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James Underwood

James Underwood, 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: James Underwood
Aliases: none
Gender: m

Birth, Occupation & Death

Date of Birth: 4th September, 1771
Occupation: -
Date of Death: 10th February, 1844
Age: 72 years

Life Span

Life span

Male median life span was 51 years*

* Median life span based on contributions

Conviction & Transportation

Sentence Severity

Sentence Severity

Sentenced to 7 years

Crime: -
Convicted at: Surrey Assizes
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 1043 other convicts

References

Primary source: Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 87, Class and Piece Number HO11/1, Page Number 139 (71)
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 1st December, 2016 wrote:

In the colony, James learned the trade of boatbuilder, probably briefly under Stephen Todd, formerly a carpenter in the Barwell, who was engaged to build a 34-ton sloop for the Hawkesbury River trade in 1797; he built the Diana in 1798-99 which later became the property of Underwood and his partner Henry Kable.
With Kable and Simeon Lord, as partners, he was involved in the sealing trade, especially regarding the making of the boats.
Underwood played a considerable part in the early New South Wales sealing industry. In the 1803-04 season the partners had more than sixty men employed in the trade and gathered not less than 30,000 skins. After 1805 the volume greatly increased as, through Lord, the partners had a secure market in London. Between 1806 and 1809 their London agents sold 127,040 skins, sent in four consignments, for more than £27,000; these were by no means all the skins they exported in this period and they sold a considerable quantity of oil as well. In 1807 Underwood owned a third of the Sydney Cove which the partners chartered to the government for a voyage to Sydney with convicts. Underwood sailed for England in her in October, buying out Lord’s share on his arrival in London in May 1808. He returned in April 1809 on the ship’s second voyage with a very valuable investment, and soon afterwards severed his connexion with Kable.
James’ brother Joseph travelled from England on the “Sydney Cove” as a free settler and joined his older brother in the colony.

Denis Pember on 1st December, 2016 wrote:

James conquests, realtionships and marriages for quite a list.
He married Mary Kendall (Convict, 1792, “Royal Admiral” in 1793. There seem to be no family located and Mary died in 1816.
In 1801 he appears to be living with Philadelphia Pounds (Convict, 1800, “Earl Cornwallis”). The couple had three children between 1803 and 1807. No marriage record located.
The in 1812, James married Mar Ann Powell at St Phillips, Sydney. Mary Ann was born in the colony of free parents. The couple had 6 children between 1813 and 1824.  Mary Ann died in 1825.
In November 1825, James married Elizabeth Shurwell.  Elizabeth Shurwell a spinster of Sydney was married to James Underwood a widower of Sydney at Parramatta on 26 Nov 1825 by Rev. Samuel Marsden, a licence having been obtained 24 Nov 1825.  There appears no record of family.

Maureen Withey on 16th September, 2021 wrote:

https://www.freesettlerorfelon.com/convict_ship_sydney_cove_1807.htm

The Sydney Cove departed Port Jackson bound for England in October 1807. Francis Williams, agent for Simeon Lord advertised his intention to depart on the Sydney Cove, as did Mr. I. Fleming, James Underwood, Robert Cain, John James and Mary Hewitt. John Mitchell and Elizabeth Thompson (with His Majesty’s Permission) also intended to leave on the Sydney Cove.

Governor Bligh in a despatch to William Windham dated 1st October 1807 informed him of others whose intention it was to leave the colony on the Sydney Cove:
Sir,
In addition to my Letter of yesterday’;s date, I consider it necessary to inform you that the following persons leave this colony in the Sydney Cove: James Underwood, formerly a convict, but now a trader concerned with a Simeon Lord, and a bad character; also, Francis Williams and Richard Rawlinson who were left here by the Lucy Privateer, and I ordered out of the Colony. These men, I apprehend will apply to become Settlers - if they do, I beg leave to request they may not be allowed the indulgence., I have etc. Wm Bligh.

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Colonial Secretary Index.

UNDERWOOD, James. “Per “Admiral Barrington”, 1791
Ship builder and merchant of George Street, Sydney, who was involved in partnerships with Henry Kable (to 1809), Simeon Lord (1805-8) and Samuel Chace; in 1823 he established a distillery with Robert Cooper and F E Forbes.

