CHARLES PEAT – HANNAH MULLENS – MARY
*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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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’.
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’.
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
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.
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.
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)
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
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)
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.
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
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:
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
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.
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
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.
(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.
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
Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair.
Survey of London Vol.40. F.H.W.Shepherd (Gen.Ed.)
Athlone Press, 1980. Pp.251-252.
Court of Canterbury 1786 Wills. Will dated 31 August,
1785; proved at London on 3 Feb, 1786.
by Licence 5 January, 1779, St George’s, Hanover Square.
Copy supplied by Archbishop of Canterbury’s Library,
Lambeth Palace, London in 1977.
All trial records are sourced from
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:
Founders of Australia: A Biographical Dictionary of the
Mollie Gillen. Library of Australian History, Sydney.
‘Sunday History’, the Sunday Telegraph October
10, 1993, p.138
ship the Grand Duke of Tuscany was the former
name of the Mercury.
Cove: Australia’s First Five Years Vol 2. 1789-1790.
John Cobley. Angus & Robertson, 1980. p.25
marriage is No.29 in the Register of Marriages in NSW.
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).
Family Research Report.
P.J.Scott, Research Officer, the Society of Australian
maps of the Eastern Farms District were viewed at the
Local Studies Centre, Ryde Municipal Library.
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).
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.
Records of Australia.
Series 1, Vol.4. p.66
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.
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,
Holmes & Co. (Calcutta) W.Thaker & Co. London, 1851.
& Vessels cleared outwards from Port Jackson 1 April to
30 Sept, 1812. Historical Records of Australia.
Series 1, Vol.7, p.648
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.
confirmation supplied by Michael Flynn who was of great
assistance with the Indian records.
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.
Powell Beecroft. NSW. April 2013