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...

The Hall family's story is a tale of survival and resilience in the face of adversity, beginning with their crimes in England and Ireland and their subsequent transportation to the penal colony of New South Wales. Benjamin Hall Sr., the father of the notorious Australian bushranger Ben Hall, was a 'Ticket of Freedom' convict born in Bristol, England. He was transported to New South Wales for stealing goods exceeding the value of one shilling. His life in England was marked by criminal activities, including robbery and petty theft, eventually leading to his transportation.
Eliza Somers, Ben Hall's Irish mother, shared a similar fate. She, too, was transported to New South Wales for theft. The couple's life in the penal colony was far from their criminal past in their home countries. They had their fourth child, Ben Hall, in May 1837 in Maitland, New South Wales. Ben Hall later gained notoriety as an Australian bushranger, his life marked by a series of bushranging activities meticulously documented in historical records.
The Hall family's journey from their criminal past in England and Ireland to their new beginnings in New South Wales is a testament to their resilience. Despite the harsh conditions of the penal colony, they managed to carve out a life for themselves and their children. Their story is a significant part of Australia's convict history, shedding light on the lives of those who were transported to the penal colonies and their subsequent contributions to the development of Australian society.
Ben Hall, the notorious Australian bushranger, was born in May 1837 at Maitland, New South Wales (NSW). 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 to NSW for stealing goods exceeding the value of one shilling. Benjamin Hall Sr. was Christened on 26th May 1805 at Bedminster, Bristol, England.
Somerset, England,
Gaol Registers, 1807-1879.
Nestled along the southwest coast of England, the city of Bristol commanded a strategic position on the River Avon, linking it seamlessly to the Severn Estuary and beyond to the vast expanse of the North Atlantic Ocean. By the time the 1820s dawned, Bristol had burgeoned into a bustling urban centre, its population swelling to nearly 20,000 souls. This surge positioned it as England's third-largest city, trailing only behind the sprawling metropolis of London and the historic city of Norwich.
Bristol's fortuitous location was a catalyst for its emergence as a hub of commerce and trade. The city forged robust commercial links with the West Indies and America, its prosperity significantly buoyed by the grim and lucrative transatlantic slave trade. Ships set sail from Bristol's docks, braving ocean voyages to return heavy with sought-after commodities like sugar and tobacco.
The city's economic tapestry was further enriched by its exportation of manufactured goods, including copper, glassware, and brassware, all eagerly sought after in the burgeoning colonies. Bristol's shipbuilding industry, in particular, flourished its docks a hive of activity and innovation, crafting vessels that would ply the world's oceans.
Yet, beneath the veneer of commercial triumph, Bristol grappled with societal challenges. The city's success was shadowed by a rising tide of crime, a scourge that afflicted not only Bristol itself but also cast a pall over the neighbouring communities within Somerset County. This spike in unlawful activities was a blemish on the city's reputation, a stark contrast to its economic achievements, and a harbinger of the complex social dynamics that would characterise the era.
Somerset, England,
Gaol Registers, 1807-1879.

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Benjamin Hall's trajectory into a life shadowed by criminality was marked early on. Court documents from 1824 chronicle his initial entanglement with the law, which concluded with an acquittal on robbery charges in March of that year. The legal notation 'No Bill' was inscribed in the records, signifying that the evidence against him was insufficient to warrant a trial, granting him a temporary reprieve from the grasp of the judicial system.

This period of freedom was fleeting, however. By July of the same year, Benjamin was once again ensnared in the legal net, this time resulting in a five-month incarceration for another robbery. This stint behind bars did little to deter him from the crooked path he had begun to tread.

In April 1825, not long after his release, Benjamin was again in the clutches of the law, accused of theft. Fortune seemed to favor him once more, as he was acquitted of these charges, narrowly escaping further punishment. But the respite was brief; within two months, he was back in the familiar confines of a police cell, facing yet another theft charge. This pattern of repeated arrests and court appearances painted a grim picture of Benjamin Hall's life, one marred by persistent criminal endeavours. (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.
Benjamin's criminal exploits reached a critical juncture with an incident that forever changed his fate. It was a crime significant enough to be featured in the 'Bristol Mercury and Universal Advertiser', in a report dated July 14th, 1825. The account indicated that a twenty-year-old Benjamin Hall, alongside three other accomplices — eighteen-year-old Sarah Jones, seventeen-year-old Samuel Frappell, and sixteen-year-old Ellen Weyland — had been apprehended. The quartet was charged with the theft of two cotton gowns, three cotton frocks, and a pair of stockings, belongings of Mr James Bluford.

However, the gravity of their offence went beyond simple theft — they were accused of housebreaking, a serious criminal act that carried much heavier penalties. Their collective trial took place on July 11th, 1825. For Benjamin, this event marked the end of his criminal ventures on English soil, as the repercussions of the case bore far-reaching implications.

Somerset, England,
Gaol Registers, 1807-1879.

Upon the conclusion of the trial, Benjamin Hall and Samuel Frappell were found guilty of their theft charges, while Sarah Jones and Ellen Weyland were absolved of their crimes. In the official documents of 1825, Hall's physical appearance was detailed for record: standing at 5 feet 6 inches tall, he had a sallow complexion, brown hair, and grey eyes. Notably, he had distinguishing features such as a tattoo 'SJ' on his right arm — likely a tribute to Sarah Jones, who was presumably his girlfriend at the time — and a prominent scar on the back of his left hand. Furthermore, there were two visible cut marks on his head, specifically over his left ear.

This description marked a noticeable departure from his earlier portrayal in 1823, where he was simply referred to as "stout made," an indication of his solid and somewhat rotund stature, particularly around the waist. Benjamin's evolution, both in terms of his physical appearance and his legal transgressions, marked a significant turning point in his life. The tattoo and scars spoke to personal relationships and experiences, while the guilty verdict set him on an irreversible path.

