I was very excited to find my family linked with life in Tamworth almost from the beginning of its history. Below is the story of my 3 x great grandfather James.
James Bailey was the second child born to Robert Bailey and Mary nee: Watts at Great Casterton, England in 1808 and was baptised in Great Casterton with Pickworth, Northamptonshire on 15 Oct 1808 . He grew up with his older brother Robert, younger brothers Peter and William and a sister named Frances.
Not a lot is known about James’ early life with his family, but presumably as a young man he was apprenticed to a butcher, as that was his calling throughout his life. During 1830/31 he met and fell in love with Ann Knight and they were married in Great Casterton, Rutland, England on 17 Jul 1831 .
Initially it would seem that children did not come easily to them, as the first record of a child born to them is not until my 2 x great Grandfather Edward James Bailey was born on 12 Jan 1834, although it is entirely possible that Ann had conceived and lost children in that time period.
In October 1835 James and Mary had a son, Alfred, who died the following month, and then on 8 Jan 1837 they were blessed with another son who they named John Thomas. Life for the young family continued with hard work until the 2 Dec of 1837 when James was arrested for stealing a sheep. He was found guilty but appealed the decision. The Leicester Chronicle reported on Saturday 6 Jan 1838 that James had lost his appeal even though James “was a respectable butcher and that the evidence had been purely circumstantial, with no direct evidence to implicate him”.
Unfortunately for James he was sentence to be transported for 7 years. He may have spent time on a prison hulk until he was embarked on the Earl Grey on 18 Jul 1838 Woolwich . There was a hold up of a few days due to bad weather before the Earl Grey finally departed Portsmouth on 8 Aug 1838 leaving Ann and the children behind.
James arrived in Port Jackson on 21 Nov 1838 after a voyage of 105 days, but the prisoners were not disembarked until the following Tuesday, 27 Nov 1838. At the time of writing I have been unable to find records of where James was sent or to whom he was assigned, however he was granted a Ticket of Leave six years later on 11 Dec 1844 which said that he had to stay in the Scone area of New South Wales . (Scone is approximately 130 kilometres from Tamworth). It was around this time that James’ wife Ann arrived in New South Wales as an unassisted immigrant with her two sons, although only one son is listed as travelling with her. After being left in England in 1838 Ann must have sold whatever she could to raise funds to make the trip and join her husband in Australia.
On 24 Mar 1848 James was granted a Conditional Pardon which allowed him to roam freely, the only restriction being that he could not return to England. James, Ann and their two boys Edward and John moved to Tamworth almost immediately. Tamworth at that time was largely a “company town” run by the Australian Agricultural Company.
James must have found work, possibly as a butcher, and tried diligently to save money. Just 2 years later the Government Gazette advertised the first free-hold sale of allotments in Peel Street, Tamworth and this land was auctioned by Roderick Mitchell on 31 Jul 1850. On that day James bought the site of the present day 277-283 Peel Street and built a family home and butcher shop, said to be the first buildings on the block in the main street of Tamworth. At the time it was noted that James Bailey, butcher, and his wife Ann had come to Tamworth from England 2 years previously, so it would appear that no-one knew of his convict past.
James built his home and business with the help of his sons Edward and John Thomas when the population of Tamworth was just 250 people and there was no bridge of any kind over the Peel River.
On 27 May 1851 in Tamworth James and Ann welcomed the birth of a daughter, Agnes Letta, the only one of their four children to be born in Australia .
The Peel River flooded a number of times during James’ lifetime. There are recorded floods in 1852, 1853 and 1857 . The flood of 1852 saw 300 men stranded at the West Tamworth Railway Station. When food supplies ran low someone felled a large tree to cross the river to purchase supplies. After the flood in 1853 there was a foot bridge in place, however it was washed away in the flood of 1857, which saw 2 feet of water through the buildings in Peel Street – including James’ butchery and home. There would be no permanent bridge structure for some years to come. After the devastation of the 1857 flood a suspension bridge was built across the Peel River, being the first of its kind to be built in the colony .
As James’ sons Edward and John grew they assisted their father in the Butchery. Edward was granted a butchers license in 1859 . In 1862 James’ and Ann’s son Edward James died in Paddington (Sydney), New South Wales.
James continued working until his own death 7 Jun 1866 in Tamworth leaving his wife Ann, one son – John Thomas, and one daughter – Agnes Letta to mourn his loss. He is buried in the Tamworth General Cemetery, Showground Road, Tamworth, New South Wales . John carried on the butchery for a short time.
Ann passed away just over 6 years later on 4 Jan 1873 and is buried with James in the Tamworth General Cemetery, Showground Road, Tamworth, New South Wales .
Northamptonshire, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1532-1812
England, Pallot’s Marriage Index, 1780-1837,
England, Select Marriages, 1538-1973
Leicester Chronicle, 6 Jan 1838
Leicester Court Sessions
Free Settler or Felon – Convict Ship Earl Grey 1838
Chronological History of Tamworth, Lyall Green & Warren Newman, Section A-S, printed 2004 by Edwards Printing Solutions, Tamworth,
Australia, Birth Index, 1788-1922
Australia, Death Index, 1787-1985
Web: International, Find A Grave Index
Headstone of James Bailey sighted and photographed by Julie Preston, 11 Jun 2018