Albany, King George Sound

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Menang, also spelled Minang, Mineng or Mirningar, are an indigenous Noongar people of southern Western Australia. The Menang’s traditional lands encompassed some 4,900 square miles from King George Sound northwards to the Stirling Range. A passage in Charles Darwin’s ‘Voyage of the Beagle’ in 1839 may relate to an encounter with the Menang, whom he named the ‘white cockatoo tribe’. Menang Kort (heart of the whale) is the Noongar name for King George Sound. Kinjarling (Place of Rain) is the Noongar name for Albany, formerly named Frederickstown by Major Lockyer in 1827.

Early Discovery and Exploration

There may be some who believe that Major Lockyer, the 39th Regiment’s Captain Wakefield, the soldiers and convicts, and a handful of civilians from New South Wales on the ship Amity were the first Europeans to see the waters of King George Sound. But of course other Europeans before them had disturbed the indigenous population and the flora and fauna of the region – the traders, whalers and sealers, artists and botanists, explorers and surveyors.

Captain George Vancouver named that large body of water King George the Third’s Sound in 1791; ‘the Third’ was dropped in 1805, but the apostrophe ‘s’ remained, giving us King George’s Sound; the apostrophe ‘s’ was dropped in the early 20th century leaving us with King George Sound (often abbreviated to KGS).

Secretary of State for War and the Colonies 3rd Earl Henry Bathurst had tasked Captain Philip Parker King to record and report on a wide range of matters including weather conditions, mountains, animals, vegetables, wood, minerals, metals or stones, details of local communities, their languages and way of life. He was also to record any products of use for export to Great Britain. This was accomplished in the various voyages undertaken by King, John Septimus Roe (hydrographer/surveyor) and Allan Cunningham (botanist), culminating in a week-long visit to King George Sound in 1823, where the colonial brig Bathurst anchored in Oyster Bay.

Let the Settlement Begin

So what was Lord Bathurst up to … exploitation of resources, trade, or settlement? Three years later ‘New Holland’ was clearly uppermost in his mind when in a series of Despatches, he urged NSW Governor Ralph Darling to prepare for settlement ‘before the French attempt to establish themselves there’. Rumour (or British Intelligence) had it that the French had landed somewhere to the west. Easy to say for the policy-maker, but for Darling – the implementer – supply lines to the west were almost two thousand miles away.

In November 1826, Bathurst started a considerable ball rolling with a letter to NSW Colonial Secretary Alexander McLeay which detailed orders for Major Edmund Lockyer 57th Regiment. The letter was a 16-point list on how to proceed with settlement at King George Sound and included a private note to Lockyer about how he should ‘regulate his language and communications’ with officers of French ships he might encounter. Bathurst left office in April 1827, so probably had no first-hand information about how the settlement proceeded.

Lord Henry Bathurst, Captain Philip Parker King, Lieutenant John Septimus Roe, Governor Ralph Darling and Major Edmund Lockyer

Governor Darling’s Feu de Joie

Colonial Brig Amity

Three ships set sail from Port Jackson, NSW on 9th November 1826. Captain Samuel Wright, 3rd Regiment on the brig Dragon, was carrying the same ‘secret’ orders as Major Lockyer relating to possible encounters with the French. HMS Fly (Captain Frederick Augustus Weatherall), a brig-sloop of 336 tons, was escort ship for Dragon (Mr J H Skelton, Master) 134 tons, bound for Western Port (later Corinella, Victoria), and the colonial brig Amity (Captain Thomas Hansen and Lieutenant Colson Festing) 148 tons, bound for King George Sound. All three vessels met with bad weather en route.  Amity, off the northern coast of Tasmania called into George Town to renew her water supply and organise a hunting party for provisions. Lockyer records in his journal that on the 29th November, when off Storm Bay, the wind shifted bringing a ‘perfect storm with a very great sea’. The storm broke off the main boom and stove in part of the bulwarks. The damage necessitated a call at Hobart for repairs, after which the voyage continued on the 6th December.

