Timeline: 1791 – 1800

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February 28

The first land grant in Australia is made to ex-convict James Ruse (Experiment Farm, Parramatta).

March 16

Two sailors from HMS Sirius become the first free men receive land grants in the colony.

March 28

Convict William Bryant, his wife Mary and their two children, and seven other convicts escape Port Jackson in Gov Arthur Phillip‘s cutter. In April they reach Port Stephens, and by June they arrive in Kupang, Timor. Here they are arrested by Capt Edward Edwards of the HMS Pandora, the victim of shipwreck on the Great Barrier Reef.

May 24

On an expedition to Prospect Hill, Capt Watkin Tench determines that the previously explored Nepean and Hawkesbury Rivers are one and the same.

June 2

The Rose Hill settlement is renamed Parramatta.

August 1

The Third Fleet begins to arrive with convicts, supplies and the colony’s official seal. Ships continue to arrive until 16th October, with Capt William Paterson of the NSW Corps arriving on the last transport.

August 18

Jervis Bay, NSW, entered and named by Lieut. Richard Bowen aboard the transport Atlantic.

September 26

The Active and Queen arrive with the first Irish prisoners.

September 29

British navigator George Vancouver, master of HMS Discovery, names King George Sound, WA, having gone ashore and claimed the western part of Australia in the name of King George III.

October 16

The last of the third fleet’s ships, Admiral Barrington, arrived in Sydney. On board is Capt William Paterson of the NSW Corps.

October 24

The ships Britannia and William Ann begin the first whaling expedition.

November 1

A party of 21 convicts escape from Parramatta and attempt to walk to China. Some die, others are captured.

November 13

Phillip Parker King, explorer and son of Governor Philip Gidley King, born Norfolk¨ Island.

December 18

A number of Marines including Maj. Robert Ross (Officer of the Marines, and Lieut-Gov), Capt Watkin Tench and Lt. William Dawes leave the colony and return to England aboard HMS Gorgon. On 11th March, the ship arrives at the Cape of Good Hope where Mary Bryant and her group of escaped convicts, along with a number of Bounty mutineers are taken on board for the return journmey to England.


February 14

Sydney Cove’s first retail shop opens. On the same day, the British ship Pitt arrives at Port Jackson. Those on board include Maj. Francis Grose, replacing Maj. Robert Ross as Lt-Gov of the colony, Lieut John Piper and Richard Atkins (Deputy judge-Advocate).

April 21

Two French ships Recherche, under the command of Joseph-Antoine Raymond Bruni d’Entrecasteaux, and Esperance arrive at Recherche Bay, Van Diemen’s Land, en route to the Pacific to investigate the fate of La Perouse‘s expedition.

May 12

Further food shortages force a reduction in the flour ration.

June 15

Surveyor-General of NSW, Sir Thomas Livingston Mitchell, born.

June 18

HMS Gorgon arrives in Portsmouth, England.

July 14

The Home Secretary, Henry Dundas, authorises Governor Arthur Phillip to make land grants to civil and military officers.

October 7

Convict transport Royal Admiral arrives in Sydney with 336 convicts. Among them are artist Thomas Watling and Mary Haydock (Reibey).

October 20

John Pascoe Fawkner, pioneer of th Port Phillip settlement, born.

November 1

The Philadelphia is the first foreign trading vessel to visit Sydney. Gov Arthur Phillip buys its cargo.

December 5

French explorer Bruny d’Entrecasteaux arrives off Cape Leeuwin from Ambonia, and four days later enters and names Esperance Bay and the Recherche Archipelago.

December 10

Governor Arthur Phillip sails for England in the Atlantic, taking Bennelong and Yemmerrawanie.

December 11

Lieut Francis Grose is apponted administrator of the colony in Gov Arthur Phillip‘s absence. He is also Commandant of the NSW Corps.

December 24

The American trading vessel Hope arrives in Sydney. Lieut Francis Grose is obliged to buy 34,095 litres of spirits in order to obtain other cargo.


January 1

Samuel Marsden is appointed assistant to the chaplain of New South Wales. He arrives 10th March 1794 and moves to Parramatta to become chaplain there.

January 21

French exploer Bruny d’Entrecasteaux anchors his two ships in Recherche Bay, Van Diemen’s Land, and in so doing, becomes the first person to circumnavigate Australia.

