Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

John Field - Gaoler and Settler

Homebush - Map 1

John Field was born in the colony c. 1794, son of William Field. John Field's wife was Eliza Jane Brady who was born in the colony in 1804.


John Field was employed as Superintendent of Parramatta Barracks 1822 - 1824. His wife gave birth to twin girls on 28th August 1823 at Parramatta. On 29th December 1823 he wrote to the Colonial Secretary.....

Having resigned my situation as Superintendent of the Prisoners Barracks at Parramatta, I am now desirous of settling myself at Newcastle for which purpose I respectfully solicit your kind intercession with his Excellency the Governor to Grant me a lease of allotment to erect a dwelling house on.

I am the more solicitous of obtain this favour from the circumstance of my mother in law and her family residing at that settlement. Your compliance will be gratefully acknowledged by him who begs leave to subscribe himself your most obedient servant John Field
. [10]


On 8 May 1824, at Newcastle he petitioned for a grant of land.....

That your Excellency Memorialist is the son of Quarter Master Field formerly of 73rd regiment was born in the colony. That Memorialist was brought up in the Military Profession and having served as he humbly trust with the most unblemished reputation in the 73rd regiment as a non-commissioned officer returned from India to this country where he married a native girl who now resides with him at Newcastle where your Excellency was graciously pleased to grant him a town allotment.

That Memorialist having some property is desirous of commencing farming instead of remaining permanently at Newcastle as was his original intention and therefore humbly and respectfully begs leave to solicit your Excellency that you may be graciously please to grant him a section of land in such unlocated parts of Hunter River as your Excellency in your superior wisdom shall think proper

Land Grant

Ash Island - Alexander Walker Scott John Laurio Platt Australian Agricultural Company Joseph Weller George Weller William Brooks Jonathon Warner George Brooks Richard Windeyer and Adam Beveridge William Peppercorn Richard Siddons John Maclean G.T. Graham William Sparke Henry Rae Vicars Jacob Francis Shortt Francis Moran John Eales William Bradridge Edward Sparke John Field George Thomas Graham Map showing location of John Field's grant. Click on any of the other names on the map to find nearby settlers:
Early Settler Map 1 John Field was granted 240 acres in May 1824. [8] He was promised 60 acres as a secondary grant by Governor Sir Ralph Darling in November 1825 [1].

Thomas Bowden applied for the 240 acre grant promised to John Field in April 1834.(Co. Northumberland. Parish of Alnwick, Grant No. 130. Bounded by the farm of Francis Greenway) [3]

Port Stephens

In correspondence dated 9 April 1825, Eliza Creek, Hunter River, he informed the authorities that his family consisted of himself, his wife and two convict servants - John Heafy per Castle Forbes and Thomas Murphy per Recovery. They were all granted permission to be victualled from the Stores at Newcastle for six months from May 1825. [9]

John Field was employed as district constable at Eliza Creek, Port Stephens in 1828. [5] In the 1828 Census John's age is recorded as 34, Eliza 24, daughter Eliza 3 and Mary Ann aged 1. Daughter Eliza Field married Henry Fenwick in in 1848.

He was employed as Chief Constable at Port Stephens in 1832.


John Field was appointed Gaoler at Newcastle Gaol about 1834/35. He was highly regarded for his solicitous treatment of the prisoners, however his job was not an easy one

Gaol Disturbance.- On Saturday last a disturbance took place in the gaol airing yard in which the male prisoners are confined, occasioned by the insubordinate conduct of the prisoners who lately escaped from the hospital at this place, taking with them out of the harbour the cutter 'Brothers.' Mr. Field, observing that these men resisted the gaol constables in the execution of their duty, immediately applied for a military guard,' which was promptly forwarded from the barracks, and on their arrival at the gaol the prisoners were secured before any serious mischief was done. The visiting justice, accompanied by Captain Armstrong, J.P. investigated the affair, and sentenced four of these Norfolk Island expirees to be placed in solitary confinement for one calendar month. [7]


He died on 15th May 1845 in the 53rd year of his age - We regret extremely to hear of the demise of this gentleman which took place at 3am. He had been for a long time head gaoler at Newcastle which situation he filled to the perfect satisfaction of the authorities. This together with his kindness and urbanity to the prisoners, caused him to be respected by all who knew him. He was a zealous servant in that capacity for ten years, a warm friend, a kind father, and an affectionate husband.

