Robert Webb was baptised on 17th March 1804 to Robert Webb and Sarah Lamb who married at Stockbury, Kent on 28th November 1790. His Father, Robert, was a Teamster Yeoman. Robert, from East Farleigh, Kent, married Mary Ann Harris also of East Farleigh and baptised on 20th February 1809. She was the daughter of John Harris and Elizabeth Child although Mary Ann's mother is named Elizabeth Osmond on Mary's death certificate. Perhaps John died and Elizabeth married a second time.
Traditional yeomanry in the late 17th century Britain were that class of countrymen between the gentlemen and the petty farmers. They lived in comfortable houses, were supposed to be hard working, prudent and often Puritan. They were educated and socially responsible, acting as churchwardens, constables, overseer of the poor, surveyors of the roads, i.e. they were pillars of society.
Robert, his wife and daughter, Elizabeth aged 4, with his brother David and his wife, Caroline and 3 children migrated to Australia, leaving England on 7th May, 1838 on Woodbridge and arriving in Sydney on 15th September, 1838. There would seem to be other children to Robert and Sarah as there are 13 years between their marriage and the birth of Robert.
Most of the passengers - and all of those travelling steerage - were brought to New South Wales as Government immigrants. That is, the British Government paid for their fare from funds raised from the sale of land in the Colony. The passage in steerage cost £40 plus bedding and clothing. They would have had little hope of having this amount and so were expected to repay the Government out of their wages on arrival in the Colony. This group of migrants is distinguished from those brought out by individual landowners, who were reimbursed from the same funds when the newcomers arrived, called "Bounty Immigrants".
As all assisted immigrants were brought out for the dual purpose of relieving Britain's overpopulation and unemployment problems, and to provide a labour force for the expanding Colony, the distinction is often overlooked, and all ships carrying assisted immigrants tend to be called "Bounty" ships, and all passengers "Bounty" immigrants. When it is considered that assisted immigrants were carried steerage, that is, between the main deck above and the hold below, in an open dormitory, with headroom of little more than 6 feet, with two tiers of bunks each measuring 6 feet by three feet, each to sleep two people, it takes little imagination to realise what conditions would have been like in a rough sea with most of the passengers seasick, or in the stifling, airless atmosphere of the tropics.
Of the 270 passengers on Woodbridge, more than half were under the age of twenty, 116 being under fifteen, including ten babies less than twelve months old. With the childhood ailments that would proliferate under the cramped conditions, we can be sure that ship's surgeon, Superintendent Alex Stewart would have had a busy time. Unfortunately, his report is missing from the A.O.Reel of the Woodbridge shipping list. However, the Webbs must have been of sturdy stock, as all seem to have arrived with a clean bill of health.a The Woodbridge was only the second ship to ferry free settler immigrants to Australia.
Robert Webb and relatives were all listed as brought out by the Government under this scheme. On arrival they would have been housed in barracks until they were able to find employment. As this was a period of scarcity of willing farm labour, it is likely that Robert, being an agriculturist would have quickly found employment with a landholder, so their stay in barracks may not have been very long.1 Once they had employment they were then "off Government Stores" and were no longer a burden to the Colony. They were required to repay their fare to the Government.
In 1838 Sir George Gipps was appointed Captain General and Governor of New South Wales and held office until 1846. By 1840 the transportation of convicts to NSW ceased therefore ending access to a quantity of labour.
Robert & David stayed close to each other. David started life in Australia at South Creek; southwest of Sydney (perhaps on Throsby's 950 acre grant at Liverpool) and Robert lived at Moorebank, Liverpool where a daughter, Rachel was born in 1840. After spending two years working on Throsby's 550 acre grant at Minto, Robert came to "Throsby Park" to help Joe Wild and the other men care for the cattle.
Both brothers moved to the Southern Highlands, David to Mittagong2 and Robert to Moss Vale. When times were hard and grass scarce, Robert & Joe Wild would take a herd of 150 or so bullocks down to the Crookwell area for grazing. Whilst working for Throsby, Robert and his family lived in a bark humpy on the banks of Whytes Creek where the railway bridge now is in Argyle Street. Sarah was born in 1845. John, their only son, was reputably the first white boy born at Moss Vale on 16th June 1849 and baptised at Christ Church, Bong Bong. Robert, along with Messrs J. Moss and H. Ward, were the first three white settlers in Moss Vale.3 and by 1853, there were five slab and bark structures with the few other white families. Living in the humpy provided Robert and his family with shelter and a place to call home. It is said of Robert at this time that he would have preferred to have starved in Kent than have come to this condition! Ann was born in 1853.
Natives of the Dharawal people used to come down to the creek around dusk to camp the night, bringing with them any game or other food gathered during the day. They often visited the Europeans, bringing honey to exchange for food. By the 1870s, the natives had been driven off or died.
After leaving Throsby Park, Robert took up his grant of 150 acres down along Stone Quarry Creek near Werai (between Moss Vale and Exeter, then known as Ferndale, Exeter).
Using a strong back and the will to succeed, he proceeded to clear his land and start his farm. After milking, Robert would cart his milk over the hills to the Fresh Food & Ice Companies factory at Vine Lodge, Exeter, where it was then sent to market. The Badgery family owned Vine Lodge.
Governor Macquarie awarded Charles Throsby 1000 acres in 1819 in recognition of his pioneering work exploring and opening up the South Coast and Southern Tablelands. Throsby built a cottage4a on the land in 1823 for his nephew, Charles and his wife Elizabeth. They built 'Throsby Park' in 1834 and about 1880, Mrs Throsby moved to the original cottage and leased the main homestead to the Governor of NSW, the Earl of Belmore as his holiday home. The government purchased property called "Prospect" in 1882, which was renamed 'Hillview' and this then became the official residence of NSW Governors until 1958.
Robert is said to have built the first brick chimney in Moss Vale with bullock drays used for carrying the materials. They drove into Berrima for provisions. He later had a bullock team5 carrying business, which he conducted between Sydney and Young (known as Lambing Flat) and down into Kangaroo Valley.6
"Mary and Robert Webb kept a boarding house opposite Phillip St Police Station & boarded the police. The bell, used to call them to meals at the boarding house, was loaned to Carters & Storemen Union picnic at Clontarf for the races. The bell was later left in the Trades Hall. I think this may have been while Robert had his Bullock Team between Sydney & Young." Wrote Maude Williams, great granddaughter of Robert.7. John went with him as 'billy boy', boiling the billycan for tea breaks. In the 1850s the track from Moss Vale to Sydney via Berrima was very rough, the mail coach to Sydney taking 15 to 20 hours.
Robert was a 'freeman', but he saw hundreds of convicts who worked in chain gangs to build the South Road. His early circumstances may have been harsh and not much better than 14th century serfs, but he never had to endure such barbaric treatment. His descendants honour his courage and thank his memory to this day.6
Mary Ann died in 1876 and Robert four years later, 24th August 1880, on his farm at Moss Vale. Both are interred at the 'Christ Church', Church of England cemetery, Bong Bong, which was built in 1845.