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Wright, Henry (c. 1758–1837)

Henry Wright, private marine, 51st (Plymouth) company, arrived in Sydney in January 1788, accompanied by his wife Ann and infant daughter, aboard the Prince of Wales as part of the First Fleet. He was assigned to Captain James Campbell's company.

On 10 September 1789 he was sentenced to death for raping eight-year-old Elizabeth Chapman. The Judge Advocate David Collins recommended that he pardoned. Governor Phillip granted Wright a pardon on the condition that he be sent to Norfolk Island for the term of his natural life. Collins wrote in his journal that:

his excellency was pleased to pardon him, on condition of his residing, during the term of his natural life, at Norfolk Island. This was an offence that did not seem to require an immediate example; the chastity of the female part of the settlement had never been so rigid, as to drive men to so desperate an act; and it was believed, that beside the wretch in question there was not in the colony a man of any description who would have attempted it.

Two years later Wright attempted to rape eleven-year-old Elizabeth Gregory. Found guilty of the crime, Major Robert Ross sentenced him to run the gauntlet of all the men and women in the settlement on 18 July 1791 as a kind of ritual humiliation in which he was probably beaten as he ran. He underwent the same punishment on 2 August. He was granted a conditional pardon on 17 October 1795.

In 1805 Wright was working as a servant. He returned to Port Jackson in November 1808. He is thought to have fathered three children with Mary Daily while working as a carpenter at Windsor. In 1825 he was employed by Captain Piper as a carpenter at Sydney and in 1828 he was living with Mary Swain/Swan. He died at Sydney on 1 August 1837.

* information from Mollie Gillen, The Founders of Australia: A Biographical Dictionary of the First Fleet (1989), pp 395-95

Additional Resources

Citation details

'Wright, Henry (c. 1758–1837)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/wright-henry-29942/text37080, accessed 18 September 2021.

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