The Halls

This website is designed, researched and written by Mark Matthews. It may alter with updated information and research as it comes to hand. This section is a work in progress...

This website aims to provide a comprehensive, chronological account of Australian bushranger Ben Hall's calamitous life. Gathered through the accounts of eyewitnesses, former gang members, government documents, as well as the reproduction of historical newspaper and N.S.W. Police Gazette records of Ben Hall and his associates' bushranging activities. (All related articles incorporated into the narrative are coloured.) This section is related to Ben Hall's immediate family.
Ben Hall, the notorious Australian bushranger, was born in May 1837 at Maitland, New South Wales. Ben was the fourth child of Benjamin Hall, a 'Ticket of Freedom' convict, and the fifth child of Eliza Hall nee Somers, a convict who was to achieve her freedom in 1849. The family story of Ben Hall begins with his English father Benjamin Hall and his Irish mother Eliza Somers transported during the foundation period of the penal colony of New South Wales. (Convict transport to NSW was between 1788-1850. Transport to Australia ended in WA in 1867.) Ben Hall's parents were each sentenced to seven years of penal servitude and consequently were transported by ship to NSW for stealing goods exceeding the value of one shilling. Benjamin Hall Sr. was born on 26th May 1805 at Bedminster, Bristol, England. Bristol was established on the southwest coast of England. It straddled the River Avon with direct access to the Severn Estuary and the Bristol Channel, joining the North Atlantic Ocean.
Somerset, England,
Gaol Registers, 1807-1879.
However, by the 1820s, Bristol was a rapidly growing city with a population nearing 20,000. It was the third-largest city in England behind London and Norwich highlighting, her direct access to the West Indies and America's. Bristol had developed robust commerce and trade. Its merchants profited mainly through slavery, sugar and the tobacco industries. Furthermore, Bristol was an important exporter of goods to the new colonies, such as copper, glassware and brassware, and a centre for shipbuilding.
(Ben Hall's Great Grandson, Ben Hall, has stated that Ben was born in February and not May.)
However, amid Bristol’s vibrant trade, the cities' crime rate had progressed to an alarming problem. The surrounding Somerset County communities were not immune from this scourge. The vast majority of the local's employment fell into the service of wealthy aristocracy, merchants, and outlying landholders. Poverty was rife through the vast social divide in and around the township. Education was lax and Petty theft was one of its main dilemmas. During those turbulent times, Benjamin Hall fell foul of the law on numerous occasions charged with robbery and petty theft.
Somerset, England,
Gaol Registers, 1807-1879.
Open in New Tab.
Benjamin's first appearance connected with criminal activities was in 1824. Court records of criminal proceedings reveal that in the first incident, Benjamin was acquitted of robbery in March 1824. Whereby notice of 'No Bill' was registered, this meant that the criminal charges alleged therein against a suspect had not been sufficiently supported by the evidence to warrant his or her criminal prosecution. However, in July 1824, Benjamin Hall was again arrested for robbery and sentenced to five months. Nevertheless, within 12 months of his release, he was back in trouble with the law and arrested for theft in April 1825. Fortunately for Hall, he was riding on his luck and was once more acquitted. However, within two months of Benjamin's last release, Hall was arrested and placed before the court charged with theft. (See Registries right.)
Benjamin Hall arrests September 1823 and 1824 confinement of five months.
Somerset, England, Gaol Registers, 1807-1879. Note employment.
Somerset, England,
Gaol Registers, 1807-1879.
However, this time his actions presented far more severe consequences. For Benjamin, the latest charge would be his last venture in England. The crime appeared in the 'Bristol Mercury and Universal Advertiser', page 3, dated July 14th, 1825; "Benjamin Hall aged 20 years was a member of a gang of 4 thieves who were all charged with stealing two cotton gowns, 3 cotton frocks and a pair of stockings. The other three members where Sarah Jones aged 18, Samuel Frappell 17 and Ellen Weyland 16." All were tried together on July 11th, 1825.
Somerset, England,
Gaol Registers, 1807-1879.
Benjamin Hall and Samuel Frappell were found guilty of theft, whereas Sarah Jones and Ellen Weyland were acquitted. Benjamin Hall was described in 1825 as Height 5ft 6in, sallow complexion, brown hair, grey eyes; distinguishing features; tattoo SJ on the right arm and large scar on the back of left hand and two cuts on head over left ear. (Benjamin's tattoo of SJ is most likely Sarah Jones, undoubtedly his then-girlfriend and is a new addition to his earlier description of 1823. He is described as Stout made. Stout definition; fat and solid-looking, especially around the waist.)
Somerset, England,
Gaol Registers, 1807-1879.
According to the associated criminal records, Benjamin Hall's then employment or trade was of a Skinner or Leather Draper, although where and for whom he worked is unknown. Benjamin had received formal education and could read and write well.
Authors Note: Samuel Frappell had been previously arrested in January 1825 for larceny and was given a two-week prison sentence and whipped.
Hulk 'Ganymede', 1825.
As a consequence of a guilty verdict, Benjamin Hall was sentenced to seven years transportation to New South Wales at the Bristol assize. On removal from the dock, he was transported to the prison hulk 'Ganymede' moored at Woolwich mid-July 1825. Soon after, to the hulk 'Justitia' with mate Samuel Frappell. While incarcerated in 'Justitia', the pair separated. The record of 'UK Prison Hulk Registers and Letter Books 1802-1849' demonstrates that Benjamin Hall, due to 'Bad Conduct' was transferred on the 9th November 1825, to the 'Dromedary' to await transfer to England’s strategic possession, the tropical island of Bermuda, to work on the naval fortifications and the dry-dock then under construction. The dock and fortifications were built by the convict labour force to consolidate its maritime possession.
Prison Hulk Justitia 9th Sept 1825
Departing the 'Justitia', arriving on the supply ship 'Dromedary' on the 12th December 1825, set sail for Bermuda on 28th December 1825, with 100 fellow convicts. Upon arrival in Bermuda, the 'Dromedary' was then employed as a prison hulk. The hypothesis is based on the records of the hulk 'Justitia' and Benjamin's presence on the 'Dromedary' at the time of its departure. These constant relocations have the appearance of representing Hall's bad conduct.
Benjamin Hall, Dromedary 12th December 1825
Authors Note: Dromedary was an East Indiaman that the Navy purchased in 1805. First named Howe, and then renamed Dromedary in 1808. The Dromedary as well sailed to New South Wales carrying Lachlan and Elizabeth Macquarie in 1809. She was converted to a convict ship in 1819, then became a prison hulk in Bermuda in 1825, and was finally broken up there in August 1864.

However, after a short period of confinement in Bermuda, completed the dry-dock. Hall was subsequently returned to England. Hall was then placed on the hulk, 'York', at Gosport, Portsmouth, where again Hall's conduct continued to be assessed as 'bad'. Hall's time in England was drawing to a close as he was next relocated to the convict transport ship 'Midas' moored at Portsmouth and embarked. Furthermore, Samuel Frappell, who was also sentenced to seven years transportation, would avoid Bermuda, imprisoned on the hulk 'Discovery' (the very same ship Captain Cook sailed on his second voyage to the South Seas and was the support vessel on the Third Voyage. The smallest of Cook's Pacific ships) at Deptford. Records indicate that Frappell may have been sent to Tasmania and was alive in 1827, then faded from history. (See Justitia ledger above centre.)
The UK, Prison Hulk Registers and Letter Books
 for Hulk 'York' 1826
Justitia Hulk,
c. 1820's
Benjamin Hall's time on the prison hulks would have been one of the most harrowing experiences of any man or woman. Enduring abysmal conditions. Conditions so horrendous, they are described as follows:

Prisoners arrived at the convict facility with their 'caption papers' (Which stated the offence, the date of conviction and length of sentence). The standards of hygiene were so poor that outbreaks of disease spread quickly. Typhoid and cholera were common, and there was a high death rate amongst the prisoners. The authorities were always keen to keep down the cost of the prisons. They wished to avoid giving prisoners a better life than the poor had outside of the hulks. The quality of the prisoners' food was, therefore kept as low as possible. The monotonous daily meals consisted chiefly of; ox-cheek, either boiled or made into soup, pease pudding (a dish of split peas boiled with onion and carrot and mashed to a pulp) bread or biscuit. The biscuits were often mouldy and green on both sides. On two days a week, the meat was replaced by oatmeal and cheese. Each prisoner had two pints of beer four days a week, and badly filtered water, drawn from the river.
The floating prisons were rated to hold as many as 600 men. The division of the men and women were arranged with 124 disposed on the top deck, 192 on the middle deck, 284 on the lower deck. All effected without crowding. Beneath the lower deck is the hold, a large and mostly unoccupied space were divided into store-rooms, separated by a passage. Conditions varied per Hulk.

The link below gives a description of a Prison Hulk moored on the Thames. Although it was set in 1862, the narrative would still relate to the life on board for Ben Hall's father and his pre-transportation in 1826.
                             A day onboard the Defence Hulk.

The discipline and employment of convicts are briefly detailed;

Onboard each hulk, a book is kept by the Overseer, in which are entered the names of all convicts; and, on the first Sunday of every quarter, they are mustered, and the character of each convict, for the previous three months, is marked against his name, as follows: v.g. very good; g. good; in. indifferent; b. bad; v.b. very bad. The convicts, after they are classed, are kept in separate compartments onboard the ship, and are not allowed to mix with any other class than that to which they belong after the hours of daily labour. 

