Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

John Larnach and James Mudie

Rosemount and Castle Forbes - Map 4

James Mudie arrived in Australia with his daughters Emily and Maria Mudie and foster daughter Miss Ann Scargill on the Asia in July 1822.

Land Grant

He came with recommendations for a grant of land and in August 1822 was granted 2000 acres. In 1822 Newcastle was still a convict settlement and anyone wishing to proceed to the settlement was compelled to seek permission from government. These various applications for land grants and other indulgences were preserved in the Colonial Secretary's Correspondence.

In August 1822 in company with George Shaw Rutherford James Mudie sought and was granted permission to sail to Newcastle on any vessel suitable.

Newcastle Allotment

After this initial visit to Newcastle with George Rutherford, Mudie applied for an allotment of land in Newcastle so that he could establish a depot to carry out his intended operations effectively.

In December 1822 he was again granted permission to proceed to Newcastle. This time he was accompanied by the following men, most of whom also took up grants on the Hunter: Leslie Duguid, Alexander Shand, Mr. Brown, Mr. Maxwell, William Innes, William Harper (surveyor), John Rotton, Mr. Icely, and William Henry Manners.[3]

Academy at Parramatta

James Mudie had no intention of settling on his land grant at this early time as he planned to establish an academy at Parramatta. In September 1822 he applied for a convict carpenter to be assigned to him so that work could begin on a house in which he intended to establish the Academy. This venture was unsuccessful and he decided instead to move to his land on the Hunter River.

Hunter River

Parramatta 12 August 1823

Sir, I believe it is known to your Excellency that in consequence of the heavy loss I sustained in bringing forward a Medallic History of the principal events of the late War that I obtained through the express sanction of His Majesty a free passage for myself and family to this Colony with the usual order for a grant of land. On my arrival in Sydney it was suggested to me that an establishment for the education of Females was much wanted in New South Wales and that if my family were qualified for such an undertaking it could not fail of success and several individuals respectably situated assured me of their warm support under such representations and promises I engaged a house for a term of years and prepared it in every way fit for a genteel establishment but after a delay of nearly a year I find that the flattering praises held to me have ended in a mere delude. Thus circumvented I have thought it most prudent to get rid of an expensive establishment and to remove my family from Parramatta to my land on Hunters River - situated therefore as I am your Excellency will perhaps pardon the liberty I take in soliciting a passage for myself and daughters to Newcastle on one of the government vessels. I am perfectly aware that my request ins contrary to the Colonial Regulations but I would trust that under the circumstances that brought me to this country added to the expense I have incurred may induce your Excellency to comply with my request and I beg leave to observe were it not for the very bad accommodation the small vessels afford (particularly for vessels that trade between Sydney and Newcastle) I would not have troubled your Excellency with this application,
I have the honor to remain etc., J. Mudie.[6]

In July 1823 he was given permission to proceed overland from Windsor to his farm at the Hunter. Servants given permission to accompany him included :

Francis Atkinson per Ocean (free by servitude),

Thomas Prentice (four sons, 1 daughter),

William Edwards per Asia

John Frost per Batavia.[5].

James Mudie's daughters did not accompany him on this expedition although apparently Thomas Prentice's daughter did. James Mudie sought permission for his daughters and Miss Scargill to travel by water. Private vessels sailed often to Newcastle but he considered these unsuitable and probably expensive and applied instead for a passage for his daughters in one of the government vessels proceeding to the settlement.

On 9th September 1823 James Mudie, 'the three misses Mudie' and Miss Scargill were granted permission for a passage to Newcastle on the Mermaid. Sailing with them were servants -

Letitia Waddell per Lord Wellington,
Mary Stuart per Woodman,
Margaret Larkins per Woodman,
Thomas Head per Ocean
William Crisp per Ocean
William Adams per Ocean,
William Mills per Ocean,
Thomas Hayes per Ocean and
John Yeates per Eliza.

