Richards, John and Ann

Full name:

Richards, John and Ann (née Hales) and family

Dates recorded for being in Berrima:

1835-38 (dec.) Ann to Goulburn ~1840

Occupation if known and land ownership:

Builder, coach proprietor, storekeeper and landowner


Ex- Convict. Wife Born in Colony

Cottage on Richard’s Lane, Mandemar

John Richards was one of Berrima’s more colourful characters, an opportunist willing to turn his hand to any business that would make money. His partner, Ann Hollis (neé Pales), was of similar ilk.

They arrived in Berrima in 1835, John contracted with James Gough to build the gaol. For the next three years the couple were to play a significant role in Berrima’s development, a role that was to be cut short by John’s death in October 1838, aged 48. Ann, after keeping the Berrima businesses going for two years, remarried and relocated to Goulburn in 1840.

John was a clerk from Coventry but at the time of his misdemeanor was in London. His crime, that of fraud, is described in the online records of the Old Bailey. He was sentenced in 1815 to seven years for fraud and arrived in Hobart on the Mariner in 1816.[i], Once in Sydney he stole a government launch, the Lord Eldon, and sailed to Hobart. He was captured and assigned to a gaol gang to await passage back to Sydney but before this could happen he stole another boat. Captured again he was received 100 lashes. Eventually dispatched on the Lady Nelson to the penal colony in Newcastle, he and his co-accused are described in the ident as ‘pirates from Van Diemen’s Land’ with the authorities there instructed that they should be ‘wrought in double irons’. [ii]

Back in Sydney in 1820 he re-offended indicted with ‘burglariously breaking and entering the quarters of Lieutenant Macquarie [the governor’s nephew], and stealing therefrom wearing apparel and other articles’.[iii] Two of his co-accused were sentenced to death: he and a fourth man were found guilty of receiving stolen goods and sentenced to transportation for fourteen years. He found himself back in Newcastle and when he was due to be transported to Port Macquarie for the remainder of his sentence, he attempted an escape.[iv]

He was clearly a man who did not take easily to the convict lifestyle.

But he appears to have got off lightly as in 1822 he appears in the General Muster as assigned to William Cox (of Clarendon near Windsor).[v] From this point there seem to be no record of any further misdeeds and the 1828 Census has his occupation as ‘joiner’ a craft one step up from a carpenter and possibly a valuable servant to William Cox who was responsible for building several houses in the Windsor area.[vi]

The Currency Lad – A New Post Coach from Windsor to Sydney Direct

Richards met his future wife, Ann, while at Windsor. Ann Pales was born to convict parents Edward and Mary Pales in 1798 (see also Martin Mary, Ann’s mother) and in the 1822 Census is recorded as a servant to baker, John William Hollis. She was, however more than a servant and had already borne Hollis one son and possibly a daughter by the time they married in 1824. Two more sons followed before Hollis died in 1826 and Ann inherited his land. At the time of the 1828 Census she is at the White Hart Inn, a property built and owned by William Cox, on the Windsor to Parramatta road and from a newspaper report clearly associating with John Richards. The report states that the inn ‘on the Windsor road is licensed in the name of Ann Hollis or Ann Richards – we know not which’.[vii] Though Ann may have been known as Mrs Richards the couple did not marry until 1838, just before John died.

By 1831 the couple had moved to Sydney where John was advertising his new coach service The Currency Lad, operating between Sydney and Windsor. He says he ‘will always be found “At Home” on the arrival of the Coach at the Talbot Inn’.[viii]

At the time John was in business with John Ireland providing a twice daily service between Sydney and Parramatta with their King William lV and Queen Adelaide coaches. Horses were changed at what was referred to as John Ireland’s place, at the junction of the Parramatta and Liverpool.

At the time of the advertisement (right) Richards, still a convict, could not bid for carrying the government mail but he could help manage the business and, as it says in the advertisement, act as ‘General Agent’ presumably receiving a commission for the tasks he undertook.

Freedom came in March 1834, 19 years after he had arrived to serve a seven-year sentence. Richards wrote to the Colonial Secretary (Alexander Macleay) thanking him for the remission of his sentence ‘for which I felt myself principally indebted to your trouble and kind interference…..’[ix]

Now free he applied for and obtained the contract for carrying the mail on the new route between Campbelltown and Bong Bong: his business associate, John Ireland, had the contract between Sydney and Campbelltown.

Coaches establishment, Messrs Ireland & Richards

It is here we get a better picture of the man and his possible flamboyance. In a wonderful description of a ride between Campbelltown and Bong Bong a writer for the English New Sporting Magazine refers to him as the ‘fat proprietor’ and describes his vehicle, which drew a crowd of onlookers as it left the inn yard, as being:

a new two-wheeled black and red double bodied curricle mail cart, as light as a hoop, and bearing on it in most conspicuous letters, Bong Bong, Royal Mail, with a pair of very handsome switch-tail well-bred horses, a bay and a roan, about fourteen hands, and the harness polished as bright as the sun.[x]

At the end of the tale, as the mail cart arrives at Bong Bong the writer states that Richards had only been to their destination, the Argyle Inn, on one previous occasion. It would seem, however, that he saw sufficient potential in the district for him to give up the life of a coach proprietor and put in a bid to build Berrima’s new gaol.

