Seldom have the known details of a person been so
concentrated on a single issue — in this case, man's
earliest invention, the wheel.
Some 90 pounds of metal, in this case lead, were stolen
from the home of a widow, Ann Blake, rented from one
by a labourer from the Parish of St Mary, Lambeth. As
the lead was valued at 10 shillings the
was convicted and sentenced on 16 February 1785 at the
Quarter Sessions to seven years transportation.
Of these seven years the first two were spent restrained
on hulk Justinian, beached on the Thames at
Woolwich. From the hulk he would have been employed "in
raising gravel for masking on Woolwich Shoals, in
wheeling the same for the purpose of making considerably
higher the surface of all the ground contiguous to the
Proof and Practice Butts which they have created and are
now repairing, in filling up large ditches, scraping and
cleaning cannon, sawing of timber for the laboratory,
and in other occasional work in the Warren at Woolwich
under the direction of the Board of Ordinances."
In May 1787 from this hulk together with 211 male
convicts he was transferred to Alexander on which
he traveled to Botany Bay.
Having arrived, Hughes again came before the Court. On 4
November 1789 stole from the Government (according to
the evidence of Thomas Daveny, William Holland and John
Bazley) the frame of a wheelbarrow. He was found guilty
and sentenced by Judge-Advocate Collins and Captain
Hunter to fifty lashes on the following Saturday.
Rose Hill was Hughes next move where on l6 January 1791
he married a Second Fleet convict, 29-year-old Mary
Steward. The church register describes him as Robert
Hugh Hughes. (A Robert Hughes had earlier been buried on
the 27 August 1790.)
Soon Hughes obtained a town-lot grant on the
north-western corner of the intersection of Church and
Argyle Streets, Parramatta. There he built a house and a
workshop from whence he plied his trade as a
wheelwright. It is possible that from this site he made
the Colony's first wheel or vehicle.
In 1800 Hughes's wife, Mary, aged 38 years died leaving
no known children. With the death of his wife Hughes was
assigned a recently arrived female servant, Mary
Underhill. She had arrived as one of about 20 female
convicts with the new Governor, Philip Gidley King,
aboard Speedy. At the Old Bailey in February 1798
she had been sentenced to seven years transportation for
stealing bedding and other like effects from a
lodging-house at 133 Great Saffron Hill and then pawning
some of the goods. She was 24 years old.
Though no record of any marriage can be found, Mary
Underhill is recorded in various musters, the 1828
Census, and on her death certificate, as Mary Hughes. In
1803 Mary's son, Hugh Hughes (or sometimes Hugh James
Hughes), was born — Hughes's only known child.
Hughes continued as a wheelwright in Parramatta until
his death in 1830 at the age of 66. The church register
indicates that he was buried on 3 January 1830 although
this contradicts his tombstone. He is buried next to his
Some 23 years later at Argyle Street, Parramatta, his
second wife died and, although her grave is now unknown,
she too is buried in St John's, Parramatta.
In his father's lifetime, in July 1824, Hugh Hughes Jnr,
married Elizabeth, daughter of emancipists Thomas and
Esther Ashby, who conducted a bootmaking and saddlery
business in Church Street North, Parramatta. Hugh Hughes
Jnr continued his father's trade as a wheelwright as
well as conducting other commercial activities — such as
holding the licence for the Golden Lion hotel in
Church Street. Hugh Hughes Jnr had eight children and
became, to quote the newspapers of the day, the head of
"a very well-known Parramatta family."