Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Thomas Rose (?–1837)

by Vivienne Parsons

This article was published:

Thomas Rose (d. 1837), baker, publican and water conservator, of Newport, Shropshire, England, was convicted of housebreaking at Shrewsbury on 19 March 1793 and sentenced to death. The sentence was commuted to transportation for life and he arrived at Sydney in the Barwell in May 1798. About 1804 he set up in Sydney as a baker, which had been his former occupation. On 13 April 1806 he married Elizabeth (d.1826), whose father Thomas Bartlett had been a fellow-convict in the Barwell and whose mother Ann Bartlett had followed with her daughter in the Nile in 1801. They had two children and fostered four more. In the month of his marriage he received a publican's licence. He was conditionally pardoned on 4 June 1806, and on 1 December 1809 Lieutenant-Governor Paterson gave him an absolute pardon, which Governor Lachlan Macquarie later confirmed, and land at the corner of King and Castlereagh Streets, fronting what was then known as Chapel Row. There he had built a bakery and alongside it the Rose and Crown Inn, both of which were opened for business in 1810. He gradually increased his holdings in this part of town until he gained possession of the entire block now bounded by King, Elizabeth, Market and Castlereagh Streets. Together with Charles Thompson, another Sydney baker, Rose rented John Palmer's windmill from June 1813 to June 1814; next May he put his bakehouse on the market.

In 1816 his grant of forty acres (16 ha) in the Evan district, located for him in 1813, was cancelled, apparently because he had procured signatures to the petition against Macquarie, supposedly written by Jeffery Hart Bent and Benjamin Vale; for the same reason he failed to retain his liquor licence between 1817 and 1820. In 1819 he clashed with the governor again when Macquarie decided to build St James's parochial school on part of Rose's block; however, in exchange for the school site he was granted 300 acres (121 ha) on the main southern road east of Campbelltown. About the same time he bought a 400-acre (162 ha) farm on the Appin Road, named Mount Gilead, which had been originally granted to Reuben Uther; later he gradually added to this Campbelltown estate, which by 1828 was estimated at 2460 acres (995 ha).

For some time Rose had been quite a public figure as a Sydney businessman, being a stockholder in the Bank of New South Wales, a trustee of the Sydney Public Free Grammar School, and treasurer of the Sydney Reading Room; he acted as clerk of the Sydney race-course until 1827, promoted the first races in Sydney and owned many successful race-horses. On 1 November 1826 his wife died, and next year he moved to Mount Gilead. There he lived for the rest of his life and won fame for his experiments in water conservation. He had begun these on a small scale in 1824 and next year had built a larger dam, with a stone embankment, holding nearly 120 million cubic feet (3,398,400 m³). In 1829 he built a smaller and cheaper dam near the main road, for the relief of his hard-pressed neighbours in the 1829 drought; later this so impressed Governor (Sir) Richard Bourke that in 1833 he gave the people of Campbelltown a plot of ground for building a reservoir by public subscription. In July 1835 Rose asked the British government for a free grant in acknowledgment of his services in supplying water to his neighbours; though this was refused, the undaunted Rose next year built a sixty-foot (18 m) windmill, all of ironbark timber, including shaft and gear wheels.

On 21 September 1829 Rose married again, and his second wife Sarah Pye, the daughter of an old Baulkham Hills settler, bore him five children. He died on 3 March 1837 and was buried at Mount Gilead; later his remains were transferred to St Peter's, Campbelltown. He left a large estate, including farms on the Nepean, at Airds and Botany Bay, houses in Richmond and Windsor, as well as property in Market and Castlereagh Streets, Sydney, and the estate at Mount Gilead. His wife Sarah died on 20 June 1869.

Possessed of great drive, energy and an excellent business sense, Thomas Rose was one of those enterprising men who arrived in the colony as convicts and went on to win wealth and respectability in the tough economic society of their new land. He is remembered as a colourful figure in the early commercial and sporting life of Sydney, and as a pioneer of the Appin-Campbelltown district.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 16-18
  • Sydney Gazette, 13 Apr 1806, 17 Dec 1809, 8 Sept 1810, 16 Mar 1811, 27 July 1815, 12 May 1821, 9 Oct 1823
  • Australian, 15 July 1826, 8 May 1835
  • Windsor and Richmond Gazette, 14 Aug 1925
  • manuscript catalogue under T. Rose (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Vivienne Parsons, 'Rose, Thomas (?–1837)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 13 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]


3 March, 1837
Mount Gilead, 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.

Passenger Ship
Convict Record

Crime: theft
Sentence: life