Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Colonial Events 1808

Lime burning was commenced near Newcastle, possibly to provide mortar for the first gaol.

January 1

Rev. William Cowper, appointed senior assistant Chaplain of N.S.W.

January 25

John Macarthur charged with sedition

January 26

Governor Bligh arrested by military officers and George Johnston became administrator until 28 July.

January 27

Proclamation issued by George Johnston


Sydney Gazette suspended.

February 12

John Macarthur appointed Magistrate of the Territory


Sir Henry Browne Hayes transported to Newcastle Penal settlement...... Sir Henry Browne Hayes' memorial to Gov. Macquarie re his treatment at Newcastle

April 3

Resignation of Charles Grimes


George Crossley sentenced to 7 years in Newcastle Coal Mines


Provost-Marshall William Gore sentenced to 7 yrs in Newcastle coal mines. Provost-Marshall William Gore to William Bligh re his arrest

May 6

Lieutenant-Colonel William Paterson of the New South Wales Corps appointed Colonel.
George Johnston of the New South Wales Corp appointed Major
Edward Abbott of the New South Wales Corp appointed Captain

May 15

The brig Harrington seized in Sydney Harbour by convicts and sailed to the north.

May 24

Hawkesbury floods

July 28

Major Joseph Foveaux replaced George Johnston as administrator of the Colony

August 15

The Dundee, Captain Cummings, wrecked at Hunter River. The ‘Dundee’, Captain Cummings, sailed from hence for the Fejees and Pulo Penang, or the Prince of Wales’s Island, on Saturday, the 13th instant. At 8 am of the same day a heavy gale set in which continued the whole of the day, and next morning the ship was upon a lee shore, and every exertion to get her off the land proved ineffectual. On the morning of the15th, being about 3 miles to windward of Hunter’s River, the gale increased, and the sea running very high, it was found necessary to bear up, in hopes of finding safe anchorage at the entrance of the River, as the only possible means of saving the lives of the people, and possibly the ship: but being unable to carry sail to keep the ship to windward, and a strong fresh running out of the river, it was impossible to weather the breakers on the lee sand shoals; and at 3 am of the15th she struck, the sea making a prodigious breach over her as she lay until between 1 and 2 am when the vessel went to pieces, and scarcely anything was saved. In so distressing calamity it is some gratification to be informed that only two persons lost their lives that had sailed in the vessel from Penang. The chief officer narrowly escaped being drowned; for, being obliged to swim for his life, and having a greater distance to go than his strength was adequate to, he sunk within a short distance of the shore, but was happily rescued from a watery grave by the well timed exertions of several who had gained the shore, and saw his imminent danger. Captain Cummings with his officers and part of the crew arrived in Sydney on the ‘Governor Hunter’ - Sydney Gazette 28 August 1808

September 3

Death in England of Philip Gidley King, former Governor of New South Wales Buried at St. Nicholas, Tooting Graveney

September 6

Appointment of William Redfern as Assistant surgeon

September 11

Ensign Villiers appointed Commandant at Newcastle


Two people murdered by a native near Newcastle

November 16

Convict Thomas Shirley drowned at the Hunter River in trying to rescue the vessel 'Halcyon' in a gale. On Friday the Halcyon arrived with coals and cedar from Newcastle; from whence she had sailed the 16th with favourable weather, which continued till she nearly reached the north head of Broken Bay, when a heavy gale set in, and she was driven back to Hunter’s River. Her situation being rather alarming, owing to the state of the wind and a heavy swell, a boat was sent from the Settlement to her assistance, and the vessel was preserved – Unfortunately, however, one of the persons employed in this beneficial service lost his life. This was Thomas Shirley, a prisoner, who arrived in the second Royal Admiral. Sydney Gazette 27 November 1808

November 27

Arrival of convict ship Speke. Captain John Hingston.

December 22

Arrival of the convict ship Admiral Gambier, Captain Edward Harrison.

December 25

Lieutenant William Lawson to proceed to Newcastle as Commandant of the penal settlement.......
General Orders – Lieutenant William Lawson of New South Wales Corps will hold himself in readiness to embark for Newcastle to take the Command of the Settlement there in the room of Ensign Villiers who is to return to Headquarters By Command of His Honor Lieutenant Governor James Finucane, Secretary. Sydney Gazette 25 December 1808

December 31

Ship News, Sydney. Yesterday evening arrived within the Heads, His Majesty's ship Porpoise, from Port Dalrymple seven days, having on board His Honour Lieutenant Governor Paterson and Lady ; whose Landing was by the extreme violence of the weather delayed until the following morning (1st January 1809). A carriage was by His Honour Lieutenant Governor Foveaux dispatched to South Head at an early hour to convey His Honour up to Town; where a Reception was prepared, suitable to His Honour’s high Rank - Sydney Gazette