John Beresford 1753


Born: 16 December 1753 Ticknall, Derby, England to John Beresford and Ann Holland

Married: 24 December 1776, Alton Stafford to Hannah Ritcliff

Died: 28 September 1821, Glenorchy, Tasmania, Australia



Joseph Beresford: b 14 June 1789, Port Jackson, m1Bridget Stevens, m2 Mary Ann Leviston, d April 1862, Glenorchy,Tasmania

Mary Beresford, b 8 September 1790, Sydney Cover, m1 Michael Purdon, m2 Goliab Chatterton. d7 January 1867, Highet St Richmond, Victoria.

Dorothy Beresford, b 1793, Norfolk Island, Australia, m George Oakley, d 29 January 1883, Paupers Home, Newtown, Hobart, Tasmania

Esther Beresford, b 11 August 1794, Norfolk Island, Australia, m Robert Kingston, d Abt 1837 Tasmania

Sarah Beresford, b 10 February 1799, Norfolk Island, Australia m1 Alexander Waddle, m2 Thomas Bannister d29 January 1883, Paupers Home, Newtown, Hobart, Tasmania.


Beresford family background


John of Beresford was born around 1087, and the manor of Beresford was near the Dove River, which now divides the counties of Staffordshire and Derbyshire in England. There is a Beresford Family Society, and it is not difficult to trace the family history back to Lawrence Berisford who was Christened in 11-8-1547.  Variations in the spelling of Beresford have included: Berisford, Berisforde, Barrisford, Bannisford.


The John Beresford who came to Australia with the 1st Fleet was born in Ticknall, Derby England in 1753.  Ticknall is a small village around 15 km south of Derby (between Swadlincote and Melbourne), and has preserved its country atmosphere because of the Calke Abbey estate, which is a National Trust Property built in 1701.


Manor of Beresford


Fenny Bentley is only a small village, spliced in two by the A515, with a cluster of old cottage, pubs, a church and a fascinating old hall. The main road through Fenny Bentley was turnpiked in 1777 to become the Buxton to Ashbourne road, prior to this the route followed a parallel path about two thirds of a mile to the west.

Ashbourne: Beresford Arms Hotel                      Beresford Dale - Dove River & Beresford Hall


At the side of Bentley Brook a little way from the village of Fenny Bentley are the remains of Woodeaves Mill. The original mill buildings were constructed by John Cooper in 1784 for his hosiery business , but were demolished early in the 20th century. Approximately 100 people were employed there including many of the residents of Fenny Bentley. They also manufactured cotton doubling which was then transported to Nottingham and used in the lace and curtain trade. The mill was powered by water from Bradbourne Brook and fed by means of a ¾-mile long canal which also carried goods to the mill in small boats. The mill converted in the 19th century to steam power and one building held a 16hp engine. Production ceased around 1908 but some of the buildings were later used as a cheese factory.

Fenny Bentley Old Hall is now known as Cherry Orchard Farm. It is a rather strange looking building and has a medieval tower at the front which is all that remains of the 15th century fortified and moated manor house of the Beresford family. Across the road is St Edmunds Church with an impressive spire which was added in 1864. St Edmunds Church is shown below


Thomas Beresford who lived at the aforementioned Hall in the reign of Henry VI raised a private army of troops and fought at Agincourt. He died in 1473 ten years after the death of his wife Agnes, but it is thought that the wonderful monument contained within Fenny Bentley church to their memories was erected some 100 years later, by which time the sculptor had no way of knowing their features as no portraits existed. He therefore created a strange sculpture where the heads of father, mother and all twenty-one children featured around the sides, are contained within shrouds tied over their heads. It is thought that all the children predeceased their parents although some must have reached maturity as a granddaughter of Thomas Beresford eloped with Charles Cotton senior, whose son we all know from his local connections.




Also contained within Fenny Bentley church are an early 13th century oak chest and a beautifully carved rood screen and vaulted ceiling of about 1460. The screen was given to the church by a member of the Beresford family as a thanksgiving after the War of the Roses.


