Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Israel Chapman (c. 1794–1868)

by Hazel King

This article was published:

Israel Chapman (1794?-1868), convict and policeman, was born in Chelsea, London. He followed the occupation of coachman. At the Middlesex gaol delivery on 14 January 1818 he was found guilty of highway robbery and sentenced to transportation for life. Next May he was sent to New South Wales in the Glory. Soon after arrival in Sydney he was appointed principal overseer in the prisoners' barracks, an office which he held for eighteen months. He was next appointed constable and principal overseer in the lumber yard, where in the course of duty he captured a number of burglars and bushrangers. On 28 November 1820 in St Philip's Church, Sydney, he married Catharine Martin, a convict.

On 28 November 1821 he was granted a conditional pardon in reward for his services as lumber yard constable and entered the Sydney police. He was very active in this force, was wounded several times in the course of his duties and received a number of rewards for capturing bushrangers. On 8 February 1827 Governor (Sir) Ralph Darling recommended to the Colonial Office that, as further reward for his services, Chapman be granted an absolute pardon, and this was granted in July. Meanwhile Chapman had been appointed to the newly-created post of police runner at a salary of £100. Like the Bow Street Runners, he was primarily a detective, and his duties took him to distant parts of the colony. He was popularly known as the 'George Street Runner', because he was attached to the George Street police office in Sydney.

In February 1829, within a month of his wife's death, he returned to London. In June 1832 his request for a passage to New South Wales as a free emigrant, was warmly supported by Darling, the former governor. Chapman returned to Sydney and in March 1833 was appointed one of the six wardsmen in the police force at a salary of £73. He died at the Liverpool Asylum on 4 July 1868 and was buried in the Jewish section of the cemetery at Haslem's Creek (Rookwood).

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vol 13
  • Sydney Gazette, 18 Jan, 7 June 1822, 5 May, 9 June, 1 Sept 1825, 25 Mar 1826, 18 June 1827
  • H. King, Police Organization and Administration in … New South Wales 1825-1851 (M.A. thesis, University of Sydney, 1956)
  • manuscript catalogue under Israel Chapman (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Returns of Colony of New South Wales, 1827 and 1828 (State Records New South Wales)
  • Liverpool asylum records (State Records New South Wales).

Additional Resources

Citation details

Hazel King, 'Chapman, Israel (c. 1794–1868)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 16 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]


c. 1794
London, Middlesex, England


4 July, 1868 (aged ~ 74)
Liverpool, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

general debility

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.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Passenger Ship
Convict Record

Crime: highway robbery
Sentence: death
Commuted To: life
Court: Old Bailey, London
Trial Date: 14 January 1818


Occupation: coach driver


Left the colony: Yes