Celebrating the life of Bricklayer James Bloodsworth on Australia Day 2013


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.

Geoff Noble,

General Manager, ABBTF

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