One of the most interesting discoveries I made while researching my ancestry was my connection to a man named William Mobbs, an industrious convict who was my great great great great great grandfather.
William was born in London in 1763, the son on Isaac Mobbs (1731-1794) and Mary Ireland (1740-unknown). William married Ann Grover (1761-1850) in 1790 and they proceeded to have three children while living in London – William Jnr (1791-1851), Ann (1795-1867) and George (1796-1821).
In 1796 William was committed to stand trial at Newgate on the charge of stealing salt petre, a crime he committed in conjunction with his brother-in-law William Batman (1765-1833), father of John Batman, founder of Melbourne.
William was found guilty and sentenced to 7 years transportation and after a year in prison he left England on the Barwell, arriving in Sydney in May 1798. His wife Ann and their three children followed William as free settlers, arriving aboard the Earl Cornwallis in 1801. William and Ann then had another son John (1802-1828).
William was quite a model convict and displayed some talent for horticulture.
An early diary by Mrs Felton Matthews commented that…
” Old Mobbs was among the first convicts who arrived in the country and was for years employed in the government garden, from whence he obtained a cutting from the first orange tree brought from Rio: this tree he showed with pride as being the parent of his whole orchard, either by cuttings, layers or seedlings…He was the first possessor of peaches” (from Book of Sydney Suburbs by Pollon p51).
William was emancipated in 1803 and concentrated on the acquisition of land. His first formal grant was 30 acres in the Field of Mars in 1802 although documents suggest he owned land in present day Carlingford from 1798. 26 acres were cleared with 11.5 under wheat & maize. He also had 44 sheep, 19 horned cattle, 12 goats and 2 pigs.
In 1820 he applied for more land & received another 300 acres which he used for cattle grazing. By 1823 he had another 80 acres for the propogation of fruit trees. By 1825 the Sydney Gazette declared that William Mobbs of Pennant Hills “has one of the finest crops of wheat ever beheld in the colony”. The 1828 muster credits him with 907 acres and he was widely known for the best apples & oranges in the colony.
William Mobbs died in 1839 and was buried in St Johns Cemetery in Parramatta.
His widow Ann “of Orange Orchard” remarried but was buried next to her first husband following her death in 1850.
In the main, their children followed their father’s rural interests. Son William Jnr was identified in the 1828 Muster Books as a farmer with 300 acres, while brother Isaac had 200 acres. John was a gardener & fruiterer who died young at age 26. Ann married three times and died in 1867 at age 74.
The Mobbs land together with other orchards in the area including those owned by Cox, Spurway & Neil, were effected in the 1860s by an insect attack with diseased trees having to be destroyed. A second environmental disaster soon followed and exacerbated the farmers. Severe drought set in & it was another 7 yrs before the orchards operated effectively. However, the orchards & larger land holdings were subdivided for residential development, notably after the first subdivision in 1883 & the Carlingford railway extension in 1902.