The rum track
Places associated with the 'Rum Rebellion', 26th January 1808 to 1st January 1810
What was the Rum Rebellion? Briefly, the arrival of Governor-designate Bligh in August 1806 was viewed with some suspicion by vested interests in the local military force, the NSW Corps; although welcomed by many of the small settlers. This was confirmed by the first meeting between Bligh and the colony's wealthiest man, and former Rum Corps officer, John Macarthur. They met in the garden of Government House Parramatta at a dinner hosted by retiring Governor King, and almost immediately quarrelled when Macarthur began pressing his claims for a large grant of land.
Relations between Bligh and his supporters (the loyalists) and Macarthur, the NSW Corps and their supporters (the rebels) deteriorated rapidly. In the absence of a political assembly, their conflicts were fought out in the local courts. By the summer of 1808 the political atmosphere was poisonous, and on the evening of the 26th January a detachment of the NSW Corps marched on Government House Sydney where they seized the Governor, placed him under house arrest and declared a state of martial law to exist. This has been variously described as a coup d'état, a rebellion, an uprising or an insurrection, although the usual description at the time was a usurpation (according to its opponents) or the overthrow of a tyrant (according to its supporters). The term 'rum rebellion' was not invented until the 1850s.
Governor Bligh's signet ring with his Coat of arms, an emblem of the contested authority in the colony. Reproduced courtesy of Dixon Library and Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW.
The Public Seal of New South Wales, an emblem of the contested authority in the colony. Reproduced courtesy of Dixon Library and Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW.
The rebellion lasted for nearly two years, covering almost the whole of 1808 and 1809. This period of rebel administration has three distinct phases. The first lasted for six months under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel George Johnston, with Macarthur as his Colonial Secretary; the second for nearly six months under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Foveaux; and the third for twelve months under Colonel William Paterson. Each of these men exercised the vice-regal functions, and used the title of Lieutenant Governor.
Bligh was detained in Government House Sydney until he agreed to leave for England in February 1809. However, he instead sailed for Hobart, where he remained exiled on HMS Porpoise until he heard of Macquarie's arrival and sailed back to Sydney. The rebellion officially ended on New Years Day 1810 when Macquarie assumed the office of Governor and revoked all the acts of the rebels.
A map of Sydney drawn in 1807 shows the town at the time of the rebellion.
Rum Rebellion sites
A number of sites associated with the rebellion are listed as heritage items, although not always for their associations with the rebellion. Click on the listings below to view these records, and take a 'virtual tour' of New South Wales' rum rebellion sites.
Government House, Sydney Cove c1809, where Governor Bligh was detained for 13 months from January 1808 to February 1809. Reproduced courtesy of Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW.
St Philip's Church of England, Church Hill, Sydney 1809, where effigies of Bligh were burnt, and the first burial place of his son-in-law Lt. John Putland. Reproduced courtesy of Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW.
- *First Government House Site, Bridge Street, Sydney, where Governor Bligh was captured by the NSW Corps, and detained under house arrest from January 1808 to February 1809, until he escaped to Van Diemen's Land.
- Wynyard Park, and *Transport House, York Street, Sydney, the site of the Parade Ground, and of the Officers Barracks from which Lieutenant-Colonel Foveaux administered the second phase of the rebellion (June 1808 to January 1809), and renovated the Barracks. Colonel Paterson later had Bligh taken from Government House and locked up in the Barracks until he agreed to return to England (although in fact he sailed to Hobart).
- Lang Park, York, Land & Grosvenor streets, Sydney, the site of the original St Phillip's Anglican Church, in which the rebels held a public meeting on the night of the overthrow, and surviving area of open space previously known as Church Hill, on which large bonfires were lit and an effigy of Bligh was burnt on the night of the overthrow.
- Bridge Street, Sydney was in 1808 a narrower street around the head of Sydney Cove, along which the NSW Corps marched to the tune of 'The British Grenadiers' to surround Government House and arrest Bligh.
- Circular Quay, Sydney was known at the time of the rebellion as the Government Wharf, with the Public Wharf on its western shore. Everyone leaving or arriving at Sydney by sea did so through these wharves.
- Museum of Contemporary Art, First Fleet Park, The Rocks the site of the first Commissariat which housed the public stores and imported rum and other alcohol, and which was extensively refurbished by the second rebel administration.
