Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Lucas, Nathaniel (1764–1818)

by Morton Herman

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

Nathaniel Lucas (1764-1818), joiner, carpenter and builder, was living in Red Lion Street, Holborn, London, in July 1784 when he was convicted at the Old Bailey of having stolen clothing from his neighbour; he was sentenced to transportation for seven years and sailed in 1787 in the Scarborough in the First Fleet. After his arrival in New South Wales, he and Olivia Gascoyne (Gascoigne or Gaskins), whom he later married, were among fifteen convicts specially selected for their character and vocation to pioneer Norfolk Island, where they arrived in the Supply on 6 March 1788. In 1791 he received a grant of fifteen acres (6 ha), which he farmed, and in 1793 purchased another sixty acres (24 ha) from Charles Heritage, a former marine; apparently he was successful, for in August 1802 he sold wheat, maize and pork worth £450 to the government. On 11 June 1795 he had succeeded William Peate as master carpenter. He was suspended from 5 September 1800 to 13 March 1802. He was reappointed and held his post until the establishment was reduced in 1805. In April he returned with his family to Sydney in the Investigator. The ship carried materials for a government windmill which Lucas was to erect in Sydney, and he was allowed to carry materials for another windmill for himself; by June 1805 he completed the first post-mill to be erected in the settlement.

In Sydney Lucas became a private builder, but in 1808 after the rebellion against William Bligh, he was appointed superintendent of carpenters at a salary of £50, with the extra privileges of victualling from the government stores and using assigned servants. In 1813 he was appointed superintendent of the government lumber yard, and had sixty-one men under him. Next year, when Governor Lachlan Macquarie published Bathurst's order abolishing the privileges attached to this and many other offices, Lucas with many others petitioned the governor for their restoration, and Macquarie suspended the order. However, from this time Lucas gave increasing attention to building contracts. He had already been associated with the Rum Hospital in Sydney. In 1816 he was the builder of the parsonage at Liverpool and was associated with that at Parramatta (both demolished). In 1818 he gained the contract for building St Luke's Church, Liverpool, which Francis Greenway designed, and was present when Macquarie laid its foundation stone on 7 April. Greenway, who had quarrelled with Lucas over the hospital, quarrelled with him also over the foundations of the church, alleging that Lucas was much addicted to the bottle, and that he was using very poor stone at the church. On 5 May his body was found in the mud of the river at Liverpool; his death was said 'to have proceeded from his own act, owing to mental derangement'.

Lucas contributed twenty years service to Australian building. None of his work now remains except an unidentifiable portion of the Rum Hospital. He had thirteen children, eleven at Norfolk Island between 1789 and 1803, of whom two (twins) died in infancy, and two more in Sydney in 1805 and 1807.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 1-8
  • H. Rumsey, The Pioneers of Sydney Cove (Syd, 1937)
  • M. H. Ellis, Francis Greenway, (Syd, 1953)
  • Norfolk Island victualling book (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Lachlan Macquarie diary (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Morton Herman, 'Lucas, Nathaniel (1764–1818)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lucas-nathaniel-2380/text3133, published in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 25 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

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