JAMES PEAULET- Convict Scarborough


Family research indicates that JAMES PEAULET (Pewlet, Pulet, Pewlett, Poulet) may have been born in London about 1763 to parents John and Mary. Nothing is known of him until he was tried by the Second Middlesex Jury before Mr Justice Heath at Justice Hall in the Old Bailey at the Sessions which began on Wednesday, 7th July, 1784. A statement: “James Peaulet was still a boy when he was tried at the Old Bailey for stealing and sentenced to seven years transportation” would not have been correct if his date of birth was actually 1763.

The Old Bailey Trial 690 record states: “James Pulet, Peter Woodcock, Nicholas English and Francis Joyce were indicted for feloniously stealing, on the 16th June last, one silver watch, value 50s, one metal chain & seal, value 1s, and one gold seal, value 40s, the property of Letitia Bowman in her dwelling house” The only item that was not recovered was the gold seal and therefore had to be dropped from the charge.

All four were found guilty of stealing to the value of 39s with each to be transported for seven years. Their occupations and ages were not recorded.

Peaulet was sent to Australia on the Scarborough, a transport which reached Sydney Cove on 26.1.1788 along with the rest of the First Fleet. The ship’s master was John Marshall and the surgeon, Denis Considen. Built in 1782 it was 111 feet 6 inches in length and 30 feet 2 inches in breadth with a height of 4 feet 5 inches between decks and weighed 418 tons. It was a two-decked three-masted vessel, rigged as a barque and owned by three Scarborough merchants, Thomas, George and John Hopper.


The system of payment was that convicts were to be transported, clothed and fed, all inclusive, for 17 pound, 7 shillings and 6 pence per head.  Embarkation was at Portsmouth and the ship was 183 days at sea and 68 days in ports on the way. The longest time at sea was the 67 day section between the Cape and Botany Bay).

After unloading its convicts and spending over three months at Port Jackson Scarborough sailed in early May for China and eventually reached England with a cargo of tea. It then sailed to Port Jackson with the Second Fleet in 1790 and was finally broken up in 1798.

John Cobley, in his Sydney Cove 1788 refers (page 15) to an incident which took place on 6 March 1789. After a party of convicts had been attacked on the way to Botany Bay by Aborigines and one killed, sixteen convicts left their work without leave and set out to take revenge. They too were set upon with one killed and several wounded. After an enquiry the next day their true intent, not as stated “quietly picking tea” was revealed and seven of them were given 150 lashes in front of the provision store in the presence of all convicts and ordered to wear “iron on the leg” for a year. A few weeks later, on 4 April four of the others, including James Peaulet, apparently suffered the same punishment.


 Records from the Settlers’ Muster Book 1800 show that at 20 June as an emancipated or expired Convict James had a grant of land at Musgrave Place (McGrath’s Hill) on which he farmed 20 pigs, had 10 acres under wheat and 6 acres of other crops. He had no stock claim on the Government.

   In the following year James Peaulett is recorded as having 40 acres held (granted 20.6.1800 by Governor Hunter), 11 cleared and 12 under wheat/maize, and 5 hogs. It is noted that there are three as family (just who the three were is not determined), who are self supporting and Off Stores

By the 1802 lists he is bracketed with a Samuel Wheeler with 14 acres cleared, 8 acres of wheat, 3 of barley and 4 of maize. They had 7 hogs and 8 cows and 20 bushels of maize on hand. It was noted there were 2 women, 1 child and 1 servant.


James fathered two children with Sarah Robinson who in the 1806 document Samuel Marsden’s  Female Muster was listed as a concubine. She was a convict who arrived on 12 June 1801 aboard the Earl Cornwallis a transport ship of 784 tons that had been built in London and carrying 193 males and 95 females on the voyage out. Apparently 27 males and 8 females died on the trip which lasted 206 days, having left in November 1800.

  Sarah Robinson was born in Wilmslow, Cheshire, England in 1783 and it was in that county or perhaps nearby Staffordshire that she was convicted of stealing and sentenced to 7 years transportation. Records show that Sarah became James Peaulet’s housekeeper on her arrival in 1801 but there is no record of a marriage having taken place, hence her listing as concubine in 1806.

   Of the two children, only the elder, Sarah Agnes Peaulet, b 1804, survived. The younger child, James Peaulet, b 1807, died two days after Sarah’s marriage to Third Fleet convict Joseph Craft in 1810 at St Philip’s Church Hill by Rev William Cowper. Sarah and Joseph had five children and after Joseph’s death in 1830, Sarah then married another convict, Joseph Dawkins in 1840. Joseph had arrived in the colony in 1818. Around the time of Sarah’s marriage James Peaulet was apparently sentenced to 6 months jail for pig stealing.

Sarah’s daughter, Sarah Agnes, did not live such a long life but had two marriages and ten children. The compilers of these historical notes both descend from the last of these children, Eliza Elizabeth Dixon, born in August 1850 at Dinner Creek, Mangrove and baptised two months later at Gosford. Eliza died as Eliza Ferguson at Grafton in 1931

The Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages 1810-1823 from St Matthews Church Windsor shows the record of Sarah Agnes’ first marriage to William Webb in 1820. The 2017 “White Gloves” event at Hawkesbury Regional Museum allowed guests at the St Matthew’s Bicentenary to see the register in person. It is interesting that Sarah used her mother’s maiden name of Robinson rather than her father’s name of Peaulet. It is also to be noted that Sarah, William and their witness John all signed with an ‘X’.


James Peaulet married Elizabeth Williams on 14.6.1809 at St Phillip’s, Sydney but no children were born of the marriage.  The 1814 Muster shows number of children as two, but whose they were, or their names, are not given. Elizabeth had been born in the Colony so she must have been a young bride. However Mollie Gillen, in Founders of Australia, states that this marriage was annulled as it was declared illegal by the convict clergyman, Henry Fulton, because it was performed by a J.P. and not an ordained minister.

In Authentic Australian Convict & Pioneer History author James McClellands has a story of Grono Park. John Grono, pioneer Hawkesbury settler and boatbuilder, acquired 25 acres of Peaulet’s farm which he purchased on 19.1.1827 from Peaulet’s daughter and son-in-law, Sarah and William Webb. This land also fronted the river at the junction of Peaulet’s Creek and is believed to be the site of the Grono Park homestead

James passed away on 26 August 1820 and was buried two days later at Pitt Town (Reg. 4761 V2B) as James Pewlett, aged 57 years. He was buried from St Matthew’s (C of E) Windsor. Mollie Gillen in her book, Founders of Australia agrees that he was buried at Pitt Town but gives his age as 62.


 Peaulet is one of three First Fleeters supposedly buried in the Hawkesbury region, see Dispatched Downunder, by Ron Withington, page 44. At the time of writing no Fellowship Commemorative Plaque has ever been installed at Pitt Town cemetery since no evidence of the Peaulet burial is to be found there.


The Windsor Parish register 1810-1856 Index shows Peaulet as “free, came out as a prisoner”. There is a thought that he may have been buried in an unmarked grave reserved for convicts, however at the time of his death the designation “free” would normally have cancelled out any convict connection. No details of family or birth place or reason for death appear in the register.


Compiled from information supplied by #8011 Des Burke and #8286 Heather Threlfall



Copyright Fellowship of First Fleeters