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John Baughan (c. 1754–1797)

by A. J. Gray

This article was published:

John Baughan (1754?-1797), carpenter, was convicted at Oxford, England, in 1783 as Baffen (alias Bingham and Baughan), and sentenced to be transported for seven years for stealing five blankets. He was in the Mercury bound for America in 1784 when she was seized by the convicts off Torbay; he was recaptured and held at Plymouth until transferred to the First Fleet transport Friendship.

On 17 February 1788 he married Mary Cleaver who had been convicted at Bristol in 1786. In 1791 he was granted fifty acres (20 ha) near Parramatta but did not settle there. In March 1794 the grinding mill which Baughan had erected in Sydney commenced operations; with nine men working its capstan bar, it ran so smoothly that sixty-three pounds (29 kg) of wheat were ground in seventeen minutes. James Wilkinson's mill near by, powered by six men who walked inside a massive wheel, commenced operations a month later; it was soon abandoned and Baughan was commissioned to replace it by another of his own design.

In recognition of his achievements as carpenter and millwright, Baughan was granted a small lease near Dawes Point. Here he erected and furnished 'a neat cottage', later acquired by Robert Campbell, and established an attractive garden. On 4 February 1796, overhearing himself being abused by a sentinel who apparently bore him an ancient grudge, Baughan slipped out of his workshop, collected his traducer's arms from his deserted post and handed them to the guard. The sentinel was immediately arrested. Next morning, as an act of reprisal, Baughan's cottage was stormed and extensively damaged by a military rabble. He and his wife 'suffered much personal outrage'. Governor John Hunter expressed himself so forcibly about this 'daring violation of the public peace' that the offenders, through Captain John Macarthur, expressed 'their sincere concern for what had happened' and agreed to indemnify the sufferer.

Although David Collins remarked on Baughan's 'sullen and vindictive disposition', he considered him 'an ingenious man'. He constructed efficient mills and neat dwellings and, until his death on 25 September 1797, officiated as foreman of carpenters in Sydney.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of New South Wales, vol 3
  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 1, 2
  • D. Collins, An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, vol 1 (Lond, 1798)
  • N. Selfe, ‘Some Notes on the Sydney Windmills’, Journal and Proceedings (Australian Historical Society), vol 1, part 6, 1902-03, pp 96-107
  • G. A. Wood, ‘Governor Hunter’, Journal and Proceedings (Royal Australian Historical Society), vol 14, part 6, 1928, pp 344-62
  • R. Clark, journal (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

A. J. Gray, 'Baughan, John (c. 1754–1797)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 21 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (Melbourne University Press), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Baffen, John
  • Bingham, John

c. 1754
Warwick, Warwickshire, England


25 September, 1797 (aged ~ 43)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Passenger Ship
Key Events
Key Places
Convict Record

Crime: theft
Sentence: 7 years
Court: Oxfordshire
Trial Date: 1783