Note: It would appear that Benjamin Hall's conduct was continually assessed as v. b. - very bad.

Another prisoner to be embarked on the convict transport ship 'Midas' with Benjamin Hall was James Tucker alias Rosenberg, who had been tried at Chelmsford on 6th March 1826 and sentenced to life for the crime of sending a threatening letter. He was admitted to the 'Leviathan' hulk on 6th May 1826. Furthermore, the novel 'Adventures of Ralph Rashleigh, A Penal Exile in Australia' has been attributed to James Tucker. Tucker describes the hulks' life on the Midas in the following excerpts, republished from the 1929 version.  (See Links page for full text) 
'Convicts on their way
to Port Jackson'

(litho) by Richard Caton
"This vessel was an ancient '74 (1774) which, after a gallant career in carrying the flag of England over the wide oceans of the navigable world, had come at last to be used for the humiliating service of housing convicts awaiting transportation over those seas. She was stripped and denuded of all that makes for a ship's vanity. Two masts remained to serve as clothes props, and on her deck stood a landward conceived shed which seemed to deride the shreds of dignity which even a hulk retains. The criminals were marched aboard, and paraded on the quarter-deck of the desecrated old hooker, mustered and received by the captain. Their prison irons were then removed and handed over to the jail authorities, who departed as the convicts were taken to the forecastle. There every man was forced to strip and take a thorough bath, after which each was handed out an outfit consisting of a coarse grey jacket, waistcoat and trousers, a round-crowned, broad-brimmed felt hat, and a pair of heavily nailed shoes. The hulk's barber then got to work shaving and cropping the polls of every mother's son.
A guard marched the laden and fettered prisoners below decks, where they were greeted with roars of ironic welcome from the convicts already incarcerated there. The lower deck was divided up into divisions by means of iron palisading, with lamps hanging at regular intervals, and these divisions were subdivided by wooden partitions into a score or so of apartments, each of which housed from fifteen to twenty convicts..."
However, a convict's misbehavior on-board was dealt with through mild and persuasive means of correction. If that failed, more severe punishments followed. Such as reducing their provisions allowance, confinement in a dark cell with no other food than bread and water for not more than seven days, or moderate whipping, which was not allowed to exceed twenty-four lashes.
In the 'London Morning Post' on 20th September 1826, the Guard for the 'Midas' was reported as the 39th Regiment ordered to embark at Portsmouth. The Guard comprised 30 rank and file of the 39th Regiment of a foot under Lieutenant George Meares Bowen (1803-1889), who was paid £95 to himself and each of his officers who took out convicts for expenses passage and clothes. In most circumstances, ships captains would offer officers a discount on food and wine for the voyage, often at £50. 
Surviving the first 15 months of incarceration and arduous labour, Benjamin Hall embarked on the convict ship 'Midas', 430 tons under Captain James Baigrie, who owned the ship with Surgeon Superintendent James Morice, naval medical officer at Portsmouth on 2nd October 1826. Following her loading of convict cargo of 148 prisoners, including James Tucker. A shipboard regime was established. Two weeks later, orders to sail finally came, and the 'Midas' sailed from Portsmouth for New South Wales, departing on 16th October 1826.
Conditions for Benjamin Hall improved slightly as James Tucker again described life on board the 'Midas' as she sailed out into the English Channel then into the Atlantic Ocean her great sails casting her bow southwards; Extract from 'Adventures of Ralph Rashleigh, A Penal Exile in Australia';
The routine of the ship was arranged so that, during the voyage, the convicts were allowed the liberty of the deck from sunrise until sunset, under an armed guard of three soldiers posted at points of vantage which gave them full surveillance of the tough bunch of derelicts in their charge. A boatswain and six mates were selected by the surgeon-superintendent from among the convicts, and they were made responsible for the cleanliness and orderliness of their fellows. The convicts' food-ration was what was known in the transport service as 'Six upon Four,' six convicts sharing between them the rations normally allowed for four Royal Navy sailors. The food was mainly salt tack, and on alternate days a small portion of wine or lime-juice was issued. Water was the only item of the diet which had to be carefully apportioned: the food, such as it was, was plentiful. In addition to the surgeon's sanitary party selected from the prisoners, there were also chosen another boatswain, two cooks, and other servants, who formed monitors or leaders of the squads of eight into which for purposes of food supplies the convicts were divided.
As night fell on the English Channel, the convicts were ordered below to the sleeping-berths, between decks. These were framed of deal boards, supported by stanchions and quartering’s, and subdivided in compartments, each sleeping six men in very close proximity. These sleeping-berths were framed in rows along each side of the ship, with a double row between them separated by narrow passages, for many of those who were unused to the motion of the ship, as many of them had never been to sea, the vertiginous motion of the vessel caused by the broken sea of the Channel, filled them not only with nausea but with terror. Soon after being shut below, the sea freshened, and at first, there was much confusion among the closely-packed prisoners. Those who were not too terrified to do other than lie in the immobility of fear filled the night with a contrasting chorus of oaths and prayers. Gradually, however, a semblance of quietude came.

Subsequently, after the loss of three lives and 122 days straight at sea, the 'Midas' made a somewhat dramatic arrival on the evening of the 14th February 1827. At the entrance to Port Jackson. Here she nearly collided with the pilot boat. Safely in harbour, the 'Midas'' arrival was reported in the 'The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser', 14th February 1827;
The same evening, the ship Midas, Captain Baigrie, arrived from Portsmouth, whence she sailed the 16th of October, bringing 145 male prisoners, and lost 3 on the passage. Surgeon Superintendent, Dr James Morice, R. N. The guard consists of Lieutenant Bowen and a detachment of the 39th. Passengers, Reverend J. Norman, Mrs Norman, and 3 children; Mr Lisk, Mr James McArthur, Mr Charles McArthur, and Ensigns Bulkeley and Lewis, 40th Regt.
A few days after anchoring in the harbour her human cargo disembarked, a convict muster was held on board by Colonial Secretary Alexander McLeay on the 19th of February 1827. Information regarding newly arrived convicts was contained in the 'Muster of the Indents' this included name, age, education, religion, family, marital status, native place, occupation, offence, date and place of the trial, sentence, previous convictions, physical description and where to whom convicts were to be assigned on landing. Benjamin Hall was landed at Sydney Cove on Thursday morning, 1st March 1827 and marched to Hyde Park Barracks.
Benjamin Hall Indent
Once more, James Tucker recounts the 'Midas' prisoners’ arrival at Sydney Cove;

Arrival the prisoners on board were again mustered preparatory to their going ashore and received each a new suit of clothing, after which they were placed in boats, by divisions, and rowed to a spot of land near Fort Macquarie, where, being landed, they waited until all had arrived and then proceeded through a part of the public promenade known as the Domain, up to the Prisoner's Barracks (Hyde Park), where they were placed in a back yard by themselves, and shortly afterwards again paraded. On their dismissal, a host of the older prisoners insinuated themselves among them for the purpose of bargaining for clothes, trinkets or other property, and many a poor new chum - the distinctive name bestowed upon them by the old hands - was deprived of all his little stock of comforts by the artifices of the others, who appeared to pique themselves in no small degree upon their dexterity with which they could thus pick up (rob) the unwary newcomers. (For the experience of Benjamin's march to Hyde Park barracks, play link below)
Hyde Park Barracks; Painting by Wayne Hagg ©
James Tucker
Authors Note; James Tucker was born on 8 August 1803. The first indisputable reference to James Tucker is in 1826 when at 18, he was charged with sending a threatening letter to a cousin, James Stanford Tucker, of Leytonstone, Essex. Under the name, James Rosenberg Tucker, a clerk, was tried at the Essex Assizes on 3 March 1826, found guilty, and sentenced to transportation for life. He arrived at Sydney on the Midas in conjunction with Benjamin Hall, February 1827 and was assigned the Emu Plains Agricultural Establishment next month. By 1831, Tucker was one of the prisoners attached to the Department of Public Works and in 1832-39 was employed in the Colonial Architect's Office. His ticket-of-leave was recommended by the Sydney bench of magistrates in 1833 and issued on 27 June 1835. Consequently, it was suspended in 1839 after he was convicted of drunkenness. However, in recognition of his efforts during a catastrophic fire at the Royal Hotel on March 1840, he was again recommended for a ticket-of-leave effected on 1st September 1840, allowing Tucker to relocate to Maitland's district. ( it is unknown whether Tucker had contact with Benjamin.) He lost his ticket in 1844 when he was convicted of forgery. Sentenced to work in irons for a year, he was transferred to Port Macquarie's penal settlement, whereby in September 1846, he was employed as a storekeeper to the superintendent. (Ref; Peter Scott, Australian Dictionary of Biography)