Seven or eight tons and a pinto pony if it could be accommodated on deck, were also to be taken on the Mermaid.[2]

Newcastle in 1822

Around this time Newcastle was declared open for settlement. The Sydney Gazette reported on 11th September that the Mermaid took with her to Newcastle a Military Guard bound for Port Macquarie to reinforce the detachment there, as twice convicted criminals from this time would be banished to Port Macquarie instead of Newcastle.Major Morisset who had been Commandant at Newcastle since 1818 was appointed Commandant at Bathurst and would be gone from the settlement before the year's close.

When the Mudie family arrived at Newcastle they may have been accommodated at John Smith's new Inn -The Newcastle Hotel.

Rosemount and Castle Forbes

Archibald Bell James Black William Brooks John Cobb Henry Dangar John Earl John Gaggin William Harper William Kelman John Larnach George Wyndham George White Joseph Underwood A.B. Spark Benjamin Sullivan Alexander Shand Helenus Scott James Mitchell George Wyndham Helenus Scott John Larnach Shaw Stewart Early Settler Map 4

John Larnach

John Larnach was born to William and Margaret Larnach in county Caithness, Scotland in 1805. He arrived in Sydney as a free settler on the Andromeda in 1823 and was soon employed as an Overseer at James Bowman's property Ravensworth near Singleton. [4]

He was then employed as an overseer for James Mudie at Castle Forbes and in August 1827 married Emily the eldest daughter of James Mudie.

He acquired the land shown on the map above known as Rosemount which was situated next to the Castle Forbes estate.

In April 1828 John and Emily's first daughter Maria was born, named perhaps for Emily's sister Maria. Following the birth of Maria, Margaret was born in 1831, William James Mudie in January 1833, Emily in 1834, John in December 1836 (at Rosemount), George in 1839 and Mary in 1842.

In 1833 the Larnach family were residing at Castle Forbes, the home of James Mudie. The year started off well and no doubt with joy for the family when their son William James Mudie was born in January of that year. (William was destined for a controversial life in New Zealand).

Convict Uprising

In September 1833, when William was eight months old and his sister Margaret two, their five year old sister Maria passed away. In November, with the family still in mourning for the little girl there was a convict uprising when assigned servants from the farm absconded and mounted an attack on the house.

According to evidence later submitted to court, floggings had become an almost daily occurrence, rations were poor and conditions unbearable at Castle Forbes. Driven to desperation, several men broke free and the next day returned to Castle Forbes. They captured Emily, who was attempting to escape through a window with a maid, and took her to the kitchen where they threatened to 'blow her brains out'. She heard them threaten that 'they would bring her husband's head and stick it on the chimney' and 'that they wished her father were home so they could settle him' before they finally left 3/4 of an hour later.

The runaways then headed down to the sheep wash where John Larnach was supervising the assigned men. Here the absconders ambushed Larnach. He headed into the river and one of men took aim and shot at him while a second, Poole, called out 'I'll take care you shall never punish another man' and 'I'll make you remember flogging'.

Anthony Hitchcock, John Poole, James Reilly, David Jones, John Perry and James Ryan and Adam Anderson took to the bush with plunder from Castle Forbes. They took with them three horses, silver plate, a double barrelled gun, single barrelled gun, a fowling piece, two muskets, two pistols, a tomahawk, a quantity of supplies and several sets of clothing belonging to James Mudie which they hoped would disguise them (This clothing consisted of Duck trousers, white shirts and white jackets, straw hats and a blue jacket with yellow buttons). John Larnach managed to escape to the shelter of reeds on the other side of the river and then to freedom and later joined the pursuit in the company of Robert Scott and the Mounted Police. A reward of 10 pounds was offered for the apprehension of the seven men.

