William Hill – a man of many ships

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On Anzac Day 2023, I received a query as follows, I was wondering if you had any information on William HILL, 39th Regiment, who arrived in King George’s Sound aboard the Amity in 1826. I believe he may have had his wife, Mary, with him.’

I did indeed have a Private William Hill on my database of 39th Regiment soldiers arriving in King George’s Sound, but I had no record of William (or any other 39th troops) settling in Western Australia, nor did I have any information about the wives who travelled with the soldiers on Amity. Did William and Mary return to Western Australia to settle here later? Time for me to hit the Musters and Pay Lists. Although not quite meeting the criteria of a Redcoat Settler in Western Australia, the research became an interesting case study.

Geography vs. Administration

The 18th century saw the newly united Great Britain rise to be the world’s dominant colonial power, with France becoming its main rival on the imperial stage, when in the last days of the century Napoleon Bonaparte seized power. By the first decade of the 19th century, the British Empire was on the ascendancy, with the ‘new’ colonies of New South Wales and Tasmania flourishing. The Colonial Office in Britain was already thinking about the western side of the huge land mass beyond New South Wales and Tasmania as its next colonial conquest, and it sent plenty of explorers before it sent defenders. Once the defenders arrived, the land may have been mapped as ‘New Holland’, but administratively, it was known as New South Wales. So be careful researchers… births may have been registered in New South Wales, but King George Town, New Holland is where they took place. And so it remained until 18th June 1829, when it was proclaimed, By His Excellency James Stirling Esquire Captain in the Royal Navy and Lieutenant Governor of His Majesty’s Settlement in Western Australia. Whereas his Majesty having been pleased to Command that a Settlement should forthwith be formed within the Territory of “Western Australia…”.
The map at right was drawn by John Andrews c. 1787 entitled, New Holland & the Adjacent Islands, agreeable to the latest Discoveries.

Background on Regiment

It is often useful to follow the movements of the regiment when researching soldiers. So I decided to look at William’s regiment’s history at least since the Napoleonic Wars and discovered that after the Battle of Waterloo it remained in France as part of the Army of Occupation until 1818 when it returned ‘home’. And back then ‘home’ also included Ireland where the regiment disembarked troops in Cork in December 1819. Between then and 1824 it served in small detachments at Castlebar (1819), Dublin (1820), Cork (1821), Tralee (1822),  Limerick (1823) and Buttevant (1824). This was not the regiment’s first tour of Ireland. In 1754, the 39th Foot became the first British Army unit to be deployed to India, earning it the motto ‘Primus in Indis’ (‘First in India’). It fought there in the Seven Years War (1756-63).

I discovered that the earliest Muster and Pay List records for the 39th were available in Australia for Buttevant and Cork (courtesy of the National Library of Australia via the Australian Joint Copying Project). The dates covered 25th December 1824 to 24th June 1825.

Meanwhile Orders were received in July 1825 that required the 39th Regiment to serve in Australia and ultimately India. In keeping with arrangements of other regiments, the troops would be transported to the antipodes by convict ships; they would become the convict guards. The first ship to embark 39th soldiers at Deptford, London on 8th November 1825 was Woodman bound for Van Diemen’s Land; the second ship was Regalia leaving Deptford on 22nd December 1825 bound for New South Wales. From its Sydney HQ in NSW 39th soldiers would serve in King George’s Sound and Norfolk Island.

So what has all this to do with Private William Hill? Read on and you will see…

Introducing William Hill – a man of many ships

William Hill was born in 1794 at Wiveliscombe, Somerset – one of eight children – to John Hill, a tallow chandler by occupation, and his wife Mary nee Rendell. Although William was initially baptised privately on 16th August 1794, he was not baptised into the parish church record until 28th January 1798 (see image right). The medieval church is no longer there, the replacement St Andrew’s church was built on the same site in 1827-28 for only a little more than the cost of repairs to its predecessor. It was a parish full of ‘Hill’ baptisms making my task of identifying the soldier more difficult. For the same reason, it was difficult to verify siblings for William. The population of Wiveliscombe, back at the turn of the 19th century, was about 1,500.

Army Career

William enlisted in the 39th Regiment in Cheddon, Somerset on 16th May 1815 at the age of 20. He was a labourer before entering Army service. At the time of enlistment he was described as 5 ft. 7 ins. tall, fair complexion, grey eyes and brown hair. He received the sum of one guinea the following day on being attested. The first ten years of William’s service would have followed the movements of the regiment as described in my short history above. My first sighting of him in the pay lists was during the quarter 25th December 1824 to 24th March 1825 in Buttevant, Ireland. By this time he was being paid 1s. 1d. per diem (having reached over seven years service) for a total of £4 17s. 6d. for the 90 days of that quarter. On the 25th November 1825 William transferred from No. 8 to No. 1 Company, commanded by Captain Joseph Wakefield.