A.B. Spark property holding's at Maitland
on Hunter River, 
coloured green. c. 1833.
A.B. Spark's lower
George Street, No.11 premises

which were attached to
The Sydney Arms Hotel.
c. 1828.
Benjamin Hall had the good fortune to spend only a few days incarcerated at Hyde Park barracks. Hall's stated occupation on his convict indent was a Groom. Groom's were much sought after by the colonial pastoralists, a type of jack of all trades. However, Hall's pre-arrival occupation had been recorded as a Skinner/Butcher, an occupation Hall commenced upon receiving his 'Ticket of Freedom'. Benjamin Hall was assigned as a Groom to the employ of Mr Alexander Brodie Spark (Sparke). Spark owned property at Patrick Plains, Hunter Valley, named 'Radfordslea' 2000 acres. As well as 'Radfordslea', Spark owned additional land covering more than six thousand acres on the fertile reaches of the Hunter River 'Fallbrook' 4000 acres as well as a nine-acre grant in Sydney at Woolloomooloo. Evidence demonstrates that Benjamin Hall remained in Sydney at Spark's George Street, Sydney premises and possibly at Spark's other properties situated on the Cooks River. Today the Cooks River flows northwest through to Chullora, then turns southwest before flowing into Botany Bay at Kyeemagh, next to Kingsford Smith airport. Hall was indentured there until arrangements could be made for his transport to the Hunter Region. Expedited through travelling on one of Mr Spark's many coastal traders. However, on the 16th August 1827, while still in Sydney, Benjamin was charged with 'Privately Stealing', or 'Stealing from his Master' and, after nine days incarceration, was acquitted. Shortly after, and whether or not Benjamin was seen as troublesome as depicted earlier on Benjamin's prison records, assessed as 'Very Bad', Benjamin was dispatched to the Hunter Region. (see image below.)
Benjamin Hall Charged with Stealing 1827, Acquitted. Note; George Handcock was hanged in December 1827 for the theft of 40 shillings.
Authors Note: Alexander Brodie Spark was born on 9th August 1792 in Elgin, Scotland. He arrived in Sydney on board the 'Princess Charlotte' in April 1823. He brought with him letters of recommendation and was granted 2000 acres of land. Six convicts were assigned to him as well as an allotment of land in Newcastle. Later he was to increase his holdings in the Hunter region to over 6,000 acres. He also owned a farm at Cooks River. In George Street, Sydney, a store was taken over by Spark and by 1825, he was chartering ships for the coastal trade. He was also an agent for country settlers and later became the Bank of Australia's Managing Director. By the 1840s, A.B. Spark was in financial difficulties and was declared insolvent in 1844. He died at Tempe on 21 October 1856.
Packet Ship on
Hunter River c. 1827.
A. A. McLellan's book 'Benjamin Hall and Family' McLellan surmises Hall’s initial journey was first to Morpeth/Maitland were the small packet boat docked followed by a long walk possibly with other convicts to Sparks' Hunter River property Radfordslea:
There being no road between Sydney and the Hunter Valley, the normal mode of travel was by sailing packets to Newcastle and Green Hills (now Morpeth). These packets were cutters or small schooners. If the wind was favourable they could reach Green Hills in two days from Sydney but if adverse the time was much greater. Being small, if winds were adverse for the trip up the Hunter River to Green Hills, they could be rowed using sweeps. Benjamin and other convicts travelled to Green Hills in one of these packets probably escorted by a soldier. They would have travelled on the deck or in the hold and if it were necessary to row they would have been required to assist.
A.B. Spark c. 1830.
Courtesy NLA
After arrival at Green Hills, Benjamin Hall would have marched a little over an hour to Maitland's barracks. From here, Benjamin Hall would have been provided with directions and rations to cover the next leg of his journey to 'Radfordslea', a distance from Maitland covering some eighteen miles. Radfordslea was a 2000 acre undeveloped property managed by an overseer, situated near Black Creek, near the River Hunter's confluence, and was bounded by that river on the North. On the East, there was an extensive Church Reserve. It is noted that the postal address of Radfordslea was Castle Forbes, the property of the notorious James Mudie, a one-time junior officer in the Marines and a former bankrupt as a result of a shady scheme to sell medallions of Napoleonic hero's.
Unfortunately, Mudie's promised subscriber support for the project saw almost £10,000 lost, forcing Mudie and his partners, a book-selling firm, into Bankruptcy. However, with the right connections, Mudie had endeared through Sir Charles Forbes's sympathy, a benefactor. The Colonial Office enabled Mudie to expedite free passage to New South Wales, including his three daughters and a step-daughter. The medallion affair brought about the nickname 'The Major'. Mudie arrived in NSW in 1822. Mudie developed a reputation for brutal treatment of convicts and became notorious and an embarrassment to the Governor. This was stated regarding one of Mudie's favoured punishments;
The lash was Mudie's God, and he worshipped it as a savage only can worship a thing of evil.
Mudie's peculiarities would see him struck out as a 'Commissioner of the Peace' by Governor Burke in 1836. Mudie's harsh treatment of convicts resulted in a mutiny by some convicts who attempted to murder Mudie's son-in-law John Lanarch, a disciple of Mudie's form of punishment, which resulted in five convicts being hanged, Lanarch survived. Two of the mutineers were hung at 'Castle Forbes'. Anthony Hitchcock, John Poole, the other three James Riley, John Perry, James Ryan, were hung in Sydney, and the last one accused was dispatched to Norfolk Island.
Authors Note: Castle Forbes was owned in partnership by James Mudie and his son-in-law John Larnach. It had become renowned as a place of horror for the convicts and where the two men had under their control as many as 130. Floggings had become an almost daily occurrence under both Mudie's and John Larnach's supervision. Rations were poor and conditions unbearable.  Furthermore, Lanarch's niece Emily would marry one Stanley Hosie, who would fall under Ben Hall's gun in 1863. (See Links page)
Census of 1828. Castle Forbes
was the postal address
for Radfordslea.
Benjamin's age was 23 yrs.
Furthermore, the census of 1828 lists Benjamin Hall as employed by Mr Spark but residing at Castle Forbes. However, it appears that A.B. Spark was a close friend of Mudie's and was known at various times to loan convicts to the notorious Major's property. Nevertheless, Benjamin Hall settled into the work of the assigned servant. An extract from 'Benjamin Hall and Family' by A. A. McLellan describes the typical life of Benjamin Hall and others at Radfordslea:

There were thirteen other assigned servants who under the overseer performed all work necessary for the operation of the property.  All were accommodated in rough huts and provided with food and clothing according to a government ration and supply scale.  Each was responsible for preparing his own rations which, while adequate, were often of poor quality.  Each was required to work from daylight to dark except on Sundays, which was a rest day though if the overseer thought it necessary each could be required to work on that day also.  No payment was made for the work except for work on Sunday which if voluntary was ordinarily paid for by the master. Occasionally also convicts were paid for work done outside their normal duties.

After five years of a seven-year sentence, Hall would have become eligible for a 'Ticket of Freedom' in most cases. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that Benjamin was granted early release from his master Mr Spark. This may be attributed to disciplinary issues that undoubtedly contributed to Benjamin's inability to acquire his 'Ticket of Freedom' early. A situation that must have been a disappointment, as, within weeks of his actual seven-year sentence being completed, Benjamin absconded from his master's service in company with three other convicts and was reported to the authorities. The absconding had Benjamin Hall's name appear in the 'Sydney Herald' dated 25th June 1832; 

THE undermentioned Prisoners having absconded from the Individuals and Employments set against their Names respectively, and some of them being at large with stolen Certificates and Tickets of Leave, all Constables and others are hereby required and commanded to use their utmost exertions in apprehending and lodging them in safe custody. Any person harbouring or employing any of the said Absentees will be prosecuted as the Law directs: Hall Benjamin, Midas. 27, groom, Bristol, 5 feet 6 1/2 inches, grey eyes, dark brown hair, sallow complexion, S J on the right arm, large scar across the back of the left hand and two cuts on head over the left ear, from Mr A. B. Spark's estate, Hunter's River.

NSW Government Gazette
30th June 1832.
However, Benjamin's flight to freedom was brief, and he was soon retaken and returned to Mr Spark's service. In consequence of the short taste of freedom, Hall had savored, it appeared that no punishment was forthcoming for his misdemeanor, nor did it affect Benjamin being granted a 'Ticket of Freedom' on the 25th July 1832. Nevertheless, whether or not Hall had believed that his sentence was complete and therefore left without the proper certificates in place could indicate that it may have just been premature of Benjamin to rejoice in his hard-earned freedom. Moreover, it may have been that Benjamin, who had been in Spark's service for over four years, may have been re-assigned or loaned to the brutal James Mudie's, Castle Forbes, or at least worked there and possibly ran afoul of the severe discipline imposed there and took flight?

The most prized possession in an ex-convict swag was a 'Ticket of Freedom.' It symbolised the start of a new life after years of hardship and was most converted as a pass to travel outside their district with no encumbrances and to at last seek paid employment. History has demonstrated that many enterprising ex-convicts in similar positions as Benjamin Hall became part of the new Australian aristocracy. However, for Benjamin Hall, this was the furthest thought from his mind, for the pass enabled Hall to travel to Sydney and a view that for many men such as Hall was to obtain a wife from the Female Factory at Parramatta. Therefore, by the end of August 1832 and travelling via the old Bulga trail (Putty Road between Singleton and Windsor), Benjamin Hall arrived in the Parramatta District and shortly after achieved employment at Stonequarry, Picton, and here established a relationship with an obstinate and fiery young Irish woman still bonded to the Crown. Eliza Somers.