1802 Apr 10
Particulars of arms in possession of (Reel 6041; 4/1719 p.86)
1804 May 1
On list of all grants and leases of town allotments registered in the Colonial Secretary’s Office (Fiche 3268; 9/2731 p.204)
1809 Jun 17
With Henry Kable respondent in action against Simeon Lord, and with Lord and Kable appellant in action against Harris and McLarran; appeals from decisions of Court of Civil Jurisdiction to be heard by Governor as Judge of the High Court of Appeal (Reel 6037; SZ993 p.68)
1809 Nov 6
Re payment for supplying provisions to Government (Reel 6001; SZ757 pp.80a-82a)
1810 Jan
Memorials re confirmation of grant and concerning litigation over land with Simeon Lord & Henry Kable (Fiche 3009; 4/1822 No.319)
1810 Jan 29
Lease and grants of Simeon Lord in Underwood’s possession as security for settlement of late partnership accounts (Fiche 3006; 4/1822 No.195 p.6)
1810 Sep 1
Juror at inquest on John Brown held at Sydney (Reel 6021; 4/1819 pp.51-2)
1810 Sep 24
Letter returning appeal as inadmissible in case against Simeon Lord (Reel 6002; 4/3490D p.1)
1810 Oct 22,24,26
High Court of Appeals re money owed to Simeon Lord (Reel 6042; 4/1724 pp.13, 18, 22-3)
1811 Feb 26
Re wine landed from “Union” at Hobart and shipped on board his brother’s ship without his knowledge (Reel 6043; 4/1726 pp.50-1). Reply, 27 Feb (Reel 6002; 4/3490D p.127)
1811 May 15,16
Memorial read in High Court of Appeals (Reel 6042; 4/1724 pp.36, 45)
1811 Aug 21
Joint owner of “King George”. Bond to Naval Officer (Fiche 3283; X702 pp.51-3)
1811 Aug 21,23,24
High Court of Appeals re money owed to John Harris and Charles McLaren (Reel 6042; 4/1724 pp.48-9, 53, 57)
1812 Apr-1816 May
Correspondence, accounts & receipts re rent due to Underwood for house in George Street occupied by J T Campbell (Reel 6043, 4/1727 pp.113-8 & 4/1728 pp.23, 255-6; Reel 6002, 4/3491 p.387; Reel 6044, 4/1730 pp.97-8; Reel 6046, 4/1736 pp.75-6). Replies, 21 and 23 Apr 1812 (Reel 6002; 4/3491 pp.233, 236)
1812 Aug 6
Juror at inquest on John Cronnelly held at Sydney (Reel 6021; 4/1819 pp.130-1)
1812 Aug 26
Juror at inquest on John Culverson held at Sydney (Reel 6021; 4/1819 p.135)
1812 Sep 7
Requesting certified copy of original lease of his premises in George Street; to be indulged with grant of same (Reel 6043; 4/1727 pp.282-3)
1812 Sep 18
Foreman of jury at inquest on Jeremiah Long held at Sydney (Reel 6021; 4/1819 p.393)
1812 Nov 23
Foreman of jury at inquest on Sarah Broadhurst held at Sydney (Reel 6021; 4/1819 p.37)
1813 Aug 7
On list of persons holding licences for sale of wine & spirituous liquors (Reel 6038; SZ758 pp.405-7)
1813 Nov 15
Re repairs requested to house occupied by Campbell (Reel 6002; 4/3491 p.603)
1814 Sep 5, Oct 6
Re nomination of James & Joseph Underwood as sureties for Leonard Fosbrook, Deputy Commissary General, Hobart (Reel 6004; 4/3493 pp.288, 330)
1814 Sep 12,14,16
Memorial read in High Court of Appeals, re case of money owed to George Crossley (Reel 6042; 4/1724 pp.138-9, 142-3, 150-1)
1815 Aug 5; 1816 Nov 1
Paid from the Police Fund for rent of house and office for the Secretary, John Thomas Campbell (Reel 6038; SZ759 pp.120, 271)
1816 Mar 25
Agent for Joseph Underwood. Seeking permission for seamen William Dyer & James Yates, discharged from “Mary Ann”, to be entered on “Elizabeth and Mary” (Reel 6046; 4/1736 pp.66-7)
1816 Mar 27
John Thomas Campbell informing Underwood that house rented from him would not be required after 8 May (Reel 6004; 4/3494 p.416)
1816 Dec 3,5,6
Re receipt of and payment for jolly boat built by Underwood for use at Port Dalrymple (Reel 6045, 4/1734 pp.78-9; Reel 6005, 4/3495 p.341)
1817 Feb 8
Paid from the Police Fund for jolly boat for use of Government at Port Dalrymple (Reel 6038; SZ759 p.313)
1818 Feb 14-1819 Feb 20
Paid from the Police Fund for rent of house occupied by Justice Field (Reel 6038, SZ759 pp.438, 473, 525 & SZ1044 p.9)
1818 Nov 23
Receipt for rent of house occupied by Judge Field (Fiche 3303; 5/3821.2 pp.4-5)
1819 Mar 3
Petition to Governor’s Court for sequestration order against William Gore (Reel 6020; 2/8130 pp.107-12)
1822
Certifying that Israel Chapman apprehended persons who burgled his house (Fiche 3219; 4/1865 p.125a)