For Amity the weather was poor the remainder of the voyage, but she finally made safe anchorage in Princess Royal Harbour on Christmas Day. At daybreak on 26th December 1826, Major Lockyer and Lieutenant Festing went ashore to decide upon a site for the first British military post in Western Australia.

On board Amity was Captain Joseph Wakefield of the 39th (Dorsetshire) Regiment and 19 of his troops: one sergeant, two corporals and sixteen privates. The three women and three children aboard may well have been wives and children of the soldiers. Corporal John Shore was one of those aboard the Amity; he was 29 years and three months in the Army, and although he did not settle in Australia, he should not be forgotten.

The stories of three other soldiers at King George Sound came into focus over a year after first publishing this page. Private William Hill accompanied by his wife Mary also arrived on Amity with the 39th detachment. Hill returned to settle in Somerset, England in late 1839. Thomas and William Wood, the overseers of convicts, returned to Sydney ultimately to discharge from the New South Wales Royal Veteran Companies in July 1829 and settled in the Southern Highlands of NSW.

At sunrise on Sunday, 21st January 1827 – Major Edmund Lockyer’s 43rd birthday – the colours were displayed at the flagstaff and at noon a Royal salute was fired with a feu de joie by the troops. The flagstaff and the battery (two 18-pounders) had already been removed from the beach and put in position on the site of the now defined settlement. Within a few months (2nd April) this would become Fredericks Town (Frederickstown), but this day was foundation day for the future town of Albany.

There were five other passengers, 23 convicts and the ship’s crew on Amity. I have not detailed the roles and names of these other arrivals, nor the events about them which followed, as these have been written about by many others including Major Lockyer; Click here to read Lockyer’s Journal 8 Nov 1826 to 30 Mar 1827. This narrative is about the soldiers, the sites and the buildings of the first military post.

The Commandants over the four years and three months at King George Sound were:
Major Edmund Lockyer, 57th Regiment 25 Dec 1826 to 3 Apr 1827.
Captain Joseph Wakefield, 39th Regiment 3 Apr 1827 to 6 Dec 1828.
Lieutenant George Sleeman, 39th Regiment 6 Dec 1828 to 3 Dec 1829.
Captain Collet Barker, 39th Regiment 3 Dec 1829 to 27 Mar 1831.

Meanwhile Captain Stirling Sets His Sights and His Sails on the West

Captain James Stirling, a mariner since the age of 12, was given command of the new HMS Success in 1826. He met with Governor Darling in Sydney, moved the badly sited Melville Island garrison and established a site for settlement at Raffles Bay. By March 1827 he was exploring the Swan River region on the west coast of the continent. The following month he visited King George Sound and returned to Sydney with Lockyer on board Success. Back in England, his suggestion of a free settlement at Swan River, previously not supported by the British Government, finally gained momentum – after plenty of old fashioned influence in high places of his wife’s family! The fruition of his plans came on 2nd May 1829 when Captain Charles Fremantle declared the Swan River Colony for Britain; Stirling arrived in HMS Parmelia on 31st May and HMS Sulphur arrived on 8th June, with Captain Frederick Chidley Irwin in command of soldiers of a detachment of the 63rd Regiment.

In March 1831 Stirling appointed Dr Alexander Collie, RN as first Government Resident and JP of King George Sound. Collie had been appointed Surgeon on HMS Sulphur, his background in the Royal Navy was as Assistant Surgeon 1813 and Surgeon 1815 [Navy List]. Collie served at KGS until 1833 when he returned to Perth as Colonial Surgeon. In ill-health (tuberculosis) he decided to return to England on HMS Zebra. Ironically when he reached King George Sound, Collie’s condition worsened, and he died at George Cheyne’s home in Albany on 8th November 1835 aged 42.

