Westbury Church of England Cemetery
Australia Day – 26 January 2010
My late aunt Joyce Page, a sixth-generation descendant of John Herbert and Hannah Bolton, when talking about the families convict ancestors, would say, “we must be okay as our ancestors were selected to come here by the best judges in England”.
She would say this with some tongue in cheek, but with information since coming to hand, there would appear to be more truth in the statement than she intended or possibly realized.
Just over 163 years ago or on 22 November 1846, another group of relatives and friends were meeting here to pay their last respects to John Herbert as he was being laid to rest. Now we can only speculate on the names of those persons attending, nor do we know the precise location of his grave, while family tradition states his grave is located on the bank beside the southern boundary fence.
The Church records and the newspaper of the time state his age as being 83½ years, but it is more likely that he was four years younger at 79½ Years. Even so his age was well beyond the average life span for males of that time, which was approximately 46 years.
Hannah’s funeral had occurred 45 years earlier on 4 September 1801, now 208 years ago, with her being laid to rest at the Kingston Cemetery on Norfolk Island. With Hannah being just 32 years of age, what a sad day this must have been for her partner John and her five living children, Charlotte (b.1792), James (b.1795), Jemima (b.1797), Elizabeth (b.1799) and Ann (b.1801). An earlier Elizabeth was born and died in 1794.
Hannah had been born at Rowington near Birmingham in 1767 (two years earlier than shown on the plaque). At the stated age of 18 years (actual 20 years), she appeared in the Warwickshire Court together with 18 year old, Elizabeth Richards, jointly charged for burglary at the house of William Field of Birmingham. The local newspaper of the time, the Coventry Mercury, on 13 August 1787 recorded some details of the charge and trial, listing her name as Hannah Bolton, alias Ann Moor. Both Hannah and Elizabeth were found guilty and were sentenced to transportation for seven years.
At the time of Hannah’s court appearance, the settlement of New South Wales was underway, with the First Fleet having sailed three months earlier. With a large imbalance between men and women at New South Wales, Governor Arthur Phillip is soon found pleading for a consignment of female prisoners of child bearing age, in effort to firstly curb the irregularities occurring among the male convicts and secondly to provide children necessary to populate the next generation of Australians.
The prisons of England were scoured for suitable young women and eventually a list of 230 women was drawn up. Of these only 18 were above the age of 40 years. From Warwickshire there were 18 female convicts including Hannah Bolton and Elizabeth Richards.
Eventually 227 convicts, all women, were put on board the transport Lady Juliana and they set sail from the Thames on 4 June 1789, taking a year to reach Australia and which was amongst the slowest of all the convict ship voyages. They were considered very valued cargo and received great care throughout the voyage and enjoyed privileges that few other convicts received during transfer aboard ship.
The Lady Juliana arrived at Sydney Cove on 2 June 1790 and two months later on 1 August a number of these young women were embarked on the Surprise as part of a group of 194 convicts for transfer to Norfolk Island. There she was destined to spend the rest of her life. Elizabeth Richards was included in the same transfer.
On the Island Hannah formed a relationship with John Herbert and bore six children, with John believed to be the father of all the children.
Hannah died when the youngest, Ann, was just 3½ months old and was buried on the 4th. September 1801, under the name of Ann Moor. Baby Ann was taken into Governor Foveaux’s house by his partner where Hannah had been employed as a maid at Government House. Ann was subsequently taken to England when the Foveauxs’ returned there.
Hannah in her short life of 34 years certainly fulfilled the roll that the Government planned an expected of her and produced six children. Descendants now extend into the thousands and reach to the tenth generation born in Australia. Several of these have become prominent including Rex Garwood who in 1988 was the first inductee in the Tasmanian Sportsmen’s Hall of Fame.
And so here today with warmth and respect, we her descendants honour her.
But what of John Herbert who arrived aboard the Scarborough with the First Fleet in January 1788? He had been convicted for stealing a silk handkerchief worth one shilling and sentenced to transportation for seven years. By arrival he was near 21 years of age and had spent the previous four years aboard prison ships, firstly three years on the Censor, a prison hulk moored on the Thames, where conditions were horrendous and brutal, and far from pleasant and then a further year aboard the Scarborough where he was mostly held in a damp and foul cell below deck.
John not only witnessed the beginnings of modern Australia but was part of it and for two years was at Sydney Cove experiencing the many challenges and trials of the time.
John then became part of the build up on Norfolk Island which again meant a new beginning. On 6 March 1790, he set sail aboard HMS Sirius as part of a contingent of 186 convicts, and with marines and crew totalled 221 persons, with destination being Norfolk Island.
John would remain on the Island for 23 years until he and two of his children, James and Elizabeth, were evacuated to Van Diemen’s Land in 1813. While on the Island he gained his freedom, and with Hannah Bolton established a family, built a home, was granted land on which he raised crops and ran sheep and pigs, and was appointed a constable. John therefore presents a picture of being hard-working, industrious and reliable.
Little wonder that he was given a Class 1 classification on being readied for transfer from Norfolk Island. Class 1 was ascribed to those persons who were Old Servants of Government, that is an emancipated convict, and one who had proved himself to be “industrious and deserving of favour”.
John and two of his children, James and Elizabeth, left Norfolk Island on 18 February 1813 aboard the Minstrel and arrived at Port Dalrymple on 4 March, and by wagon were soon located to Norfolk Plains, now known as Longford, Tasmania.
At Longford the family prospered and grew and later spread throughout Tasmania and beyond. Two land grants were received, John 50 acres and James 60 acres and which adjoined. With John having a Class 1 classification, this entitled him and his family to other Government benefits, axes, shovels, nails and hoes and to be victualled and clothed for two years. Further, he was allowed the labour of four convicts for the first nine months and two for fifteen months longer and these also to be victualled and clothed.
It is likely that John took full advantage of the arrangement and within a year or two of arrival had built his home, which still stands, although now renovated and added to, as well as developing his farming enterprise. The property is known as “Rocky Hill”.
The historian, Isabella Mead, in her 1964 article about the original Norfolk Island settlers, said the Saltmarsh grant had just been sold, leaving she believed the Herberts as “the only descendants of the original Norfolk Islanders” still to own their property, 153 years after its occupation.
After 21 years in England or aboard ship, two years in Sydney, 23 years on Norfolk Island and 33 years in Van Diemen’s Land, John Herbert died at the Hope Inn, Westbury.
His life had been one of a convict, a constable, a successful farmer and a family man, and though having endured many trials and hardships, had triumphed and made a success of life. So today as his descendants we honour, salute and respect him, as we also honour, salute and respect Hannah his partner.
Yes, my Aunt Joyce’s claim that we must be okay as we descend from good stock, selected by the best judges in England, has a ring of truth about it.
by Ivan Badcock – 16 June 2021
Really fascinating. However, suggest you please check the year of birth of Hannah.
Good spotting, Mary. Have corrected the century from 1867 to 1767.
an absolutely brilliant article . as i was reading it , it ran completely parallel to my family . william clayton and sarah sunderland , my ggggggradparents were there at the same time . also they were on the same ship to norfolk plains , longford.they had one son HENRY CLAYTON .,who eventually had 14 children too 2 women – many came to new zealand – regards john anstis