The Story of the Illawarra Stockade

Stationed Military Regiments & Convict Discipline 1816-44

Michael Organ

Robert Marsh Westmacott, 'Wollongong from the stockade, April 20th, 1840'. Watercolour on paper, National Library of Australia.


The story of the Illawarra Stockade is also the story of the first phase of European settlement at Wollongong, located some 50 miles south of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Beginning in earnest in 1826 - though with antecedents dating back a decade earlier to 1816 - the military presence was significant during the years of occupation, reflecting the frontier nature of Illawarra at the time, and the fact that a large percentage of the population was convict. By the time Captain Ramsbottom and the soldiers of the 99th Regiment of Foot (Lanarkshire Volunteers) left Wollongong barracks at the end of 1844, the region had been transformed from a series of dispersed land grants - used to depasture cattle, and occupied by a few isolated stockmen - into a thriving agricultural community with large estates, tenant farms, an Agricultural Society and District Council, the burgeoning township of Wollongong, roads and bridges, and a bustling harbour. The necessary infrastructure to accommodate this growth had been set in place during the 1830s by Governor Richard Bourke, and much of the subsequent work was been carried out by convict gangs under the supervision of various British military regiments.

During the 1830s and 1840s the town of Wollongong was laid out and cleared, based on an 1834 plan by Surveyor General T.L. Mitchell; roads and bridges were built throughout the district, and Wollongong harbour basin and breakwater were constructed - all with the aid of convict labour and military superintendence. Unfortunately the economic depression of the early 1840s put paid to some major public projects in the area, such as the Sydney to Illawarra road and further harbour works. However the foundations for the modern City of Wollongong were nevertheless set in place in association with the period of the stockade.

Previous histories of Illawarra have tended to concentrate on the role of explorers and free settlers in the development of the region. People such as C.T. Smith, Henry Osborne, Cornelius O'Brien and Robert Marsh Westmacott are some of the names which readily spring to mind - individuals who owned large parcels of land in the district and who were heavily involved in its transformation into 'the Garden of New South Wales' - a title allocated as a result of the botanical richness of the area and the fact that it quickly became a major supplier of food and other commodities to nearby Sydney.

An area of our Illawarra local history which has been little studied is the role of the military regiments and the convicts in this first phase of white settlement - beginning with the arrival of Charles Throsby in 1815 and coming to a close with the onset of the goldrushes in 1851. In the recent past we have celebrated Wollongong's sesquicentenary (1984), the 200th anniversary of Bass & Flinders' visit to the region (1996), the 50th anniversary of the City of Wollongong (1997), and the sesquicentenary of the shipping of the first load of coal from Mount Keira (1999). Having celebrated the explorers, 'founding fathers' it is appropriate that we consider the role played by soldiers and convicts in the development of this town some 150 years ago. I will leave the important role of women to some other valiant researcher.

Whilst it is not necessarily appropriate to lump soldiers and convicts together in such a talk, especially considering the wider scope of the latter group, I will nevertheless do so today as this is basically an introductory session. Over the next hour I will briefly outline the history of the Illawarra Stockade between 1826-44, refer to prior military excursions into the area, and consider aspects of the military's work locally. This will by default also involve some discussion of the use and treatment of convicts - though this is a substantial topic which will be discussed in more detail at some later stage. In Illawarra during this period the two groups were inextricably linked, for good or bad.

Anybody interested in finding out more about the circumstance of settlers and convicts in the region are referred to the writings of Alexander Harris, a free settler who resided in the district sometime between 1826-34. However our story today will focus on soldiers and convicts, and the Illawarra stockade.

Historical Chronology

The story of military involvement in Illawarra can be roughly broken down into 3 stages:

1. pre 1816 - Aborigines, explorers and escaped convicts

2. 1816-26 - European settlement

3. 1826-44 - The Illawarra Stockade

* 1st phase - pre 1816


March 25-29: When Bass and Flinders visit Illawarra, the local Aborigines refer to 'sojas' [soldiers] upon seeing Bass in his red soldier's jacket and carrying a gun. Flinders also noted that some escaped convicts were living the Aborigines near Dapto. Not much notice was taken of Illawarra for the next 20 years. However the arrival of Governor Macquarie in 1810 was to change this, as he attempted to initiate the transformation from penal colony to free settlement, encouraging local settlement and industry.


