James Somerville

Born: 25th September 1766 inLondon, England.
Christened: 14th September 1766 at Scotch Church, Swallow Street, Westminster, London.
Arrived Sydney: 25th October 1794.
Vessel: Surprize.
Status: Convict, transported for Life.
Ann – maiden name not known, in London, England.
Spouse/Partner: Charlotte Hartley.
Occupation: Carpenter.
Died: 28th January 1846 at Richmond, N.S.W.
30th January 1846 at St Peter’s Cemetery,Richmond, N.S.W.
John Sommervaill.
Mother: Phillis Sommervaill.

Before the Macquarie era the following children were born to James and Ann:-
James William born c1788 in London, England.
Ann born c1792 in London, England.
William George born on the 20th Jnauary 1795 in Sydney, N.S.W.
Elizabeth born on the 18th February 1796.
Phillis born on the 18th February 1796.
Jane born ?, died1798.

James Somerville was described as 5’ 5” tall, with sandy hair, blue eyes and a fair “pox-marked” complexion, aged 25, when he was arrested on the 22nd February 1793. Along with William Turnbull they were tried and convicted for burglary on the10th April 1793 at the Middlesex Old Bailey Sessions presided over by Lord Keyon. The jury returned a guilty verdict and both men were sentenced to death. A second indictment of Somerville for burglary was not proceeded with. On the 23rd September 1793, James was sent from Newgate goal to the Thames Hulk Stanislaus and he was embarked on the Surprize on 11th February 1794. He was one of five male convicts transported on the Surprize who were born in England, the other male convicts were all Scots.

The family name appears to have been Sommervaill, he is known to have signed his name before and after his conviction as James Sommervaill although he was tried and convicted as Somerville; his descendants appear to have continued with this spelling. James was granted a Conditional Pardon in June 1801, when he was described as an overseer. In April 1804 he was a member of the Sydney Loyal Association, and on the
19 May 1812 he was a witness at St Phillip’s Church Sydney at the double wedding of his twin daughters Phillis and Elizabeth, the girls being aged 16 years at the time. By 1814 James was living with Charlotte Hartley and he was described as a carpenter of Parramatta District and his partner as a convict with four children (fathered by another man). In 1822 he was recorded as an employed by Rev. Thomas Reddall in the Liverpool District.

His relationship with Charlotte Hartley broke down at some point between 1815 and 1824. In 1825 James is recorded as a carpenter at Minto. In the 1828 census he was recorded as a carpenter of Richmond aged 62, apparently living alone, holding a 16 acre farm which was fully cultivated. James Somerville died at Richmond on the 28th January 1846, his burial was registered at St Peters Richmond on the 30 January 1846 and he was described as a carpenter aged 79.

Researched & submitted by Association member Rex Webb.

The Proceedings of the old Bailey 1675-1913 - online.
The Convict Indents Musters and Lists of NSW Various editions.
Census of New South Wales 1828.
The 1788-1820 Association’s Pioneer Register Second Edition, Volume 1. Dr. C. J. Smee & Mrs J. S. Provis, 1981.

Michael Flynn, Settlers and Seditionists. 1994.


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