Botany Bay is a much maligned place. In folklore and songs it is synonymous with the worst type of convict settlement to which prisoners from this country were transported. In fact, although it was here that Captain Cook sheltered during his voyage of discovery, and on the basis of his experience where it was intended that the first ship-load of convicts transported to Australia should settle, it was found to be unsuitable, and no convict settlement ever existed at Botany Bay itself. In the event the first convicts were landed at a small cove in Port Jackson, a few miles to the north.
Robert Mason wrote that "At its entrance", Port Jackson, or Sydney Harbour, "is not more than ¾ of a mile wide, but then spreads to near 7 miles square surrounded by rising ground. In it are many islands of from one to four acres covered with trees and shrubs green at all seasons of the year. The harbour is safe and good and ships of 600 tons can come so close as to require nothing but a plank to board them.". One contemporary report of Sydney itself describes it as consisting of "narrow straggling streets lined with one-storey houses scarcely more than large huts, with half a dozen decent residences, and a few miserable cottages appearing through the trees on the north shore of the harbour. There was not a patch of cultivated land to be seen from the ship even thus close inshore.". Robert Mason, however, described it as "a pretty town", which, the sailors told him, was "much like Algiers"; the houses "are mostly of stone and face one of the prettiest bays in the world.".
Normally before being paraded preparatory to going ashore the convicts were issued with a new suit of clothing, that with which they had been issued in England being of such poor quality that, by the time they reached New South Wales, it was worn out. According to Robert Mason an exception was made of the "Swing" men who were permitted to disembark in their own clothes which was "a great indulgence and considered an extraordinary thing by the people of Sydney" by whom they were held to be "down-right honest men.".
After the final parade on the "Eleanor" the convicts were broken up into divisions and rowed ashore to a spot near to the site of the present Sydney Opera House. They were then marched, four abreast, through the Domain to the large convict barracks in Hyde Park, where, after another formal parade, they were dismissed to their quarters. Robert Mason wrote that they were instructed to refrain from communication with those who had been transported for more obviously criminal offences. This was good advice for their barrack-mates would have been a motley crew of old hands. A few of these would have been eager for news of home, but most would have had but one objective, to pilfer as much as they could from the "new chums", many of whom would have been dexterously robbed by bed-time. John Standfield, one of the Tolpuddle trades unionists, was later to remark that, if possible, the men he met in the convict barracks at Sydney "were worse than any others with which he had been associated.". Fortunately they did not have to remain long in the barracks before being assigned to their new masters. Joseph Mason, for example, was taken in a boat to Mr.Hannibal Macarthur's place, at Paramatta, on the 15th July, only four days later.
If the plans of John Pearce,Esq., of Chilton Lodge, Hungerford, and his fellow directors of the Van Diemen's Land Company, had been realised three Hungerford men, John Aldridge, Charles Green and Joseph Tuck would have been assigned rapidly to the company's estates. The Secretary for the Colonies had not been as co-operative as Mr. Pearce and his colleagues had hoped, and the company's request for the services of these men was politely but firmly turned down. (In fact Mr.Pearce, who was one of the chief magistrates involved in the confrontation with the deputations of the Hungerford and Kintbury labourers, had wrongly anticipated the course which the trial of the rioters would take by including in his list of men the company wished to have assigned to them, seven or eight men who, in the event, were not transported.).
The Sydney Herald of the 18th July,1831, was of the opinion that "The machine breakers,being fine, healthy men, and two thirds of them agriculturists, will be a valuable acquisition to the colony.". It reported that the "Swing" men had "innocently expressed the hope that they would not be placed along with house-breakers, pickpockets etc.". The Herald reporter understood that "the Government has very considerably investigated the characters of the persons to whom (they) are to be assigned and only given them to such as are respectable.". This report proved to be well- founded for the majority of the Berkshire men seem to have been assigned to substantial property owners and eminent public figures. In this they were more fortunate than the general run of convicts for, being more closely subject to public scrutiny, they were less likely to be treated badly.