1822 Jan 7
Paid from the Colonial Fund for oil supplied the watchhouses (Reel 6039; 4/424 p.81)
1822 Mar 9
Recommended petition of Henry McKean, William Tyson and other convicts at the Prisoners’ Barracks for permission to perform a play (Reel 6052; 4/1752 p.31a)
1822 Jul 22, Sep 12
On list of persons receiving an assigned convict (Fiche 3290, 4/4570D p.53; Fiche 3291, 4/4570D p.95)
1822 Sep 17
Re changing boundaries of farm in Petersham district (Reel 6055; 4/1761 p.176)
1822 Sep 25
Re proposed exchange of land with Revd Cowper (Reel 6009; 4/3506 p.302)
1823
Master of runaway J Williamson (Reel 6059; 4/1773 p.161a)
1823 Mar 31-Sep 30
On lists of persons to whom convict mechanics have been assigned (Fiche 3296; X53 pp.67, 81)
1823 Oct 31
Shareholder in the Bank of New South Wales (Reel 6040; SZ1049 p.2)
1824 Feb 4
List of spirits from the distillery and delivered at Underwood’s stores and at the Bonded stores from 31 Jan to 4 Feb 1825 (Reel 6060; 4/1775 p.120)
1824 Feb 5
List of spirits sent from his distillery and delivered at Bonded Stores and at James Underwood’s stores, from 22 Oct 1824 to 5 Feb 1825 (Reel 6060; 4/1775 p.119)
1824 Mar 29
James Norton informing that the still at Rushcutters Bay was completed & requesting licence for Robert Cooper & Underwood (Reel 6059; 4/1774 p.32). Reply, 31 Mar (Reel 6012; 4/3510 p.611)
1824 c.Apr, Oct 8
On lists of defaulters in payment for assigned convict mechanics (Reel 6061, 4/1778 p.265i; Fiche 3293, 5/3821.1 p.6)
1824 Apr 29
Re his servant William Coy being granted a ticket of leave (Reel 6013; 4/3511 p.26)
1824 May 4
Testimony by Magnus Johnson, Master of the “Guildford”, that he had on board the grain required to be exported by James Underwood (Reel 6060; 4/1775 p.116)
1824 Jun 22
Setting out the circumstances under which the sale right and title to the Sydney Distillery became vested in him, & the dispute now arisen (Reel 6059; 4/1774 pp.81-3). Reply, 6 Jul (Reel 6013; 4/3511 p.621)
1824 c.Jul
On account of rents received for assigned convict tradesmen for the three quarters ending 30 Jun 1824 (Reel 6061; 4/1779 p.173f)
1824 Jul 8
Description of the sundries at the Sydney Distillery; certified by the Deputy Surveyor of Distilleries, J S Harrisson (Reel 6060; 4/1775 p.113)
1824 Jul 10
Re amount of grain he must export to allow him to continue distillation from sugar (Reel 6060; 4/1775 p.108)
1824 Jul 10
Requesting licence to commence distilling from sugar (Reel 6060; 4/1775 p.117)
1824 Aug
Specifications of the water system re distillery (Reel 6060; 4/1775 pp.110-111b)
1824 Aug
A page from the Sydney Gazette, dated 10 Feb 1821, containing the “Regulations to be observed in the use of distilleries in New South Wales and its dependencies” (Reel 6060; 4/1775 p.112)
1824 Aug n.d., 11,12
Seeking a license to distill from sugar so long as the price of grain was high (Reel 6060; 4/1775 p.109); Goulburn to Brisbane re license application (Reel 6013; 4/3512 p.176)
1824 Aug 6
Re bond to John Piper. If the wheat on board the “Guildford”, for export as per Government regulation, be duly exported & landed at its intended port, this obligation would be null & void (Reel 6060; 4/1775 p.118)
1824 Aug 10
Copy of Memorandum detailing procedures for obtaining a distiller’s license (Reel 6017; 4/5782 pp.88-91)
1824 Aug 19
Description of the Sydney Distillery (Reel 6060, 4/1775 p.114; Reel 6017, 4/5782 pp.98-101 [second copy])
1824 Aug 25
Granted a distiller’s license (Reel 6017; 4/5782 pp.107-8)
1824 Sep
The price of grain precluded him from distilling from grain; seeking permission to continue to distil from sugar (Reel 6060; 4/1775 pp.115-115b). Reply, 11 Sep (Reel 6013; 4/3512 p.360)
1824 Oct-1825 Apr
Copy of account of spirits distilled and duty paid (Reel 6017; 4/5782 pp.331-3)
1824 Oct 4
Goulburn to Brisbane re instruction for the Excise Surveyor following commencement of Underwood’s distillery (Reel 6013; 4/3512 p.508)
1825 May 9
Signature in recommendation of Thomas William Middleton’s memorial re retaining the situation of Inspector of Cattle (Reel 6062; 4/1782 p.48c)
1825 Nov 22
Affidavits re marriage to Elizabeth Shirwell (Reel 6028; 2/8305 pp.187-92)