Somerset, England,
Gaol Registers, 1807-1879.
As indicated in the criminal records of the time, Benjamin Hall was employed as a skinner or a leather draper. The specifics of his employment — such as his place of work or his employer — remain unknown. What is clear, however, is that Hall was not a simple labourer; his ability to read and write well suggests that he had received a formal education. This background implies a certain degree of intelligence and an understanding of the world beyond manual labour, which makes his descent into criminality even more poignant. The promise of a man skilled in a trade and well-read, marred by the choices that would forever define his life.
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.

Following a guilty verdict, Benjamin Hall was sentenced to seven years of transportation to New South Wales. This was a consequence of the times — a solution implemented by the British government to address the country's growing crime epidemic. England's crime problem had become so severe that Captain Cook's discovery of New Holland in 1770 was repurposed as a penal colony. Joseph Banks, an officer on Cook's voyage, had initially intended to colonise the land as a safe haven for British Loyalist following the war of independence in America, but as crime increased, the land became a place to send convicts, many of whom had been convicted of minor offenses.

Benjamin Hall's life was dramatically altered by this sentence. Upon his sentencing, he was first taken to the prison hulk 'Ganymede', moored at Woolwich in July 1825. Soon after, he was transferred to another hulk, the 'Justitia', alongside his mate Samuel Frappell. However, the pair didn't remain together for long — due to his 'bad conduct', Hall was moved to the 'Dromedary' on November 9, 1825. From there, evidence points to his being sent to Bermuda to work on naval fortifications and a dry dock then under construction.

In Bermuda, Hall's sentence took on a new dimension. The dock and fortifications were integral to England's maritime operations, and they were largely constructed by convicts like Hall. It was a harsh life — thousands of miles away from home, serving out a sentence that, for many, felt like an eternity. For Benjamin Hall, this was just the beginning of his life as a convict, a life that would later become intertwined with the story of a young, burgeoning nation on the other side of the world.

Prison Hulk Justitia 9th Sept 1825

Departing the 'Justitia', Benjamin Hall found himself bound for Bermuda on the supply ship 'Dromedary' on December 12, 1825. Records indicate that just a few weeks later, on December 28th, the ship embarked carrying Hall and 100 other convicts. Upon reaching Bermuda, the 'Dromedary' was repurposed as a prison hulk.

Benjamin Hall's presence on the 'Dromedary' and its subsequent voyage aligns with the record of his behavior from the 'Justitia', implying that his frequent relocations were a consequence of his bad conduct. This period in Hall's life marked a harsh transition from a petty criminal in England to a convict serving his sentence abroad — a period that molded him into a notorious figure in Australia's early history.

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.

Despite a brief stint in Bermuda, which concluded upon the completion of the dry-dock, Hall was sent back to England. Records suggest that he was transferred to the 'York', a prison hulk docked at Gosport, Portsmouth. However, Hall's disruptive conduct persisted, signalling that his time in England was nearing its end.

Eventually, he was moved to the convict transport ship 'Midas' anchored at Portsmouth. Meanwhile, Samuel Frappell, Hall's accomplice who also received a sentence of seven years transportation, spent his confinement on the hulk 'Discovery' at Deptford. Interestingly, this was the very same ship Captain Cook had used for his second voyage to the South Seas and as a support vessel for his third voyage.

Early records imply that Frappell may have been relocated to Tasmania, with traces of him living there in 1827. However, after this, his existence fades into obscurity, mirroring the elusive nature of many transported convicts' lives. (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 prison hulks incarceration would have been a harrowing experience 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.

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 on the NSW bound 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 life on the Midas in the following excerpts, republished from the 1929 version.  (See Source 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 misbehaviour, such as Benjamin Hall assessed as conduct very bad. Was dealt with on-board by 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 other than bread and water for not more than seven days, or moderate whipping, which was not allowed to exceed twenty-four lashes. There is no record of Hall being flogged on the Hulks.

In September 1826, the 'London Morning Post' reported that a guard from the 39th Regiment was ordered to board the 'Midas' at Portsmouth. Under the command of Lieutenant George Meares Bowen, the guard comprised of 30 rank-and-file soldiers. Bowen and his officers were each paid £95 to cover the expenses of their passage and clothes.

It was a common practice for ship captains to offer officers a discount on food and wine during the voyage, often to the tune of £50. Such practices were part of the intricate arrangements surrounding convict transportation during this period of British history. Many ships were contracted whereby Captains would supplement their income by selling goods on arrival in Port Jackson.

After enduring 15 months of confinement and hard labor, Benjamin Hall finally boarded the convict ship 'Midas' on October 2, 1826. With its capacity of 430 tons, the 'Midas' was owned and commanded by Captain James Baigrie. The ship's medical officer, Doctor James Morice, also held the post of Superintendent.

Upon boarding, Hall became one among the ship's 148 convicts, which included James Tucker. As the ship prepared for its voyage, a daily routine was put into place for the convicts. Then, two weeks later, the long-anticipated order came: the 'Midas' was to set sail for New South Wales. Departing from Portsmouth on October 16, 1826, the ship moved into the English Channel and then the Atlantic Ocean, its impressive sails guiding it southwards.

James Tucker offered a unique perspective on life aboard the 'Midas' as it embarked on its journey. In his work, 'Adventures of Ralph Rashleigh, A Penal Exile in Australia', he detailed the experience in rich detail, shedding light on the shipboard routine, the conditions, and the shared experience of the convicts.

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.