Obituary - John Field's private worth will be justly remembered by many, even beyond the circle of his family and friends. But one whose personal knowledge enables him to record his character as a public officer, feels that in doing so he discharges a religious duty. Mr. F. obtained the appointment of gaoler about ten years ago, by the recommendation of Sir William Edward Parry, whose cordial solicitude for his welfare procured for Mr. F., when his patron left the colony, the countenance and good offices of that excellent man's friends. Having resolved to correct the demeanour of the miserable persons under his charge, he entered on the task by enforcing the sanctity of the Lord's Day. This he effected with a perseverance, kindness, and consistency to be ascribed to other sentiments than those of official obligation. But his anxiety on their behalf went beyond considerations of discipline.

When he could do so without violence to peculiarities of faith, he spoke of truths on which he rested his own hopes of happiness ; and we may hope that many of that class of persons to whom the gaol of Newcastle was as the gates of death, learned the way of salvation through the prayers and persuasions of their gaoler. A public servant who seeks in the first place the approbation of God and his conscience, meets with many vexations ; satisfied with the rectitude of his own intentions, he does not perceive the propriety of securing the commendations of others, nor does he fear their censure. This was Mr. F.'s experience.

Although honored with the kind consideration of the functionaries of the courts of law ; although allowed by the Judges the privilege of speech to an extent approaching to familiarity, because of their confidence in his good faith ; although his eulogium was repeatedly pronounced by these dignitaries from the bench and in their chambers ; yet he was sometimes misunderstood, and generally most severely condemned when most punctually dutiful. These calamities nearly overwhelmed him, but they are mentioned here because of his reliance upon the particular providence of God, whose signal mercies in raising up friends in his distress, in the most remarkable as well as unexpected manner, he used to recount with overflowing gratitude, and with the humility of a Christian. 'Verily there is a God who judgeth the earth.'

William Tristram was appointed gaoler at Newcastle gaol on the death of John Field.

George Brooks of Newcastle and Jeremiah Ledsam of West Maitland were the Executors of his Will.

John Field's Grant Offered for Sale

John Field's grant known as Home Bush Estate was offered for sale in April 1886 - A Grant from the Crown to the Late John Field, Governor of Newcastle Gaol in 1837 and subsequent years. This splendid property comprises sixty acres of pasture and orchard beautifully situated on the banks of the navigable river Hunter midway between Newcastle and Maitland. Also a Stone Built Dwelling House containing four rooms, hall, verandah; two rooms 15ft by 12 ft; two rooms 15 feet by 15 feet; height of ceiling 11 feet; kitchen, two rooms built of stone. Outbuildings - shed, swine house etc. [2].

Convicts assigned to John Field :

Blake, Thomas
Convict Ship Boyne 1826. Farmer's labourer age 56 from Co. Clare. Convicted of sheep stealing. Assigned to John Field at Port Stephens in 1828. Granted Ticket of Leave for Maitland 1831

Garnham, John. Alias Hitchen
Convict Ship Adrian 1830. Ploughman from Suffolk. Convicted of stealing clothes. Assigned to John Field at Port Stephens on arrival

Heafey, John
Convict Ship Castle Forbes 1824. Ploughman from Limerick. Assigned to Alexander McLeod on arrival. Assigned to John Field in 1825.

Hickey, Christopher
Convict Ship Captain Cook 1836. Assigned to John Field at Newcastle in 1837.

Ling, William
Convict Ship Surry 1831. Ploughman from Suffolk. Convicted of house breaking. Assigned to John Field at Port Stephens on arrival

Marsh, John
Convict Ship Coromandel 1820. Assigned to John Field in 1824

McNally, Patrick
Convict Ship Isabella 1823

Murphy, Thomas
Convict Ship Recovery 1819. Carpenter from Co. Meath. Servant to John Field at Eliza Creek in 1825


[1] Colonial Secretary's Correspondence. Series: (NRS 898) Special bundles, 1794-1825 Item: 9/2740 Page: 12

[2] Maitland Mercury 13 April 1886

[3] Government Gazette 1834

[4] Maitland Mercury 31 May 1845

[5] 1828 Census

[6] In the Service of the Company. Letters of Sir Edward Parry, Volume 2 June 1832 - March 1834 Letter 677

[7] Maitland Mercury 8 June 1844

[8] New South Wales, Australia, Colonial Secretary's Papers, 1788-1825 Series: (NRS 937) Copies of letters sent within the Colony, 1814-1825 Item: 4/3511 Page: 323

[9] New South Wales, Australia, Colonial Secretary's Papers, 1788-1825 Series: (NRS 897) Main series of letters received, 1788-1825 Item: 4/1812 Page: 37