Port Gregory (Lynton) Convict Depot

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Lynton Hiring Depot was established in 1853, primarily to provide a labour force for the Geraldine Mine (Site No.7.) and the pastoral stations in the vicinity. On the 22 May 1853 the first ticket-of-leave men, accompanied by a detachment of Pensioner Guards to oversee them, arrived at Port Gregory on board the Leander and Gold Digger. [Heritage Council, Place No. 01915].

The Heritage Council’s brief history does not mention that the Geraldine Mine had, from its inception, employed ticket-of-leave men. The first was ‘JB’, a blacksmith taken on at 20s. per week as early as 1850. By the end of 1852, there were 25 ticket-of-leave men working at the mine site and living in a ‘rough but capacious’ hammock shed that they had built for themselves [Campbell:42]. ‘JB’ was most likely James Baker who arrived in the Swan River Colony on the first convict ship Scindian on 1st June 1850. Baker was tried at Exeter in February 1847 for stealing fowls. Prior to his arrival in Fremantle, he had been a guest at Millbank, Wakefield and Portland Prisons. His wife Charlotte (nee Bailey) and two children, Joseph Thomas and Jane joined him in the Colony in November 1852 [Erickson:110].

Broomhall:94 has suggested that a detachment of pensioners embarked on the coastal schooner William Pope on 26 April 1853. He may have been confusing this journey with that of four pensioners leaving for Champion Bay to relieve the detachment of the 99th Regiment (also mentioned in his book). All other sources and newspaper reports indicate that the pensioners first arrived in Port Gregory on Leander which left Fremanlte on 15 May 1853. The newspaper accounts hereunder may clarify the sailings (click on image to enlarge).

20th Company Sappers & Miners Muster Roll for May 1853 [WO-138]
Three Sappers and Miners are mentioned in the Perth Gazette account as sailing on Leander to Port Gregory. However, the Muster Roll for May 1853 does not bear this out. Initially only two men were stationed in Port Gregory in their roles as Instructing Warders from May 1853 to March 1854 – Corporal Emanuel Stempson Gitsham and Private Robert Lennox. From April to August 1854, Lennox was the only Sapper at the Depot. By September he was hospitalised and Private Robert Henshaw took over this isolated post (accompanied by his family) until he too returned to Fremantle when the depot closed. In fact two of his children are buried in the Lynton Cemetery. In some sources his rank has been described as Lance Corporal or Corporal, but in fact he did not receive these promotions until 1859 and 1860 respectively, by which time he had left Port Gregory.

Lt Col Irwin’s General Order #3 May 1853

Thirty ticket-of-leave men were on board Leander when it arrived at the depot in May 1853, at least according to the Perth Gazette. Broomhall:94 has recorded that four pensioners comprising a Corporal Michael Reddin, and three other ranks, arrived at Port Gregory initially. Gibbs:59 has followed the Perth Gazette lead with pensioners numbering a Sergeant plus five privates. But surely the last word must come from Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick C Irwin, Commandant, when he wrote in his General Orders on 7th May that one corporal, five privates, four women and 15 children from the enrolled pensioners would leave on Leander. Whatever the complement of pensioners, they were located in tents and that situation did not change for some time to come.

Lynton Cemetery records show that three enrolled pensioners died in Port Gregory: Farrel Cornelly (48), Joseph Hayes (31) and Michael Reddin (44). Pensioner James Doran’s wife Frances and day-old son are also buried in the cemetery.

Perth Gazette 19 August 1853

Within two months of Michael Reddin arriving at Port Gregory, he was accidentally shot in the hip by ‘Corporal Gibson (sic) of the Royal Sappers and Miners’ (Broomhall:94). As there was no such Sapper in the 20th Company, this must have been Corporal Gitsham, the only RSM Corporal on station. Reddin was successfully treated by Dr Robert Foley, a former British Army surgeon, then in private practice in Champion Bay.

The numbers of TOL men remained reasonably high during 1855 and better progress was made on the construction of the depot buildings, but it seems the numbers never reached the capacity of 80 TOL men, and the pensioners were still living in tents and temporary wooden huts. The plan (Gibbs:Fig.2) for the works completed in 1856 seems to have been a huge waste of material and resources given that the depot closed in 1857. In his Memorandum of Work Henderson stated: ‘At this station a Depot has been erected, as also warders’ quarters for two warders, commissariat store and office, convict store, carpenters’ and smiths’ shops, hospital, surgery, and lock-up, &c., with the necessary out-buildings.’

This convict depot’s history has been well recorded (albeit without detail of the Sappers who were assigned there) by archaeologists Campbell and Gibbs. As the latter’s article about Port Gregory (Lynton) resides in the public domain, researchers can do no better than to click here for an excellent overview.

Heritage Council, State Heritage Office Website https://inherit.stateheritage.wa.gov.au.
Henderson & Coy., Robin McKellar Campbell, 2017, Uniprint W.A.
Prison Registers PCom2-27-26 Millbank, HO23-14 Wakefield, PCom2-383-34 Portland, The National Archives, Kew.
The Bicentennial Dictionary of Western Australia, pre-1829-1888, Rica Erickson, 1987, UWA Press.
The Veterans, F H Broomhall, 1989, Hesperian Press.
Perth Gazette, 6 & 18 May 1853. Inquirer & Commercial News, 4 May 1853.
Muster Roll & Pay List May 1853, WO11-138, The National Archives, Kew.
General Order #3 7 May 1853, WO28-266-198, The National Archives, Kew.
Lynton Cemetery transcriptions by Lorraine Larment, Oz Burials Website.
Perth Gazette, 19 Aug 1853.
Lynton: convicts, landscape and colonisation strategies in midwest Western Australia, Martin Gibbs, 2007, Australasian Historical Archaeology No. 25.


© Diane Oldman, 2018