Maureen Withey on 16th September, 2021 wrote:

DIED. On the 19th inst., James Underwood, Esq., of Paddington House, Tulse Hill, Brixton, Surrey, in the 68th year of his age.
Morning Herald, (London) 22 Feb 1844.

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Underwood, James (1771–1844)

by D. R. Hainsworth

James Underwood (1771-1844), shipbuilder, distiller and merchant, was born on 4 September 1771 at Bermondsey, London, son of Thomas Underwood and his wife Mary, née Forster. Although he is traditionally supposed to have come to New South Wales with the First Fleet, he was sentenced to seven years transportation at Maidstone in 1790 and arrived in Sydney in the Admiral Barrington in October 1791. He learned the trade of boatbuilder, probably briefly under Stephen Todd, formerly a carpenter in the Barwell, who was engaged to build a 34-ton sloop for the Hawkesbury River trade in 1797; he built the Diana in 1798-99 which later became the property of Underwood and his partner Henry Kable.

The obscurity veiling Underwood’s early career lifts in 1800. In that year he was in partnership with Kable and a mariner, Samuel Rodman Chace, who was master of Kable & Underwood’s sloop Diana engaged in Bass Strait sealing. The partnership with Kable lasted until 1809. During its course Underwood was primarily concerned with building and maintaining vessels of various sizes employed in sealing, whaling in the Derwent, bringing coal from the Hunter River and an occasional sandalwood venture. In 1805 Simeon Lord joined the partnership. Underwood’s boatbuilding activities were the most remarkable of a number of diverse achievements. It is uncertain when he constructed his first, but in June 1801 an official surveying expedition at the mouth of the Hunter River discovered the sole survivor of a crew of three from an Underwood vessel which had been wrecked well to the north. He built a number of craft for others for ‘burthen or pleasure’, and for his own firm before 1805 he had constructed the sloops Contest and Diana, the schooner Endeavour, a 75-ton brig the Governor King, and finally the ship-rigged King George of near 200 tons, which played a substantial and varied part in Sydney entrepreneurial activity for many years. These vessels, all launched from his yard at the mouth of the Tank Stream, cost £11,400. From 1805 to 1809 Underwood’s yard seems to have been principally engaged in a long succession of refits for the firm’s vessels, including the Sydney Cove, Santa Anna and Commerce which they bought with varying degrees of legality, and others like the Aurora and Honduras Packet which they chartered. In a set of Underwood accounts the volume of work done during these years was valued at almost £26,000, an itemized but possibly inflated figure.

