Robert Kingston 1770


Birth: Abt 1770 Ilchester, Devon, England

Marriage: 31 October 1808 St David’s, Hobart, Tasmania to Esther Beresford, b11 August 1794 Norfolk island, Australia to John Beresford and Hannah Ritcliff

Death: 28 November 1825, Near Launceston, Tasmania, Australia (Killed by aboriginals)



Not known



Elisha Kingston b 1808 Hobart Town Van Dieman’s Land, d 23 May 1866 Drowned in Tamar River Launceston, Tasmania. m Sophia Langford on 25 February 1831, Launceston Tasmania.  They had 13 children

Hannah Kingston b 06 December 1811 Hobart Town Van Dieman’s Land m 07 March 1835 Hobart Town VDL to Thomas Turner


Life Sketch

Robert Kingston was born around 1770, reputedly in Ilchester, Devon, England.

It is uncertain who the parents of Robert Kingston were, however the most likely connection is with the Kingston family at Barnstaple.  IGI records show:

John Kingston married 12-4-1784 Sarah Edwards, Barnstaple, Devon


John Edward Kingston Christened 2-5-1785, Barnstaple, Devon. 

Robert Kingston Christened, 4-10-1786, Barnstaple, Devon.


The Robert Kingston born at Barnstaple in 1786 would be too young to be the same Robert Kingston convicted of stealing from the house of John Hancock of Ilracombe, however having the same name, and the very close proximity of Barnstaple to Ilracombe, suggests some kind of relationship.


1789 - Robert Kingston convicted for felony

During the summer Circuit of 1789, at the Castle of Exeter, Devon, England, Robert Kingston was sentenced on 3 August 1789, to be hung for feloniously breaking and entering the dwelling house of John Hancock at the Parish of Ilfracombe around 4 in the afternoon of 20th July last, and stealing goods valued at £5-17-6.  Robert Kingston pleaded not guilty. 



Felony was a serious charge, and Robert Kingston was sentenced to be hung, however mercy was granted, and he was sentenced to 7 years transportation to NSW  (Have copy of sentence).  Others also similarly sentenced on this day were: Thomas Haley, William Jones, Richard Hutchings, Thomas Pollock, Thomas Dymond, James Drew, Thomas Williams and Henry George.

Other punishments on the day were private whippings, public whippings, imprisonment and transportation overseas.


Some records state transportation for 14 years, others life. Transportation was the typical punishment for stealing property such as cutlery or clothing.


1791 - Robert Kingston transported to New South Wales

Robert was transported from England to Sydney (Australia) as a convict on the Atlantic, one of the 11 ships that made up the 3rd fleet.


The Atlantic was built in Wales in 1784, 422 ton

Master: Archibald Armstrong

Surgeon: James Thomson


Loading the prisoners on board the Atlantic and other ships of the 3rd fleet was a slow process, taking many weeks.  The Atlantic sailed from Plymouth 27th March 1791 with 200 convicts, all male.  Many of the convicts were in poor health, needing help to board, and during the voyage 18 convicts died.  Of the 2000 convicts in the 3rd fleet, more than 200 died during the voyage, but this was not as bad as the disastrous 2nd fleet voyage. The Atlantic sailed with the Salamanda and William and Ann to Rio de Janeiro.  After Rio, they sailed around Cape Horn, then the ships became separated, and the Atlantic was the first to sail non-stop to Sydney, arriving on 20th August 1791, taking around 146 days


1791 - Arrival on Norfolk Island

Robert Kingston was sent to Norfolk Island to help form the new settlement, and this experience was to shape the rest of his life. 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. 


A major set back to the early settlement occurred on March 1790 when the HMS Sirius, laden with supplies from Sydney, went aground on a reef off Norfolk Island. Much needed supplies as well as the ship was lost. The loss forced the new settlers onto a starvation diet, relying on the fish and birds they could catch.  Lt Clarks diary contains a count of birds killed each day, and this figure was typically around 150 birds per day.  Over a 10 year period, more than 100,000 birds were killed.    


Both male and female convicts on the Island were punished for misdemenours with lashings.  Typically misdemeanours were stealing of food, being away from work, and rudeness to officers.  Punishment for major offences was 300 lashes, for minor offences 50 lashes. On 13th October 1791 Robert Kingston was ordered to receive 100 lashes for absenting himself from work.  He could only bear 34.  Incomplete punishment of this kind was frequent during this first phase of settlement of Norfolk Island.  During the second phase when Norfolk Island became a penal settlement for hardened convicts, punishment was notoriously harsher.


John Hunter in a document dated September 3rd 1790, notes that James Brown, Honor Sullivan, George Collins, Joseph Wafs, Anne Read, Patrick McInammy, Robert Kingston and John Bately were convicted and sentenced to death on Norfolk Island.  The Governor gave Robert Kingston a conditional pardon, providing he resides at Norfolk Island for 14 years.


1991 and 1992 were tough times on Norfolk Island, the crops failed and the rule was harsh, especially 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". 


Robert Kingston had apparently served his time by 1797, because there is a record of him being on April 10th, 1798 being granted 25 acres at Mulgrave Place (Sydney, Folio 303) with rates of 2 shilling per year. The grant passed to Sara Cooley.  Robert Kingston stayed on at Norfolk Island.