After a grueling voyage spanning 122 days and marred by the loss of three lives, the 'Midas' finally reached its destination. The evening of February 14, 1827, saw a dramatic entrance at the Port Jackson heads, where the ship narrowly avoided a collision with the pilot boat. However, the 'Midas' made it to the harbor unscathed.

The ship's arrival was subsequently reported in 'The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser'. The news of its landing, along with the arrival of Benjamin Hall and the rest of the convicts, marked the end of one journey and the beginning of another in the penal colony of New South Wales.

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.

Days after anchoring in the harbour, the 'Midas' released her captive passengers into their new world. On February 19th, 1827, a convict muster took place on board, overseen by the Colonial Secretary, Alexander McLeay. The muster, or 'Indent', included crucial details about the newly arrived convicts, encapsulating a snapshot of their past lives.

Among the documented information were their names, ages, educational background, religious beliefs, family status, marital status, place of birth, occupation, nature of their offence, date and place of trial, previous convictions, and even their physical descriptions. The Indent also contained information about the convict's designated assignments upon their arrival in New South Wales.

Benjamin Hall, stepping onto the soil of Sydney Cove for the first time on March 1, 1827, found himself marched to Hyde Park Barracks - the heart of the penal colony and the starting point of his life in the antipodes.

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.

Fortune seemed to favor Benjamin Hall during his early days in the penal colony. His stay within the confines of Hyde Park Barracks was short-lived due to his previous experience as a groom. An occupation much in demand among the colonial pastoralists, as it signified a handy all-rounder. Despite his pre-arrival occupation as a Skinner/Butcher, which he would later revert to upon gaining his 'Ticket of Freedom', Hall's skills as a groom found him an assignment rather quickly.

He was assigned to the service of Mr Alexander Brodie Spark (Sparke), a man of significant property. Spark owned 'Radfordslea', a 2000-acre estate in the fertile Hunter Valley, along with 'Fallbrook', a vast 4000-acre farm along the Hunter River. In addition to these holdings, Spark also held a nine-acre grant in Sydney at Woolloomooloo. It appears that Hall initially remained in Sydney, at Spark's George Street premises, and possibly at other Spark properties along the Cooks River, a river that meanders northwest to Chullora before veering southwest to enter Botany Bay at Kyeemagh, beside Kingsford Smith Airport.

During this period, while in Sydney, Hall found himself in trouble with the law once again. On August 16, 1827, he was charged with 'Privately Stealing' or 'Stealing from his Master'. Following nine days in custody, Hall was acquitted. Whether this incident tainted Hall's record, which had already been classified as 'Very Bad' during his time on the prison hulks, is unclear. Regardless, shortly after this event, Hall was dispatched to the Hunter Region, perhaps as a precautionary measure or punishment against further mischief in the heart of the colony. (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, in his book 'Benjamin Hall and Family', speculates about Hall's initial journey to the Hunter Region. According to McLellan, the journey most likely began with Hall boarding a small packet boat to Morpeth/Maitland. After disembarking, Hall, possibly in the company of other convicts, would have embarked on a long trek to reach Spark's Hunter River property, Radfordslea. This arduous journey would have been Hall's first experience of the vast, rugged landscape that lay beyond Sydney's colonial confines.
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

Upon arrival at Green Hills, it is believed that Benjamin Hall commenced the next leg of his journey. He was directed to the barracks in Maitland, a little over an hour's march away. There, he received both directions and rations for his onward journey to 'Radfordslea', roughly an eighteen-mile trek. 'Radfordslea' was a sprawling, yet undeveloped 2000-acre property situated near Black Creek, close to the confluence of the River Hunter. Managed by an overseer, the property was bounded on the north by the river, while an extensive Church Reserve lay to its east. The property's postal address fell under Castle Forbes, notorious for being owned by the infamous and brutal James Mudie.

Mudie, a former Marine officer and later bankrupt entrepreneur, was best known for his ill-fated scheme to sell medallions commemorating the Napoleonic heroes. This venture led to nearly £10,000 in losses, propelling Mudie and his book-selling firm partners into bankruptcy. Despite this downfall, Mudie managed to secure his passage to New South Wales in 1822 through connections with Sir Charles Forbes and the Colonial Office, bringing his three daughters and a step-daughter with him. This infamous medallion affair earned Mudie the nickname, 'The Major'.

In New South Wales, Mudie quickly developed a reputation for his brutal treatment of convicts, which not only made him notorious but also a source of embarrassment for the Governor. Among his preferred punishments was one particularly harsh method, which was often remarked upon:

The lash was Mudie's God, and he worshipped it as a savage only can worship a thing of evil.
Mudie's peculiar behaviors eventually led to his dismissal from the role of 'Commissioner of the Peace' by Governor Burke in 1836. His excessively harsh treatment of convicts precipitated a mutiny among some of them. They sought to murder John Lanarch, Mudie's son-in-law, who was known to share Mudie's penchant for punishment. This uprising culminated in the hanging of five convicts, while Lanarch survived the attempted murder. Two of the condemned mutineers, Anthony Hitchcock and John Poole, met their fate at 'Castle Forbes'. The other three – James Riley, John Perry, and James Ryan – were executed in Sydney. The last accused was exiled 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 the son 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.
As per the census records of 1828, Benjamin Hall was employed by Mr Spark, but intriguingly, he resided at Castle Forbes. This discrepancy might be attributed to A.B. Spark's close friendship with Mudie, as it was known that Spark occasionally lent convicts to work on Mudie's infamous property. Regardless of these circumstances, Benjamin Hall began to acclimate to his role as an assigned servant. An excerpt from 'Benjamin Hall and Family' by A. A. McLellan provides insight into Benjamin Hall's day-to-day life 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.