First official cedar shipments from Shoalhaven and Illawarra.


Prohibition of cedar traffic; drought; conflict with Aborigines around Appin.


January-February:Charles Throsby establishes a cattle station at Wollongong

December 9:Joe Wyld, assistant to Charles Throsby, appointed Constable to the Five Islands district in order to control cattle thieves {Sydney Gazette}.

*2nd Phase - European settlement


First land grants issued and more cattle brought into the district. Sparsely populated.

April-May: Lieutenant Parker and a detachment of the 46th Regiment travel to Wollongong and occupy Red Point (26 April - 1 May) as part of Governor Macquarie's punitive campaign against the Aborigines of the Cumberland Plain. Show of force - brutal, though Illawarra Aborigines were spared as they were perceived as peaceful.


Cattle thieves at Illawarra.


Licenses issued to cut cedar at Illawarra.


Illawarra land shortage according to Commissioner Bigge's report; Berry selects at Shoalhaven. O'Brien's Road down Mount Keira.


C.T. Smith settles at 'Bustle Town', Wollongong, and was an impetus for many of the changes to come.


During this period bushrangers were a problem throughout the Colony. Illawarra settlers complained.

*3rd Phase - The Illawarra Stockade / Military Garrison


July 10: Captain Bishop of the 40th Regiment receives instructions to go to Illawarra to protect settlers from bushrangers, apprehend escaped convicts, and stop the illegal cedar trade and general lawlessness. A stockade is set up at David Allan's farm, Red Point, with 30 soldiers. Victualled by C.T. Smith. It is unclear why red Point was chosen - prominent geographical feature? Evidence of bushrangers around this time is contained in Alexander Harris's Settlers and Convicts and the story of the Geraghty brothers.

*[Augustus Earle watercolour, May 1827]

December 7: Lieutenant John Fitzgerald Butler of the 39th Regiment officially succeeds Captain Bishop as commandant at Illawarra. This was the first of a number of changes of command and regiments to occur locally between 1826-44.


January: Lt. Butler brought administrative skills, as revealed in the Blue Books and various archival records - Return of Convict punishments; assignment lists; Tickets of Leave issued.

May 5: Illawarra military stockade comprises - 1 subaltern, 10 rank and file of the 39th Regiment of Foot. They are stationed at Red Point {Historical Records of Australia}

May 14: Illawarra - 10 soldiers and some constables {HRA}

June-August: "Hell Hole" murder trial - Austin killed in December 1826.


Population of Illawarra: 368. J.S. Spearing of 'Paulsgrove' (Mount Keira / Gwynville) - 31 assigned convict workers.

April 26: George Bevis Harris made Constable at Illawarra; replaces John Jones (toll) due to drunkenness.

June 19: Illawarra Station - 1 subaltern, 3 rank and file. 1 constable, 1 scourger {HRA}

* Military establishment wound down

June-July: Major D'Arcy appointed Police Magistrate at Wollongong in June, with no contingent; replaces Lt. Fitzgerald on 15 July. Bushrangers in district (Underwood's gang); Henry Angel looses his Ticket of Leave for harboring a cattle thief.


Population of Illawarra: 792; 9000 horned cattle

January 1: Lt. Fitzgerald replaces Major D'Arcy as Magistrate at Illawarra. Military return.

April:Military barracks under construction at Wollongong, due to problems of isolation of garrison at Red Point and victualling. Temporary canvas barracks.

December 30: Detachment of 39th Regiment at Illawarra - 1 subaltern, 1 sergeant, 7 rank and file {HRA}

*1830s - the British army in Australia was at its most active. With the increasing number of convicts, it was called upon to preserve law and order, suppress Aboriginal resistance, maintaining convict discipline, and supervising public works programmes. From 1832 military guards were also given the role of supervising convict work gangs. This was laborious work for both the convicts and soldiers - watching and directing all day, on top of guard and other military duties. In full military uniform, under the hot Australian sun, New South Wales could be hell or heaven for a soldier.


Town of Wollongong develops; use of harbour increases.