February 7

Land grants are made to free settlers at Liberty Plains (Strathfield and Homebush).

February 12

John Macarthur receives 100 acres at Parramatta (Elizabeth Farm). Four days later he is appointed Inspector of Public Works. Others to receive land at this time include Commissary-General John Palmer (100 acres, Woolloomooloo); NSW Corps Sergeant Thomas Laycock (80 acres, Vaucluse); Surgeon John White (100 acres, Petersham); Rev. Richard Johnson (100 acres, Canterbury).

February 18

The colony’s first school is opened in an unfinished church building in Sydney. The teacher is Rev. Richard Johnson‘s clerk, Stephen Barnes.

March 8

Retailer David Jones born in Wales.

March 12

The Descubierta and Atrevida, under the command of Alexandro Malaspina arrive at Port Jackson. Under the patronage of the Spanish government, the voyage has already crossed the South Atlantic and Pacific, stopping at various ports in South America and the West Coast of North America, the Philippines and New Zealand.

March 20

The storeship Daedalus arrives at Port Jackson with two young Maori chiefs of New Zealand to assist in the dressing of flax on Norfolk¨ Island.

April 27

Lieut John Hayes arrives at the River Derwent, Van Diemen’s Land, which he names and explores.

May 2

Convict Mary Bryant is granted an unconditional pardon by a British court.

June 20

The colony’s administrator Lieut-Gov Francis Grose is empowered to assign convicts as servants to civil and military officers. He is instructed to prevent the secret and clandestine sale of spirits in the colony.

July 20

Arthur Phillip, in England, resigns the governorship of New South Wales.

July 24

The first seagoing vessel built in the colony of NSW, the schooner Francis, is launched and named after Lieut-Gov Francis Grose.

September 15

Lieut William Paterson makes an unsuccessful attempt to cross the Blue Mountains. The Grose River is discovered and named during the expedition.

September 25

Sydney’s first church opens. It is a wattle and daub hut with thatched roof, built by Rev. Richard Johnson at his own expense. It was located in what today is Bligh Street, Sydney.

September 26

The first ship to sail directly from Ireland, the Queen, arrives in Port Jackson.

October 3

Bounty mutiny leader Fletcher Christian dies, age 29, in a conflict between the Tahitian men and the mutineers.

October 25

Lieut John Hayes annexes part of New Guinea at Dore Bay, and forms a settlement which he names New Albion.

November 6

A regular ferry service begins on the Parramatta River between Sydney and Parramatta.

November 8

Philip Gidley King returns the two Maori chiefs to New Zealand in the Britannia after finding the Maori men did not hold knowledge of flax dressing as it was ‘women’s work’.

In this year

John Macarthur builds the farmhouse at Elizabeth Farm, Parramatta.


January 2

James Ruse granted land at Green Hills (Windsor), on the Hawkesbury River.

January 18

Members of the NSW Corps riot on Norfolk¨ Island following a play held for the Queen’s Birthday.

February 6

Capt John Hunter, in England at the time, is appointed Arthur Phillip‘s replacement as Governor of New South Wales.

March 10

Rev. Samuel Marsden arrives in the colony aboard the storeship, William.

April 1

John Macarthur receives a grant of a further 100 acres in the Parramatta district.

May 18

Aboriginal Yemmerrawanie, who went to England with Arthur Phillip, dies in England.

July 8

American ships Indispensable and Halcyon leave Port Jackson, each carrying an escaping stow-away convict.

August 20

Henry Hacking leads an expedition to cross the Blue Mountains but returns, unsuccessful, within seven days.

March 20

The Britannia, chartered by civil and military officers, leaves for The Cape of Good Hope to purchase trade goods.

October 25

Four of the five ‘Scottish Martyrs‘, sentenced for sedition in Britain, arrive on the Surprise.

October 29

Rev. Samuel Marsden receives a grant of 100 acres at Hunters Hill.

November 10

Merchant Robert Towns born in Long Horsley, Northumberland, England.

December 12

Capt William Paterson replaces Maj. Francis Grose as commander of the NSW Corps and administrator of the colony.

In this year

The road between Sydney and Parramatta is cleared and comes into use.