Izaak Walton and Charles Cotton in 1676 wrote The Compleat Angler’ at Beresford Hall


Life sketch of John Beresford


The John Beresford who came to Australia with the 1st Fleet was born in Ticknall, Derby England in 1753.  Ticknall is a small village around 15 km south of Derby (between Swadlincote and Melbourne), and has preserved its country atmosphere because of the Calke Abbey estate, which is a National Trust Property built in 1701.


At the age of 23 yrs, John Beresford married 24-12-1776 Hannah Ritcliff at Alton, Stafford, England.  John was a breechers maker.  In 1787 John Beresford took on a 3 year contract as a Private Marine, 41st (Portsmouth) Company, and in doing so became a part of Australian history.  John and Hannah Beresford sailed from England bound for Botany Bay on the "Prince of Wales", one of the ships of the "1st Fleet" under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip RN to New Holland (Australia).  John belonged to the group marines headed by Marine Captain Watkin Tench.  Tench had just completed service in the American Civil war, was also on a 3 year contract. After completing his 3 year contract in Australia, Tench returned to England and wrote two of the most popular and sensitive books that covered voyage of the 1st Fleet to Australia, and the early days of the Port Jackson settlement. On the other hand, John and Hannah Beresford were never to see England again, initially helping to establish the settlement at Sydney Cove, and on completion of his contract they became farmers on Norfolk Island, and spent their later years in Van Diemans Land, with a final resting place at St Davids, Hobart Town.


John and Hannah Beresford had several children, a daughter, Esther, born on Norfolk Island in 1794 married Robert Kingston, and provides the starting point for the Kingston family in Australia.


The unofficial records of Watkin Tench, John Easty and James Scott, who were marine colleagues of John Beresford, demonstrate the cruelty and corruption that existed in the day.


People with ancestors in the 1st Fleet are eligible to join the 1st Fleet Fellowship.



1787     Bound for Botany Bay


In May 1787, John and Hannah boarded the 'Prince of Wales' bound for Botany Bay. The voyage was via the Canary Islands, Rio de Janeiro in South America, Cape Town at the southern tip of Africa, then sailing east to pass along the southern side of New Holland, around Van Dieman's Land and up the east coast to Botany Bay. 


"Prince of Wales"

Master John Mason

Surgeon: Denis Considen

Built 1786, by Christopher Watson & Co on the Thames in London, so the ship was relatively new.  318 tons, 103ft (33 meters) long and 29ft (10 meters) wide, 3 masts and 2 decks. Carried 1 male and 49 female convicts. The ship also carried animals and supplies.


May 1787: Departure of the First Fleet:




With these words the logbook of HMS Sirius recorded the departure of what we know today as "The First Fleet". The eleven ships of the fleet under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip RN took their leave from Portsmouth, England early on Sunday 13 May 1787 bound for a virtually unknown shore eight long months and half a world away. The escort vessel, HMS Hyaena stayed with the fleet until it was clear of the English channel and into open waters. Aboard were some 750 convicts from Britain's overcrowded prison system. They were bound for Botany Bay, there to establish the first European settlement on Australian soil.


June 1787: Teneriffe


The first port of call was to be the town of Santa Cruz on Teneriffe in the Canary Islands, there to take on fresh water and vegetables. The fleet arrived at Teneriffe on 3 June 1787, three weeks after leaving England. One of Phillip's officers, Marine Captain Watkin Tench, who was also the Captain of John Beresford's unit recorded:


"During our short stay we had every day some fresh proof of his Excellency's esteem and attention, and had the honour of dining with him, in a style of equal elegance and splendor".


August 1787: Rio de Janeiro


It took eight weeks for the Fleet to cross the Atlantic, from the Canary Islands to the South American coast. This seemingly circuitous crossing was to take maximum advantage of the prevailing winds. The Fleet Commander, Captain Arthur Phillip explained in his official account:


"Stormy seas were succeeded by warm weather and favourable winds. Land was sighted on 2 August 1787, and by 6 August the even ships in the Fleet were anchored in the harbour at Rio de Janeiro", where fresh suplies were again taken on board.


Discipline was administered with a whip, and even the marines were subject to this kind of discipline.  Around Rio de Janeiro, Privates Michael Toulon and John Beresford, both having drunk too much, got into an argument, that developed into a fight.  Toulon received 175 lashes of a 300 lash sentence, while John Beresford received 50 lashes.