Underwood played a considerable part in the early New South Wales sealing industry. In the 1803-04 season the partners had more than sixty men employed in the trade and gathered not less than 30,000 skins. After 1805 the volume greatly increased as, through Lord, the partners had a secure market in London. Between 1806 and 1809 their London agents sold 127,040 skins, sent in four consignments, for more than £27,000; these were by no means all the skins they exported in this period and they sold a considerable quantity of oil as well. In 1807 Underwood owned a third of the Sydney Cove which the partners chartered to the government for a voyage to Sydney with convicts. Underwood sailed for England in her in October, buying out Lord’s share on his arrival in London in May 1808. He returned in April 1809 on the ship’s second voyage with a very valuable investment, and soon afterwards severed his connexion with Kable. Lawsuits between the partners were not settled until 1819.

Underwood’s only connexion with sealing after his return to New South Wales appears to have been as agent for his brother Joseph. In June 1812 James opened the St George Coffee Lounge at which the principal beverages sold seem to have been spirituous, and he certainly held a spirit licence in 1813. In October of that year he took part in the formation of the Commercial Society of Sydney, a currency-issuing venture which the governor quickly dissolved. In June 1819 he ceased to be his brother’s agent, as he was about to depart for England in the Surry, though it is not certain that he went. In 1821 he was described to Commissioner John Thomas Bigge as one of the few merchants engaged in importing from Europe and India. In the same year he was appointed a member of the Standing Committee of the Emancipated Colonists of New South Wales.

In 1823 he formed a partnership with Robert Cooper and F. E. Forbes to build and operate the Sydney distillery between Old South Head Road and Rushcutters Bay. He bought Forbes’s share in 1824 for £6200 and soon afterwards bought out Cooper, with whom he had quarrelled, for a further £1600. These disputes held up operations, much to the farmers’ displeasure, but by July 1824 the works, which included eight vats and a large granary, were ready for business; in October the governor was presented with a sample, and six bay horses drew a 300-gallon (1364 litres) cask triumphantly to Underwood’s house for a celebratory party for his ‘mechanics’. The house, built by 1804, was a distinctive two-storey, flat-roofed, brick and stone residence next to the Orphan School, and seems to have been for many years among the three or four finest in Sydney, and much more ambitious than the early Government House.

Underwood’s remaining years in New South Wales appear to have been prosperous. Unlike his brother and Simeon Lord he does not appear to have invested widely in farm land and he possessed only 100 acres (40 ha) in 1828; his town property may have been substantial, however, and in April 1826 the Bank of Australia opened for business in part of his George Street premises. In March 1840 he retired to England where he died at his home, Paddington House, Tulse Hill, Brixton, Surrey, on 10 February 1844.

Between 1802 and 1807 he had three children, Charlotte, Thomas and James, by Phyllis Pounds, and a daughter Sarah by Letitia Reynolds in 1810. He married Mary Ann Powell in 1812 and by her had Joseph, Edward, Mary and Richard. Two other children born in 1822 and 1824 died in infancy and his wife died in February 1825. In November Underwood married Elizabeth Sherwell, who bore him a son William.

D. R. Hainsworth, ‘Underwood, James (1771–1844)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/underwood-james-2751/text3895, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 17 September 2021.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (Melbourne University Press), 1967

Convict Changes History

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

date of birth: 4th September, 1771 (prev. 0000), date of death: 10th February, 1844 (prev. 0000), gender: m

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