JOHN ALEXANDER HERBERT


John Herbert (Scarborough) was born on 26 April 1767 in London, “in a narrow street called Long Lane which is situated in the District of Smithfield, Parish of St Andrew’s, Town of Holborn.” He was baptised John Alexander Herbert. 
When almost 17 John was charged with Simple Grand Larceny and tried at the Old Bailey on 21 April 1784 for stealing, on 5 April, a silk handkerchief said at the trial to be valued at one shilling. He was sentenced to seven years transportation. The transcript of John’s trial shows he was probably one of a gang of youthful pickpockets. 


On 6 September 1784, now recorded as aged 17, John was sent to labour on the hulk Censor, moored on the Thames. 
After two years of this life, on 24 February 1787, John was sent by wagon to Portsmouth, and three days later he was embarked on Scarborough. This ship, of 430 tons, the second largest of the six transports carried 208 male convicts, “including some of the most desperate felons in the fleet. A few days out of port, “an informer revealed to the captain that certain prisoners were planning to seize the ship. The ringleaders were flogged. There is no evidence that John was in involved. Indeed, it seems that he was never again  in trouble with the law, in any way worth recording. 


In Sydney Cove John, over two years, evidently led a life as uneventful as was possible in a settlement struggling for survival. Then on 4 March 1790 he was sent on HMS Sirius to Norfolk Island. 
John was one of the 116 male convicts, along with 67 female convicts, 27 infants, 65 marines and 5 marines’ wives, sent by Governor Phillip on the only ships remaining in Port Jackson, HMS Sirius and HMS Supply, to relieve pressure on dwindling food reserves and to foster an alternative source of supplies. Sirius was wrecked in Sydney Bay on 13 March 1790 after discharging all of its complement, but leaving John and his companions effectively marooned to make their best of their second emigration to foreign parts. 


On 2 June 1790 Lady Juliana arrived at Sydney Cove having embarked 227 women convicts on the Thames. Among the convicts was Hannah Bolton, born in Birmingham and at the age of 18 transported for burglary,  along with an associate, Elizabeth Richards. On 1 August both women were embarked on Surprize  as part of a group of 194 convicts being transferred to Norfolk Island. Hannah formed a relationship with John Herbert and bore six children, with John presumed to be the father of them all. They were Charlotte (1792), Elizabeth (1794), James (1795), Jemima (1797), Elizabeth II (1799) and Ann (1801). 


Hannah died when Ann was just 3 months old, and at 32, was laid to rest in the Kingston cemetery on 4 September 1801. She had certainly fulfilled the role that the Government expected of her, in producing a family of six children. Descendants now extend into the thousands and reach the tenth generation born in Australia. Several have become prominent, including Rex Garwood who in 1987 was the first inductee into the Tasmanian Sporting Hall of Fame.  


John remained on the Island for 23 years. He was allotted land from which in 1794 he began selling grain to stores.  In 1802 he was named as a settler whose time had expired and as a constable. In the 1812 Muster he was noted as holding 12 acres, with 9 planted in grain. He had 72 sheep and 9 hogs.

 
John and two of his children, James (17) and Elizabeth (14), were evacuated to Van Diemens’s Land aboard Minstrel on 18 February 1813. He left with a Class 1 classification, ascribed to those persons who were Old Servant of Government, ie, an emancipated convict and one who had proved to be “industrious and deserving of favour”. He was paid ten pounds for his two-storey house, which measured 18 feet by 10 feet.


The trio arrived at Port Dalrymple on 4 March. On Minstrel there were 26 settlers, 15 prisoners, one wife and 9 children. These people were to be the core of a settlement at Norfolk Plains, southwest of Launceston, now known as Longford.  
John was granted 50 acres at Norfolk Plains and James received an adjoining 60 acres. His Class 1 entitlement enabled John to have a house erected equivalent to the one he had left behind. It also entitled him and his family to the benefits of axes, shovels, nails and hoes and to be victualled for two years. Further, he was allowed the labour and victuals for four convicts for the first nine months and two for fifteen months longer. 


Within a year or two John had built his home, which still stands, though renovated, on a hill above the South Esk River. The property is known as Rocky Hill. The land below the hill and the river became known as Herbert’s Hollow, and the river crossing, where later a bridge was erected, was called Herbert’s Ford.


John and James evidently shared the growing success of farmers in the area. James married Ann Cox in January 1819. By October 1819 John Herbert was listed as having 26 acres of wheat, 24 acres of pasture, 2 horses, 100 cattle and 151 grain in hand. James was in residence with his wife, and their children, Susannah and William. There is no evidence that John ever had a wife living at Norfolk Plains. It is apparent that he was the patriarch and son James the family man. 

 

James and Ann were to have four more children, Mary Ann, John, James and Charles. Elizabeth had left, having married John Chapman in March 1814. John and Elizabeth had six children: Sarah, James, Thomas, Ann Jane, William Thomas and Susannah. Their family too prospered with properties around Launceston at Ravenswood, Invermay and Evandale.
Ann Herbert died on 31 August 1827, aged 29, leaving a young family. James did not remarry, and with his father, now in his seventh decade, continued to work the land, while Susannah cared for her siblings.

 
FF John Alexander Herbert died at Hope Inn, Westbury, on 19 November 1846. He was buried in  in St Andrew's Anglican Church Cemetery, in the Parish of Westbury and his age was given as 83. There were then four generations of his family living in Van Diemen’s Land. In 1964, the historian Isabella Mead wrote that she believed the Herberts were “the only descendants of the original Norfolk Islanders” still to own their property, 153 years after its occupation.

 

 

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