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The Collits Family

by Gai Muchamore

Pierce Collits married Mary Hardwick on 15th November, 1795 at St. Dunstan Church, Stepney, London, by Banns. Pierce signed his name and Mary made her mark, in the presence of Paul Brice. Their first child, Maria, was born on 1st September, 1796 at King Street, Tower Hill, London. Sarah, their second child, was born on 10th September, 1797 at Sweedland Court. Pierce and Mary also had 2 sons, Henry Pierce born 27th January 1799 at Minories Street, London, and Pierce - born 6th August 1800 at Tower Hill, London. Both these boys died in infancy. It is interesting to note that the birth of the 2nd son, Pierce, was only approximately 1 month after his Trial. Imagine the anxiety Mary must have felt, having 2 small children to care for, and the birth of another a month after her husband had been arrested.

Pierce Collet (note the change in spelling - this happened right throughout the Collits' lives) was taken into custody along with Edward Baldwin, at about six o'clock on 29th June, 1800 by Thomas Sapwell. Sapwell went to Pierce's house, No. 7, Two Swan Yard, Bishopgate Street and found in his house 12 yards of mode, 12 yards of muslin, 18 yards of lace and two pieces of handkerchiefs, all the property of John, Robert and James Read. Edward Baldwin was charged with stealing the above and Pierce for receiving them, knowing them to be stolen. When Robert Read questioned Edward Baldwin as to why he did it, he said that Collett was continually after him, telling him to do it. Pearce (sic) Collett and Edwin Baldwin were tried at the Old Bailey on Wednesday, 15th July, 1800.

They left their defence to their Counsel and called six witnesses who gave them good character. Baldwin was found Guilty and received seven years transportation and Pierce was found Guilty with 14 years transportation. It is interesting to note that there was a trial on the same day of one William Chetley, who was apprehended with a bundle outside Collett's house, Sunday morning at 6 a.m. It must have been quite a busy street on Sunday mornings!

Pierce was "transferred unto the Sherriff" on 28th September, 1800, committed to Newgate Gaol and delivered on board the "Minorca" on 16th May, 1801. His age at the time was 38, and he was described as 5 feet 8 inches tall, fair complexion, brown hair and dark eyes. The records state he was born at Thomastown near Kilkenny, Ireland, and was working as a porter.

The "Minorca" set sail from Spithead for Port Jackson on 21st June, 1801 in the company of two other transports - the "Canada" and "Nile". The ship carried a total of 195 people on board and only two (convicts) did not survive the voyage. The "Minorca" arrived at Sydney Cove on 14th December, 1801, having sailed via Rio de Janiero, where it took on fresh supplies.

Mary and her two daughters must have also arrived on board the "Minorca", as there were 11 women and 26 children on board. However, no lists of passengers survive. According to the 1822 Census, Mary, Sarah and Maria all "came free by ship Minerva". In actual fact, it was the "Minorca" not "Minerva". This error is also evident in the 1828 Census.

Pierce was granted a Conditional Pardon on 11th May, 1811, therefore not serving his full 14 year sentence. Conditional Pardons were granted on the condition that the person receiving the Pardon resided in the Territory.

Governor Macquarie issued an order on 20th May, 1820, "to give the fullest Publicity and Authority to the several Persons legally appointed to act in the Police Department of this Colony". Pierce's name is included in this list and is shown as "Constable Pound-Keeper and Inspector of Cattle for Slaughter, on the River Nepean, near Castlereagh".

Pierce received his first land grant on 17th August, 1819, of 50 acres at Prospect. This land can be easily viewed today, as Horsley Road runs right through it, just after the Warragamba/Prospect water pipeline. The view of Sydney from around this area is magnificent.

In 1823 Pierce and his family settled at the foot of Mount York, on the western edge of the Blue Mountains, where he had his first Inn. It was origianlly called "The Golden Fleece", then renamed "The Royal Garter", but today it is commonly known as "Collits Inn". The Inn was first licenced in 1830 under the name of "The Royal Garter", and renewed in 1831. Collits Inn became the first stop after the descent of the Mountains. An article appears in the "Sydney Gazette" dated 25th March, 1824, describing a travellers stay at the Inn. Governor Bourke also mentions his visit to the Inn in his journals.

The Inn is believed to have been built by Pierce Collits in 1823, and to this day the house is still occupied. It is of weatherboard construction and has its original shingle roof under the present corrugated iron roof. The old water well is visible at the rear of the Inn.

Children to Pierce and Mary:

Maria was Pierce and Mary's first born and first daughter. She was born on 1st September, 1796, her parents residing at King Street, Tower Hill, London.

Maria arrived on the Ship "Minorca", as a free settler with her Mother and sister, Sarah.

Maria was only 15 years old when she married Philip Strickland, they had 3 sons in quick succession before Philip's death. Philip Strickland died in 1816, the result of a gun shot wound he received whilst carrying out his duties as a Constable.

