|Peter Hickson and Matilda Ann Sheppard
- the settler's son and the soldier's daughter -
My Great Great Grandparents
Peter Hickson [jnr], born at Yarrabandini, Macleay River in the County of Macquarie, on 7th
August, 1847. He was baptised on 4th September,1847 according to the Wesleyan rights.
Peter was the posthumous child of Peter Hickson snr and Hannah Waites, born six weeks
after his father's death by drowning at Macleay River. On 16th February 1848 when Peter
was just six months old, his mother married ex-convict Henry BATTERSON. Records
suggest that Peter could read and write. At various times in his life Peter was a farmer,
labourer, sawyer and rag collector. According to hospital records, Peter was 5' 8" tall weighed
153 lbs, had brown hair and blue eyes.
Matilda Ann Sheppard was born 23rd August 1844 at Tennis Court, Redcliff[e], Bristol,
daughter of Matilda Vernum and George Joseph Sheppard. Matilda came to Australia some
time between the end of March 1851 and January 1852 although I have yet to find record of
her arrival. As her father was a soldier, she moved around Australia with her family living in
such places as Norfolk Island, the Tasman Peninsula, Launceston, Adelaide and the Victoria
Barracks, Paddington. Matilda remained behind in Sydney in 1862 when her parents were
posted to New Zealand and eventually back to England. Prior to her marriage in 1868,
Matilda was living in Sydney and working as a machinist.
Assault Charge 11th May 1865: Peter's later gaol record would mention an earlier charge of
assault on 11th May 1865. I have not found a record in Peter's name but have found one in
the name John White, aged 21 born Macleay River, 5 foot 8 inches tall, light hair, blue eyes,
protestant, committed to at Darlinghurst gaol charged with assault. Sentenced to 1 month
imprisonment. [Prisoner number 1206] This fits with the details of previous convictions when
Peter is imprisoned again 1866 at Wollongong
NSW Police Gazette dated 19th July 1865 states Peter Hickson and Michael Burns/Byrnes
were charged with stealing a coat [recovered] the property of George Carter, draper, Brickfield
Hill, and were arrested. They pleaded guilty and were sentenced to 18 months and two years
imprisonment respectively at Darlinghurst Gaol. The Darlinghurst Gaol entrance book
records Peter with the alias of 'White' [see above] His religion is recorded as being
Protestant and he could not read or write. His age is recorded as being 21 although he was
not quite 18 at the time.
The Sydney Morning Herald dated Saturday 8th July records the event as follows:
Central Police Court: Friday - Michael Byrnes and Peter Hickson were committed to take their
trial for larceny. Detective Camphin deposed that on Monday evening he saw the prisoners on
Brickfield hill and, knowing them, he watched them; he shortly saw Byrne take a coat
[produced] exposed for sale outside Mr Carter's shop and walk away with it under his arm,
across the street, where Hickson was waiting for him, and handed it over to him; witness went
towards them on which Hickson threw away the coat and ran; Mr Wager of the Detective
Office, who was present, secured Byrnes, while witness followed and apprehended Hickson.
George Carter of George Street,draper, identified the coat as his property and valued it a 42
It is interesting to note that it appears Peter Hickson was already known to the police at this
time and this is another indication that he is the John White in the previous conviction.
Brickfield Hill was a precinct in Surry Hills [Sydney] so named because of the extensive brick
making facilities there. The hill went up George Street, towards the Town Hall.
Wollongong Gaol: From Darlinhusrt Gaol, Peter is sent to Wollongong Gaol to serve out his
sentence. Their census on 1st January 1866 describes Peter as aged 21, labourer, Church of
England, 5 foot 7 1/2 inches tall, ruddy complexion, stout, brown hair and blue eyes, mole
on left breast, could not read or write.
NSW Police Gazette return of prisoners released dated 1866 states Peter Hickson was
released from Woollongong Gaol, where he was incarcerated for 18 months for Larceny
having been tried in Sydney Sessions Court on 17th July 1865. His occupation is recorded
as labourer. His native place is Sydney [ie: he was residing in Sydney]. His birth year is 1844
[which is incorrect]. Height 5 foot 7 1/2 inches, fresh complexion, brown hair and blue eyes.
His mouth, nose and chin are recorded as being medium. He has a mole on his left breast.
Wollongong Gaol 1866 describes Peter on his release on as having a strong frame and sound
health, no education, and his conduct had been good. It also mentions a previous conviction
for assault on 11th May 1865 for 1 month.
