The prosperity and growth across the eastern colonies which marked the years following the gold rushes of the 1850s was not sustained into the 1890s. In contrast, this decade was characterised by a sharp decrease in British investment in the colony leading to a banking crisis and the collapse of the Melbourne property market .
From the 1870s, there had been huge growth and development in the Parramatta district with the population increasing 38% between 1871 and 1881 to almost 8,500  and numbering over 11,600 persons by 1891 . The financial crisis effecting the colonies also had a dramatic effect on businesses in Parramatta. Between 1890 and 1895 there were over one hundred bankruptcies in the Parramatta district .
Businesses, large and small, struggled to continue operating. The extensive engineering works at Granville operated by Hudson Brothers and as well as William Ritchie’s agricultural manufacturing works could not be sustained through the economic crisis of the decade .
One of the smaller enterprises unable to survive the downturn in trade was John Paul, blacksmith of Pennant Street, Parramatta. John Paul was the eldest son of local carpenter George Paul and his wife Eliza Jane Rutter. In 1881, part of Lot 14 in Section 4 of the Town of Parramatta, was purchased by John Paul and his brother George from William Bourne .
Section 4 of the Town of Parramatta, Parish of Field of Mars including Allotment 14 first granted to Samuel Horne in 1839 and purchased by John and George Paul from William Bourne in 1881. Source: NSW Land Registry Services. Retrieved on 11/07/2017 from Historical Land Records Viewer http://images.maps.nsw.gov.au/pixel.htm
In July of the same year, John Paul announced a new business venture in partnership with his brother George in a good position near James Garland’s Shoeing Forge. John Paul had worked as foreman at William Ritchie’s iron works in Phillip Street between Marsden and Church Streets and probably learned his trade from Ritchie .
William Ritchie, general smith, with his staff and daughters, Phillip Street, Parramatta c. 1870. Perhaps one of the men in the photograph is John Paul? Source: Heritage Centre – Local Studies Photographic Collection, LSP0059
Advertisement for the business of John Paul. (1881, July 2). Hawkesbury Chronicle and Farmers’ Advocate, p. 4. Retrieved on 11/07/2017 from https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/66375002
John Paul was married in 1872 to Rebecca Harriett Price, the third daughter of William Price of Bathurst. By the early 1880s, Paul, his wife and six children resided in rented accommodation in nearby Palmer Street .
1895 Department of Lands Survey of the Town of Parramatta showing Lot 14 Section 4, the location of John Paul’s business in Pennant Street, Parramatta. Source: State Archives of NSW Lithograph, Parramatta Heritage Centre Collection.
For the first few years in operation John Paul’s business as a maker of agricultural implements and general smith, appeared to be going well. The Sydney Mail reported on the Hawkesbury District Agricultural Show of May 1886. The first and second prize winners of the ploughing competition W. James, of Baulkham Hills and A. C. Power of Seven Hills used single furrow ploughs made by John Paul of Parramatta .
In 1889 the Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers’ Advocate reported that a ‘New Agricultural Implement’ designed by Mr John Bridgefoot, gardener of Parramatta Hospital was being manufactured by Mr John Paul of Pennant Street. The new tool was described as:
‘a combination of implements being convertible into a scarifier, a harrow, a cultivator, or a potato hiller or ridger’. Messrs, Bridgefoot and Vahrenkamp have taken out a patent for the implement in this colony, and intend to take similar steps in the other colonies. If the patentees go the right way to work, they have a big success before them. Mr John Paul, agricultural implement maker, Pennant street, is now busy turning out a number of the machines, all of which have been sold .
The Cumberland Argus in December the same year included a very complementary report on the calibre of John Paul’s implements. Headed ‘HURRAH FOR PARRAMATTA’, the article reported on a horse hoe ‘turned out by our industrious townsman of Pennant Street Parramatta’. His work was highly spoken of by Mr Wright of the Woodstock Fruit Canning Company at Rooty Hill NSW, saying that the horse hoe was superior to anything he had seen, and was in fact as good as two other machines. It was easy on the horse and without distressing the horse got through four acres of land a day. It was a really splendid machine and one Mr Wright felt would bring Mr Paul a lot of money as the machine became known .
Paul’s ploughs were also winning prizes at agricultural shows. In May 1890 he entered the section for Agricultural Implements in the first Central Cumberland Agricultural and Horticultural Association and won first prize for his ‘Double Furrow Plough’ as well as first prize for his ‘Plough for Orchard and Vineyard’ .
By February 1896, the economic depression had taken its toll on the business of John Paul. As he was no longer able to pay his accounts, he made the decision to submit his blacksmith’s works to auction . His premises, forge and ‘the whole of his implements of trade’ were advertised for sale. Unfortunately, the property failed to sell and was re-advertised several times over the course of the year. In December 1896, the whole of his household furniture and effects were auctioned by J H Davies .
Competition from more established works such as Dellow’s Coachbuilding Factory  also located in Pennant Street as well as the general downturn in trade probably contributed to the demise of his business.
Advertisement for the auction sale of the assets of John Paul. (1896, November 28). Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers’ Advocate, p. 9. Retrieved 11/07/2017 from https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/85774836
In December 1896 a Notice of Voluntary Sequestration for Paul’s property known as ‘Paul’s Forge’ was published in the Cumberland Argus .
