Bugden, Thomas

Full name:

Bugden, Thomas and Sarah

Dates recorded for being in Berrima:


Occupation if known and land ownership:

Sergeant, Mounted Police



Thomas Bugden was a corporal/sergeant in the mounted police. He and three of his fellows were transferred from Bong Bong to Berrima in 1840 and occupied a house in what is now Jellore Street on the northern side of the Market Place. With him was his wife, Sarah Thornburn, who had arrived in the colony as a free person and who Bugden had married at All Saints Sutton Forest in 1839.[1]

The regiment from which he was seconded is not known.

The mounted police operated over a wide area. In 1837 he was involved in the arrest of George Capsay, near Berrima. In the newspaper report he is referred to as Corporal Bugden, stationed at Bong Bong.[2] He was also working closer to Goulburn apprehending the bushranger Hall in 1838 and Gipsey Smith in 1841.[3],

An appearance before the Supreme Court written up in the Sydney Herald of 15 May 1841 refers to him as a resident of Berrima, and states:

Thomas Bugden, Corporal of the Mounted Police, examined – I apprehended the prisoner Capsay about four miles from Cutter’s on the new line of road to Berrima, and five miles from Berrima; I had received information from a gentleman who had seen two men committing a highway robbery; …..

The Sydney Herald article of 15 May 1841, mentioned above, also gives an insight into the role of the mounted police. The correspondent was responding to a suggestion from Major Antill, the Stonequarry (Picton) police magistrate, that the escape of some prisoners Bugden had delivered to Stonequarry was Bugden’s fault. The story starts with the delivery of the prisoners:

Sergeant Bugden and another trooper, and some Berrima constables, escorted seven prisoners, under various sentences, from this [Berrima] prison, on a Tuesday morning, three of them, being very heavily ironed, a cart was hired for their conveyance; the other four walked, fastened to the marching chain, they escorted the prisoners safe to Stonequarry on the Wednesday afternoon, the sergeant having no instructions to proceed further.

The correspondent then goes on to suggest, once delivered in the Stonequarry lock-up, the role of the mounted police ceased and goes on to endorse the good character of Bugden stating:

With respect to Sergeant Thomas Bugden, the inhabitants of this district entertain a very high opinion of him as a policeman: he has been stationed here for a number of years, and has proved himself on various occasions, in the capture of noted bush-rangers and other offenders, to be a young man well worthy of the situation he holds.

In 1842 Governor Gipps inspected Berrima’s newly-erected mounted police barracks. The fenced land for the horse paddock is clearly marked on the map (left) to the north-west of the township but the precise position of the barracks within this area is unknown. In 1849 when the mounted police were withdrawn the building was handed over to the civil police force.[4]

Thomas Bugden died in 1845 in England. An obituary, copied from an English newspaper, in the Sydney Morning Herald of 21 February 1846 reads:

DEATH: On the 26th October last, at Salisbury, England, Mr. Thomas Bugden, late sergeant of the Mounted Police, New South Wales. His conduct and service in that corps was most praiseworthy, and he is much regretted by his old companions.

Alderbury in Wiltshire – Oct/Nov/Dec 1845 [5]

Given that the Mounted Police force in NSW in the early 1840s was relatively small – figures for 1839 are 172 in total and include only 16 sergeants – it is surely unlikely that there were two Thomas Bugdens.[6]

Who were the Mounted Police?

The New South Wales Mounted Police Unit was founded by Governor Thomas Brisbane in 1825 and were recruited from British military regiments stationed in NSW at the time. There was initially some reticence by authorities to establish such a force which, by its nature, was more expensive than the civil police. But it was essential if law and order was to be established in the more remote areas of the colony. The civil police came under the jurisdiction of the local magistrate and were largely ex-convicts. Their resources were limited and on foot they could do little to apprehend convict run-aways, particularly those who took to a life of crime bailing up travelers as they moved between settlements. The mounted police operated mainly in the remoter areas and their role was primarily to capture convict escapees and deal with the problems between indigenous Australians and settlers. Civil and military police were supposed to work together but given the disparities in pay and standing in the community there were frequent disagreements. While seconded from their regiment the mounted police remained subject to military law and after 1837 if their own regiment left the colony they were attached as supernumeries to another.

The headquarters of the mounted police in NSW was Belmore Barracks in Sydney, the site of the present Central Railway Station. There were three country divisions based at Bathurst, Goulburn and Maitland, the Berrima contingent answering to officers based in Goulburn.

The military mounted police were disbanded in 1850 after the British government decided it needed its soldiers elsewhere. Some members of the force rejoined their regiments but the most successful found other positions. They were later replaced by civilian mounted police and the police force in general brought under central control.

[1] NSW Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages V1839387 23B/1839

[2] Australian, 3 February 1837

[3] Sydney Herald, 19 December 1838; Sydney Monitor and Commercial Advertiser, 21 April 1841

[4] Sydney Morning Herald, 7 November 1849

[5] There was another Thomas Bugden in the district who was possibly a relative as he was born in Donhead St Mary, also in Wiltshire, England. This Thomas Bugden came as a free emigrant to the colony to work for James Macarthur first at Camden and then at his property north of Goulburn. He was married to Elizabeth Read who arrived with him.

[6] John O’Sullivan, Mounted Police in NSW. Rigby 1979