Marriage: On 2nd November, 1868 Peter married Matilda Ann Sheppard, at the home of his
step-father Henry Batterson, Nambucca River in the Macleay District, according to the forms
of the Weslyan Church. The Officiating Minister was William Nyland Bousins [?] The
witnesses were William Henry Bousin and Lorna Luspkin [?] At the time of his marriage Peter
was a farmer living at Nambucca River. No ages for the bride and groom are given.
Timber Licenses: Between 1867 and 1871 Peter Hickson paid a yearly fee of 5pounds for a
timer cutters license for hardwood. Stepfather Henry Batterson and brother Thomas Hickson
also held licesnses during this time.
Known Adresses: Greville's 1872 Post Office directory for Frederickton lists Peter as a
labourer. Between 1873 and 1875 the family moved to Sydney. 1877 = Glenmore Rd
Paddington. 1890=18 Gipps Street Paddington. 1891- 1893 = 27 Gipps Street, Paddington.
1894 [Mrs Hickson] = 27 Gipps Street. 1897-1898 = 91 Underwood Road Paddington. 1902 -
1907 Segenhoe Street, Arncliffe. Son Edward arranged for Matilda to be payed 3 shillings
and sixpence per day from his pay when he enlisted in the army in 1915. Her address was
given as 238 Oxford Street Woollahra, but this had been crossed out and the payment
requested to go to her care of Post Office Woollahra. 1908 - 1917 = 101 Wallis street,
Woollahra [Sands Directory]
Peter and Matilda had the following Children: Note:- All children are recorded as being of
the Church of England faith in various records.
Hickson: Walter Henry born 3rd September 1869 at Frederickton Macleay River [elder of
twins] [ref 12828/1869]
Hickson: Ada Matilda born 3rd September 1869, at Frederickton, Macleay River [younger of
twin] [ref 12829/1869]
Hickson: William Peter [Peter William] born 1871 Macleay River [ref 12341/1871]
Hickson: George Thomas, born 30th July, 1873, Frederickton [ref 12732/1873] . My Great
Hickson: Mary Rebecca born 16th June 1875 at St Johns Place off Sussex Street, Sydney
[ref 1593/1875] This address was probably the family home. Present at the birth were Mrs
Harrison and Mrs Drake. Father Peter's occupation is given as sawyer. Mary Rebecca, aged
'10 1/2 months almost' died on 25th April 1876 at Glenmore Road, Paddington [ref
3310/1876] Cause of death was Tabes Mesenterica, tuberculosis of the lymph nodes, an
illness in children caused by drinking milk from cows infected by tuberculosis. Length of
illness was 3 weeks. Peter, of the same address, was the informant. Mary Rebecca was buried
on 26th April, 1876 at Haslam creek, the early name for what was to become Rookwood
cemetery. Area AN Section P grave 275.
Hickson: Edward born 22nd January 1877, elder of twins at Glenmore Road, Paddington
[ref 4908/1877] Died 1936, Sydney. Edward suffered from epileptic seizures according to his
WW1 records and according to family sources had a cleft palate. He enlisted in the AIF on
13th September 1915. Brother Fred is shown as his next of kin. At the time of his
enlistment Edward was a wharf labourer and his address was corner of Monka and Wallace
Streets Woollarhra. He stood 5 foot 6 and a quarter inches tall, weighed 176 pounds with a
chest measurement of 39 inches. He was of the Church of England faith. He had blue eyes
[good], fair hair and a fair complexion. On 17th March 1916, Edward requested a discharge
from service due to his epilepsy. He was granted a discharge on 26th March 1916. 1930
Electoral Roll 534 Bourke Street Surry Hills. Edward aged 59 on 116 Campbell Street, Surry
Hills died on 2nd July 1936. He was a plumber and invalid pensioner. Cause of death was
fatty degeneration of liver and heart. Sergeant Weatherall of Sydney police was the
informant. Inquest was deemed unnecessary by the city coroner. He is buried in the
Independent section D grave 1974 of Rookwood Cemetery as E Hickson.
Hickson: Frederick [Fred] born 22nd January 1877 younger of twins, Paddington [ref
Hickson: Benjamin born 7th July 1879 at Crown Lane Woolloomooloo, Sydney [ref
2092/1879] which appears to be the family home as this is also the address given for father
Peter when he registers the birth. Mrs Pickard was recorded as being present at the birth.