Farewell to the 39th, the First Soldiers at the Sound

The tables below show that Corporal John Shore was the only soldier who arrived with his regiment on the Amity and left the military post on Isabella with the last of the 39th troops.  By my reckoning fifty-seven 39th regiment soldiers were garrisoned in Albany between December 1826 and March 1831.  About a dozen ships may have transported soldiers arriving between 1827 and 1831, among them Amity, Isabella, Success, Ann, Mermaid, Sydney Packet, Governor Phillip, Lucy Ann, and Rob Roy; Isabella was the most frequent arrival.  I am unable to determine which soldiers arrived/departed on which ships. No soldiers took their discharge and settled in Western Australia.  Over the period of the settlement up to ten convicts possibly escaped, their eventual fate unknown. On 7th March 1831 King George Sound was absorbed into the Swan River Colony under the governance of James Stirling.

Arrival and Departure of 39th Regiment Troops King George Sound

Isabella Giveth and Taketh Away

The 39th Regiment’s departing Commandant and 19 men were replaced by troops of the 63rd (West Suffolk) Regiment of Foot.  One officer, a sergeant and twenty rank and file troops had come from Hobart, Van Diemen’s Land on Isabella, a 120 ton schooner, arriving in Perth, Swan River Colony on 27th February 1831. Some of the Isabella‘s men had previously embarked for Australia as guards on convict ships arriving from Britain between 1828 and 1829. Among them were Lieutenant William M Carew on Roslyn Castle and Colour Sergeant John Mason on Mellish.

After their arrival in the Swan River Colony, five of the privates remained in Perth and the balance arrived in King George Sound on 19th March 1831.  Only one of the men serving in King George Sound – John Mason – took his Army discharge in the Colony and settled there.

The 63rd’s Short Spell at the Sound

The monthly War Office Returns for the distribution of troops at various military posts in the Colony are not extant until September 1837 [WO17-1234-5]. Nonetheless the Colonial Secretary’s Office records show the number of men at the Sound. The 63rd’s military presence could be regarded as a bit of an ‘overkill’ given that little more than a year after the Redcoats’ first postings the European population of the Sound was only forty men, women and children [CO18-10-143]. The soldiers would have been busy making good some of the ramshackle buildings left behind by the small settlement of troops, civilians and convicts from NSW. There appeared to be few problems with the indigenous of the area, already accustomed to good relationships with the soldiers of the past and present.

Fredericks Town had been re-named Albany in 1832 when Stirling visited the Sound on his way to England. It had become a matter of urgency that a road from Albany to Perth be constructed, and the 63rd troops made a start on the road to the next military outpost at a spot determined would be about halfway between Albany and the Williams River at Warriup. They managed to cut a road about 25 miles towards Swan River but were impeded by the lack of transport of provisions. These roadworks would be continued by the next detachment of Redcoats to the area – the 21st Regiment – who arrived in the Colony in 1833.

The 63rd men at King George Sound with the remainder of the Swan River Colony detachment sailed on HMS Merope on 18th April 1834 for Madras, India. Captain Erskine, Lieutenant Carew, Assistant Surgeon Milligan, four NCOs, the drummer and 54 privates departed – leaving eleven men to discharge from the Army and settle in the new Colony. The 63rd was relieved by the 21st Regiment detachment their tenures overlapping, the returns for troop distribution thus showing additional men in the Colony for a time. Private #383 Thomas Jones died while on service at the Sound on 23rd April 1831.

The 63rd Regiment and its accompanying wives and children who had been based in Australia would spend the next 13½ years in India and Burma. Sadly disease took a terrible toll and during this period the 63rd lost 24 officers, 51 sergeants, 24 corporals, six drummers and 604 privates [Museum of the Manchester Regiment].

The 21st at Albany Escape the Conflict

The musters and pay lists for the 21st Regiment’s detachment, during its almost four years sojourn in the Colony, are generally silent about the posting of the troops. One of the exceptions to this is the first full quarter where the men posted to King George Sound are specifically identified: one officer and 22 rank and file (left), Mrs Jane Barry and Mrs Sarah Farrell were first on post in September 1833. Again, this seems to be a large force for such a small settlement, but problems to the north – where land grants and population were rapidly increasing – were beginning to change the climate of aboriginal/settler relations – and better be safe than sorry. However, it seems that little of this affected race relations in Albany.

