Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Phillip Gidley King 1758 - 1808

Phillip Gidley King Philip Gidley King was born 23 April 1758 in Launceston Cornwall. He served in the Channel Fleet from January 1780. In the Ariadne he served under the command of Arthur Phillip.

In 1783 King sailed to India on the Europe with Arthur Phillip who formed a high opinion of his merits and afterwards became a friend and mentor to King of many years standing.

On their return from India, since peace had been made, King was paid off.


In October 1786, as soon as Arthur Phillip had been nominated to command the expedition then setting out to establish a penal settlement at Botany Bay, he chose Phillip Gidley King as second lieutenant in the Sirius, in which he was himself sailing.


King was twenty-nine years of age when the First Fleet set sail in 1788.

On 25th November 1788 Phillip took King with him when he transferred to the Supply in the hope of reaching their destination ahead of the main fleet. A fortnight after they arrived King was selected as an officer of merit … whose perseverance may be depended upon to establish a subordinate settlement on Norfolk Island.


In March 1790 Philip Gidley King sailed for England on Phillip's orders to report on the difficulties of the whole settlement; he became ill with gout during the voyage. In England on 2 March 1791 King was promoted commander. On 11th March he married his cousin Anna Josepha Coombe at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London.


Philip and Anna Josepha King sailed in H.M.S. Gorgon (Captain Parker) leaving England on 18th March 1791 to return to Norfolk Island where King took up his commission as lieutenant-governor.

Their son Philip Parker King was born on Norfolk Island on 13 December 1791.


In New South Wales by 1795 Philip Gidley King had become extremely ill and Governor John Hunter gave him leave of absence to return to England to recover his health. He returned to England on the Britannnia and remained in England until November 1799.


Having been appointed Governor of New South Wales Philip Gidley King and Anna Josepha returned to Australia on the Speedy where he took up his appointment as 3rd Governor of the colony. Only their daughter Elizabeth sailed with them, their son Philip Parker King and daughter Maria King remained in England.


In 1801 Governor King was presented with a silver snuff box by Liuet. James Grant - 'The oval box is engraved with the initials 'PGK'. The underside of the lid is inscribed: 'Lt. Grant to Governor King June 4 1801'. This was probably presented on the occasion of the departure of Lieut. Grant on the famous exploratory expedition to the Hunter River on the Lady Nelson in June 1801

Governor King's Snuff BoxGovernor King's snuff box
- National Museum of Australia


William Bligh was appointed Governor of New South Wales to replace Phillip King. Bligh reached Sydney on 6 August 1806 and assumed office the following week.

Philip Gidley King returned to England on the Buffalo, departing Sydney in February 1807. .......At 2 o'clock on Sunday afternoon His Excellency the late Governor and Family finally embarked on board His Majesty's ship Buffalo for England, accompanied to the Wharf by His Excellency, who expressed the most sensible regret at taking leave. His Honor the Lieutenant governor and many Officers attended also to share in the last duties of respect. At half past two the boat left the wharf, and was saluted by His Majesty's ship Porpoise as she passed; the following morning His Excellency's dispatches were on board, and on Tuesday the ship sailed. Governor King designing to touch at Norfolk Island on his way. - Sydney Gazette 15 February 1807


Philip Gidley King died on 3 September 1808 and was buried in the churchyard of St Nicholas, Lower Tooting, London. After his death Anna Josepha and her family returned to Australia. Anna Josepha passed away in 1844 and was buried at St Mary Magdalene's Church near Penrith, NSW.

Notes and Links

1. Portraits of fifty-eight descendants of Philip Gidley King who answered the Empire's Call in the First World War

2. Governor King's snuff box - National Museum of Australia

3. Rear Admiral Philip Parker King

4. Anna Josepha King - Australian Dictionary of Biography

5. Anna Josepha King journal of a voyage from England to Australia in the ship 'Speedy', 19 November 1799 - 15 April 1800

6. Historical Records of Australia, Series 1, Volume 3, 1801 - 1802 - Governor King

7. James Hardy Vaux also returned to England on the Buffalo in 1807

8. Amongst the despatches carried home in the Buffalo in 1807 was a report sent by Gov. Bligh detailing the state of Public Buildings of Sydney -

