Joseph was born in Chelsea, London in 1767 to Joseph and Elizabeth Wright. Little is known about Joseph Junior in 18th century England, but he may have been a trainee blacksmith or similar. In 1784, when Joseph was 17 years old, while walking in Sloane Square, Chelsea, he noticed some renovations being done in Sloane Street. He decided to help himself to the lead flashing around the dormer windows and took it home with the idea of advertising and selling it. Unfortunately, he made one trip too many back to the house on 6th May, 1784 (bad choice) and was caught coming from the building with three pieces of lead in a basket along with another man who had a knapsack on his back with some lead too. This man took off, but Joseph was caught and taken to the publick house (police station) by John Dandy. The lead was taken back to the house where it matched exactly the place where it had been cut from the roof.

Joseph was charged with stealing 218 lbs of lead to the value of 40 shillings. After nearly three weeks behind bars, in London’s Central Criminal Court (The Old Bailey) on 26th May, 1784, Joseph was tried and found guilty of theft, with the testimony of three witnesses, William Rothwell, the owner, John Dandy the arresting officer and Ruben Jackson, the plumber, who matched the lead to the house. (Old Bailey reference no. t17840526-21) He was sentenced to 7 years transportation. As the jails in London were overcrowded, he was transferred to a hulk on the Thames, the Censor. Transportation to Africa was considered, but it was decided that it would be too hot and also water supplies were not suitable. Meanwhile, Joseph and other convicts were taken ashore during the day in working parties and returned to confinement on board at night. He was to spend 3 years in these deplorable conditions.

Finally, in 1787, a decision was made to set up a colony in Botany Bay, Australia, discovered by Captain Cook in 1770. After 3 years on the Censor, finally on 24th February, 1787, Joseph was dispatched by open wagon for the three day journey to Portsmouth in the bitter cold. He boarded the Scarborough on 27th February, 1787, one of 11 ships making up the First Fleet. Scarborough had been converted to a convict transport fully rigged, three-masted ship, with two decks, weighing 430 tons. The ship was 111 ft long and 30ft wide She carried  a crew of 30 and on board were also 50 marines and 201 convicts and was under the command of her Master, John Marshall. Joseph was listed as convict 96 when he boarded the Scarborough.

As with all others the amount of clothing estimated for a convict for one year was:  2 Jackets, 4 Woollen Drawers, 1 Hat, 3 Shirts, 4 pairs Worsted Stockings, 3 Frocks, 3 Trousers and 3 Pairs Shoes. Inventories of the time also listed the provision for two years.

The fleet finally departed from Portsmouth on 13th May 1787 for the 8 months and 1 week voyage under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip.  The fleet called at Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Rio de Janiero, Brazil and the Cape of Good Hope in  what is now South Africa.  There was a mutiny on Scarborough five days after leaving England but fortunately Joseph was not part of it.  The ring leaders were caught and transferred to the Sirius, given 24 lashes and places in double irons for the remainder of the voyage.

The fleet reached Botany Bay on 18th January, 1788, but this site was found to be unsuitable, so the fleet moved north along the coast to Port Jackson and anchored at Sydney Cove. The new colony was declared on 26th January, 1788. Joseph, along with others, was put ashore the next day to clear the cove and cut down trees. He was 20 years old when he arrived here. Nothing more is recorded of him for the next two years so he must have been well behaved and stayed out of trouble.

Eleanor Gott was a Second Fleeter. She was baptised at St. Peters, Liverpool, England on 26th October, 1765 daughter of John Gott and Ann Caugley and was the eldest of six children. Her father was a shoemaker and Eleanor was taught the trade by her father. Becoming very proficient in her trade, she was intent on being a well dressed young woman and a neat homemaker who liked nice clothes and was able to read and write. Coming from a family of limited means, Ellen, as she was also called, resorted to stealing and in 1787 was sent to prison for the theft of a gown and cloak. This did not deter this resourceful young woman and on 3rd August, 1789 was again charged with stealing some items of clothing from her employer, Charles Norris. The fact that she had been convicted of theft 18 months previously did not negate this latest misdemeanour. This time she was sentenced to three years transportation, an unusually short period, in August, 1789.

