James Bradley


There were two James BRADLEYs convicted in the Old Bailey Court in London and sentenced to seven years Transportation to Australia, one in 1784 for stealing a linen handkerchief valued at one shilling (ref. Crimes of the First Fleet), the other in 1785 for stealing a handkerchief with a purple border valued at two shillings (ref. The Founders of Australia). Only one of them actually reached Australia, both cases are well documented but the authors of the main reference books disagree about which one. The James BRADLEY who reached Australia was born in London, England about 1764. He left England, aboard the "Scarborough" with the "First Fleet", on the 13th of May 1787 and arrived at Sydney Cove, Australia eight months later, on the 26th of January 1788.

By the beginning of 1789 food stocks were extremely low, the first attempts at growing crops failed, and a relief vessel sent out from England foundered of the coast of Africa. Governor PHILLIP put the entire colony on strict rations and soon both prisoners and guards were stealing anything they could. During this period on the 23rd of February 1789 James BRADLEY was given twenty-five lashes for insolence to a sentinel. The situation was relieved when the second fleet arrived in June 1790 with fresh supplies. In general James was said to have behaved in a 'tolerably decent and orderly manner".

Sarah BARNES, who was born about 1775, would have been only about fourteen years old when she was indicted at the Old Bailey on the 13th of January 1790 for stealing eight quart pewter pots valued at eight shillings and five pint pewter pots valued at two shillings, from "The Plough", a pub in Bloomsbury (pewter pots were often melted down to make coins). She was caught 'red-handed' with a partly melted pot in a pan on the fire. The crime normally would carry the death sentence, but probably because of her age, she was sentenced to seven years transportation to Australia. She arrived in Australia on the 9th of July 1791 after one hundred and forty-three days at sea on the "Mary Ann", which sailed ahead of the third fleet and made record time. Nine of the one-hundred and fifty convicts travelling on the "Mary Ann" died during the voyage. Within three months of her arrival she was pregnant to James BRADLEY.

James BRADLEY and Sarah BARNES were married by the Reverend JOHNSON, at St. Johns, Parramatta  N.S.W. on the12th of August 1792. They had ten children nine of whom survived to adulthood.

In 1794, after his sentence had expired, James BRADLEY received a land grant of thirty acres at Eastern Farms, Hunters Hill, near Kissing Point on the Parramatta river. In 1798 he was spokesman for the farmers in his district at a Government Inquiry into the grievances of small farmers. He received a second land grant in 1803, but this was later withdrawn. He was granted an "Absolute Pardon" on the 5th of September 1821 by Governor MACQUARIE, mostly through the recommendation of the Wesleyan Church. James was the Sunday School Superintendent! in spite of opposition from the Senior Chaplain, Samuel MARSDEN, who had a problem accepting emancipated convicts in responsible positions. MARSDEN accused James of having "Deposed before the Superintendent of Police certain matters very derogatory to MARSDEN's moral character" and that James had "Drawn away thirty or forty children from the Church Sunday School to the Chapel". The charges were investigated by a Bench of Magistrates and James was acquitted of all impropriety on the first charge and on the second the Magistrates replied that "All Sunday Schools were alike free and parents were fools if they did not send their children to the best". James BRADLEY was still farming at Kissing Point when the first major census of N.SW. was taken in 1828. To survive as a farmer at that time was a considerable achievement, (although in one of the earlier minor census he was described as "worthless and lazy") of 274 farmers settled by 1795 only 84 were still farming five years later in 1880.

James BRADLEY died on the 16th of February 1838, aged about seventy-four, he is buried at St. Anne's Ryde at Kissing Point.

David Christian



Copyright Fellowship of First Fleeters