The future wife of Benjamin Hall, Eliza Somers was born an illegitimate child in Dublin, Ireland, in 1807 to parents Timothy Kelly and Elizabeth Somers. There is no record of marriage for Eliza's parents nor a Birth Certificate; furthermore, there is little record of her early life until Eliza comes to the notice of the 'The Four Courts', Dublin City, charged with larceny at the age of 20. Before this charge, Eliza was possibly fortunate to have escaped the law's notice as Eliza would have been purloining goods whilst living with her sister, Catherine Delany, a widow with one child to make ends meet. Furthermore, in due course, Catherine would be arrested for shoplifting and be subjected to transportation to NSW, onboard the 'Forth II' in company with 120 female convicts arriving in October 1830. During Eliza's criminal activity around Dublin, she used either Kelly or Somers' surname depending upon the circumstances involving seizure by the constabulary.

Note: It should also be noted that in Australia, Eliza would be recorded as Eliza Somers, Eliza Summers, Elizabeth Somers and Elizabeth Sommers.

The Tenements Dublin.
Eliza was raised in Dublin's tenements of the poorest districts, where children were poorly clothed and fed. Schooling was rare. Therefore, Eliza was recorded as illiterate. The children of the slums were often the peddlers of crime as part of the first gangs of the modern world, not unlike Charles Dickens' portrayal of children in 'Oliver Twist, proficient in the art of pick-pocketing, petty thief and shoplifting. In 1798 a census was conducted of Dublin and of the tenements that Eliza was born into by the Reverend William Whitelaw and his assistants during the searing summer of that year to assess Dublin's true population. From the cellar to the loft, every room of these miserable tenements was visited to record the number of inhabitants surviving in the deplorable and overcrowded buildings. The tenements were filled with a degree of filth and putridness that is beyond belief. Reverend Whitelaw recounted his first impression of those who lived and suffered in an environment of human hopelessness;

Into the backyard of each house, frequently not ten feet deep, is flung, from the windows of each apartment, the ordure and other filth of its numerous inhabitants; from whence it is so seldom removed, that I have seen it nearly on a level with the windows of the first floor; and the moisture that, after heavy rains, oozes from this heap, having frequently no sewer to carry it off, runs into the street, by the entry leading to the staircase. When I attempted to take the population of a ruinous house in Josephs Lane, near Castlemarket, I was interrupted in my progress, by an inundation of putrid blood, alive with maggots, which had, from an adjacent slaughter-house, burst the back-door, and filled the hall to the depth of several inches. By the help of a plank, and some stepping stones, which I procured to the purpose (for the inhabitants, without any concern, waded through it), I reached the staircase. It had rained violently, and, from the shattered state of the roof, a torrent of water made its way through every floor, from the garret to the ground. The shallow looks, and filth of the wretches, who crowded round me, indicated their situation, though they seemed insensible to the stench, which I could scarce sustain for a few minutes.

To listen to Whitelaw's commentary click below.
Raised in these surroundings, Eliza faced starvation and disease and contracted smallpox at a young age. Smallpox was believed to have killed an estimated 400,000 Europeans annually during the closing years of the 18th century. Of all those infected, 20-60% - and over 80% of infected children died from the appalling disease. Although suffering, Eliza was fortunate and survived the hideous ailment. The illness would leave her face badly pockmarked (a common result of smallpox due to its blistering skin, leaving scar's on the face). Eliza was illiterate and had no formal trade, and it is unknown if Eliza was ever employed in Dublin?

The Dock.
The law soon caught up with Eliza Somers. After a previous escape from incarceration, Eliza was arrested in 1827 for a second offence, again for stealing, and subsequently sentenced to 12 months gaol at Newgate Prison, Dublin. The conditions were widely reported to be terrible, with overcrowding and mass sewage problems plaguing the prison. Nevertheless, upon Eliza's release, she was soon nabbed for stealing once more and was apprehended in 1829, this time for stealing a 'Handkerchief and Gloves'. As with her future husband Benjamin Hall earlier plight, Eliza's consequences would now be far more serious, and those consequences were being sentenced to transportation for seven years to NSW. Accordingly, shortly after her conviction Eliza was removed from Dublin to Cork 160 miles south. Whilst awaiting transportation, Eliza was interned at Cork City Prison.

Warrants of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland for Eliza Somers 1829
 (The link below takes you inside Cork City Prison, where Eliza was incarcerated before embarkation for NSW.)
Cork Women's
Eliza Somer's incarceration at Cork City Prison, although only held here for a short period before embarkation, would be considered a palace after her previous sentence at Newgate. The standard and quality of life for women at Cork City Prison as described from the Inspector General of Prisons report in 1826:

This New Gaol is at length fully occupied, and I had great satisfaction in seeing the regularity with which all the details had been arranged; the best classification I had met with in any Gaol is established. The prisoners were almost all clothed, and from their demeanour and cleanliness, evinced the care of the Board of Superintendence, the Gaol is erected on a good plan, though not the most modern; providing 110 cells and 13 classes, completely separated, and as soon as employment shall be provided for all those not sentenced to the Tread-mill and schooling more extensively applied to all prisoners. The female department will require much attention as the Matron does not possess all the high qualifications of this important office; however, she is anxious to do her duty. The classes were clean, orderly and at work. She should visit the County Gaol and get instruction from the Matron there, who is qualified in every particular. Machinery for pounding Hemp or other useful labour should be applied to the Tread-mill. The Governor's house and some of the walls are very wet from a defect in the roof and should be attended to, and a pavement channel should be made to convey the running water from the hill. The accommodation this Gaol affords consists of 14 Yards, 18 Day Rooms, 110 Cells, an Infirmary, Chapel and Marshalsea.
Eliza Somers supply of clothing for the voyage was dismal.
Note Mary Henry, who died during the voyage.
Cork Harbour, Eliza's last
Look at Ireland.
Before sailing, embarkation for the long voyage to New South Wales was effected, and Eliza, along with 200 other women from various parts of Ireland, spent a few days becoming accustomed to the routine of the ship of their new home, the 'Asia 1' (5), their quarters for the next four months. The 'Asia 1 (5)' was a former British ship of the line, a 3 masted Barquentine, launched in 1819 of 536 tons. For the voyage to NSW, Thomas Stead was in command. Asia set sail from Cork Harbour on the 10th September 1829 for Port Jackson. As the 'Asia 1' (5) sailed through the heads of Cork harbour, Mr Alexander Nisbett, Naval Surgeon for the voyage maintained a medical journal and records the ordeal faced by the female convicts as they commenced the arduous voyage to Port Jackson;

On leaving Cork for NSW, we encountered a good deal of wet blowing weather, which produced most intense and distressing sea sickness and kept the decks for several days that may be much better imagined than described and it was nothing but the utmost determination that we kept them clean. However, they all got over it easily and remained exceedingly healthy until our long detention between the bouts of the trade winds when a few slight cases of fever occurred.

Women convicts quarters
below decks.
The diseases which prevailed to any extent will be seen on reference to have been fever and dysentery,  few cases of other diseases occurring except what may be expected in such a society. Dysentery was the disease which proved the most severe and which two cases proceeded to a fatal conclusion. The fever proved much more manageable and in general, yielded readily to the means employed. This difference may be attributed partly.

This state of things continued into our leaving the southern tropic where instead of the fine weather mostly found in those latitudes we had gales of wind with rainy weather which confined all the convicts below for a week at one time. Those women who were compelled to be on decks such as cooks and monitors to take their provisions etc. below had to be supplied with blankets, jackets and petticoats. For the sake of cleanliness and ventilation, the convicts were never allowed to be below during the day except when the weather was unfavourable. The prison doors were always opened in the morning, and the upper deck was washed and dried, and every person allowed free access until after breakfast when they were all sent on deck where they remained until dinner. After dinner, they again came on deck and remained until being mustered down below for the night usually half an hour before sunset. Windsails were kept constantly in use down each hatchway. Within the tropics the women were almost constantly on deck, awnings being spread. By means of the work put on board by the recommendation of the ladies committee the minds of the convicts were kept pretty well employed and towards the close of the voyage when this source was expended, the ship was very well found in jute the converting of which into oakum was found to be an excellent employment. 

Listen to Mr Alexander Nisbett's words, Naval Surgeon for the Asia 1 (5) on which Eliza Somers was transported to NSW. Click below.
To the Irish convicts, the prospect of transportation in some cases was viewed as a far better course of life regardless of the hardship to be endured, as opposed to the hardship and hopelessness faced in the slums of Dublin, as observed by a free settler to a new colony, now finding its feet;

The Irish Convicts are more happy and contented with their situation on board ship than the English, although more loth to leave their country even improved as the situation of the great body of them is by thus being removed, numbers telling me that they had never been half so well off in their lives before. They laid particular importance to the fact of having a blanket and bed 'to my own self entirely', which seemed a novelty to them.

