|Country of Origin||England|
|Date of Birth||c1769|
|Year of Arrival in Australia||1815|
|Submitted by||Beth Kebblewhite|
James Oatley (1770-1839) Keeper of the [Sydney] Town Clock
James OATLEY was a watch and clock maker of Stafford, England, when at the age of 44 he was convicted at the Southampton Assizes on the 7th March 1814 for stealing beds and linen to the value of £16 ($32). Originally given a sentence of death, Oatley was reprieved and transported for life to NSW. He arrived in Sydney in the ship “Marquis of Wellington” on 27th January 1815.
Prior to Oatley\’s arrest in England, there is evidence that he lived with Mary Stokes. Mary had been tried with Joseph LYCETT in 1811 for possession of forging equipment and unfinished bank notes, but found to be innocent. Lycett was banished from England as a convict on the ship “General Hewitt” in 1813.
In 1814 while Lycett was in Sydney & Oatley was being held in the hulks, Mary Stokes fell pregnant and gave birth to a son, Robert, later adopted and raised by Oatley who denied paternity. To gain a free passage to Australia, Mary Stokes posed as Sarah Oatley, legal wife of James, and travelled to Sydney on the ship Northampton in 1815, with a daughter, Emma.
Oatley and Mary Stokes lived together in Sydney and their first child, James Jnr., was born in 1817, and another son, Frederick, in 1819.
Oatley set up in business as a watch and clock maker in George Street, opposite the site of the present Town Hall. Governor Macquarie commissioned him to make a clock for the turret of the Prisoner\’s Barracks at Hyde Park (see picture) being built by convict architect Francis Greenway in Macquarie Street between 1818 and 1819, and for this service Oatley was paid £75. He was also appointed Overseer of the Town Clock with a salary of £30 ($60) pounds per annum.
In 1821 Oatley received a conditional pardon from Governor Macquarie and in later years was given land grants of over 500 acres, including 300 acres near the George\’s River, located in the area that later took his name.
James and Mary Stokes separated and they both married; Mary to Charles Howell in 1832 (posing as a widow and calling herself Mrs Johnstone); and Oatley to Mary Ann Bogg in 1833. Mary Stokes (as Howell), died in 1838 at the home of her husband in Brickfield Hill.
Mary Ann Bogg arrived as a convict girl in 1823 on the ship Mary III (1) with her sister Jane (Quayle), after both were found guilty of stealing lace from a drapery at Douglas on the Isle of Man and given seven year sentences to NSW. After being assigned to two Sydney settlers, and giving birth to an illegitimate child, Robert Ivory, Mary Ann was given permission to wed the ex-convict widower Robert Bogg at St Phillip\’s Church in 1826. Robert was then aged about 52 and his new wife only 21. They had a child James, who died young, and Mary Ann became a widow in May 1829 after Robert Bogg\’s death.
Less than one year later, Mary Ann mortgaged a house in Elizabeth Street, Sydney to James Oatley, for the sum of £180 ($360). The couple wed in September 1833. Oatley wrote a will in March 1837 stating: I give and bequeath to my lawful wife MARY ANN OATLEY …, a Stone built house and Premises lying and situated in the Parish of St Lawrence, in the Town of Sydney … at the date hereof tenanted by Mr Bates. Also a Farm of Land now called “Newton” containing 40 Acres,… Also the whole of the House hold Furniture, Wearing Apparel, Plate and Books which may be on my Estate named “Snugborough” at the date of my decease. Oatley also made bequests to his sons, but in September 1839 he made an addition to the will: CODICIL to this the last Will …of James Oatley, of Sydney, Watchmaker….And whereas in consequence of the extreme ill conduct of my wife MARY ANN OATLEY who absconded from me about eighteen months past and is at the date hereof living in a state of adultery, I hereby revoke, cancel and make null and void a certain bequest made by me to her in the said Will, of an Estate of land called “Newton” containing forty acres… He then stated he wanted to give that land to his adopted son Frederick Oatley. Mary Ann had left her husband about March 1838, probably to live with James F. Hulle (who she later married in 1841).
In October 1839, James Oatley died, aged about 70 and was buried at his home Snugborough at Canterbury. The presence of his body in a vault gave rise to an interesting condition governing the future sales of Snugborough. The purchaser had to agree to take over the sepulchre & its occupants.