*In the interests of consistency and to avoid confusion these names will be written as above.  Peat is frequently recorded as Peet or Peate but in this case Peat is the spelling always used when the bearer signed his name.  Hannah Mullens, being illiterate, subject to the spelling skills of the person recording her name, and possibly to the whim of the lady herself, has a multitude of variations viz. Ann Mullan, Anne, Hannah, Hanna, Joanna, Johanna, Susannah; Mullen, Mullens, Mullin, Mullins.  In the Old Bailey Trial transcript Mary’s father’s surname is recorded as Mullins.


Charles Peat was born in London on 25 November, 1759, the eleventh and last child of George and Bridget Peat.  As was customary with his older siblings, he was baptised at St George’s, Hanover Square on 17th December, 1759,  the fee paid being ten shillings and sixpence.1

The earliest baptismal records for the Peat offspring show a Kings Row address. The family then appears to have moved to the then newly developed Park Street, Mayfair, sometime in the mid 1740s.2

A notice in the London Chronicle of 1 September, 1764, reports on the marriage of ‘Miss Ann Peat, eldest daughter of Mr George Peat, wine merchant, of South Park Street, Grosvenor Square’ to a Mr Edward Goldney Jun., wholesale stationer in Watling Street.  This notice was the first reference to George Peat’s occupation, a piece of information we were always hoping to find.  George Peat was a very successful businessman as the details of the bequests in his will testify.3

St George’s, Hanover Square, next records the marriage by Licence of Charles Peat (bachelor) to Mary Cannon (spinster) of the same parish on 5 January, 1779. Both ages are given as 21.4


No further information has come to light on that marriage but one very ill-judged action less than three years later brought Charles Peat very much into the spotlight.5  At Justice Hall in the Old Bailey at the sessions beginning on 5 December, 1781, Charles Peat was indicted for ‘feloniously making an assault upon Richard Down, Esq. upon the 27th October last, upon the King’s highway in the parish of Finchly6 and putting him in corporal fear and danger of his life, and taking from his person a silk purse, value threepence and twenty three shillings in money’.  Assured that the victim valued the purse it was returned to him minus the contents.

The mounted assailant was overpowered by Richard Down’s servant and once secured was taken before a justice for committal.  According to the victim, ‘the prisoner behaved throughout with remarkable civility’.  Sentence of death was pronounced on 10 December, 1781.


The death sentence was commuted on 10 October 1782 on condition of Peat’s service in the navy, and he joined HMS Prince Edward  two days later as an ordinary seaman.  He was transferred to Belleisle  on 22 December and ran from the ship on the 26th.  He did not (as he said later) ‘have the honour of bearing a commission’.7

In April 1783 Peat was committed to Newgate for ‘having broke the condition of His Majesty’s pardon bearing date the 10th day of October’. On 23 June, Lord North informed the Recorder of London that Peat would now be transported to Nova Scotia for life, and on 4 October he was sent to the hulks.8

 Charles Peat’s second trial before Mr Rose at Justice Hall in the Old Bailey  at the sessions beginning 7 July, 1784 was for ‘feloniously returning from transportation, and being  found at large in this kingdom without any lawful cause before the expiration of the term of seven years’.


At this trial Charles Peat was identified as one of the 179 convicts who had risen up and overpowered the crew of the Mercury on 8 April, 1784.  As ‘indented servants’ they were destined for Nova Scotia after cargo was unloaded at ports along the way. Of the 100 or so who made it ashore in Devon they dispersed in all directions striking ‘terror into the heart of every householder from Exeter to Land’s End’.9

The testimony of the key witness John Owen that the Charles Peat who had robbed Mr Down had been on the Mercury was called into question and the jury failed to convict Charles Peat on the grounds that ‘they could not be certain that he was the person convicted in the first trial’.


