FF THOMAS RESTELL CROWDER Convict ‘Alexander’ (c1757-1824)

And FF Sarah Davies/Davis Convict ‘Lady Penrhyn’ (c1760-1794)

 Thomas Restell Crowder was born on 26 December 1757 in Bromley in Kent, the son of Nathaniel Crowder and Susannnah Ward, and was baptised on 20 January 1758 in the Parish of St Martin in the Field, Westminster, London, England. His early life saw many brushes with the law.

Thomas was first tried on 4 December 1782 at age 25 years, and was indicted for ‘burglariously breaking and entering the dwelling house of John Bradford Esq; about the hour of three in the night on 30 November, with intent, the goods, chattels, and monies of the said John Bradford , in the said dwelling house then and there being, burglariously to steal, take, and carry away’. He was tried by the second Middlesex Jury, before Mr. Baron Hotham, and sentenced to death. This was commuted to life transportation to the East Indies on 17 January 1783, and changed again on 12 September, this time to life transportation to America.


After the Mercury mutiny, at the time of his March 1785 trial, Thomas was also facing a charge of escape from the Mercury transport at Torbay.


Thomas Restell Crowder (indicted as Thomas Risdale otherwise Crowder) was tried at Bristol Quarter Sessions inMarch 1785with Aaron Davis for grand larceny which netted them ‘various goods to a very large amount’ belonging to James Cunning. Both had been present at a public auction in a warehouse, but not seen together, and were convicted on the evidence of an accomplice deemed untrustworthy. Both Thomas and Aaron were found guilty, and Aaron was sentenced to seven years transportation, but the judgement was withheld for Thomas as he awaited trial on yet another indictment for burglary in the house of John Thomas. At this time, on 29 March 1785, Thomas was again sentenced to death.


However, on 22 AprilJudge Richard Burke wrote expressing doubts about the evidence given by the accomplice, but recommended transportation for life in view of the earlier robberies.  Thomas was still facing charges of escape from the Mercury. Three days later Crowder was reprieved from that charge and sentenced to life transportation, and during 1785 he was placed on board the "Justitia" prison hulk.At the age of 30on 6 January 1787 he was delivered to the Alexander for transport to NSW.


Thomas now 31, married Sarah Davies (Convict Lady Penrhyn) aged 28, in Port Jackson, Sydney on 7 June 1788. Sarah was a glove maker who had been convicted in August 1783 at Worcester for shoplifting was sentenced to transportation for seven years. The marriage service was performed by the Rev. Richard Johnson, probably under a tree or in a hut, as the first church, St Philips, was not yet built. One of the witnesses was Samuel Barnes, the servant to Rev Johnson.


Crowder was one of five who gave evidence on Friday 7 November 1788 at the trial of John Thomas (Convict Scarborough) for stealing, on 30 October, with force of arms, one pound of castile soap, of the value of one shilling and sixpence, the goods and chattels of one Mary Hill (Convict Lady Penrhyn). John Thomas was found guilty and sentenced to ‘five hundred lashes thus: four hundred on his bare back and one hundred on his bare backsides in the usual manner’


Two weeks later, on 16 November 1788 both Thomas and Sarah themselves were before the court, accused of making a disturbance late at night. Thomas was reprimanded but Sarah had to work for one month.


On 17 February 1789 both were sent to Norfolk Island on HMAT Supply. There by 1st July 1791 Thomas was supporting them on 2 acres of land, with 10 rods cleared, and by 8 December 1791 he was marked as settled with 14 acres. Their sow had a litter of 9 in February 1792 and another 18 in the August. At that time Thomas was also in charge of the patrol watch for Sydney Town and had begun selling provisions to Government Stores


 In June 1792, Crowder was recommended by Lieutenant Governor King for his honesty and activity ‘employed before I left this island, during my absence and since my return, as a General Inspector of Convicts, and has been of the greatest service to the Publick’ In November 1792 Thomas was recommended for an Absolute Pardon as long as he did not attempt to return to England.

On 7 September 1793 Thomas was sworn in as Constable for Grenville Vale, and at the time he had 8 of his 14 acres of hilly but ploughable land cultivated. A few weeks later he bought a further 60 acres for £60 and was elected as a member of the Norfolk Island Settlers Society.


The well-documented fracas during the performance of a play on 19 January 1794 arose from a disagreement between Thomas and Sergeant Thomas Whittle (Marine Royal Admiral) of the NSW Corps, in which Thomas was eventually exonerated, demonstrated the difficulties that arose when the authority of a soldier was countered by the authority of a constable who had been a convict. This issue was that Thomas was under orders to reserve seats for the Lieutenant-Governor’s servants at the playhouse, while Whittle insisted on seating his own men.