After serving three months of her sentence, she embarked on the 2nd Fleet ship, Neptune bound for Sydney Cove. The harshness and depravity of this voyage is well documented and it was known as the hell ship. Poor Ellen, then 25 years old, survived while many others did not. We can only imagine the sufferings, privations and abuse she and others endured. Out of the 499 boarded, 158 died during the voyage.

She arrived at Sydney Cove on 27th June, 1790 after 159 days at sea. After taking some time to recuperate in the colony that had little food, Ellen finally settled in and there she met Joseph Wright. It probably wasn’t a whirlwind romance but they seemed to hit it off pretty well. So much so, that they were given permission by Governor Arthur Phillip to marry on 13th December, 1790 at St. Phillips Church, Sydney. The original wedding book and certificate used in the new colony shows a large signature by Ellen Gott and a cross from Joseph Wright. The ceremony was witnessed by Edward Field and Matilda Proud both of whom signed with a cross. Ellen was 25 and Joseph was 23. They spent their honeymoon in Sydney town, probably Darling Point, where they lived till 1794.

Joseph and Ellen’s first child, Joseph, was born at Port Jackson on 11th February, 1792. The second child, Robert, was born on 15th June, 1794 and baptised at St.Johns, Parramatta three weeks later on 6th July..

In 1794, now free by servitude, Joseph was given a grant of 30 acres of land at Mulgrave Place on the Hawkesbury River. He is listed among the first 22 settlers to receive land grants. Records show his land as being 30 acres , with 12.5 acres under wheat and maize and running 6 hogs. The early settlers suffered great hardship battling floods, unreliable transport and a lack of roads.  The rent was to be one shilling per year with payment commencing after ten years.

Joseph and Ellen’s neighbours were William and Mary Douglas on one side and John Fenlow on the other side. The Douglases  were congenial neighbours, good family people like the Wrights. Later intermarriage of their families and also with the nearby Butlers, would cement this early association on the river. John Fenlow however was different, a wild young bachelor.

In July, 1796, John Malloy, our first General Practitioner, was called upon to give medical evidence in a murder case at the settlement on the banks of the Hawkesbury River at Mulgrave Place. John Fenlow, Joseph and Ellen’s neighbour, had shot his servant, John Lane using a bullet thought to be an old 1oz lead weight. An interesting point was raised that Joseph, convicted of stealing lead in London, may still have been in the unofficial scrap metal business. There was some speculation only, that Joseph made the bullet which was used to kill John Lane, but this was never proved. When John Fenlow was convicted, another convict, Thomas Gilberthorpe took over Fenlow’s land grant and his wife and Ellen became friends due to their mutual Catholic faith. Later on, Joseph found out that Thomas and his wife were harbouring a runaway, George Bruce, so he felt he should report the matter to the authorities. Ellen then quickly told her friend what her Joe was up to.

Their third child, Mary, was born, circa 1797, and the fourth child, John, about 1800. By mid 1800 Joseph owned 9 pigs and had 13 acres sown in wheat and another 13 ready for planting maize. Their family had now increased to four children and they were still supported from government stores.

By this time the long voyage to Australia and the rigours of farming were starting to affect Joseph’s health. He found he couldn’t continue to run his farm alone and was forced to sell. The family moved to Prospect where Joseph was employed on a farm owned by Edward Shipley. Their fifth child, Sarah, was born there on the 12th March, 1802.

This move to Prospect, however, was short lived and the family moved back to the Hawkesbury area and purchased a smaller tract of land, 15 acres, from Owen Cavanaugh. The next farm returns indicate that Joseph had sown 8 acres with grain, leaving 6 acres fallow. Half an acre was pasture and there was an orchard of 0.7 of an acre. He now owned 7 hogs and held a bushel of maize so was no longer supported from government stores.

