The Captain Thunderbolt Sites | NSW Environment, Energy and Science

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The Captain Thunderbolt Sites

Item details

Name of item: The Captain Thunderbolt Sites
Type of item: Complex / Group
Group/Collection: Landscape - Cultural
Category: Historic Landscape
Primary address: Various, Uralla, NSW 2358
Parish: Uralla
County: Sandon
Local govt. area: Uralla
All addresses
Street AddressSuburb/townLGAParishCountyType
VariousUrallaUrallaUrallaSandonPrimary Address

Statement of significance:

The four places included in The Captain Thunderbolt Sites are Thunderbolt's Rock, the former site of Blanch's Royal Oak Inn, Captain Thunderbolt's Death Site and Captain Thunderbolt's Grave; together they are representative of the types of places and activities associated with the bushranging activities of Captain Thunderbolt.

The sites are of historical significance in demonstrating the impact of bushranging on mid-19th century New South Wales. The advent of bushranging lead to a wide-spread expansion of the police force into rural areas and increased security for mail coaches and gold escorts. The role of Aboriginal people as police employees became increasingly important as the criminals had a far greater knowledge of the bush than the police. The bushrangers of the post convict period are historically significant as evidence of a growing familiarity with the Australian bush. In the case of Captain Thunderbolt this familiarity was enhanced through his relationship with his part Aboriginal wife of mixed heritage Mary Ann Bugg.

The Captain Thunderbolt sites are of State significance for their association with a historical phase during which horses were the dominant mode of transport and highly prized possessions. One of the reasons Captain Thunderbolt successfully evaded police for seven years was due to his ability to acquire quality horses that could out-class those provided to the police. The importance of horses to Captain Thunderbolt is demonstrated by his frequenting of local races to get access to the fastest horses.

The Captain Thunderbolt sites are of State significance due to their associations with the mythology of Captain Thunderbolt the bushranger. The exploits of Captain Thunderbolt were recorded in newspapers of the day and were widely known across New South Wales. The historical treatment of Captain Thunderbolt has retained his legend in the public's imagination ensuring he is viewed as a significant person in the history of New South Wales. The rise in nationalist sentiment leading up to Federation led to the romanticisation of the bushrangers, including Captain Thunderbolt. In a process that began in the 1890s and has continued to the present, Captain Thunderbolt has been converted from a terrifying bushranger, into an Australian Robin Hood. The romanticisation of Captain Thunderbolt's life is demonstrated by public visitation at his Grave and other sites associated with him and the naming of roads (Thunderbolt's Way) and other local landmarks (Thunderbolt's Rock).
Date significance updated: 26 Mar 12
Note: The State Heritage Inventory provides information about heritage items listed by local and State government agencies. The State Heritage Inventory is continually being updated by local and State agencies as new information becomes available. Read the OEH copyright and disclaimer.


Physical description: Thunderbolt's Rock - Thunderbolt's Rock is a large cluster of granite located approximately 7km south of the town of Uralla on the New England Highway. The area consists of the rock itself with picnic table and car-parking facilities in an area approximately 97m x 116m in size.

Blanch's Royal Oak Inn (former) - The former site of Blanch's Royal Oak Inn is located approximately 7km south of the town of Uralla on the New England Highway, it lies 300m south of Thunderbolt's Rock. The site is located on an open paddock adjacent to a current residence.

Captain Thunderbolt's Death Site - The site of Thunderbolt's death is located approximately 2.4 km northwest of the former Blanch's Royal Inn at a section of the Kentucky Creek where it turns from running north-south to east-west.

Captain Thunderbolt's Grave - Uralla Old General Cemetery. Headstone and picket fence erected in the 20th century.
Physical condition and/or
Archaeological potential:
Thunderbolt's Rock - Good, the area has been fenced off with car-parking and a picnic table installed onsite. Thunderbolt's Rock itself is heavily covered in graffiti which has been the subject of some academic study.

Blanch's Royal Oak Inn (former) - The site of the former Blanch's Royal Oak Inn contains no extant building elements. The site is identified by a large threshold stone and a rock strewn depression indicating the position of the cellar. The site is marked by a number of introduced trees with a section of overgrown rose bushes growing close to the threshold between it and the New England Highway. Other evidence of previous use are present within the landscape including potential cattle yards and paths.