Upon completion of five out of his seven-year sentence, Hall was theoretically eligible for a 'Ticket of Freedom'. However, there is no documented proof of Benjamin being granted an early release from his servitude to Mr Spark. This could perhaps be attributed to disciplinary issues, which seem to have hindered Benjamin's early acquisition of his 'Ticket of Freedom'. The situation must have been disheartening, as within weeks of fulfilling his original seven-year sentence, Benjamin deserted his master's service, alongside three other convicts. This act of absconding led to Benjamin Hall's name being reported in the 'Sydney Herald' on the 25th of 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.
Benjamin's escapade to freedom, however, was short-lived. He was swiftly recaptured and returned to Mr Spark's service. Despite his fleeting taste of liberty, it seemed that no punitive measures were taken against Hall. Remarkably, his transgression didn't prevent him from being granted a 'Ticket of Freedom' on the 25th of July 1832. Yet, the question remains: had Benjamin assumed his sentence was complete, thus leaving without the necessary documents, or was he simply too quick to celebrate his impending freedom?

One could also speculate that after serving Spark for over four years, Benjamin might have been reassigned or lent to the notoriously harsh James Mudie at Castle Forbes. If Hall did work at Castle Forbes, he could have been subject to the strict discipline enforced there and decided to flee. Regardless of the circumstances, Benjamin's brief taste of freedom marked a crucial milestone in his life journey.

Benjamin Hall's 'Ticket of Freedom' was far more than a mere piece of paper; it was a symbol of newfound autonomy after years of grueling servitude. It signified the dawn of a fresh chapter, one free of restrictions, and the opportunity to finally seek remunerated employment. For many ex-convicts like Hall, this ticket laid the foundation for their ascendancy to Australia's emerging elite. Yet for Benjamin, his immediate ambition was much simpler: the ticket was a passport to Sydney and a gateway to matrimonial bliss.

By the end of August 1832, Benjamin journeyed through the old Bulga trail, known today as the Putty Road between Singleton and Windsor, and arrived in the Parramatta district. Before long, he found employment in Stonequarry, Picton, and crossed paths with a spirited young Irish woman named Eliza Somers.

Eliza, Benjamin's future wife, was born in 1807 in Dublin, Ireland, as an illegitimate child to Timothy Kelly and Elizabeth Somers. With no records of her parents' marriage or her own birth certificate, her early years remain an enigma. However, her life took a sharp turn at the age of 20 when she was charged with larceny at 'The Four Courts' in Dublin City.

It's probable that Eliza had been quietly involved in petty thievery before her arrest, living with her widowed sister Catherine Delany and helping support her niece or nephew. Fate didn't spare Catherine either, who was arrested for shoplifting and subsequently transported to New South Wales, arriving on board the 'Forth II' along with 120 other Irish female convicts in October 1830 and her child. In her dealings with Dublin's constabulary, Eliza used either her father's surname, Kelly, or her mother's, Somers, as circumstances dictated.

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 reared amidst the squalor of Dublin's most impoverished tenements, where children often battled hunger and clothing was a luxury. Education was an exception rather than a norm, resulting in Eliza's illiteracy. The deprived conditions turned these children into foot soldiers of crime, forming the first modern gangs. Their reality mirrored the fictional world of Charles Dickens' 'Oliver Twist', as they mastered the craft of pick-pocketing, petty theft, and shoplifting.

A rare glimpse into Eliza's childhood environment comes from a census conducted in 1798 by Reverend William Whitelaw and his team. Intent on ascertaining Dublin's true population, they braved the blistering summer heat to inspect every nook and corner of these decrepit tenements. From cellars to lofts, they tallied the countless souls eking out an existence amidst abject conditions.

The tenements overflowed with unimaginable filth and stench, forming an overwhelming tableau of human despair. Reverend Whitelaw's first encounter with the tenants left a lasting imprint on him, as he observed firsthand the harsh realities of their hopeless existence.

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.

Born into this environment, Eliza was confronted early on with the harsh realities of poverty, including hunger and disease. As a young girl, she contracted smallpox, a rampant illness at the close of the 18th century, which claimed the lives of approximately 400,000 Europeans each year. The disease was merciless, with a fatality rate between 20 to 60%, a number that surged to over 80% among children.

Remarkably, Eliza survived this dreaded disease, but it did not leave her unscathed. Her encounter with smallpox left its indelible mark in the form of deep, disfiguring scars strewn across her face, a common aftermath due to the illness's blistering effect on the skin.

Despite these challenges, it remains unclear whether Eliza managed to secure any form of employment in Dublin, as she had no formal training or recognised trade. Her early life remains shrouded in uncertainty, her story shaped more by the city's harsh streets than any written record.

The Dock.

Eliza Somers' struggles with the law soon intensified. Following a brief period of escape from imprisonment, she was apprehended in 1827 for her second offense of theft. This crime led to a sentence of 12 months in Newgate Prison, Dublin, an institution notorious for its appalling conditions. Overcrowding was rampant, and the facility was plagued by severe sanitation issues.

Undeterred by her experience in Newgate, Eliza soon found herself in legal trouble again after her release. In 1829, she was caught stealing a handkerchief and gloves. Much like her future husband, Benjamin Hall, this incident carried severe repercussions for Eliza. This time, she was sentenced to seven years of transportation to New South Wales.

Following her conviction, Eliza was transferred from Dublin to Cork, a journey of around 160 miles to the south. In Cork, she was held in the city prison as she awaited her impending journey to the other side of the world.

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
Despite her difficult circumstances, Eliza Somers' brief stay at Cork City Prison represented a relative respite from her previous incarceration at Newgate. The standard of living and conditions for women in this facility were markedly better. This improvement was detailed in 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.
Prior to their departure, Eliza and approximately 200 other women from different parts of Ireland found themselves acclimating to their new temporary residence - the ship 'Asia 1' (5). This vessel, (5) denoting its fifth voyage to NSW, was once a British ship of the line. A 3-masted Barquentine, it was launched in 1819, boasting a tonnage of 536. For this particular journey to NSW, the ship was under the command of Thomas Stead.

