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Paterson River history

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Frederick and Susanna Bedwell

headstone for Frederick and Matilda Bedwell

The headstone for Frederick and Susanna Bedwell in St Pauls churchyard at Paterson.


Local historian, the late Harry Boyle, wrote of an obscure grave in St Pauls churchyard at Paterson:

...this simple headstone hardly rates a second glance: yet it records the last resting place of a remarkable man. Frederick Bedwell took part in the American War of 1812; he was Australia's last living connection with the banishment of Napolean Buonoparte to St Helena; and he introduced the willow to Australia with cuttings from the tree that stood in the enclosure surrounding Napoleon's tomb.[1]

Frederick Bedwell was born in Surry in 1796 and after an action-packed naval career he graduated as a marine surveyor. In 1817 Lieutenant Bedwell left Sydney on the Mermaid to survey the north coast of Australia. In 1818 he sailed again on the Mermaid to survey the east coast and Torres Straits.

In 1821 Bedwell circumnavigated Australia.[2] He retired from active naval service in 1823 and was promoted to Lieutenant Commander in recognition of his career. He returned to England, then back to Australia, arriving in Sydney in 1827 where he applied for land and was granted 1,200 acres at Wybong.

He was not ready to settle, and during 1828 he was master of the Lucy Ann sailing between Sydney and Port Macquarie. In 1832 he married Susanna Matilda Ward, daughter of Susannah Matilda Ward who was granted 640 acres on the Paterson River that she named 'Cintra'. Susannah (snr) gave up 90 acres of 'Cintra' so the village of Paterson could be established.

Bedwell's bride, Susanna, had been born at Cintra, on the border of Spain and Portugal in 1812. Frederick and Susanna had 11 children. In 1837 Frederick purchased 52 acres of 'Cintra' from his mother-in-law and named it 'Valentia' after his godfather, Lord Valentia. On it he built 'Valentia Lodge'. Valentia is 1.5km north of Paterson, between Gresford Road and the river.

Frederick Bedwell died in 1853 and his wife Matilda the following year, leaving nine orphaned children. Most are buried in St Pauls churchyard in Paterson.

Valentia, the home of Frederick and Susanna Bedwell

Valentia at Paterson about 1840. It was the home of Frederick and Susanna Bedwell (image: Glenbawn Museum of Rural Life).


1. H F Boyle, Lieutenant Commander Frederick Bedwell R.N. 1796-1853, Paterson Historical Society, 1992.

2. AC Archer, The Settlement of the Paterson District, Paterson Historical Society, 1986.