All that is said about Black Bess, the taproot of this now extinct family, is that she was bred in New South Wales, and sent to Victoria in 1841. Imp. Cornborough (1834, by Tramp), the sire of her best runner, Bessy Bedlam, whose date of birth was purportedly 1841, was imported from Great Britain into Victoria in 1842, where in the ownership of Adolphus Goldsmith, he was advertised as "the only horse in this Colony [Victoria] who has himself been a winner on the English Turf."
Black Bess is commonly referred to as Austin's Black Bess, and it was Thomas Austin that raced and bred her daughters, Bessy Bedlam (184-, by Cornborough) and Enigma (1848, by Figaro), and grandson, Brownlock (1855, by The Premier).
Austin, his brother, James, and their parents and two other brothers emigrated from Boltonsborough, Somerset, to Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) in 1831, where an uncle, James Austin, had been transported for stealing bee hives and honey. In Tasmania the family benefitted from the uncle's estate, which apparently was considerable. Thomas operated the family's 10,000 acre station on the Ouse, and his brother James bought an inn in Compton Ferry and operated the first New Norfolk stage coach service. In 1836-37 the brothers crossed the Bass Strait and settled in the Geelong region of Victoria. Thomas developed a 29,000 acre freehold estate on the Barwon River, Barwon Park (Winchelsea), eventually becoming a leading pastoralist and prominent citizen in Victoria, and married a neighbor, Elizabeth Harding, who would later found the Austin Hospital in Melbourne and the Austin Homes in Geelong. His brother James established a large freehold called Avalon, and later built a fancy mansion in town, where he operated Geelong's first butcher's shop, served as the town's first alderman, and in 1851 became its second mayor. In 1853 James returned to England, where he was mayor of Glastonbury four times, but he retained business interests in Australia.
Both brothers shared an interest in horse racing, and participated in racing at Geelong (where initially, it was mostly their horses that raced) and Melbourne from the mid 1840s onward. James briefly owned the famous Victorian racehorse Petrel (1842), and bought Bunyip (1843, by Duke of Argyle), "out of a mob" for £7 10 s. For James, Bunyip raced successfully at Geelong and Melbourne, and the horse was famous for winning five heats, equalling eleven miles total, over two days at Melbourne.
Thomas is credited with introducing The Winchelsea, Inverleigh and Murgheboluc Races in 1865, held four miles from Winchelsea. He was also the first to import Lincoln sheep into Victoria, as well as a variety of English birds -- pheasants, partridges, sparrows, thrushes, wood pigeons, blackbirds and starlings -- and twenty pairs of rabbits, intended for hunting. Although he wasn't the first to import rabbits, his breeding pairs were apparently the first to acclimate, and Austin is generally blamed for introducing this non-native species into Australia; six years after he introduced them, a newspaper reported 20,000 had been killed (mostly for sport). A highlight of the Victorian colony in the 1860s was a visit by the Duke of Edinburgh, who spent happy time in 1867 shooting hundreds of rabbits at Austin's estate. In 1869 Thomas began construction on a 42 room mansion and elaborate stables; completed in 1871, this extraordinary Victorian confection of native bluestone and cast-iron still stands, but Austin himself died six months after its completion.
Black Bess' daughter, Bessy Bedlam, owned and raced by Austin, was a famous runner in the Port Phillip district. In 1848 at Geelong she was narrowly beaten in the Town Plate, by Petrel, in two heats out of three. In 1849 she won the Town Plate at the Melbourne Racecourse (by then at Flemington, although not yet called that), beating Petrel. At Barwon Park she produced two known foals, Atheling (1861, by Boiardo), that became a stallion in the Victoria district, and his sister, Cleopatra, second dam of Fortunatus (1888, see below). Their sire, Boiardo (1851, by Orlando) was imported into Victoria in 1858 by James Purves, a bloodstock agent and racehorse breeder at Toolgaroop station, Western Port, and may have stood for a time at Barwon Park. He got some outstanding runners in Victoria, including Barwon (1859, VRC Derby, St. Leger, Champion Stakes and Australian Cup), Melbourne Cup winner Banker, VRC Derby and St. Leger winner Oriflamme, Florence (1867) who won all three eastern state Derbys (AJC, VRC, and QTC), the good runner Winchelsea (1868, bred by Thomas Austin, as were five of his siblings), and Josephine, the taproot of Family C - 19. Boiardo was sent to New South Wales in 1871, the year Austin died, and died himself not long after.
Bessy Bedlam's half-sister, Enigma (1848, by Figaro), produced the good runner Brownlock (1855, by The Premier), winner of the VRC Derby Stakes and St. Leger in 1859 for Austin. Brownlock's half-sister Eugenia (1863, by Boiardo), produced Imperial, winner of the VRC Hotham Handicap in 1873, and the Sydney Cup in 1875. After Austin's death in 1871, the recorded horses in this family passed to others, and a promising female line faltered, eventually dying out.