The eleven ships of the fleet sailed South East from Rio de Janeiro on 5 September 1787. Ahead was their third and final civilised port of call en route. It took more than five weeks for the fleet to complete the crossing from Rio to the Capeof Good Hope on the southern tip of Africa. Land was sighted early on the morning of 13 October, and by dark all eleven ships were anchored in Table Bay.


October 1787: Cape of Good Hope


Whilst in port, provisions were loaded. Corn was in short supply, but cattle and other supplies were found to be plentiful. Even the convicts enjoyed the luxury of fresh meat and vegetables. On 12 November 1787 the Fleet set sail once more. Ahead was Botany Bay, visited previously only by Cook and the crew of the Endeavour'.


January 1788: Arrival at Botany Bay


The voyage from Cape Town to Botany Bay took about eight weeks. It was an uncomfortable passage as the ships were buffeted by rough seas. There was no let-up, even on Christmas Day.


It was Captain Phillip's plan to go on ahead and seek out the best possible site for the proposed settlement before the main fleet arrived. He therefore transferred to 'Supply' and split the convoy into three. Supply' would proceed alone; the three fastest transports, Alexander', Scarborough' and Friendship would follow at full speed; and Sirius' would escort the remainder of the Fleet at the best rate they could muster. As it happened, 'Supply' arrived at Botany Bay on 18 January. The second part of the Fleet followed within twenty-four hours, and the remainder of the Fleet made its appearance on the following day.


Tench records his first touching account with an "Indian" (aboriginal) while walking alone the beach of Botany Bay.  While anchored on Botany Bay, two French ships, captained by La Perouse arrived, and Tench records a discussion with La Perouse about the accuracy of Mr Cooks sketch of the Kangaroo.


Phillip was not taken with Botany Bay as the site for his settlement, so he headed north to Port Jackson where (in his own words) he discovered: of the finest harbours in the world, in which a thousand sail of the line might ride in perfect security.

By nightfall on 26 JANUARY 1788 Phillip's convoy was safely at anchor in Sydney Cove, named in honour of Lord Sydney.  The voyage took a total of 250 days, of which 68 were spent in ports.


The ships were unloaded, and within a few weeks the Prince of Wales was on her way back to England carrying a report of the founding of the new colony. On the return trip to England, the Master John Mason died in Rio de Janeiro.


John and Hannah Beresford disembarked and helped establish the settlement at Sydney Cove.  John and Hannah Beresford had their first child Joseph, born 14 June 1789 at Sydney Cove.  The second child, Mary was born on 8-9-1890 at Sydney Cove.  John Beresford would have been in the marine company that went with Tench to capture some aborigines that had killed a convict (Watling painting).







Norfolk Island was discovered and named by Captain Cook after his patron, the Duke of Norfolk.  The Island is around 7km X 4 km, and lies 1368 km east of Australia, around the latitude of Brisbane.  Altogether there were three waves of settlement of Norfolk Island.  The first was the pioneering settlement from 1788 to 1815, the second was the harsh convict settlement of the 1840s, and the third was the relocation of Pitcairn Islanders to Norfolk Island which began in the 1880s.


When Captain Arthur Phillip arrived with the First Fleet at New South Wales, one of his acts was to send a small party to Norfolk Island, there to found a secondary settlement with Philip Gidley King as Lieutenant Governor.  Phillip had long known and trusted King, a Cornishman from Devon.


Details of the early days of the Norfolk Island settlement are described in The Journal and Letters of Lt Ralph Clark 1787-1792, and the Journal of Philip Gidley King Lieutenant RN 1787-1790 Australian Documents Library.

See also Wright, R. (1986) "The Forgotten Generation of Norfolk Island and Van Dieman's Land", Library of Australian History.


1st Settlement : 1788 - 1814 Lieutenant Philip Gidley King arrived at Norfolk Island in HMS Supply on 6th March 1788 to establish the settlement with 22 people (seven free men, nine convict men and six convict women). They landed at Sydney Bay (Kingston).


