John Gowen was born in 1763 in Ribbesford, near Bewdley, Worcestshire, England.  According to his service record, he enlisted in the Marines in 1778.  On 13 May 1787, 9 years later as a Corporal of Marines and 25 years of age, he sailed from Portsmouth, England, on board Sirius.


On 2 October 1788, on board the Golden Grove John sailed to Norfolk Island as a Corporal of a Marine detachment.  This was the second detachment to arrive on Norfolk Island in 1788.   John stayed on Norfolk Island until 1791 when he departed for Sydney Cove on board the Atlantic and requested permission to resign from the Marines and was honourably discharged.  John returned to Norfolk Island the following year and settled as a marine-settler and was given a land grant of 60 acres on the Cascade Stream at Phillipsburg Town. This land was later listed as returned to the Government.   He farmed on Norfolk Island for a further 2 years.

In November 1794 he returned to Sydney and joined the NSW Corps (the Rum Corps) or 102nd Regiment with the rank of Sergeant, where he served for 5 years.  During 1799 he resigned from the Army and accepted the position as the Official Government Storekeeper with effect from 1 January 1800 in Sydney with a salary of £50.  The Government Storekeeper of that time was a position of trust and ability with the Store controlling all kinds of supplies including convicts, which were needed to keep the colony alive.  At the same time he received a grant of 200 acres at Liberty Plains, County Cumberland and this would have been where Sydney Olympic Park now stands.  In 1803 John was living near what is now Macquarie Place, Sydney and his dwelling house was of faced stone, 50 feet in length and 20 feet high allowing for a ‘principal and an attic storey’.  Behind this building were two very good houses meant as granaries and out-offices. His neighbours were Thomas and Mary Reibey.


The Earl of Cornwallis , a convict transport arrived in Sydney Harbour in 1801 with a young convict girl on board, Ordery Appleyard.  Ordery, born in 1778 in Lincolnshire, England, was sentenced to 7 years transportation at the Lincoln Quarter Sessions in 1798.  When she first arrived in Australia she was initially engaged as a servant at Windsor.  John and Ordery were married on 1 June 1805 at St Phillips Church Sydney. Ordery was 27 years old and John 42.  John leased 31 rods of land at the corner of O’Connell and Bent Street Sydney at 10 shillings for a period of 14 years.  It is now opposite the Royal Exchange.   In the 1805-1806 Muster, John and Ordery were living in Sydney and had two servants, Abraham Whittaker and Sarah Gould or Gilbert.

In 1806 John Gowen was granted 100 acres at Banks Town which the next year was recorded as being entirely under pasture with 6 cows and 1 sheep.  This land is now situated at the junction of the Prospect Creek and the Orphan School Creek near the site of what is now the Carramar Railway Station, the current Artie Street being in the middle of John’s land.  This property was known as Bewdley Farm – John’s home town of Ribbesford in Worcestershire was just outside Bewdley.


John obtained more land on 8 August 1809.  208 acres in the parish of Camden at what is now Minto.  In 1810 he was granted an additional 160 acres at Banks Town, adjacent to his other property and on 1 January 1815 he was granted another 208 acres at Banks Town, adjacent to his existing land (also described as Parramatta).  On 8 October he was granted an additional 260 acres at Banks Town.

From 1803 to 1810 John Gowen was on a salary of £75 per annum in his position as Government Storekeeper.


John and Ordery had 5 daughters, one of whom died in infancy and one son between May 1806 and April 1816.  Mary Gowen was born 17 May 1806, Ann Gowen born 12 October 1807, John Gowen (Junior) born 23 January 1810, Frances Gowen (1st) died in infancy in 1808, Frances Gowen(2nd) born 17 September 1813 and Elizabeth Gowen born 24 April 1816.

John resigned from the Office of Storekeeper at Sydney in 1810 and became a farmer.  On 25 March 1815 was appointed Government Storekeeper at Liverpool on a salary of £50 and was granted 11 rods at Liverpool.   John sold all of his land at Banks Town to enable him to build a house on this land situated at what is now the south west corner of Elizabeth and George Streets, Liverpool.  The property was described as having a small garden in front with a frontage of 138 feet to George Street, by a depth of 189 feet. The half-acre at the back is enclosed in cultivation well stocked with Vines, Mulberry, Apple and Peach Trees etc, a pond and well of excellent water in the yard.  The house consists of 2 sitting rooms, a kitchen with oven and stoves, 2 bedrooms above and all neatly finished.  2 Store rooms are adjoining.  There is also a detached building containing 2 servants’ rooms.  In 1815 John Gowen was listed as having John McKeag, convict assigned to him.