Runaway Convicts Captured and Executed

The runaways were later captured at Lamb's Valley after a dramatic shootout with mounted police, constables and Robert Scott

Select here to read more about the trial held in Sydney in December 1833. Before the end of that year five of the absconders had been executed. (David Jones was sent to Norfolk Island for life) Two of the men, Anthony Hitchcock and John Poole were returned to Castle Forbes where convicts and workers were assembled in front of gallows erected on Windmill Hill. They were hanged on 21 December 1833. Find out more about the execution here.

Some of the men assigned to James Mudie and John Larnach who may have been present on the day of the uprising, later gave evidence at the trial, included Samuel Marsden, John Hart, John Sawyer, Peter Ponsonby, William Wilson, Henry Brownand Stephen Parrott.

Ensign Henry Zouch who had previously known Anthony Hitchcock in Newcastle and Alexander Flood who joined in the pursuit, also gave evidence as did Samuel Cook and Robert Cushon.

There was great public sympathy for the wretched conditions of the convicts at Castle Forbes. After the trial, Governor Bourke instituted an inquiry into the convicts' claims, which found that although James Mudie did not treat his servants with the same consideration for their wants and comfort as neighbouring settlers, for the most part the claims were unfounded. In correspondence dated 16th November 1834 Governor Bourke informed the Right Honorable E.G. Stanley of his decision to appoint a Police Magistrate at Patrick Plains.....

I have likewise to report the appointment of Captain Forbes, of 17th Regiment, to be Police Magistrate at Patrick's Plains at a Salary of two hundred pounds a year in full of all allowances. - This appointment is a new one, and became desirable in consequence of complaints of insubordination on the part of the Convicts, brought forward by some of the Magistrates and Settlers of the District, which, whether well or ill founded, tended to keep up a considerable excitement in that Quarter. The Convicts also had their complaints of ill treatment, and eight of those in the farm of a Mr. Mudie, a Justice of the Peace, robbed his house and attempted the life of his Son in law, for which offence five were executed on the spot and one transported to Norfolk Island for Life. These Culprits having on their Trial attributed the absconding and outrages, of which they had been guilty, to feelings excited by improper treatment on the part of their Master, evidence of which was tendered by the Council but refused to be received by the Court, and considerable interest in their fate having been evinced, I thought it right to order the Solicitor General and Principal Superintendent of Convicts (John Hubert Plunkett and Frederick Hely) to proceed to Patrick's Plains to investigate those complaints. The charges turned out to be for the most part unfounded; but the excitement, which these circumstances occasioned in the District, rendered highly desirable the presence of a Magistrate personally unconnected with it to Superintend its Police. [7]

After the Uprising

James Mudie sold Castle Forbes and returned to England in 1836 where he published The Felonry of New South Wales. He returned to Australia in 1840 however was ostracised for his views and comments and returned once more to England where he died in 1852.

In 1840 the Castle Forbes estate was owned by James Barker and was advertised for sale:

The Estate of Castle Forbes Hunter's River, comprising four thousand three hundred and twenty Acres, divided into two hundred and seven Allotments..... The Australian Auction Company is instructed by the Proprietor, James Barker, Esq., to announce to the Public, that Castle Forbes is now being surveyed by Mr Knapp, and will be put up to unreserved sale. This Valuable Property is situated on banks of the Hunter River twenty-four miles from Maitland four miles only from the flourishing town of Singleton and by land from Sydney it is one hundred and twenty three miles. The estate contains four thousand three hundred and twenty acres of excellent Land six hundred and fifty of which are cleared, enclosed, and in a high state of cultivation.

