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Isaac Nicholls

Isaac Nicholls, one of 106 convicts transported on the Active, Albermarle, Atlantic, Barrington, Britannia, Mary Ann, Matilda, Salamander and William and Mary, January 1791

Name, Aliases & Gender

Name: Isaac Nicholls
Aliases: Isaac Nichols
Gender: m

Birth, Occupation & Death

Date of Birth: 29th July, 1770
Occupation: -
Date of Death: 8th November, 1819
Age: 49 years

Life Span

Life span

Male median life span was 54 years*

* Median life span based on contributions

Conviction & Transportation

Sentence Severity

Sentence Severity

Sentenced to 7 years

Crime: Stealing
Convicted at: Wilts. Quarter Sessions
Sentence term: 7 years
Ship: Active, Albermarle, Atlantic, Barrington, Britannia, Mary Ann, Matilda, Salamander and William and Ann
Departure date: January, 1791
Arrival date: 9th July, 1791
Place of arrival New South Wales
Passenger manifest Travelled with 1029 other convicts


Primary source: Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 87, Class and Piece Number HO11/1, Page Number 145 (74)
Source description: This record is one of the entries in the British convict transportation registers 1787-1867 database compiled by State Library of Queensland from British Home Office (HO) records which are available on microfilm as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project.

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Community Contributions

D Wong on 11th November, 2013 wrote:

Isaac Nichols (1770-1819), farmer, shipowner and public servant, was born on 29 July 1770 at Calne, Wiltshire, England, the son of Jonathan Nichols, droget maker, and his wife Sarah. Found guilty of stealing, he was sentenced to seven years transportation at the Warminster Sessions, Wiltshire, in July 1790, and arrived in New South Wales in the Admiral Barrington in October 1791. After a few years in the country his ability, diligence and sobriety so impressed Governor John Hunter and his aide-de-camp, George Johnston, that the governor appointed him chief overseer of the convict gangs labouring round Sydney. On 20 December 1797 after his sentence had expired, Hunter granted him fifty acres (20 ha) in the Concord district, where he established a successful farm on which he was assisted by two convicts whose services he was allowed instead of salary as an overseer. Next year he obtained a spirit licence, the first of several, and opened an inn in George Street.

On 12 March 1799 Nichols was brought before the Criminal Court charged with having received stolen property. After a trial lasting four days he was convicted and sentenced to fourteen years on Norfolk Island. The three naval officers on the bench, Henry Waterhouse, William Kent and Matthew Flinders, were all convinced that Nichols was innocent, but they were overborne by the judge-advocate, Richard Dore, and the three officers of the New South Wales Corps, Neil MacKellar, Lucas and Nicholas Bayly. Hunter was most dissatisfied with the trial, being convinced that the verdict was the result of perjury by the witnesses and prejudice on the part of Dore, so he suspended the sentence and referred the matter to England. There the papers remained pigeon-holed for nearly two years, but in January 1802 Governor Philip Gidley King was directed to grant Nichols a free pardon.

In the meantime Nichols, keenly alert to the economic possibilities of the young colony, continued to prosper. Between 1797 and 1815 to his original grant at Concord he added further properties in the same district, at Hunter’s Hill and at Petersham until his holdings totalled some 1400 acres (567 ha). He leased half an acre (0.2 ha) in Sydney near the hospital wharf, which Lieutenant-Governor Joseph Foveaux converted to a grant. Here he built a substantial house and other buildings. He also established a shipyard, where in 1805 he built the Governor Hunter, 33 tons, which he used in the Newcastle, Hawkesbury and Bass Strait trade.

In the William Bligh rebellion Nichols took the side of the insurrectionaries. In March 1809 he was appointed superintendent of public works and assistant to the Naval Officer; next month, to stop the practice of persons fraudulently obtaining mail from incoming vessels, he was made the colony’s first postmaster, a position he held until his death. When Governor Lachlan Macquarie arrived he too was impressed with Nichols, whom he described as ‘a most zealous, active and useful man’. He appointed him principal superintendent of convicts in place of Nicholas Divine, who was old and infirm. When Nichols sought leave to retire from this post in 1814 Macquarie spoke appreciatively of his great vigilance and unremitting attention to duty.

In his last ten years Nichols enjoyed the friendship and esteem of most leading people in the colony. His home was the scene of many social functions, including the Bachelors’ Ball and the annual dinners to celebrate the foundation of the colony. He was a major supplier of meat to government stores and a generous subscriber to public causes. Everything he attempted was carried out with thoroughness and precision. When he died on 8 November 1819, the Sydney Gazette spoke of his devotion to his public duties, his worth as a farmer, his contributions to the improvement of colonial gardening, and of his activities as a shipowner.

On 11 September 1796 Nichols had married Mary Warren, and after her death by drowning in October 1804, he married Rosanna Abrahams, daughter of Esther Johnston on 18 February 1805. She bore him three sons, Isaac David (1804-1867), ‘gentleman’, George Robert (1809-1857), barrister and solicitor, and Charles Hamilton (1811-1869). Shortly before Isaac Nichols died he sent the two elder boys to England to be educated.

Maureen Withey on 14th May, 2019 wrote:

At the General Quarter Sessions of the Peace for Wilts, held this week, Prangley, for entering wood ground, the property of Richard Hinton, of Hill-Deverel, and damaging some green shrubs; William Smith for picking the pocket of John Lush, at ? fair, of a pocketbook: and Isaac Nicholls, for stealing a brass pot, the property of Thomas Seager, and also for stealing a silver watch, the property of Robert Oakford, at Calne, were sentenced to be transported for 7 years.
Reading Mercury, 27 July 1789

Beth Kebblewhite on 3rd August, 2019 wrote:

On Monday morning last, at his house in George-street, after a long illness, Mr Isaac Nichols, Post-master, leaving a widow and three sons to lament his death. Mr. Nichols came to this Colony in the Admiral Barrington, in October 1791, when the present extensive settlements were a continued forest. For many years he filled the office of Principal Superintendent of Convicts with activity and precision ; and was the first who received the very useful and much required appointment of Post-master, the duties of which office he has performed highly to the general satisfaction during the last eight or nine years of his life-time.—He was a good farmer also ; and the pleasure he took in horticulture has been very conducive to the improvement of colonial gardening, and particularly the extension of the orchard. He was the owner of several colonial vessels, one of which, the schooner Governor Hunter, he built in his own yard many years ago, and was tolerably successful ; and it will doubtless be universally admitted that his exertions, duly appreciated, have been highly beneficial to the colony in her infant state. He died in his 49th year ; and on Wednesday was interred in a vault in the new burial ground ; the funeral being attended by several Magistrates, and other Officers of the Civil Establishment, and a long train of friends.
(Source: Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842), Saturday 13 November 1819, page 3)
April 22 1959 -

150th Anniversary of the Australian Post Office. A stamp was created from a design taken from an un-issued poster created by R. Shackel, and shows Australia’s first postmaster, Isaac Nichols, boarding the brig ‘Experiment; in Sydney Harbour to collect mails from England.

Convict Changes History

D Wong on 11th November, 2013 made the following changes:

date of death 8th November, 1819, gender, crime

Denis Pember on 29th November, 2016 made the following changes:

date of birth: 29th July, 1770 (prev. 0000)

Beth Kebblewhite on 3rd August, 2019 made the following changes:

alias1: Isaac Nichols

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