Norfolk Island had fertile land, but was remote from Sydney. Food was however often scarce, and pilfering of food was the major offence in the settlement. King had taken a convict women and had the first child on Norfolk Island, called Norfolk.  It was common for Officers to take convict women as wives, so children became an important part of the Island community.


Phillip appointed Major Ross to replace King as Lieutenant Governer of Norfolk Island.  Major Ralph Clark was appointed to be in command.  Captain Hunter sailed the "Sirius" and "Supply" to Norfolk Island, leaving Sydney on March 5th 1790, arriving on March 13th.  However after unloading the people, the "Sirius" on March 19th was caught by the wind and went aground.  The immediate loss were the supplies that were thrown overboard in attempt to refloat the ship, however evenually the "Sirius" was wrecked.  This was a bad start, so Ross and Clarke introduced martial law to protect their meagre supplies, and managed to work together to establish a viable settlement.


In these early days, the people nearly starved, however the meagre food supply was supplemented by a good supply of fish and the "Bird of Providence" collected on Hill  (Bill Hill Mutton Bird). Over 160,000 birds were killed for food over a 10 year period.  The catching of birds for food presented one of Australias first environmental issues, whether to clear the trees for farming land, or leave the trees so the birds would nest and provide a sustainable emergency food supply.  The argument to leave some of the trees was the winner.


Philip King returned to England, where he conveyed reports of the colony to the government, and married a cousin, 26 yr old Anna Josepha Coombe on March 1791 at St Martin-in-the-Fields.  King returned to New Holland with his wife on the "Gorgon", an escort that traveled with the third fleet.  Robert Kingston sailed with them as a convict aboard the "Atlantic".  The route was via Teneriffe, St Jago on the Cape Verde Island, the Cape of Good Hope, then finally arriving at Port Jackson.  The food brought with the 3rd Fleet saved the Port Jackson colony from starvation. After unloading the "Gorgon" she was loaded with curiosities for England.  These included a kangaroo for King George. Captain Tench, John Beresfords marine Captain, having served his three year term, returned to England on the Gorgon.


October 1791: The Beresfords settle on Norfolk Island


The Beresfords decided to become settlers.  On 17August 1891John Beresford was given Land Grant #4 and later #59 on Norfolk Island, an area of around 60 acres (24 ha).    A list of Norfolk Island settlers in May 1792 shows 111 settlers occupied 4139 acres of land (45% of the islands land).





On Monday, October 24th 1791, John Beresford was discharged from the marines, and together with his wife and 2 children on 26th October sailed to Norfolk Island to become early free settlers. The underying rationale for the settlement of Norfolk Island and Van Diemans Land was to supply food and other items needed by the Sydney settlement and concern that the French might settle in these parts.


The Atlantic was the same ship that had brought Robert Kingston to Norfolk Island.  The Kings also boarded the Atlantic and stepped ashore on Norfolk Island in November 1991. 


Mrs King went to Government House, an 8 X 4 meter building, where she had her child 6 weeks after landing.  1991 and 1992 were tough times on Norfolk Island, and life was especially harsh for the convicts.


John Easty, a Private marine wrote in his diary page 139

 "the convicts had not had a pound of flour for nearly six months". "The Island which was reckoned the most flourishing of any Island in the world, turns out to a poor miserable place and all manner of cruelties and oppression used by the governor, flogging and beating the people to death.  That is better for the poor unhappy creatures to be hanged almost than to come under the command of such tyrants and the Governor behaves more like a mad man than a man trusted with the government of an Island ... .belonging to Great Britain. 


Lt Ralph Clark record that on 13th October 1791 Robert Kingston was ordered to receive 100 lashes for absenting himself from work.  He could only bear 34. 


John and Hannah Beresford became good settlers, and after the initial difficulties of clearing land, they expanded their land holding by trading.  Joseph and Mary were born at the Sydney Cove settlement, and on Norfolk Island they had Dorothy (Dolly) 1793,  Esther 11 August 1794, and Sarah 20-2-1799 on Norfolk Is.


In 1795, Governor King was ill with gout, and applied for leave to return to England.  King, and his wife and children sailed on the 300 ton Britannia in April 1796, arriving in May 1797 after a long voyage. King was then appointed as Governor of NSW, and sailed from England with his wife on November 1799, arriving in Port Jackson in April 1800 to replace Governor Hunter.  During their time in NSW, they renewed their friendship with John Mcarthur and his wife of Cambden Park. Governor King and His wife made a significant contribution to the colony, and they completed their term in February 1807, leaving for England on the "Buffalo". Bligh replaced King as Governor of NSW.