Captain Thunderbolt's Death Site - The Death Site is located within a east/west section of the Kentucky River. Damming undertaken downstream in the 1960s have submerged the actual site of Thunderbolt's death.

Captain Thunderbolt's Grave - The grave is marked by a marble headstone erected in 1914. Works undertaken at the site in 2011 included the installation of a picket fence around the grave.
Date condition updated:26 Mar 12
Further information: For more detail see the individual entries of these sites.
Current use: Various
Former use: Various


Historical notes: Frederick Ward was born to the former convict Michael Ward (transported on the Indefatigable in 1815) and his wife Sophia in around 1835 (SRNSW 4/6308 No. 2103), the youngest of 11. Either just before Frederick's birth or shortly thereafter Michael and Sophia relocated from Wilberforce to Windsor.

After his family relocated to Maitland in the 1840s Fred was described as a generally useful hand by the owner of Aberbaldie station in the New England District (Bradley 1979); escorting his new employers from Morpeth to Aberbaldie at the age of 11. By 1853 Fred Ward, was employed at Tocal Station, owned by Charles Reynolds, near Paterson as a horsebreaker (Walker 1957) and was reportedly on an income of 100 Pounds, twice the normal wage, although this cannot be substantiated. Tocal Station is listed on the State Heritage Register (SHR No. 00147); the main significance of Tocal as a European site is its use as a stud horse and cattle agricultural property from the 19th century. The Reynolds were pioneers in stud cattle and horses, who contributed greatly to stud breeding and recognition. An existing building on the site constructed of handmade convict bricks is locally known as 'Thunderbolt's Cottage' although there is no direct evidence to confirm that Fred Ward ever lived at this cottage.

Fred Ward's first known foray into crime occurred in 1856 when Fred agreed to assist his nephews (sons of his sister Sarah) John and James Garbutt to drive a mob of horses stolen from Tocal and Bellevue Stations to Windsor for sale (SRNSW 2/2484; Maitland Mercury 13th May 1856). The gang was caught and arrested. In the subsequent trial Fred Ward and James Garbutt were sentenced to 10 years hard labour for receiving stolen horses and stealing horses respectively; they were to serve out their sentences at Cockatoo Island (Maitland Mercury 14th August 1856).

Ward claimed to have no knowledge of the horses' origins and referred to his nephew John Garbutt as the 'master' of the drive. Garbutt was using the name Mr Ross (Brouwer 2007) to account for some of the horses bearing the Tocal 'CR' brand, a deceit supported by Ward when questioned about the horses during the drive to Windsor (Brouwer 2007).

The severity of the punishment handed out to Fred Ward has been questioned by some writers as he was found guilty of receiving stolen horses rather than stealing. But the fact that he supported the lies of his nephew would seem to indicate that even if he did not steal them himself he was not an innocent who was duped in the whole affair.

During Ward's time at Cockatoo Island he achieved the position of night wardsman but was sentenced to three days solitary confinement for falling asleep while on duty (SRNSW 4/549 Item 65/712 No. 58/1399; SRNSW 4/3424 No. 60/2462). In 1860 he was released on a ticket-of-leave after serving only four years of his ten year sentence (SRNSW 4/4233 No. 60/28 Reel 893; NSW Police Gazette 28th July 1860; Government Gazette 27th July 1860).

Fred Ward was required to remain in the Mudgee district and also had to attend a muster every three months. It was while working in this district, possibly at the Cooyal Station of Mrs Garbutt, that Fred either commenced or (as some authors claim e.g. Oppenheimer 1992) renewed a relationship with an Aboriginal woman of mixed heritage Mary Ann Baker (nee Bugg).

The decisions made by Fred Ward in 1861 surrounding his wife Mary Ann (either common law or otherwise) reflect a pivotal time in the life of Fred Ward and were to lead directly to the creation of Captain Thunderbolt. In a petition made by Elizabeth Garbutt on behalf of her husband in February 1861 (SRNSW 61/3928) Fred is referred to as living near Stoney Creek about 3 or 4 miles from Mudgee. Fred Ward was obviously present in the Mudgee district in June 1861 as he attended his quarterly muster. Sometime after that Fred and the pregnant Mary Ann travelled east to Mary Ann's childhood home at Monkerai; where their daughter Marina was born in October 1861(RBDM 7193/1861).