February 15

HMS Reliance and HMS Supply sets sail from Portmouth for Sydney. On board are Capt John Hunter to take up his appointment as Governor of NSW, Master’s Mate Matthew Flinders, Surgeon George Bass, with his boat, Tom Thumb, and the Aboriginal, Bennelong.

March 4

Britannia returns from The Cape with goods and livestock. It sails again on 18th June to procure more provisions for the colony.

April 28

Explorer Charles Sturt, born in India, the son of a British judge residing in Bengal.


New Albion settlement abandoned. The settlers vacate the area in Duke of Clarence.

July 21

Early Governor of South Australia, George Gawler, born at Chulmleigh Hall near Chudleigh, Devon, England.

July 23

James Squire granted 30 acres at Eastern Farms (Ryde). He later builds the colony’s first brewery there.

August 26

HMS Providence, under W.R. Broughton, arrives in the colony on its way to perform survey work in the Pacific.

September 7

HMS Reliance arrives at Port Jackson with Captain John Hunter, Explorer Matthew Flinders (1774-1814), George Bass and Bennelong.

September 11

Floods devastate farms in the Hawkesbury district.

October 26

Bass and Flinders explore Botany Bay and Georges River in the Tom Thumb.

November 28

The first consignment of cedar from NSW sent to India in Experiment.


The cattle that strayed from the colony in June 1788 are found with their progeny. The place where they are found (Camden) is named Cowpastures.


January 16

Australia’s first theatre is opened in Sydney.

January 23

The distilling of spirits is prohibited.

February 4

Soldiers of the NSW Corps wreck a house belonging to John Baughan.

February 10

Magistrate William Balmain challenges John Macarthur over the house incident. The NSW Corps officers offer to fight Balmain.

February 11

Convict transport Marquis Corwallis arrives at Port Jackson with 221 Irish convicts. During the voyage a mutiny was put down by the guards on board.

February 15

Convict bushranger John Cesar shot and killed by a settler at Liberty Plains (Strathfield).

February 18

Thomas Muir, one of the Scottish Martyrs, escapes in the American vessel, Otter. He eventually reached France.

February 29

John Macarthur resigns as Inspector of Public Works, and is replaced by Richard Atkins, the acting Judge Advocate.

March 19

Scottish Martyrs Joseph Gerrald and William Skirving die within three days of each other.

March 20

Edward Gibbon Wakefield, the driving force behind the founding of the colony of South Australia, is born.

March 24

Bass and Flinders explore te coast south of Botany Bay in the second Tom Thumb.

April 7

After serving on Norfolk Island for a number of years, D’Arcy Wentworth returns to Sydney where his is appointed assistant surgeon.


George Bass makes an unsuccessful attempt to cross the Blue Mountains.


Fishermen find coal near Port Stephens.


Capt William Paterson returns to England on sick leave as Balmain‘s appointment as principal surgeon (replacing first fleeter John White) is confirmed.

September 14

Gov John Hunter writes a complaint to the Colonial Secretary, Henry Dundas, the Duke of Portland, about John Macarthur‘s behaviour.

September 15

John Macarthur writes a complaint to Colonial Secretary about Governor John Hunter‘s governorship.

September 29

Reliance and Supply sail for Portmouth with the letters of Macarthur and Hunter on board. On the same day, the Britannia sails for England via Norfolk Island, carrying David Collins who is returning home on leave of absence. Richard Atkins replaced him as Judge-Advocate. Lieut Philip Gidley King sails from Norfolk Island on Britannia; Capt. John Townson of NSW Corps replaces him as commandant.

November 11

Governor John Hunter disbands the convict night watch. He divides Sydney into four districts, each responsible for their own watchmen, and orders houses to be numbered.


February 9

The ship Sydney Cove, en route to Calcutta from ort Jackson, is beached on Preservation Island, Furneaux Group. 17 men set out for Sydney in the ship’s longboat to get help. (survivor’s camp excavation)

March 11

The longboat of the Sydney Cove is wrecked near Cape Everard; the survivors continue their journey to Sydney on foot. They are picked up by fishermen 4 days later about 22km south of Botany Bay.

May 8

WA Surveyor-General John Septimus Roe, born in England.

May 15

Reports of coal and the probable existence of a strait between the mainland and Van Diemen’s Land are made by survivors of the Sydney Cove shipwreck on their arrival in Sydney.