February 4: Lt. Sleeman replaces Lt. Butler as Commandant and resident Police Magistrate at Illawarra.

July 27: New military barracks at Wollongong opened. Stockade moves from Red Point.

December 30: 39th Regiment at Illawarra - 1 officer, 6 rank and file {HRA}


December 30: Illawarra garrison: 39th Regiment - 1 subaltern, 7 rank and file; Mounted Police - 1 corporal, 2 troopers.


From 1832 sweeping changes to the convict system were introduced by Governor Richard Bourke. Local mounted police began to replace the regiments.

January: Surveyor Elliott ordered to survey Wollongong - begins in March 1833. Completed with Major Mitchell's plan for 'Town of Wollongong', October 1834.

September 5: Captain Francis Allman replaces Lt. Sleeman as resident Magistrate at Illawarra. He brings an administrative edge, reinforced by Alexander Harris. No military attachment at this time.

November 11: Clerk to the Bench (Henry Bennett) and Scourger appointed.

December 30: Illawarra Mounted Police - 1 corporal, 3 troopers. Military establishment wound down.


Population: 2648. Returns for Bench of Magistrate are regularised and convict discipline formalised at Wollongong.

December 31: Mounted Police - 1 corporal, 3 troopers.

*Captain Allman adverse to flogging, but nevertheless carried out, in the area behind the military barracks near Brighton Lawn.

*Martin Lynch quote - Flogging and Stocks 1830s

{Martin Lynch (1823-1905), arrived in Illawarra in 1827. Lived at Fairy Meadow and went to Wollongong Catholic school, Harbour Street. Interviewed by Archibald Campbell in 1898}

"Flogging - The flogging place was immediately at the rear of the old Court House (old Police Station now). The men were flogged in the forenoon and afternoon as a rule, being tied up on a triangle. The flogger wielded his thong lustily on the bare backs or buttocks of the men (according to sentence). The "cat" usually was six tailed, but nine tailed in instances of very numerous lashes to be given. On some cases the men flogged would clench their teeth, and not utter a sound, but in others painful shrieks were uttered. He (Mr Lynch) when attending school as a lad, frequently passed through the enclosure where the flogging was being carried out and watched the inflictions - and in the course of this process blood could readily be seen squirted about from the effects of the lashing. After a few strokes the flogger would draw the cat tails through his fingers to squeeze off the skin and flesh which he would cast away, and resume his ghastly work, until completed. This Mr Lynch gave from his personal observations....

Stocks - Stocks existed in the Market Square, and many a time he saw men confined in them - their legs held fast in openings in two heavy pieces of wood drawn together. Sentences to the stocks usually were not for long, and only for minor offences."


*Local Society structure / hierarchy - settlers, soldiers and convicts.

1Military officers and large landowner

2Free settlers - poor tenant farmers

3Ex-convicts and hired servants



Military to come into conflict with local settlers over lenient treatment of convicts, e.g. Captain Allman versus Henry Osborne.


January 10: Henry Osborne complains to Governor Bourke re Captain Allman's embarrassment of him in front of a convict.

January 14:Captain Waldron incident - alleged assault by Mary Maloney and Sarah McGregor. Dies on 28th.

March 4: Captain Allman replaced by William Nairn Gray as Police Magistrate at Illawarra, following on incident with Henry Osborne, who is subsequently appointed a Magistrate.

April-May: Governor Bourke visits Wollongong, accompanied by R.M. Westmacott.

September 16: Tender for erection of Courthouse, Lock-up and 3 cells at Wollongong.

November 1:Henry Bennett sacked for drunkenness; replaced by James O'Brien Crooker as Deputy Postmaster, Clerk to the Bench, and Registrar of the Court of Requests.

*Ironed Work Gangs + Military Stockades

Stockade: comprised officers and soldiers barracks, guard room, store, convicts mess shed, and wooden houses or Boxes to house the convicts.


May 1: Lieutenant Henry Maxwell Otway of the 50th Regiment appointed to Illawarra road gangs. 60 convicts sent from Sydney to work on road gangs and Wollongong Harbour breakwater. Crossroads stockade and Wollongong barracks maintained.