In 1819 Ordery Gowen aged 41 years died and is buried in the Old Pioneer Cemetery, Liverpool.   Two years later in 1821 John Gowen married a second time to Mary Wood nee White, who had been  convicted and sentenced to 7 years at the Middlesex Quarter Sessions and arrived in New South Wales on the Surprize from Cork on 25 October 1794 and by 1822 was free by servitude.  Mary was born in 1774 and died in Liverpool in 1827 and is buried at the Pioneer Cemetery Liverpool. Her first husband was Archibald Balfour Wood (convicted of being an Irish Rebel) and was married to him on 20 August 1817.  The couple lived at 90 George Street Sydney which was owned by Mary.  Archibald was in trouble with the law one week after their wedding and was charged with assault and battery of his wife Mary on 8 February.   It is clear that within 6 months of their wedding it was not a success and Mary divorced Mr Wood between 1818 and 1821.


In 1821 John and Mary Gowen lived in Sydney near O’Connell Street, ‘near the fountain’.  The fountain referred to was the drinking fountain designed by Francis Greenway in 1818 but demolished in 1883 and replaced by a statue of Thomas Sutcliffe Mort, which is still standing in Macquarie Place Park.


John Gowen was appointed to the position of Storekeeper at Parramatta on 26 October 1822.  In the 1822 General Muster, John Gowen owned 2 horses and 5 hogs at his property near Liverpool and was listed as holding the position of Government Storekeeper at Parramatta.  A convict, William Currey was listed as being assigned to him.

John and Ordery’s six children all married. Mary Gowen married William Henry Jones in 1821, when she was 15 years old.  William Jones later served in India and Gibraltar before finally settling in New Zealand.  Ann Gowen married George Taber on 22 September 1824 in Sydney.   John Gowen, junior, married Mary Smith, granddaughter of another First Fleeter, Thomas Acres and they had 10 children, John dying in 1885 in Braidwood.  Frances Gowen at the age of 16 married William Sutherland, a Baptist Minister with no children.  Elizabeth Gowen was 34 years old when she married Joseph Hush, a widower from the Braidwood area with 5 children all under the age of 6.  After 1 year of marriage Joseph Hush died leaving Elizabeth expecting a child born 2 months after his death.


John Gowen, senior, retired on a pension of £52.50 per annum on 23 January 1823, assisted by references from John Macarthur and Rev. Samuel Marsden. As a Liverpool landholder John applied to Governor Thomas Brisbane for more land and was granted 280 acres in that town on 15 July 1824.  He took up the position of Pound keeper at Liverpool in 1827, the year his wife Mary died. She is buried at the Liverpool Pioneer Cemetery. The next year, in the 1828 Census, John Gowen is shown as aged 65 years, a farmer at Upper Minto with 10 acres, all cleared and cultivated with 2 horses and 13 cattle.


On 1 July 1830 William Sutherland, (Frances Gowen’s husband) is listed as holding a licence for the retail of wine and malt and spiritous liquor for the Hope Inn situated in Bigge Street Liverpool.  His father in law, John Gowen was surety for him.  William and Frances Sutherland moved from the Hope Inn to their own home, also in Liverpool.  Back in 1815, William’s father in law, John Gowen had also been granted land there, but in 1834, John transferred the land to William.  However, 7 months later, William had put John Gowen’s property on the market to sell. The reason that William sold this property was that he and Frances had decided to move to Kiama.  In 1834, John was receiving an annual pension of £50 and in the same year he sold his land at Minto to Charles Throsby.  In 1835, William and Frances moved to Kiama, living on a farm 13 kilometres from Wollongong with her father John and her twenty-year-old unmarried sister, Elizabeth living with them.  In 1836 William Sutherland was officially appointed to the position of Police Constable in the Kiama area.  John died in 1837 while living with the Sutherlands at Kiama.

Just prior to his death John received a further grant of 280 acres of land at Bong Bong, near Moss Vale in 1837 but died before he could take possession.  His son John applied for the transfer of the property to him but was informed that it had already been transferred to Dr Charles Throsby.


John’s life was very quiet in the latter part and he died at Kiama on 28 April 1837.  He had spent nearly 50 years in Australia.  He is buried at the Protestant Cemetery which pre-dated the church.  The first church in the valley was the Church of England which opened on 6 March 1842 and was built near the Protestant burial ground.  This burial ground is now known as Christ Church Anglican Cemetery, and John’s headstone mentions that he arrived in the Sirius.


#7220 Barbara Turner




1. Colonial Secretary’s Correspondence 1788-1825.

2.  Braidwood and District Historical Society, various documents and archival material.

3.  NSW Convict Musters 1806-1849, p79, p134.

4.  Sydney Gazette and NSW Advertiser, Saturday 21.02.1818, p2




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