- *Kyle House, 27-31 Macquarie Place, Sydney , the site of the house and commercial warehouse of Simeon Lord, a wealthy emancipist who played a leading role in the overthrow.
- Farrer Place, Sydney , the approximate site of David Mann's Town Lot 66 which was within the Government House Domain. Governor Bligh ordered the demolition of Mann's house (and several others for town planning reasons) in 1807, which became a precipitating event for the rebellion.
- *Vaucluse House, Wentworth Road, Vaucluse , the site of the home of Sir Harry Hayes, a leading loyalist and opponent of the rebels.
- Sydney Technical College, Harris Street, Ultimo , the site of Ultimo House where Surgeon John Harris hosted a number of meetings of the rebel officers.
- Annandale House site, Macaulay, Percival & Albany roads, Stanmore, site of the estate and home of Lt George Johnston who assumed the vice-regal office on the overthrow of Bligh, and led the first phase of the rebellion (January 1808 to June 1808). The gates have since been relocated to 25 Johnston Street, Annandale
- *Elizabeth Farm, 70 Alice Street, Parramatta, the principal residence at the time of John Macarthur, businessman, grazier and formerly of the NSW Corps, who was appointed Colonial Secretary during the first phase of the rebellion.
Annandale House, on the estate of Lt. Col. George Johnston, who lead the NSW Corps in detaining Bligh, and leader of the first rebel administration. Reproduced courtesy of Government Printing Office Collection, State Library of NSW.
Government House, Parramatta, c1808 where Paterson lived during the third rebel administration. Reproduced courtesy of Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW.
- *Old Government House, Parramatta Park, Parramatta, to which the rebels tried to banish Bligh, and where Lt Governor Paterson lived during the third phase of the rebellion (January 1809 to December 1809).
- Chelsea Farm, 8-10 Englart Place, Baulkham Hills, , the site of the farm of George Suttor, a leading loyalist, who was arrested at the farm for refusing to attend rebel musters.
- *Coal River Precinct, East Newcastle, the site of the Coal Mines penal station to which several of the leading opponents of the rebels were transported during the first phase.
The following sites are not
heritage listed, but may be marked by a plaque on or near the site, or referred to in histories of the rebellion or of the local area.
- NAB House, 255 George Street, Sydney, the site of the Old Parade Ground from where the Corps marched up Bridge Street to Government House to arrest Bligh.
- 234 George Street & 2-6 Bridge Street, Sydney, the site of the Female Orphanage, which was also used as a church and as a courthouse, notably for the trials of Macarthur, and also the trials of loyalists after the rebellion.
- Four Seasons Hotel, 199 George Street, Sydney, the site of the County Jail where Macarthur was imprisoned before the overthrow, and where Gore and other loyalists were detained and imprisoned after the overthrow.
- Lang Street Sydney, where the alignment of the street reflects the alignment of Macarthur's Town Lot 77, on which Bligh refused permission for Macarthur to build a house in 1807, and ordered the removal of the fence around the lot. Macarthur symbolically replaced one of the fence posts, in one event that precipitated the rebellion.
- Between Argus Lane and Harris Street, Parramatta, site of the Military Barracks where bonfires and an effigy of Francis Oakes were burnt on the night after the overthrow of Bligh.
- 'Blighton' Model Farm, cnr. Hall Street and Punt Road, Pitt Town, the site of Bligh's Hawkesbury farm, and cited by the NSW Corps as evidence of Bligh's corrupt administration.
- Government House site, Green Hills (35-37 George Street, Windsor), the site where rebels lit bonfires on the night of the overthrow, and from which they exercised control over the Hawkesbury District and suppressed local opposition to the rebellion.
The Coal River settlement, c1808: the coal mines were on the peninsula on the right-hand side
of the picture. Reproduced courtesy of Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW.
Green Hills (Windsor) c1807, the main town in the Hawkesbury district and a centre of opposition to the rebellion. Reproduced courtesy of Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW.
Many of the burial sites of key figures involved in the rebellion can be visited today. The known sites in NSW and Tasmania are listed below, although many of the key figures are buried in Britain or elsewhere overseas.
Key: R = Rebel, L = Loyalist
* = cemetery listed on the SHR; others are LEP listed.