Peat’s defence was read to the court by the prisoner himself:

“My Lord, from the well-known justice of this honourable Court, I have not the least doubt of a patient hearing, especially as the hardness of my case is unparalleled in the records of the Old Bailey.  I stood here convicted of a robbery, and afterwards received his Majesty’s pardon; on the 4th of June I was apprehended in Smithfield and brought to prison; I pleaded Not Guilty to this indictment, not with the intent to give the Court any unnecessary trouble, but to explain the hardness of my case; the robbery I was cast for was attended with such circumstances of behaviour on my part, that the Court thought me not unworthy of clemency, and I was accordingly recommended to his Majesty’s mercy, and I was afterwards pardoned on condition of serving in the royal army in the East Indies; but some difficulty in putting this pardon into execution, my prosecutor applied to Mr Townsend, now Lord Sydney, for a free pardon. Then I had a pardon on condition of  serving on board his Majesty’s ship the Prince Edward, two months after. Having been six months at my liberty, I was taken up for not complying with the terms of my pardon, and committed to Newgate, where I continued six months, and was had up every Sessions, and was informed I should be discharged. During the time I was in Newgate, I had a severe illness, which rendered me insensible, and whilst I was in that state I was brought before Counsellor Harrison, who sat as Deputy Recorder.  When the sentence of the Court was read to me to be transported to Nova Scotia for the term of my natural life, it may be said I acquiesced, but I was then in a state of insensibility. I applied to Mr Akerman, that during my long confinement, I never was charged with any offence; I have served his Majesty in the royal navy, and had the honour of bearing a commission.  Whilst I was on board the hulk, I had the mortification of seeing my fellow sufferers die daily, to the amount of two hundred and fifty. Several who have had pardons similar to mine, such as Charles Stone and others, have been committed on the same charge, but discharged. My behaviour on board the Duke of Tuscany10 was such as I have no reason to blame my feelings for having endeavoured to preserve the property of the Captain; we were to be disposed of by sale as indented servants for five years. I hope the Court will take my case into their consideration, and view the whole matter, considering I only in one offence fell a victim to the laws, and received his majesty’s pardon, and have never committed a fresh offence. I have his Majesty’s pardon dated in October 1782, to enter on board any of his Majesty’s vessels or ships of war, and on that pardon I rest my defence.”


Asked to hand up that defence. The prisoner replied: ‘My Lord, I have a pardon dated the 12th of July which is two months before the other pardon’.

The jury returned the verdict of Not Guilty, with the proviso that ‘If the prisoner makes out his case he then will be discharged, if he does not he will then be sent to his former sentence, and every proper enquiry will be made’.

He was remanded to his former sentence, the destination changed from North America to Africa in March 1785.  On 5 April he was sent from Newgate to the hulk Ceres on which convicts for Africa were being collected 11

Fortunately for all concerned the African idea was scrapped in favour of New South Wales.  On 13 May, 1787, along with 207 other male convicts, Charles Peat sailed from Portsmouth on the First Fleet Transport Scarborough.      

Shortly after landing at Sydney Cove, Peat was selected to be an overseer of one of the convict gangs employed in timber getting.  Twelve months later, he was still employed in that role as overseer of a convict work gang when in February, 1789, a punishment of 50 lashes was ordered for George Robinson ‘for insolence to Peat’. (12)


On 19 February, 1788, he was a witness to the marriage of John Callaghan and Elizabeth Linnard. Also present at the ceremony was Hannah Mullens who, three days later, on 22 February, 1788, was married to Charles Peat by the Rev. Richard Johnson, with one witness, John Leary. (13)

In her Old Bailey trial in April, 1786, Hannah Mullens stated that she was born in Ireland, the daughter of Jack Mullens and was ‘going of twenty-six’. At the age of sixteen she came to London and lived with a seaman, Peter Roach, for about six months.  From about 1781 onwards, she was employed as a servant.  In 1784, she went to live with Edward Mullins, a porter with whom she had lived for about two years  at St. Giles, and a daughter Mary was born in 1785.

Unable to read or write (14), on 11 November, 1785, Hannah attempted to secure probate of a document that she swore to be the last will of Peter Roach, who had been killed in an explosion at Madras, India on 19 April, 1783. This document was obviously forged, as one of the ‘witnesses’ had died before the supposed will was made. Brought to trial at the Old Bailey session of 26 April, 1786, she was indicted for attempting to obtain probate in order to receive the wages and pay due to Peter Roach.  Found guilty of forgery, she was sentenced to death with a recommendation to mercy, since the jury supposed ‘she had been drawn in’.

