Richard Beale Reynolds (1769-1837)

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Richard Beale Reynolds was born 19 November 1769 in Poplar, London, England, United Kingdom to Thomas Reynolds (1750-) and Hannah Beale (c1848-) and died 26 August 1837 in Wilberforce, New South Wales, Australia of unspecified causes. He married Sarah Elizabeth Stirling (c1779-1826) 1812 in Saint John's, Wilberforce, New South Wales, Australia.

Richard Beale Reynolds - convict in the Third Fleet on the Atlantic in 1791

Life Sketch

Richard and his brother Edward arrived in Sydney, New South Wales aboard the "Atlantic" on 20 August 1791.They were sons if an Essex millwright, Thomas reynolds.

Richard and Edward were both committed for trial on 19 April 1788 by John Staples Esquire, upon the oaths of Richard Salos, Thomas Reynolds and others with "having feloniously stolen taken and carried away three hundred and twenty four pounds weight of lead upwards of the value of fifty shillings, the property of Mr Jeffery Jackson of Woodford Bridge in the County of Essex, and one pair of cotton stockings value one shilling the property of Sarah Clayton."

They were convicted and sentenced at Chelmsford. Richard was 19 years old, and his brother Edward was 21. They each received 7 years transportation.

The Reynolds Brothers were educated and literate. Edward kept a diary of their journey on the Atlantic. This was in existance until it was stolen from a family property in Wellington New South Wales. It was photocopied by Dennis Bruce Gosper and this photocopy may be in the library at Windsor.

Edward recorded in his notebook that he was "embarked board the Hulk "Justany" (possibly "Justitia") at Woolwich. Commander Erskins. Employed at the dockyard in my trade of building walls for Mast Ponds continued to March 1791."

Then in March 1791 Richard and Edward were placed aboard the "Atlantic" which left Plymouth as part of the Third Fleet on 27 March 1791.

Transported convicts were handed over to the master of a ship at the beginning of the voyage and then on arrival in New South Wales formally transfered into the custody of the Governor who was receiving them. Indents, or Indentures, were the documents used to record the transaction on arrival.

The "Atlantic" sailed into Sydney Cove on 20 August 1791 after a voyage of almost 5 months.

Edward wrote "embarked on board the Atlantic at Black Wall Armstrong master Ricd Bowen Agent worked as a Seaman in the whole of the passage Arrived in Sydney Cove August 20 1791 on passage 5 months- 1 week at Rio"

Richard and Edward went to the Hawkesbury in 1796 accompanied by Mary Ann Hipwell, the mother of Richard's son Edward Reynolds who had been born in Sydney in 1794. By late 1797 Mary Ann had deserted Richard for Thomas Roker Alexander Gosper (1768-1847) taking their son with her. Later one of Richard's daughters, Hannah Beale Reynolds, was to marry one of Mary Ann Hipwell's son, John Gosper (1801-1886), both of them having in common their half-brother Edward Reynolds, the son of Richard and Mary Ann.

31 year old Richard found love again in about 21 year old Elizabeth Sterling. The reason she was in Australia was given as "lack of dexterity in stealing a watch". She received 7 years and was transported aboard the "Britannia". She was already the mother to a number of Richard's children when they married in 1812. Their first child was born in about August 1801.

From renting 10 acres at Windsor (Mulgrave Place) in 1802 , Richard was granted 50 acres in 1804 at Flat Rock Reach below the Colo junction on the banks of the Hawkesbury. The grant was both flood prone and at first isolated. The natives in that area were also troublesome. He persisted with it until 31 December 1810, when he sold it to George Carman for the consideration of seventy pounds. Earlier that year he had his family were listed as being on stores due to the flood that had devistated their farm and this may have been why he decided to sell. In a petition dated January 1810, Richard stated that he had "a large family, and all the efforts he has made for them by industry these few years past, has been totally destroyed by inundation".

Richard was not essentially a farmer although he was engaged in this occupation on a part-time or spasmodic basis for much of his life. In 1813 he purchased a one acre town block of land at Windsor on which stood two brick dwelling houses. The purchase price was £60 sterling. The significance of this property is not clear. Richard is reputed to have been in later years a store keeper in Windsor, so perhaps he traded from this property. By 1814 he was a district constable at the Hawkesbury, his occupation until 1827 and he was also for a period the local poundkeeper. In 1820 he was a local committe member for the Bible Association.