The 'Asia 1' (5) sailed through Port Jackson Heads on the 13th of January 1830. After 125 days at sea during the voyage, there were only two lives lost, Rose Maguire from Dysentery and Mary Henry from Erysipelas. The 'Asia 1' (5) dropped anchor at Port Jackson, where another convict died, Mary Burn. As with all arrivals to the penal colony, Eliza was subject to a medical examination, followed by a muster held on board by the Colonial Secretary. Here the information of the 'Muster of the Indents' was checked. Eliza was described as 5 ft 3 in tall, pockmarked of ruddy complexion and freckled, hazel eyes with dark brown hair. A typical Irish lass. Her employment description was 'All Work'. Following their landing, the 197 women, whose arrival brought a large contingent of men to the Cove for a glimpse of this precious commodity in a town where men dominated women by eight to one. Therefore, the prospect of marriage for the vast male population had improved minuscule in the new colony. (The Convict Ships with a number on end represented the number of voyages transporting convicts for that ship, i.e., Eliza II (4), four trips)

Eliza Somers indent 1830.
Eliza Somers, as with all new arrivals, was conveyed to Hyde Park Barracks, from where after 13 days adjusting to her new world, Eliza was assigned as a domestic servant, commencing on the 26th January 1830, to Mr Reuben Chapman, an Ironmonger with premises in lower Pitt St, Sydney. Eliza began employment at the Chapman residence in Harrington St, Sydney. (today's Circular Quay.)

Following Eliza's first week in the new frontier, it was noted in the 'The Sydney Monitor', Wednesday 3rd February 1830, of the conditions in which Eliza had arrived, remembering Eliza's only item of clothing was one gown, the newspaper report is also slightly contradictory of the ship's surgeon's assessment;

On Tuesday week one hundred and ninety-nine women were landed at the Dock Yard from the 'Asia'. Out of this number, eighty were assigned, although the whole had been applied for; so desolate a set of women never landed from any ship. Some of them were even without shoes; how is this? It is at all events a strange contrast to cargoes of this sort: disembarked into the Colony for the last eighteen years, to our, knowledge. Who is to be accountable for rags and shoe-less feet, the Captain, the Doctor, or the Home Government? Male Convicts without exceptions, are landed in the clothing which is provided for them by the Crown; on the other hand, females, while their slops are given to them with due honesty, have been allowed to land in the best clothes they may happen to bring with them: Our attentive authorities will doubtless look into these things if the churn and the cheese press are not too much in exercise to prevent them. 

Reported also in the 'The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser', Saturday 30th January 1830, commented on the quality of the Irish women who had arrived on-board the 'Asia' and the preference of the new town aristocracy in the choice of house servants;

The female prisoners per the Asia, who were landed on Tuesday last, eighty-one were sent off to the Factory; the rest were assigned. It is somewhat strange that, as we are told, had this been an English, and not an Irish ship, the number of applications for women servants would far have exceeded, the supply. But the fact is, people, give a decided preference to English women as house servants.

Eliza as one of the eighty who were assigned was lucky.

On the 1st July 1830, Reuben Chapman was granted a publicans license for the 'Crown and Angel' hotel, Harrington St, situated in Circular Quay, Sydney, where Eliza would carry out her domestic duties. The hotel was near the residence of Mr and Mrs Baxter, who was involved with the 'Australian Subscription Library' in lower Pitt St (to eventually become the start of the Fairfax empire), who had under assignment one Thomas Wade. Thomas Wade was born in 1812 in Dublin and arrived in the Colony under sentence of life to robbery a house. Wade was tried on the 3rd July 1828, as a 16 yr. Old at 'The Four Courts', Dublin City.

The consequences of which Thomas was sentenced to transportation for life to NSW, arriving on the 'Fergusson', which had set sail from Dublin on the 16th November 1828, under the command of John Groves with Surgeon Superintendent Charles Cameron, along with 214 Irish male convicts arriving at Port Jackson on the 26th March 1829, Thomas Wade is described as 5ft 4in tall, ruddy complexion with dark brown hair and blue eyes, aged 17. The 'Fergusson' dropped anchor in Sydney Cove, and a muster was held by Colonial Secretary Alexander McLeay on 28th March 1829. In all the transports of the wretched convicts, the disease was the scourge of their voyages, and with the energies of the ship surgeon's, loss of life was kept to a minimum for what could only be described as the most harrowing of experiences. In the case of Thomas Wade, his convict transport ship fared no different from scores of ships sailing from the United Kingdom to the antipodes suffering from the effects of life-threatening diseases, luckily as reported in this extract of the voyage of Thomas Wade's ship 'Fergusson' Naval Surgeon, Mr. Charles writes of some success about the remedies to combat illness employed by Charles Cameron that saved many lives;

There is given an account of severe scurvy which broke out among the convicts on board the 'Ferguson' transport, on her passage from Ireland to New South Wales, and which threatened to depopulate the crew till fortunately it was checked by a solution of nitrate of potash in a mixture of vinegar and lemon juice. The convicts 216 in number were embarked on the coast of Ireland in 1828 and were then in a low state of health, from deficient nourishment and the depressing passions. Bad weather was experienced on the early part of the voyage, and the convicts suffered greatly from seasickness. Their constitutions were thus still farther debilitated, and before the ship crossed the equator, the hospital was full of scorbutic patients, and many others were confined to bed in a dangerous state. Dysentery, however, was the most prominent feature or form, and affections of the lungs was also very common. Two of the of the men died of the scorbutic dysentery. When they were preparing to bear away for Rio Janeiro in order to procure refreshments for the sick, Mr Cameron tried an old remedy recommended by Patterson many years ago, in his treatise on Scurvy - namely nitre. The common stock of this being soon exhausted, a supply was soon procured from the gun-powder on board. The effects Mr. Cammeron describes as almost miraculous so much so that they abandoned the idea of putting into Rio and pursued their course to New South Wales where the convicts landed in unusual good health..."

Thomas Wade's Indent
As part of her consignment of convicts, the' Fergusson' carried several offenders younger than Thomas Wade, who at 17 was not considered young. Here is a list and ages of the youngest; Hugh Gallagher age 12, Matthew Cannon age 14; Bernard Neil age 14; Samuel Johnstone age 14; Patrick Crowe age 15 and Daniel Mullin age 15.

Thomas Wade was a 'lifer', and the prospect of a pardon of his sentence, would at best, not be granted until well into his debt to society was repaid. The situation put any notion of the ordinary life of marriage and family way beyond the young convict. This is not to say that romance was not achievable, as soon after Eliza Somers had arrived and commenced work for the Chapman's, Eliza made the acquaintance of a younger man for whom a romance blossomed, that man was Thomas Wade three years her junior, Eliza and Thomas may have been known to each other in Dublin from life in the tenements and upon her arrival had re-established their friendship.

When Eliza commenced Domestic Duties with the Chapmans, evidence now points to vicissitude brewing for Eliza and within a short period found herself in trouble with the authorities, when on the 26th April 1830, Eliza was returned to the Parramatta Female Factory for 'Drunkenness' either by the authorities or Mr Chapman, shortly after Eliza was again reprimanded for 'Drunkenness and Outrages Conduct', this time using the Christian name of Elizabeth when caught, once again Eliza was sent to the Parramatta Female Factory this time in 3rd class for one month then again returned to her master. Eliza's duties with the Chapmans tried their patience. On the 2nd of August 1830, after seven months, she was 'Given up by her Master' and sent back to the 'The Female Factory' as a 2nd class defaulter for one month, arriving on the 4th August 1830, the reason for her return was that at this time Eliza had discovered she was with child, fathered by Thomas Wade, on completion of Eliza's confinement of one month, Eliza returned to the Chapman residence for the last time.

Anne Gordan, Matron
of Female Factory,

Contrary to the belief that Reuben Chapman was a magnanimous master, evidence supports that this was not the case, as on the 28th September 1830, Chapman, who was described as a very pugnacious sort of a gentleman, was finally at his wit's end, returned a pregnant Eliza to the Parramatta Female Factory as 'Her Services were no longer Required', the notion that Reuben Chapman supported Eliza and even paid for the medical requirements at the future birth of Eliza's son is short of the truth, on returning Eliza to Parramatta, although this time as a 1st Class inmate, meant that Chapman had relinquished his responsibilities towards Eliza as per the statute, where if servants were returned by a magistrate as in Eliza's case, this alleviated Chapman's financial commitment, as stated here:

Direct it to be notified, that, in future, persons to whom Convicts are assigned or lent, shall be required to defray all expenses attending their return to Government, excepting only in such cases as they shall be committed for Trial, or ordered by one or more Magistrates to be punished for some offence". "Felons convicted in a summary way of disorderly conduct shall be liable, if males, to be kept to labour on the roads or other public works, or be publicly whipped; or, if Females, to be committed to the Penitentiary or third class of the Female Factory, and there kept to hard labour.

Eliza's indiscretion with alcohol and other misdemeanours followed by the pregnancy brought an end to her 'Domestic Duties' in the Chapman household. (By September 1832, Reuben Chapman had moved to Hobart, where he purchased another hotel). Life for female convicts held at the Parramatta Female Factory was sorted by class. There were three types, listed as follows;
Female Factory, 2018.
My Photo.
Ration distribution for Female Convicts and their Children at Parramatta.
1st Class included - Those women employed at the factory or awaiting assignment. Those who were homeless and those who had been returned from assignment without complaint and who were eligible for immediate reassignment. They were employed at spinning and carding and similar occupations.

2nd Class (Probationary) - Those returned from assignment because of bad behaviour and those being promoted from 3rd class or demoted from 1st class. They were employed at the same work as the 1st Class but could not be assigned to private service. Females who became pregnant while in service were included in the 2nd Class.

3rd Class-   These women were kept at hard labour such as breaking stones. They may have been deprived of tea and sugar, may have been placarded or had their heads shaved.'

