Australian Dictionary of Biography

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John Matthew Richardson (1797–1882)

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John Matthew Richardson (1797?-1882), gardener, was sentenced in England in 1816 to seven years transportation. He reached New South Wales aboard the Lord Eldon in 1817, and was employed at the Sydney Botanic Garden. After receiving a pardon in 1821, he returned to England, bringing with him a collection of plants and seeds. Convicted again at the Sussex Assizes on 25 March 1822, he was sentenced to transportation for life. He arrived at Hobart Town on the Arab in November and was soon transferred to Sydney where he was married at St Philip's Church on 13 July 1824 to Jane, née Nelson.

Richardson accompanied John Oxley on one or both of his expeditions of 1823 and 1824 and by 1825 if not earlier was employed in the Botanic Garden. In November 1825 Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane, then organizing the settlement at Melville Island, arrange that a quantity of plants for culinary purposes should be sent to the new settlement in the Philip Dundas and that Richardson should accompany them to take charge of gardening there at a salary of £25. The Philip Dundas, with Richardson and his wife and child among the passengers, arrived at Melville Island on 22 February 1826. In March Richardson wrote a letter, probably to Henry Dumaresq, protesting that he was not receiving rations for his wife and child and had not been provided with a dwelling. In January 1827 the commandant was instructed from Sydney to allow rations for the wife and child 'from the time of his arrival at the Settlement'. In August 1826 Richardson had been sent in the cutter Mermaid to Timor whence he brought back some plants and seeds presented by the Dutch Resident. A daughter, Elizabeth Melville, was born to the Richardsons in March 1827. Later that year the wife, who was ailing, and children were about to return to Sydney in the Amity when Richardson got into trouble for having bought spirits from a visiting ship and retailed it to troops and prisoners; as punishment the passages of the wife and children were cancelled. When the decision was made in 1828 to abandon the settlement Richardson returned to Sydney in the Lucy Anne together with the troops and others.

Richardson served as botanical collector with Major (Sir) Thomas Mitchell's expedition of 1836. Mitchell praised his 'indefatigable industry' and recommended him for a conditional pardon. It seems that a ticket-of-leave granted to Richardson in September 1829 had been withdrawn. However, on 28 January 1837 Governor Sir Richard Bourke approved the grant of a conditional pardon. By 1852 Richardson had moved to Patrick's Plains: his wife had died and on 13 June 1852 he was married to Catharine Doyle at Singleton by a Catholic priest. Richardson died at Newcastle on 28 July 1882, and was survived by two sons and three daughters of the second marriage.

Select Bibliography

  • manuscript catalogue under J. M. Richardson (State Library of New South Wales).

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Citation details

'Richardson, John Matthew (1797–1882)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 21 April 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]


28 April, 1797
Slinfold, Sussex, England


28 July, 1882 (aged 85)
Newcastle, New South Wales, 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.

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: unknown
Sentence: 7 years
Court: Sussex
Trial Date: 25 March 1816

Crime: unknown
Sentence: life
Court: Sussex
Trial Date: 25 March 1822


Occupation: gardener
Married: Yes
Children: Yes (6)