Sadness came to Thomas in May 1794 when his wife Sarah died, so in June he hired the FF convict John Barford for 12 months and rented 10 acres to FFsettler Benjamin Wright. For the next few years Thomas was busy buying and selling land on Norfolk Island.


Just before Christmas in 1799, on 22 December Thomas now aged 32, married Mary Christmas nee Smith/Coucher aged 21, a convict from Lady Juliana).Her trial proceedings indicate that she was indicted for stealing, on the 26th of September 1787, one silver table spoon, value 12 s. the property of John Hooper. Found Guilty she was sentenced to transportation for seven years.


Mary already had three children from her partnership to Second Fleeter Charles Smith who had died on 2nd February 1795 on Norfolk Island. They were Charles (1791), Sarah (1793) and Elizabeth (1794). By 1805, Thomas had 14 acres cleared, with 7 acres in grain, nearly 2 in barley and the remaining 5 in pasture with 6 female hogs, also 150 bushels of maize in hand, recorded at the time with a wife and two children.


Thomas sold his 60 acres in December 1807 for 40 pounds and together with his wife Mary and two daughters, Elizabeth (1794) and Mary (1799) he left for the Derwent on 26 December by Porpoise. It’s unclear what had happened to the two other children Charles (1791) and Sarah (1793). His two-storey house, 44x12 ft., boarded and shingled, his thatched, boarded and shingled barn 12x12ft and his two log and thatched outhouses were together valued at £90.Elizabeth passed away in 1808 aged 14 years.


Thomas was now 53 years old and, ready for a new life in Van Diemen’s Land, took up farming at Sussex (in the Dodges Ferry area) on 120 acres. On 21 May 1809 Thomas signed an address to Governor William Bligh (it is noted that he wrote in a good hand.) A son, Thomas Russell (sic) Crowder was baptised at Hobart on 28 October 1810


In 1813 and definitely back in town he was appointed superintendent of convicts at Hobart Town at £50 a year, with two assigned servants and rations for his wife and child. As well as conducting regular convict musters, recording the names of assigned servants and attending the issue of their stores, he acted as master carpenter and bricklayer, assisting the colonial engineer in surveying leases resumed by the government and reporting on their value for compensation. In these duties he was well placed to observe the wily devices of commissary officials and landholders, but, although often required as a witness at inquiries, his evidence was always discreetly unrevealing.


In 1815 Thomas, as did many other settlers, signed the petition for a Court of Criminal Judicature in VDL. Later that year on 1 April Thomas gave evidence, as principal superintendent and as a constable, against bushrangers.


By 1818 his convict returns seldom tallied with those of the colonial secretary, and Lieutenant-Governor William Sorell found it necessary to appoint a second superintendent to assist the colonial engineer.


In 1820 when Commissioner John Thomas Bigge visited Hobart, Sorell praised Crowder's integrity, but soon afterwards recommended that he should be superannuated, 'being advanced in life'. With Macquarie's approval, Crowder was given a pension of £25 and became caretaker of St David's Church


In 1822, aged 65 years Thomas retired as superintendent of carpenters. In his sixty-seventh year he died at his home in Elizabeth Street on 28 November 1824, and was buried at St David’s Hobart.

DIED-On Sunday last, in his 67th year, at his residence in Elizabeth-street, Mr. Thomas Restell Crowder,36 years an inhabitant of these Colonies, and several years Principal Superintendent of convicts, much lamented and regretted by his numerous family and friends. (Hobart Town Gazette 3 Dec 1824)

Mary Crowder, Thomas’s wife, passed away nearly six years later on 28 May 1830 in Hobart Tasmania and was buried, ‘widow of the late verger of the church’ at St David’s Hobart.


Daughter Mary married twice, first at the age of 16 to Theophilus Mitchell in 1815 in Hobart, then to William Cook in 1819 in Hobart after Mitchell had deserted her. There is no record of children from either marriage and, as Mary Cook, she died on 15 March 1827.


Son Thomas Restell Crowder married Amelia Anne Beaumont on 17 September 1833 in Hobart. They had nine children, three boys and six girls. The boys were George Herbert 1836, Thomas Restell 1839 and William Charles 1843. The girls were Mary Elizabeth Beaumont 1837, Sarah Jane 1841, Amelia Annie 1845, Charlotte Virginia 1847, Emily Isobel 1849 and Eleanor 1851. Thomas Senior died on 14 October 1851 at Hollyrood House, Tasmania and his wife Amelia died on 25 November 1892 at Wattle Hill, Port Sorell.


Compiled by John Boyd 2020



-The Founders of Australia by Molly Gillen p 88,89 & 96

- Sydney Cove 1788 to 1800 in 5 Volumes by John Cobley

-The Crimes of the First Fleet Convicts by John Cobley

-Crowder, Thomas Restell (1758–1824)published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

- www.convictrecords.com.au/convictsrisdalethomas - by Eric Harry Daly on 24th December, 2012



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