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James Unwin

You could say that a taste for turkey brought my ancestor James Unwin to New South Wales. James was tried at the Chelmsford Lent Assizes on the 13 March 1829 for poaching; stealing fowls or Turkey and transported to Botany Bay for life; two previous convictions would not have helped his cause.


He set sail on board the ship "Sarah" from London on the 29th August 1829 and arrived at Port Jackson on the 6th December 1829. The voyage took 100 days despite short calls at Tristan d’Acunha and St Paul's Island.

James Unwin otherwise know as Onion was 23 years old, five feet seven and three quarters inches tall, with a dark ruddy to pitted complexion, dark hazel eyes and brown hair. He was able to read and write, his religion was Protestant, his native place Essex. His skills were the usual ones of a farm worker, milking, shearing and reaping.

A scar under his right eye, the lid of which was injured, tempts one to surmise that his encounters with the law may have involved some fighting. According to his indent papers he left behind a wife and child he was never to see again.

James was assigned to work on the property called "Dunheved” west of Sydney Town near the present day St Mary's, owned by Mrs Harriet King nee Lethbridge and Captain Phillip Parker King. Mrs King ran the farm while her husband was serving in the Royal Navy. "Dunheved" was named after a 13th century castle in Cornwall. In 1834 Captain King acquired property at Bungendore near Lake George, which he named "Gidleigh" after an old castle in Devon. James Unwin was transferred to "Gidleigh" and continued to serve the King family. Convict labour was used to construct the early buildings in the area which was near the village of Bungendore NSW. James was to spend the rest of his life in the Bungendore area.


James obtained his Ticket-of-Leave on 1st March 1838 and continued to work at "Gidleigh"

In March 1846 he was granted a Conditional Pardon, Second Class.

On the 21 April 1847 James married Anna Letitia Atkin whose family also worked at Gidleigh. James and Anna raised eight children; they settled in the area and are buried in the Bungendore cemetery.

Submitted by : Kerrie Metcalfe, Member WFHG, 21 April 2008

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