So long Sydney

The Dictionary of Sydney is an incredible project. It all started back in 2005 when a group of historians and industry partners secured a 5-year Australian Research Council grant to present Sydney’s history in a digital format to explore the possibilities of...

A huge crowd for a hanging: the end of John Knatchbull

One of my very favourite letters in the collections of the State Library of NSW was written by a wool merchant by the name of Joseph Whitehead. In an 1838 letter to his uncle in England, Whitehead describes Sydney as ‘without exception one of the most wicked places...

When a Spade’s a Spade: the hanging of John Hammell

On 7 May 1832, John Hammell (also reported as John Hammill, John Haymell and Charles Hammell) was hanged for the murder of his boss George Williamson. Not everyone was sorry Williamson had been bashed in the head with a spade, but committing murder has consequences....

Brutality at Birch Grove

Research on the epitaph on a tombstone in Sydney’s old Devonshire Street Cemetery led to the shocking story of the deaths of Samuel Bradley, 59, and his wife Esther, 65, who were brutally murdered at their home in Birch Grove on 15 August 1822. Listen to Rachel...

No honour among thieves…

In Governor Arthur Phillip’s great outdoor gaol in Sydney Cove, most eyes were on the convicts. It was logical to assume that those who had already proven themselves as felons were those most likely to offend in a new settlement. Yet, it was a military man, not a...