Abraham Chapman is believed to have been born in Dartford, Kent. He
enlisted in the British Army on his 15th birthday, which makes his date
of birth July 27th, 1798. According to his death certificate, his father
was William Chapman, a butcher, but no trace of a baptism can be found.
Abraham enlisted in the 57th Regiment aged 15, on July 27th, 1813. His
early service was varied: six months in the Iberian Peninsula, one year
in North America, and three years in France. In November 1818 the 57th
moved to Ireland, and to Galway in August 1820. Here he is believed to
have met Hannah Glynn, whom he married on September 11th, 1822 at
Charleville, Co. Cork. before transferring to the 3rd Rgt on November
Whether this transfer was because the 3rd was earmarked for a spell in
Australia, or for some other reason, is unknown. However, Abraham, Hannah
and their eldest daughter Catherine arrived in Sydney aboard the convict
transport Ann and Amelia on January 2nd, 1825. Their daughter Charlotte
was either born during the voyage, or soon after, being baptised in
Sydney on April 9th, 1825.
Abraham and Hannah spent almost two years in Sydney, before he was one of
20 soldiers from the 3rd regiment selected to establish the settlement at
Westernport Bay. The group of soldiers, 20 convicts, an unknown number of
wives and children (including Hannah, Catherine and Charlotte), and a
handful of civilians (including William Hovell, who was to act as their
local guide), left Sydney on the morning of November 9th, 1826, and
reached Westernport 15 days later.
The settlement was short lived, but by the time the 3rd regiment was due
to return to England the government had not given it up, and the 3rd was
replaced by soldiers of the 57th who had recently arrived in NSW. Some
members of the 3rd who wanted to remain in NSW transferred to the 57th,
and Abraham was one of these. However, he did not remain with the 57th at
Westernport but returned to Sydney with the departing 3rd regiment at the
end of November 1827. By this time, his family had increased with the
birth of Abraham Western, born at the settlement on July 17th. He was
baptised in Sydney in January 1828, shortly after their return.
During the next three years, Abraham and family lived on Melville Island
and at Moreton Bay, before another transfer (to the 17th regiment) in
1831. Local postings then followed (Parramatta, Windsor, and Longbottom -
now Concord) before his final transfer to the 28th regiment in 1836.
Service with this regiment was entirely in Sydney, and included a spell
from February until December 1838 as a turnkey in Sydney Gaol, and all of
1839 with the Town Surveyor's Department in Sydney. According to his
service record, Abraham was officially discharged on August 22nd, 1839
with a pension of 10d per diem, but he is shown in the muster lists for
the 28th as being on a "general pass" until discharged on January 31st,
During his service in both the 17th and 28th regiments, a fellow
soldier was Private Thomas BAGOT. Thomas, by then a Corporal, became
Abraham's son-in-law in 1836 when he married Catherine.
Following the completion of his service with the Town Surveyor's
Department, Abraham was immediately appointed Overseer of the Civil
Hospital on Norfolk Island, and left Sydney on February 20th, 1840 aboard
the Governor Phillip. His appointment was noted in the NSWAO ColSec
correspondence as letter 40/22 dated February 18th,1840 which states:
Abraham Chapman appointed Overseer of the Hospital at a salary of 2s3d
per day plus lodgings and a ration.
Apparently this salary was not sufficient, as on September 29th, 1841
Abraham applied for an increase (ColSec letter 41/9162). This was
rejected on November 9th by the Colonial Secretary.
Under regulations introduced shortly before his discharge from the army,
as a former soldier he was entitled to a cash grant towards the purchase
of land, and he applied for this grant. His application is dated March
23rd, 1840 and signed at Norfolk Island, and a remission of twenty-five
pounds towards the cost of land bought at auction was granted on April
At an auction held on September 10th, 1840 Abraham is recorded as being
the purchaser of Lot 10 in Section 11 of Clarence Town, at a price of
twenty four pounds. It is not known how he bid for this land, still
being on Norfolk Island at the time.
Not all the children accompanied Abraham and Hannah to Norfolk Island.
The 1841 census shows:
and this is consistent with the shipping list for the Pestonjee Bomanjee
on which the family returned to Sydney (from Hobart) in June 1847.
- 1 male aged 2-7 (ie Samuel)
- 1 female aged 7-14 (ie Ellen)
- 2 males aged 7-14 (George and John)
Abraham Western joined his family on Norfolk Island in 1844. In a letter
(ColSec 44/2971) dated April 13th, 1844 his brother-in-law (Sgt
Thomas Bagot) requested the Colonial Secretary to furnish him with a
passage on the Governor Phillip. This was followed up by another
letter (ColSec 44/3072) dated April 18th from the Deputy Inspector
General of Hospitals, which had the desired effect, the passage being
approved the same day. The passenger list for the Governor Phillip
departing Sydney on April 20th, 1844 contains an entry for "Master
However, why Abraham Western was apart from the remainder of the family
for 4 years is not known - one possibility is that he may have been
living with his eldest sister Catherine Bagot and her husband, and
either working or attending school in Sydney.
There is some confusion as to whether or not Abraham and the family
spent any time in Tasmania. Abraham Western's death certificate states
he spent "about 4 years in Norfolk Island, and some time in Tasmania",
while Abraham's police service record shows he was the Hospital Overseer
on Norfolk Island until 1847. If this is true, then it suggests the
Pestonjee Bomanjee only made a stop-over in Hobart en route from
Norfolk Island to Sydney.
Abraham and Hannah then moved to Newcastle, where Abraham joined the
police force on May 1st, 1848 and Hannah worked at the local hospital.
The "Newcastle Chronicle" of March 16th, 1861 reports her resignation
when not made Matron.
Abraham died at Newcastle on May 3rd, 1874, and Hannah on May 17th, 1880,
and both are buried in the Roman Catholic Cemetery at Newcastle.