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 Scarborough.


On 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.


On 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 child.


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.

 He 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 unsuccessful.


His 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 1820.


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.


One 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 complained

of 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.


The 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 district


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 3




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