Thomas Roker Alexander Gosper (1768-1847)

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Thomas Roker Alexander Gosper was born 10 May 1768 in Rotherhithe, Surrey, England, United Kingdom to Thomas Roker Gosper (c1741-) and Jane Worton (1741-) and died 21 September 1847 in Upper Colo, New South Wales, Australia of unspecified causes.

Thomas Gosport - convict in Second Fleet on the Surprize in 1790

Life sketch

Thomas Roker Gosper was born and bred in the hamlet of Rotherhithe, on the banks of the Thames River. Rotherhithe was a hamlet on the banks of the Thames River it was a dockyard area and one of the toughest and poor areas of London. He worked on the docks as a "Lighterman". A lighter was a boat or barge used for unloading ships. It was the practice in that time to cut the lighters adrift and when the tied carried them up into the marshes the offenders would then go and steal the contents.

He was accused of "feloniously cutting, damaging, and spoiling at Rotherhithe a headfast (3 pieces of rope) affixed to a certain vessel, called a lighter on 23 November 1786...the property of Edward Thorne and James Ogle" and was tried at the Surrey Assizes on the 2nd April 1787 (under the name of Thomas Gosport). He was found guilty and sentenced to 7 years and transportation to the Colonies.

In August 1788 he was ordered from gaol to the Ceres hulk at Langstone Harbour, Portsmouth whence he was embarked on the Surprize transport on 30 November 1789.

Thomas was transported on the vessel "Surprize", as part of the Second Fleet. The "Suprize" was the smallest ship in the fleet and suffered badly on the trip. The convicts lived in a state of misery and discomfort and spent most of their time during rough weather up to their waists in water. At least 36 convicts died at sea on the voyage. The "Surprize" arrived in Port Jackson (Sydney), New South Wales, Australia on the 26 June 1790.

In November 1794 he was granted 30 acres of land on the western side of the Hawkesbury River as a result of his hard work and his new standing in the community. The site of the farm was just north of the future town of Windsor. He probably began clearing the land some months before the grant was registered.

By late 1797 he began a relationship with Mary Ann Hipwell. They had 4 sons: Thomas (1798), John (1801), Joseph (1804) and James (1805). Mary had an older son Edward Reynolds (1794) to another Hawkesbury settler, Richard Beale Reynolds (1769-1837), but their relationship had broken down.

By 1802 Gosper was steadily improving his position with 18 of his 30 acres cultivated (13 in wheat, 5 in maize), 10 hogs and 15 bushels of maize in store. He fully supported himself, Mary, three children and a free worker.

Thomas's land holdings expanded with a grant of 100 acres upriver at Freemans Reach in 1803.

12/02/1804 - NOTICE. ALL Persons are strictly CAUTIONED against Cutting TIMBER, (such as may be required by Government only excepted), and from Trespassing with Stock or in any other way, upon the Farm and Premises of THOMAS GOSPORT; Which farm is situate in the District of Mulgrave Place; bounded on one side by the Farm of W. Richards, and on the other by that formerly called Cuckoo's Farm. Trespassers after this Notice will be rigorously prosecuted.

By 1806 Thomas was mustered as holding 90 acres with the rest of his land (40 acres) having been leased to tenant farmers.

Thomas Gosper, having completed his sentence, was granted a Certificate of Freedom on 29 September 1810. He and Mary Ann Hipwell married seven weeks later in St.Matthew's Church of England at Windsor.

On 1st January 1810, Governor Lachlan Macquarie took over the administration of the colony. The fabric of Colonial society began to change under the new order; emancipists were encouraged to take their rightful place in the main stream of society and some even supped at the Governors table. Concubines were encouraged to become wives, and Mary Hipwell became Mary Gosper. She and Thomas married at St. Matthews Windsor on 19th November 1810, the same day as they baptised their youngest son James. The respectability of the Gosper family was further attested to in February 1816 when a public meeting was held in Windsor to raise subscriptions for the relief of those who were suffering as a consequence of the defeat of the Duke of Wellington at the battle of Waterloo. Edward Reynolds was one of the collectors for the Wilberforce area, and both he and Thomas Gosper pledged two Pounds to the fund. (Dennis Bruce Gosper, "The Pragmatic Pioneers", 1991, pg 8) [The mistake in this quote is that it was Edward Reynolds (1765-1830) the uncle of his step-son Edward Reynolds who was a collector for the Wiberforce area in 1816 and who pledged £2, and not his step-son Edward Reynolds (1794-1832).]

In 1816 Thomas was issued with horned cattle from the Government stores. He had to pay for these cattle in cash or grain, but by 1822 was still indebted to the Government.

In 1817 Thomas leased 12 acres of his Freeman's Reach grant and mortgaged his Freeman's Reach property to the Bank of New South Wales.

In 1822 Thomas and his two eldest sons held 172 acres of land between them.

In 1827 Thomas sold his original 30 acre grant for £340.

In the 1828 census Thomas is recorded as holding 220 acres and being resident in the Wilberforce area. (Freeman's Reach was in the Wilberforce area.) Of his 220 acres, 50 were cleared & cultivated. He had 3 horses and 10 cattle.