It is a well known fact that this land has produced some of the finest crops of grain in the Colony. It is watered by the River Hunter, which bounds it on the north, and also by the deep and extensive water holes of the Munimbah Brook, which runs through the whole length of the property from south to north It is intersected by the new line of road from Maitland to the Upper Hunter, marked out and made by Major Sir Thomas Mitchell. In addition to these important local advantages, it has the Munimbah Court House adjoining it, and is surrounded by the extensively improved properties of Messrs R Jones, Ferris, Larnach, Dangar, White, Scott of Glendon, Bell, Mitchell, and other wealthy and influential residents, and is on the high road to and from the now thickly populated, counties of New England, Liverpool Plains and the district of the Upper Hunter, by which the transit of supplies and produce to these important parts is effected

John Larnach and his family remained in the Hunter Valley. Emily's sister Maria had married George Boyle White in 1830, so the two sisters lived close by. In 1838 John Larnach was offering for lease for 10 years, a portion of Castle Forbes containing 34 farms, to immigrants and men of good character. The first 3 years to be rent free.

John Larnach took part in public life in the district and was steward at a dinner for Richard Windeyer and served on jury duty in 1847. In 1844 John and Emily's sons William and John received prizes at their school in Singleton and in this year also Larnach was nominated for district Council.

In 1848 the house at Rosemount was very nearly destroyed when a fire broke out in the upstairs dressing room. The windows were all broken, linen destroyed and the ceiling of the room fell in before the fire was brought under control. Emily may have been in Launceston at this time .

Later, in July 1848 after a Court case John Larnach was forced to sell at auction at Rosemount - a stack of hay, 4 bullock drays and 2 horse carts.

Late in 1848 Rosemount Estate was advertised 'for such term as may be agreed upon'. The Estate comprised 1200 acres of agricultural and grazing land and was enclosed by a substantial three rail fence and subdivided into convenient paddocks, well suited for grazing and for agriculture in favourable seasons. The property was described as having a substantial mansion with out offices, suitable for a genteel family; an orchard and garden - grounds attached. The windmill on the property was not in working order and the huts said to be suitable for accommodation of farm labourers were at a convenient distance from the mansion.

Death of John Larnach

John Larnach died in 1869 and the Rosemount site was sold to Albert Dangar.

Notes and Links

1). The Felonry of New South Wales - James Mudie

2). A description of Patrick Plains and Castle Forbes in Rambles in New South Wales 1827 - XYZ - attributed to W.J. Dumaresq

3) - Trial of convicts of the Castle Forbes uprising.

4). Horden House Rare Books....Vindication of James Mudie and John Larnach from certain reflections on their conduct relative to the treatment by them of their convict servants....A beautiful copy of this noted rarity: James Mudie's vindication of his role in the notorious skirmish between Mudie and irate convicts which occurred at his property at Castle Forbes, Patrick's Plains, New South Wales.

5). Great Britain. Mudie's National Series of Medals. Complete set of Medals commemorating British Military and Naval Victories, including case and series catalog. Bronze, 41mm (40). Published by James Mudie in 1820, struck at Edward Thomasons manufactory, Birmingham.

6). British Museum. Bronze medal. (whole) (whole) Uniformed bust of Napoleon, right. (obverse) (obverse) A British Man-of-War in full sail, another ship beyond. (reverse) (reverse)


[1] Sydney Gazette 28 July 1840

[2] New South Wales, Australia, Colonial Secretary's Papers, 1788-1825 Series: (NRS 937) Copies of letters sent within the Colony, 1814-1825 Item: 4/3509 Page: 212

[3] New South Wales, Australia, Colonial Secretary's Papers, 1788-1825 Series: (NRS 937) Copies of letters sent within the Colony, 1814-1825 Item: 4/3507 Page: 26)

[4] Bernard T. Dowd and Averil F. Fink, 'Larnach, John (1805 - 1869)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 16 July 2013.

[5] New South Wales, Australia, Colonial Secretary's Papers, 1788-1825 Series:: NRS 937; Reel or Fiche Numbers: Reels 6004-6016

[6] Series: NRS 899; Reel or Fiche Numbers: Fiche 3001-3162, Memorials To The Governor, 1810-1826, New South Wales, Australia, Colonial Secretary's Papers, 1788-1856 [database on-line]. Original data: New South Wales Government. Main series of letters received, 1788-1825.

[7] HRA, Series 1, vol XVII, p.