Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

George Crossley - Convict


George Crossley was born in London in 1749.

He was articled and admitted as an attorney and solicitor in 1771. In the same year he was imprisoned for a civil debt for twelve months, notwithstanding his claim of immunity as a solicitor. After practising in Adelphi Terrace, London, for twenty-four years, in February 1796 he was charged with forging the will of Rev. Henry Lewin for the benefit of Lady Briggs, thus defrauding the heir-at-law.[1]

He was committed to Newgate Gaol on 2 June 1796. There is a description of him in the gaol entrance books - he was 5ft 6 inches in height, of fair complexion with blue eyes - and he wore a wig[2]

Having been sentenced to transportation he arrived in New South Wales on the Hillsborough in 1799. His wife Anne Maria, sister of Nicholas Devine accompanied him on the voyage.

Arrival in Sydney

George Crossley's arrival in Sydney was noted in Jackson's Oxford Journal on 12 July 1800 -

London July 8

'A letter from New South Wales, of the 12th September last, mentions the general prosperity of the colony, and speaks strongly in favour of speculation by the consignment of British goods thither, which, if of a good quality, seldom fail to realize cent. per cent after all deductions; linens, broad cloths, kerseymeres, fashionable hats and hosiery, women's wearing apparel, silk, hardware, turnery etc., have a quick and ready sale. The latter was brought to the Cape by the Buffalo.

The Hillsborough transport ship had arrived at Sidney, with the loss of nearly two hundred out of three hundred of the unfortunate exiles, who died on the passage.

(George) Crossley and his wife arrived safe, and have been sent to Parramatta, of which district Barrington is High Constable. Crossley had taken with him an investment of European goods, which he sold to very great advantage, and was about to purchase a house, for which he offered £300. Redmayn, once a merchant in London, had also taken a great deal of property, but he died on his passage; and the application or rather mis-application of the property, will undergo a strict investigation.

The inhabitants of Botany Bay have adopted a refined mode of speaking when mentioning the cause of their journey to the climate; to have been transported is vulgar; they therefore tell us, that such or such gentleman or lady had been exiled from England in consequence of a faux pax.' [3]

Newcastle Penal Settlement

George Crossley was a supporter of Governor Bligh.

He at times advised Deputy Judge Advocate Richard Atkins and assisted him to prepare the information on the prosecution of John Macarthur which preceded the Bligh rebellion. He was consulted by Bligh on the day of the governor's arrest and advised him re his correspondence with the rebels. For this support Crossley was afterwards taken before the rebel criminal court for having practised as an attorney after a conviction for perjury. He was found guilty and sentenced to be transported to the Coal River (Newcastle) penal settlement for seven years. This was harsh punishment indeed as by this time he was fifty-nine years of age. On arrival at Newcastle he was sent to work in the coal mines where he laboured for almost two years.

Other Bligh supporters sent to Newcastle included Sir Henry Browne Hayes, Roger Farrell and William Gore.

Ensign Villiers took over duties as Commandant at Newcastle from Charles Throsby in September 1808 and remained until December 1808 when William Lawson was appointed to the position.


On the arrival of Governor Macquarie in 1810 all those who had been banished to Newcastle subsequent to the removal of Mr. Bligh were ordered for release. George Crossley was among those prisoners Commandant Lieutenant Lawson was instructed to liberate.

After he was released George Crossley sued the rebels for damages for trespass and false imprisonment. A verdict of pound500 was awarded to him against Anthony Fenn Kemp, Thomas Moore, Thomas Laycock, William Minchin and William Lawson.[1]

Right to Pratice Law Refused

The new Supreme Court opened in 1815 under the Charter of Justice issued in 1814 and George Crossley made a claim to be admitted as attorney however Judge Bent refused to give him permission to practise -

The individuals who have practised, or who claim a right to be admitted as attorneys, are, George Crossley, Edward Eagar, George Chartres, Michael Robinson, and William Fleming. With regard to their characters, George Crossley is a man notorious in the annals of Westminster, and his infamous and base character is well known to most practisers in His Majesty's courts at home; he was transported to this country at an advanced period of life, being convicted of wilful and corrupt perjury; and it was matter of congratulation at Westminster Hall, when he met the punishment due to his misconduct. His behaviour in this colony has been far from meritorious, and he has repeatedly deserved exclusion from that practice which he had heretofore been permitted to have. [5]

Farming Pursuits

An application for men to be assigned to him in 1811 reveals his signature -

To John Thomas Campbell Esq -
I will thank His Excellency to indulge me with two men servants off the Store, and in that case, I shall be able by the plough to put into cultivation about forty acres of land I have cleared in the district of Bullamaning, and which I cannot get freemen labourers to cultivate.

I have at present only one man off the Store, and until the usurpation had four men off.

I will also be much obliged by a woman servant, the last woman servant I had was married from my House, and on an application to the Magistrates, I was recommended to apply to his Excellency for another female servant.
I am Sir,
Your most Obedient and Obliged Servant, Sydney 31 August 1811.
Signature of George Crossley


George Crossley died in Pitt Street Sydney in 1823 aged 75 years.[4]

Notes and Links

1). 18th April 1787 - William Priddle, Robert Holloway and Stephen Stephens, were indicted (together with one John Snelling ) for that they, intending to deprive one George Crossley of his reputation, and without any reasonable or probable cause, to subject him to the penalties by the law provided against persons guilty of wilful and corrupt perjury, on the 18th day of July last - Old Bailey Online

2). Photograph of Grave stone of Anne Maria Crossley - Find a Grave

3). State Library of NSW -

Image below: Edward Charles Close - New South Wales Sketchbook: Sea Voyage, Sydney, Illawarra, Newcastle, Morpeth, c. 1817-1840

George Crossley court scene
Courtroom scene, Sydney: the ‘Philo Free’ civil libel trial, 1 December 1817. Inscribed: `G. Allen’ (upper right, vertical); `G. Crosley’ (upper right, vertical) The 'Philo Free' trial took place in Sydney in 1817 and was the first libel case heard in the colony. In this matter, Rev. Samuel Marsden accused Colonial Secretary John Campbell (no relation to Sophia) of libeling him through a letter published in the Sydney Gazette which suggested that, under the aegis of the Missionary Society, the ‘Christian Mahomet’ had operated as a gun-runner and moonshiner in the Pacific islands; includes caricatures of several notable figures including Marsden at the right, the defendant Campbell on the left and possibly Judge-Advocate John Wylde behind him, as well as the lawyers Frederick Garling, William Moore, George Allen and George Crossley.


[1] K. G. Allars, 'Crossley, George (1749–1823)', Australian Dictionary of Biography

[2] Class: HO 26; Piece: 5; Page: 15 Description Year: 1796, England and Wales, Criminal Registers, 1791-1892

[3] Jackson's Oxford Journal 12 July 1800.

[4] Selection of reports and papers of the House of Commons: Prisons., Volume 51. Letter from Mr. Justice Bent to the Governor.

[5] Sydney Gazette 27 March 1823