By bringing Mary Ann home, Fred was unable to attend the required muster in September 1861 and was proclaimed to be illegally at large in the Police Magistrate's court on 13th September (Sydney Morning Herald 9th October 1861). To make matters worse for Fred he arrived at the muster late on a horse that he claimed he had purchased near Cooyal but whose ownership he could not adequately prove. The Mudgee Liberal of October 1861 reported that Fred Ward was convicted of 'receiving stolen property on the 3rd October, sentencing deferred'; a sentence of three years hard labour was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 9th October. His imprisonment was to be served after the remainder of his first sentence, 6 years, was served. The fatal decision to accompany his pregnant wife, Mary Ann back to her parent's farm sometime after June 1861 led directly to Ward's second term at Cockatoo Island; a punishment of nine years imprisonment without the chance for parole.

In 1851 a system of 'task work' was implemented at Cockatoo Island where a prisoner could receive a reduction in sentence for every day worked. This regime was changed, with new regulations introduced on 1st June 1858; prisoners convicted after that date were required to work the entire period of their sentence until eligible for a ticket-of-leave (Government Architects Office 2009).

Contrary to Ward's first term on Cockatoo Island, his second term was not categorised by the good behaviour and trust that was exhibited during his first term during which he was appointed as a night wardsman. The effect of putting together men who could earn remission through hard labour and those who couldn't was to have a detrimental impact on the orderly running of Cockatoo Island. The growing unrest led, in early 1863, to riots and the refusal of a group of men, including Fred Ward, to work (SRNSW 4/6502). By the end of February, with the worst of the rebels moved to Darlinghurst gaol the infractions stopped.

On 11th September 1863 Fred Ward and another convict, Frederick Britten, were missing from evening muster (SRNSW 4/6518). The two men secreted themselves somewhere on Cockatoo Island before making their final bid for freedom sometime around the 13th or 14th of September. The exact details of the escape are not known however what can be stated with certainty is that some clothing and discarded irons were found at the northern end of Cockatoo Island only some 300 metres away from Woolwich (Maitland Mercury 19th September 1863). A local magistrate reported that, at the time of the escape, Mary Ann was working at Dungog where Fred made his way after his escape (SRNSW 4/573 No.66/1844).

Stories persist that Mary Ann Bugg had taken employment as a housemaid under the name of Louisa Mason in Balmain, and that she was instrumental in the escape. It is reported that Mary-Ann herself recounted a story to Police Constable William Langworthy that she swam out to the island with a file and then, on the night of the escape, used a lantern to signal the prisoners from the mainland, and when they arrived, provided horses and provisions for their escape (Bierens 2008; Walker 1958; Janson 1996; Oppenheimer 1983).

The first outright robbery attributed to Fred Ward occurred at Gostwyck's Hut (near Uralla) in October 1863.

On 27th October 1863 Fred Ward and his accomplice were surprised by police while waiting to rob the mail at Split Rock, later named Thunderbolt's Rock. In the ensuing shootout Fred Ward was shot behind the left knee (a scar that was to assist in the identification of his body) (Brouwer 2007; Maitland Mercury 3rd November 1863).

Thunderbolt's Rock provides an excellent vantage point to survey the surrounding countryside and is in the vicinity of many Ward's robberies. It is unknown when the name of the site was changed from Split Rock to Thunderbolt's Rock but this change reflects the connection of this site with Captain Thunderbolt both physically and within the psyche of the local community. The rock is the site where Thunderbolt began, and effectively, ended his career.

The origins of the name Captain Thunderbolt are unknown. It is reported to have first been used by Fred Ward during the robbery of Campbell's toll-bar at the present intersection of the Wollombi Road and New England Highway, Rutherford (Brouwer 2007). On 21st December 1863 the keeper, Mr William Delaney was robbed by a man who identified himself as Captain Thunderbolt while riding off (Maitland Mercury 22nd December 1863). A much more dramatic, although unsupported by any primary sources, version is provided by Brennan (1910). In this version the keeper of the toll-bar was woken by a knocking at the gate. When he asked who was making the noise the reported reply was, "I am 'Thunderbolt', the noise I made was the thunder, while this is the bolt" referring to his revolver.

These were the beginnings of a bushranging career that lasted for nearly seven years. As time passed Captain Thunderbolt proved impossible to catch; the success of Thunderbolt as a criminal can best be seen by increasing rewards set out for his capture. On his escape from Cockatoo Island a rewards of 25 pounds offered for his recapture (Police Gazette 14th October 1863) by December 1867 this reward had risen to 400 pounds (Government Gazette 24th December 1867).