*St John's Cemetery, 1 O'Connell Street, Parramatta
R John Blaxland, died 1845 at Newington
R Nicholas Bayly, died 1823 at 'Bayly Park', Cabramatta
L Francis Oakes, died 1844 at Parramatta
L John Palmer, died 1833 at Parramatta
L Robert Campbell Snr, died 1846 at 'Duntroon', Limestone Plains (now Canberra)
St. Peter's Cemetery, Windsor Street, Richmond
L John Bowman, died 1825 at 'Archerfield', Richmond
L Thomas Matcham Pitt, died 1821 at Richmond
*St Matthew's Cemetery, Moses Street, Windsor
L Andrew Thompson, died 1810 at his home, Windsor
L Thomas Arndell, died 1821 at 'the Hawkesbury'
R Richard Fitzgerald, died 1840 at his house in Windsor
R John Brabyn, died 1835, at 'York Lodge', Windsor
*Ebenezer Uniting (Presbyterian) Church churchyard, Coromandel Road, Ebenezer
L James Mein, died 1827
L Andrew Johnston, died 1849
L John Turnbull, died 1834
St Luke's Anglican churchyard, Liverpool
R Thomas Moore, died 1840 at 'Moorebank', Liverpool
*St Bartholemew's Anglican Church churchyard, Ponds Road, Prospect
R William Lawson, died 1850 at 'Veteran Hall', Prospect
Castlereagh Cemetery, Church Lane, Cranebrook
L Rev. Henry Fulton, died 1840 at Castlereagh Parsonage
Holy Trinity Cemetery, Gilmore Street, Kelso nr. Bathurst
L George Suttor, died 1859 at 'Brucedale', Peel
Pioneers Park in Botany Cemetery, Bunnerong Road, Matraville
L George Crossley, died 1823 in Sydney, buried Sandhills Cemetery (now site of Central Railway Station), relocated to Botany Cemetery in 1901
R Simeon Lord, died 1840 at 'his home next to his factory' at Botany, buried Sandhills Cemetery, relocated to Botany Cemetery in 1901
R William Minchin, died 1821 in Elizabeth Street, Sydney, buried Sandhills Cemetery, relocated to Botany Cemetery in 1901
Waverley Cemetery, St Thomas Street, Waverley
R George Johnston, died 1823, buried 'Annandale' family vault, relocated to Waverley in 1905.
*St Stephen's Cemetery, 187 Church Street, Camperdown
L John Putland, died 1808, buried in a vault at old St Phillip's on Church Hill, but later relocated to Town Hall burial ground, then later relocated to St Stephens (headstone remains in present St Phillip's). Mary Putland had intended to have the body sent back to England, but was prevented by the outbreak of the rebellion
*Rookwood Necropolis, Lidcombe
R Thomas Laycock, died 1809 in Pitt Street, Sydney, buried Town Hall burial ground, relocated to Rookwood
*Macarthur Family Cemetery, Camden Park, Menangle
R John Macarthur, died 1834 at Camden Park, buried in family cemetery.
Belmont Park/St John of God Hospital, Grose Vale Road, North Richmond
R Archibald Bell, died 1837 at 'Belmont', buried in family cemetery
Pearce Family Cemetery, Seven Hills Road, Baulkham Hills
L Matthew Pearce, died 1831 at 'Kings Langley' farmhouse, buried in family cemetery
Northern Sydney TAFE, North Sydney Campus, Pacific Highway, Artarmon
L William Gore, died 1845 at Artarmon, but not buried until 1860, at 'Artarmon House' (now site of Northern Sydney TAFE)
Port Dalrymple (now Launceston) c1806, where Lt. Paterson remained for 13 months despite repeated requests for his return to Sydney. Reproduced courtesy of Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW.
View across the Derwent River in Hobart, c1806 where Bligh remained in exile on HMS Porpoise February 1809 to January 1810. Reproduced courtesy of Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW.
R David Collins, died 1810 in Hobart, buried St David's churchyard, Hobart
R Anthony Fenn Kemp, died 1868, buried St George's churchyard, Sandy Bay
Links to other NSW Government websites with 'Rum Rebellion' information
Historic Houses Trust of NSW: calendar of Rum Rebellion events at Museum of Sydney on the Site of First Government House http://www.hht.net.au/discover/highlights/insites/rebellion!
State Library of NSW: 'Politics & Power' exhibition
Parliament of NSW: 'Early European settlement'
Page last updated: 01 September 2012