In 1803, Joseph and Ellen suffered the loss of their wheat crop. It was ruined when the boat carrying his produce was swamped in transit down the river and the whole crop was lost. He requested compensation but was denied. In the same year, on 10th April, he went to court requesting more money for his property to sow more wheat, but lost the case. In 1804 he supported a testimonial to the fair dealing of merchant Robert Campbell who was about to leave on a visit to England.

Joseph and Ellen’s sixth child, Samuel was born on 25th December, 1805. Early the next year, Joseph was convicted, along with three other settlers, of employing an escapee, Thomas Desmond, who had absconded from public labour. The other settlers were each fined 3 pounds and Joseph 20 pounds, to be paid to the Orphan’s Home. However, the Judge was lenient with Joseph and halved his fine to 10 pounds.

The land grant he had purchased was low lying and prone to flooding. In 1806 and again in 1809, the area suffered extensive flooding and all his crops were destroyed. In the midst of these

 calamities their seventh child, Thomas was born on 12th March, 1809. He replanted his land with wheat and barley.

His health was now declining and he found it almost impossible to harvest his crop himself. In 1810, he tried to get assistance from other farmers but couldn’t afford their exorbitant rates. He then wrote to Governor Macquarie to ask for some assistance to get his crop harvested, but his request was denied. Although there is no record of his sons, Joseph Junior 18 years old and Robert, 16 years old, they probably assisted their father to bring the crop in.

Joseph’s health continued to deteriorate (although his illness is unknown) and sadly he passed away on 30th August, 1811 at Pitt Town. He was 44 years old. A service was held at St. Philips, Sydney, where he was described as a native of London and buried at Town Hall Cemetery, Sydney.(Burial Certificate No 256 Vol: 5 )

Joseph had left the deeds to his property to Ellen and although she owned the farm now, she also had 7 children to look after and support Joseph, now 19, Robert 17, Mary 14, John 11, Sarah 9, Samuel 5, Thomas 2. Although there seems to be some doubts regarding the dates, all of Ellen and Joseph’s children were baptised in churches at St. Philips, Sydney, St. Johns, Parramatta, and St. Matthews, Windsor. It seems Eleanor was bought up in the Catholic faith as a child and continued to worship in the local churches with her husband and children. Their marriage lasted 21 years, probably being like minded in their faith and love for each other.

On 31st March, 1812, Ellen married Daniel Buckridge at St. Matthews, Windsor. They lived together on Ellen’s farm at Pitt Town and records show they were still together in 1828. There seems to be some evidence that Daniel had been granted a land grant of 50 acres at Castle Hill in 1818 but this cannot be verified.

Ellen’s 2nd marriage to Daniel Buckridge seems to have been a success and he should be given a great deal of credit for adopting all of Ellen’s children as he had no children with Ellen. He helped her sons to have trades as Wheelwright, Blacksmith, Cooper and Shoemaker. Daniel was laid to rest on 18th June, 1834 and a headstone marks his grave in the Pitt Town Cemetery.

Now 69 years old, Ellen continued to live on her farm for another 9 years but there seems to be no record of those years. On 28th April, 1843, Ellen (Eleanor) Buckridge (Wright)(Gott) passed away aged 78 years. She is buried with her 2nd husband, Daniel at PittText Box: Pitt Town Cemetery
Town Cemetery.


To have found out in my lifetime that Joseph and Ellen Wright helped to pioneer this great land of Australia and that they were actually my family makes me very honoured yet humbled indeed. The fact that they lived to 44 and 78 years old after suffering unimaginable hardships has helped me understand how Australia  become the great country we call our own today. I am proud to call them my Nana and Pa.

Narrative prepared by #7989 Graham Sparks, 4th Great Grandson. Corrections and additions welcomed. Contact the author at




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