Baby Benjamin was admitted to the Benevolent Society on 3rd July 1880 by order of the Hon
Colonial Secretary. He died on 5th November 1880 at the Benevolent Asylum, Sydney [ ref
2389/1880] Cause of death was Marasmus, which is the old term for malnutrition or
starvation. Benjamin's parents are not listed on the certificate. There is no time period given
for the length of illness, however Dr Warren had attended him the previous day. Benjamin
was buried at Rookwood Necropolis. Area AN section L grave 102
1880: Sands Directory for 1880 records Peter Hickson, sawyer at 10 Crown Lane
1880: Randwick Asylum for Destitute Children
On 10th March 1880 Walter, Ada, William [Peter] George, Edward and Frederick were
admitted to the Randwick Asylum for Destitute Children by their mother, Matilda. Baby
Benjamin is not listed. Her address at the time was Maitland Place off Parramatta Street,
Sydney. The reasons given for the admittance of the children were mistreatment [?], neglect
and desertion by father. Their admission was noted 'To pay two pounds six per week for each
child'. The asylum opened in 1858 and operated until 1915. It was constructed to hold 400
children but by 1868 had been expanded to hold 700. The 'boarding out' system began 1883
and by 1886 numbers had reduced to 250. The asylum had a farm where boys learnt farming
schools. All children were given a basic education and older boys and sometimes girls were
apprenticed to the institution. The Prince of Wales Hospital now stands on the site.
On 14th April 1880 all of the children except Edward were discharged to their father, Peter,
who gave the address 8 Glenmore Rd Paddington. What followed was recorded in The
Sydney Morning Herald dated 18th May 1880 under the headline "Shocking Destitution":
The truth of the aphorism that one-half the world has no idea how the other half lives was
fully exemplified at the Water Police Court yesterday morning, when a case was brought
under the notice of the magistrates which disclosed a state of misery and wretchedness
seldom heard of in this community. Peter Hickson, a middle-aged man, described as a
sawyer, together with a woman named Mary Jane Mackay, was charged with having no lawful
means of support, while five children-four boys, whose ages ranged from 2 years to 11 years,
and a girl-were also brought before the Court as destitute children, having been found on
Saturday night sleeping out in the open air. From the statement of senior-sergeant Bremner,
it appeared that he discovered the five children on Saturday night at about 8 o'clock lying in
the scrub at the water reserve, Moore Park, in company with the father and a woman of the
vagrant class. The children, who were lying asleep on the bare ground, were in a most filthy
and pitiable condition. They were wretchedly clad, what little clothing they had on being in a
state of rags, and the unfortunate waifs were shivering bitterly with the cold. One of the
children, a girl about 11 years of age, told the constable that she was sent out begging by her
father every day, and whenever she came home without either money or food she was
flogged. Whatever money she obtained by begging she always gave to her father, who
invariably spent it in drink. The children were not only disgustingly dirty, but also more or
less afflicted with blight in the eyes, the result of exposure and want. The constable had the
children forthwith conveyed to the police station, where they were washed and fed. The
father and the woman who was found lying in the scrub with the children were also taken to
the station, and were charged with having no lawful means of support. Matilda Hickson, the
mother of the children, informed the Bench that she was in service, and received a sum of
12s per week, out of which she had to pay 10s for the support of one of her children two
years of age. In March last she got five of the children into the Randwick Asylum, where they
were in good health and quite contented ; but the father took them out against her wishes
and without her consent, and since then they had been going about the streets begging. The
father stated that he was turned out of his house with his children lately because he could
not pay the rent, and that he took them out of the asylum to provide for them himself, but
had since been unable to obtain work. Mr. Marsh, in commenting on the case, said that it
was very painful to see an able-bodied healthy man like the prisoner living in such
degradation and abject misery, and allowing his children to suffer such horrible privations
through his own laziness. His personal appearance was sufficient to inspire any one with
disgust, and he was nothing better than a disgrace to humanity. Hickson was sentenced to
six months' imprisonment, with hard labour, in Darlinghurst gaol ; and the woman who was
found in his company, and who said that she had been "hired by Mr. Hickson to mind the
children," was sent to gaol for two months. The children were ordered to be sent to the
1880: NSW Police Gazette dated 19th May 1880 states Peter Hickson was charged with
having no visible means of support and was arrested and sentenced to six months in
Darlinghurst Gaol. From Darlinghurst he was transferred to Bathurst Gaol where he was
released after serving his sentence on 14th November 1880.
The children were ordered to be sent to the Industrial School.
Frederick, aged 2 1/2, was admitted to the Benevolent Society on 17th May 1880, by order of
the Sec Governor, WP [Water Police] Office. The journal entry states: father in custody,
mother in service. He was eventually discharged to his parents over four years later on 2nd
July 1884 [twin brother Edward was discharged from the Randwick Asylum a week later]
Baby Benjamin, aged 1, was admitted to the Benevolent Society on 3rd July 1880, by order
of the Honourable Colonial Secretary. He died there on 5th November.
