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James Becket (1759–c. 1808)

James Becket, a brickmaker, was found guilty on 26 July 1788 at the Shrewsbury Assizes, Shropshire, of highway robbery. He had stolen a hempen bag, a linsey waistcoat, two handkerchiefs and nine shillings. His death sentence was commuted to life transportation. He remained at Shrewsbury Gaol until he embarked on the Surprize for New South Wales in December 1789, arriving in the colony in June 1790 as part of the Second Fleet.

Becket was put in charge of the brick kilns at Parramatta soon after arrival. In November 1790 he had 52 people working under him. He married Ann Calcut on 30 January 1791 at Parramatta; they were to have five children.

Although a prisoner for life, Becket was allowed to earn money and in 1802 was recorded holding a 30 acre farm at Concord by purchase. By 1806 he had received a conditional pardon and in August 1806 he was granted 30 acres in the Toongabbie district. The latest colonial record found for Becket is his signature on an address from settlers to Governor Bligh dated 1 January 1808. By 1814 his wife was described as a widow.

* information from Michael Flynn, The Second Fleet: Britain’s Grim Convict Armada of 1790 (1993), pp 158-59

Citation details

'Becket, James (1759–c. 1808)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 13 July 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]




c. 1808 (aged ~ 49)
New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Passenger Ship
Key Events
Key Places
Convict Record

Crime: theft
Sentence: life