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
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
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.
Return to Scarborough