James Wright, baker, storekeeper, publican and farmer
was born in 1762, probably in London. At the age of 21
he was charged on three counts of highway robbery in the
Parish of Greenwich, tried in Maidstone at the Kent
Summer Assizes of 1783, found guilty of the first charge
and sentenced to be hanged.
Fortunately for James, his sentence was commuted to
seven years transportation to Africa.
However he was not sent to Africa, but spent three and a
half years aboard the hulk Censor before he
was transported to Botany Bay aboard
arrival at Sydney, Wright was employed as a baker to
Governor Phillip, a position he held until his
appointment in 1791 as Government Baker at Parramatta.
the 28 December 1790, immediately before taking up this
appointment, Wright, together with Edward Bayles, Edward
Jones and William Whiting were taken to the guardhouse
at 11pm by the watch. On the following day they were
charged with being up at an unreasonable hour and with
creating a disturbance. His penalty was to forfeit two
pounds of flour from the following week's ration.
Wright formed a relationship with Letitia Holland, a
convict who had arrived, as Ann Guest on Mary Ann
in 1791. Their first son, James, died as an infant and
was buried in Parramatta on 8 July 1792. George, Jane
and Shepherdess arrived during the next seven years.
Curiously, James and Letitia did not marry until 10
April 1810- 11 years after the birth of their last
Wright’s services as a baker must have been entirely
satisfactory for he continued to serve in this capacity
at Parramatta for the next 17 years until 1808. In
addition to his bread-baking activities, Wright kept a
provisions store and also a small mixed farm where he
grew wheat barley, fruit and vegetables. In 1806 he had
quarter acre of garden, owned three horses, three goats
and seven hogs, and had six bushels of grain in hand.
was himself victualled from stores, though not his wife
and three children or the free man he employed.
Wright was a member of the Parramatta Loyal Association
in 1805 and in February 1811 he received a spirit
licence. In 1814 he is known to have kept a hotel in
Parramatta. In June 1820 Wright petitioned Governor
Macquarie for a land grant on the basis of his long
service as Government Baker, but his application was
eldest son George married Mary Tarlington in 1815 and
became a solicitor’s clerk at Parramatta. Jane married
Peter Louis Berni, a surveyor from Sydney in 1827, and
Shepherdess married Parramatta farmer John Agland in
There is irony in the fact that Wright, who was sent to
Sydney for highway robbery, was himself the victim of
numerous robberies after he had established a
comfortable lifestyle for himself in the Colony.
of these thefts was surprisingly and unexpectedly
solved. His silver pocket watch was stolen and although
the loss was advertised, some seven months later the
watch had still not been recovered. One morning a
customer went into his shop for a loaf of bread. When he
the delay Wright asked him the time. The man took out
his watch to answer the question and Wright in "perfect
astonishment recognised his property". The customer
claimed he had purchased the watch — a detail later
sorted out by the judiciary.
Following an illness lasting five months James Wright
died on 15 March 1825 aged 63 and was buried at St
John’s Parramatta. His youngest daughter, Shepherdess,
and his wife died in the following successive years and
are buried with him.
descendants of James & Letitia are found in most parts
of Australia and as far afield as England and America.
His three Agland grandsons were pioneers of the Orange
John Bromwich, a Davis Cup tennis player and winner of
numerous tennis titles between 1938 and 1950, is one of
Wright's most notable descendants.
Author: Descendant John Wilson #6717
This was the speech given at the unveiling of Plaque No
34 on 13th May 1984 at St John’s Parramatta
and published in ‘Founders’ June/July 1984 Volume 15 No