In 1835 he and James Gough (q.v.), another ex-convict who had been assigned to William Cox and an experienced builder, were awarded the contract to build the gaol.[xi],[xii] It was worth £3,300

In June 1834 Richards and Ireland advertised that their coaching business was for sale, ‘in consequence of being about to enter other pursuits’.[xiii] Its sale gives an indication of the wealth the two men. It included over nine coaches plus curricles and other vehicles, 70-80 horses some of them matching pair, harnesses and, in separate sales, their interest in the Bathurst and Bong Bong Mails with four vehicles and 30 horses and their new coach on the Liverpool run with another ten horses.[xiv]

In 1834 the government’s clerk of works, William Buchanan, reported that Richards and Gough had been found premises in Berrima. Presumably Ann was with him together their four boys, two of their own and two from Ann’s previous marriage.[xv]

Richards, as senior partner in the gaol contract advertised for mechanics – skilled tradespeople to carry out the work and the Sydney Morning Herald reports that two coaches left the Talbot Inn in Sydney en route to Berrima with twenty-one mechanics on board.[xvi]

The gaol contract soon hit problems. Richards and Gough had quoted on constructing the building on the site first selected – a site not now known – but Governor Bourke after his visit in 1834 determined a new site. Unfortunately, it had a greater slope and required additional footings and though an agreement was reached on the extra costs that would be involved when Richards submitted their bill William Buchanan refused payment. What happened, other than that there was no progress made between this time and the final cancellation of the contract in 1836, is unknown. But John Richards didn’t sit around waiting for something to happen. In June 1835 he took over the licence, of the Argyle Inn at Bong Bong from Richard Loseby.[xvii]

When the gaol contract was advertised for the second time, in August 1836, he did request that the governor allow him to submit a bid, suggesting the previous misunderstanding was the fault of Gough.[xviii] There is no evidence he did put in a bid but he did obtain permission in August 1837 to cut cedar on Crown Land to supply to the new gaol contractor.[xix] This was probably very convenient as he had been in this business since his gaol contract folded. He was advertising cedar for sale in June 1836, significantly stating it was available from the Argyle Inn or Berrima.[xx]

He also returned to his old trade of tendering for the mail and running a coach line, again with John Ireland. At first the coaches stopped at his Argyle Inn in Bong Bong but when the route shifted to pass through Berrima, probably in March 1837, his coaches stopped at Berrima’s newly opened Mail Coach Inn owned by Michael Doyle. Advertisements for Richards’ coaches and Doyle’s inn appear side by side in the press.[xxi]

At this point increased traffic obviously warranted an upgrade in vehicle from his 1833/34 curricle and an advertisement in October 1837 announcing that the inhabitants of Bungonia, Bungendore and Manaroo can meet the Sydney coach at Marulen and that he has replaced his two wheeled coaches with ‘commodious four-horse conveyances’.[xxii]

Another advertisement appears in January 1838 suggesting his coaches visited both Bong Bong and Berrima – the fare being £1/10/0 from Sydney – at a time when there remained some overlap in the roles of the two settlements. This advertisement also offers to supply rations to teams passing through these from his ‘Victualling Store’ in Berrima.[xxiii] For this was his new enterprise, a store situated in Berrima township probably located at The Surveyor General Inn.

In all this we have evidence of a man well-suited to the vagaries of the colony’s ever-changing economy managing, with his wife Ann, to have several irons in the fire at one time.

Where John, Ann and the family were living at this time is not known. Though John had requested land in Berrima from the Governor back in 1834 they did not purchase a town allotment, so they were probably renting. In early 1838 he did buy 830 acres of land at Mandemar along what is now known as Richard’s Lane to the west of Berrima and adjoining the Wingecarribee River.[xxiv]

Richards was also buying land along the route of his coaches. In Goulburn one purchase was the site of an inn, close to the crossing of the Wollondilly, a property now known as Riversdale. The other was of a brewery near Goulburn’s Lansdowne Bridge, the first advertisement for which appears on November 10.[xxv]

Only weeks after this second purchase John Richards died, aged around 38.[xxvi]

John Richards’ funeral processions started ‘from Mr. Ireland’s, on the Parramatta Road’ and proceeded to the place of internment [unknown].[xxvii]

Almost immediately after John’s death, Ann made it clear through the press that business would continue as usual. Describing herself as the widow and executrix of the late John Richards, she advertised that the coach run between Sydney and Yass would continue with the usual fares and with ‘accommodation and safety for passengers and parcels attended to’, the brewery at Goulburn was under ’the superintendence of a qualified person’ with quantities of beer available.[xxviii] And adding to our information about the couple’s business she gave her address as the Stores, Berrima.

