Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Thomas Atkins - main

Thomas Atkins - Poacher, farmer and pioneer of Mangrove Creek

This is what I know about Thomas Atkins, a man of uncertain birth, a convicted criminal, (more than once), who became a respected pioneer in the NSW Central Coast area.  It's a very typical Australian story.

Thomas arrived at a time when Australia was changing, the Governor was Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane, who encouraged agriculture, land reclamation, exploration, and, most important, immigration.  Stimulating the transformation of New South Wales from a dependent convict outpost into a free, self-supporting colony.   He had poor financial sense, however, and was recalled in 1825. Brisbane was a keen astronomer and  had an observatory built in 1822 at Paramatta, near Sydney, where work was done  resulting in the “Brisbane Catalogue” of 7,385 stars.   Thomas Bates lived through the administration of another 16 Governors.

The age in which Thomas Atkins lived was significant, it was when the first independent courts were set up in Australia, agriculture was taking hold, there was conflict with aboriginals, the discovery of gold, and the exploration of the interior of Australia had begun.  He played his part in building what is now a major area of NSW, and the Atkins family lived in Mangrove Creek for many years.


Thomas Atkins was born on 13th February, 1800 in North Curry.  I do not know who his parents were, but there is a possible baptism in 1798 to an illegitimate child of Sarah Atkins that may be Thomas.

North Curry, Somerset, England in the 1800's was a farming area in the South West of England.
In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described North Curry like this:
CURRY (North), a village, a tything, a parish, a sub-district, and a hundred, in Somerset. The village stands near the river Tone and the Bridgewater and Taunton canal, 3 miles ESE of Durston r. station, and 6 ENE of Taunton; has a post office‡ under Taunton, and a fair on the first Tuesday of Sept.; and was formerly a market-town. The tything includes also the hamlet of Broadlane  .........etc.

Conviction and Transportation

The first I know of Thomas with any certainty is at age 22, from the Convict Transportation Registers, where he and his brother, William aged 25, are listed.   They were convicted at Somerset Assizes on 30th March, 1822, and sentenced to 7 years.  They had been caught poaching geese. They were transported almost immediately on the convict ship the Surry departing on 2nd October 1822, arriving in Sydney Cove on 4th March 1823, and are in the Ships Muster Roll in 1823.

The National Library of Australia holds the ships journal of the voyage,  written by Captain Thomas Raine.

Just 6 months after arriving, Thomas was convicted in Bringelly on 6th October, 1823 of aiding bushrangers and received a further 3 years sentence. He was then transferred to Port Macquarie the same month, and was probably one of the founding members of the colony there. He was probably involved in the chain gangs that cut timber in the Port Macquarie area supplying timber for building in Sydney.
Thomas did not spend his whole time there however, by the time the census was done in 1828 he was at Hyde Park Barracks, Sydney.   Around this time Port Macquarie was being closed as a penal settlement.

Hyde Park Barracks

Interior of Hyde Park Barracks, reproducing the 1800's as it stands today.

Whilst in Hyde Park Barracks, Thomas probably met his future father-in-law William Drennan (transported for life for the  crime  of  horse stealing in 1828). Thomas married Ann Drennan (free settler) on 14th April, 1836  in St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, Kent Street, Sydney by Rev.John McGarvie.
Thomas and Anne had 7 children in total; William, Frances, John, Matilda, Thomas, Sarah Ann (who died the same year) and Sarah Ann.


By 3rd April, 1832 he had served 10 years as a convict and was granted a Certificate of Freedom This is where we find a description of Thomas:
 Height - 5ft 9 inch
Complexion - Dark muddy
Hair - brown
Eyes - dark hazel
General Remarks - scar under chin, scar back of fore and middle fingers of left hand, 
wart in middle of right hand.
This must have been the time that Thomas went to the Gosford area, as he is listed in land sales in 1835 and 1839  at Mangrove Creek, NSW, AUS., and in 1840 as being granted land there.  In these records we also find out that Thomas was illiterate, as his land grant is signed with an X in 1940. 
Thomas was still farming in 1873 at Mangrove Creek. 

It appears that Thomas and the family farmed at Mangrove Creek until he died.

 Anne (Drennan) Atkins died on 14th March, 1859 and is buried at Greengrove Cemetery, Mangrove Creek, NSW, AUS, she was aged 38years.

Thomas Atkins died on 23rd. February 1873 aged 73 and is buried next to Anne at Greengrove Cemetery.  His death notices states he was aged 73, a native of Somersetshire, England and left 5 children to mourn his loss.

More Information? If you are researching Thomas Atkins or Anne Drennan and would like the sources for this story, please contact me or comment below.  I would be happy to collaborate with you.


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