July 24: 76 2nd class convicts working on Illawarra Road Gangs {HRA}

December 31: 50th Regiment - 1 subaltern, 2 sergeants, 30 rank and file.


Population: Wollongong 1297, Kiama 1312. There were 27000 convicts in NSW.

January 1: 1 district and 3 ordinary constables; 1 scourger. Edward Corrigan Chief Constable.

April 1: Lt. Sheaffe replaced Lt. Otway at Crossroads Stockade.

April 10: Lt. Otway commits suicide at Crossroads Stockade.

July 1: Medical Attendant appointed to Irons Gangs.

August 1: Alfred Holden replaces W.N. Gray as Police Magistrate at Illawarra.

September: Backhouse and Walker report on Crossroads road gang.

*Backhouse & Walker quote - Crossroads Stockade 1836

{Backhouse & Walker - Illawarra & Shoalhaven 1836, Illawarra Historical Society, 1991.}

* Backhouse - [Wednesday, 21 September 1836] - At 4 o'clock we assembled with a large Road Party 1 1/2 miles from the town, and under the charge of Lieutenant Sheaffe, and had some religious service with them. There were also present a considerable number of military under arms, and their wives, as well as the commanding officer and his wife.

They were assembled in a large open mess shed, which forms one end of an oblong area having the officer's quarters at the opposite end, six Boxes on one side and the military barracks on the other. In the rear of the Boxes are two cells for solitary confinement and a few other small slab huts, and there are small huts in the rear of the military barracks for constables, messengers, &c. The whole place is remarkable for cleanliness and order very creditable to the officer in charge.

The Boxes are 10 ft. wide and accommodate 24 to 28 persons. None of the prisoners here are in chains except a few for misconduct. They are employed in forming a road and bridges to give access by carriages into the district........

* Walker - [Wednesday, 21 September 1836] Lt. Sheafe of the 50th being at Wollongong, as Superintendent of the road-gang which is an unusually large one, consisting of nearly 140 men, we arranged with him to meet them the same afternoon at 4 o'clock.......

We dined with C.T. and S. Smith. The former accompanied us to the Stockade, which is about a couple of miles from the Settlement, where we had a religious meeting with the Prisoners, and Military, who were drawn up under arms, on the occasion, while the Prisoners sat under the shed where they usually take their meals.

[Georgiana Lowe watercolour of Stockade]

The Stockade is one of the cleanest and best arranged establishments of the kind we have visited. There are 6 moveable huts, each hut containing 24 men, the width being 10 feet, other dimensions being much the same as those we have described on visiting other Stockades. The gang is employed in constructing a road from Wollongong to Dapto which is already in a state of considerable forwardness, some miles of it being completed. They are also engaged in opening out the streats (or lines intended for streets) by clearing away the shrubs and trees that occupy the site of a considerable portion of the intended town...

*B&W, p79 fuller description.


December 31: 50th Regiment at Illawarra - 1 subaltern, 2 corporals, 24 rank and file.


Muster of convicts. "Military Garrison". The military introduced cricket to NSW in the 1820s - at Wollongong they constructed a baths at Wollongong Point for wives to use.

January: Alexander Stewart made Constable.

March: First steamer to Wollongong - William IV.

August 1: Thomas Cronin appointed Foreman of Works for Wollongong Harbour.

August 16: Captain Patrick Plunkett (80th Regiment) replaces Lieutenant Sheaffe (50th Regiment).

December 1:Lt. Rait replaces Captain Plunkett as Superintendent of Iron Gangs and Assistant Engineer for Harbour works. Captain Plunkett appointed Police Magistrate at Illawarra.

December 18: Work begins on excavations at Wollongong harbour with convict labour.

December 31: 80th Regiment - 1 Captain, 1 Subaltern, 2 sergeants, 29 Rank and File


September: Stockade at Dapto. Moved from Wollongong and the Crossroads.

December 31: 80th Regiment at Illawarra - 1 Captain, 3 Sergeants, 30 Rank and File.


May: Lady Jane Franklin and party visit Illawarra and convict establishment at Wollongong. First stonework laid at harbour by Thomas Cronin. Illawarra Steam Packet Co. formed.

