What would you have done in colonial Maitland if you found two stray bullocks eating the vegetables in your garden?
You would have contacted your local poundkeeper, of course. It was commonplace.
The principal NSW Act which regulated the keeping of pounds dates from 1828.
It authorised public pounds in convenient places "for the purpose of impounding and receiving any horses bulls cows oxen sheep goats pigs or other cattle" which were loose or trespassing.
The purpose of the Act was to discourage people from allowing their animals to roam free in the towns and villages of the Colony, as well as to restore genuinely lost animals to their owners.
The Governor of NSW appointed private individuals to keep the pounds.
- Lost rail link from Morpeth to East Maitland
- When rowing attracted huge crowds in Maitland
- Important role of the Mead family in Maitland's agrculrutal past
- The macabre world of phrenologist Archibald Hamilton
- When beekeeping was all the buzz in Maitland
- Convict John Smith, one of the first settlers who made good
- The plan to relocate Maitland to beat flooding
- Deep water river port was what gave Maitland the edge
Although there were some pounds on Crown lands, it was more usual for the appointed individuals to establish impounding areas on privately owned land.
Stock pounds were quickly established in Sydney, Parramatta, Windsor, Campbelltown, Newcastle, Maitland and other towns.
The 1848 records show that Maitland then had three pounds: East Maitland, West Maitland, and Anvil Creek (Branxton). Morpeth and Lochinvar were added later.
Poundkeepers had to comply with the provisions of the Act. They could be fined for failing to display a legible pound sign, or for keeping an inaccurate ledger of monies and animals, or for refusing to accept an eligible animal into the pound.
Poundkeeping wasn't only for men. In the Maitland area at least two female poundkeepers were appointed later in the century.
Stray animals were normally delivered to a pound by the person who found them. If the identity of the stock owner was known to the poundkeeper, and they lived within ten miles distance, the owner was contacted personally. Otherwise a Justice of the Peace was notified, and a notice was also printed in the Government Gazette.
Later, the Maitland Mercury was also authorised to publish impounding notices for the region.
A Government Gazette entry of September 3,1850 recorded: "Impounded at the Lochinvar Pound, on the 14th day of August, 1850, from Hillsborough: One bay colt, star, black points, long black mane and tail, on near shoulder W, 18 months old; damages 3d. Will be sold 7th September, if not released."
Poundkeepers were paid for the upkeep of impounded stock, and specific daily charges were applied based on the type of animal impounded.
In 1828 horses, goats and pigs were charged at one shilling; cattle were charged at sixpence; sheep were charged at twopence.
Attempting a 'poundbreach' to remove stock from a pound without paying the associated charges was potentially costly. A Justice of the Peace could assess treble damages to be paid through the sale of personal goods, and the offender could be imprisoned until such charges were paid. Overall, poundkeepers worked closely with Justices of the Peace to enforce the provisions of the Act.
Unclaimed animals were generally sold and the funds were distributed among several parties. First, poundkeepers could keep all lawful fees and charges owing to them. Second, the people who delivered the animals to the pound were to have any damages paid. Third, those who owned the stock, if known, were paid. If they were unknown, funds were forwarded to the Colonial Treasurer who could allocate them to Benevolent Societies for the poor.