Walker (1957) and Brouwer (2007) provide lists of the crimes from 1863 to 1870 that are attributable to Thunderbolt from Newspaper and Government sources of the time. The long period of time in which Thunderbolt was able to act and the number of robberies attributed to him (even accounting for some exaggeration) must be attributed to several major factors; the influence of his wife Mary Ann Bugg; the attitude which the general public held him; and his superior horsemanship.

Mary Ann Bugg was the child of a European father and Aboriginal mother (James and Charlotte Bugg). Born in the Gloucester district, where James was the overseer of an Australian Agricultural Company sheep station, her birth is recorded as being on 7th May 1834 (Baxter 2011). The attitude of James and Charlotte Bugg to their children was particularly enlightened. Sometime in late 1837 Bugg spoke to Edward Robbins (A.A.Co Superintendent at Gloucester) about the education of his children. Through the intervention of Henry Dumaresq, Commissioner for the A.A.Co. the Governor agreed; in a letter dated 5th February 1838 it was stated that the children could be placed in the Orphan School for education (SRNSW 4/2455.2 No. 39/2522; Oppenheimer 1983).

The death of Dumaresq on 5th March 1838 put an end to the matter until June that year when concerns were raised by the Governor over continuing liaisons between Aboriginal women and servants of the A.A.Co. The Governor threatened to withdraw the government-supplied convict labour if such instances were identified; Acting Commissioner of the A.A.Co., James Ebsworth promised to act against any such assigned servant (Oppenheimer 1983).

Under this scrutiny the children of James and Charlotte were baptised on 24th February 1839 and the following day James Bugg undertook the journey to Sydney to accompany them to the Orphan School (SRNSW 4/2455.2 No. 39/2522). There is some uncertainty over where Mary Ann spent the next five years of her life. The Orphan School Admission Registers do not record the admission of the children however it was reported by a Magistrate that knew the Buggs that Mary Ann had spent about five years in Sydney at a school (Baxter 2011).

Mary Ann and Fred Ward were both in the Mudgee District in 1860 and it is possible that they renewed a previous acquaintance (Oppenheimer 1992).

Thunderbolt was able to avoid capture for far longer than most bushrangers of the era. This success was in no small part due to the bush knowledge that Mary Ann received from her mother. Reports from the time show that Mary Ann accompanied Fred (Maitland Mercury 23rd February 1864; Police Gazette 8th February 1865; Sydney Empire 2nd May 1865). The following first hand report of the importance of Mary Ann to Thunderbolt was given by an Aboriginal midwife who was either a hostage or willing companion of the two (claiming the former when she walked into Stroud in March 1866): 'his wife always accompanies him (dressed in men's attire) out to plunder, that she has a large butchers knife fastened on the end of a stick, rides up alongside the cattle and with this instrument she hamstrings the beast, and then kills it. They principally live on beef (very seldom they have flour), wild yams, and wattle gum' (Maitland Mercury 29th March 1866).

As well as the assistance of Mary Ann it was the attitude of the broader public towards Fred Ward that assisted in his long career. At Millie in May 1865, after robbing the hotel at Boggy Creek some 15 miles away, Ward and his gang took control of the hotel and proceeded to shout everyone who came in with the proceeds of their previous robbery. Similar occurrences took place in December that year at the Quirindi and Carroll hotels (Brennan 1910; Brouwer 2007). The events at Blanch's Inn in 1870 reflect this pattern. On the afternoon of 25th May Thunderbolt met the Blanchs at Split Rock, robbed them and then accompanied the pair back to their Inn. Here he proceeded to shout the crowd with his recently stolen money. Brouwer (2007) states that it was Mrs Blanch who, despite being bailed up and robbed, about three hours earlier, shouted out the warning that the police were coming.

The image of Thunderbolt as a champion of the people, a 'gentleman bushranger', remains a strong one; he claimed he would never steal from someone poorer than him. Thunderbolt is often reported in later literature as never having shot at anyone, although contemporary newspaper accounts differ. At an incident at Wellington in 1868 Thunderbolt is reported to have not proceeded with a robbery because the inn was kept by a widow and he would never molest a woman (Armidale Express October 24th 1868). An example of Thunderbolt's reputed generosity relates to the story of a group of German musicians who were on their way from Warwick to Tenterfield in 1868. He took all of their money, except for 5 shillings, and promised to repay them if he was able to bail up the winner of the Tenterfield Races; the Germans found their money waiting for them in Warwick (Walker 1957; Brouwer 2007).

