Thomas Rowley, by John Gray

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    Thomas Rowley's ancestry is veiled in mystery. Elizabeth Selwyn came from Cherrington, Gloucestershire, and her parents were Thomas Selwyn of the Parish of Minchin Hampton and Mary King, of the Parish of Avening, who were married on 31st January, 1766.
    Early researchers placed Rowley's birthplace, or at least the place where he spent his childhood, as at a "Burwood Farm", said to be in Cornwall.
    These, or other, researchers, also suggested a connection with one of the prominent Naval Rowley families of Cornwall. (This was perhaps because of confusion of his final Army rank of Captain with the Naval rank of Captain.)
    Many people over the years have spent much time and energy in trying to locate a Burwood Farm in Cornwall, or verify the suggested connection with the prominent Rowley Naval families, both without success.
    In recent years my research suggests that he may have been born at Kingston-upon-Thames in Surrey.  
    Thomas Rowley's first consolidated grant, of 240 acres between Camperdown, Newtown, Annandale and Petersham, he named Kingston Farm. This is where he spent most of his years in New South Wales before his death in 1806. His second consolidated grant of 750 acres, taking in a major portion of the suburbs of Burwood and Strathfield, he named Burwood Farm.  
    By coincidence there is an old established property, Burwood Park, only a few miles from Kingston-upon-Thames in Surrey. There appears to be some connection with a Thomas Rowley, of Bath, and his nephew Joshua Rowley, and the sale of a portion of land, adjoining Burwood Park in 1769 to a Mr. Frederick (whose fatuity held Burwood Park for several generations). 
    Thomas Rowley's first appointment, to the New South Wales Corps, was as Adjutant in 1789. This rank is a Regimental appointment, rather than an Army appointment, and was most probably made by the first Commandment, Major Grose. Thomas Rowley was shown as "gentleman" on his appointment, indicating that he had not been in the Armed Services before.
    Major Grose was born at Petersham, Surrey and lived in Croydon, Surrey, both not far from Kingston-upon-Thames. His grants in New South Wales he called Petersham and Croydon. It is quite likely that Major Grose and Thomas Rowley were close friends, because they appear to have lived fairly close together in Surrey, and because it appears that Major Grose secured for him his appointment as Adjutant, an act which appears to have been within his power to implement.
    This close friendship could account for his appointment as Adjutant at 42 years of age when, I understand, nobody over 39 years was to be appointed to the Corps for service in New South Wales.
    This Thomas Rowley was christened at Kingston-upon-Thames on 24th January, 1747, son of George Rowley and Elizabeth Friend. George Rowley and Elizabeth Friend were married at Godalming, Surrey on 27th December, 1739.
    George Rowley was christened at Kingston-upon-Thames on 24th July, 1717, son of Anthony Rowley and Mary Dennis. Anthony Rowley and Mary Dennis were married at Kingston-upon-Thames on 22nd December, 1706.
    Thomas Rowley's Army Service in the New South Wales Corps, formed at Chatham Barracks and a part of His Majesty's 102nd Regiment of Foot, was as follows:
        Adjutant to the newly formed New South Wales Corps:     
        5th June 1789 Thomas Rowley (Gentleman) and adjutant
        5th January 1791 Thomas Rowley Ensign and adjutant
        6th April 1791 Thomas Rowley Lieutenant and adjutant
        21st June 1796 Thomas Rowley Captain  
        He resigned his commission as Captain in the Army, due to ill health, during 1802.
    He became Captain of the Sydney Company of the Loyal Association (a civilian Militia) on 22nd October, 1802. He was given responsibility for the management of the civil and military barracks on 24th October, 1802.
    He became Captain Commander of the Loyal Sydney Association on 22nd April, 1804, a position he retained until his death from a consumptive complaint on Tuesday, 27th May, 1806. He was buried in a burial plot on Kingston Farm. Many years later, as this farm was broken up for suburban development, his remains were transferred to the Briggs Family Vault at Waverley Cemetery, where many of his descendants are buried.
