Bloodsworth’s transport, the Charlotte, part of the First Fleet, at Portsmouth (England) prior to departure to the colony in May 1787. Marine Artist Frank Allen.
James Bloodsworth was a convict, sent to Australia in 1788. He was sentenced for the theft of just one game cock and two hens at Esher, Surrey, UK. But James proved to be one of the European settlement’s best assets - a master bricklayer and builder, ultimately responsible for the construction of most of the colony's buildings between 1788 and 1800.
So, this Australia Day apprentices and bricklayers can take pride in this bricklaying heritage of a ‘can-do’ tradesman of 225 years ago, who used his initiative and leadership under the most extreme conditions to play an important part in building the early European settlement of Australia.
Bloodsworth (died 1804), master bricklayer and builder, was living at Kingston-on-Thames, England, in 1785 when he was sentenced to seven years transportation. In 1788 he was sent to Australia in the First Fleet in the Charlotte and was immediately appointed master bricklayer in the settlement at Sydney Cove. Since there were no architects in the fleet he was largely responsible for the design and the erection of Australia's first buildings, although some of the army and navy officers in the settlement had some knowledge of architecture.
Besides designing many private houses, Bloodsworth can be credited with the first Government House, which lasted from 1788 to 1845 and in 1790 the storehouse at King's Wharf on the shore of Sydney Cove. Governor Arthur Phillip praised 'the pains he had taken to teach others the business of a bricklayer', and his conduct was exemplary at a time when most convicts were noted for indolence or rebelliousness.
Bloodsworth worked under difficulties; although there were competent bricklayers among the convicts, they had no proper mortar to bind the bricks together. For the walls of Government House some lime mortar was obtained by burning shells, but elsewhere mud-mortar had to be used. This was far from satisfactory, but by adapting his construction methods to these crude conditions he produced serviceable buildings, good looking buildings within the long-established rules of Georgian architecture.
Lots more on the very interesting life of this important early Australian can be found Here.
General Manager, ABBTF
Australia Day marks the first European settlement in Australia with the arrival of The First Fleet on 26 January 1788. Aboard the flotilla was just one bricklayer amongst 700 convicts: James Bloodsworth. The ships also carried provisions of just 5,000 bricks and 12 wooden moulds for making bricks in the new Colony.
“Picture sourced from the State Library of New South Wales.”
James Bloodsworth started brick making for the Colony in March 1788 at Cockle Bay, near Darling Harbour, where he located good quantities of clay. Finding a good source of limestone for the making of mortar proved more difficult and for the first Government House the lime was made from oyster shells. Some of these bricks still exist (at Sydney’s Mitchell Library) from that first building demolished 57 years later. He was outstanding in his training of teams of convicts in the art of brick making, bricklaying and building and was responsible for building all of the early buildings of importance in Sydney.
The oldest existing building in Australia is Elizabeth Farm at Parramatta, home of John and Elizabeth Macarthur. Completed in 1794, this long, low brick building with a steeply pitched shingled roof is the archetypal Australian farmhouse.
James was a London bricklayer with knowledge of brickmaking. He is reported to have been convicted of forgery. He had completed three years of a seven year sentence before his journey on The First Fleet.
In recognition of his efforts and contribution towards establishing a settlement in Sydney, James was pardoned and given 50 acres of land. Previously he was variously offered a return passage to England and offered senior roles in Port Phillip and Derwent but he loved Sydney and remained there til his death in 1804 from pneumonia. When he died at 45 years, he was given the equivalent of a State funeral with military honours and records show he was a highly respected person of the Colony, despite his status on arrival and his relatively short life in the Colonies - 16 years. Interestingly, the Sydney Gazette, reporting his death at the time chose only to state of his English background that he ‘came to the Colony among its first inhabitants in 1788’. Quite a success story! Check out some more recent successes HERE.
General Manager, ABBTF