On the afternoon of the 25th May 1870 Thunderbolt, who had been in the area for the Uralla races the day before, made his way to Blanch's Inn on the main road. Arriving early in the afternoon he was met by the Blanchs' son who told him that his parents had not yet returned from the races. Riding the approximately 300m to Split Rock he waited for the Blanchs and after bailing them up and robbing them, he accompanied them back to the inn. Sometime after, an Italian hawker Giovanni Cappisotti was robbed and held at the Inn by Thunderbolt. Other customers and travellers were robbed and 'invited' to remain as they arrived. Sometime later Cappisotti asked for permission to leave. Thunderbolt gave the permission on the proviso that he travel south, away from Uralla and the police. Cappisotti agreed and headed south from the Inn. When he reached Dorrington's farmhouse he borrowed a saddle and circled back around to Uralla to raise the alarm.

A statement on the shooting of Thunderbolt was provided by Constable Alexander Binning Walker, it is transcribed in full as follows (SRNSW 1/2326.2 File 76/2239 No.70/4440):

Constable Walker respectfully begs to report for Mr Superintendent Brown's information that on the 25th instant, a Hawker brought information into Uralla about 4 o'clock pm that he was stuck up at Blanch's Public house and robbed. Senior Constable Mulhall and Constable Walker immediately started for Blanch's Public house, but the Senior Constable's horse being a good deal faster than the Constable's, he Mulhall arrived at Blanch's about three quarters of a mile in advance of the Constable. The Constable when he was within half a mile of Blanch's heard the report of firearms, he then pushed on and met Senior Constable Mulhall just coming over the top of Blanch's hill. The Senior Constable said the Bushrangers are down there, I have exchanged shots with them; the Constable galloped on and saw two men on horse back.

The Bushranger Ward made for the road and the other man crossed him just before he got to the road. Ward then turned to the right and the other man with him, the two raced along Blanch's fence for a short distance and the Constable's horse began to bog he took a pull on him and the Constable accidentally let his pistol off, where Ward turned round in his saddle and fired at the Constable, who immediately fired at him. Ward then said something to the other man who turned to the right and went out of sight. Ward then beckoned to the Constable and said come on, and the Constable answered all right and raced after Ward for about half a mile when he again fired at the Constable, who returned the fire.

The chase still continued for a good while when Ward galloped up a ridge and when he came to the top, he turned his horse round and faced the Constable and came right at him. The Constable fired but Ward did not but went on past. The Constable turned round and followed Ward until he chased him to Kentucky Creek, and when he came to the Creek he jumped off his horse and into the water. The Constable being very close at the time he immediately caught Ward's horse and led him up the bank and shot him. The Constable had to go about one hundred yards down the creek from the place where Ward swam across to get on the same side as Ward, and when the Constable came up to the place where he saw the man swim across he saw Ward about one hundred yards up the Creek on the opposite side again. The Constable galloped up and came face to face with Ward with the Creek between, about fifteen feet wide.

The Constable then asked him to surrender and he said he would not he then asked the Constable what his name was who told him it was Walker. Ward then asked him if he was a trooper and the answer was yes. He then asked the Constable if he was a married man and the answer was yes. Ward then shook his revolver at the Constable and said remember Walker you are a married man. The Constable then said will you surrender and Ward said I will die first, the Constable then said its you or I for it and then immediately plunged his horse into the water and the horse stumbled and went underneath the water. When Ward made a rush at the Constable into the water with his revolver in his hand the Constable fired and Ward fell forward into the water and went under and when he came up he tried to catch hold of the Constable who then struck him on the top of the head with the revolver. The constable rode his horse out of the water and tied him up. He then drew Ward out of the Creek and believed him to be quite dead.