*Wollongong Harbour plan - shows location of convict stockade

*Lady Jane Franklin 1839

{Michael Organ (ed.), The Illawarra Diary of Lady Jane Franklin, 10-17 May 1839, Illawarra Historical Publications, Wollongong, 1988, 16}

"Sunday, 12th May.........[Flagstaff Hill, afternoon] The barracks and huts of the prisoners are here. We looked into the huts, etc. There are about 115 convicts here and about 30 troops of the 80th Regiment. Captain Rait is the Commandant. The men are lodged in wooden `boxes' forming the side of a square on the tongue of land which was the only part Sir Richard Bourke would accept from Mr Smith. There are 5 or 6 of these `boxes', with no windows, and holding 24 each. No light or air enters them but from iron bars at the top of the door. Men were lying on the bare floors and on bare wooden platforms alone. We were told they were locked in only at night, but found them locked in now. We saw no mattresses.

`Have they none?' we asked the soldiers.

`Only the sick', was their reply.

The commanding officer lives 2 miles off in a place where there was a stockade when the road was in the making.


[These boxes were rather dreadful - mobile, wooden, approximately 10 ft wide x 14 ft long x 6 ft high. They would house 24-28 men i.e. 4 rows of 6 + one urinal. Very cramped, no mattresses, only blankets, and locked in.]

 July1: No. 4 Company of the 28th Regiment of Foot takes up posting at Illawarra, replacing the 80th Regiment. Captain Adams replaces Lt. Rait. William and Thomas Organ arrive.

December 31: 28th Regiment - 1 Captain, 2 Sergeants, 30 Rank and File. 203 Convicts.


March 8: Captain Adams (28th) replaced by Lt. J.D. Morris (40th) as Superintendent of Iron Gangs and Assistant Engineer.

April1: Corporals William and Thomas Organ purchase discharges from 28th Regiment to settle in Illawarra.

August: Legislative Council votes a further 1700 for Wollongong harbour works.

December 31: 80th Regiment - 1 Subaltern, 3 sergeants, 54 Rank and File. 177 Convicts.


Census: 2633 males, 1411 females = 4044. Economic depression.

July 3: Australian: Report on basin and breakwater work.

September 30: 80th Regiment - 1 Subaltern, 2 sergeants, 35 Rank and File. 155 Convicts.

October: Stockade at Charcoal Creek (Unanderra).

*Georgiana Lowe pictures of Illawarra


April9: Sydney Herald: Report on harbour works.

July 29: Australian: Report on harbour works.

September 9: 80th Regiment of Foot stationed at Wollongong replaced by 99th Regiment of Foot in September. Major Ewen McPherson (99th Regiment) replaces Lt. Morris (80th) as Superintendent of Iron Gangs and Assistant Engineer.

September 30: 99th Regiment at Illawarra - 1 Captain, 2 Sergeants, 35 Rank and file. 118 convicts. 2500 on harbour.


December 31: Military establishment at Illawarra and Newcastle - 210 convicts. 99th Regiment - 1 Captain, 2 Sergeants, 35 rank and file. 3000 on harbour


February 1: Captain Richard Ramsbottom replaces Major McPherson in charge of 99th Regiment at Illawarra.

April 30: Breakwater Petition calling for maintenance of Stockade and building of Wollongong breakwater. Road gang working at Darkes Forest on Sydney to Illawarra road.

November 25: Sydney Morning Herald: Report on cattle stealing at Bulli and completion of Wollongong harbour works.

December 99th: Regiment leaves Illawarra - military stockade converted to civilian establishment. 3500 on harbour


1848 - NSW population 220,000, of which only 3% convicts under sentence. The convict system had ceased in NSW in 1840 - no more arrivals, no more assignment, though there was a large influx of free immigrants between 1837-45, and the goldrushes brought more.

What had the military brought to Illawarra:

* Law and order; * Supervision of labour; * Knowledge and expertise; * Administrative skills; * Economic benefits, jobs, money, etc. Some settled in the region - Organs, Westmacott, Lt. Sheaffe.