Her second marriage was to Edward Field, son of Private Edward Field and Elizabeth Mitchell, and Maria and Edward has 7 children. Maria died on 21.9.1829 at the young age of 33, and is buried at Castlereagh Cemetery, beside her first husband, Philip Strickland. Her 2nd husband, Edward Field is buried on the other side of Maria.

Sarah was Pierce and Mary's 2nd daughter to be born. She was born on 10.9.1797, parents residing at Sweedland Court, London and baptised on 15.10.1797 t St. Botolph, London.

Sarah was 19 years of age when she married John Watkins in 1816. John was only 4 years her senior, yet 3 children and 7years later she left John and began an affair with Michael Scott by whom she had 10 children before John's death. 2 years after John's death she finally married Michael Scott.

Sarah died on 18.5.1867, residing Lachlan River, near Forbes at "Uah". She lies in an unmarked grave on Cadow Station, with her daughter Elizabeth and son William, both of whom have headstones. Michael lies in the Roman Catholic section of the Forbes Cemetery, also in an unmarked grave.

Henry Pierce and Pierce Collits were Pierce and Mary's last two children to be born in London.

The Guildhall Library in St. Botolph, Aldgate Registers show that Henry Pierce was born on 27.1.1799 with parents residing at Minories Street, London. He was Baptised in February 1799 at St. Botolph Without Aldgate.

Pierce was born on 6.8.1800, parents residing at Tower Hill, London and Baptised on 31.8.1800 at St. Botolph Without Aldgate.

HENRY PIERCE and PIERCE COLLITS both died in infancy whilst Pierce and Mary were in London.

John Collits was born on 8.2.1803 at Castlereagh and baptised on 11.8.1805 at Hawkesbury. He was the first Collits child to be born in the Colony.

John married Hannah Lees on 28.1.1823 at the Castlereagh Church. Hannah was the daughter of John Lees and Mary Stevens who arrived in the colony within 3 years of each other - John as a private soldier on the "Ganges" 2nd June 1797 and Mary as a convict on the "Earl Cornwallis" 12th June 1801. John Lees was granted 90 acres at Castlereagh, and appears to have been an alcoholic until one day he decided to change his ways and devote his life to God. On 7th October 1817 a small wooden Church was opened for worship - John had given the land and had the first Wesleyan Church built in the Southern Hemisphere. He and Mary are both buried in this Churchyard.

John and Hannah had 8 children, all born in the district of Castlereagh. John and his family were one of the first to venture further afield, settling in the Cowra District.

Frances Collits was born on 26.9.1804 at Castlereagh and baptised on 11.8.1805.

She married twice, firstly to Thomas Michael Pembroke on 25.7.1822 at the Christ Church, Castlereagh. Thomas Pembroke was a native of County Kerry, Ireland. Witnesses at their marriage were Edward and Maria Field.

Thomas Michael Pembroke died c. 1838.

Frances' second marriage was to Charles Fell. They were married on 4.1.1841 at Parish Mulgoa, County Cumberland.

FRANCES COLLITS (Pembroke/Fell) died on 19.8.1869 at Three Brothers, Bathurst and was buried on 22.8.1869 at Long Swamp.

James Collits was born on 21.3.1806 at Castlereagh and baptised on 24.6.1810.

James' first marriage was to Eleanor Leech, who arrived as a convict on the ship "Brothers". They were married on 6.8.1832. According to Eleanor's shipping records her "husband was a Soldier in the Guards - one child, John, 15 years old with her father in Wales".

There appears to be no children to James and Eleanor and we presume Eleanor died between the years 1832 and 1840, as on the 23.2.1840, a child, Caroline, was born to James Collits and Bridget Clifford. It is known that Caroline was brought up by James and lived her life in the Canowindra area. Why James did not marry Bridget Clifford is unknown.

However, on the 31.8.1840 he married Mrs. Sophia Higgins (formerly FIELD) daughter of Edward Field and Elizabeth Mitchell. James and Sophia had 3 children, 2 boys - Pierce and James Grant, and one girl - Sophia Jane.

James died on 30.12.1880 and his wife Sophia died on 21.7.1871.

Joseph Collits was born 1.3.1808 at Castlereagh and was baptised on 24.6.1810.

Joseph married twice, firstly to Mary Ann Perry, daughter of Edward Field and Elizabeth Mitchell, on 13.7.1845. Mary Ann died on 12.11.1865 at Bogabigal, Forbes and is buried in the Church of England Section Forbes.

There were no children to this marriage.

Joseph's second marriage was to Martha Sherringham (widow Haynes). Her parents were Thomas Gully and Martha. There also was no issue from Joseph and Martha's marriage.

Joseph Collits was known to be a very wealthy man and was an owner of Bogabigal Station. It is said he left his wealth to an adopted son, who wasted the money.

