Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Robert Nash (1771–1819)

by F. C. Green

This article was published:

Robert Nash (1771-1819), miller, was born at Edenbridge, Kent, England, the son of a millwright. In February 1790 he was convicted at the Old Bailey, London, of breaking and entering a shop and stealing boots and shoes to the value of £14 10s. He was given a good character and his death sentence was commuted; transported for life, he reached New South Wales in the Albemarle in October 1791, and was sent to Norfolk Island. Before this he married Ann Hannaway, who in January 1789 had been sentenced to fourteen years transportation for receiving stolen goods, had come out in 1790 in the Neptune in the Second Fleet and been sent to Norfolk Island with her three children; later she bore him four daughters who went to Van Diemen's Land with their parents.

On Norfolk Island in 1795 Nash was commended by Lieutenant-Governor Philip Gidley King for 'having ever behaved with propriety and advantage to the public'; in February 1796 he was conditionally pardoned, and received a grant of land. By the end of the year he was supplying pork to the government. In 1798 he was made master of the carpenters and built a house, which in 1801 he rented to Rev. Henry Fulton. Granted an absolute pardon in 1800, two years later he was made store-keeper, and soon afterwards a superintendent; as a 'deserving' character with a large family, Governor King gave him a cow from the government herd when he was 'discharged' upon the reduction of the settlement.

In 1808, when the Norfolk Island colonists were deported, Nash moved to Hobart Town and was given ten acres (4 ha) beside the New Town Rivulet. Here he built a flour-mill which in 1809 was carried away by a flood. Next year he built a second one on the Hobart Rivulet. As the food requirements of the settlement increased, wheat-growing extended to the rich lands towards Pittwater, where he was granted 200 acres (81 ha). Like many of his neighbours he suffered from attacks by bushrangers in 1815, but in 1817 he was one of the largest contractors for the supply of wheat to the commissariat. In 1815, when he built a mill at 'his own expense' Lieutenant-Governor Thomas Davey asked Governor Lachlan Macquarie to let him have a pair of mill-stones, which Macquarie sent down in December 1816. 'As an encouragement to his future industry', Nash was asked to pay only by grinding wheat for the government, when required, at not more than 1s. a bushel, until the debt was liquidated. On 8 February 1817 the Hobart Town Gazette reported with satisfaction that 'the first wind-mill erected in this Settlement' had begun operation.

Nash's health suffered from his continuous hard work under the primitive conditions of the early settlement, and he died at Sorell on 19 March 1819, aged 48.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vol 5, series 3, vols 2-4
  • Sydney Gazette, 17 May 1817
  • Hobart Town Gazette, 29 May 1817
  • correspondence file under R. Nash (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Additional Resources

Citation details

F. C. Green, 'Nash, Robert (1771–1819)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 17 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (Melbourne University Press), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


Edenbridge, Kent, England


19 March, 1819 (aged ~ 48)
Sorell, Tasmania, Australia

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
Convict Record

Crime: theft
Sentence: life