The Reynolds brothers were good all round citizens of Wilberforce, Edward a collector for the Waterloo fund in 1816, and on the Wilberforce committee of the Benevolent society. Both were solidly based landholders of 1820.

In 1824 Richard petitioned Governor Brisbane for a grant of land for himself and his children, he stated that- "The petitioner arrived in this Colony on tyhe ship Atalntic in 1791; has been free about 28 years, has endured all the hardships to which an infant colony could subject him; has reared a family of ten children (names annexed) to the habits of industry; has been a district constable under the Worshipful the Windsor Bench of Magistrates, upwards of eleven years; the petitioner humbly trusts he has always supported the character of an honest, industrious, and sober member of society; And petitioner being desirous to settle part of his large family- Most humbly prays-
That his excellency Sir Thomas Brisbane, KCB may be pleased to take into consideration the Certificate annexed and to grant Petitioner on account of his family such portion of land and to be so located as to His Excellency may seem meet."

His petition was successful and he was granted 50 acres for himself and 60 acres for his son William. The 50 acre grant referred to was apparently portion twenty five on the southern bank of the river at the upper Colo, that was purchsed by Thomas Gosper Junior prior to 1836. It is very doubtful that Richard ever actually lived at Upper Colo; he may have fenced it and used it as a stock farm, but it appears to be Thomas Gosper Junior who was living there by 1829.

Richard's wife Sarah died on 30 November 1826.

Richard, who had complted his 7 year sentence many years earlier, was pardoned on 12 October 1832.

Richard ended his life a respected farmer and grazier. He died at Wilberforce on 26 August 1837 and is buried in the burial ground at St Johns, Wilberforce. His headstone still stands beside that of Sarah and their son Thomas, who died in 1818.

Richard's elder brother Edward Reynolds (1765-1830)

Richard's elder brother Edward was born on 2 August 1765 and baptised on 6 September 1765. He died on 14 May 1830. The cause of his death was a fall from a horse, after which he lived about 3 hours.

During his life he had 2 defactos but no children.

He adopted 2 children, Elizabeth Wilberforce (c1812-1829) and James Thomas Levy (1816-). James was born on 12 October 1816 and is thought to be the son of Edward's Jewish convict servant Joseph Levy, and an aboriginal woman. (Joseph Levy had been transported on the "Admiral Gambier" in 1811 after receiving a sentence of transportaion for 14 years.) This child, it appears was later known as James Thomas Reynolds.

Life on a Prison Hulk

Conditions on the hulks

Society of Australian Genealogists

The conditions on the hulks, and the quality of food, were initially not good. The hours worked were long. The sick were given little attention and poorly separated from the healthy. Mortality rates of around 30% applied - smallpox, "gaol fever", etc - and led to several inquiries and considerable improvement.
As convict numbers increased, so did hulk numbers. The number of convicts held on each varied with the size of the vessel, but averaged 275-300. Because of the isolation of the hulks, convicts were less able than prisoners ashore to arrange special treatment, visits from family and friends, etc. So the hulks were not popular with convicts. But the tradition associating the hulks with brutal cruelty was not substantiated by the three inquiries mentioned above, nor subsequently. In fact, it's pretty clear that the conditions on the hulks were often rather better than in the prison system generally.
Those in use in early 1791 were Justitia, Censor, Ceres, Fortunee, Dunkirk, Stanislaus and Leon, the latter two added after the commencement of transportation to NSW in 1788. But in 1791 the number of hulks fell, with the discharge of Justitia, Ceres and Dunkirk in March of that year, after the departure of the Third Fleet for NSW.

Appalling conditions

Royal Museums, Greenwich. Port Cities London.

Conditions on board the floating gaols were appalling. The standards of hygiene were so poor that disease spread quickly. The sick were given little medical attention and were not separated from the healthy.
Two months after the first convicts had been placed on board the hulks, an epidemic of gaol fever (a form of typhus spread by vermin) spread among them. It persisted on and off for more than three years.
Dysentery, caused by drinking brackish water, was also widespread.
At first, patients, whatever their state of health, lay on the bare floor. Later they were given straw mattresses and their irons were removed.

Huge loss of life through dysentry, typhoid and cholera epidemics was the result.

Death and disease

Royal Museums, Greenwich. Port Cities London.

