Convict Workers on the Great North Road

 
The Convict Trail Project Convict data base represents the work of hundreds of volunteers have spent a considerable amount of time researching the convicts listed and finding out as much detail as appears available in the records.Search our database of Convicts known to have worked on the Great North Road to find out more.
Details of the Dates, Locations worked and Overseer of the Convict Gangs and Bridge Parties along the Great North Road can be found in the convict gangs section of this website..

Background

Hundreds of people have been involved in researching the background of the convicts who built the Great North Road. The aim of this research has been to “put the flesh on the bones” of the men who built the Great North Road. Were they unskilled and unwilling labourers? Or perhaps men who spent a long time working on the Road had valuable skills such as stonemasonry, carpentry and the like. Were they addicted to a life of crime, or did they reform and lead normal productive lives after their sentence in an Iron Gang expired? We are currently working on bringing this information together, by finding out as much as we can about the individual men who toiled to build this great and enduring engineering masterpiece.

Sources

Several sources of information survive relating to people who worked on the Great North Road in the 1820s and 30s. The main ones are the Census of NSW taken in November 1828, a series of Road Gang Reports, correspondence held by NSW State Records, and escapees from gangs listed in the Sydney Gazette. The Road Gang Reports consist of Surveyors’ reports, and weekly and monthly returns which date from between 1827 and December 1830. Although a number of the Weekly Reports have survived, they do not list the names of all the men in the gangs, although they often name men who have been transferred, or taken to hospital. The only monthly reports which have survived are those of May 1830, and these list names of convicts in each gang, movement of men between gangs, punishments inflicted, occupation within the gang, and transfers to hospital etc. These documents provide a wealth of useful information. Unfortunately records do not exist for many of the road-building years. We know it is likely there are several hundred men whose names we will never know, in Feburary 1829 Governor Darling ordered all convicts being returned from assignment to settlers as unsuitable to be forwarded immediately to the nearest Road Party where they were to work for six months. As soon as the six months period had passed they were to be reassigned.

The Gangs

The men worked in Iron Gangs (IG), or Road Parties (RP) - also called Road Gangs - or in Bridge Parties (BP). The gangs were all numbered or named, the Iron Gangs being numbered up to #12, and Road Parties were numbered from 13 to about 50. 
 
The men in Iron Gangs were serving a colonial sentence for a crime committed after arrival in the colony, and many of them worked in leg-irons to deter them from escaping. Their sentences ranged from several weeks to several years, and on completion of this sentence they were usually returned to their former assignment, although some were then transferred to Road Parties, where they continued to work on the Road, but without the encumbrance of leg-irons. Some men were assigned to Road Parties on, or shortly after arrival in the colony, as a means of using convict labour to carry out useful public works in the Colony, and to demonstrate to people back in England that transportation did not lead to a life of ease and luxury.
 
Bridge Parties were formed after 1828, with men handpicked from the other gangs, because of their skills and attitudes. They worked to construct the bridges – up to 22 have been identified - along the entire Road. Bridge Parties were either named after the overseer of the Party, or after their base location.
 
Hundreds of volunteers have spent a considerable amount of time researching the convicts listed, and finding out as much detail as appears available in the records. If you have additional information on any of the convicts listed, or information about a convict who worked on the Road who is not listed, we would love you to share it with us. 
 
If you are seeking additional information about a particular convict on this list, we will do our best to help. In exchange we would like to ask for a donation to the Convict Trail Project. Our resources are very limited, and the costs of administering a project like the Convict Trail are forever escalating.
 
For further information, please contact us via our website link here
 

Convicts are enormous contributors to this nation's past. Do you know your family's history?

Our partner Ancestry.com can help you track your family's past.