May 30

Schooner Francis and longboat Eliza sent by Gov John Hunter to pick up survivors of Sydney Cove. The pair leave the stricken sydney Cove on June 21; the Francis arrives in Sydney July 6, but the Eliza is never seen again.

June 19

Explorer Hamilton Hume, born near Parramatta.

June 21

Merino sheep imported by John Macarthur (2 rams, 4 ewes) and Samuel Marsden (1 ram, 1 ewe) arrive from the Cape aboard Reliance with stores for the colony.

June 26

Bass and Flinders explore Botany Bay and Georges River in the Tom Thumb.

July 3

Governor John Hunter sends a party of soldiers to protect settlers in the Hawkesbury area in order to protect settlers from following Aboriginal attacks.

July 21

Explorer Count Paul Edmund de Strzelecki born at Gluszyna, near Poznan, Western Poland.

August 1

Soldiers aboard the convict transport Lady Shore mutiny, kill the captain and mate, set ‘loyalists’ adrift and sail the ship to Montevideo, where it is impounded.


Sailing in the whaling boat Tom Thumb, George Bass finds coal on a voyage to explore southwards at present day Coalcliff.

September 5

Lieut, John Shortland discovers coal at the Hunter River estuary during an expedition to catch runaway convicts who have stolen the government boat, Cumberland.

October 2

14 convicts seize a boat and escape from Port Jackson. They later abandon seven of their number on Glennie Island, off Wilsons Promontory.

December 3

George Bass and six oarsmen set out to explore the southern coast of New South Wales in the whale boat Tom Thumb. They find the Blowhole at Kiama, the Shoalhaven River, Jervis Bay, Twofold Bay, Wilson’s Promontory and Western Port. By his return in February 1798 he reports his belief in a strait between the mainland and Van Diemen’s Land.


January 2

Wilson’s Promontory and Phillip Island sighted by George Bass

January 26

The first sightings of a lyrebird and a koala are made by John Price, Governor John Hunter‘s servant.

February 12

Matthew Flinders joins the schooner Francis, the first seagoing vessel launched in Australia. They explore the Furneaux Islands (Flinders Island) on their way to retrieve stores lost on the Sydney Cove.

March 9

John Wilson leads a party including Henry Hacking to present-day Goulburn. According to Judge-Advocate David Collins he was "a wild, idle young man who preferred living among the natives to earning the wages of honest industry".

May 14

The Nautilus arrives at Port Jackson carrying missionaries from the London Missionary Society. on board is Richard Dore who is appointed Judge-Advocate, replacing David Collins.

June 10

Calcutta merchant Robert Campbell arrives in Sydney in the Hunter with a view to establishing a trading business there, He buys land at Dawes Point for this purpose.

June 15

The Norfolk, a sloop built on Norfolk¨ Island, arrives at Port Jackson.


Entrepreneur Simeon Lord acquires a warehouse from which to retail goods and spirits bought from NSW Corps officers.

October 1

Sydney’s first church is destroyed by fire, apparently deliberately.

October 7

George Bass and Matthew Flinders leave to explore Van Diemen’s Land on the Norfolk, acompanies by the brig Nautilis (Charles Bishop) on a sealing expedition to Cape Barren Isld.


A severe drought destroys the colony’s wheat and maize crops.

November 8

Capt. John fearn discovers Nauru in the merchant ship Hunter.

December 25

George Bass climbs Mt Wellington during the Norfolk’s stay at the mouth of the River Derwent, Van Diemens Land.

December 25

The Nautilus (Charles Bishop) returns to Port Jackson in the Nautilis with 9,000 sealskins.


January 7

George Bass and Matthew Flinders complete their circumnavigation of Van Diemen’s Land having explored the Tamar Estuary, climbed Mt Wellington and confirmed the existence of Bass Strait.

February 11

The public gaol in Sydney is deliberately burnt down.

February 28

Gov John Hunter issues another general order prohibiting distilling of spirits.


The Hawkesbury River floods after torrential rains.


Beginning of a six year period of resistance to white settlement by Aborigines in Hawkesbury and Parramatta area – known as "The Black War".

May 3

Storeship Buffalo (W Raven) arrives at Port Jackson as a replacement for HMS Supply.

May 29

George Bass leave Port Jackson aboard Naultilis (Charles Bishop), which sails for China and England.