They embarked on their voyage from Cork Harbour on the 10th of September, 1829, departing for Port Jackson. As the 'Asia 1' (5) sailed past the heads of Cork Harbour, Mr Alexander Nisbett, the Naval Surgeon for the voyage, meticulously maintained a medical journal, recording the daunting challenges these female convicts faced as they embarked on their strenuous journey to Port Jackson.

Women convicts quarters
below decks.
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.

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 these Irish convicts, the ordeal of transportation was, in certain cases, seen as a welcome change, even when considering the severe hardships they were set to endure. Their new trajectory promised to offer an escape from the despair and destitution of Dublin's slums, an opportunity to perhaps turn a new leaf in a burgeoning colony. This perspective was notably shared by a free settler in this newfound colony, now beginning to establish itself on firm ground.
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.

After 125 days at sea, the 'Asia 1' (5) triumphantly sailed into Port Jackson on January 13th, 1830. The journey had claimed only two lives — Rose Maguire, taken by dysentery, and Mary Henry, felled by erysipelas. As the ship dropped its anchor in Port Jackson, a third convict, Mary Burn, succumbed. Upon arrival in the penal colony, all newcomers, including Eliza, underwent a medical examination followed by a muster held on board by the Colonial Secretary.

During this muster, the details provided in the 'Muster of the Indents' were cross-checked. Eliza was described as standing at a height of 5 ft 3 in, bearing a ruddy complexion punctuated by pockmarks and freckles, adorned with hazel eyes and crowned with dark brown hair. She embodied the image of a quintessential Irish lass. Her occupational description was a rather nondescript 'All Work'.

As the 197 women disembarked, they were met by a throng of men, who flocked to Sydney Cove for a glimpse of this rare commodity, women, in a town where the gender ratio was skewed with eight men to every woman. For the vast majority of male denizens, this influx of women, however slight, signaled a marginal improvement in their marriage prospects within 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 was promptly transported to Hyde Park Barracks. After a 13-day period of acclimating to her new surroundings, she began her new role as a domestic servant on January 26th, 1830. Her employer was Mr Reuben Chapman, an ironmonger with a shop located in lower Pitt St, Sydney. Eliza's place of employment and residence was at the Chapman household on Harrington St, Sydney, in today's Circular Quay.

In the week following Eliza's arrival to this new frontier, 'The Sydney Monitor' published an account on February 3rd, 1830. The article illuminated the conditions under which Eliza and the other women arrived, bearing in mind that Eliza's only attire was a single gown. The report seemingly contradicts the ship surgeon's initial assessment of the state of the women;

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 one of the eighty who were assigned was lucky.
On July 1st, 1830, Reuben Chapman secured a publican's license for the 'Crown and Angel' hotel, located on Harrington Street in the vicinity of Sydney's Circular Quay. Here, Eliza undertook her domestic duties diligently. Not far from the hotel were the residence of Mr and Mrs Baxter, key players in the 'Australian Subscription Library' located on Lower Pitt St — a venture that would later lay the foundation for the Fairfax empire. They employed one Thomas Wade, a fellow Irishman, under assignment.

Born in 1812 in Dublin, Thomas Wade found himself in the colony after receiving a life sentence for house robbery. At the tender age of 16, he faced trial at 'The Four Courts' in Dublin City on July 3rd, 1828. His journey mirrored that of Eliza's, as both were Irish convicts shipped off to a new land as punishment for their criminal activities.

In a twist of fate similar to Eliza's, Thomas Wade was sentenced to life transportation to NSW. He boarded the 'Fergusson', a vessel captained by John Groves, with Surgeon Superintendent Charles Cameron attending to the medical needs of the crew and prisoners. The ship weighed anchor from Ireland on November 16th, 1828, carrying a total of 214 Irish male convicts. The harsh journey lasted several months, finally docking at Port Jackson on March 26th, 1829.

Characterised by a stature of 5 feet 4 inches, a ruddy complexion, dark brown hair, and piercing blue eyes, Thomas Wade was a mere 17 years old when he arrived at Sydney Cove aboard the 'Fergusson.' A muster, held by Colonial Secretary Alexander McLeay on March 28th, 1829, marked his arrival in the new world.

Just like any other transportation journey, Wade's voyage on the 'Fergusson' was not without its trials and tribulations. Life-threatening diseases were the bane of these voyages, but due to the diligence and expertise of ship surgeons, fatalities were often kept to a minimum despite the gruelling conditions.

In an account of the voyage on the 'Fergusson,' Naval Surgeon Charles Cameron detailed some of the successes in their fight against prevalent diseases, testifying to the efficiency of the remedies employed on board. He wrote of the commendable resilience of the convicts and the tireless efforts of the ship's medical personnel in preserving as many lives as possible under such trying circumstances.

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
Included in the 'Fergusson's' cohort of convicts were several individuals even younger than Thomas Wade. At the age of 17, Wade was not viewed as a child. However, this was not the case for a handful of other transportees, who were mere children. Among the youngest were Hugh Gallagher, just 12 years old; Matthew Cannon and Bernard Neil, both 14; Samuel Johnstone, also 14; and Patrick Crowe and Daniel Mullin, both 15 years old. Their youth underscores the harsh realities of the era, with child convicts being transported alongside adults to endure the rigors of penal servitude in New South Wales.

