Australian Dictionary of Biography

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George Guest (c. 1767–1841)

by E. R. Pretyman

This article was published:

George Guest (1767-1841), convict and settler, came from Gloucester, England, where on 24 March 1784 he was sentenced to transportation for seven years. He sailed in the Alexander in the First Fleet for New South Wales. On 17 March 1790 he arrived at Norfolk Island. After his sentence expired he became a settler there and received rations until 1794. In December 1796 Guest was granted fourteen acres (5.7 ha) at Norfolk Island, and later he supplied pork and maize to the government. When plans for the transfer of Norfolk Island settlers to Van Diemen's Land were announced he had 600 ewes and 342 wethers, and was recommended by Major Joseph Foveaux as a most industrious settler.

With his wife Mary Bateman, a convict from the Lady Juliana, and six children, and 300 ewes, Guest went to Port Dalrymple but, not wishing to join the five Norfolk Islanders already at Norfolk Plains (Longford), they continued to the Derwent and landed there in September 1805. Thus he was the first Norfolk Islander to settle in the south and the first to introduce sheep into Van Diemen's Land, though he had lost a 'considerable part' of them en route.

He was offered accommodation at New Town but preferred to use a warehouse built by William Collins and lent by Captain Forrest, while he began negotiations for 424 acres (172 ha) to which he considered he was entitled. On 1 January 1806 he was granted twenty-four acres (10 ha) near Macquarie Point, but since there was no school for his children he proposed to return to England. Stating that he would come back, he departed with his family for Sydney almost immediately, and arrived there on 15 February. He was there to sign an address to Governor William Bligh in September 1806; some time afterwards he returned to Hobart Town. On 12 September 1808 his daughter, after whom Sarah Island in Macquarie Harbour was named by James Kelly in 1815, was married to Thomas Birch. On 8 July 1809 Bligh, on board the Porpoise at the Derwent, recorded that Guest and another had supplied them with fresh provisions.

After Governor Lachlan Macquarie arrived Guest was constantly engaged in controversy over claims for land. For three years he occupied a farm belonging to a settler named Pitt thinking that formalities for its transfer to him were being completed in Sydney; then he found that the title meantime had been vested in another and he received little compensation for the improvements he had made. About 1812 he let several small houses, on allotments near the Town Rivulet opposite the site of the market, to the government as barracks for the 73rd Regiment. During one of his frequent absences in Sydney and at the time of the detachment's departure these building were demolished, the land remeasured and wrongly conveyed to S. Gunn, Anthony Fenn Kemp and George Gatehouse. He sought compensation for this and for land taken to widen streets and open new ones. On 1 May 1818 by decision of a board of inquiry he was to receive £400, 300 acres (121 ha), cattle, other town allotments and a year's rations for his family to cover all his claims, but he remained dissatisfied. On 21 December Macquarie wrote to Lieutenant-Governor William Sorell: 'I regret to find that the claims of that tiresome man George Guest are yet unadjusted to his satisfaction … I shall most readily approve of your final decision on this Man's Claims as I have now been sufficiently plagued and tormented with them for nearly these last nine years'. Sorell at least was still being 'tormented' in March 1820 and, after applying for further grants in 1825, Guest was still negotiating in 1828. By that time his wife was in the Insane Asylum at Liverpool, New South Wales. In 1825 Guest appears to have opened the Seven Stars Inn in Campbell Street, Hobart. He died on 23 March 1841.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vol 6, series 3, vols 1-3
  • J. B. Walker, Early Tasmania (Hob, 1902)
  • CSO 1/307, 1/7393 (Archives Office of Tasmania
  • LSD 9/331 (Archives Office of Tasmania)
  • manuscript catalogue under George Guest (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

E. R. Pretyman, 'Guest, George (c. 1767–1841)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 17 June 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
  • Guess, George

c. 1767
Prestbury, Gloucestershire, England


23 March, 1841 (aged ~ 74)
Hobart, Tasmania, 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.

Passenger Ship
Key Events
Key Places
Convict Record

Crime: theft (livestock)
Sentence: 7 years