JOHN HERBERT and DEBORAH ELLAM

 

John Herbert, together with Stephen Davenport, Robert Ellwood and John Small, was charged on the l4 March 1785 at the Devon Lent Assizes held at Exeter Castle with "feloniously assaulting James Burt in the Kings Highway feloniously putting him in Corporal fear and danger of his life in the said highway and feloniously and violently stealing and taking from his Person and agt his will in the said highway one metal watch and Tortoise-shell case v 30s one pruning Knife val 6d and 5s his Goods". His initial sentence of death by hanging was later commuted to seven years transportation. He was 25 years old.

 

It is possible, though not proven, that this John Herbert had earlier sailed with Robert Ellwood (one of his partners in crime) aboard HMS Europe in April 1784. This John Herbert was one of the captain's servants and the captain was Arthur Phillip. He had served in this role for two-and-a-half years before discharge on 26 July 1784. On discharge he would have received his sea pay of 19/- a month, 21 days discharge pay and no future.

After conviction, Herbert remained in Exeter High Jail until 30 January 1786 when he was transferred to the prison hulk Dunkirk in Plymouth before eventually sailing on Charlotte. While on Dunkirk it is recorded that he was "troublesome at times."

 

Deborah Ellam (or Hellam) was tried together with Elizabeth Hewitt and Alice Hatton, on 24 August 1784 at the Chester Quarter Sessions. They were convicted of feloniously stealing and taking away from the home of Henry Byron one cotton gown value 10s owned by Mary Byron, a gown of silk and worsted valued at 20s and six yards of cotton valued at 6s owned by Elizabeth Jackson. Ellam received a sentence of seven years transportation. She was aged 17 years and arrived in the Colony aboard Prince of Wales.

 

Herbert and Ellam were married in Sydney on 2 April 1788 in the presence of Mary Gamble and Thomas Acres. Acres had arrived in the Colony on Charlotte.

Marital bliss was not the immediate fruit of this union. After a period of continuing friction Herbert returned to his home on 4 December 1788 to find that pigs had broken into his kitchen garden and rooted out a number of plants. His wife was absent talking with a neighbour. After an argument Herbert struck his wife and she returned his blows. She then left the home. The next day Ellam brought her husband before the Judge Advocate David Collins on a charge of beating her without just cause. Collins, however, ordered Ellam to receive 25 lashes and that she return to her husband.

Seven months later, on 21 July 1789, the first child of John and Deborah Herbert, Benjamin, was born.

 

John Herbert by 1790 is utilising his free time to hire out his labour at the Prospect settlement and it is there that he received a land grant of 70 acres in late 1791. He called this farm Pender. By 1806 he had moved with his family to a farm of 80 acres on the Hawkesbury purchased from Gilbert Goodlit.

Nothing more is known about Ellam than imagination might provide or than her epitaph tells. Life did not privilege her or reward her beyond unremitting hardship and toil. She died on 3 June 1819 aged 52 years.

 

Only a few months after Ellam's death, Herbert remarried at St John's, Parramatta, this time to Ann Dudley, a convict, aged 28 years, arriving on Friendship on 13 January 1818.

In 1827 either he or his son John was fined for "driving a cart with two horses furiously through the town (Parramatta) while he at all the time was sitting in the vehicle".

 

The 1828 Census has John Herbert owning 70 acres but living in Campbell Street, Parramatta, next to the Parsonage. He described himself as a "dealer." Herbert died on 1 April 1832, aged 72 years, and was buried with his first wife. In his will, made on 28 July 1829, he gave his property, at present day 39-41 Campbell Street, Parramatta, to his widow for her life and upon her death to his son, John Herbert. He also gave to this son two horses, Whitefoot and Creamy. His original 70-acre grant called Pender was divided among the seven surviving children of his first marriage and it was retained in the family until sold in 1873. His second wife, Ann, survived him until 28 November 1838.

 

 

Copyright Fellowship of First Fleeters