Private #535 George Jones, the first casualty of the 21st detachment, was not at the hands of natives but probably from the ill effects of too much liquor and the woeful neglect of the Army’s buildings at the Sound. Millwright Digory Geake, his wife and two children, arrived in the Colony in 1830, took up land in the Plantagenet area and opened a public house in Albany. ‘Geakes’ seems to have become a favourite watering hole of the troops. The incident in ‘The Black Hole’ (Albany Prison) is described below:

Excerpt from Whiteley p.17

Other 21st Regiment soldiers who died at Albany were Sergeant Michael Conway who drowned in December 1835 and Private Robert Riddle who died from a burst blood vessel in March 1838.

The Road to Perth

As mentioned above, a road from King George Sound towards Perth had initially been cut by soldiers from the 63rd detachment during Lieutenant Carew’s time. The project continued by a road to Warriup marked out by Assistant Surveyor Alfred Hillman and Lieutenant Charles Frederick Armstrong in late 1836. Joseph Harris, in his journal records, On 21st February [1837] … Our party consisted of Lieut. Armstrong, and eight men of the 21st, Mr. Hillman, myself and a driver, Messrs. Taylor, of Gandeup, and Dr. Harrison. We were also accompanied by a cart of Mr. Sherratt’s, a driver, and a boy; a native named Kartrull, who wished to visit the Swan, also went with us. Unfortunately the eight soldiers are not identified in the Musters and Pay Lists for their involvement.

Some to Calcutta and Some who Stayed

Three officers, five sergeants, five corporals and 75 privates of the 21st Swan River Colony detachment left for Calcutta on the ship Runnymede on 23rd July 1840, relieved by the 51st Regiment detachment from Hobart. The fate of one man who was ‘first on post’ at King George Sound remains unknown – Private #839 William Gray deserted on 22nd October 1839.

Twenty-four soldiers of the 21st remained in the Colony; 21 to take their discharges in July 1840 and three who chose to transfer to the incoming 51st detachment with a view to taking discharge later. One of those who discharged in July 1840 was a man who served at King George Sound military post from October 1837 to the date of his discharge and then spent the rest of his life in Albany with his family – Private Lawrence Mooney.

The 51st Arrive on Runnymede

Perth Gazette 27 Jun 1840

The ship named Runnymede should not be confused with the convict ship built in Sunderland in 1854 which brought convicts and enrolled pensioner guards to Western Australia in 1856. The troop ship Runnymede, carrying the 51st Regiment detachment, arrived at King George Sound from Hobart on 8th June 1840 where 28 troops disembarked identified as the 51st ‘first on post’ at Albany, KGS military post; seven more were destined for Mount Barker. The balance disembarked on 25th June at Fremantle. The June 1840 monthly return for distribution of troops at KGS, indicates that one sergeant and four rank and file from the 21st detachment were already there [WO17-1236-55], for a total of thirty three on station. Only York military post can claim as many soldiers on station at anyone time outside of Perth HQ.

George Edward Egerton Warburton

The 51st Regiment in the Colony ultimately comprised two companies. Arriving on Runnymede were 145 men made up of two captains, one 2nd lieutenant, an assistant surgeon, three ensigns, two colour sergeants, four sergeants, eight corporals and 124 privates. The newspaper cites two drummers which is incorrect and records George Warburton as a lieutenant; Warburton did not receive his promotion from ensign to lieutenant until May 1843. Between 1841 and 1844, Eudora and Champion would arrive in the Colony with 46 troops, making up the two companies. This show of strength from the British military was clearly in response to fallout from problems between aboriginals and settlers, with political decisions culminating in intervention by soldiers and mounted police during the previous years of unrest.

By September 1841 the 51st detachment at King George Sound comprised Ensign Warburton, Sergeant Robert Murphy (the previous NCO William Holden having drowned at sea in October 1840), and 15 rank and file. The military post had seen little disruption for many years, but the reverberations from trouble in Pinjarra, York and Vasse from clashes between whites and blacks would soon be felt.