The Voyage to Australia
After arrival at Chatham from Ireland, William and his comrades then left Deptford, London on 22nd December 1825 bound for New South Wales via Dublin (see left). One officer – a 20 year-old lieutenant – one sergeant and 29 rank and file soldiers embarked on the 369 ton ship Regalia, built in Sunderland in 1811. The Surgeon Superintendent, James Rutherford, would have embarked at this point in the voyage, but unfortunately his journal did not survive.

Departure from the Thames was memorable – the pilot ship ran aground at Blackwall and tangled with two other ships causing some damage to all three. Then came severe easterly storms which kept them in the Thames estuary until they made a difficult passage to Ireland, arriving on 17th January 1826 at the port of Kingstown, Dublin. Lieutenant William S. Coke, in his account of the journey, reported that most of the soldiers suffered from sea sickness. The 130 convicts were boarded from the prison hulk Essex and after the first attempt to leave harbour, Regalia was turned back by the captain, when the bad weather and heavy seas continued. During this waiting game one of the guard overheard Captain Burt give orders to prepare the quarter boat, silently, for himself and the sailors. This information was quickly conveyed to Lieutenant Coke who promptly responded, ordering his men to shoot or bayonet the first man who attempted to leave the vessel. After two more attempts at leaving harbour, the ship finally set sail again on 16th March.

It seems that relations between Captain Robert Burt, Surgeon James Rutherford and Lieutenant Coke were strained throughout the entire voyage. Regalia sailed past Madeira on 25h March and reached Cape Verde Island on 5th April. After more adventures, she reached Rio de Janeiro harbour, dropping anchor on 17th May. For details of the considerable adventures of this voyage, click here. The ship arrived at Port Jackson, Sydney on 5th August 1826.

Sydney Monitor 9 Nov 1826

A Short Holiday in King George’s Sound
William Hill had been on the ground in Sydney HQ for only three months when he was under orders to embark on Amity, a ship to defend and settle the south west coast of New Holland under the leadership of Major Edmund Lockyer, 57th Regiment, Captain Joseph Wakefield and 19 soldiers of the 39th Regiment, and 23 convicts from NSW. More detail of Amity’s voyage can by found here: King George’s Sound Military Post, Western Australia’s first military post and convict settlement.

Currency Lad 15 Dec 1832

William and his comrades arrived on 26th December 1826, but although the post was occupied until the last of the 39th Redcoats returned to NSW in March 1831, William left to re-join his regiment in Sydney on 10th December 1828 on Governor Phillip. His next posting would be to Norfolk Island in February 1829 when he would join Captain Joseph Wakefield once more. Wakefield had been appointed acting commandant from November 1828 to June 1829 in this second settlement of the penal colony; about 200 convicts were serving sentences at that time. William re-joined the regiment at HQ Sydney at the end of June 1830 whereupon he served in Sydney and Parramatta until he left for India. In December 1832 he was part of a 39th detachment of seven officers, 186 troops plus women and children who left for Poonamalee on the troopship Hercules.

More detail can be offered (below) from the time William arrived in Buttevant, Ireland to when he left for India. The Musters and Pay Lists are not available in Australia once William’s detachment arrived in India.

William Hill’s Postings from Buttevant, Ireland to Poonamalee, India

Going to Pension
Although I cannot offer you details of William Hill’s Army career in India, we do know that by the time he reached India in early 1833, he had completed 14 years service in the Army, earning an additional 8d. per diem pay on 16th May 1829 (while in Norfolk Island) and a further ‘across the board’ increase in pay to 9d. per diem for those serving 14 years and upwards on 1st July 1832. Furthermore, his service record shows that he earned his first Good Conduct badge on 9th November 1836, and a second on 9th November 1838 giving him additional pay of 1d. per diem and 2d. per diem respectively. By 1839 William was certainly looking at an Army discharge and some kind of pension.

William Hill’s Final Discharge Details [WO97-554-010 p.1]
William is recorded as having served 27 years 341 days at 30th November 1839. After 179 for further service he was admitted to pension on 27th May 1840 – by which time he was back in England, arriving at Gravesend on 3rd May 1840, his medical examination taking place at Chatham the following day. He was 44 years and six months old at the time of his discharge.

William’s discharge was on medical grounds recording, ‘According to the Surgeon’s report, it appears that this is a case of of disease arising from cholera and dysentery as well as general debility from long service, contracted in the service and not attributable to neglect, design, vice or intemperance, and the Regimental Board approved of the opinion of the surgeon as it is shewn by the Proceedings of the Board.’