Despite being sentenced to life, Thomas Wade found solace in an unlikely place. His path crossed with that of Eliza Somers, a fellow convict who had recently begun work for the Chapmans. A spark ignited between the two, and a romance blossomed despite their circumstances. Eliza was three years older than Thomas, but this difference was negligible amidst their shared experiences and challenges. It's possible they had known each other back in Dublin, living in the same impoverished tenements. Upon Eliza's arrival in Sydney, they may have rekindled their prior acquaintance, fostering a companionship that offered a glimmer of ordinary life in their otherwise harsh existence.

Eliza's tenure as a domestic worker for the Chapmans was fraught with difficulties. Only a few months into her service, she ran afoul of the law. In April 1830, Eliza was charged with 'Drunkenness' and returned to the Parramatta Female Factory, either at the behest of the Chapmans or the authorities. Trouble found her once again, as she was reprimanded for 'Drunkenness and Outrageous Conduct'. She was sent back to the Female Factory, this time as a third-class prisoner, for a month.

Upon returning to the Chapmans, Eliza's behavior continued to try their patience. In August of that year, after seven months of service, she was relinquished by her master and sent back to the Female Factory as a second-class prisoner for another month. It was during this turbulent period that Eliza discovered she was pregnant. The child's father was Thomas Wade, the man with whom she had found a semblance of solace amidst their shared plight.

Following her month-long confinement, Eliza returned to the Chapman household one last time, a pregnant woman navigating an unforgiving landscape, with the promise of motherhood on the horizon.

Anne Gordan, Matron
of Female Factory,


Despite prevailing assumptions, evidence suggests that Reuben Chapman was far from a benevolent employer. Described as a combative man, he reached his limit with Eliza and returned her to the Parramatta Female Factory on 28th September 1830, as her services were no longer required. The belief that Chapman supported Eliza, even covering the medical costs of her impending childbirth, does not hold water.

Being sent back to the Female Factory as a first-class inmate indicated that Chapman had absolved himself of his obligations towards Eliza. According to the existing statute, if a servant was returned by a magistrate—as in Eliza's case—this would lift any financial responsibility from the employer.

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 problems with alcohol and other indiscretions, compounded by her pregnancy, led to the termination of her domestic duties in the Chapman household. (By September 1832, Reuben Chapman had relocated to Hobart, where he bought another hotel.)
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.

In the bustling settlement of Sydney, Thomas Wade's familiarity with the territory served as a crucial resource for Eliza as she navigated her new surroundings. Their lodgings at the Chapmans and the Baxters, both in close proximity to each other, provided ample opportunities for secret encounters.

These clandestine meetings eventually led to the birth of their son, Thomas Wade, on the 24th of April, 1831. However, the notion that Thomas Wade, a convict sentenced to life, could abscond from his servitude to the respectable Baxter family without facing severe consequences is rather far-fetched. Indeed, on the 1st of December, Thomas found himself imprisoned on the Sydney Harbour Hulk Phoenix, only to be released at the month's end - likely a penalty linked to Eliza's tumultuous behavior.

Historical records fall short of revealing the emotional ties that may have existed between Eliza and Thomas. Speculation from some sources, lacking robust research, suggests that Thomas Wade was somewhat of a rogue, abandoning Eliza upon learning of her pregnancy. However, it's crucial to consider the legal constraints of the era; it would have been nearly impossible for two convicts to wed without the Governor's special permission. Thus, their union was seemingly doomed from the outset.

Fr. John Joseph Thierry

At St Mary's Catholic Church, Eliza christened their newborn, Thomas Wade, on May 6, 1831. Father John Joseph Thierry, a native of County Cork, born in 1791, officiated the ceremony. Father Thierry catered to the spiritual needs of approximately 10,000 Catholics in Sydney (he would pass away in Balmain in 1864). The christening likely included Thomas Wade, and Eliza's sister, Catherine Delany, who had also come to the colony as a convict.

Catherine arrived in the colony with her only child onboard the 'Forth II', captained by James Robertson, with Surgeon Superintendent Joseph Cook providing medical oversight. Anchoring on October 12, 1830, the ship had transported Catherine from Dublin, where she had been sentenced to seven years for shoplifting. Upon arrival, Catherine was assigned to Mr. Bettington, a shipwright who had a shop 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 find solace in the colony, marrying John Wynn, a 'Ticket of Leave' holder, on June 29, 1836, in Parramatta. She earned her 'Certificate of Freedom' just under a year later, on June 24, 1837. Catherine and John settled in Maitland, where, coincidentally, Eliza and Benjamin Hall would also set up home. It was in Maitland, most likely at Catherine's residence, that Ben Hall was born in May 1837. Unfortunately, Catherine's life was cut short, and she passed away in Maitland in 1847. The fate of the child she brought with her to the colony remains unknown.

By the close of 1831, Eliza's interactions with Thomas Wade were not documented. The significant distance between the Parramatta Female Factory and Sydney Cove made any chance meetings improbable. On the other hand, Thomas Wade saw some improvement in his circumstances. In May 1841, he was granted a 'Ticket of Leave' which was later superseded when he received a 'Conditional Pardon' from the Governor of NSW, Charles Fitzroy, in 1847.

Wade's later life is somewhat obscured by time. However, records show that he married a widow, Bridget Hilton, aged 39, in 1857 at Port Macquarie. Wade's profession at the time was listed as a Sawyer. While there is no record of him ever reuniting with his son, Thomas, it is known that Wade lived in Port Macquarie, NSW from 1841 or earlier. His death was registered in 1866 in Walcha, NSW, a town located about 90 miles from Murrurundi via Tamworth, an intriguing geographical coincidence.

Thomas Wade, 16th May 1841.

Thomas Wade, 1st February 1848.

