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James Stiles

James Stiles, one of 1063 convicts transported on the Neptune, Scarborough and Surprize, December 1789

Name, Aliases & Gender

Name: James Stiles
Aliases: James Styles
Gender: m

Birth, Occupation & Death

Date of Birth: 1769
Occupation: -
Date of Death: 7th January, 1828
Age: 59 years

Life Span

Life span

Male median life span was 61 years*

* Median life span based on contributions

Conviction & Transportation

Sentence Severity

Sentence Severity

Sentenced to 7 years

Crime: Highway robbery
Convicted at: Berkshire Assizes
Sentence term: 7 years
Ship: Neptune, Scarborough and Surprize
Departure date: December, 1789
Arrival date: 26th June, 1790
Place of arrival New South Wales
Passenger manifest Travelled with 1072 other convicts


Primary source: Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 87, Class and Piece Number HO11/1, Page Number 26 Flynn, Michael; The Second Fleet: Britain's Grim Convict Armada of 1790.
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

Denis Pember on 2nd February, 2016 wrote:

James Stiles and John Stiles were tried at Reading, Berkshire 3 March 1788, for Highway Robbery.
Richard Chesterman of Shinfield said that at 1pm on 28 July 1787 he had been walking home from Reading carrying a bundle when he was threatened and robbed by the two young men. He gave the alarm and several of his neighbours pursued the men and they were captured, running along a lane.
Thye had robbed him of a purse containing 3 shillings and sixpence, a bundle containing 1lb butter, 1lb plum cake, 2 bread rolls, a half pound sugar and a linen handkerchief.
They were found guilty and sentenced to death.
This was later reprieved to transportation for 7 years. James was aged 18, John was 20. Both were embarked on the Scarborough.

Denis Pember on 2nd February, 2016 wrote:

In the colony, James married Mary Wilson (Convict, William Pitt, 1806).  They married February 9 1811 at Windsor. Mary already had a daughter when she met James. The couple had three daughters between 1808 and 1814.
James died in January 1828, prior to the Census.

Denis Pember on 2nd February, 2016 wrote:

James can be located in some of the Muster Records:
Baxter, Carol Muster of New South Wales, 1811 and 1814.

Styles, John, Scarborough, tried 1788, Reading, 7 years. (PRO n0026).
Wilson, Mary, William Pitt, tried 804, Kingston, 7 years (PRO n3316).

[4893] James Styles, Scarborough, on stores, Constable.
[7080] Jane Leonard, William Pitt, on stores, 2 children on stores, 1 child off stores. Wife to James Styles.

Phil Hands on 18th September, 2017 wrote:

It seems that James Styles (sometimes spelt Stiles) and his brother John, his elder by 2 years, were a couple of wild young men (it is assumed that they were brothers but they may have been cousins, their roots have not been found.) At age 18, James was caught with John in an escapade that went a little too far. Richard Chesterman of Shinfield, Berkshire, was walking home from Reading, carrying some shopping. It was broad daylight-in fact it was 1 pm on Saturday 28th July 1787. Chesterman was set upon and threatened by two young men dressed in smock frocks. They stole his purse containing 3 shillings and sixpence and a bundle containing 1 pound of butter, 1 pound of plum cake, 2 bread rolls, a 1/2-pound of sugar and a linen handkerchief.
Chesterman alarmed his neighbours, several of whom were working in the fields nearby. As a result the two young men were caught and thrown into gaol in Reading, Berkshire. There they awaited their fate at the trial, which did not take place until 3 March 1788 at the Assizes, where they were both found guilty as charged and sentenced to death for Highway Robbery. In April 1788 they were reprieved to 7 years transportation and their removal on 11th June 1788 from Reading Gaol to the “Lion” hulk at Gosport, Portsmouth, with four other convicts, cost the County of Berkshire three pounds ten shillings each. On 29th November 1789 both were loaded on to their transportation vessel.
Left England on 19th January 1790.
Ship:- the ‘Scarborough’ sailed with 259 male convicts on board of which 73 died during the voyage.
Arrived on 28th June 1790.

After 21 months in Sydney on the chain gang, James Styles was sent to Norfolk Island on the Pitt, arriving on 23rd April 1792. There his problems continued, as he was tried on 12th July 1792 along with two fellow convicts, charged with “neglecting their work in not doing what might be reasonably expected of them” - in other words they had been caught not breaking their quota of rocks. The three of them were sentenced to 300 lashes each, of which each man took 100 before the flogging was abbreviated.
James was freed by servitude in 1796, having served his time. It is thought that he was involved in building work over the ensuing years before joining the NSW Corps.

James returned to Sydney with the Corps in 1801, where he was stationed at Parramatta. He stayed with the Corps until he was detached at Parramatta in April/May 1806.

