Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Robert Sidaway (1758–1809)

by Vivienne Parsons

This article was published:

View Previous Version

Robert Sidaway (1758-1809), a watchcase maker, was born on 14 January 1758 and baptized on 5 February at St Leonards, Shoreditch, London, son of John Sidaway of Horse Shoe Alley, and his wife Elizabeth. Robert was sentenced to transportation for life at the Old Bailey in 1782 for stealing, and arrived in New South Wales in the First Fleet transport Friendship in January 1788. Although Ralph Clark mentioned in his journal that Sidaway, a 'daring and villainous fellow', was put in leg irons for a month on the way out, apparently he behaved better after his arrival, for he received a conditional pardon on 29 November 1792, an absolute pardon on 27 September 1794, and was given a contract as baker for the troops. In January 1796 Sidaway opened the first theatre in Sydney. It had been built by convicts under the management of John Sparrow. It was in Bell Row and was used until 1798, when Governor John Hunter ordered that it be closed as it was a corrupting influence, probably because of the robberies taking place on theatre nights. It operated again for a time in 1800 and then ceased altogether.

Sidaway held a 130-acre (53 ha) farm, partly purchased and partly leased, at the Field of Mars, on which he grew maize and wheat. He was one of those settlers permitted by Hunter to buy goods at moderate prices from the Minerva in 1800. He kept a public house and in 1805 obtained a wine and spirit licence. He died on 13 October 1809, described by the Sydney Gazette as a philanthropist and a respected member of society. He had formed an alliance with Mary Marshall, who had been sentenced to transportation for life at the Old Bailey on 10 January 1787 and had arrived in the First Fleet in the Lady Penrhyn. As Sidaway's residuary legatee, she sent Governor Lachlan Macquarie a memorial applying for a renewal of the lease on Sidaway's property in Sydney, but this was refused. She continued in Sydney as a publican.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of New South Wales, vols 2-3
  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vol 1
  • P. McGuire, The Australian Theatre (Melb, 1948)
  • J. Kardoss, A Brief History of the Australian Theatre (Syd, 1955)
  • Sydney Gazette, Nov 1805, 15 Oct 1809
  • manuscript catalogue under Robert Sidaway (State Library of New South Wales).

Additional Resources

Citation details

Vivienne Parsons, 'Sidaway, Robert (1758–1809)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 20 May 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]

Alternative Names
  • Sideway, Robert
  • Sideaway, Robert

14 January, 1758
Middlesex, England


13 October, 1809 (aged 51)
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
Key Events
Key Places
Convict Record

Crime: theft
Sentence: life