She was not reprieved until 4 January 1787 to transportation for life to NSW, having remained in the condemned cell with her child from the date of conviction.  Aged 26, she was embarked on Lady Penrhyn from Newgate with her child Mary. (15)


The first child born to Charles and Hannah was a son Charles, baptised at Sydney Cove on 25 December, 1789.   In August of the same year, upon its establishment by Governor Phillip, Charles Peat was one of the twelve convicts selected to be a member of the Night Watch, the Colony’s first Police Force.  In this capacity he appeared a number of times in court, and his name was frequently recorded in the early Supreme Court Papers. (16)

On 6 December, 1791, Hannah gave birth to a second child, a daughter Nancy.   A second son, George, was born on 8 February, 1794. A second daughter, Elizabeth, was born on 3 September, 1797 but only lived a few weeks. Charles and Hannah’s last child, a son William, was born on 12 January, 1799. (17)


On 29 November, 1792, Charles Peat received a conditional pardon and this was followed in September, 1795 by a grant of 90 acres ‘in the district of Eastern Farms’. In the land returns of 20 September, 1796, he was described as being ‘Late Principal in the Night Watch’.  Governor Hunter cancelled the grant, but the land was subsequently reissued in 1799, the number of acres being reduced to 30 (leasehold). (18)   In 1798, Peat still had possession of his 90 acres when he signed a list of grievances from the settlers of the Eastern Farms in March (19).This 90 acres was later sold in 2 lots with 30 acres to William Tyrrell and 60 acres to William Raven, master of Britannia. (20) In 1801, Hannah is recorded as having 30 acres in her own name which she farmed while Charles was absent.  It is not known whether this was the land now belonging to William Tyrrell.  The maps bear the name of the latter but also ‘Peat’s Farm’. (21)

In the 1802 muster, Hannah Peat was living with her family of four on the 30-acre lease, of which 26 acres were under wheat and maize.  Her ‘stock’ consisted of one goat. (22)

 Charles Peat does not appear in the muster because “on 12 October 1800, Peat took ship for England on the Buffalo, signing on as able seaman aged 40.  He ran from Buffalo at Portsmouth on 9 September 1801. There is no record of a son going with him, but the boy was probably victualled from his father’s stores; in July 1802 Peat requested permission to return with his son to NSW… saying he had ‘sail’d with his Excellency Governor Philip to settle the Colony of N.S.Wales and served under him as cheif (sic) of the working parties and after on the establishment of the civil police as cheif(sic) Constable of the district of Sidney(sic).’  He had then, he wrote, served in the same capacity under successive governors, ‘and under… His Excellency John Hunter Esqr…with whom I came to England in order to recover a small legacy.’  Governor Hunter, ‘Col.Colins, Adml Philip…have respectively authorised me to use their names.’ “(23)


In a letter to Governor King dated 5 April, 1803, Under Secretary John Sullivan conveyed Lord Hobart’s direction that 46 persons had been granted permission ‘to proceed as settlers to New South Wales’ and ‘all produced very favourable testimonies of their Characters’. He went on to say that he ‘believed they would not only contribute to the prosperity of the Settlement under your Government, but…will merit your favourable protection’. Among this group of mainly skilled tradesmen and their families was Charles Peat and his son.  Peat’s recommendation is recorded as being given by Governor Hunter. The ship which sailed from England with this group of 46 and Sullivan’s letter to Governor King was the HMS Calcutta. (24)


The suitability of a Londoner with no agricultural experience to the life of a pioneer farmer can only be cause for wonder. There is no doubt, however, that with his claimed seafaring background the colony’s infant shipbuilding industry was a far more attractive proposition.  Peat was almost certainly employed at the Government Dockyard in Cockle Bay, his son George being apprenticed to a Mr Blaxcell there as a youth.(25)   Charles Peatis known to have spent much time on voyages along the coast – a fact which would  perhaps explain his absence from the musters in 1805-06, and 1811.

