Charlesworth’s Family – A Mountain Family

When people think of the Charlesworth’s and Bulli Mountain or Sherbrooke they tend to immediately think of Abe Charlesworth, immortalised in Westy Hapgood’s “Tall Timbers, Deep Valleys, Tough Men and Women“. However Abe was not the first Charlesworth on Bulli Mountain – that was his father David Charlesworth.

David Charlesworth (c. 1799/1804 – 1878) and wife Johanna Rose Mullins (c.1819 Limerick Ireland – 1881),  are listed in the Illawarra Family History Group’s Illawarra Pioneers Pre 1900. David Charlesworth,  from Holmsfirth near Huddersfield in Yorkshire England.


He was an ex convict who had been convicted at the Lancaster Quarter Sessions on 23.10.1826, and then transported for 7 years, arriving in NSW in 1827 on the Marquis of Hastings. There is some suggestion that it may not have been the first time that he was before the courts.

David’s wife, Limerick born Johanna Rose Mullins arrived Free as a 20 year old Dairy Maid and Bounty immigrant in 1836 on the Duchess of Northumberland, under a scheme organised by the London Emigration Committee.  This scheme preceded the better known Earl Grey scheme of the 1840’s, which brought the Irish Famine Girl Orphans to Australia during the Potato Famine.

duchess of northumberland image

Duchess of Northumberland from John Bugden’s Wives website

The Duchess of Northumberland had been built in 1834, so it was a relatively new ship, and on her two voyages under the scheme, she carried only Irish females, sailing out of Cork. Elizabeth Rushton has written a book, “Colonial Duchessesabout these young Irish women sent to Australia before the Irish Potato Famine of the mid 1840’s.

From a review of Colonial Duchesses from The Australian : “Most came from parish workhouses or charitable institutions such as the Cork Foundling Home or the House of Industry. Their numbers included some who took the opportunity to pave the way for relatives who followed later, or to reunite with family already in the colonies. Regardless of background, all have been traditionally disparaged as products of poverty, disease and hopelessness who were in effect dumped on the colony by unscrupulous agents.

According to Rushen, however, close examination of the records reveals ‘‘the women were enterprising and embraced the opportunity offered … to improve their living and working conditions … [T]hey chose to escape the entrenched poverty and afflictions of their homeland for a life of opportunity.

A government-funded scheme brought emigration within their reach. Mass emigration of young women began with the ships Red Rover (from Ireland) and Princess Royal(from Britain) in 1832. In the five years it operated, 16 ships delivered more than 1200 women to the colonies. The scheme was administered initially by an emigration commission based in London but subsequently by committees that operated in Dublin as well. They were established to charter ships, promote the idea of female emigration and administer applications for a passage.

The selectors in Britain and Ireland took seriously their brief to choose ‘‘industrious and virtuous’’ women. Knowing there had been complaints from colonists, they even wrote to NSW governor Richard Bourke, assuring him ‘‘the utmost care and judgement has been exercised in their selection”. As a precaution, the committees gave each woman a certificate of character before she left.”

So it seems that Johanna had made her way to the Illawarra, where in 1838 she and David were married in Wollongong, which was then part of the Parish of St Mary’s, Sydney.

David is one of the few convicts identified as living in or near Bulli Mountain, later known as Sherbrooke. He and wife Johanna were long known as Bulli Mountain residents, who lived on Rixons Pass Woonona, which was the first road access to Sherbrooke, before Westmacotts Pass was created. By 1872 Greville’s Postal had David listed as a Farmer of Woonona.

David and Johanna’s older children were born at Berkeley on the Jenkins family estate in the 1840’s, suggesting that they had been amongst the many tenant farmers there.

According to Westie Hapgood, the Charlesworth’s were on Bulli Mountain from the 1850’s – and some of their children were said to be born at Rixon’s Pass, Woonona.

