Chapman, Israel (Izzy)

Full name:

Chapman, Israel (Izzy)

Dates recorded for being in Berrima:


Occupation if known and land ownership:

Brother of Noel Chapman (Chief Constable)



The only evidence for Israel (Izzy) Chapman being in Berrima during the time of this study is the family’s entry in the 1841 Census. In addition to three children, the Chapman household included three adults, two males and one female (their assigned convict, Eliza Fitzgerald, was not listed) of whom one was born in the colony and two were ex-convicts. One was Jewish. This could have been either Noel or Izzy, and while Izzy has been identified as of this faith by the Jewish community, Noel was identified as Protestant on his convict ident. Noel’s wife Rebecca was a Protestant.

Izzy is more well-known than his younger brother and arrived in Australia some eight years previous. Quoting from Hazel King’s article on the web.[1]

Israel Chapman (1794?-1868), convict and policeman, was born in Chelsea, London. He followed the occupation of coachman. At the Middlesex gaol delivery on 14 January 1818 he was found guilty of highway robbery and sentenced to transportation for life. Next May he was sent to New South Wales in the Glory. Soon after arrival in Sydney he was appointed principal overseer in the prisoners’ barracks, an office which he held for eighteen months. He was next appointed constable and principal overseer in the lumber yard, where in the course of duty he captured a number of burglars and bushrangers. On 28 November 1820 in St Philip’s Church, Sydney, he married Catharine Martin, a convict.[2]

On 28 November 1821 he was granted a conditional pardon in reward for his services as lumber yard constable and entered the Sydney police. He was very active in this force, was wounded several times in the course of his duties and received a number of rewards for capturing bushrangers. On 8 February 1827 Governor (Sir) Ralph Darling recommended to the Colonial Office that, as further reward for his services, Chapman be granted an absolute pardon, and this was granted in July. Meanwhile Chapman had been appointed to the newly-created post of police runner at a salary of £100. Like the Bow Street Runners, he was primarily a detective, and his duties took him to distant parts of the colony. He was popularly known as the ‘George Street Runner’, because he was attached to the George Street police office in Sydney.

In February 1829, within a month of his wife, Catherine, dying, he set sail for London. When, two years later, he applied for free passage back to Australia, his application was warmly supported by Darling, the former governor. Chapman returned to Sydney and in March 1833 was appointed one of the six wardsmen in the police force at a salary of £73. In that same year he married Mary Slater. But this time round he was less successful in his career and in his marriage – he was bound over to keep the peace for thrashing his wife.[3] When he retired in 1840 it was without a pension. At this time he is thought to have gone to live with his brother.

Noel eventually found his brother a job as in The Scrutineer and Berrima District Press of 1 April 1902, under the heading Reminiscences by ‘Old Tom’, a description of the barracks and Izzy appear:

[after 1842 and the departure of the military] …..the old barracks were turned into a lock-up and police were stationed there. I well remember when Izzie Chapman was lock-up keeper — a crusty old cuss, nothing but grunt. God help the unfortunate drunk that was noisy and kept Izzie awake. He was sure to appear before the ‘beak’ next morning with a good poultice.

It is possible Izzy went with Noel to Yass. But when Noel died in 1849 Izzy was in Sydney, taking a number of lowly jobs until ultimately he returned to a life of crime, robbing an ‘aged shoemaker’ of £7 and two pairs of boots for which he was sentenced to seven months hard labour in Darlinghurst Prison. The rest of his life was spent in poverty and he died at the Liverpool Asylum on 4 July 1868, aged 74, and was buried in the Jewish section of the cemetery at Haslem’s Creek (Rookwood).

[1] Accessed 2018

[2] Catherine, too, was not Jewish

[3] Levi, J S and Bergman, G F J. Australian Genesis: Jewish Convicts and Settlers 1788-1850. Rigby Ltd, 1984