In the Sydney Gazette of 12 January, 1811, there appeared an advertisement for seamen for H.M.Colonial Schooner Estramina.  Applicants were requested to see ‘Mr Charles Peat at the Dockyard’. This ship sailed to and from various settlements in NSW, Tasmania, and Norfolk Island.  In February, 1812 he is listed on an outward vessel carrying a cargo of wheat to the Hawkesbury. (26)

Given his association with Cockle Bay and boatbuilding, there can be no doubt that he was acquainted with boat builder James Webb, who, at the age of 47, married his 18-year-old daughter Nancy Peat on 3 September, 1810. (27)  It was not to prove a happy marriage.  There were no children and Nancy left her husband in 1820 sailing on the brig John Shore for Calcutta.  She did not return and Webb did not divorce her. (28)

Whilst it was observed, very early in the first years of settlement, that ‘those…who chuse (sic) to apply themselves to Industry are much better off than the labouring People in England’

Charles Peat must have thought otherwise.  On the 23 and 30 May, 1812, the following notice appeared in the Claims and Demands column of the Sydney Gazette:

‘All persons having claims on Mr Charles Peat, Mrs Susannah Peat, or William Peat, a youth, are requested to present the same to the said Mr Charles Peat for payment, as he intends shortly to shape his course out of the Heads for good’.


The tone is unmistakable.  The author had sailed out of Port Jackson many times before but this time it was to be the last.  In accordance with Government regulations, all persons departing the colony had to be cleared at the Secretary’s office two to three weeks before planned departure.  Such notices followed a set wording. Of the seven notices that were printed in the same issue only Charles Peat’s expressed a determination that bordered on vehemence.

Outgoing passenger lists not being compiled until 1816, until very recent times the destination of the Peats remained uncertain.  India was considered a possibility given the fact that their son George paid a brief visit to Calcutta in 1816 before returning to Sydney and daughter Nancy left for the same destination in 1820. William Peat would appear to have married and raised a family in Calcutta and died there in 1837.  He was a Captain in the East India Company maritime service and held the position of Government Pilot in Bombay. (29)


It is very likely that the Peats left on either the brig Margaret or the brig Atalanta in June, 1812 as both ships were bound for Calcutta. (30)

The question of their destination was resolved when the burial records for Charles and Hannah Peat were found in Bengal, India. (31) Charles Peat is recorded as having been buried on 1 June, 1813 at Fort William. The death of ‘Mrs Johanna Peat (relict of the late Mr Charles Peat)’ was dated 14 April, 1822 at Chandernagore.  Both localities are within the bounds of the present day city of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). Captain William Peat was buried in the South Park Street Burial Ground after his death on 17 June, 1837.  It is probable that he was interred in the same cemetery as his parents. (32)


Mary Mullins, born in London in 1785, was, as stated above, the daughter of Hannah Mullens and Edward Mullins. (33) She was one of the children of the First Fleet who survived not only the perils of Newgate but also the ensuing long voyage to NSW. No record of her life or subsequent death in the new colony has been found.


 George Peat (1794-1870) was the only child of First Fleeters Charles and Hannah Peat to remain in Australia.  As a shipbuilder and later settler on the Hawkesbury, he was to become influential in building the river trade and ferries which enabled passengers and goods greater freedom to travel within the colony.

It was his track from Pennant Hills to the Hawkesbury which was chosen to be the main northern road out of Sydney.

The name Peat as in Peat’s Ferry, Peat’s Ridge, and the former state electoral division (now Gosford) commemorates George Peat the Hawkesbury pioneer.



1. These birth, baptismal, marriage and burial records were supplied by the Vestry Clerk at St George’s, Hanover Square in 1977.  William Peat, Anne Goldney (nee Peat) and Bridget Hatheway (nee Peat) were beneficiaries in their father George’s will dated 31 August, 1785. Charles’s elder sister Anne was born in 1743; his sister Bridget was born in 1757 and married John Hatheway, an apothecary.

2. The Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair. Survey of London Vol.40. F.H.W.Shepherd (Gen.Ed.) Athlone Press, 1980. Pp.251-252.

3. Prerogative Court of Canterbury 1786 Wills. Will dated 31 August, 1785; proved at London on 3 Feb, 1786.

4. Marriage by Licence 5 January, 1779, St George’s, Hanover Square. Copy supplied by Archbishop of Canterbury’s Library, Lambeth Palace, London in 1977.

5.  All trial records are sourced from .

6. A largely uninhabited common, Finchley Common in Middlesex was notorious in the 18th century as a place for highwaymen.  These were robbers who attacked travellers at night whilst they travelled along the Great North Road. In 1774, the Earl of Minto wrote to his wife that he would not ‘trust my throat on Finchley Common in the dark’.  (At about 4.45 in the afternoon in October, Charles Peat’s attempt at highway robbery would seem amateurish to say the least!) Source: (Finchley Histories).