A correspondent to the Sydney Gazette and NSW Advertiser incorporates a political message into praise for both John and Ann:

We are glad to see Mrs. Richards of Berrima able to keep on the coach-travelling business. Richards, her late husband, was a man of good principles, good disposition, and good manners. He was one of those Emancipists whose conduct has tended to establish the principle, that every encouragement should be held out by equal laws, to enable freed men to hold up their beads, and to regain that footing and respectability in society to which uprightness and moral conduct in every man is entitled.[xxix]

Ann’s name soon replaced John’s on all the land sales documents, their marriage made legal earlier in 1838 possibly an acknowledgement that John’s death, though sudden, was not entirely unexpected.[xxx]

There is a copy of John’s will in the deeds to their Goulburn property, Riversdale. It shows that by 1837 John owned property in Coventry (UK) as well as land at Goulburn, Berrima, Marulan, in George Street Sydney (adjacent to the Talbot Inn) and near the ‘Tanks’ in Sydney (Tank Stream) called Adelaide Place.[xxxi] The six-hundred acres at Mandemar were sold but all the rest of the land and properties Ann placed into a Trust for the four sons, a Trust overseen by John Ireland, her husband’s business partner and Isaac Titterton, the licensee of the Talbot Inn in George Street, Sydney.[xxxii]

Ann married for a third time in 1839 and later, with her new husband Benjamin Gould, moved to Riversdale in Goulburn.[xxxiii] Ann died on October 19th 1860, aged 62 years and is buried with Gould in St Saviour’s Anglican Cemetery in Goulburn.[xxxiv] Ann shares her headstone with Mary Martin, her mother, who had arrived on the Lady Penrhyn with the First Fleet who died June 9 1843, aged 78 years.


[i] SRNSW Convict Records, Certificate of Freedom issued 1834 4/4320; Reel 992 34/211

[ii] SRNSW Col. Sec. Correspondence, Series: NRS 937; Reel or Fiche Numbers: Reels 6004-6016 aboard Elizabeth Henrietta. Also Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office web pages

[iii] Sydney Gazette & NSW Advertiser, 5 August 1820

[iv] SRNSW, Col. Sec. Correspondence, Series: NRS 897; Reel or Fiche Numbers: Reels 6041-6064, 6071-6072

[v] In this and the entries on the 1825 and 1828 Musters his sentence is recorded as 7 years

[vi] His convict ident has his occupation as clerk and cabinet maker

[vii] Sydney Gazette and NSW Advertiser, 24 October 1828 p2

[viii] The Australian, 2 November 1832. The coach ran three days a week from Windsor with fares at seven shillings and sixpence for a seat inside the coach, or five shillings for an outside seat and half price for children

[ix]  SRNSW, Col. Sec. Correspondence CSIL 4/22241.1

[x] Rough Notes of Rough Rides in New South Wales. New Sporting Magazine, Vol Vll, 1834, no.41 pp. 318-324. Reprinted in in The Australian, 29 March 1836

[xi] Gough had built the White Hart Inn where he and his wife had lived prior to Ann Hollis moving in. Starr op. cit.

[xii] Evidence of Richards’ previous cooperation with Gough is evidenced in an advertisement for the lease of a new malthouse and brewery advertised in The Sydney Herald, 24 January 1833. In it two of the contacts are given as Mr. James Gough, Builder, Windsor; Mr. John Richards, Talbot Inn, Sydney.

[xiii] Sydney Herald, 16 June 1834

[xiv] Sydney Gazette & NSW Advertiser, 6 September 1834 – an advertisement placed by the purchaser, John Crowder confirmed the Richards livery stable was based at the Talbot Inn on Brickfield Hill (George St).

[xv] Their children were William E Thomas Ross Hollis, Henry George Hollis, George Richards and Thomas Richards (Ann’s other son Henry had died in an accident in 1830)

[xvi] Australian, 1 July 1834

[xvii] SRNSW Publican’s Licenses page no 350 reel no 5052: and page no 371 reel no 5053

[xviii] Sydney Monitor, August 20 1836 request to put in bid

[xix] SRNSW Public Works Letter Books Vll. 7, 17 August 1838

[xx] Australian, 17 June 1836

[xxi] Australian, 9 January 1838

[xxii] The Sydney Herald, 9 October 1837

[xxiii] The Sydney Monitor, 8 January 1838

[xxiv] SRNSW Registers of Land Grants and Leases; Series: NRS 13836; Item: 7/455; Reel: 2548 B76.587 Lot 15 purchased for £207/10/0 in 1838.

[xxv] Sydney Gazette & NSW Advertiser, 10 November 1838

[xxvi] NSW BDM V18382478 22

[xxvii] Sydney Gazette & NSW Advertiser, 10 November 1838 (yes, this is the same day as John’s advert of Goulburn brewery appeared.)

[xxviii]Sydney Monitor and Commercial Advertiser, December 12, 1838

[xxix] Sydney Monitor and Commercial Advertiser, December 31 1838

[xxx] NSW BDM 1838 1679 22

[xxxi] Letter of 1833 re wishing to erect small cottages on the Tank Stream -NSW Archives 2/2261

[xxxii] Mandemar sale dated 12 July 1839

[xxxiii] NSW BDM V1840517 24B/1840

[xxxiv] NSW BDM 3964/1860