BEYOND THE BLUE MOUNTAINS
In the year following the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 a Captain Tench reached the foothills of the Blue Mountains, but it took twenty-four years before an expedition succeeded in finding a way over this formidable barrier. It was not until the 29th of May, 1813, that Gregory Blaxland, William Charles Wentworth and Lieutenant Lawson, from a vantage point on Mount York, saw the mighty Kamimbla valley below them.
Laid out by Surveyor-General George Evans and built under the direction of a Devizes man, Captain William Cox, the first road over these mountains has been described as one of the most remarkable engineering feats in the history of Australia. Cox selected thirty convicts,"well inclined hardy men", and with a guard of eight soldiers began the road at Emu Plains on 18th July,1814. By early November the working party had reached the summit of Mount York, a distance of 47 miles. Within six months of starting the construction the road to Bathurst had been completed, a total distance of 101 miles.
It was to the captain's son Henry that THOMAS HICKS, the leader of the Aldermaston labourers, and sentenced to 14 years, was assigned. Henry Cox's main estate was "Glenmore", Mulgoa, near Penrith, and it was to this place that Hicks was sent in 1831. An 1837 map of Bathurst shows several substantial plots of land owned by Henry Cox and his father. From the Convict Muster Rolls of December,1837, it would appear that by this time Hicks had been moved to one of these properties. Soon after, on 8th May,1838, Hicks was granted an Absolute Pardon which meant that he was free to move anywhere including returning to England if he wished and had the fare. It would seem, however, that he had decided to settle down in the colony for Mr.Arthur Street, of the Nepean Family History Society, has discovered that Hicks married a local girl, Agnes Weavers. Though the date of this marriage was not given it must have been after 1833 because his wife, Hannah, was still alive in March of that year.
The main route across the Blue Mountains was via Springwood, Katoomba and Mount Victoria. An alternative traversed the northern part of the range via Mount Tomah. A farm of 2,560 acres near Mount Tomah was worked by
G.M. Bowen,J.P., to whom THOMAS HANSON, a top sawyer of the Yattendon district of Berkshire was assigned. Bowen would have proved to be a just but firm master. He was a man of commanding appearance, highly intelligent, morally upright and deeply religious in an unorthodox way. In the 1830s he publicly repudiated orthodox Christianity, a stand which, considering the time and the place, points to independence of mind and much courage. Bowen confessed to his own "egotism and arrogance", and even when extending an olive branch tended to hold it like a club! On 13th October, 1837, Thomas Hanson was awarded a Conditional Pardon, otherwise little is known about him.
The other "most desperate" character against whom the chairman of the Van Diemen's Land Company warned the company's agents was WILLIAM OAKLEY. On his arrival in New South Wales Oakley was assigned to one of the well- known families of the Bathurst district, the Rankens. In 1822 George Ranken had obtained a grant of 2,000 acres in the Jedburgh district of Bathurst which he called "Kelloshiel". In the 1830s he enlarged his estate by buying "Saltram", and, by 1836, he held nearly 6,000 acres in and around Bathurst. In 1837, with the help of a government subsidy, he chartered the "Minerva" in order to import a number of agricultural labourers and mechanics. Oakley, who was a skilled wheelwright, would have been very useful to his master, and it is evident that he was still serving the Rankens in December, 1837. He must have behaved himself in their service because, on 8th May,1838, he was granted an Absolute Pardon, which meant that when George Ranken retired to England he could have accompanied him. He did not do so for, according to Mr. Arthur Street of Penrith,N.S.W., he "died 1846, aged 40.".
THOMAS RADBOURN had used much threatening language during the riots. If he had behaved like this in Bathurst he would have found himself in serious trouble for, unlike most of the Berkshire men who seem to have been fortunate in their masters, he was not so lucky, being assigned to the Resident Magistrate of the Bathurst District, Thomas Evernden. who was given to having convicts flogged for the slightest offence. A young convict named Entwhistle, against whom there was no bad mark and who was due for his "ticket of leave", was bathing near the ford of the River Macquarie when Governor Darling and his party, which included ladies, passed by. Entwhistle was haled before the magistrate, who was Thomas Radbourn's master, Thomas Evernden, sentenced to a flogging and had his ticket of leave cancelled. All this in spite of the fact that not one of the ladies of the governor's party had observed the incident. The outcome of this act of injustice was that Entwhistle turned bush ranger and was involved in a series of raids and killings. No doubt Radbourn, who obtained his own Ticket of Leave on 31st March,1835, took advantage of it to find some other more humanitarian master, though a note on his Certificate of Freedom, dated 7th August,1839, indicates that he was still in the Bathurst district at this time.
GEORGE WILLIAMS , alias "Staffordshire Jack", a farm labourer of the Thatcham district of Berkshire, was assigned to William Lee of Bathurst. Lee had an interesting history. He was the child of a convict named Sarah Smith who was described as the wife of William Pantoney, also a convict.In 1818, under the name of Lee, and recommended by the road engineer, William Cox, as a suitable person, he was one of the first to obtain a grant of 134 acres of land at Kelso. Williams was still in Lee's employ in December,1837,and in May,1838, he was awarded an Absolute Pardon. The 1881/2 N.S.W. Directory lists a George Williams as of Piper Street, Bathurst.
The "captain" of the West Woodhay rioters, CORNELIUS BENNETT , was not arrested without a great deal of effort on the part of a farmer,Thomas Ward, whose machine he had helped to destroy. On his arrival in N.S.W.he was assigned to a Bathurst J.P., W.A.Steele, but a Ticket of Leave, dated 28th February, 1835, was signed by a magistrate of the Brisbane Water bench, and gave him permission "to reside in the district of Brisbane Water.". A Muster of Convicts shows that he was still in this area in December,1837. Six years later, on 7th February,1843, he obtained his Certificate of Freedom. The 1867 N.S.W. Post Office Directory lists a Bennett, labourer, of Jones's Island, not very far from Brisbane Water.
Part 1 - Berkshire:
Part 2: To "Botany Bay"