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Nicholas Bayly (1770–1823)

by B. H. Fletcher

This article was published:

Nicholas Bayly (1770-1823), soldier and settler, was the son of Nicholas Bayly (1749-1814) of Plas Newydd, Anglesea, Wales, M.P. for Anglesea 1784-90 and colonel in the West Middlesex Militia, and his wife Frances, née Nettlefold of Kent. He was a nephew of the earl of Uxbridge. Family influence helped to procure him a commission without purchase as ensign in the New South Wales Corps in 1797. He sailed as commander of the guard in the Barwell and, claiming to have discovered a plot to seize the ship, placed his subordinate, Ensign Bond, under arrest. When they arrived at Sydney Major Joseph Foveaux intervened and Bond was allowed to resign rather than stand his trial. Next year Bayly was a member of the court in the controversial trial of Isaac Nichols and formed part of the majority whose decision was criticized by the governor and the naval members of the court. In 1799 and 1800 he received two land grants totalling 566 acres (229 ha) at the Eastern Farms, but by the end of 1800 was on duty at Norfolk Island. After his return to Sydney he married Sarah Laycock on 19 November 1801. In January 1802 he was court-martialled by the governor for illegal possession of liquor and by his commanding officer for refusing to attend a meeting on the subject. Four weeks later he faced the first of several trials for undue severity towards his convict servants and in 1803 was arrested for distributing a lampoon on Governor Philip Gidley King. Promoted lieutenant in 1802, he sent in his resignation from the corps on 25 September 1803, though it was not finally accepted in England until 1808.

Meanwhile Bayly had confirmed his troublesome reputation by taking a central part in the events culminating in Governor William Bligh's deposition. Personal antipathy to the governor combined with a long-standing sympathy for John Macarthur to determine his actions, which were rewarded with appointments as private secretary to Major George Johnston and acting provost-marshal. By May 1808 he had fallen out with Macarthur who described him as a 'violent oppositionist' and attributed his attitude to disappointment at not receiving the spoils and favours he felt were his due. Nevertheless he retained Johnston's confidence and appears to have won favour with Lieutenant-Governor William Paterson, who in February 1809 appointed him Naval Officer and later granted a total of 1070 acres (433 ha) at Cabramatta to himself, his wife and three children. In addition he secured a lease of a valuable property, the naval barracks.

After Governor Lachlan Macquarie's arrival Bayly was dismissed from public office, but his grants were confirmed. At first a supporter of the governor, by 1816 he had gravitated to the side of Macquarie's opponents and resumed his old role of malcontent; at the same time his private affairs had suffered from the drought and economic depression and, in a letter to Sir Henry Bunbury on 13 March 1816 attacking Macquarie's administration, he pleaded for a colonial appointment, claiming that his children who now numbered eight were unprovided for. No answer was forthcoming and it was not until 3 September 1820 that he secured a paid position as cashier and secretary of the Bank of New South Wales. Thereafter his time was divided between bank affairs and managing his Cabramatta property, Bayly Park. When he died on 16 May 1823, his property was valued at £2000, in addition to his farms.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of New South Wales, vols 1-7
  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 1-8
  • G. Mackaness, Life of Vice-Admiral William Bligh, 2nd ed (Syd, 1951)
  • M. H. Ellis, John Macarthur (Syd, 1955)
  • Joseph Banks papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Bonwick transcripts, biography (State Library of New South Wales)
  • King papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Piper papers, vol 1 (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

B. H. Fletcher, 'Bayly, Nicholas (1770–1823)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 24 May 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]




16 May, 1823 (aged ~ 53)
New South Wales, Australia

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