The above list is of Eliza's misdemeanours,
 which contributed to Eliza's continuous return to Parramatta 
and eventual dismissal from the Chapman's.
Thomas Wade would have become well acquainted with Sydney's township and, as Eliza was finding her way, leaned on Thomas' knowledge. Eliza's lodgings at the Chapmans were a stone's throw from Baxter's residence in lower Pitt St, and the two would have had ample opportunity for liaisons.

Those liaisons bore fruit when on the 24th April 1831, Eliza gave birth to their son, Thomas Wade. The idea that Thomas Wade, a 'Lifer' and assigned to a well-respected family, the Baxter's, could have found it possible to flee from his bondage and disappear without the most severe repercussions is not plausible. History does not supply the emotional attachment that may have existed between the two convicts. There has been some conjecture in the past from different unresearched sources that Thomas Wade was some kind of cad and had left Eliza in the lurch or did a runner on the news of her pregnancy. However, under the circumstances and the law's of the day, it was challenging for two convicts to marry without special permission from the Governor. Therefore the future of the two was doomed from the start.

Fr. John Joseph Thierry
Eliza christened the baby, Thomas Wade, at St Mary's Catholic Church. On the 6th May 1831, conducting the ceremony was Fr John Joseph Thierry, born in County Cork in 1791. Thierry was responsible for attending to the spiritual needs of 10,000 Catholics in Sydney town. (Fr. Thierry died at Balmain 1864.) The christening would also have been accompanied by Thomas Wade as well as Eliza's sister, Catherine Delany, who arrived in the colony with her only child onboard the 'Forth II' under the command of James Robertson with Surgeon Superintendent Joseph Cook, the ship dropped anchor on the 12th October 1830. Catherine was convicted at Dublin of shoplifting and sentenced to seven years. Catherine was assigned on arrival to Mr Bettington, a shipwright who had premises at Cockle Bay. (site of the Darling Harbour complex today).

Warrants of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland for Catherine Delany 1830
Catherine Delany's Indent. Note her sister Eliza Somers. (Summers)
Catherine Delany would marry Mr John Wynn, a 'Ticket of Leave' holder, on 29th June 1836 at Parramatta. Catherine received her 'Certificate of Freedom', on 24th June 1837. Catherine and John Wynn settled at Maitland, where Eliza and Benjamin Hall had commenced residing and where Ben Hall was born in May 1837, most probably at Catherine Wynn's residence. Unfortunately, Eliza's sister Catherine died at Maitland in 1847. By the end of 1831, any contact Eliza may have had with Thomas Wade is not recorded. The travel distance between Parramatta Female Factory and Sydney Cove precluded any chance of meeting. For Thomas Wade, it is recorded that he was granted a 'Ticket of Leave' in May 1841, and then it was superseded when Thomas was granted a 'Conditional Pardon' for his crime from the Governor of NSW Charles Fitzroy, in 1847. His life turned out is unknown, but Thomas was to marry a widow, Bridget Hilton, aged 39 in 1857 at Port Macquarie. Thomas Wade's profession was listed as Sawyer at this time, and there is no known record of his ever seeing his son Thomas in later life. From 1841 or earlier, Wade was residing at Port Macquarie, NSW. However, his death was recorded in 1866 at Walcha, NSW. Interestingly, Walcha via Tamworth to Murrurundai is 90 miles.
Thomas Wade, 16th May 1841.

Thomas Wade, 1st February 1848.

Eliza Somers, now returned to the Female Factory as of 4th October 1830, would see her pregnancy with her future son Thomas in First Class. Eliza gave birth on the 24th of April 1831 to Thomas and continued residing at the Female Factory until another assignment. Eliza's next position was with a Mr William Panton, a free settler who arrived on the 'Andromeda' in 1822. Unfortunately for Eliza and her baby, the Panton's stay would be for less than one year. Still, this assignment was also fortuitous, as while Eliza worked for the Panton's, she commenced in June 1832 with young Thomas by her side. While assigned there, Eliza made the acquaintance of Benjamin Hall recently arrived from the Hunter Valley, employed at Stonquarry at the Panton's/Chisholm estate, established in 1824 as a farmhand. Benjamin Hall now a 'Ticket of Leave' holder, and though an ex-convict, his farming experience would have been many sorts after. Following the Hunter Valley trek, Benjamin Hall obtained a position with Panton, possibly through A.B. Spark's former master. No doubt through business contacts between Sparks and Panton, who were both members of the Agricultural and Horticultural Society at Parramatta and were both hailed from Scotland's same area. It goes without saying that in 1832, as with today, it is not what you know, but who you know for obtaining work; this applied to Benjamin Hall, so a useful reference from A.B. Spark's was a big plus. Benjamin Hall commenced work at Stonequarry in the first days of September 1832. The Panton's were established landowners at Stonequarry, as noted on the list of persons liable to serve as jurors in the District of Liverpool. (See Below)

Panton, Stonequarry, NSW.
Eliza would have worked under Mrs Panton's supervision, also a mother of an infant child at their residence at Stonequarry as a domestic servant. Stonequarry was collectively known in 1820/'30s as the Cowpastures, roughly the area between Camden and Picton. The land the Panton's had acquired was commonly known by the name of the 'Forest of Bumbalo', or 'Bomballowa', at Stonequarry. It would later become the town of Picton, gazetted in 1841. In partnership with Mr James Chisholm, William Panton farmed various produce, such as wheat and barley. The pair also took part in the Colonial Government’s experiment with tobacco growing and speculated in livestock trading and leased out pasture for agistment. The cost of feeding the Panton's convicts was deferred to the King's Stores. (see below)
The King's Stores.

In 1826, Panton commenced an attempt at wine-producing and planted a large vineyard and changed his property to 'Montpellier' after the famous wine-producing district in France. Still, by the end of July 1833, Panton with his partner was in financial difficulties, a situation Panton had also found himself in, in 1831 but was able to trade out of the threatened insolvency. By 1835, Panton's financial disposition had deteriorated. Panton was again faced with and was declared insolvent, relating to the losses incurred through his speculative investments, 'Montpellier' was eventually sold for £1100 in early 1836. After the foundation of Eliza's relationship with Benjamin Hall was established, it was soon consummated and by the end of September 1832, Eliza was pregnant. On the 13th May 1833, a seven month pregnant Eliza appeared in the NSW Government Gazette as an absconder from the Panton's employment. Her absconding may have been a ruse to ensure that as pregnant Eliza could return to the Female Factory in First class and that the Panton's would be exempt from her associated costs due to their financial difficulties, as after absconding, Eliza now seven months pregnant with her second child was arrested but did not face prosecution for the crime nor returned to the Panton's and was returned to the Female Factory where she gave birth to her second child, a girl she named Mary in early July 1833, and where Eliza and the two children would remain for some time with Benjamin visiting Eliza at the Factory as often as possible, as the distance from the Stonequarry district to Parramatta was only 30 miles, a good horse ride for a free man. (William Panton, in March 1836 with his family, left NSW on the Ship 'William' for Scotland. Though his family made landfall in Scotland, William died and was buried at sea off the Ascension Islands on 3 June 1836) 
NSW Government Gazette, May 1833. Eliza absconds from Panton.
Parramatta Female Factory, 1826.
Painting by
Augustus Earle (1793-1838)

Courtesy National Library.
Furthermore, with Eliza's return once more to the Female Factory, a notice appeared in the 'The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser' in May 1832, highlighting the unusual amount of assigned female servants who were, after only short periods on assignment, being returned to the Factory, prompting the management to make the following observation and alteration of the conditions of return whilst also highlighting the benefits of maintaining the convict women inside the assigned household, as well as those no longer under sentence;

ASSIGNED FEMALE SERVANTS-THE COMMITTEE of MANAGEMENT of the FEMALE FACTORY have observed, with great regret, how speedily a portion of the Female Convicts assigned from the ship, on their arrival from Europe, are returned to Government and sent to the Factory at Parramatta. It has fallen within their observation that, in many cases, those persons have been returned for awkwardness or misbehaviour, which would be noticed by a gentle reproof in free servants. The facility with which an assigned servant may be returned to Government has, doubtless, favoured the injurious practice of which the Committee complain. To remedy it, in some measure, the Committee are authorised, by His Excellency the Governor, to require, in future, that all persons receiving Female Servants, on assignment, shall enter into an engagement, under a penalty of forty shillings, to keep them for one month in their service, unless removed therefrom by due course of law. If at the expiration of that period, they shall desire to return their servants, they will be bound if residing in any part of the County of Cumberland to leave a written notice at the office of the Principal Superintendent of Convicts in Sydney and to retain the Servant for fourteen days from the service of that notice. Persons residing without the County of Cumberland will be required to give one month's notice to the Clerk of the Bench of Magistrates nearest their residence.

This time is required to enable the Principal Superintendent of Convicts and Committee to make arrangements for the transfer of the Female to another service without being sent to the Factory. The Committee take this opportunity of asserting their readiness, at all times, to assign any Female in the Factory, not under a Colonial sentence of imprisonment, to persons of good moral character; and if the supply of those Women, whose conduct offers a fair chance of their becoming useful servants, should at any time be unequal to the demand, the Committee would willingly assign those, of whose conduct it would, at the same time, be their duty to make an unfavourable report.

