Here is a copy of the notation in the Colonial Secretary Letters of the colony regarding Thomas Atkins aiding bushrangers conviction.
On 31st October, 1823 he was transferred to " Port Macquarie on board His Majesty's Colonial Brig Lady Nelson with their respective sentences annexed there to; and also their original places, times of trial, and sentences extracted from the indents of the Ships by which they entered in this colony, Sydney, New South Wales, 31st October 1823Name : Thomas Atkins ali Coulter
By Whom: Bench
When: 6th October 1823
Sentence: Three yers
Ship: Surry (4)
Original Places, Times of Trial and Seentences
When :30 March 1823
Sentence : seven years
(Captain Allman, Commandant, Port Macquaire.
Signed "John Reoman Tailor"
31 October 1823
Signed "T Goulburn.")
This would have been the beginning of the Port Macquarie settlement.
was established as a penal settlement in 1821 due to the overcrowding of the existing penal settlements and the ever increasing numbers of new convict arrivals from Britain. The Newcastle penal settlement was being impacted by free settlers moving into the area and escaped convicts could easily reach Sydney. A new, more distant, penal establishment was considered necessary to house those convicts who re-offended in the colony and those considered "troublesome".
Oxley's 1818 explorations of the area north of Sydney resulted in favourable reports of the potential of Port Macquarie as a future settlement and its remoteness from Sydney was seen as a disincentive to convicts to escape. A second report from Oxley in 1820, this time accompanied by Captain Francis Allman of the 48th Foot, was again favourable and as a result Governor Macquarie commissioned an expedition to establish a penal settlement at Port Macquarie. Three ships, the 'Lady Nelson', the 'Prince Regent' and the 'Mermaid' sailed from Port Jackson on March 18th 1821 and arrived at the Hastings River on April 17th 1821.
On board were Captain Allman (Commander of the 48th Regiment of Foot), Lieut. Willian Earle Bulwer Wilson (engineer), Mr Abraham Fenton (Surgeon), Mr Stephen partridge (Superintendant of Convicts), 1 drummer, 3 sergeants, 2 corporals and 33 privates - all soldiers of the 48th Regiment. Also arriving as convicts were 1 medical hospital assistant , 3 carpenters, 2 sawyers, 1 blacksmith, 1 tailor, 2 shoemakers and 50 labourers. For the convicts it was an opportunity to gain eventual freedom should their service and conduct be satisfactory.
From 1822 to 1829 many convicts arrived with Port Macquarie having a population of 1500 in 1825. A Female Factory was built in 1825 and so female convicts now began arriving. From 1827 the Government allowed women and children to follow their husbands/fathers to the new settlement and there was a growing demand to throw open the area to free settlement. The announcement was made on July 30th, 1830 that from 13th August that year free settlers could come to Port Macquarie.
At this time there were only 323 convicts remaining in Port Macquarie and its value as a penal settlement was being questioned. Frequent escapees took advantage of the spread of settlement from Sydney and by mid 1829 Governor Darling had received approval from the Secretary of State, Sir George Murray, to abolish the penal settlement.
A government establishment remained until 1847, housing "specials" in a newly built gaol, forming a centre for public works in the district. To anticipate the arrival of free settlers in 1831, the town was re-surveyed on a new and regular alignment, the layoput of which survives almost intact today.
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