People Australia

  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites
  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites
  • searches all National Centre of Biography websites

Browse Lists:

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Richard Bradburn (c. 1791–1835)

by Chris Cunneen

This article was published:

Richard Bradburn (c.1791-1835) carpenter and joiner, radical conspirator and convict

Birth: about 1791 in Dublin, Ireland, son of Edward Bradburn. Marriages: (1) c. 1810 in England to Amelia. They had eight children. (2) 8 December 1829, describing himself as a bachelor, in Scots Presbyterian Church, Sydney, New South Wales to Helen [Ellen] Carr or Kerr or Wilkinson, a widowed Scottish convict. Burial: 20 December 1835 in Sydney. Religion: Presbyterian. 

  • By December 1819 Bradburn was a carpenter in London and an active participant in radical, republican circles loosely associated with the ideas of Thomas Spence (1750-1814), a writer, land reformer and campaigner for political and social reform. Bradburn joined the Society of Spencean Philanthropists.
  • On 23 February 1820 he was one of Spenceans, known as the Cato Street conspirators, who were arrested and charged with plotting to assassinate the British prime minister and his cabinet as part of a general uprising — ‘in the cause of liberty’, their leader Arthur Thistlewood claimed. Five of the ringleaders, Thistlewood, James Ings, Richard Tidd, William Davidson and Thomas Brunt, were executed and beheaded on 1 May 1820.
  • In March Bradburn’s wife Amelia and seven other women had produced a flyer, An Appeal to the British Nation, which circulated in London, seeking assistance for themselves and the families of imprisoned conspirators who were “destitute of the means of subsistence and dying from the want of food’.
  • Changing his plea to guilty at a late stage of his trial, Bradburn escaped execution and with four other conspirators — Charles Cooper, John Harrison, John Shaw Strange and James Wilson — was convicted of high treason and sentenced to transportation for life. In Mark Dunn’s words all four “ were in trades threatened by the increasing industrialisation in Britain”.
  • In May 1820, then living in Huntington, County Westmeath, Ireland, Bradburn’s father petitioned for clemency, writing that in December 1819 his son George had been murdered by Ribbon Men in Grangemore, Westmeath.
  • The five convicts sailed from Portsmouth, aboard the Guildford, on 14 May and arrived in Port Jackson on 30 September 1820. The ship’s indent described Bradburn as a carpenter and joiner, 29 years of age, born in Dublin, 5 feet 8 inches (173 cm) in height, with a dark complexion, dark brown hair and dark eyes. In October the conspirators were sent in the Elizabeth Henrietta to Newcastle, where he probably worked with the carpenters.
  • In December 1821 Bradburn escaped into the bush but, claiming to be Francis Clarke, soon surrendered under an amnesty promulgated by Governor Brisbane, and was sent to the new penal settlement at Port Macquarie in February 1822. His subterfuge was discovered by August that year, but he had so distinguished himself by his good behaviour and excellent carpentry skills that Commandant Allman Francis Allman excused his behaviour and appointed him overseer of carpenters. He retained that post, for which he received a salary of some ten shillings per week despite being a convict, for five years.
  • Early in 1826 he travelled to Sydney to carry out work for the colony’s chief civil engineer.
  • Bradburn obtained a ticket of leave for the Sydney district on 27 June 1827 “in consideration of his having detected two convicts in robbing Govt. also apprehending one runaway & several bushrangers at Port Macquarie.”
  • Thereafter worked in Woolloomooloo, Sydney, on his own account as a carpenter and overseer of carpenters.
  • Buried in Scots burial ground, Sydney.

Mark Dunn, The convict valley: the bloody struggle on Australia’s early frontier (Sydney, 2020), p 91; Kieran Hannon, Designing and dangerous men: the story of the transported Cato Street conspirators, (Calwell, Australian Capital Territory, 2021), passim, especially pp 164-187, 269-70; Cato Street Conspiracy website:

Additional Resources

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Chris Cunneen, 'Bradburn, Richard (c. 1791–1835)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 17 June 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


c. 1791
Dublin, Ireland


20 December, 1835 (aged ~ 44)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Passenger Ship
Key Places
Convict Record

Crime: high treason
Sentence: life
Court: Old Bailey, London
Trial Date: 12 April 1820


Occupation: carpenter
Married: Yes
Children: Yes (8)