A New Life in Australia
by Diana Kennedy
This article was originally published in the August 2002 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society.
In the November 1993 edition of Soul Search Geoff Sewell wrote in his report of the transportation of George Sewell in 1813, on information given to him by Mrs Pat Fitzgerald of Darwin, Australia. George was Pat’s G G Great grandfather.
Rufus Sewell the actor is also descended from George and in the December 2000 Soul Search, Marina in Australia who runs a web site on the actor wrote about the crime of George. Further information has been added to the story from new member Fred Sewell, who lives in Australia, who is also descended from George. Fred lives at Bowral New South Wales about 5kms from where his GG Grandfather John, the son of George, and his family lived around 1830.
Geoff and Marina’s articles gave a lot of information on George Sewell and his crime so I will only briefly touch on them. George Sewell was born around 1782 in Durham. We are still not able to find a baptismal record or a marriage record for when he married his wife Ellen around 1800. George and Ellen had five children, John born 1803 (Fred’s GG Grandfather), George 1804, Thomas baptised at York St Margaret 30th June 1807 and two baptised at Beverley Minister, Sarah on 10th September 1809 and Jane on 7th February 1812.
George was a blacksmith by trade, with black hair, hazel eyes and a pale complexion, and 5 feet 8 ¼ inches. He was convicted of burglary at York Assizes on 31st July 1813 and sentenced to transportation arriving in Sydney on the ship Somersetshire on 15th October 1814.
Ellen his wife was a tough and resourceful lady, who overcame her husband’s arrest and transportation, then travelled to Australia, on a voyage which took 149 days, with five children. She arrived in Australia 1815 on the ship Northampton their daughter Sarah dying shortly after her arrival. In 1815 Ellen petitioned Governor Lachlan Macquarie for George to be assigned to her. The petition reads:
The Humble Petition of Ellen Sewell July 3rd 1815
To His Excellency Lachlan Macquarie Esq Governor
Most Humbly Sheweth
That your Petitioner Ellen Sewell has Lately arrived by Ship Southampton* a free woman and five children to join her Husband who is a Blacksmith working in Government Employ by which means he is Rendered Incapable of supporting so heavy Charge and having no other Dependance but his own Industry, do Most Humbly Implore Your Excellency’s assistance Either by allowing me My Husband off the Stores or by putting my Family on, untill such time as he can be conveniently spared from Government Grant but this great favour to a poor distressed family and They as in Duty Bound.
Shall ever pray
Ellen of George Sewell
*Ellen actually sailed on the Northampton
In November 1821 George applied for a Conditional Pardon which he received on 28th November 1821. George was also assigned convict Samuel Bradley who had arrived on the ship Mangles. In 1822 George wrote a memorial to the Governor requesting grants of land, which were granted to him in the Sutton Forest area of the Southern Highland of New South Wales, known as Bong Bong.
His sons John and George also received grants of land in the same area. In 1828 George and his family moved to the Sutton Forest area where various grants were taken up. George Snr and John are mentioned twice in the Sydney newspapers, firstly tendering for Government supplies and secondly a letter John wrote complaining of the treatment of convicts.
George and Ellen returned to Sydney in the 1830’s. George died in Sydney on 13th October 1837 and Ellen died 8th June 1865. Both were buried at the Sandhills cemetery in Sydney. These burial grounds were later reclaimed by the Government in 1901 to build the Sydney Central Railway. The gravestones were moved to Botany cemetery but subsequently lost. However a book containing the inscriptions reads:
George Sewell Senior died 13 October 1837 aged 55years.
Ellen, relict of George Sewell senior died 8th June 1865 aged 94years.
George Sewell Junior, 2nd son of the above died 22 December 1847 aged 43years
Mrs George Sewell Junior died 1st July 1831 aged 19 years, also daughter Jane aged 4 months.
After George and Ellen returned to Sydney their son John remained in Sutton Forest on the land granted to him. The 60 acres grant Portion 68, in the Parish of Bong Bong had been granted to John in 1822. The adjacent 60 acre Portion 67 was granted to his father George. The house called ‘Bindagundra’ was built in the early 1830’s probably by John as an Inn called The Harp. Today it is one of the earliest surviving buildings in Sutton Forest, an important example of a typical 19th century inn. It is not known exactly when it was built, but in March 1831 John sold the property to a John Lupton for £160. Fred went there recently and found it in almost the same condition as from the 1830’s.
John married Sarah Short and their son John was born 1830 (Fred’s Great Grandfather). Fred’s Grandfather Harold Thomas was born in Sutton Forest in 1865. John snr died in 1866 and is buried in All Saints Cemetery, Sutton Forest. Harold was a musician and travelled with the P&O Line band. Landing in England he married Louisa Anne Whitfield and Fred’s father Frederick John was born in 1907 before the family returned to Australia. Rufus Sewell is descended from William Alfred a brother of Frederick John.
Information supplied by Fred Sewell. Below Fred is pictured with his wife at Bindagundra
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