Chapman, Noel and Rebecca

Full name:

Chapman, Noel and Rebecca

Dates recorded for being in Berrima:


Occupation if known and land ownership:

Chief Constable


Ex-Convict and wife born in colony

Noel Chapman was Berrima’s chief constable, appointed on 1 January 1840 to take over from William Chater (Jnr). The Berrima Police Establishment Ledger for September 1841 lists him as being on a monthly salary of £6.5.0.[1] In 1841 he and his family were living in a stone/brick cottage alongside the Market Place.[2]

He was also appointed Inspector of Slaughter Houses and Cattle in the District and in 1844 Inspector of Distilleries for that District. [3]

An account of Noel’s life is included in These Are the Names: Jewish Lives in Australia, 1788-1850 by John Levi.[4] Because of this, it is natural to consider him Jewish but no confirmation of this has been found and his convict ident has him listed as a Protestant. Confusion is possibly caused by him being the younger brother of Israel (Izzy) Chapman who had been in the colony since 1818 and was of the Jewish faith.

Noel Chapman arrived in the colony in 1826 on the Speke transported for seven years on a charge of larceny. His records show he was born in Chelsea in 1809, worked as a groom (coachboy), was 5′ 1” tall (155 cm), sturdy, with brown hair and eyes. He received his certificate of freedom in 1832 while living at Windsor.[5]

A search of the newspapers of the time reveals many mentions of Noel from when he was appointed a constable in Windsor, while still holding a ticket of leave in 1829, to when he died in 1850 in Yass.

In 1831 he married Rebecca Armfield in Windsor Anglican church. She was four years younger than him and a member of a quite extensive Windsor family, several members of which later moved to Berrima. Rebecca’s mother was Isabella Ruse, granddaughter of James Ruse. [6] The NSW Birth, Marriages and Deaths database lists the birth of two sons, to Noel and Rebecca, Benjamin (1832-1917) and Henry Edward (1834-1917).

The press contains several accounts of Chapman’s work, particularly while stationed in Berrima including one when he, another constable and mounted police followed a gang of thieves from the Berrima district to Windsor, 200 miles away, and secured their capture and the return of the goods a correspondent praised their endeavours and wrote:

If the other chief constables of the colony were half so active as Mr. Chapman, has proved himself in this instance, robberies in the interior, would be almost wholly unheard of.[7]

They were also ‘liberally rewarded by the government’.

A report in The Australian of 22 April ???? suggests he was well thought of, the writer saying that;

In consequence of the small salary received by the Chief Constable, the inhabitants have resolved, in token of their approbation of the manner in which he fulfils the duties of the office, to raise, by subscription, an annual sum equal to the amount received by his from Government. Subscription lists have been opened for this purpose, and, we are pleased to add, the names appended thereto are a sufficient guarantee that the proposed object will be carried into effect.

Searching for Chapman on the digitised newspapers available through Trove, reveals many gruesome and hilarious stories of crime during these early years but I particularly like the lost property list left taken from the NSW Government Gazette of July 26 1844.


In 1849 when Noel was transferred to Yass, he received a long service medal for his commitment to the constabulary and good words from a correspondent:

Mr. Chapman has for many years been resident in Berrima, and from the indefatigable manner he discharged his duties, obtained the respect his meritorious conduct was deserving of from the surrounding inhabitants. It is to be hoped he will be equally useful in the Yass district, and from the reception he has met with this morning, there is little doubt but he will prove a valuable and serviceable acquisition to our little community here.[8]

Though the Yass media also reports on his activities, Chapman died the following year.[9],[10]

A somewhat bizarre media article reports his death under the heading ‘Awful Mortality at Yass’:

Besides Mr. Noel Chapman, who died on the 30th ultimo [January 1850], and Mr. Mathew Morrison, who expired on the 1st inst., death has been busy amongst the inhabitants of this little village. A youth named John Petty, son of a settler on the Yass River, was thrown from his horse on the 30th, and died from the injuries on the following day. On the day after this occurrence a man named George Clark, on his road to the Goulburn Hospital, died at the Gap. On the same day Elisabeth Carter, a child of three years of age, was burnt to death. On Thursday a man dropped down dead, we have not heard his name. So great a mortality in so short a time in so small a community is almost without parallel, considering that none of the deaths were caused by an epidemic.[11]

Rebecca died in 1881 probably in Yass as that is where their sons both died in 1917.

[1] BDH&FHS records Berrima Police Establishment Ledger: Sept 1841

[2] 1841 census

[3] Returns of the Colony 1840 and Sydney Monitor and Commercial Advertiser, 5 October 1840

[4] Levi, John. These Are the Names: Jewish Lives in Australia, 1788-1850. Melbourne University Press 2006, p. 1873

[5] Certificate of Freedom 32/1092 dated 21 December 1832

[6] See also Lewis Levy and Ann Armfield, Rebecca’s sister. The family of Rebecca and Ann Armfield were to move from Windsor to Berrima with all but one of the nine children recording as being in Berrima at their death.

[7] Australian, 11 October 1844

[8] Goulburn Herald and County of Argyle Advertiser, 17 March 1849

[9] Sydney Morning Herald, 10 March 1849

[10] Sydney Morning Herald, 8 February 1850

[11] Goulburn Herald, Sunday, 6 January 1850