[1] The Master Builders House wants Plaistering, whitewashing, windows repairing, and part of the Foundation given away'
[2] The Dock Yard wants Sheds for Boats, and to Work under for Saw Pits.
[3] The Blacksmith's Shop and Store Houses and Watchman's Hut wants Plaistering, whitewashing, new doors and Shutters, repairing Tiles outside of Staircase, also New Posts and Railing next the Road.'
[4] Wharfingers Hut Wants New windows and doors, plaistering, whitewashing, a new chimney and tiling repaired.'
[5] The Coxwain and Boats Crews Hut Wants Plaistering, whitewashing, Tiles repairing, a new fence, doors and windows'
[6] The Gaol - In good repair but wants additional cells'
[7] The Watchman's Hut - nearly down'
[8] The Lumber Yard - Wants the Blacksmiths Shop and Shed Whitewashed, plaisered, new doors, windows, and the tiling repaired, New Saw Pitts and Sheds'
[9] The Military Store - Part of the Walls given away, and wants new doors, windows and the Tiling repaired'
[10] The Granary - Wants new Flooring, Doors and Windows, New Shingling, Stair Case and Plaistering and Whitewashing with other necessary Jobs'
[11] Government House and Offices - Wants new doors, Windows, Window shutters, lining and Frames, Shingling, Flooring, Whitewashing and Plaistering. All in so rotton a State wants to be New'
[12] The Judge-Advocates House - In good repair. His Office in a bad state - wants to be new'
[13] The Parsonage House - Wants New doors, Windows and Fence. Plaistering, Whitewashing and Tilling repaired'
[14] The Surveyor-Generals House and Offices - Wants doors and Windows, nearly new whitewashing and plaistering also new fence'
[15] The Old Guard House and Offices - Nearly down'
[16] The New Guard House - Only walled and roofed'
[17] The Dry Store - Wants New Doors, Windows, and Staircase, Plaistering, whitewashing and repairing the tiles also New Flooring'
[18] The Storekeepers House - In good repair' [19] The Superintendents of the Town Gang House - Wants new doors and Windows, whitewashing, Plaistering, and Tiles repairing and other woodwork done'
[20] The Executioners Hut - Wants new doors and window Shutters, Fence and Tiles repairing, Plaistering and Whitewashing'
[21] Two Government Huts - Wants Doors, Windows, Tiles and Fence repairing and other woodwork, also plaistering, and whitewashing'
[22] The Superintendent of Blacksmiths and Assistant Engineer, Overseer of Town Gang and Commissary Clerk - Wants Windows, doors, tiles and fence repairing and other wood work also plaistering and whitewashing'
[23] The Deputy Commissary's House - Wants New Doors, Window Sashes, Fence, Flooring, Whitewashing and Plaistering, a few panes of glass, other woodwork done. Out offices the same'
[24] Light Horsemen's Barracks and Stable - Wants new shingling, plaistering, Doors, window shutters and other woodwork.'
[25] The Two Salt Provision Stores - Wants the doors and windows nearly new and other woodwork, tiles repairing, plaistering, whitewashing, part of the walls given way'
[26] The New Church - The wall at one end down, and the Tower. The roof only half up.'
[27] One Wind mill - Wants new Plaistering, whitewashing and repairing the wood work'
[28] One new Windmill - Not Finished'
[29] One Old Windmill on the fort - useless'
[30] The Town Bridge - New, Part of it down, the other part in a bad state'
[31] The Orphan House - In good repair. The Offices in a bad state, one nearly down'
[32] The wooden Hospital - Rotten and decayed. Not worth repairing'
[33] The Other Hospital - Wants new doors, windows, and shutters, floors relaying, many panes glass broken, whitewashing, and plaistering, the out offices some down and others propt up, also new fence. All the Hospital and Premises in a ruinous State'
[34] The Principal Surgeons House - Wants plaistering, whitewashing and tiling repaired with some other woodwork done'
[35] Two Assistant Surgeons Barracks - Wants new doors and window shutters and other necessary repairs, plaistering and whitewashing'
[36] Commissary Office - Wants doors and windows, nearly new, plaistering, whitewashing, tiling repaired and In General in a very bad state'
[37]Salt Provision Store - Wants flooring, doors, windows and shingling and new cooperage yard'
[38] Guard House, Dawes Point - Wants Plaistering whitewashing'