In 1800 King had sent a platypus to Banks in England on the "Buffalo". The members of the Royal Society did not believe that such a strange animal existed.


King died in England at the age of 49, leaving Mrs King a widow at 43 years.  in 1832, the Governors wife, Mrs King returned to colonial New South Wales to be with her children, where she died on July 26th 1844 and was buried in the graveyard on St Marys, South Creek near Paramatta. Her children included Maria, now Mrs Hannibal Macarthur, Captain Phillip Barker King. A grandaughter Mary had married Robert Lethbridge.


By 1807, John Beresford had 42.5 acres of cleared land, a further 36.75 uncleared, Mary had 17.5 acres of cleared land, and Joseph had 80 acres uncleared.  The family therefore held a total of 176.75 acres, which was second only to George Guest in terms of size and productivity. The cleared land was used for cropping, while the uncleared land was used for grazing of animals.  John Beresford had a bull, three cows and 50 hogs.  Documents signed by John Beresford for the sale of produce, showed his signature as a cross, indicating he was illiterate.


Robert Kingstons occupation in 1801 was listed as a Bullock driver. By 1908 Robert Kingstons wife was the young Esther Beresford, daughter of John and Hannah Beresford.


Beginning with Indian Bengal ewes and one African Cape ram, the Norfolk I flock of sheep had grown to 1131 by 1805.   The sheep were more suited to meat than wool, however food was the main priority in these early days.  Some of these sheep were shipped with the settlers to Van Diemans Land, and by 1820 the flock in Tasmania had grown to 200,000, and these sheep provided the beginnings for the sheep industry of Victoria, SA and WA.


When the Beresford family left Norfolk Island for Van Diemans Land in 1808, there was a valuation of 80 pounds on the buildings left behind.  This included a house (30 x 12ft) shingled, boarded and floored, a boarded anf floored barn (22 x 14 ft), and eight outhouses.




By 1803 it was clear that Norfolk Island was costly to maintain because of its distance from Sydney, and this factor, coupled with fear that the French would claim Van Diemans Land (Tasmania) resulted in plans to shift the population from Norfolk Island to the Derwent.  There were 5 embarkations to transfer people from Norfolk Island to the Derwent in Van Diemans Land.  The first was 9-11-1807 on the "HMS Lady Nelson", 34 people. The second on 26-12-1807 on the "HMS Porpoise" 177 people. The third was 14-2-1808 on the "HMS Lady Nelson" 21 people.  The fourth on 15-5-1808 on the "Estramina".


John Beresford and Robert Kingston on 3 September 1808, 255 people boarded the "City of Edinborough" for the 5th embarkation at Norfolk Island for the Derwent.  The passenger list included:


#61 John Beresford and #62 Hannah Beresford. Children #63 Dorothy (Dolly) Beresford, #64 Sarah Beresford

#65 Joseph Beresford and #66 Mary Ann Leviston (wife).  Joseph was now around 19 years.

#67 Mary Beresford. Around 18 years

#191 Robert Kingston and # 192 wife Esther Beresford. Ester was around 14 years.

Others of interest were:

#151 George Oakley.  George was an orphan boy born on NI who later married Dorothy Beresford

#252 Michael Purdon.  Michael later married Mary Beresford


The transfer of people from Norfolk Island to the Derwent settlement reduced the population of the Island by 80%.


John Beresford had arrived as a marine on the First Fleet, and his position as a Marine, coupled with his success as a farmer gave him high status on Norfolk Island.  Both John Beresfod and Robert Kingston were reluctant to leave Norfolk Island to pioneer a new settlement on the Derwent in Van Dieman's Land. The pioneering work in establishing the Norfolk Island settlement had taken its toll, and John Beresford was now 55 years old, and Robert Kingston was not much younger


On arrival in Hobart Town the union between Robert Kingston and Esther Beresford was formalised at St Davids Church ,  Robert Kingston must have been at least 35 years, while Esther Beresford was a young girl of around 14 years.  At this time there were 17 men for every women in the settlement.  Elisha Kingston was born in 1808.


