land parcels issued on 99 year lease from the Cooper family’s Point Piper estate, and he was to be associated with two landmark houses in what became the local government area of Woollahra – Banksia and Shorwell, the former of which survives today.

In 1856 Trickett acquired two landholdings from the Cooper estate. Firstly, on 1 July 1856 for the sum of £60, he purchased the leasehold to Lot 25 of section L of the estate, a three acre parcel of land on the south-eastern corner of Piper (now Queen) and Moncur Streets. Then, three months later on 1 October 1856, Trickett added to his local landholdings the lease to one acre and 17 perches on the waterfront at Double Bay, described as Lot 36 and bound by William and Beach Street. Here he built the residence which was his home for many years.

Trickett is believed to have built on his Double Bay land soon after establishing the leasehold. The first issue compiled of the Sands Sydney Directory, published in 1858, records the household of Joseph Trickett at a residence in Double Bay. The house would seem to have been known as Sandown during the Trickett family’s residency, recorded as such in the notice published in the Sydney Morning Herald which announced the marriage of William Joseph Trickett with Charlotte Louisa Ashdown in January 1869. The present house-name Banksia dates from the residency of Captain Philip Gidley King, a descendant of the colony’s third governor, in honour of the botanist, Joseph Banks. Today, with a curtilage greatly reduced by the development of the surrounding area, Banksia has the address of 3 Beach Street.

Trickett’s property was part of a small enclave of servants of the Mint which formed on the Double Bay foreshore. On the same day that Trickett leased his waterfront acre, a lease was established to the allotment adjoining his to the west – Lot 69, of similar dimensions to Trickett’s. This site was leased in the name of Francis Bowyer Miller, who was an assayer at the Sydney Mint. Here, Miller built a cottage in the Gothic style, later known as Tuelia, which he shared with fellow Mint assayer William Stanly Jevons. Jevons described the site of their cottage as being “in a most beautiful situation on the flat shore at the head of the bay with a pretty view of the harbor” a description which would have equally applied to the Trickett family’s Sandown.

Trickett’s 3-acre site on Piper (Queen) Street was subdivided and sublet for residential development, on one allotment of which the house Shorwell was built, either by Trickett himself, or by one of his sub-lessees. Joseph Trickett occupied Shorwell intermittently. Entries in issues of the Sands Directory published between 1861 and 1873 suggest that he lived at Shorwell for several years in the early 1860s, and not again until c1871, his address in the intervening years being recorded as William Street Double Bay. The apparently substantial stone building was meanwhile operated as a school by Randall McDonnell, and later by W F Norrie, during the 1860s.  After Joseph Trickett moved from Shorwell c1873, his son William appears to have taken up residency, carrying out a major renovation or re-building c1894, after which he retained the premises as his long-term residence. William died at Shorwell on 4.7.1916, after which the building passed into a succession of institutional hands, eventually being demolished in the mid 1970s to make way for a residential hostel for the aged, known as Ozanam Villa. The site of the former house is today known as No 121 Queen Street Woollahra.

In 1859, Joseph Trickett was one of the 144 signatories to the petition proposing that the localities of 'Darling Point, Upper Paddington, and Watson's Bay' be formed into a municipal district under the provisions of the Municipalities Act of 1858 – the origins of the Municipality of Woollahra. Trickett’s residential address was given on this document as ‘Darling Point’. This was consistent with his residency at Beach Street Double Bay, given that few suburb names were established at this time, and no precise boundaries set. Trickett’s interest in the formation of a municipality was sustained through his thirteen-year involvement as a councillor of the new municipal area of Woollahra.

Service as a councillor

Joseph Trickett was nominated for a position on the first council of Woollahra on 21.5.1860, proposed by John Davis of the Sydney Mint, a resident of John Street Woollahra, with this nomination seconded by William Perry of Bentham Place Paddington. Elected through the open voting held on the same day, Trickett then went on to poll 70 votes at the ballot subsequently demanded, which was held on 28.5.1860. This figure was the third highest number of votes polled in the first Woollahra Council elections.

Trickett was present at the first council meeting, held on the 6 June at the city offices of Messrs Rowley, Holdsworth and Garrick. From then onwards over the ensuing thirteen years, Trickett’s scientific and engineering knowledge proved an important asset to the new council. In April 1862, prior to the tendering process, Trickett drew up specifications for the first general survey of the municipality. He also performed honorary work for council, in May 1862 laying on the table plans of a proposed jetty at Double Bay which he had been asked to prepare by council, showing elevations and sections.

Joseph Trickett was appointed to numerous sub-committees, the decisions of which shaped the formative steps of the administration, including the committee to investigate a site for the first purpose-built council chambers, formed on the 15.7.1861, and the committee to formulate the municipal by-laws and to prepare a code for the regulation of tolls, formed on 28.3.1862. He served a single term as Chairman of the Council, occupying the position from 9.2.1864 to 2.2.1865.

Having retired from the Mint and resolved to return to England, Trickett resigned from Council mid-term during the 1873 municipal year. Within two years of his resignation, Joseph’s son William had followed in his father’s footsteps, elected to Council on 18th March 1875. William Trickett served as an alderman for almost thirty three years, and was five times elected mayor. Between them, Joseph and William Trickett devoted forty-five years of service to the Council of the Municipality of Woollahra.

Death and legacy

Following his retirement from the Mint it would seem that Joseph Trickett made the decision to leave Sydney and return to England. An advertisement placed by auctioneers Bradley, Newton and Lamb, published in the Herald in May 1873 announced the sale of “the whole of the valuable household furniture of Shorwell, Piper Street, the residence of J Trickett Esq [and] and the whole of his effects in consequence of his intended departure to England”. The auction was scheduled for 8.5.1873.

Joseph Trickett died in London on 3.1.1878, survived by his wife Elizabeth and his only son William. He was aged 61 years. William Joseph Trickett inherited his father's personal estate, sworn for probate at £8000.

Elizabeth Trickett returned to Australia following her husband’s death, travelling back to Sydney onboard the Whampoa accompanied by her granddaughter Sarah Trickett (William’s daughter) and escorted by William Piggott. Piggott was William Trickett’s long-time partner in the law firm Trickett and Piggott. The Whampoa arrived in Sydney in September 1878.

Elizabeth died in Woollahra on 1.2.1894, at her home Merton in Wallis Street Woollahra – apparently a long-held Trickett property, where William Trickett had lived in 1870 following his marriage to Charlotte Louisa Ashdown. Elizabeth was buried in the family vault at Waverley cemetery, where William Joseph Trickett and his widow Charlotte were also interred in 1916 and 1932 respectively, and where an inscription commemorating Joseph Trickett reads: “of the Royal Mint, Sydney. Died England’.

In 1880 it was decided by Council that Little Piper Street, which ran from Eliza Street (now Victoria Avenue) to Moncur Street, would be re-named ‘Trickett Street’ in honour of the service to Woollahra of Joseph Trickett. The honour was, however, short-lived; in 1894 a further re-naming of the thoroughfare as James Street consigned the street name ‘Trickett’ to history.


  • Ancestry Library Edition
  • Broomham, Rosemary, The Coopers of Woollahra: Land dealings on the Point Piper Estate 1820-1920, Woollahra Council, 2001
  • Directories: NSW Directory 1839, City of Sydney Directory 1844-45, Sydney Directory 1851, Sands Sydney Directories 1858-1932/3
  • NSW Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages
  • Sydney Morning Herald
  • Trove, NLA
  • Woollahra Council archives – rate and assessment books, valuation lists, minute books, building registers, maps and plans
  • Woollahra local history research files and online index to council minutes 1860-1875