After returning to the Female Factory on October 4th, 1830, Eliza Somers carried her pregnancy in the relative comfort of the facility as a First Class inmate. On April 24th, 1831, she gave birth to her son, Thomas, and continued living at the Female Factory until she was reassigned. Eliza's next position was with Mr William Panton, a free settler who had arrived on the 'Andromeda' in 1822. Although Eliza and her baby Thomas stayed with the Pantons for less than a year, this assignment proved fortuitous.

While working for the Pantons, Eliza made the acquaintance of Benjamin Hall in June 1832. Recently arrived from the Hunter Valley, Benjamin was employed at Stonequarry, working on the Panton/Chisholm estate established in 1824. He had been granted a 'Ticket of Leave' and his farming experience would have been sought after.

Benjamin's journey from the Hunter Valley to Sydney ended with him securing a position with Panton, possibly facilitated by his former master, A.B. Spark. Both Spark and Panton were members of the Agricultural and Horticultural Society at Parramatta, both originating from the same region of Scotland. This connection likely worked to Benjamin's advantage, as securing employment in 1832, as today, often relied not only on one's skills and experiences, but also on who one knew. A solid reference from A.B. Spark would have been a significant boost. Benjamin Hall began his work at Stonequarry in the early days of September 1832. The Pantons were well-established landowners in the area, as evidenced by their inclusion in the list of persons liable to serve as jurors in the District of Liverpool. (See Below)

Panton, Stonequarry, NSW.

At Stonequarry, Eliza found herself employed as a domestic servant under the supervision of Mrs Panton, who was herself a mother of an infant child. Stonequarry, also known as the Cowpastures in the 1820s and '30s, was located roughly in the area between today's Camden and Picton. The land acquired by the Pantons was commonly known as the 'Forest of Bumbalo' or 'Bomballowa'. This land would later become the town of Picton, officially gazetted in 1841.

The King's Stores.
In collaboration with Mr James Chisholm, William Panton engaged in various farming ventures. They cultivated crops such as wheat and barley, participated in the Colonial Government's experimental tobacco growing scheme, traded in livestock, and leased out their pastures for agistment. The cost of feeding the convicts working for the Pantons, including Eliza, was covered by the King's Stores. (see right)

By 1826, Panton was attempting to venture into wine production, planting a large vineyard and renaming his property 'Montpellier', after the renowned wine-making district in France. However, by the end of July 1833, Panton found himself in financial difficulties due to speculative investments, a situation he had also encountered in 1831 but managed to navigate.

By 1835, Panton's financial difficulties had escalated, and he was declared insolvent. 'Montpellier' was eventually sold for £1,100 in early 1836 to mitigate his losses.

Meanwhile, Eliza's relationship with Benjamin Hall had intensified, and by the end of September 1832, she was again pregnant. On 13th May 1833, Eliza, then seven months pregnant, was listed in the NSW Government Gazette as having absconded from Panton's employment. Her escape may have been a calculated act to ensure that, as a pregnant woman, she could return to the Female Factory in First class and relieve the financially struggling Pantons of her associated costs.

Following her capture, Eliza, now seven months pregnant with her second child, was returned to the Female Factory instead of being sent back to the Pantons. She did not face prosecution for absconding. She gave birth to her second child, a girl named Mary, in early July 1833, and both Eliza and her two children remained in the Female Factory for some time. Benjamin, a free man, was able to visit them regularly, despite the 30-mile distance from the Stonequarry district to Parramatta.

Note: 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.

The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser would have likely included a notice or report regarding the growing issue of assigned female servants being returned to the Female Factory shortly after assignment. This notice underscored a need for reforms in the way convicts were treated and managed, leading to new conditions for return and changes in policies.

Parramatta Female Factory, 1826.
Painting by
Augustus Earle (1793-1838)

Courtesy National Library.
However, without the specific text of the article, it's difficult to provide a detailed explanation. Still, it's clear that the management of the Female Factory was concerned about this trend and likely sought to encourage more sustainable, beneficial arrangements for both the assigned women and their employers. This could involve better living and working conditions for the women, training programs, or incentives for employers to retain their workers.

They may have also drawn attention to the benefits of keeping convict women in assigned households, including the economic value of their labor, the potential for rehabilitation and social integration, and the reduced burden on the Female Factory and the penal system. The changes might also have extended to women who had completed their sentences but were struggling to transition to independent life, offering them support and resources to prevent them from falling back into criminal behavior.

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.

The fact that Eliza, a Catholic, married Benjamin, a Protestant, in a Protestant church might be indicative of a few things. It might be reflective of the societal norms or practical constraints of the time, which might have made it more acceptable or convenient for them to marry in a Protestant church. It could also suggest that religious differences were not a significant barrier for them, either due to personal beliefs or the pressing practical circumstances of their situation.

The Reverend Samuel Marsden, who officiated their wedding, was a prominent figure in the early colonial history of New South Wales and was known for his work as a magistrate and his involvement with the Church Missionary Society. He was sometimes called the "Flogging Parson" due to his reputed severity in sentencing convicts. His role in their wedding might suggest that he had some connection or familiarity with Benjamin and Eliza, or it could simply be a reflection of his prominent role in the community at that time.

The fact that Governor Sir Richard Bourke gave consent for their marriage indicates that Benjamin and Eliza would have had to petition for permission to marry, given Eliza's convict status. This was a common requirement in the colonies at the time, where convicts were required to obtain permission from the Governor or other authorities before they could marry.

Overall, this marriage between Benjamin and Eliza seems to represent a turning point in Eliza's life. With Benjamin's support, she was able to stabilise her situation and avoid further problems with the law, and their marriage seems to have been a step towards a more settled and stable life for both of them and their children.

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.

The discrepancy between Benjamin Hall's stated age at his marriage and his real birth year could be due to a few factors. It's possible that Hall was not entirely sure of his birth year and gave an estimate. It could also be that he intentionally reported a different age for personal or legal reasons.