The Murder of Charles Newell

51st Regiment Distribution of Troops at KGS in 1841

The Newell family is recorded in the 1836 Census of King George Sound and included James Newel [sic] (40), his wife (40), Dorothy (22), James (18), Charles (16) and Caroline (14) [CO18-16-214]. By 1836 James Newell had acquired a four-acre Lot A22 northeast of the Albany townsite. In September 1841 Charles was working as a shepherd for sea captain John Hassell. Hassell had taken up land in Kendenup the previous year and by March 1841 had been appointed a magistrate.

On 26th September 1841 a party of natives entered Hassell’s farm at Kendenup and stole some knives. Charles Newell followed them and retrieved the knives. However, a spear was thrown which penetrated Newell’s back at an angle near the backbone; the natives decamped into the bush; Dr Harrison in Albany was sent for; Hassell extracted the spear but Newell later died [5th October]. Soldiers stationed at Mount Barker managed, with the assistance of friendly natives, to capture the young man who had thrown the spear. Another large group of hostile aboriginals tried to rescue the culprit, but after shots were fired, the soldiers and friendly natives brought the prisoner to King George’s Sound where he was committed to gaol for trial. This gist of events was taken from the Inquirer dated 20th October – the news taking almost a month to reach the colonial press.

This account [Green:195] explains with source references from Colonial Secretary’s correspondence: Ulage or Urtite or Utage [the aboriginal lad’s name] Was captured with several other Aborigines and accused of spearing Charles Newell, a servant of Mr Hassell of Jerramungup. The accused was being held in the Albany gaol waiting trial (CSR V9828 Sep). Broke out of three sets of handcuffs to the Government Resident [John Randall Phillips] obtained a strong set of iron billows [sic] made on a French ship (CSR CV98 6 Oct). In April he was sent to Perth to be tried for the murder of Charles Newell and if convicted it was suggested that he be returned to Albany to serve his sentence. Thus others would see the application of the law for the death of a European (CSR V111 1 Apr). He apparently escaped before he could be despatched to Perth and was reported in the vicinity of Mr Hassell’s home (CSR V112 24 Aug).

On 17th November another article appeared in the Inquirer which for me only muddied the waters of the account of Charles Newell’s murder. However, one paragraph from the Inquirer which appears to be unequivocal, reports “Our letters speak highly of the judicious and temperate conduct of Mr. Warburton, and of the soldiers under his command; the activity which this gentleman displayed in visiting the several outlying farms, and in opening communications with the various stations, is highly commended, and it is satisfactory to learn, that, judging from good observation and inquiry, he does not anticipate any renewal of hostilities on the part of the natives.”

Albany and Mount Barker: first on post

This is a good place to mention the status of Mount Barker and its soldiers. There seems to have been no official military post at Mount Barker (it is never mentioned in the Monthly Returns for distribution of troops). However, the early Musters and Pay Lists for the 51st Regiment show at least seven soldiers on detachment at Mount Barker from June to August 1840; the names are in addition to those at King George Sound in those months. They were Joseph Blundell, John Boodle, Thomas Chadwick, William Jackman, Patrick McCabe, William Neame and Patrick Mulligan; thus four of them were also posted at KGS in 1841 during the Newell incident. I personally believe that a small number of 51st men from KGS was sent to the outstation at Mount Barker when required, but it was never officially recorded as a military post. There is no evidence that a distinct ‘civil’ police force was operating out of Mount Barker at that time, as it did not have a police station or gaol until convicts commenced building in 1867.

Of the 33 soldiers in the 51st Regiment who took their Army discharge in Western Australia and settled there, these eight rank and file and one officer were at some point detached at King George Sound: #501 James Cunningham, #706 Joseph Davies, #1296 Charles Horn, #517 Francis Mason, #1185 Samuel Piggott, #1317 John Pullen aka Wellstead, #920 William Quilch and Lieutenant George Edward Egerton Warburton. The balance of this regiment left the Colony on 15th March 1847 on the ship Java for Calcutta.