Paul’s assets included the Pennant Street property of 22 ½ perches (which failed to sell at auction) and the contents of his household in Palmer Street which he rented from P Long. His debts included a mortgage to the Bank of NSW taken out on 29 Nov 1884 and money borrowed from a Mr Neich. Including unsecured creditors for materials for business his liabilities amounted to £86 while his total assets from the sale of his household furniture and effects which realised £30 .
In his defence, Paul made the declaration:
‘I am a blacksmith, I have never been bankrupt before and my difficulties were caused by a depression in trade’.
Advertisement for the auction sale of the premises and tools of trade of John Paul. (1896, February 15). Cumberland Free Press, p. 5. Retrieved on 11/07/2017 from https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/144437301
After the close of his business, his quality agricultural implements were still in demand. In 1899, Mr Sonter of East Carlingford placed an advertisement seeking to buy a No. 1 Plough ‘in good order’ made by John Paul .
The Paul family moved from place to place around the district and in May 1911, Rebecca Harriett died while living in Argyle Street Parramatta . The announcement of the marriage of John and Rebecca Paul’s son Walter R to Miss Lily Burton of Mullumbimby at St John’s Parramatta in 1913 placed John Paul at Thornleigh at that time .
Funeral notice for John Paul. (1918, September 22). Sunday Times, p. 8. Retrieved 11/07/2017 from https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/123127375
By the time of his death on 20 September 1918, Paul was living in Arthur Street Granville with his daughter Mrs Holliday .
Several members of the Paul family were interred in the Mays Hill Cemetery, at the time known as the Western Road Cemetery including John Paul and his wife Rebecca Harriett as well as John Paul’s parents George and Eliza .
Examples of John Paul’s sturdy and reliable work are represented in the agricultural implements collection at Fagan Park, Galston and in other private collections.
 Lloyd, C. The 1890-1910 Crisis of Australian Capitalism and the Social Democratic Response. Retrieved on 05/07/2017 from https://www.une.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/58124/Lloyd-2013-Australian-Crisis-Ch_Haggren.PDF
 Kass,T., Liston, C., & McClymont, J. (1996). Parramatta: A past revealed. Parramatta: Parramatta City Council, p. 185.
 Kass,T., Liston, C., & McClymont, J. (1996). Parramatta: A past revealed. Parramatta: Parramatta City Council, p. 213.
 Kass,T., Liston, C., & McClymont, J. (1996). Parramatta: A past revealed. Parramatta: Parramatta City Council, p. 218.
 Kass,T., Liston, C., & McClymont, J. (1996). Parramatta: A past revealed. Parramatta: Parramatta City Council, p. 238.
 NSW Land Registry Services, Old Systems Title, Book 219 No. 85. Retrieved on 05/07/2017 from Historical Land Records Viewer http://images.maps.nsw.gov.au/pixel.htm
 Advertising. (1881, July 2). Hawkesbury Chronicle and Farmers’ Advocate, p. 4. Retrieved on 11/07/2017 from https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/66375002
 Municipality of Parramatta Valuation Book 1884, Parramatta Heritage Centre Archives.
 Hawkesbury District Agricultural Show. (1886, May 22). The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser, p. 1052. Retrieved 05/07/2017 from https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/162816050
 New Agricultural Implement. (1889, May 4). The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers’ Advocate, p. 8. Retrieved 05/07/2017 from https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/86274377
 An Important Industry to Fruitgrowers: The Woodstock Fruit Canning Company. (1889, December 14). The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers’ Advocate, p. 6. Retrieved 05/07/2017 from https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/86265349
 Central Cumberland Agricultural and Horticultural Association. Prize List. Section 12. Agricultural Implements. (1890, May 31). The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers’ Advocate, p. 2. Retrieved 11/07/2017 from https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/86268800
 Advertising. (1896, February 15). Cumberland Free Press, p. 5. Retrieved 11/07/2017 from https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/144437301
 Advertising. (1896, November 28). The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers’ Advocate, p 9. Retrieved 05/07/2017 from https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/85774836
 1861-1911: the first half-century of municipal government. (1911). Parramatta: Council of the Municipality of Parramatta NSW, p. 175.
 Brevities. (1896, December 5). The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers’ Advocate, p. 1. Retrieved 11/07/2017 from https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/85770702
 State Archives of NSW, Bankruptcy File of John Paul No. 11499 date of Sequestration 30 Nov 1896.
 Advertising. (1899, May 27). The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers’ Advocate, p. 9. Retrieved 05/07/2017 from https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/85786473
 At Rest. (1911, June 3). The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers’ Advocate, p. 6. Retrieved 11/07/2017 from https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/85988221
 Weddings. (1913, October 18). The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers’ Advocate, p. 11. Retrieved 11/07/2017 from https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/85975749
 Funeral Notices. (1918, September 22). The Sunday Times, p. 8. Retrieved on 11/07/2017 from https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/123127375
 Dunn, J. (1996). The Parramatta Cemeteries: Mays Hill. Parramatta: Parramatta and District Historical Society.