His discharge documents state, ‘That his general conduct has been very good but more particularly so when left behind at Bellary with a detachment when the Regiment took the field in August last.’

William was admitted to pension with an amount of 1s 3½d. per day payable at Taunton, Somerset. He continued to receive this amount in Taunton until at least 1873. At his death on 17th March 1876 his Army record shows that his pension was payable up to 1st April 1876 at the Trowbridge District Office, Wiltshire.

Family Life

William Hill may have married his first wife, Mary, in Ireland or England. To find a record of names as common as William and Mary required a ‘needle in a haystack’ approach in too many parishes, the records of many of which may not have survived. The couple’s date and place of marriage and Mary’s maiden surname are unknown.

Did Mary accompany William to King George’s Sound on Amity, or did she arrive later? But arrive she certainly did. I have not yet found a book, thesis or article that has actually named any women at King George’s Sound except Sarah and Ann, wives of Thomas and William Wood(s) respectively. Yet, over a period of four and a half years, over fifty soldiers would be posted to the settlement and some wives must have accompanied them. Albany historian Robert Stephens was not wrong when he wrote, they [women] appear only as nameless cyphers, and are never mentioned by name, neither they nor their children, in any of the sources referred to herein. As cyphers the women’s numbers varied from one to three but at no time has either the method of arrival or departure, obtruded. That their arrival was expected and their residence officially recognised would appear to be confirmed by the fact that three cottages for their use were erected by Captain Wakefield, who disclosed in his Official Returns that they were for the use of married soldiers. So nameless they still remain, which is a pity.

We now know that Mary gave birth to a son Frederick on 29th July at King George ‘Town’ – see the image at the end of this page. Mary then returned to Sydney before William – possibly on the brig Governor Phillip leaving KGS on 17th June 1828. The brig arrived in Sydney on 4th July – in time for Frederick’s first birthday and his baptism in St Philips Church in September 1828. We know that Mary also accompanied William to Norfolk Island where Eliza was born. Then back in Sydney Joseph was born at the end of 1831. William and Mary and the three children left for India in 1832 on Hercules for William’s posting in the Madras Presidency where two other children were born. Sadly Mary, Joseph and the infants died in India and William took his Army discharge and turned for home.

According to the Commandants reports from 1826 to July 1827 the original three women were still at the KGS settlement but by December 1829 only one was left. Again, no names for the cyphers!

Back Home
William’s decision to discharge from the Army in November 1839 was probably prompted by his widower status three months previously, the prospect of having to raise his son and daughter alone, and the reasonable pension he would receive from the Army.

Meanwhile back in Wiveliscombe, William’s youngest brother Henry (aged 28) had married Ann Norman (20) on 28th March 1832 after banns. They had three children, William, Mary and John between 1833 and 1839. Henry died in April 1840 leaving Ann a widow with three children under seven years old.

It is unlikely that William would have known of his brother’s death the month prior to returning to England to sort out his medical pension and other arrangements. A year would go by before we find the widower and the widow again – in the 1841 census of England and Wales. William is back in Wiveliscombe living with a family named Greedy (probably as a friend-cum-lodger). Ann is also still in Wiveliscombe, living with the Cross household, with her three children… and one extra child named Eliza aged 12. Now, what a coincidence; a young girl born in 1829, NOT born in the county (Somerset) but in Australia, so says the census record on the page after William’s census entry!  So now we can predict the outcome.

William Hill married Ann Norman (using her maiden name) after banns on 2nd May 1842 in the parish church of St. James, Taunton. Then came the surprise: William Hill married Ann Hill (using her former married name) after banns on 31st July 1844 in the parish church of Wilton, Taunton. Both marriages have been transcribed and indexed by the Somerset Archives; both marriages were recorded by the General Registrar’s Office at Taunton (but with different reference numbers, of course). There is no doubt it is the same couple – but why two marriages? Either way they and complicit clergymen were flouting both a Canon and Civil Law that prohibited a man from marrying his dead brother’s wife. Under the Marriage Act of 1563 sixty impediments to marrying relatives were cited. The ancient biblical prohibition from Leviticus 20:21 was not repealed in English law until the early 20th century!

William can be easily traced in the Census Returns from 1841 and can be matched to extant birth/baptism, death/burial and marriage records. And to assist the reader further, the Table below sets out the details.

1841 Census of England at Wales, Wiveliscombe [HO107-950-9]
1841 Census William and Ann are living in separate households in Wiveliscombe. William and Mary’s firstborn Frederick, recorded as a shoemaker aged 14, are living in the same household as Joseph and Ann Greedy. Eliza Hill, William and Mary’s daughter, is residing with Ann’s children by her first husband, Henry.