The 96th and 99th

The 96th arrived in February 1847 on Java, and left for Calcutta in May 1849 on Ratcliffe which had brought the relieving 99th Regiment to the Colony in April that year. By June 1850 the convicts had started to arrive and were quickly granted tickets of leave to work for settlers some distance from Perth. The guards who came with the convicts were enrolled Chelsea pensioners who would be an auxiliary force, gradually replacing the full-time troops. The other soldiers to arrive were the Sappers and Miners. For the line regiments the writing was on the wall. In 1851 the year began with the strength on KGS Military Post at one sergeant and eight rank and file soldiers of the 99th; by December just one soldier remained – seconded to the Police.

The last Redcoat infantryman to serve in Albany was Private Samuel Piggott who had served in three different regiments in the Colony at King George Sound at various times: the 51st, 96th and 99th, having first arrived on Runnymede from Hobart in 1840. Piggott stayed in Albany until February 1854 [WO12-9819-95] and discharged in Perth on 31st August 1854. Two more infantry detachments served in the Colony following the departure to England of the 99th troops – but they did not serve at King George Sound.

Plans of Military Post Sites

Thursday 28th [December 1826] Having examined both harbours [Oyster Bay and Princess Royal] I am compelled from not being able to find a more eligible situation to fix on the one immediately opposite where the brig is at anchor, and where Captain Flinders had his tents pitched at the watering place when he was here in HM survey vessel the “Investigator”.
Wednesday January 17th [1827]. Fixed on the spot for the guns and Flag Staff. Not being able to procure a spar that would answer the purpose here, I have taken one from the brig which was purchased at Hobart Town for her use.
[Lockyer’s Diary].

The first military post to be established by Major Lockyer was on a rising spot of ground within the boundaries of what were to become Festing, Gairdner [Mill], Vancouver and Parade Streets where a store hut, barracks and officers residences were built. Restorations, improvements and additions by successive Commandants Wakefield, Sleeman and Barker, did not appear on any plan until after the fact, when Alfred Hillman’s July 1836 Plan was used to identify the buildings of both the first (1826-1835) and second sites (1836-1851).

Plan of Albany June & July 1836 Alfred Hillman

West of Pt Frederick marked on Parade Street – erected between 1826 & 1831.
(f) Commandant’s Quarters in use [by 1836] as a Court House.
(g) Barracks [in use by 39th, 63rd, 21st Regiment detachments].
(h) Old Commissariat Store.
(i) Premises purchased of Government by P Belches.
(k) Hut in ruins [from first settlement years].
Bottom Right Corner: Surveyed and Drawn by A Hillman, June & July 1836.
[WASRO Cons 3868-004 edited by D Oldman].

Pt Wakefield Buildings marked south of Brunswick Road – erected between March & June 1836.
(a) New Commissariat Store.
(b) Guard House and Military Jail.
(c) Public Jail.
Note: No Barracks had been built on this site at this time.

Plan of Albany 1851 by Philip Chauncy

Pt Wakefield marked south of Brunswick Road Lot E4 – erected between c. 1842 & 1851.
(1) Guardroom and Hospital.
(2) Barrack.
(3) Garden.
(4) Commissariat Store.
In a Plan of 1844 [WASRO Cons 3868-005] Lot E4 was described as Lot E2 – this suggests subdivision of land between 1844 and 1851. [WASRO Cons 3868-001 edited by D Oldman].
In use by 51st, 96th and 99th Regiment detachments.

Military Dilapidation!

In the month following the departure to NSW of the 39th troops, Government Resident Alexander Collie arranged temporary possession of unoccupied houses to people at the Sound; some like the Geake, Morley and Cheyne families would stay in the area and find more comfortable homes. Serving 63rd Regiment Sergeant John Mason was another to benefit from this arrangement. However, Collie received complaints about the state of some of the first settlement buildings and during his tenure it appears that by mid-1832, at least some repairs to the barracks and officers’ quarters had been effected. Another year rolled by and Government Resident Richard Spencer arrived to discover only three of the rented houses remained and the military buildings in poor condition. He wrote to Colonial Secretary Broun in March 1834 that, … the house occupied by the Commanding Officer of the [21st] detachment having been in danger of falling down in consequence of the sides giving out and a beam having fallen down near Lieut. Stewart’s bed, I was obliged to order it shored up … [CSO31-95]. It was clearly time for a review of the military site at King George Sound.

