Australia’s First Bricklayer – James Bloodsworth – A Real Success Story


“Picture sourced from the State Library of New South Wales.”

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.

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.

Geoff Noble
General Manager, ABBTF




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