There is record of Ada being sent to the Biloela Public Industrial School for Girls on Cockatoo
Island, although I do not have dates at this time. The Industrial School was situated in the
former penitentiary on the western side of the Island and operated from 1871 until 1887.
It appears that Walter, William and George were admitted to the Industrial School ship
Vernon which was docked at Cockatoo island. More details to come soon.
Edward was discharged from the Randwick Asylum to his father on 9th July 1884, over four
years since his admission. Edward's WWI records show that he suffered epileptic seizures and
this may be why he was left at the Asylum when the other children were discharged.
1881: NSW Police Gazette dated 23rd February 1881 reports that Matilda Ann Hickson care
of Mrs Sullivan of Gipps Street, Paddington reported the theft of a Morocco leather purse
containing 7s 3d in silver, a one penny piece, a wedding ring, a keeper ring and a small
silver key. The theft occurred as Matilda was leaving the School of Arts at 10.00pm on 15th
February. The purse minus contents was later found in Pitt Street. Given the late hour that
this offence occurred, could Matilda have been working as a cleaner at the School of Arts?
Police attached suspicion to William alias Edward Burt alias Hodgson.
In April of the same year, Peter Hickson was one of the people attacked by Cornelius
Riordan, publican of the Blarney Castle Hotel in Kent Street, who was charged with
feloniously cutting and wounding with the intent to do grievous bodily harm. Riordan was
1881: 6th June 1881, Peter is sentenced to 2 days in Darlinghurst Gaol for being drunk.
1882: 16th August 1882 Peter is sentenced to 48 hours imprisonment at Darlinghurst Gaol
for being drunk.
1887: Son William is returned to the Vernon Industrial School ship on 1st March 1887. The
Entrance Book report states: 'Was away four years then had to be returned on account of his
parents causing the boy to misbehave and abscond'.
1887 Shoalhaven Court of Petty Sessions:
Shoalhaven telegraph dated 10th August 1887 reported:
Tuesday, August 9, 1887. (Before Messrs.L. W A. Macarthur, Dr. King, and Dr J.P.Brereton,
Peter Hixon was charged by J. H. Littlewood with having assaulted and beaten him.
Complainant applied to amend his information by withdrawing the words "had beaten" Mr
Davy objected to any amendment but afterwards agreed, to allow the words to be struck out.
Mr Littlewood deposed Thursday I was working on the road when Hixon came up, and asked
me if I was a Good Templar; I told him I was and he then used blasphemous language; he had
a bag in his hand and he threatened to knock my head off; he was sufficiently close to strike
me; I was so afraid that he would do me some harm that I left my work, and I am still afraid of
him ; I do not wish defendant to be fined or punished in any way, all I desire is that he leave
Mr. Davy submitted there was no evidence of an assault.
By Mr.Davy: I am in bodily fear of the defendant; I was neighbours with the defendant; I
never in my life challenged the defendant to a fight; the offence with which defendant is
charged took place on a public road. George Maguire was present part of the time and
Joseph Caldwell was present the whole time
Joseph Caldwell deposed : Hixon came up and commenced to use some bad language; Mr.
Littlewood did not appear to care to talk with him and gave him no provocation whatsoever;
defendant asked Mr. Littlewood to strip off his shirt to fight him; I thought he was going to
By Mr Davy: I did not see Hixon raise his hand in any threatening way ; I would not swear
the parties were nearer each other than six feet.
Peter Hixon the defendant deposed: 'On the day in question, I saw Mr Littlewood; I do not
deny using the language; I did not attempt to strike him ;I was six of seven feet from him; I
would not hit him.
The Chairman said that from the evidence defendant had not been guilty of an assault, but
he had been guilty of gross misconduct towards complainant and if he been charged with
using obscene language he would have been liable to a fine of £5. As it was, they dismissed
the case. Sergeant Brayne intimated his intention of proceeding against the defendant for
using obscene language.
Shoalhaven Telgraph dated 17th August 1887 reported:
Shoalhaven Court of Requests
Tuesday, August 10 1887. (Before Messrs. H. G. Morton, S. Ellyard, and J. Green, J.P.)
Peter Hixon was charged with using obscene language in a public place at Nowra. Mr.
Richards appeared for the defendant and stated that he (defendan.) bore a very good
character but occasionally had a little liquor, and at times forgot himself. He had promised
him to reform, and he asked their Worships to deal as lightly as possible with the defendant.
Sergeant Brayne also testified to the good character of defendant. The defendant was fined
5s and 2s 6d costs of Court
Continued Page Two
Right: 27 Gipps Street, Paddington
where Peter lived from 1891 - 1893
according to the sands Directory.