The Second Military Post

Perth Gazette 26 Mar 1836

In February 1835 a Board of Survey was convened to report on the Point Frederick barracks at which time it was decided that something new had to be built – or at least hired.  21st Regiment Lieutenant Stewart (he of the endangered bed), Deputy Commissary General John Lewis and Captain Alexander Cheyne were the decision-makers at that time. But nothing transpired. This is probably because Stewart and Cheyne both left the Colony in 1835 (March and November respectively). Further correspondence from Captain Frederick Irwin to Colonial Secretary Broun (1841) and Governor Stirling (1842) about a new barracks ensued.

Meanwhile, the site mentioned above at Point Wakefield had government buildings on it by 1836. Perhaps the last man standing from the Board of Survey trio (John Lewis) had pressed for the building of a new commissariat store! We know that a foundation stone for these new buildings south of Brunswick Road was laid on 9th March 1836 and appeared on the Hillman plan drawn in June/July that year. Finally between 1842 and 1851 the barracks and garden appeared on Lot E4 as can be seen in the 1851 Chauncy Plan.

The 20th Company of Royal Sappers and Miners
and the final Redcoats’ military post

Lieutenant William Crossman RE, was appointed to be in charge of the Albany Convict Depot, and other public works around the south-west of WA. He arrived on Marion January 1852 along with 30 Sappers and Miners, Instructing Warders, who made up the 20th Company in WA.  The first five sappers to be posted to Albany can be seen in the table (left).  By 1851 the troops of the line (then the 99th) were withdrawn, the enrolled pensioner guards were in place, and the sappers and miners prepared to move onto the new Point Frederick site to commence the convict depot building programme (which effectively became the third military site in Albany, King George Sound).

Sergeant Joseph Nelson
Convict Hiring Depot 1852

The February 1852 Muster Rolls & Pay Lists indicate that Privates James Holton , William Melluish, James Keir, John Marlow and William Ruse were at King George Sound to take up their roles as Instructing Warders.  The area around Point Frederick was selected – fifty years after Flinders and twenty-five years after Lockyer – as best suited to use as a convict depot. The decision to close the Depot in December 1855, so soon after its completion, must have been a blow to everyone in Albany; it had provided much needed infrastructure and convict labour for the settlers.  But Britain was in the middle of a war and the depots were expensive to operate; others would also soon be downgraded. in February 1856 two officers – William Crossman and Edmund Du Cane – a sergeant and 18 Sappers and Miners, left the Colony for England ostensibly to help the Crimean War effort.

William Melluish, the carpenter mentioned above, remained at the Depot throughout 1856 and 1857 as caretaker, following which the Depot was reopened.  Others from the 20th Company along with 40 convicts were sent to repair roads and bridges on the mail route from Perth to Albany.  During 1857 the Breaksea Island and Point King lighthouses were commenced using local stone quarried and timber cut and transported by convict labour. Another Sapper, Sergeant Joseph Nelson (right), was prominent at Breaksea and Point King as a supervisor of works and/or lighthouse keeper during his time in the Army and thereafter. For more detailed information about this period, see Royal Sappers and Miners website.