It might happen that virtuous example and regular habits in a private family would operate more powerfully in reclaiming an individual from vice than the most judicious regulations when applied to numbers in a public establishment. For reasons somewhat similar, and from having observed the change which new modes of life, and the accession of new duties, sometimes operate in the character and disposition, the Committee are at all times disposed to favour the marriage of these Women to persons in the circumstances to maintain them honestly.

Parramatta Female Factory,
May 29th, 1832.

Eliza Somers, a mother of two children under the age of two, was housed at the Parramatta Female Factory under Matron Gordan's supervision. After four months and Mary's birth, Eliza was again placed on assignment to a Landlord in Sydney, Mr W.G. Barker, who operated a boarding house known as the 'Dolphin Hotel' in Sydney town. In contrast, with Chapman's and Panton's, Eliza would be employed as a domestic servant. At the commencement of her assignment, Eliza was once more pregnant, falling in August of 1833. By December of 1833, she had had enough of the Barker's and separated from her children and Benjamin. Eliza, as a result, once more absconded, in fact twice, first in December 1833, Eliza was caught and returned to the Barker's but not for long as on the 4th January 1834 and five months pregnant, Eliza absconded again and was reported in the 'Government Gazette' on the 13th January 1834, as with her termination with the Pantons.

Eliza was returned to the Female Factory, here Benjamin stepped in and advocated Eliza's return to the Factory and Benjamin commenced the lengthy process of permission to marry. However, Eliza was not prosecuted by the authorities due to her voluntary return at the time. Benjamin Hall soon departed Stonequarry and moved to Parramatta, where he was residing by their wedding time. Benjamin was very supportive of Eliza and the children and was providing the financial help required for Eliza and the children as well as the firm hand Eliza needed to avoid any further consequences of her behaviour, so much so that on the 16th April 1834, after their application to marry was approved on the 5th April 1834, Benjamin Hall and Eliza Somers were married at Parramatta on the 16th of April 1834, and their marriage was officiated by the Reverend Samuel Marsden with the consent of the Governor, Sir Richard Bourke, what is interesting in the marriage ceremony was the fact that Eliza being Catholic married Benjamin a Protestant in a Protestant church, 'St John's Anglican Church' and was as stated officiated over by the then famous and in some circles infamous Samuel Marsden.

NSW Government Gazette, January 1834, absconding from Barker's.

Application to Marry
Marriage Certificate of Eliza Somers and Benjamin Hall, Benjamin
signed his name whereas Eliza made her mark X. Benjamin is recorded F, as Free
And Eliza, B, as Bonded.
St John's Parramatta
c. 1830's.
It is interesting to note on the marriage certificate that Benjamin Hall states his age as 32, which would see him born in 1802. On the certificate of marriage, Benjamin signed his name whereas Eliza made her mark with an X. Benjamin Hall had left his employment at Picton sometime in 1834, before his marriage and achieved work at Parramatta, most probably with Thomas Simon, who was the witness at their wedding and was an ex-convict arriving on the 'Isabella' in 1818 and was granted 'Ticket of Leave' in 1824.

Thomas Simon, advertisement
The Simon's were goods carriers and operated a Dray in the early 1830s between Parramatta, Windsor, and Sydney. In 1835, Thomas Simon was a publican of the 'Duke of Wellington Hotel' in Church St, Parramatta, not far from the Parramatta Female Factory. The relationship between Thomas Simon and Benjamin Hall, after Benjamin's move to Parramatta from Picton, to be closer to Eliza and the children may have led to work with Simon's carrier business where a good working relationship had formed with the Simon's. This friendship became close enough for Simon's to be included in Hall's wedding party as witness', which indicates Thomas and Mary were 'Best Man' and 'Matron of Honour', after the ceremony, with Eliza eight months pregnant, saw a small celebration of the nuptials for the newly married couple at Simon's home or at the 'Duke of Wellington Hotel'. Based on this employment and with Simon's subsequent purchase of the 'Duke of Wellington Hotel' in 1835, enabled Benjamin to make contacts with the landholders and farmers around the Parramatta-Windsor district who frequented the hotel or had used the Simon's for their transport needs and created Benjamin's opportunity to return to the Hunter Region and familiar country where prospects for an ex-convict were up-and-coming.

Thomas Simon
With Eliza's penchant for absconding from her masters, this waywardness at first must have been a setback for Benjamin Hall's plans to return to the Hunter, as Eliza's ability to achieve her 'Ticket of Leave' was hampered by her actions. Shortly after their wedding, Eliza returned to the Female Factory for her third child's imminent birth, where on the 9th of May 1834, three weeks after their marriage, Eliza gave birth to her third child named William. After four years of servitude, Eliza was eligible for her 'Ticket' but was rejected on behavioural grounds. Maybe Eliza's marriage was a blessing in the eyes of Matron Gordan. Undeterred by the delay in Eliza's release Benjamin was now responsible for Eliza, and soon after William's birth, Eliza departed the Factory with her three children. Benjamin was now the father of two children, Mary and William and Eliza's son Thomas Wade. Benjamin accepted responsibility and developed a close relationship with Thomas in those early years. With Benjamin's move to Parramatta and Benjamin's relationship with Thomas Simon's, a job opportunity arose at Windsor in early 1835, seeing the Hall family return to the Hunter Region.

Government House, Windsor,
built 1796-1800.
Windsor NSW was only 17 miles from Paramatta and was originally called Green Hills and not confused with Green Hills at the Hunter River, where Benjamin had arrived as a convict in 1827, and which in 1834, became the town of Morpeth near Maitland. Windsor was in the early part of the 1800's the favourite retreat of the NSW Governors with a Government House built in-between 1796 and 1800, under John Hunter. Windsor had the reputation as the food basket of Sydney due to the fertile flats of land around the Hawkesbury River and was in the early days of the settlement of NSW, its most important town. As Windsor grew and its assigned convicts completed their sentences, many remained in the district for work. Some of those less fortunate ex-convicts required help in sustaining a living. There was no government support, no housing, no cost of living help. If you could not work to earn, well, that was your problem. (Imagine a $1500 handout in 1835?) Under these circumstances, the more socially compassionate citizens who were well off and more sensitive to the needs of those destitute formed asylums to cater to those in need.

Lachlan Macquarie
c. 1805.
In 1818, many compassionate citizens gathered and created the 'Hawkesbury Benevolent Society' to cater to those in need. As with all charitable organisations, it required funding. The most effective means for that purpose during that period was through agriculture, and the principal method was through the farming of cattle. Lachlan Macquarie, then-Governor granted land to the society in 1819, the following grants of land were for the societies breeding of those cattle, the land grants were; Ten acres at Wilberforce, Five hundred acres at Currency' Creek, and Thirteen acres on the Penrith road, near Windsor, and a herd was acquired which became the society's chief source of income for over forty-five years, other sources of raising funds were through donations, subscriptions, church collections and fines from the Police Offices. The benevolent society generally supplied food and clothing for the destitute. One of the early reports of the institution will be found in the 'Sydney Gazette', of July 8th 1820, and gave a brief summary of business transacted towards aid for the destitute:

The half-yearly meeting of the 'Hawkesbury Benevolent Society' was held at the Court House on July 3, 1820. Present: Wm. Cox, Esq., Rev. John Cross and others, including Robert Fitz, treasurer, and John Howe, the storekeeper. It was reported that eighteen persons had been relieved with such stores as wheat, maize, sugar, rice and salt, and also with cash, fifty-three pounds, fourteen shillings and threepence. Also, that the institution owned sixty head of cows and two calves. A close logged shingled roof dwelling had been erected for the stock-keeper, and twelve, acres of land fenced in with the necessary yards and garden. In 1832-4 this old stock-keeper's house on the Penrith road was used for a poor-house before the old asylum was built in Brabyn street.

Cattle held by the society numbered some one hundred and forty-four head and growing, but the current holdings at Windsor were too small. Therefore, the organisation required more land. Subsequently, the property was to be found on the Liverpool Plains, whereby in 1822, the relocation of stock commenced. John Oxley was the first European to visit the Liverpool Plains while exploring the Macquarie River area in 1818. The Plains were subsequently named after the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the Earl of Liverpool. Agricultural settlement of the Liverpool Plains commenced in the late 1820s. The first draught's of cattle removed to the Liverpool Plains were herded to the district by Thomas Dargin of Windsor. Thomas Dargin years later may have given his surname to Billy Dargin, the future police blacktracker, who hailed from Windsor. The cattle were under Dargin's care until 1827 when John Gaggin took charge and settled with the animals on the new land at Philips Creek (today the town of Quirindi) Liverpool Plains, where they remained. By late 1835, the societies cattle had swelled to over six hundred head. However, the Liverpool Plains enterprise placed the Society at odds with the all-powerful Australian Agricultural Company for Phillips Creek's station losing their tenure there. Therefore this required the existing stock to be relocated to a new cattle run called 'Mooki'. 'Mooki' would be managed by Edward Nowland, who replaced John Gaggin as superintendent of the new cattle station.

John Gaggin
c. 1825
John Gaggin, through Mr Edward Nowland, employed Benjamin Hall to drive more of the societies cattle from the smallholdings at Windsor to the Liverpool Plain, following the most direct route along the Bulga Trail (Putty Rd) to Singleton through Jerrys Plains, Wybong, Manobalai, Kars Springs then onto Breeza a trip of 160 miles where it was reported;

Great herds of fat cattle are daily driving through to take advantage, I presume, of the rise in the market. Perhaps the greater part crosses the Bulga. 