David was the first person to be buried at St Augustine’s Bulli Graveyard in 1878 ( W A Bayley – “Black Diamonds”) & Illawarra Mercury January 8, 1878.  Though Johanna is buried at Corrimal Catholic Cemetery.



Map of Bulli Mountain showing land ownership from 1850's including Charlesworth lots.

Map of Bulli Mountain showing land ownership from 1850’s including Charlesworth homes of Father David Charleworth Snr, and of sons Abe, John & David Jnr


David and Johanna Charlesworth  children were listed as follows :

  • John Henry Charlesworth (1838 Jenkins Farm Berkeley – 1905 Gerringong) who married Frances Edmondson (1837 – 1868) and Susan Hicks (1849 – 1933) – IFHG Illawarra Pioneers Pre 1920 mentions John Charlesworth – and how “he left the family home, a 2 roomed slab hut under the top of the escarpment next to Rixon’s Pass Woonona in 1859 and then worked at Keira Mine”. Around 1860 John was part of an early cricket team in the Wooonona – Bulli area, captained by a former Rixons Pass neighbour Henry Thomas Hicks. Later John went further south  and one of his son’s Jim has written of the family,  Pioneers by Jim Charlesworth  source :
    • Elizabeth Eliza Charlesworth (1861 – 1934)
    • David S Charlesworth (1862 – 1938)
    • John James Charlesworth (1864 – 1896 Stockton mine disaster – 1, )
    • Frances Charlesworth (1866 – 1937)
    • Samuel (Emmanuel) Abraham Charlesworth (1868 – 1952 Wollongong)
    • William Charlesworth (1872 – 1944)
    • Mary Anne Charlesworth (1874 – 1958 Wooonona) married Charles Christianson (1864 – 1953)
      • 9 children
    • Edward James Charlesworth (1876 – 1935)
    • Henry James Charlesworth (1878 – 1935)
    • Abraham Charlesworth (1880 – 1882)
    • Florence Jane Charlesworth (1882 – 1972)
    • James Ernest Charlesworth (1884 – 1957 Coledale) – Pioneers by Jim Charlesworth  ?
      • Ernest James Charlesworth (1929 Albion Park – 1999 Wilton) + 7 older children. Ern married Mary Ann Mackey (1887 – 1967)
        • Son Charlesworth
    • Alice Elizabeth Charlesworth (1885 – 1949)
    • Herbert Charlesworth (1890 – 1944)
    • Catherine Charlesworth (1894 – 1971 Wollongong), a Nurse at Stockton Mental Hospital,  married Thomas John Anthony Butler
      • John Charlesworth Butler (1919 – 1989)
  • Mary Charlesworth (1840 Berkeley – 1922 Ashfield) married James Hurst
  • Edward Charlesworth (1842 – 1912 Bulli), a miner, married Jane Purcell and Mary Roles
    • David Charlesworth ( – 1874)
  • Johanna Charlesworth (1845 Slacky Flat/Rixons Pass – 1891 Bulli/Kiama) – never married
  • Charles Abraham “Abe”  Charlesworth (1846 Charcoal Unanderra  – 1936 Bulli) – married Hannah Lacey. IFHG Illawarra Pioneers Pre 1920 indicates that “Abe” spent most of his life living up above Cram’s residence up Rixons Pass ie on Bulli Mountain. Westie Hapgood’s “Deep Valleys, Tall Timber, Tough Men and Women” also describes Abe’s experiences as a bullock driver pioneer Timber man on Bulli Mountain. He was buried at Corrimal Catholic Cemetery.
  • David Samuel Charlesworth (1849 Wollongong – 1880 Bulli)
  • Louisa (Lucy) Agnes Charlesworth (1853 Rixons Pass Woonona – 1932 Bulli) who married Thomas Forde -and then married in Sydney to Stephen James Sheather (1855 West Maitland – 1924 Bulli). Lucy was known as Granny Sheather. More on the Stephen Sheather’s family may be found here on the McKenzie website and also here on the Fairhall website, as well as a little on Louisa’s Charlesworth family on the Fairhall site. Their children were as follows :
