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Paterson River history

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William Bucknell & Martha Wentworth

[Elms Hall]

William Bucknell was born in England about 1778 and became a watch and clock maker in London. Martha Wentworth was born in Ireland about 1788. Her father, William Wentworth, was one of Darcy Wentworth's ext link brothers, so Martha was a first cousin to William Charles Wentworth. William Bucknell and Martha married in 1817 and they lived in London where he had a watchmaking business. A watch and two clocks made by William are now in the collection at Vaucluse House in Sydney, the former home of WC Wentworth.[1]

William Bucknell

Above: William Bucknell.[2]

William and Martha arrived in New South Wales in 1826 on the Adrian with their seven children, the youngest of whom was born at sea only a few weeks after they left Plymouth. William initially established himself as a merchant in Parramatta but soon became insolvent.

In 1827 he was granted 2,560 acres of land with frontages to both the Paterson and Allyn rivers, north of the present-day village of Vacy (see map). He named his grant 'Elms Hall' after the Wentworth's ancestral home in Yorkshire.

In February 1828 Elms Hall was the venue for the marriage of John Eales of Berry Park (Duckenfield estate on the Hunter River below Morpeth) to Jane Lavers.[3] The ceremony was performed by the Rev. Frederick Wilkinson, the assistant colonial chaplain who was appointed to Newcastle when the Rev. Middleton resigned in 1827.[4]

It seems that William Bucknell snr, the watch and clock maker, did not settle to farming life in the Paterson Valley. He soon leased Elms Hall to his son William[5] and by the end of 1828 William snr, Martha and the children were living on a leased farm downstream from Morpeth.[6]

By about 1834 the Bucknells had moved to Newtown, Sydney, where William Bucknell snr erected four cottages. William died in 1856 at his home in Newtown at the age of 79. Martha died in Newtown in 1871, aged 83. They are both buried at Camperdown Cemetery.

Their son, William Wentworth Bucknell, stayed on at Elms Hall and seems to have been its driving force (rather than his father).


1. Bourke, P. Newtown Project website: William and Martha Bucknell.

2. the portrait was printed in Harry Boyle's article, 'Reluctant wife of a pioneer Paterson farmer', Maitland Mercury, 19 April 2000 p.11, repeated 14 June 2000 p.17.

3. Research by Mrs Val Anderson, Paterson Historical Society.

4. Elkin, AP. The Diocese of Newcastle, 1955, pp.34-35.

5. William Bucknell formally leased Elms Hall to his son William in 1830 but the arrangement may have commenced earlier, possibly in 1828 when the family moved to Morpeth. The 1830 lease is mentioned in: Catalogue entry—State Library NSW (on-line).

6. taken from Bourke as cited in 1 above. The 1828 census entry for the Bucknell family places them, with duplicate mis-spelt entries, at both Elms Hall, Patersons Plains, and at 'Longreach, Wallis Plains' (Maitland). Were they in the process of moving and therefore recorded by two census collectors? See—Sainty MR and KA Johnston (eds). Census of New South Wales 1828. Library of Australian History, 2008 (revised edition on CD).


Waddingham, Trissia and Bill. The Descendants of William and Martha Bucknell, Elmshall, Paterson River, NSW. Earlwood NSW, 1996.

See also

An overview of settlement at Patersons Plains from 1822.