In 1829 Thomas bought an additional 110 acres at Upper Colo on the Colo River, a tributory of the Hawkesbury River. The family moved its residence onto this property.

Mary died on 23 August 1837. Thomas died 10 years later on 21 September 1847 and is buried with his wife on the family land at Upper Colo. The location of the grave is unknown.

It is believed that there are now over 25,000 descendants of Thomas Roker Alexander Gosper.

Ficticious Newspaper report (based on historical accounts) about the arrival of the Second Fleet in Port Jackson

From the "SYDNEY COVE CHRONICLE", 30th June, 1790.
At last the transports are here
278 died on the fearsome journey to Sydney Cove

. . . The landing of those who remained alive despite their misuse upon the recent voyage, could not fail to horrify those who watched.

As they came on shore, these wretched people were hardly able to move hand or foot. Such as could not carry themselves upon their legs, crawled upon all fours. Those, who, through their afflictions, were not able to move, were thrown over the side of the ships; as sacks of flour would be thrown, into the small boats.

Some expired in the boats; others as they reached the shore. Some fainted and were carried by those who fared better. More had not the opportunity even to leave their ocean prisons for as they came upon the decks, the fresh air only hastened their demise.

A sight most outrageous to our eyes were the marks of leg irons upon the convicts, some so deep that one could nigh on see the bones. . .We learn that several children have been borne to women upon the Lady Juliana, the cause for which were the crews aboard African slave ships which met up with the transport at Santa Cruz. . .So the Guardian is lost and with it our provisions. What, in the name of Heaven, is to become of us ? . . .

Historical Accounts

David COLLINS: An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, Volume 1: 1798:

We had the mortification to learn, that the prisoners in this ship ('Surprize') were very unhealthy, upwards of one hundred being now in the sick list on board. They had been very sickly also during the passage, and had buried forty-two of these unfortunate people. A portable hospital had fortunately been received by the ‘Justinian’, and there now appeared but too great a probability that we should soon have patients enough to fill it; for the signal was flying at the South Head for the other transports, and we were led to expect them in as unhealthy a state as that which had just arrived. On the evening of Monday the 28th, the ‘Neptune’ and ‘Scarborough’ transports anchored off Garden Island, and were warped into the cove the following morning.

Letter from a female convict: published London Morning Chronicle 1791:

Oh! If you had but seen the shocking sight of the poor creatures that came out in the three ships it would make your heart bleed… they were almost dead, very few could stand, and they were obliged to fling them as you would goods, and hoist them out of the ships, they were so feeble and they died ten or twelve a day when they first landed; but some of them are getting better… They were not so long as we were, but they were confined and had bad victuals and stinking water. The Governor was very angry, and scolded the captain a great deal, and, as I heard, intended to write to London about it, for I heard him say it was murdering them. It, to be sure, was a melancholy sight. What a difference between us and them...

David COLLINS: An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, Volume 1 1798:

All this was to be attributed to confinement, and that of the worst species, confinement in a small space and in irons, not put on singly, but many of them chained together… On board the other ships, the masters, who had the entire direction of the prisoners, never suffered them to be at large on deck, and but few at a time were permitted there. This consequently gave birth to many diseases. It was said, that on board the ‘Neptune’ several had died in irons; and what added to the horror of such a circumstance was, that their deaths were concealed, for the purpose of sharing their allowance of provisions, until chance, and the offensiveness of a corpse, directed the surgeon, or some one who ad authority in the ship, to the spot where it lay...

Rev. Richard Johnson: Letter to Mr. Thornton 1789:

The landing of these people was truly affecting and shocking; great numbers were not able to walk, nor to move hand or foot; such were slung over the side in the same manner as they would a cask, a box or anything of that nature. Upon their being brought up into the open air some of them fainted, many died upon deck, and others in the boat before they reached the shore. When come on shore many were not able to walk, to stand, or stir themselves in the least, hence some were led by others. Some creeped upon their hands and knees and some were carried on the backs of others.


Offspring of Thomas Roker Alexander Gosper and Mary Ann Hipwell (c1765-1837)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Thomas Gosper (1798-1864) 12 July 1798 Freemans Reach, New South Wales, Australia 5 October 1864 Upper Colo, New South Wales, Australia Mary Humphries (c1801-1892)

John Gosper (1801-1886) 1 May 1801 Hawkesbury, New South Wales, Australia 20 November 1886 Windsor, New South Wales, Australia Hannah Beale Reynolds (1806-1888)

Joseph Gosper (1804-1889) 29 April 1804 Wilberforce, New South Wales, Australia 11 February 1889 Kurrajong, New South Wales, Australia Ann Marsden (1812-1870)

James Gosper (1805-1837) 1 October 1805 Freemans Reach, New South Wales, Australia 11 December 1837 Windsor, New South Wales, Australia Margaret Marsden (c1805-1841)

Sources and notes

‡ General
¶ Death
  • Thomas's date of death was recorded in the family bible of his son Joseph Gosper.

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