Mortality rates of around 30% were quite common. Between 1776 and 1795, nearly 2000 out of almost 6000 convicts serving their sentence on board the hulks died.
Many of the convicts sent to New South Wales in the early years were already disease ridden when they left the hulks. As a result, there were serious typhoid and cholera epidemics on many of the vessels heading for Australia.

A tough life

Royal Museums, Greenwich. Port Cities London.

The living quarters were very bad. The hulks were cramped and the prisoners slept in fetters. The prisoners had to live on one deck that was barely high enough to let a man stand up. The officers lived in cabins in the stern.
The conditions on board were often worse than places like Newgate. Attempts by any prisoners to file away or knock off the chains around their waists and ankles led to frequent floggings, extra irons and solitary confinement in tiny cells with names like the 'Black Hole'.

Convict dress

Royal Museums, Greenwich. Port Cities London.

The men were poorly dressed as well as unhealthy. They were supposed to have:
  • a linen shirt
  • a brown jacket
  • a pair of breeches.
But the men who controlled the ships often pocketed the money the government had given for the clothes.

Food on the hulks

Royal Museums, Greenwich. Port Cities London.

The authorities were always keen to keep down the cost of the prisons. They wanted to avoid giving prisoners a better life than the poor had outside the hulks.
The quality of the prisoners' food was therefore kept as low as possible. The monotonous daily meals consisted chiefly of:
  • ox-cheek, either boiled or made into soup
  • pease (dried peas)
  • bread or biscuit.
The biscuits were often mouldy and green on both sides! On two days a week the meat was replaced by oatmeal and cheese. Each prisoner had two pints of beer four days a week, and badly filtered water, drawn from the river, on the others.
Sometimes, the captain of a hulk would allow the convicts to plant vegetables in plots near the Arsenal. This attempt to add something extra to the poor diet of the prisoners depended on the goodwill, or otherwise, of the individual in charge.


Royal Museums, Greenwich. Port Cities London.

As convict numbers increased, so did the number of hulks. The first two vessels, the Justitia and the Censor, housed 125 and 183 prisoners respectively. The number of convicts held on other vessels varied with their size, but averaged 275-300. Also, each ship would have about 20 officers. On a still, warm day the smell of the prisoners would pollute the river from bank to bank.
Hulk after hulk, hung with bedding, clothes, weed and rotting rigging, lined the river like a floating shantytown. Because of the isolated position of the hulks, convicts were less able than prisoners ashore to arrange special treatment, particularly visits from family and friends.

Conditions on board a convict ship to New South Wales

Perth Dead Persons Society

Convicts were housed below decks on the prison deck and often further confined behind bars. In many cases they were restrained in chains and were only allowed on deck for fresh air and exercise. Conditions were cramped and they slept on hammocks. Very little information seems to be available about the layout of the convict ships, but a few books do contain artists' impressions and reproductions of images held in library collections.
Although the convicts of the first fleet arrived in relatively good condition, the same cannot be said for those that followed during the rest of the century. Cruel masters, harsh discipline and scurvy, dysentery and typhoid resulted in a huge loss of life.


Offspring of Richard Beale Reynolds and Mary Ann Hipwell (c1765-1837)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Edward Reynolds (1794-1832) 26 May 1794 Sydney, New South Wales, Australia 25 November 1832 Colo River, New South Wales, Australia Sarah Maria Singleton (1795-1828)

Offspring of Richard Beale Reynolds and Sarah Elizabeth Stirling (c1779-1826)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Thomas Reynolds (1801-1818)
William Reynolds (1804-1878) 29 April 1804 Windsor, New South Wales, Australia 10 January 1878 Gunning, New South Wales, Australia Ann Sibrey (1811-1859)

Hannah Beale Reynolds (1806-1888) 1806 Flat Rock Reach, Hawkesbury River, New South Wales, Australia 21 July 1888 Windsor, New South Wales, Australia John Gosper (1801-1886)

Catherine Reynolds (1808-1869)
Richard Reynolds (1810-1856)
James Reynolds (1812-1882)
Elizabeth Ann Reynolds (1813-1885)
George Reynolds (1815-1896)
Sarah Matilda Reynolds (1816-1886)
Archibald Reynolds (1819-1900)
Jane Reynolds (1821-1865)

Sources and notes

‡ General
2 Wedding 2
  • Year of marriage comes from family sorces.

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