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Paterson River history

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Law and order at Paterson 1819 to 1840

Background

From 1804 convict gangs began cutting timber along the Paterson River. From 1812 to 1821 a few convicts and free men were allowed to take up small blocks of land along the river in the area known as 'Patersons Plains' which is a few kilometres downstream (south) from the current township of Paterson (more information).

In 1819 a District Constable and a Constable were appointed to Patersons Plains and in the following year a military barracks was established there, staffed by a Constable and four soldiers. The barracks was located at Old Banks, which was the site of government administration for Patersons Plains.

In 1822 the Hunter Valley was opened up for settlement via land grants (more information). By 1825 much of the prime grazing and farming land along the Paterson River had been taken up and was being worked by convicts assigned to settlers. To meet the needs of the now busy district, a local magistrate, James Webber, was appointed in 1825, giving Patersons Plains its own court or 'Bench of Magistrates' for the first time. It was supported by a 'Clerk to the Bench' and a scourger (flogger) who were appointed at this time, so convicts could be sentenced and punished locally.

A wooden lockup or watchhouse (a small jail) was built at Old Banks in the early to mid 1820s and it doubled as a courthouse. After the current township of Paterson was gazetted in 1833 a new courthouse and lockup were built there and government administration of the district moved from Old Banks to Paterson.

Police appointments 1819 to 1840

The names of Constables and senior police appointed to Patersons Plains and Paterson are listed on the following page.

Convicts as police officers

Police were in short supply in New South Wales in the 1820s and 1830s, and convicts holding a Ticket of Leave were frequently appointed as constables. Governor Bourke (in office 1831-1837) discouraged ticket holders from appointment, directing that preference be given to free immigrants. The list of appointments at Paterson, shows that his directive was often ignored, probably because of the scarity of suitable applicants.

In any case the list of appointments reveals there was a high turnover and frequent dismissals of constables at Paterson, both convict and free.

Other lists

Scourgers, Clerks to the Bench and watch-house keepers at Paterson.