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Free settlers arriving in the colony were attracted to the rich, fertile land of the Hunter region. The Scott brothers, 22-year-old Robert and 19-year-old Helenus Scott, were amongst the early Europeans who settled in this region.
Robert, Helenus and their father, Dr Helenus Scott departed England on the HMS Britomart on 8 August 1821, accompanied by their man servant, John Brown. Dr Scott, already ill when he embarked on the voyage, died after only a few days on board. He was buried at the Cape of Good Hope. His two sons and Brown continued on in their voyage to New South Wales.
On arrival in the colony, Robert and John Brown set out on several exploratory trips through New South Wales. Their first journey took them west of the Blue Mountains as Robert searched for good grazing land. Both men recorded their exploratory journeys in their diaries.
John Brown tells a fascinating story of their travels through the bush, with detailed accounts of Aboriginal communities they met, including Bungaree who acted as a guide for the party on their first trip.
The second journey took the men north of Sydney to the Hunter region. Departing Sydney on 24 May 1823, they explored the Hunter River and the quality of the land on its banks. Robert selected a site to establish a homestead which he called Glendon. Brown stayed with Robert and Helenus for several months until he decided to run away. He returned to Sydney and worked his passage back to England, via New Zealand, on the Berwick.
When the diary was purchased by the Library in 2007, the author was unknown and the item was described as 'Anonymous diary by a servant'. Brown's authorship has recently been revealed through searching the Colonial Secretary's papers and the ship's muster for the Berwick.
On his second exploratory journey into the Hunter region, Robert was impressed with the quality of the land and applied for land grants for areas on the Paterson River and Paterson Plains.
Robert recognised the importance of establishing his estate on higher lands above the river and wrote in his diary of his interest in climbing the heights above the wetlands and lagoons. The Scott brothers’ estate was one of the few homesteads to avoid floods. Robert wrote,
‘I have little doubt but that the country improves very much as you get up, indeed those who have been up say so. After arranging matters …I got another black fellow and went out to look at the country … large lagoons all along the river crowded with a variety of water fowl, especially ducks, divers, red bills (or native hens). The latter are very plentiful, about the size of a large fowl and of a glossy black, tinged with blue when the sun shines … I shot 5 of these myself.’
Robert and Helenus received land grants of 2000 acres (809 ha) each. They combined their grants to form their estate named Glendon after their home in Surrey. Their land holdings increased after further purchases to around 10,000 acres. According to a history of the area published in the early 20th century, the Glendon homestead was the largest in the district;
‘...the approach to the house was by a gravelled drive bordered by olive and chestnut trees, while the same shady trees were planted as a protection to the big orchard sloping to the river to the right of the house. The remains of a racecourse may be faintly discerned even today…’
Elsie Symonds, A Memoir of Glendon, Sydney: Marchant, 191?
By 1832 Robert and Helenus had acquired more than 300 horses at Glendon. They imported stallions such as Trumpet, Dover and Akbar and bred colonial horses, thus establishing the Hunter’s reputation as a region for thoroughbred studs.
The estate was sold in the 1840s following a series of financial failures and Robert's death at Glendon in 1844 aged 45. Helenus married Sarah Anne Rusden and settled in Newcastle where he continued his work as police magistrate.
The remaining Scott family, Augusta Maria and her children; Alexander Walker, Augusta Maria, David Charles Frederick and Patrick, also settled in New South Wales. The only daughter of Dr Helenus Scott, Augusta Maria married Dr James Mitchell in 1833. Their son, David Scott Mitchell became one of the most influential book collectors of Australiana and noted benefactor of the Mitchell Library.
The Castle Forbes gang
In 1833 Robert was instrumental in the capture of escaped servants who had been assigned to Major James Mudie at his property, Castle Forbes at Patrick Plains. Anthony Hitchcock, John Poole, James Riley, David Jones, John Perry and the youngest, seventeen year old James Ryan, claimed they had absconded after brutal mistreatment by Mudie and his overseer, John Larnach.
In November 1833, they took to the bush after stealing supplies, guns, ammunition and horses. Robert led a group of men in pursuit of the escaped convicts. They located the escapees camping in a steep ravine and successfully captured them. Despite the pleas of their Counsel, Roger Therry who argued they had suffered under appalling treatment from Larnach and Mudie, they were found guilty. Five were executed with David Jones exiled to Norfolk Island for life. This trial proved to be one of the most controversial cases in NSW convict history. Mudie and Lanarch's mistreatment resulted in public outcry at the execution of the men and a government inquiry into conditions for assigned servants at Castle Forbes.
Local settlers established a fund raising campaign to thank Robert for his initiative in capturing the convicts. An article in the Sydney Gazette celebrates Robert’s vigilance and describes the funds raised by donations from grateful Hunter settlers whose properties were now made safe by the capture of the Castle Forbes gang. It was reported that Robert received 'a piece of plate' from the funds raised.
In volume 4 of the Scott family papers is Robert’s correspondence relating to the Castle Forbes bushrangers, including a 4 page list of names of Hunter settlers who donated funds for Robert’s reward. There is also a letter from the Colonial Secretary, Alexander McLeay commending Robert’s involvement in the capture and promising a reward for his duties.