It's also interesting that Eliza was unable to sign her own name, which highlights that she was illiterate or had very limited education. This was not uncommon for women of her socioeconomic status and convict background during this time period.

While in Parramatta Benjamin Hall made the acquaintance of one Thomas Simon a carter and publican where Hall gained employment.

The fact that Thomas Simon was a witness at their wedding is also noteworthy. Given his status as an ex-convict who had earned a Ticket of Leave, it's possible that Simon was a friend to Hall.

Thomas Simon, advertisement
It is also worth mentioning that during the early colonial era in Australia, the convicts often formed supportive communities, helping each other find work, navigate the legal system, and generally adjust to life in the colony. Given this context, it's possible that Hall and Simon's relationship was a part of this wider network of mutual assistance among convicts and ex-convicts.

The relationship between Thomas Simon and Benjamin Hall demonstrates the importance of social networks in the early colonial period in Australia. As a carrier and later a publican, Simon would have been well connected in the Parramatta-Windsor district. His association with Benjamin Hall likely offered Hall significant opportunities, both in terms of employment and monetary support to Eliza and the children.

Thomas Simon
Benjamin Hall, working closely with Simon established his own connections within the community, both with local landowners and farmers as well as other patrons of Simon's the 'Duke of Wellington Hotel'. No doubt contacts for job opportunities which was critical for ex-convicts.

Moreover, Hall's later return to the Hunter Region, a familiar territory for him, was facilitated by these connections

The fact that the Simons were witnesses at Hall's wedding also indicates a close friendship and mutual respect between the two men. This camaraderie could have been born out of shared experiences as ex-convicts and the challenges they faced in building new lives for themselves.

Windsor, NSW, with its fertile lands and proximity to Parramatta, seems to have been the ideal location for Benjamin and Eliza to start their new chapter. Its reputation as the food basket of Sydney, owing to the fertile flood plains around the Hawkesbury River, would have offered ample opportunities for Benjamin to use his farming experience.

Government House, Windsor,
built 1796-1800.
The challenging economic conditions during the 1800s meant many ex-convicts who had completed their sentences often struggled to make ends meet. There was no government support in housing, cost of living, and other essential needs. The burden of survival fell squarely on the individuals. This harsh reality for Benjamin and Eliza, fell to them to provide for their family.

However, the formation of benevolent asylums by compassionate and well-off citizens would have provided some relief to those in need. These asylums played a crucial role in offering support to destitute individuals, especially those who were unable to work due to old age, illness, or disability. Such institutions were early precursors to modern non governmental social welfare systems, providing food, clothing, shelter, and sometimes medical care to those in need.

Despite the challenging socio-economic conditions, Benjamin and Eliza seemed determined to build a life for their family in Windsor. Their story underscores the resilience and tenacity of many early Australian settlers, who overcame adversity to carve out a life in a new land.

Lachlan Macquarie
c. 1805.
The 'Hawkesbury Benevolent Society' was established by citizens with a heart for social welfare and supported through a variety of means, including land grants from the Governor, the raising of livestock, and various forms of fundraising such as donations, subscriptions, church collections, and fines.

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.

The expansion of the 'Hawkesbury Benevolent Society' in catering to the poor led them have a cattle farm at the Liverpool Plains. It indicates the growing prosperity and scale of their operations. This move, however, evidently brought them into conflict with other powerful entities, such as the Australian Agricultural Company, indicating the complexities and challenges of land and resource management during this period.

The shift in leadership of Benevolent Society farm at the Liverpool Plains from John Gaggin to Edward Nowland, who became the superintendent of the new 'Mooki' cattle station, also suggests a time of change and adaptation for the society. It's interesting to see the connections between these individuals and later figures such as Billy Dargin, the future police blacktracker, which provides a sense of continuity and progression through this historical narrative.

In terms of the broader context, the history of the 'Hawkesbury Benevolent Society' offers a fascinating insight into early charitable efforts in colonial Australia, as well as the intersections of social welfare, agriculture, and the colonial expansion into the interior.

Despite the hardships and challenges they faced, these early settlers and ex-convicts, managed to build lives and communities in this new and often harsh landscape. Benjamin in 1846 gave the following statement.

John Gaggin
c. 1825
"I am a farmer and grazier, and reside in the district of Liverpool Plains; I was in the district in 1835; in that year I was employed by Mr. Gaggin, of the Hawkesbury Benevolent Society, to take some cattle from Windsor to Liverpool Plains; when I got to the plains, I found a man named Nowland in charge of a cattle station, he told me he was in the employ of the Benevolent Society; I saw there about 150 head of cattle, branded with the society's brand; I delivered to Nowland 50 head more. I was on the plains from 1835 to 1837, during which time I was well acquainted with the cattle of the Benevolent Society."

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. 

These statements, made under oath, provide a clear timeline for Benjamin Hall's activities from Windsor to the Liverpool Plains region. He was recorded there as early as 1835, not in the employ of Samuel Clift, but instead working for the Hawkesbury Benevolent Society. His job was to transport cattle from Windsor to the Liverpool Plains, where he would deliver them to Edward Nowland, who was in charge of a Mooki cattle station for the society.

Samuel Clift.

Private Source.
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.) 
As a employee residing in the district, Hall would have been well-acquainted with the cattle of the Benevolent Society, as well as the intricacies of the cattle industry in the region. His familiarity and experience with the area would have been of significant value to his employer and may have also led to his involvement in the later court cases involving Samuel Clift. The evidence, therefore, supports the claim that Hall was working for the Hawkesbury Benevolent Society during this period and not Samuel Clift at the Doona Station.

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, s

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 90, 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. (1836)

#-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.