About a quarter of them were assigned to substantial citizens of Sydney itself. For example, GEORGE ARLETT, a member of the Thatcham "congregation" arrested by the special constables led by the Rev.Cove on Brimpton Common, was assigned to the earliest and most important of Sydney merchants, Robert Campbell. Campbell's warehouses (some of which are still standing today) held, in 1804, goods worth £50,000. He largely initiated the colony's sealing industry, and Governor Bligh (of 'Bounty' fame) turned to him for advice and support, and "always found him to be just and humane and a gentleman-like merchant."
As Naval Officer Campbell was responsible for action to impound the illegally imported spirit stills of John Macarthur. It was not surprising that, when Bligh was deposed as a result of the Macarthur led "Rum Rebellion", Campbell was arrested and deprived of his official positions; it was equally to be expected that he should be among the first to be reinstated by Governor Macquarie. It was Governor Macquarie who set Campbell on the road to becoming a large scale land-owner, with a grant of 1,500 acres in the Bathurst district in 1818. During the latter half of the 1820s he acquired much land in the Limestone Plains District (around modern Canberra), and, by 1833, when his wife died, he had consolidated holdings of some 20,000 acres. By the time GEORGE ARLETT was granted an Absolute Pardon on 23rd March, 1837, the aging Robert Campbell had relegated much of his business activities to his sons, and spent more time on his Duntroon estate where he died on 15th April, 1846.
ALFRED DARLING, of Kintbury, was one of the "two most desperate characters" against whom the chairman of the Van Diemen's Land Company warned the company's agents. He, and William Oakley, the other "desperate character", had been "left for execution", and only the efforts of those who organised petitions, arranged deputations to the King and the Home Secretary, and otherwise campaigned for clemency on their behalf, prevented the sentence being carried out. On his arrival in Sydney Darling was assigned to Thomas Inglis, a citizen of that town. One source lists Inglis as a bootmaker, but he must have been a craftsman of some standing because, according to the 1832 Directory of New South Wales, he was an "Agent of the Australian Agricultural Company" and a fairly substantial landowner. A few months after Darling had been assigned to him, in September, 1831, Inglis applied for and was granted 1,280 acres south-west of "The Oaks", Picton, where he built a substantial residence which he called "Craigend". It was this place which, on June 8th, 1840, was "stuck up" by bush rangers. Though Darling was still assigned to Inglis as late as December,1837, it is not certain if he was still in Sydney or had been transferred to "Craigend". If he had moved he may well have met another Berkshire man, James Burgess, who, as constable, is reported to have had some success in his efforts to arrest bushrangers in the Picton area.
Darling was one of the few "Swing" men to have committed serious crimes while serving their term in the colony, being sentenced to "twelve months in the chain gang for attempted rape.". It is understandable, therefore, that, when the Government was eventually persuaded to issue pardons to the "Swing" men, he was one of only six whose records were considered such that they were deemed "unworthy of indulgence". Nevertheless, in February,
1845, he was eventually awarded a "Conditional" Pardon, which meant that, though he was free to move about the colony, he could not return to England even if he wished to.
In 1831 and 1837 JASON GREENWAY, of Welford, was working for James Underwood, Sydney's first distiller, whose distillery was situated in the South Head district of Sydney. Being a carter it would not be too great a stretch of the imagination to picture young Jason in charge of a brewer's dray. His Certificate of Freedom is dated, 30th December,1837, and at first he seems to have put his freedom to good use for the 1843 N.S.W. Directory lists a Jasson(sic) Greenway as of Albert Place, Surry Hills, Sydney, which was between Underwood's distillery and the centre of the town; the 1842/3 Electoral Roll lists him as a householder of the same address. While he worked for James Underwood he is almost certain to have been treated reasonably for Underwood was himself an ex-convict. He was traditionally supposed to have been transported in the First Fleet in 1788, but one authority suggests that it is possible that he arrived in the "Admiral Barrington" in October 1791. Underwood, whose three-storey flat-roofed brick and stone house was one of the top half dozen residences in the whole of Sydney, retired to England in December, 1842. What effect this move had on Greenway is not clear, but his name is omitted from the Electoral Roll of 1843/4. Were it not for an entry in the Sydney Directory of 1844/5, of a Jason Greenway as a quarryman residing in the Paddington district of Sydney, which is not very far from the Surry Hills, it could be surmised that he had returned to England with his old master.
