Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Towrang Stockade

The Towrang Convict Stockade was the chief convict camp in the southern district of the New South Wales Colony from about 1833 to 1843. The Stockade site is located next to the Hume Highway, twelve kilometres north of Goulburn, New South Wales.

The convicts housed here were engaged in the construction of the Great South Road from Sydney to Goulburn under the Surveyor General, Sit Thomas Mitchell.

At all times there were approximatey two hundred and fifty convicts at Towrang. Harsh discipline was imposed. Convicts slept on bare boards with a blanket each and ten men to a cell.

We visited the site of the Stockade on a trip to Canberra earlier this year.

On the southern side of the Highway, near the Rest Area, we found the Towrang Bridge and six stone culverts which have not been affected by modern day roadworks to the main highway.

The keystone of the Towrang Bridge reads 1839. Many consider the bridge was designed by David Lennox, who was responsible for Prospect Bridge and the Lapstone Bridge in the Blue Mountains.

On the northern side of the highway is the actual site of the Stockade. This is truly fascinating to explore although it involved a trek through some very grass.

The remains here include:

1) Powder Magazine situated on the bank of the Wollondilly River. It is thought that the Magazine was used to store the blasting powder used on the road construction.

Rubble Heaps of the Stockade Buildings. The soldier’s quarters and convict huts were of wood and stone construction. The Stockade buildings were laid out in the form of a hollow square on a ridge running down to the Powder Magazine. Another row of huts was located closer to the river where there still remain a row of heaps of rubble. Another row of huts was located on the upper side of the main quadrangle.

Weir built for the stockade.

Cemetery. Only three headstones remain in the cemetery across Towrang Creek from the Stockade, where both soldiers and convicts were buried. The inscription on one headstone reads:

'Sacred to the Memory of John Moxey, Private Soldier 80th who departed this life 16 November 1838, aged 38 years, 22 years service. Remember me as you pass by as you are now so once was I, as I am now so you must be, prepare for death follow me. This stone was erected by his comrades as a token of respect towards a good and deserving soldier’.

Another headstone is to the memory of Elizabeth Weiticker, died June 9
th, 1841, aged 33 years and the third is to Mary Brown, died 25th June, 1841, aged 4 years and 1 month.

A sign at the Cemetery site states that the following three persons may be also buried here:

"James Fielder – By the Guildford buried 17 February 1839, and

Monks – By the Lancashire, buried 15 February 1839, who were killed by blast exploding.

John Feagon [Fagan] – By the Minerva, buried 27 August 1840.

Other convicts are recorded as dying at the Convict hospital, Goulburn and by drowning (probably here in the Wollondilly River)."

James Fielder and John Fagan were both convicts.

History Services NSW
has records on 32 convicts assigned to the Towrang (Tourang) Stockade.

The record for
James Fielder (per Guildford 1824), coachman from Sussex England, reads:

  • on arrival assigned to John Brabyn Esq;
  • 1825 - government servant with Andrew Johnston, Wilberforce;
  • 1828 - at Moreton Bay (3 year sentence);
  • 1832 - absconded from Hyde Park Barracks - apprehended;
  • 1833 - absconded from Parramatta Barracks since 16/6/1833;
  • 1837 - with William Coghill, Berrima , aged 39 years;
  • 1837 - absconded from W Coghill Bong Bong since 20/4/1837;
  • 1837 - absconded from W Coghill, New Wick, Newcastle since 4/9/1837 - apprehended;
  • 1839 - died at Tourang Stockade on 17 /12/1839.
If you are researching a convict ancestor who was assigned to the Towrang Stockade you should go to our website at:

The Convict Heritage of Oxford Street Epping

Oxford Street Epping circa early 1900's (a painting by Joyce Armstrong)

Oxford Street today

On Thursday, 21 October 2010, Hornsby Council Mayor Nick Berman officially opened the $3.5 million refurbishment of Oxford Street, Epping, New South Wales.

This new look street adds another layer to the history of Oxford Street, Epping. But its beginnings as the site of a convict sawpit should not be forgotten. I have suggested to Hornsby Council that a plaque be erected to this effect.

Because of a growing demand for timber for export and for an ambitious building program in the Colony, Governor Lachlan Macquarie set up a government sawmill, the Pennant Hills Timbergetting Establishment in 1816. It was originally on the site of the ridge around the present Hull Road at Pennant Hills. In 1819 it was enlarged with addition of a new site along a ridge a little further to the south on the present Oxford Street, Epping.

The sawpit was on the western side of Oxford Street (site today of the Catholic Church and
adjacent shops) as it sloped down to Devlin's Creek. The camp site for the convicts being on the opposite side where the Epping Methodist church was subsequently built in 1905 over the site of the former convict kitchen.

By 1825, the area was called "Barren Ridges" or "Barren Hills" because much of the timber had been cleared leaving an eroding landscape and siltration problems down Devlin's and Terry's Creeks.

History Services NSW has records of 60 convicts who were attached to Barren Hills.

For example, William Organ (per Daphne 1819) who came from Waterford, Ireland and who was a "Wheewright and Sawyer" is recorded in 1825 as being in "Government employment at Barren Hills". He was later assigned to the Rev John Joseph Therry, Roman Catholic Chaplain.

If you are researching a convict ancestor who was assigned to Barren Hills, you should go to our website at:

As part of the Macquarie 2010 Bicentenary Commemorations, the launch of "No Longer Barren" - a history of the Barren Ridges Convict Establishment and the Epping (Oxford Street) Methodist and Uniting Church 1820-2010, will be held on Saturday 27 November 2010 between 3pm-5pm in the worship centre at the rear of the Oxford Street Church. This will be hosted by Dr. Ian Jack, President, Royal Australian Historical Society.

This should be an interesting contribution to the history of Oxford Street, Epping.

If you are in interested in early Australian History or are researching a convict ancestor go to our website at:

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Plymouth - The Australian Connection

On our recent visit to the United Kingdom we were interested in finding any references to Australian history, in particular to the convicts that were transported to our shores.

Although we passed through many places that were familiar to us as to where our convicts ancestors came from, it was not until we got to Plymouth that we found some memorial plaques on the Barbican that celebrated the Australian connection.

The Tolpuddle Martyrs

The Tolpuddle Martyrs were six convicts (James Hammett, James Brine, brothers George and James Loveless and father and son Thomas and John Standfield) from the village of Tolpuddle in Dorset, who were transported to Australia on the Surrey in 1834.

They were sentenced for unlawfully administering oaths of loyalty to the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers. This Society had been established to fight the continuing reduction in wages and was the beginning of trade unionism in England.

History Services NSW holds records on these six convicts.

They were later pardoned and four of the group returned to England embarking at Plymouth in 1838. The above plaque next to the Mayflower Steps at Plymouth commemorates this.

The First Fleet Ships

Another marble plaque commemorates the loading of convicts onto the transport ships,
Friendship and Charlotte at Plymouth in March 1787. These two ships then left to join
the rest of the First Fleet at Portsmouth from where they set sail to Australia on 13 May 1787.

Unveiled on 13 March 1987, it reads as above:

Another memorial on the Barbican is one to:

"Plymouth Men who Helped to found Modern Australia" including John Macarthur and William Bligh.