The Constable thinking the other man was Ward's mate he started back to Blanch's for assistance and when he came up to the house the man that was with Ward came out. The Constable told him to keep back and give an account of himself when he said he had been stuck up by Ward who took his horse and he was after him for the horse. The Constable then took him out to look for the body of Ward but could not find it. Returned to Blanch's and again started accompanied by Senior Constable Mulhall and a man named Dwyer, found the body at day light and sent word for a horse and cart. Senior Constable Scott came with the cart and he searched the body and found a number of articles since identified by the Hawker as his property. The body was taken to Blanch's and a magisterial inquiry held, the body was afterwards taken to Uralla.

(Signed) Alex B. Walker
Senr. Constable

S. D. Brown, Esq
Supert. of Police, Armidale .

The inquiry was run by Mr J. Buchanan, Police Magistrate, who arrived at the Inn on the 26th May after setting out from Armidale. The post mortem examination identified a number of physical features that matched those that were identified in the Police Gazette of 1863 that reported Fred Ward's escape from Cockatoo Island, including a mole on the back of the right arm and two warts on the middle finger of the left hand. The body was identified as that of Fred Ward by a number of people at the Inquiry: Sergeant Ball from Armidale who had served at Cockatoo Island and knew Fred Ward personally from that time; John Blanch who identified the body as that of the man who bailed him up (Blanch testified that the man had said while drinking at the Inn that he was 'Ward or Thunderbolt' and that he had been shot in the knee at Split Rocks seven years earlier) and George Pearson, who had worked with Ward at Mudgee a decade earlier and who had seen and spoken to Ward the day before his death (Sydney Morning Herald 1st June 1870). The body was also identified as that of Fred Ward by William Monckton a young man who had ridden with Thunderbolt some years previously and would go on to write about that period of his life (Monckton 1923). The Police Gazette of 1st June 1870 announced the results of the inquiry; I am of the opinion that the deceased Frederick Ward, alias Thunderbolt, met his death from a gunshot wound inflicted by a member of the Police Force whilst in the execution of his duty.

After being on public display for several days during which the locals had the opportunity to have their photographs taken with the body of the notorious bushranger; the body was buried in the Uralla cemetery; local residents erected a grave stone in 1914 (Brouwer 2007).

The question of the death of Frederick Ward, is not without controversy. What cannot be disputed is that on the 25th May 1870 someone was shot at Kentucky Creek; this person was identified as Frederick Ward, Captain Thunderbolt, at a Magisterial Inquiry and buried some days later. In spite of this there are stories that the person who was shot that day was not Frederick Ward. Newspaper reports of the inquiry indicate that there are differences between Constable Walker's evidence to the inquiry and his formal statement made to Superintendent Brown on the 29th May, four days after the shooting.

Local stories state that it was Fred's uncle Harry Ward that was shot by Constable Walker. Harry is thought to have been the man shot in the knee during the exchange of shots with the police at Split Rock in 1863 and; it was this injury that William Monkton used to positively identify the body as that of Fred Ward not any other marking. Additionally, Harry had the reputation for shooting at police, not Fred. Two troopers at Glen Innes reported seeing Thunderbolt on the Saturday after his shooting. Fred Ward was thought to have escaped to America some months after his supposed death and lived out his life in Canada dying in the early 1900s (Sinclair 2011).

Whatever the truth of the identity of the man who lays in the grave at Uralla cemetery, the story of Captain Thunderbolt is one that has captured the imagination of the people of NSW for over 140 years. Today Thunderbolt is considered alternatively as an unfortunate victim of circumstances and official callousness; a freedom fighter supporting the cause of the poor and downtrodden against corrupt colonial authorities; or a thief, preying on those who were trying to make an honest living. The story of Captain Thunderbolt and those who he shared his life with is recorded in the literature of Australia with books (Hamilton and Sinclair 2009; Baxter 2011), a play written about Mary Ann Bugg (Janson 1996), songs by Slim Dusty, Owen Blundell and Graham Rodger and two known movie versions; the National Film and Sound Archives has 24 minutes of footage from a 1910 film titled 'Captain Thunderbolt'. Monuments have been erected to Captain Thunderbolt and Constable Alexander Walker and a number of landmarks are named for Captain Thunderbolt, the most obvious being the major highway, Thunderbolt's Way. McCrossin's Mill Museum at Uralla has a collection of artefacts that are associated with Captain Thunderbolt, including weapons. The Justice and Police Museum located in Sydney also has objects associated with both Captain Thunderbolt and Alexander Walker.