The early pioneering days in Australia were not lacking in women of courage and determination. One of these was Mrs. Janet Templeton, the widow of a Glasgow banker and mother of nine children. In spite of her situation she decided to emigrate. On 27th August,1830, she left Greenock with her large family on the brig "Czar", and landed in Sydney early in February, 1831, just a few months prior to the arrival, of the "Eleanor". She took up residence in Concord, a parish in the hundred of Sydney, and it was to this place that EDWARD HARRIS of Thatcham was assigned. Mrs. Templeton remained in Concord until, in 1835, she purchased land on which she built a house which she called "Roseneath". She lived here until 1842 when she moved to her farm of 2,560 acres near Goulburn. Having obtained an Absolute Pardon in March,1837, Edward Harris would appear to have used his free state to stay near the city rather than to venture into the interior with his erstwhile mistress. The Electoral Lists of 1858-60 include an Edward Harris residing in the Infirmary district.
WILLIAM SIMS of Kintbury, was assigned to A.K.McKenzie, a Scottish banker and landowner who arrived in N.S.W. in December,1822, and eventually acquired an estate of over 5,000 acres in the Bathurst district which he called "Dochairn". In 1837 McKenzie retired to Parramatta. It is reasonable to assume that Sims accompanied him, but, having been granted a Conditional Pardon on the 13th October, then changed masters, for the Convict Muster Roll of December,1837, lists him as working for a Thomas Forster of Hunter's Hill, a parish in the hundred of Parramatta. Dr. Forster was the son-in-law of Gregory Blaxland who was a member of the party which eventually found a way across the Blue Mountains. Sims, a bricklayer, plasterer and slater, was granted an Absolute Pardon in May,1838, but he seems to have preferred to remain in the colony and practise his craft. A Post Office Directory of 1867 lists a William Sims, bricklayer, of Ryde which, at one time, was a "beautiful village" in the parish of Hunter's Hill. A petition, dated May, 1870, requesting the formation of a Municipality of Ryde has the signature of a William Sims attached to it. It is quite possible that this is the Kintbury Sims for he could both read and write, though he would have been 72 years old in 1870.
JOSEPH TUCK was an unemployed groom of Hungerford. During the destruction of Richard Gibbons' iron foundry, in which he played a prominent part, Tuck had purloined an iron bar which he later tried to sell to a local blacksmith. For these and similar offences he was lucky to have the sentence of "death" recorded against his name commuted to seven years transportation. It is possible that the reverend gentleman to whom he was assigned may have brought him to see the error of his ways. The Rev. Charles Dickinson had only recently been appointed as incumbent of the Hunter's Hill parish church at Kissing Point, in the Ryde district of Sydney. He did not hold this position for long because less than a year after Tuck received his Certificate of Freedom, in May, 1838, he died.
The Hammonds called the events of 1830 "The Last Labourers' Revolt", but many artisans (carpenters, wheelwrights and blacksmiths etc.) were involved, and were often among the leaders of the various "congregations".
JOHN ALDRIDGE of Hungerford was one such artisan. It was his sledge- hammer which helped to destroy many of the local threshing machines. For his part in the riots Aldridge was sentenced to seven years transportation. He is the only one of the Berkshire "Swing" men whose 1831 assignment has not been discovered. However, from his Ticket of Leave stub, dated 30th April, 1835, we learn that by this time he was residing in Liverpool which was not many miles beyond the boundary of the hundred of Sydney and on the Great Southern Road to Campbelltown. He was still residing in that district on 18th December, 1839 when he was granted his Certificate of Freedom. Though the librarian of Liverpool Public Library was most helpful no further information concerning Aldridge could be found.
Part 1 - Berkshire:
Part 2: To "Botany Bay"