7. The Founders of Australia: A Biographical Dictionary of the First Fleet. Mollie Gillen. Library of Australian History, Sydney. 1989. P.280

8. Ibid.

9. See ‘Sunday History’, the Sunday Telegraph October 10, 1993, p.138

10. The ship the Grand Duke of Tuscany was the former name of the Mercury.

11. Gillen, p.280

12. Sydney Cove: Australia’s First Five Years Vol 2. 1789-1790. John Cobley.  Angus & Robertson, 1980. p.25

13. This marriage is No.29 in the Register of Marriages in NSW.

14. A record of a signature in 1792 appears to show that Hannah along with some other First Fleeters had learned to write during the early years of settlement in NSW. (See Gillen, p.565).

15. Gillen, p.257.

16. Peat Family Research Report.  P.J.Scott, Research Officer, the Society of Australian Genealogists, 1961.p.5

17. Ibid.

18. Ibid.

19. Gillen, p.257

20. Ibid.

21. Early maps of the Eastern Farms District were viewed at the Local Studies Centre, Ryde Municipal Library.

22. Scott, p.5 (It is probable that the family of 4 consisted of Mary Mullins, Nancy, George and William as one son had gone to England with his father and that son would most certainly have been the eldest, Charles, who in 1800 was 11 years of age. No further records have been found for this eldest son Charles).

23. Gillen, p.280; Cobley has the date as 21st October (Vol 5 p.443). Peat’s acquaintance with Hunter is certainly correct as they both left Sydney on the same ship HMS Buffalo.

24. Historical Records of Australia. Series 1, Vol.4. p.66

25. The Hatch & Brood of Time: A Study of the first generation of native-born white Australians.  Portia Robinson, Melbourne, OUP, 1985.  ‘The 1828 Census showed that shipwrights were among the oldest of the native-born tradesmen with five born before 1797’ p.219.

26. Scott, p.5

27. Scott, p.5

28.  The life of James Webb has been well documented. C.Swancott provides a detailed account in his The Brisbane Water Story. Pt. 2. Woy Woy and Hawkesbury River. Brisbane Water Historical Society, 1954.

29. Ibid.

30. The Bengal Obituary. Holmes & Co. (Calcutta) W.Thaker & Co. London, 1851. P.156

31. Ships & Vessels cleared outwards from Port Jackson 1 April to 30 Sept, 1812. Historical Records of Australia.  Series 1, Vol.7, p.648

32. India Deaths & Burials, 1719-1948; Parish Register Transcripts from the Presidency of Bengal, 1713-1948; India Office of the Registrar General, Index to Burials 1801-1820; Asiatic Journal & Monthly register for British India and its dependencies Vol.14 July-Dec. 1822 (London 1822). LDS Family History Library, FHL British Film 498544.  British Library, India Office ref N/1/9/f327.

33. Additional confirmation supplied by Michael Flynn who was of great assistance with the Indian records. 

34. See Old Bailey Trial record for her mother Hannah Mullens  has the full transcript..



The research into our First Fleeters has been an ongoing process over many years and until we discovered the birth and family origins of Charles Peat together with the very recent confirmation of the destination of the Peat family when they left Sydney in 1812, the account remained incomplete.  As descendants of the youngest child (William Nottingham Palmer Hayes) of George Peat’s youngest daughter (Anne who died at age 33), we, like them, were denied much of the oral history that one generation passes on to the next  in the course of longer life spans.

William Nottingham Palmer Hayes married Louisa Georgina Leech (nee Bennett) in 1906 and it has been the research efforts of their grandchildren Ruth Dungate and Margaret Meyer that have provided this story with a beginning and an ending.  Without these essential ingredients the Peat story was only half-baked.  As a somewhat younger first cousin, I have provided some assistance in this effort but the bulk of the credit must go to them.  Putting it all together was the very least I could do.

Beginning in one Park Street and ending in another South Park Street, a world away in all respects, the story of these First Fleeters traces a path that neither Charles nor Hannah could have ever imagined they would travel when they first set out as young people into the crowds, dust, and pitfalls  of 1770’s London.


Fran Powell  Beecroft. NSW.   April 2013




Copyright Fellowship of First Fleeters