Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Thomas Restell Crowder (1758–1824)

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Thomas Restell Crowder (1758?-1824), convict and superintendent, was convicted as Thomas Risdale, alias Crowder, seaman, at Bristol, England, on 29 March 1785 and sentenced to transportation for life. He arrived at Port Jackson in the Alexander with the First Fleet. Thereafter Crowder became his established surname and Restell, variously rendered, became a second Christian name. On 7 June 1788 he married Sarah Davis (Davies), a glovemaker who had been convicted in August 1783 at Worcester for shop-lifting, sentenced to transportation for seven years and had arrived in the Lady Penrhyn. After they were sent with other convicts in the Supply to Norfolk Island in February 1789, Crowder soon became an overseer and Lieutenant-Governor Philip Gidley King recommended him for good behaviour. On 3 November 1792 he was emancipated, sworn in as a constable, became a settler and acquired fourteen acres (5.6 ha) of land. In January 1794 he became involved in a fracas at the playhouse with a sergeant, and was arrested and kept in irons until taken to Sydney next March. In due course he returned to the island, where his wife had died on 26 June 1794, and lived quietly cultivating his land. In 1809 he moved to Van Diemen's Land and in May with other Norfolk Islanders signed a fulsome address of loyalty to the deposed governor, William Bligh. He soon remarried and took up land.

In 1813 he was appointed superintendent of convicts at Hobart Town at £50 a year, with two assigned servants and rations for his wife and child. As well as conducting regular convict musters, recording the names of assigned servants and attending the issue of their stores, he acted as master carpenter and bricklayer, assisting the colonial engineer in surveying leases resumed by the government and reporting on their value for compensation. In these duties he was well placed to observe the wily devices of commissary officials and landholders, but, although often required as a witness at inquiries, his evidence was always discreetly unrevealing. By 1818 his convict returns seldom tallied with those of the colonial secretary, and Lieutenant-Governor William Sorell found it necessary to appoint a second superintendent to assist the colonial engineer. In 1820 when Commissioner John Thomas Bigge visited Hobart, Sorell praised Crowder's integrity, but soon afterwards recommended that he should be superannuated, 'being advanced in life'. With Macquarie's approval, Crowder was given a pension of £25 and became caretaker of St David's Church. In his sixty-seventh year he died at his home in Elizabeth Street on 28 November 1824.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of New South Wales, vol 2
  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vol 8
  • series 3, vols 2-4
  • Hobart Town Gazette, 3 Dec 1824
  • CO 201/1-2.

Additional Resources

  • death notice, Hobart Town Gazette, 3 December 1824, p 3, column 4

Citation details

'Crowder, Thomas Restell (1758–1824)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 21 April 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
  • Risdale, Thomas
  • Crowder, Thomas Ristol
  • Crowder, Thomas Ristell
  • Crowder, Thomas Restil



28 November, 1824 (aged ~ 66)
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Cause of Death


Cultural Heritage

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Convict Record

Crime: theft
Sentence: life