June 4 – 6

Violent storms cause extensive damage in Sydney.

June 29

Storeship Albion arrives at Port Jackson with Capt. Eber Bunker aboard. He subsequently goes whaling.

July 8

Explorer Matthew Flinders leaves Port Jackson in the Norfolk to explore the coast to the north, examining Moreton Bay and Hervey Bay. He rerurns to Sydney on August 20.

August 25

Presbyterian clergyman, politician, educationist, immigration organizer, historian, anthropologist, journalist and gaol-bird Rev John Dunmore Lang, born at Greenock, Scotland.

October 2

Early Administrator of the Port Phillip settlement, William Lonsdale, born.

October 5

A despatch received from England recalls Gov John Hunter and names Lieut Philip Gidley King as his successor.

October 15

Sydney based merchant, pastoralist and whaler, Archibald Mosman, born.

October 18

Five settlers on the Hawkesbury are found guilty of murdering two Aboriginal people. They are subsequently pardoned.

December 2

The Spanish ship El Plumier, captured by whalers off the South Amercian coast, arrives at Port Jackson and is sold as a prize on 7th December.

December 28

Parramatta Gaol, situated at the corner of Church Street and Victoria Road, is deliberately burnt down.


January 11

Convict transport Minerva arrives at Port Jackson with 188 convicts. on board are Catholic Priest, Father James Harold, ‘General’ Joseph Holt and Lieut William Cox. On the same day, Thynne, under charter to officers of the NSW Corps, arrives from Bengal with a large quantity of spirits for sale in the colony.

February 14

Robert Campbell returns to Sydney from Calcutta and establishes a trading and importing business.

February 16

Friendship, with a cargo of 114 convicts, arrives at Port Jackson. On board are Romn Catholic Priest, Father James Dixon and surveyor, explorer and settler, James Meehan.

March 3

Matthew Flinders leaves Port Jackson for England in HMS Reliance (Henry Waterhouse).


William Balmain receives a land grant of 550 acres at Cockle Bay. In October he is appointed harbour master.

April 15

Lieut Philip Gidley King arrives in Port Jackson in the Speedy to replace John Hunter as Governor. Among those on board are naturalist and explorer George Caley, engineer and explorer Francis Louis Barrallier and 50 convicts.

April 22

Judge Sir Roger Therry born at Cork, Ireland.

June 1

Public Servant and Parliamentarian, Edward Deas Thomson, born at Edinburgh, Scotland.

June 26

Maj Joseph Foveaux appointed Lieut-Gov of Norfolk Island, replacing Thomas Rowley.

July 16

Rev. Richard Johnson and Rev. Samuel Marsden open a church school at Kissing Point (Ryde).

July 16

Henry Kable and James Underwood extablish a business partnership for manufacturing, sealing, shipbuilding. The procure premises on Circular Quay, Sydney Cove.

September 7

Gov John Hunter forms the first volunteer corps, due to his concern that Irish political prisoners are planning insurrections.

September 28

Philip Gidley King takes over from John Hunter as Governor.

September 29

Co. William Paterson appointed Lieut-Governor.

October 1

Gov Philip Gidley King issues a general order aimed at ending monopolies in trade and forbids traffic in spirits without permission.

October 17

Col. William Paterson arrests Maj George Johnston of NSW Corps, on charges of paying spirits to a segeant as part of his pay.

October 21

The Buffalo leaves for England carrying eight sample merinos from John Macarthur‘s farm. On board are John Hunter and Maj George Johnston (under arrest).

November 6

Porpoise (John Murray is Master’s Mate) arrives at Port Jackson with four tonnes of copper coins.

November 19

Governor Philip Gidley King fixes the value of coinage in circulation.

November 21

Royal Admiral arrives at Port Jackson with 257 convicts. Also on board are West Indian George Howe (soon to be Government Printer) and Ensign William Lawson. Lawson was soon posted to the garrison at Norfolk Island, where he married Sarah Leadbeater.

December 3

The Lady Nelson arrives in Southern Australian waters for survey work under Lieut James Grant.

December 14

A rebellion at Norfolk¨ Island is suppressed. Lieut-Gov Joseph Foveaux hangs two Irish prisoners who led the insurgence.

In this year

George Caley establishes a botanical garden in Parramatta and begins collecting plants for Joseph Banks.

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