    The first portion of the New South Wales Corps arrived in Sydney Cove on the ship Neptune, a part of the Second Fleet, on 28th June, 1790. (Macarthur was a member of this contingent of the New South Wales Corps.)
    The balance of the New South Wales Corps sailed on the ship Pitt, Indiaman (Captain Edward Manning), which arrived at Port Jackson on Tuesday, 14th February, 1792. On board was Major Grose, Major Commandant of the Corps, Lieutenant Governor of the Settlement, and his Adjutant Thomas Rowley.
    Also on board was a convict, Elizabeth Selwyn. Either on the ship, or soon after arriving in Sydney, Thomas Rowley formed a lasting de facto relationship with Elizabeth Selwyn which continued until his death in 1806. They had five natural children - Isabella, born on Monday, 19th November, 1792; Thomas, born on 12th August, 1794; John, born on 28th November, 1797; Mary, born on 18th March, 1800; and Eliza, born on 25th April, 1804. Baptismal records exist for the first four children, in the father's name, Rowley. All five children are mentioned, as well as Elizabeth Selwyn, in Thomas Rowley's Last Will and Testament.
    Thomas Rowley spent some time at the Convict Settlement of Norfolk Island, under; Captain Townsen as Lieutenant Governor. When Captain Townsen left the settlement Thomas Rowley became Acting Commandant, from November, 1799 until 26th July, 1800, when Major Foveaux arrived to take command. Thomas Rowley appears to have impressed the settlers and principal inhabitants, who are said to have written a joint letter to the Governor expressing their sorrow at his being relieved. The Governor is said to have included in Thomas Rowley's certificate of service the following words:
    I think it right to add that from every account I have received from thence that Captain Rowley's conduct in administering the Government of that Island (Norfolk Island) was much to his credit and the advantage of Government.
    Thomas Rowley acquired a steady stream of grants of land over the years from his first grant on 28th May, 1793 (entered on 13th December, 1792) until these grants and other land purchases were consolidated into three grants in 1804 under Governor King.
        1. Kingston Farm 240 acres - his principal residence where he died in 1806.
        2. Burwood Farm 750 acres
        3. Banks Town property 700 acres on the southern shore of Georges River, adjacent to Holsworthy Army Camp, known as Payne's Hill.
    Thomas Rowley was assigned a convict, in 1792, called Simeon Lord. After Simeon Lord's sentence was completed, and he was emancipated, Thomas Rowley assisted him to set up in business in 1798 as a baker and retailer of spirituous liquors, and aided him in learning to read and write. From this humble beginning Simeon Lord prospered to become one of the most successful of emancipist businessmen, trading in seal skins, whale oil and Pacific Island Trade.
Thomas Rowley stocked his farms with sheep and cattle and was one of the first to acquire Spanish Merino sheep, many from Captain Waterhouse when he quitted Port Jackson in 1800.  
    In the August, 1805 returns to the Governor, Thomas Rowlev's farms were stocked thus:
30 acres of wheat, 8 acres of orchard, 1,637 acres of pasture, 300 acres of fallow, 1.975 acres all told. 3 horses, 51 cattle, 519 sheep, 21 goats, 32 hogs, 5 children not victualled, 3 convicts victualled (magistrate), 8 convicts not victualled.

The Children

Isabella Rowley married Lieutenant William Ellison, R.N, on 3rd May, 1807, and died, without issue, on 25th October, 1808.

Thomas Rowley married Catherine Clarkson on 27th February, 1818 and they had eleven children.

John Rowley married Sarah Pear on 4th November, 1819 and they had ten children.

Mary Rowley married John Lucas on 10th March, 1817 and they had ten children.

Eliza Rowley married Henry Sparrow Briggs on 28th August, 1826 and they had ten children.

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