Joseph was also the owner of Rose Inn (today known as "Ambermere") at Hartley.

Joseph died on the 2.11.1888 at Forbes and is buried in an unmarked grave at Forbes.

Sophia Collits was born on 16.1.1810 at Castlereagh. Sophia, like many of her brothers and sisters married twice.

Firstly to Thomas Rawsthorne, who arrived in the Colony on the ship "Recovery" in 1819 as a convict on 30.10.1826. sophia had 3 children to Thomas Rawsthorne

Thomas Rawsthorne died on 15.6.1837 and is buried at Mt. York Cemetery.

Sophia's second marriage was to Thomas MORRIS on 19.3.1838 at Castlereagh. Thomas Morris was the son of James Morris and Sarah Mitchell.

Sophia had a further 10 children, naming her last Australia John. She died on 25.1.1868 at Billabong, Forbes, of relapsing typhoid fever, and is buried in the C of E Forbes.

Amelia Collits was born on 27.9.1812 at Castlereagh and baptised on 25.10.1812 at St. Matthews at Windsor.

Amelia married John Skeen on the 29.6.1832 at Kelso, via Bathurst. John Skeen was a native of Birmingham, England.

It is said that for Amelia's marriage, she rode on horseback from the Inn to Kelso, a distance of some 55 miles.

The Play "Collits Inn" is said to have been based on Amelia's life, even though the character in the Play is called "Mary".

Amelia died on the 8.10.1896 at Round Swamp, Kanimbla at the age of 84 years.

Photo of Amelia Collits

William Collits was born on the 13th June, 1815 at Castlereagh and firstly married Caroline James.

Very little is known of William, however, an article appeared on the 19th February, 1839 in the "Australian", to the effect that Pierce Collits "cautioned any person giving trust or credit to his son, William, whom he proclaimed to be an idiot, who had no command of any property except through Pierce, and that he would not pay any debts he (William) may have contracted after that date".

William Collits married Caroline James on 18th November, 1840, in the Parish of St. Lawrence, County of Cumberland. Witnesses were Amelia Skeen, William's sister, and William Jones.

The following is a brief outline of an event that must have scarred William's life forever, being described by some as a most "despicable and horrendous murder in the history of their time".

Caroline James came from a rather unstable family. Her mother hanged herself when Caroline was in her early teens. Her father was put in goal for six months on suspicion of contributing to her death, but was eventually released. Some months later, Caroline's younger sister married a JOHN WALSH. It was known that Walsh was seeing both Caroline and her sister before and after his marriage. Caroline left William to live with her sister and Walsh. There followed talk of a reconciliation between Caroline and William. On the night of 4th January 1842, Caroline, William and Walsh met at Joseph Jagger's Inn at Hartley, Mount Victoria to have a drink. Soon after leaving the Public House Walsh knocked William Collits to the ground, without the slightest provocation. Caroline came to his assistance by grabbing Walsh's arms and telling William to "run, run, he has got a stone and will murder you", which allowed William to escape. These were the last words Caroline was heard to utter

Matthew Mall, a mail driver from Penrith to Hartley, was delivering mail as usual. At about 6 a.m. midway between the top of Mt. Victoria and Soldier's Perch, about three miles from Jagger's, he saw some clothes lying on the road. On further investigation he discovered a body nearby. It was established that this was Caroline, William's wife. She had been assaulted and her skull crushed by a rock. John Walsh was later taken into custody. At his trial Walsh maintained his innocence and accused young Jagger and three others of following him, hitting him with a pistol and taking Caroline away from him. A report by John Jones, Sergeant of H.M. 80th Regiment in court, stated that John Walsh had come to his hut at 11 p.m. on the night of 5th January stating he had been attacked by young Jagger and four others, but Jones didn't believe him and sent him to get assistance elsewhere.

The Jury deliberated for half an hour, then returned to pronounce a verdict of guilty. The Judge stated at the trial that Jagger and other witnesses should have been summoned and that expense and inconvenience should have been disregarded in a case such as this.

John Walsh was hanged on Tuesday, 3rd May, 1842 at Bathurst.

Some seven months after his first wife had been murdered, William married Mary Anne QUINN on the 1st August, 1842.

William later joined his brothers to take up land in the Forbes, Canowindra area and died on 26.12.1867 at "Billybone", Forbes.

MARY COLLITS - The Forgotten Child

The only official reference to Mary Collits, youngest child of Pierce and Mary Collits, is in the 1825 Muster which reads as follows:-

1825 Muster where it states she is 4 years old and born in the colony, daughter of P. Colletts of Evan

"Pierce Collits and His Inns" by W.L. Harvard also mentions Mary - "said to have been drowned while still a child in the flooded Nepean".


The following

photos were taken

at Easter 2005

of Collits Inn