THOMAS BATES - From common thief to an honest industrious character.
I wonder how Thomas felt, standing in the dock, when he was sentenced to Death at the Old Bailey. A common enough sentence in those days. Fortunately, transportation was often used as an alternative to hanging or imprisonment for criminals in England. From 1787-1868, criminals from the United Kingdom were transported to the British colonies in Australia as the American War of Independence had made it impossible to continue to send them to America. Thomas Bates was one of them.
I am quite lucky that we know a lot about Thomas after he was transported to the Colony. Several documents exist, and they paint a story of survival, and the beginings of the colony. The Clark branch of my family centred around the Parramatta & Auburn areas of NSW, and Thomas owned land in what is now Auburn. He is just one of the several people in the family that appear to have been on the wrong side of the law. Fortunately, Thomas seems to have become an upright person in society (with one significant slip up!) and future generations did the same.
Thomas Bates was the son of John Bates and Elizabeth Wood who married on 28th February, 1746 at All Saints Church, Canterbury, England. The family lived in the London area, which is where most of their children were born.
All Saints church
Thomas was born on 14th August, 1766 in London, and baptised at Saint Luke Old Street Church, Finsbury, London in September the same year.
St Luke Old Street church
The Old Baily and Transportation
This is all I know of him until he was committed for Trial in 1796 at the Old Bailey for stealing clothing and cloth.
Old Bailey C1808
As often was the case, the sentence of death was commuted to Transportation, and records show Thomas Bates was on a hulk until it was carried out, although no hulk record has been found so far. Convicted criminals like Bates, who were sentenced to transportation, were punished with imprisonment in prison hulks to work at hard labour prior to their transportation. Life in prison hulks was hard, and death rates were high.
Thomas was transported in 1798 on "The Hillsborough" The death rate on the journey of the Hillsborough was one of the highest of any convict ship, 95 of the 300 convicts died on the journey, and many more were ill when they arrived in Sydney in 1799.
When he arrived in Sydney, the Governor was John Hunter. Hunter was a naval officer and was recalled to England just after, in 1800.
Hunter handed over to Lieutenant-Governor Philip Gidley King, who established Australia's first welfare institution (Female Orphan School) in 1801. The school housed abandoned and orphaned children who were supposed to be educated, but were often put to work as servants and making clothing.
Life in Australia
Thomas Bates was one of the first people who owned land in what is now the Centre of Auburn. An Heritage Study into the history of Auburn gave me quite a lot of information about where Thomas had his land.
St Johns Parramatta
Mary was also a convict, transported on the Earl Cornwallis in 1798 she had previously married a convict, John Johnson in 1802, but he died the next year in 1803. They had one child, Mary Ann Johnson.
In April 1809, Lachlan Macquarie was appointed Governor of New South Wales. Macquarie was Australia's longest serving governor, and led the penal colony to a free settlement through policies of economic and social development. He is also remembered, however, for mistreatment of the aboriginal population.
In the early years of their marriage, Thomas became a constable in Parramatta. The family had 4 children (Margaret, John, James and Elizabeth) and owned 50 acres in what was then Greater Parramatta. There are several reports of a Thomas Bates being a road repairer in Parramatta, as well as being granted a publican licence in Parramatta, but it is difficult to confirm the latter is the right Thomas Bates.
In 1815, we do know that Thomas apprehended the bushranger, John Fitzgerald at Concord, and he was given 10 pounds reward. Fitzgerald was infamous for his exploits in the Hunter region and for escaping from gaol on several occasions, he died in notorious circumstances.
The family were still landholders in Parramatta in 1822 when Thomas and his wife were charged with assaulting Maria Haslem (Maria & her husband appear to have owned land near to the Bates').
He fell from grace, and was dismissed from his position as Constable. However, the situation is unclear, as he is still listed as a constable in 1823 & 1825, and still on the Colonial Secretary papers, being paid as a Constable in Parramatta.
What else is known?
That is the last we know, with any certainty, of Thomas Bates. There is family information that he was involved int he uprising of Vinegar Hill and that he was buried at the Devonshire Street Cemetery. The Devonshire Street Cemetery was eventually closed and the graves exhumed and moved to other cemeteries to make way for the Construction of Central Station in Sydney.
"Thomas Bates (1825)". Thomas was buried in the Church of England section. His remains were re-interred in Bunnerong Cemetery (Botany), Church of England Section 4S, plot 102. Johnson & Sainty transcribed the headstones back in 1969-1970. Gravestone Inscriptions NSW Volume 1, Sydney Burial Ground by K.A. Johnson and M.R. Sainty.
His wife, Mary Ann Bates is in the 1828 census, living in the household of John Thompson (her son in law), she is listed as Widow by this time, she died in December the same year.
More Information? If you are researching Thomas Bates and would like the sources for this story, please contact me or comment below. I would be happy to collaborate with you.