skip to content

Rediscovering Ginninderra:
Thomas Southwell

Born: 1813; Died: 1881; Married: 1. Eliza Cooke; 2. Mary Croxton (nee Roffe)

[The following entry for Thomas Southwell was submitted by the Southwell Family Society to the Immigration Place Australia website]

In Nov 1838 Thomas was the first of his family to immigrate from England to Australia. He was followed by his three brothers, William in 1842, John and Mark in 1858 and his nephew Thomas ‘Chummy Tom’ in 1874.

Thomas Southwell (the son of Samuel and Sarah Ann Ð nee Jackson) was born on 6 Feb 1813 at Salehurst, Robertsbridge, Sussex. Thomas married Eliza Cooke on 1 May 1833 at St James Church, Ewhurst Green, Sussex.

Thomas and Eliza left England seeking a better life due to hard times and over-crowding at Salehurst. They came to New South Wales as assisted immigrants with their children Thomas and Mary Ann. They left London on 23 July 1838 on the ‘Lady Nugent’ and arrived in Port Jackson on 27 Nov 1838. Shipping records list Thomas as labourer and Eliza as farm servant. Thomas could read, but not write. Both were shown as ‘Wesleyan’.

Thomas was employed in Sydney by a Mr Tooth before he and Eliza moved to Cobbity (near Camden). They finally settled at Ginninderra, near Hall. Here, Thomas worked as a farm labourer and operated as a teamster, carrying produce and wool to Sydney and returning with supplies for himself and others. Thomas worked hard and in 1854 purchased land on Ginninderra Creek, which he named ‘Parkwood’ after a wood near his Sussex home.

Thomas and Eliza raised 8 children at ‘Parkwood’: Thomas, Mary Ann, William, Samson, Samuel, John, Eliza and Lydia. Alfred and Harriet Bembrick who were orphans were also raised by Thomas and Eliza. In 1852 Eliza died from birth complications and her baby Jabez died 4 months later. They are buried at St John\’s Cemetery, Reid. In 1853 Thomas married a widow, Mary Croxton (nee Roffe) at Gunning, and had 9 more children: James, Richard, Sarah, Jane, Elizabeth, Mark, Hannah, Beatrice and Benjamin. Mary\’s daughters Anne and Harriet were also raised in this large family.

His Wesleyan faith was very important and Thomas held Bible readings and family prayers in his home and began to read sermons. By 1848 Thomas held regular church services at home for family and neighbours. In 1863 a slab chapel for Wesleyan services was completed on his property and Thomas later replaced this building with a stone chapel in 1881. Local preachers held services at ‘Parkwood’. Thomas was known as the ‘father of Methodism’ in the district.

In Oct 1879 Thomas was appointed a magistrate. He continued to farm at ‘Parkwood’ until his death on 31 May 1881. Thomas grew wheat, oats, rye, corn, potatoes, vegetables, fruits, hops and tobacco. His second wife, Mary died on 29 April 1885 and she and Thomas are buried at the Old Weetangera Cemetery (William Hovel Drive, opposite Hawker).

Thomas\’ brother William and his wife Emma (nee Nicholls – m. Potter) embarked on the “Bolivar” in London on 28 May 1842 and arrived in Launceston in October 1842. They settled in Tasmania for 3 years before moving to Ballan, in Victoria where William farmed. William and Emma had a daughter Sarah Anne who died in infancy and two step daughters Elizabeth and Lydia Potter. William died at Ballan on 6 Sept 1862. Emma and her daughters moved to Queensland where Emma died at Barcaldine in 1891.

Another brother, John and his wife Lucy (nee Gasson) sailed from Southampton on 12 Apr 1858 on the “Grand Trianon” as assisted immigrants and arrived in Port Jackson on 20 Aug 1858. They settled at ‘Parkwood’ where he helped Thomas run the property. In 1873 John selected 80 acres near Sutton where he built his home ‘Rosevale’. In 1875 and 1885 John added to his holding. John and Lucy had 8 children: Harriet, Samuel (Captain Sam), Jane, Thomas, Mary A, George, Lydia and Ellen. John died in 1889 and Lucy in 1900. They are buried at the Old Weetangera Cemetery.

Thomas’ third brother, Mark and his wife Ellen (nee Smithson) left Liverpool on the “David McIver” on 4 Jun 1858 as assisted immigrants and arrived in Port Jackson on 24 Sept 1858. They had 4 children: Joshua, Gertrude, Minnie and Rose. Mark initially worked for Thomas before selecting his own land “Rosebud Apiary” (now in the suburb of Cook).

On 16 Dec 1874 Thomas\’ nephew, Thomas ‘Chummy Tom’ and his wife Annie (nee Goldsmith) Southwell, arrived in Sydney. Because they did not like country life they left ‘Parkwood’ and returned to Sydney where Thomas was a cabman and shoemaker. Thomas and Annie had 14 children, however 5 died in infancy.

The Southwells and their large families embraced life in their adopted country and become prominent and valued citizens who left a legacy for us all.

There is short biography of Thomas at Immigration Place Australia

Related Photos


< Rediscovering Ginninderra