1801 - Robert Kingston meets Esther Barrisford

In 1901 Robert Kingston's occupation was listed as Bull Carrier or Bullock Driver on Norfolk Is, which would require driving the bullock for work, such as moving the pines or ploughing the land.  Given that by 1805, there were still only 6 cows and bullocks on the island, and 2 drivers, it would not have been a difficult task.  The fringe benefit would be a good supply of milk, and milk along with other kinds of food was scarce.


During the next few years, Robert developed a relation with Esther Beresford, a young girl who had been born to John and Hannah Barrisford (Beresford) at Norfolk Island on 11 August 1794


John and Hannah Barrisford (Beresford) has come out as a private marine on the Price of Wales and Sirius (1st fleet), and had established himself as a leading farmer on Norfolk Island, with around 100 acres of land. The records show that John Beresford made a major contribution to the stores of Norfolk Island.  The stores records show he was illiterate, signing with an X. John Beresford's family can be traced back to Beresford manor, along the Dove River, which forms the border between Derbyshire and Staffordshire. The Beresford family history goes back as far as 1087.


1808 - Robert Kingston and Esther Barrisford board the City of Edinborough.

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 Dieman's 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 Dieman's Land.  The first was 9-11-1807, when 34 people boarded the HMS Lady Nelson. The second was on 26-12-1807, when 177 people boarded the HMS Porpoise. The third was 14-2-1808 when 21 people boarded the HMS Lady Nelson. The fourth was on 15-5-1808, when people boarded the Estramina.


On the 3 September 1808, John Beresford's family and Robert Kingston were among the 255 people who boarded the City of Edinborough. This was 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%.


Details of life on Norfolk Island, and the transfer to Van Dieman's Land on the City of Edinborough, were recorded by James Belbin, who like Robert Kingston had been convicted and then settled on Norfolk Island and VDL, but who had more literary skills. Belbin is understood to have served as a constable at Phillipburgh, which was near the Bereford property, until 5 March 1802.  He had also had several children by Ann Meridith, and the children were similar in age to that of the Beresford children.


Perhaps Belbin's dairy provides a unique record of the City of Edinburgh movements. Thus :

City of Edinburgh arrived off Norfolk Island June 4th 1808

Embarked on board Sept 3

Arrived off Van Diemans (sic) Land Sept 28th

Anchor'd in the Harbour Oct 2

Landed at Hobart Town Oct 3 1808

Victualled from the Stores Oct 5 1808

City of Edinburgh saild for Port Jackson Oct 28th


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


1808 - Robert Kingston marries Esther Barrisford in St Davids Church, Hobart

The Reverend Robert Knopwood formalised the union between Robert Kingston and Esther Beresford at St Davids Church, Hobart town on 31-10-1808. (Note: St Davids Church had not been built at this date).  At the time of their marriage Robert Kingston would have been 30-40 years of age, while Esther Beresford was a young girl of around 14 years.  At this time, there were 17 men for every woman in the settlement, and such a marriage arrangement was not uncommon.  Elisha Kingston was born in 1808 and Hannah Kingston in 1811

The arrival of the Norfolk Island population in Van Diemen's Land had a huge impact, because at this stage Hobart was struggling to produce enough food to feed the people who had already settled. 


Both the Beresford and Kingston families were granted land in the Glenorchy area near Hobart town.  The people who settled further up the river called it New Norfolk after their island home.  The Beresford and Kinston grants were adjacent to teach other and fronted the Derwent River. #27 Joseph Beresford 140 acres, #28 John Beresford 150 acres, #25 Robert Kingston 55 acres.   Food was in extremely short supply, with many people surviving on bush foods.


Robert Beresford and his family were again successful farmers, and noted for the quality of the barley they produced.


Hobart 1820


In an 1840 map of Glenorchy, the Berriedale Inn was located on the Kingston land grant, and Undine was on John and Joseph Beresfords land.


It is reported that in the early days of the Hobart settlement everyone wanted to be someone rich, convicts became bushrangers and corruption was rife.  By 1821 there were 7185 people living in Tasmania.


The Norfolk Islanders brought to Van Diemen's Land, much needed agricultural skills and animals (sheep).  Both the Beresford and Kingston families were granted land in the New Town-Glenorchy area, however food was in extremely short supply, with many people surviving on bush foods. It has been reported that in the early days of the Hobart settlement, everyone wanted to be someone rich, and corruption was rife.  By 1821 there were 7185 people living in Tasmania.


1825 - Robert Kingston killed by aboriginal people

Robert Kingston was reportedly killed by natives and was buried in the bush with John Rogers on 28-11-1825, Launceston, Tasmania.  Nothing is known of what became of Esther.


Elisha Kingston, age 23 years, married Sophia Langford, age 15 years in Hobart on 25 February 1831, and on 23 December 1837, gave birth to Quintus Kingston at Perth, Launceston District, Tasmania.



1986 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

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

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

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

Ryan, R.J. Land Grants 1788-1809, Australian Documents Library

Hazzard, Margaret (1984) A History of the Penal settlement at Norfolk Island: Punishment short of death.  Hyland House, Melbourne