    • Charles Abraham Sheather (1883 Bulli 1940 Bulli) married in 1925 in Bulli to Alice Doreen Worth and Florence Ann Smart
    • Blanche Mercy Sheather (1886 Woonona 1949 Redfern) married in 1903 in Bulli to Charles Joseph Healy
    • Archibald Stephen Sheather (1889 Bulli  1965)
    • Ernest Stanley Sheather (1891 Bulli )
    • James Joseph Sheather (1893 Bulli 1978)
    • Percival George Henry Sheather (1895 Bulli 1968 Concord). There appears to be some confusing information about in regard to our Bulli born Percy Henry George Sheather and another Percival George Sheather. Our Bulli born Percy served in WW1 and was thought by some, including possibly Ted Finn, to have died there in November 1917. However it appears that he was wounded twice – in 1917 and in 1918 before returning to Australia in 1918 – 1, 2, .  He lived with his invalid mother Louisa in Camperdown in 1930, and was in Berry in 1933 – 1937 -then 1943 – 1949 in Thirroul before moving to Redfern 1958 – 1963.   Some believed that our Percy George Henry Sheather  married in 1937 in Katoomba to Annie Thorpe nee Jacobs. However it is more likely that she married the “other” Percy George Sheather.   Further, in regard to  other conflicting information, aJohn Sheather  made the following comments “From your research, you say  that Percival George Henry Sheather, b.2-11-1895, married Annie Jacobs, in 1937, Katoomba. B.D.M., says, Percival Sheather m. Annie Thorpe,1937, Katoomba.  My records say that, Percival George Sheather, b.25-7-1886, Narrandera, son of Henry Sheather and Elizabeth Riley, m. Annie Thorpe, widow, at Blackheath, 1936, daughter of Samuel and Martha Jacobs. Of course, Annie Jacobs, and Annie Thorpe being the same person, not that is an issue, but, we have two Percival Sheather’s. Other; Percival and Annie were in Campsie in 1943, Electoral rolls. Percy from Bulli, d. Concord, Percy from Narrandera, d. 10-11-1965, late of Belmore, which is near Campsie.  In 1937, Annie was 55, Percy from Narrandera was 51, Percy from Bulli was 42.  N.B. My info on the marriage was possibly from Trove or a family member, I can’t remember.  Regards John Sheather” (1)…. Percival George Henry Sheather, born 2-9-1895, died 1968 at Concord hospital. Service no 4535, son of Stephen Sheather and Louisa Agnes Forde. My records don’t show that he was ever married.  However a very distant cousin,  Percival George Sheather, born 25-7-1886, died 10-11-1965, at 14 Waverly Street, Belmore, son of Henry Sheather and Elizabeth Riley – this Percival Sheather was born at Brewarrina Station,  Narrendera. His death certificate, 37114, 703 in register, he married Annie Thorpe, widow, at Blackheath, at Katoomba.  The informant was his son, Henry Squire Sheather, so Percy Sheather from Woonoona, did not marry Annie Thorpe, nee Jacobs. Thank you,  John A. S. Sheather.” (1). I would concur with John Sheather comments that there were two Percy’s. The re-use of names within families can certainly makes for confusion sometimes.
  • Catherine Charlesworth (1853 Rixons Pass – 1883 Lismore) who married in 1875 in Sydney to George Nixon
  • James Joseph Charlesworth (1856 Fairy Meadow – 1892 Parramatta) who married Minnie Alice Timmins

Note – some suggest there were two other daughters, Johanna (1841 – 1845) and Elizabeth (1860 – 1934), however so far we have not been able to find supporting evidence in NSW BDM’s.


Further Reading :

  • Westie Hapgood’s “Deep Valleys, Tall Timber, Tough Men and Women
  • Letter to the Editor Sydney Morning Herald April 1 1837

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