Convict Punishments - Illawarra Stockade (1827 - 1844)

January 1827: John Sweeny - insolence -> 25 lashes

January 1827: Henry Cullen - drunk and stealing -> 25 lashes

9 February 1833: Thomas Doughlas - refusing to work -> 50 lashes

27 March 1833: Frederick Jones - insulting Capt. Waldron -> 50 lashes

4 April 1833: Michael McKensie & Thomas Low - late for work and idleness -> 50 + 25 lashes

5 June 1833: Thomas Lamb - theft -> 50 lashes

4 January 1834: Thomas Dailey - absconding -> 50 lashes

3 June 1834: John Friendship - lying -> 25 lashes

1 April 1835: John Edmunds - striking overseer -> 50 lashes

19 July 1835: James Davidson - neglect of work -> 50 lashes

22 July 1835: Edmund Carman - wearing women's clothes -> 50 lashes

24 February 1836: Dennis McFadden - drunk -> 4 hours stocks

13 April 1836: Michael Gray - stealing 3 silk hankies -> 75 lashes

21 March 1837: James Gregory - swearing after receiving 75 lashes -> 50 lashes

10 August 1837: William Heathcoat - prevarication -> 50 lashes

18 September 1837: William Phillips - feigning sickness -> 50 lashes + 2 months treadmill

3 February 1838: William Jones - insolence & disobedience -> 75 lashes

9 February 1838: John Hater - drunk and in Aboriginal camp -> 4 hours stocks

10 March 1838: Alexander Thompson - Absent at night -> 50 lashes

19 March 1838: Thomas Plunkett - Assault -> 50 lashes

20 July 1839: John Leary - Refusal to work -> 4 months Treadmill

3 August 1839: Joseph Alaborough - Disobedience (50 lashes) + disrespect to Court -> 50 lashes

6 August 1839: William Cooper - drunk + exposing himself -> 100 lashes

2 April 1841: William McDonnell (free) - Drunk -> Fine 5/- or 5 hours in stocks

7 September 1841: Abraham Samuels - insolent to Henry Osborne. Magistrate - John Osborne & Patrick Plunkett -> 100 lashes.

21 December 1841: Thomas Caper - drunk -> 50 lashes

1 October 1844: Patrick Sheehan - insolent to Captain Westmacott -> 50 lashes

8 October 1844: Mary Funulty - Immoral and pregnant -> ToL cancelled

4 November 1837: 50 lashes for splitting only 19 rails per day at Kangaroo Ground (lazy), and 50 for not raising hat in the presence of a Reverend Gentleman (insolence).

Illawarra Military & Police Establishment

1826 - 1844


July - December 1826 - 40th - Captain Bishop30 rank and file

Dec. 1826 - July 1828 - 39th - Lt. J. Fitzgerald Butler10 rank & file + constables

July - Dec. 1828 - Major D'Arcy (Police Magistrate)

Jan. 1829 - Jan. 1830 - 39th - Lt. J. Fitzgerald Butler1 sergeant, 7 rank & file

Feb. 1830 - Sept. 1832 - 39th - Lt. Sleeman7 rank & file; 3 mounted police

Sept. 1832 - March 1834 - Captain Allman (PM) 4 mounted police

April 1834 - July 1836 - W.N. Gray (PM) do.

May 1835 - April 1836 - 50th - Lt. Otway - 2 sergeants, 30 rank & file

April 1836 - Aug. 1837 - 50th - Lt. Sheaffe - 2 corporals, 24 rank & file

Aug. 1837 - Nov. 1837 - 80th - Captain P. Plunkett - 2 sergeants, 29 rank & file;

PM Dec. 1837 - July 1839

Dec. 1837 - June 1839 - 80th - Lt. Rait - 3 sergeants, 30 rank & file

July 1839 - March 1840 - 28th - Captain Adams - 2 sergeants, 30 rank & file

April 1840 - Sept. 1842 - 80th - Lt. J.D. Morris - 3 sergeants, 54 rank & file; 2 sergeants, 35 R&F

Sept. 1842 - Jan. 1844 - 99th - Major McPherson - 2 sergeants, 35 rank & file

Feb. - Dec. 1844 - 99th - Capt. Ramsbottom do.

Site last updated: 25 October 2005. Return to Michael Organ's Home Page. Any comments, corrections, or additions to this site are most welcome.