In 1807 James was appointed Town Constable at Castlereagh on the Nepean River. Castlereagh was the first town officially planned in the Penrith area, on a site chosen by Governor Macquarie and designated in a Government and General Order of 15th December, 1810.
As a single man, James was allocated a convict woman, Mary Jane Wilson (aka Jane Rhodes), as housekeeper. It appears that one of her duties was to also keep the bed warm. Their first child, Lucy, was born in July 1808.
On 13th September 1808, just two months after Lucy was born, James and Jane were living in a single-roomed hut with Bill Seals at Castlereagh on the Nepean River. Bill had been on Norfolk Island when James was there, but had received an absolute pardon on 24 February 1794, although he did not return to Sydney until 1805. For his service to the Government, Bill was expecting to receive a grant of land, and he later achieved his ambition, as the Muster of 1814 describes him as “Landholder”. On this Tuesday, a group of masked and armed men entered their home and terrorised them. The robbers beat Seals up and stole all the Styles family’s belongings plus a watch, and 15 pounds worth of bills of exchange belonging to James Styles. This was probably his retirement money from the NSW Corps, and “The loss left the family destitute, with no clothes for the children and only mushrooms and corn to eat.”
Jane’s testimony at the trial led to the conviction of Hugh Dowling.
Together James and Mary Jane had three children, all girls. Lucy (1808), Charlotte (1810) and Ann (1814). The 1822 Muster showed an Ann Styles as wife to James Styles, and mother of the four children. This clearly was some form of misunderstanding or deception.
James and Jane would have heard of Governor Macquarie’s injunction that couples cohabiting should soon enter into the state of matrimony, and so it was that they applied for and were granted permission on 12th September 1810. They were married on 9th February 1811 at St Matthews, Windsor, by Rev Robert Cartwright. Elias Bishop and Matthew Hughes witnessed the wedding. Earlier on the same day, to further solemnise the union, their daughters Charlotte and Lucy were christened. Elias Bishop and Matthew Hughes witnessed the wedding. To further solemnise the union their daughters Charlotte and Lucy were christened on the same day, before the wedding. Jane had been granted her Ticket-of-Leave to allow the ceremony to take place, without the need for formal consent.
Matthew Hughes was the schoolmaster at Richmond, having arrived in the Colony on the Britannia in 1796. Elias Bishop was a respected landholder and juror of the Windsor District having arrived in the Colony before 1794.
So it seems that the 42 year-old Constable of Castlereagh had arrived in polite society after a very shady past.
On 12th October 1811, James was appointed Constable with the police force in Sydney. Initially they lived in the Watch-house in Upper Pitt Street, whichwas on the corner of Pitt and Liverpool Streets.
The apprehension of eight runaway convicts in 1814 earned James and three other constables a reward of eight pounds each from the Police Fund.
By August 1823 James was employed as a turnkey at the Sydney County Gaol. This was the first Sydney Gaol to be built of permanent materials. It was in George Street near the intersection with Globe Street, at The Rocks.
This old gaol became hopelessly overcrowded during the 1820’s, with prisoners incarcerated in mass cells so densely packed that most had to stand, and turns were taken as to who could lie down at any one time. It was remarked, with the black humour of the day, that the gaol gallows could certainly accommodate ten at a time, but “only six in comfort”.
On 30th June 1823 James was granted a 30-year lease of 20 perches of land, Lot 20 (later No.37), Upper Pitt Street, where he built his dwelling. In those days Pitt Street started at Hunter Street and ran south to Park Street; it then continued on as Upper Pitt Street as far as Campbell Street.

In 1826 James Styles was dismissed from the Police force. The Sydney Gazette of Saturday 8th July 1826 reported the occasion thus:  “James Styles, Constable, against whom depositions were taken, which went to charge him with gross and scandalous neglect of duty, and with having conducted himself with great insolence, and used very abusive and disgraceful language towards a lady, who had sent for him as the nearest constable, to attend her for a particular duty, as her house had been attempted to be broken open on Wednesday evening”. The case was so fully made out against the Constable Styles, that the Superintendent of Police ordered him to be dismissed from his station in that Department.”(Note: Two other Constables were dismissed for highly improper conduct, at the same time, although, it is not known whether the incidents were connected. The other two were John Kelly and James Maher.)

James died within two years of this disgrace, aged 61 years. His death was registered at St.Philip’s Church, Church Hill, Sydney on 7th January 1828 at which time he was described as “labourer” – labouring at what kind of work is unlikely to be discovered. He was buried at the old Devonshire Street Burial Ground where he lay at rest until the land was taken over to build the Central Railway Station, at which time the Pioneers’ Cemetery was established at Botany and his grave is in the C of E section 2S Nr 60 Grave No. 437 Slab on ground in good condition. The inscription begins:

“Sacred to the memory of James Stiles, who departed this life January 1828 aged 61 years. Leaves a disconsolate widow and four daughters to lament his loss”.

Convict Changes History

Denis Pember on 2nd February, 2016 made the following changes:

alias1: James Styles, date of birth: 1769 (prev. 0000), date of death: 7th January, 1828 (prev. 0000), gender: m

Denis Pember on 2nd February, 2016 made the following changes:

source: Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 87, Class and Piece Number HO11/1, Page Number 26 Flynn, Michael; The Second Fleet: Britain's Grim Convict Armada of 1790. (prev. Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 87, Class and Piece

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