1851 Census William (ag lab pensioner) and Ann are living in ‘Tarr’, Lydeard St. Lawrence, Taunton with: Eliza, Mary (daughter of Henry and Ann Hill), Jane, Sarah, Anne and Henry.

1861 Census William (stone quarrier) and Ann are living in Dulton Road, Milverton, Somerset with Martha and George.

1871 Census William and Ann are living at ‘Hounds Moor’, Milverton with a granddaughter Eveline Hill, born in Cardiff.

William’s pension return indicates that he died on 17th March 1876, his pension paid up to 1st April 1876 at the Trowbridge District Office. I have been unsuccessful in identifying any other verifiable death or burial record for William – but it is possible he was buried in the same plot as his wife Ann. She was buried on 5th March 1876 in St Michael’s churchyard in Milverton, Somerset. William’s record of death and burial may well have been overlooked.


The Mary Ann Hill death cited in Albany in 1873 was not the wife of William Hill 39th Regiment who arrived at King George’s Sound on Amity. His wife Mary died in India in 1839.

Efforts to identify the maiden surname of William’s first wife Mary, remain elusive. Contenders mentioned in other sources have been found wanting by lack of evidence or lack of logic.

We know that Mary was at KGS by July 1827 as her son Frederick was born there, making him was one of the earliest European children to be born in New Holland – if not the first. Almost two years before the Swan River Colony settlers arrived.


Eliza Binding nee Hill headstone at Grantville Cemetery, Bass, Victoria

On 12th December 2023, I received an email from Reg and Norma Binding which began with, We made a return visit this morning to your fabulous website, Redcoat Settlers in Western Australia 1826-1869, and discovered (with great pleasure) that you’ve written a detailed history of William Hill, my third great-grandfather. Following that day, not another went by without further research and collaboration between us which would greatly extend the ‘detailed history of William Hill’. The Binding family had already left few stones unturned, but our joint efforts took us into unchartered waters. Even then, there are just some stones that stubbornly conceal many mysteries. Thank you so much for sharing and giving me this rewrite to do during an otherwise boring Christmas and New Year!
Post Script: Eliza, born on Norfolk Island, and her husband George Binding, three years after their marriage, emigrated to Victoria on the ship Geelong.



Frederick Hill ‘was born in the Parish of King George Town near the Town of New South Wales (not very near!). [WO97-1327-089 p.4 Discharge to Pension]
Sources & Bibliography
Wikipedia, Wikipedia Commons.
The Records and Badges of Every Regiment and Corps in the British Army, Henry Manners Chichester and George Burges-Short 1900.
The National Army Museum, London.
Historical Record of the 39th or Dorsetshire Regiment 1702-1853, Richard Cannon Esq.
Wivey and the Hills Churches website.
Vision of Britain website (population statistics).
The 1827 Newcastle Notebook and Letters of Lieutenant William S Coke HM 39th Regiment, Cynthia Hunter, 1997.
Western Port and Beyond, Malcolm G Horsburgh, 1985 (an extract; privately published).
Albany: a panorama of the Sound from 1827, Donald S Garden, 1977.
Possessory Lien—the First European Settlement, King George’s Sound, New Holland (1826-1831)’, Early Days, vol. 6, part 6: 23-59, Robert Stephens.
New Holland & the Adjacent Islands, agreeable to the latest Discoveries, John Andrews c.1787 (map).
Somerset Archives (baptism, death and marriage records).
British India Office Archives Deaths & Burials records.
General Registrar’s Office, England & Wales (marriage records).
St Phillips Church, Sydney, NSW (baptism records].
Historical Records of Australia Series III, Vol. VI (KGS Commandants Reports)
War Office Musters and Pay Lists WO12-5263 to 5266, National Archives, Kew.
War Office Embarkation Returns WO25-3503-50 (1825-28).
War Office Royal Hospital Chelsea: Soldiers Service Documents WO97-0554-010, National Archives, Kew.
War Office Royal Hospital Chelsea Admission Books, Registers and Papers WO23-12,39,48,58, National Archives, Kew.
Census of England & Wales, 1841 [HO7-950-9], 1851 [HO107-1923-447], 1861 [RG09-1609-82], 1871 [RG10-2361-44] National Archives, Kew.
Sydney Monitor 11 Aug 1826 (Regalia)
Sydney Monitor 9 Nov 1826 (Amity).
Sydney Gazette 1 Jul 1828 (Governor Phillip).
Sydney Gazette 1 Jan 1829 (Governor Phillip).
The Australian 6 Feb 1829 (Isabella).
Sydney Gazette 1 Jul 1830 {Lucy Ann).
Sydney Gazette 11 Dec 1832 (Hercules).
Currency Lad 15 Dec 1832 (Hercules).



© Diane Oldman 2022, updated 2023