Gough, James and Mary

Full name:

Gough, James and Mary

Dates recorded for being in Berrima:


Occupation if known and land ownership:

Contractor for building gaol



A full and excellent account of James Gough’s life is given in Marion Starr’s book, beginning with his life as an apprentice carpenter and joiner in London where the theft of a gun and a tea caddy saw him sentenced first to death and then to transportation for life.[1] He arrived in Sydney on the Earl Spencer in 1813 and was employed in the government lumber yard where he became an overseer.

By 1834 Gough was a well-respected and experienced builder in the colony and had constructed several sizable buildings in the Windsor area and in Sydney: Gough, along with another ex-convict, John Richards, successfully tendered for the construction of Berrima gaol in July 1834. Richards had worked for William Cox in the Windsor District. Richards had recently sold his coaching business, run jointly with John Ireland.

When Governor Bourke decided to shift the site for the gaol, new site fell by 18 feet on one side, and the government agent, William Buchanan, directed the contractors to provide thicker foundations at that part of the enclosing wall. Richards and Gough agreed to this work, assuming they would receive additional payment. When in July 1835 they requested to be paid for 75% of the work done, as agreed in their contract, Buchanan calculated that the over-run to his original estimates amounted to £546 and refused to issue certificate for payment.

Their contract was formally terminated in July 1836. (The pair may also have had some difficulties with the tradesmen they employed.) Regrettably when Richards tried to revive the gaol contract he laid some of the blame for the previous failure on James Gough who he said had supplied quotes which favoured the government.

Gough and his family remained in the district, taking over the management of a property owned by a relative of his wife, William Sherwin, before acquiring their own land. Unfortunately, in 1841 Goulgh became entangled in the misdeeds of his 18 year-old son, John, and both were sentenced to ten year’s imprisonment in Tasmania for stealing and killing a cow. The son was transported but for some reason, after spending several months of hard labour on Cockatoo island, Gough was pardoned. The episode is one of several setbacks in Gough’s life but his biographer, Marion Starr, does end it on a happier note when in he inherited a sizeable sum of money from a distant relative in England, securing the future of his family.

[1] Marion Starr. James Gough: a very industrious man. 2013