The arrival of the Norfolk Island population in Van Diemens Land had a huge impact, because at this stage Hobart was struggling to produce enough food or housing for the people who had already settled.  The NSW Governor had promised considerable help to enable the Norfolk Islanders to relocate in Tasmania, however it was not forthcoming, partly because at this time the NSW Corp deposed of Captain Bligh.  In 1809, John Beresford, and 17 other Norfolk Islanders signed a petition of support for Bligh, and given this was contrary to the direction of Lt-Governer Collins of the Derwent administration, it did not help their cause.  James Belbin the leading dissenter received 50 of the 500 lashes ordered, and was also jailed.     

Both the Beresford and Kingston families were granted land in the Glenorchy area near Hobart town, #27 Joseph Beresford 140 acres, #28 John Beresford 150 acres, #25 Robert Kingston 55 acres.  Robert Beams, husband of Susannah Beresford, obtained land grant #46 of 60 acres at Norfolk Plains.  Food was in extremely short supply, with many people surviving on bush foods. Escaped convicts began to roam the bush and prey on settlers.


John Beresford died on 28 September 1821, his burial registered at St Davids Hobart on the 30th, age given as 68 years, leaving his widow, five childen and 16 grandchildren.


On April 1823, the Hobart Gazette reported the following incident:


"An attack on Joseph Berrisford his Wife and Mother, when their bullock cart was upset and Joseph's leg was broken.  A man came out of the bush, and "After beating the poor old women in a most inhuman manner, robbed her of some dollars".


In the early days of the Hobart settlement everyone wanted to be someone rich, bushrangers and corruption was rife.  In September 1818 Lt Governor organised a census of all persons at Hobart Town. By 1821 there were 7185 people living in Tasmania.


The Kingstons travelled to Hobart and Bothwell, where Elisha was born.  They settled on a land grant in the Longford-Perth area near Launceston, where many of the Norfolk Islanders were opening up new land for farming.


Norfolk island was abandoned in February 1814 until the second wave of convict settlement.


Altogether there were three waves of settlement on Norfolk Island, the second wave being a serious convict settlement for second offenders in 1822, and the third wave were the settlers from Pitcairn Island.


John Beresford died in Tasmania at 68 years of age and was buried at St Davids, Hobart 30-9-1821.

Hannah lived until 80 years and died 4 December 1842 in Hobart


Robert Kingston died at Launceston, Tasmania in 1825, believed to be killed by aboriginals.


People who are descendants of persons who sailed to Botany Bay on the first Fleet, are eligible to join the 1st Fleeters Fellowship Association.





Wright, R. (1986) "The Forgotten Generation of Norfolk Island and Van Dieman's Land", Library of Australian History.


Shaffer, I and McKay, T (1992) Exiled Three Times Over, Profiles of Norfolk Islanders exiled in Van Diemans Land 1907-13 Published by St Davids Park Publishing, GPO Box 307C Hobart, Tasmania 7001


Tench, Watkin (1996) 1788 Edited by Tim Flannery, The Text Pub Co, Melbourne.   Comprising, A narrative of the expedition to Botany Bay, and A complete account of the settlement of Port Jackson.


Cobley, John (1963) Sydney Cove 1789-1790, Angus and Robinson

Scott, James (1963) Remarks on a passage to Botany Bay, 1787-1792. Trustees of the Public Library of NSW in Association with Angus and Robertson.


Evans, George William (1822)  A Geographical, Historical and Topographical description of Van Diemans Land, Reprinted by William Heineman 1967


Easty, John, (1965) Memorandum of the transactions of a voyage from England to Botany Bay, 1787-1793, A first fleet Journal, Public Library of NSW in Association with Angus and Robinson


King, Jonathon, (1982) The First Fleet, McMillan Co


Emmett, Peter, Fleeting Encounters; Pictures and Chonicles of the First Fleet, Museum of Sydney


The Journal and Letters of Lt Ralph Clark, 1787-1792, Australian Documents Library


Bassett, Marnie (1940) The Governor's Lady, Mrs King