There has been a historical belief that Benjamin Hall obtained work for a Mr Samuel Clift as overseer of Clift's large holding Doona Station situated in the vast area that makes up the Liverpool Plains. The position has long been credited to have been in 1836. However, this is pure speculation regarding the employment relationship between Clift and Hall at Doona. (Also Gazetted as Dono Range 1845.) However, there is no doubt Benjamin Hall knew Samuel Clift and knew him very well. (John Gaggin would become 'Commissioner for Crown Lands' in 1851 as noted;

CROWN LANDS.-His Excellency the Governor has appointed John Gaggin, Esp., of Sydenham, near Singleton, to be a Commissioner of Crown Lands within the boundaries of the Colony, and to act in and for the police districts of Patrick's Plains and Merton and Muswellbrook.) 

Consequently, what has come to light through new research is that Mr Samuel Clift only came into the possession of the Doona run in late 1837. Doona's lease was acquired by Samuel Clift from one Joseph Merrick for £5 and a fat Bullock;

It appeared from the evidence that the plaintiff had purchased the right of the run from a person named Merrick, in the year 1837, for £5 and a fat bullock.

The evidence, therefore, nullifies any possibility that Benjamin took an overseer placement at all with Samuel Clift at Doona and with Edward Hall's birth on the Liverpool Plains in 1836 indicates Hall's working stock for the Benevolent Society. Furthermore, court proceedings in both the 1840s and 1850s involving some trespass cases regarding Samuel Clift surfaced. It is reported that Benjamin Hall was called a witness on behalf of Mr Samuel Clift. It is through those proceeding's which categorically established Clift's procurement of Doona in late 1837. 

During those trespass cases, evidence. 
Samuel Clift.

Private Source.
Supported the fact that Benjamin Hall was indeed at Liverpool Plains in late 1835, but not in the employ of Samuel Clift, but employed in taking cattle for Mr John Gaggin of the 
'Hawkesbury Benevolent Society', evidence shows that during those court proceedings, Benjamin Hall who was a witness on behalf of Samuel Clift stated;

That at a certain time he was brought to court by Merrick for having trespassed on Duono.

Benjamin Hall also gives an account of quarrelling between Eliza and Joseph Merrick, this indicates Eliza's presence on the Liverpool Plains and that the moving of the cattle from Windsor to the Liverpool Plains was effected in late 1835 and that Edward Nowland and his brother, William, (who is credited with finding the Gap in the range north of Murrurundi in 1827, others soon followed his dray tracks which opened a route to the Liverpool Plains, the Gap today is known as 'Nowlands Gap' and is on the New England Highway about 3 miles north of Murrurundi. The pass is approximately 730 meters (2,400 ft) above sea level and is surrounded by the high ground of over 1,200 meters)accompanied by Benjamin, Eliza, and the children in droving the cattle to the societies run at the Liverpool Plains. Benjamin Hall, in his court appearance, goes on to state as deponent that;

The deponent's wife had been quarrelling, and the magistrates had bound her over to keep the peace.

Another witness at the time stated;

During the time of Merrick, Hall also went up with some cattle of Mr Gaggin's, to find a station, and William and Edward Nowland accompanied him to Winda.

It was also stated of Hall's presence at Doona in 1837 that;

Hall went to Duona, stayed there some months, and was taken to court by Merrick for trespass. He went away for want of rations and left the cattle behind him.

The above statements create the hypothesis that Benjamin Hall did not take a position of employment with Samuel Clift before 1837/38, as has been espoused over the years and that in 1835, Benjamin Hall commenced work with the 'Hawkesbury Benevolent Society' of Windsor to remove their cattle from Windsor to the Liverpool Plains under the direction of John Gaggin. It is also revealed during the court proceedings, where it was stated that John Gaggin was present at the Liverpool Plains;

Mr Gaggin, a member of the Society, was at the Mooki in 1836 or 1837 and saw the Society's cattle running between the Mooki river and Warrah. In January that year 1836, the society's cattle were then being removed from Phillips's station to the Mooki.

Furthermore, John Gaggin was a friend of Hall's master A.B. Spark during Hall's convict assignment and held land amounting to 2000 acres adjacent to Spark's Hunter River property.

Spark's, Radfordslea,
John Gaggin property,
and Mudie's,
Castle Forbes. c. 1829.

Courtesy NLA.
The reason for Benjamin's departure was recorded as a 'need for ration's, but at the time the family arrived at the Plains, Eliza was once more with a child. The primitive amenities may have forced the Hall's on to Doona/Breeza runs from Phillips Creek, where some semblance of civilisation existed at the McLaughlan store on Breeza. Wherewith the help of Mrs McLaughlan, Eliza gave birth to her third son Edward in early 1836, as it was stated that;

McLaughlan or his wife was always at Breeza and McLaughlin and his wife kept a store at Breeza from 1830 to 1837. 

Another possible reason for the families move on to Breeza is that the Aboriginal's of the district were troublesome, as stated;

The strong cattle on the Duona run fed as far as the edge of Breeza; a hut was built about half a mile down the dry creek but was subsequently removed to the oak tree, in order that the occupants might be nearer to neighbours, the blacks being then troublesome.

In 1925, the second son and third child of Benjamin and Eliza passed away at Tamworth at the reported age of 9o, he was Edward Hall, and in the obituary recorded of his death it stated;

There passed away at his residence, Bligh street, Tamworth, on Monday, 27th April, Edward Hall, in his 90th year, the immediate cause of death being senile decay. The late 'Ned' Hall was born at Breeza, Liverpool Plains, in the year 1835. 

#-Reference notes and source material can be accessed on the EndNote page except where the book, author or newspaper title are named. Publications referred to can be found on the Links Page. For any research assistance, no charge, contact is on the Home Page under Contact details or Email to For an enhanced view of photographs, click the right mouse button and select 'open in new tab'.


  1. This is a great site and terrific effort at production. As Ben Hall is my great great great grandfather I have found this to be very informative for my family history records. Ben jr is my great great uncle through Edward Hall b 1836. Well done!

  2. I would like to get in touch with descendent of Edward Hall. I'm researching the son's of Edward Hall at the moment. Thanks.

  3. I am a descendant of Edwardd Hall b 1836...I realise there are two years between this first post and my reply... but I can be contacted at cheers

  4. Dear Mark,

    Tremendous work - thank you very much! Fascinating. I believe I am descended from William Hall. Best regards Peter Hall

    1. Dear Peter, I am also a descended from William Hall. I can be contacted on

  5. When was the Hyde Park Barracks painting by Wayne Hagg created?

  6. What an incredible amount of research, time, effort, dedication and most of all - love of history this site demonstrates. Well done!

  7. Wonderful site thank you so much, Mickey Burke was my ancestor, attended the Police and Bushrangers dinner with Edgar Penzig, writing a publication for early Parramatta, Eliza would have been in the second Factory prisoners moved in 1821 there is Augustus Earle Painting c 1826 National Library of Australia. If I can find an email contact I will send it to you.

  8. Hi Mark - I'm interested in the link with Sarah Harpur, mother of poet Charles Harpur and MLA Joseph Jehoshaphat Harpur. She married John Welsh, widower, of Lachlan River, in 1847, but how do we know that this was John Walsh, father of Bridget who married Ben Hall?

    1. Hi Chris, Yes Sarah Harpur was Bridget Hall's stepmother. I have her arrival Documents marriage and death certs.Sarah Chidley, she married Harpur 1814 at Windsor two son's Joseph 1810 and the second Charles in 1813 notice both illegitimate. Sarah married John Walsh in 1847 at Parramatta. If you would like more please send me an email via my link for questions and I will pass on all I have if you wish.

  9. Hi Mark, great site, and appreciate the research and detail you have undertaken. There is enormous detail around Ben Hall, not all consistent. We will be undertaking a short story on this man Ben Hall. With a focus on who was and what was he like, and trying to understand why his life went this way. Would appreciate any comments you may have.

  10. Hi, we have family stories of John Henry Mowle being imprisoned for harbouring Ben Hall. Living in Ebor and married to Hannah (johanna) mcauley:

    William "Billy's" father John Henry was arrested for harbouring a criminal and his son William James “Billy” was arrested for aidding and abetting, both were sentenced to 5 years at Berrima jail. The evidence given supports the fact that Hannah McAuley was in fact Ben Hall’s sister. Two men, Gardiner and Dunn had gone to the home of John and Hannah to deliver a letter to Hannah from her brother Ben Hall. It stated that he was about to leave the country and flee to South America (where Gardiner had come from) as there was no extradition orders with Australia. In later life Billy Mowle always had a story to tell.

    Csn you shed a ny light on this,

    1. Hello Hillary, A quick look at your ancestor highlight that they were indeed dealing in cattle stealing and other nefarious activities in and around Armidale nth NSW. In 1876 they were sent down for that crime. Ben Hall had no sister named Hannah nor sister in law. There is no evidence of any connection to Ben Hall. Gardiner and Dunn etc is completely fictitious and Gardiner was never in Sth America. See my Gardiner page. If you would like too you can contact me direct from the home page per email on website contact. Ben Hall was shot dead in May 1865. Best Mark Matthews.