JAMES BLOODWORTH Convict Charlotte

and SARAH BELLAMY Convict Lady Penrhyn

Sydney’s First Designer-Builder


James Bloodworth, or Bloodsworth, was born on 7 March 1759 and died on 21 March 1804. He was sentenced on 3October 1785 at Esher, Surrey to seven’ years transportation to the colony for felony, being the theft of one game cock and two hens.  He arrived in Australia aboard the Charlotte and was the only convict listed as bricklayer, so was immediately called upon by Governor Philip, who appointed him Master Bricklayer. He was also given the responsibility for designing and building the first Government House for Governor Philip, which stood as the Governor’s residence in Sydney for the next 56 years. Sadly there is no portrait of this remarkable man.


Bloodworth located clay between two fresh water streams at Long Cove which ran into a small bay called Cockle Bay, later to become known as Darling Harbour. The site became known as Brickfield. Bloodworth then supervised the making and burning of the first bricks, in makeshift kilns in which the wooden moulds bought out from England with the Fleet were placed. Bloodworth taught his fellow convicts how to sprinkle sand over the stock, being the bottom of the mould, thus ensuring the brick would not stick to the wood when turned out. Hence the name which is still applied to handmade bricks by this method, sandstocks. Lime for mortar was obtained from oyster shells, the women convicts were sent out to gather these, which they then ground up and fired.

Bloodworth designed and built the first Government House and despite many difficulties in the initial stages of construction, a two-storeyed house was built, a remarkable feat, given the tools available at that time. There were six very large rooms and the house was ready for Philip within six months of landing, the only house in Australia with a staircase at that time. The house was 15.9 metres long by 6 metres wide. The walls were so strong a second storey was added as an afterthought, with a roof of shingles.  If further proof were needed that Bloodworth’s building was two-storeyed, it could be found in the recorded bewilderment of the Aboriginal, Arabanoo, who looking up at the upper windows and seeing people walking about, he was amazed at white man’s custom of standing on one another’s shoulders. The first Government House stood on the present day corner of Bridge and Philip Streets. It was demolished in 1845, when another Government House was built in the Domain.

In 1790 Governor Philip pardoned Bloodworth for exemplary conduct making him the second convict to be pardoned since the formation of the colony. He continued his role of architect-builder for the Government and in 1791 he was appointed supervisor of all brick makers and bricklayers in the settlement. In 1792 he was offered rehabilitation to England but chose to stay in Australia.

He was a very busy man in the first few years of arrival, for as well as supervising brick production, he designed the soldier’s barracks on the west side of the tank stream, houses for the Surveyor General, Augustus Alt, The Judge Advocate, David Collins and the Reverend Richard Johnson. Another of his buildings was a large dry stone store on the east side of Sydney Cove at Kings Wharf, which was completed in 1790. It was a large rectangular building 24 metres long and 7.2 metres wide and was unusually tall for a building of that time. It had a hipped roof, an attic and the first building to be lit by dormer windows in NSW.


He went on to build Sydney’s first skyscraper in 1797, a 45 metre clock tower on Church Hill near the present St Phillips Church, but a violent storm in June 1806 destroyed the tower. Another building attributed to Bloodworth is the first Government House in Parramatta which was constructed in 1799. Several other fine buildings were constructed by Bloodworth including, St Johns Church, St Phillips Church on Church Hill and a Windmill.


Bloodworth was already married in England, so he took a common law wife, named Sarah Bellamy. She was convicted in Worcester, England in July 1785 for stealing a linen purse which it was said contained £30 and was sentenced to seven years’ transportation. She arrived on the Lady Penrhyn in the First Fleet in 1788 at the age of 17. On arrival in Sydney, she was assigned to Lt Faddy as a housemaid. In 1789 Sarah was charged with disturbing the peace, but supported by strong witnesses, namely Matthew Everingham and John Harris, had the case dismissed. It had happened that Captain Meredith of the marines and Mr Kiltie, master of HMS Sirius, somewhat under the weather, departed from the governor's house at about one o'clock in the morning, made a lot of noise outside Sarah's house. She became alarmed and screamed "murder". Subsequently Captain Meredith tried to have Sarah arrested but was restrained by John Harris, the nightwatchman.

About this time, Sarah began living with James Bloodworth in South Street, now 19 O'Connell St. She had eight children by him but four did not survive infancy. Those who survived were James (1790), George (1796), Ann (1798) and and Elizabeth (1802).  The couple were both given land grants of 50 and 20 acres respectively in December 1794 in the district of Petersham which Bloodworth later increased to 245 acres.


In 1802 another honour was bestowed on Bloodworth when he was made a sergeant in Sydney’s Loyal Association, a great mark of respect to a former convict. This was an Association made up of 200 volunteers’ recruited from citizens as a reserve or Home Guard, whose function it was to quell any rebellions which may have broken out among the many convicts at liberty or ticket of leavers, who were increasing in number.


Bloodworth was appointed Superintendent of Buildings in 1804 on a salary of £50 per annum, but this position was short lived as he contacted a chill which failed to respond to treatment. Complications set in and we presume he died of pneumonia on 21 March 1804, aged 45, at his home in O’Connell Street, having lived in Australia for sixteen years. The then Governor, Philip Gidley  King ordered that Bloodworth be given the equivalent of a State Funeral with Military Honours, given the high esteem the settlers held him in, an honour never given before or since to a convict. His remains were buried in the Old Sydney Burial Ground, which is now the site of Sydney Town Hall.

After James died in 1804, Sarah lived by herself with her children in South Street. Sarah settled James' insolvency, received a 20 acre grant at Petersham NSW and schooled her children. She received her certificate of emancipation on 23 Feb 1811. In 1823 she petitioned the governor for the release of her son-in-law, Robert Carver, husband of her daughter Elizabeth, who had been falsely accused of a crime he did not commit and was sent to Port Macquarie NSW.


She died at Lane Cove on 24 Feb 1843 and was buried in the Devonshire Street cemetery then later it is believed, was transferred to Botany Cemetery. Sarah was described as a spirited girl with an abundance of bright red hair which has been passed onto her many descendants.

As Robert Hughes said in his book, The Fatal Shore, Australians have only just began to look back on their country’s penal origins with anything other than neglectful embarrassment. I trust we may now rectify some of our failings to those first men and women, whose beginnings brought about this great country, Australia, and our founding city, Sydney.


Submitted by Christopher Rowe #8733


Note: For more information contact the Bloodworth Association.

President: Shirley Tunnicliff  #8014: email: sgtunnicliff@bigpond.com

and Secretary: Robyn McGill #5217:  email:  mcgill.robyn660@gmail.com


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