Historic themes

Australian theme (abbrev)New South Wales themeLocal theme
2. Peopling-Peopling the continent Aboriginal cultures and interactions with other cultures-Activities associated with maintaining, developing, experiencing and remembering Aboriginal cultural identities and practices, past and present. All nations - places of battle or other early interactions between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Commerce-Activities relating to buying, selling and exchanging goods and services Innkeeping-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Communication-Activities relating to the creation and conveyance of information Communicating by mail-
3. Economy-Developing local, regional and national economies Transport-Activities associated with the moving of people and goods from one place to another, and systems for the provision of such movements Coaching Inns along roads-
7. Governing-Governing Law and order-Activities associated with maintaining, promoting and implementing criminal and civil law and legal processes Scenes of criminal activities-
7. Governing-Governing Law and order-Activities associated with maintaining, promoting and implementing criminal and civil law and legal processes Engaging in bushranging and banditry-
7. Governing-Governing Law and order-Activities associated with maintaining, promoting and implementing criminal and civil law and legal processes Incarcerating prisoners-
7. Governing-Governing Law and order-Activities associated with maintaining, promoting and implementing criminal and civil law and legal processes Policing and enforcing the law-
7. Governing-Governing Law and order-Activities associated with maintaining, promoting and implementing criminal and civil law and legal processes Living a life of crime-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Birth and Death-Activities associated with the initial stages of human life and the bearing of children, and with the final stages of human life and disposal of the dead. Erecting and visiting monuments and memorials-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Birth and Death-Activities associated with the initial stages of human life and the bearing of children, and with the final stages of human life and disposal of the dead. Burying and remembering notable persons-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Captain Thunderbolt, Bushranger-
9. Phases of Life-Marking the phases of life Persons-Activities of, and associations with, identifiable individuals, families and communal groups Associations with Alexander Walker, Police Officer-

Assessment of significance

SHR Criteria a)
[Historical significance]
The four sites associated with Captain Thunderbolt are of historical significance in demonstrating the impact of bushranging on colonial New South Wales. The phenomenon of bushranging led to a wide-spread expansion of police forces into rural areas, increased security for mail coaches and gold escorts.

The Captain Thunderbolt Sites are of State significance through their representation of the second phase of bushranging activity, which began in 1860 and ended in the early 1880s and followed an earlier convict bushranging tradition. Bushranging restricted the movement of people between rural centres - people being more hesitant to travel. It also altered the manner in which money circulated via the mail, correspondents cutting the bills in half and sending them by different coaches, and saw an increase in the number of cheques issued.

The Captain Thunderbolt Sites are of State significance, being associated with a historical phase during which horses were the dominant mode of transport and highly prized possessions. Bushranging required horses and the success of a bushranger hung on his ability to acquire quality horses that could out-class those provided to the police.

With the rise in nationalist sentiment leading up to Federation it was important for colonists and early Australians to be able to present themselves as a young and respectable nation. It was this necessity that lead to the romanticisation of the bushrangers, including Captain Thunderbolt.

In a process that began in the 1890s and has continued to the present, Captain Thunderbolt has been converted from a terrifying bushranger, into a gentleman bushranger. Captain Thunderbolt's life has captured the pubic imagination through this process of romanticisation.
SHR Criteria b)
[Associative significance]
The four sites are of State significance due to their associations with Captain Thunderbolt. The exploits of Captain Thunderbolt were recorded in newspapers of the day and were widely known across New South Wales. The historical treatment of the Captain Thunderbolt has retained his legend in the public's imagination ensuring he is viewed as a significant person in the history of New South Wales.
SHR Criteria c)
[Aesthetic significance]
Does not fulfil this criterion.
SHR Criteria d)
[Social significance]
The four sites are of State significance for their associations with Captain Thunderbolt and the place he holds in the public's imagination and consciousness. Captain Thunderbolt is one of the best known bushrangers who operated in New South Wales and forms a significant element in the construction of the Australian identity.