Books & Journals
‘Aborigines of the Albany Region 1821-1898’, Neville Green, 1989 (Bicentennial Dictionary Series).
‘Albany, First Western Settlement’ No.1 in Series, Dorrit Hunt, undated.
‘Commandant of Solitude. The Journals of Captain Collet Barker 1828-1831’, edited John Mulvaney and Neville Green, 1992.
‘Conquest and Settlement: The 21st Regiment in Western Australia 1833-1840’, Geoff Blackburn, 1999.
‘First the Spring: A History of the Shire of Kojonup’, Merle Bignell, 1971.
‘A Journey Travelled: Aboriginal-European relations at Albany and surrounding regions from first contact to 1926’, Murray Arnold, 2015.
‘The Military Establishment and Penal Settlement at King George Sound’, John Sweetman 1989.
‘The Military Establishment in Western Australia 1829-1863’, E S and C G S Whiteley, 2010.
‘Possessory Lien—the First European Settlement, King George’s Sound, New Holland (1826-1831)’, Robert Stephens,  Early Days, vol. 6, part 6: 23-59.
‘Not an Idle Man’, a Biography of John Septimus Roe, J L Burton Jackson, 1982.
‘Plantagenet, a History of the Shire of Plantagenet’, Rhonda Glover, 1979.
‘State and Position of Western Australia’, Captain Fredk Chidley Irwin, 1835 reprinted 2019.
‘Log of Logs’ Volumes 1-3, Ian Nicholson, 1990-1999.
Dictionary of Western Australians, Vol. 1 1829-1850, compiled by Pamela Statham, 1979.
Copies of letters to King George’s Sound, 4 November 1826 – 11 January 1831 [Record NRS 977, Microfilm SR Reel 712, State Archives and Records, NSW]. Digitised by Notre Dame University.
Journal of Major Lockyer Commandant of the Expedition Sent from Sydney in 1826 to Found a Settlement at King George’s Sound, Western Australia – transcription [Battye Library, State Library of WA].
War Office Muster Rolls and Pay Lists WO12-5263 to 5264 (39th); WO12-11230 (NSW RVC]; 7261 to 7265 (63rd); 3802 to 3809 (21st); 6200 to 6209 (51st); 9611 to 9622 (96th); 9804 to 9822 (99th) [National Archives, Kew].
Colonial Secretary’s Office files [See Whiteley p.84 Distribution of Troops – Battye Library, State Library of WA].
War Office Distribution of Troops WO17 Monthly Returns [National Archives, Kew].
War Office Embarkation Records WO25-3503-76 [National Archives, Kew].
Plans of Albany 1836 Cons 3868-004; 1844 Cons 3868-005; 1851 Cons 3868-001 [WA State Records Office].
Census Records in Despatches 1832, 1836, 1837 [CO18 Piece Nos. 10, 16, 18].
Newspapers (from TROVE)
Sydney Gazette 9 Nov 1826 – Amity
Colonial Times & Tasmanian Advertiser 8 Dec 1826 – Amity 39th Regiment
Sydney Gazette & NSW Advertiser 20 Apr 1827 – KGS Settlement
Hobart Town Courier 20 Dec 1828 – Roslyn Castle with 63rd Regiment
Sydney Monitor 21 May 1831 – Isabella 39th and 63rd Regiments, Barker Death
Perth Gazette 14 Sep 1833 –Jane 21st Regiment
Perth Gazette 12 Dec 1835 – Collie’s Death
Perth Gazette 26 Mar 1836 – Foundation Stone
Perth Gazette 18 Mar 1837 – Joseph Harris’s ‘Journey Overland from King George Sound’
Perth Gazette 27 Jun 1840 – Runnymede 51st Regiment
Perth Gazette 19 Sep 1840 – John Randall Phillips
Perth Gazette 6 Mar 1841 – Magistrates
Inquirer 20 Oct and 17 Nov 1841 – Charles Newell
Inquirer 24 Feb 1847 – Java 96th Regiment
Inquirer 11 Apr 1849 – Ratcliffe – 99th Regiment
West Australian & Albany Advertiser 19 Mar 2019 – Dr Shane Burke at Barker’s Quarters
West Australian 7 Apr 2021 – Dr Shane Burke documents


John Graham – for his input on the Western Port Settlement, the brig Dragon, and its part in the ‘flotilla’ westwards in 1826.
Sally Kenton – once again provided useful background on many matters about the 63rd Regiment.
Ciaran Lynch provided much local input after a ’roundabout’ introduction by Christen John Bell (Museum of History, Armadale) and Malcolm Trail (Albany City Councillor).
Dr Garry Gillard – I am again grateful for the many publications he has made available on his websites about WA’s early history.
Reg and Norma Binding of Melbourne – shared extensive research on the Hill-Binding family and that of the Thomas and William Wood, overseers of the convicts, fleshing out further history of the men and women at King George Sound (Dec 2023).


© Diane Oldman 2022, updated 2023.