This process persists, demonstrated in the marking of Thunderbolt's grave by members of the community in 1914 and the numerous representations of Thunderbolt in the town of Uralla. Culturally his memory has been perpetuated in literature and television.
SHR Criteria e)
[Research potential]
There is some research potential at the former site of Blanch's Royal Oak Inn.
SHR Criteria f)
The Captain Thunderbolt Death site is rare as an identifiable site of a bushranger's death in the bush.
SHR Criteria g)
The Captain Thunderbolt Sites are representative of the types of places where crimes were committed by bushrangers. Thunderbolt's Rock represents a site that was favoured for bushrangers in perpetrating robberies on mail coaches and travellers. The former site of Blanch's Royal Oak Inn is an example of the many public houses favoured for holding up and is representative of Thunderbolt's practice of robbing travellers and then holding his 'victims' hostage while shouting them with his recently stolen money.
Assessment criteria: Items are assessed against the PDF State Heritage Register (SHR) Criteria to determine the level of significance. Refer to the Listings below for the level of statutory protection.

Procedures /Exemptions

Section of actDescriptionTitleCommentsAction date
57(2)Exemption to allow workStandard Exemptions SCHEDULE OF STANDARD EXEMPTIONS
Notice of Order Under Section 57 (2) of the Heritage Act 1977

I, the Minister for Planning, pursuant to subsection 57(2) of the Heritage Act 1977, on the recommendation of the Heritage Council of New South Wales, do by this Order:

1. revoke the Schedule of Exemptions to subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act made under subsection 57(2) and published in the Government Gazette on 22 February 2008; and

2. grant standard exemptions from subsection 57(1) of the Heritage Act 1977, described in the Schedule attached.

Minister for Planning
Sydney, 11 July 2008

To view the schedule click on the Standard Exemptions for Works Requiring Heritage Council Approval link below.
Jul 20 2012

PDF Standard exemptions for works requiring Heritage Council approval


Heritage ListingListing TitleListing NumberGazette DateGazette NumberGazette Page
Heritage Act - State Heritage Register 0188920 Jul 12 743407

References, internet links & images

TypeAuthorYearTitleInternet Links
Written 1870NSW Police Gazette 1st June
Written 1868Armidale Express October 24th
Written 1867Government Gazette 24th December
Written 1866Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser 29th March
Written 1865Sydney Empire 2nd May
Written 1865NSW Police Gazette 8th February
Written 1864Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser 23rd February
Written 1863NSW Police Gazette 14th October
Written 1863Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser 19th September, 3rd November, 23rd December
Written 1863Cockatoo Island - Punishment Book: Frederick Ward 12th and 21st January
Written 1861Mudgee Liberal 11th October
Written 1861Darlinghurst Gaol – Description Book, 1861, Reel 860
Written 1860CSIL, Convict Department to Principal Under Secretary, 13th June 1860
Written 1860NSW Police Gazette 28th July
Written 1860Government Gazette October 27th July
Written 1858CSIL, Petition of Frederick Ward, 1858
Written 1856Notebooks of Mr Justice Checke: Trial of Frederick Ward and James Garbutt 13th August
Written 1856Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser 13th May, 14th August
Written  Cockatoo Island - Tickets of Leave: Frederick Ward
Written  CSIL, Petition of Elizabeth Garbutt of Cooyal Wife of John Garbutt
ElectronicBaxter, C2011Bushranger Frederick Ward (Captain Thunderbolt) and Mary Ann Bugg and Mary Ann Bugg View detail
WrittenBaxter, C.2011Captain Thunderbolt and His Lady
WrittenBierens, K.2008The Captain’s Lady: Mary Ann Bugg View detail
WrittenBoxall, G.E.1935History of Australain Bushrangers
WrittenBradley, B.1979Brief history of the Milford family and an account of the diary written up by Dr Frederick Milford
WrittenBrennan, M.1910Police History of the Notorious Bushrangers of New South Wales and Victoria
WrittenBrouwer, D.2007Captain Thunderbolt: Horsebreaker to Bushranger
Management PlanGovernment Architects Office2009Cockatoo Island: Conservation Management Plan for the Convict Building and Remains Volume 1: CMP View detail
WrittenHamilton, G.J. and Sinclair, B.2009Thunderbolt: Scourge of the Ranges
WrittenJanson, J.1996Black Mary and Gunjies
WrittenMonckton, W.1923Three Years with Thunderbolt
WrittenOppenheimer, J.1983Colonel Dumaresq, Captain Thunderbolt and Mary Ann Brigg’
ElectronicSinclair, B.2011Facts sheet on the death of Thunderbolt View detail

Note: internet links may be to web pages, documents or images.

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Data source

The information for this entry comes from the following source:
Name: Heritage Office
Database number: 5061598
File number: 11/18297

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