Edward YATES (1777-1829) & Family
Edward Yates was the first of our Yates Line to arrive in
Australia. The conditions of his arrival were less than promising.
He arrived in Sydney as one of 199 male convicts aboard the "Sir
William Bensley" on the 10th of March 1817. Shortly after his
arrival he was transferred to the penal colony of Van Dieman's Land
aboard the cutter "Mermaid".
Little is known of Edward Yates' life prior to transportation.
Records show that he was born in Shropshire, as were all except two
of his children. It is likely that he was one of the children of
George and Mary Yates of Dawley Magna, Shropshire and christened on
26 January 1777. Convict records give his occupation as
"blacksmith", a trade consistent with the skills he demonstrated
during his life in Van Dieman's Land.
Physically Edward Yates was of above average height, for the
time, five foot eight and half inches tall, of dark complexion with
black hair and brown eyes. We know nothing else of Edward's
appearance, with the exception of a statement by his wife Jane that
he had later lost an eye in a blasting accident while preparing the
water race for the Government Water Mill in Hobart.
Edward Yates was sentenced to transportation after being found
guilty of forging Bills of Exchange. The trial took place during the
Worchester Lent Assizes, 9th of March 1816. The sentence was death,
later commuted to transportation for life.
The crimes for which Edward Yates was prosecuted took place on
the 7th of July 1815 in the parish of Dudley, Worcestershire. At the
time of sentencing, Edward Yates was married to Jane Dillon and the
father of five children, the youngest - Adam, having been born in
August of 1815 while his father was presumably in prison. One child
of the marriage, Jane, had died aged about 18 months, in 1810.
In Van Diemen's Land, Edward Yates served as a convict for only
21 months receiving a conditional pardon on December 21 1818. The
granting of the conditional pardon is reported in the Supplement to
the Hobart Town Gazette of January 9 1819. This issue of the Gazette
records that he was emancipated in reward for his "intelligence and
industry" when employed under the Acting Engineer and Inspector of
Public Works, in construction of the government corn mill, water
In December of 1818 Edward Yates was appointed superintendent of
the Government Mill, at a salary of fifty pounds per annum. The
Government Corn-Mill was constructed at the end of the Government
garden and commenced grinding on Thursday the 28th of May 1818. The
Hobart Town Gazette refers to this event and describes Edward Yates
as "a Crown Servant possessing considerable talents as an engineer".
The fate of his family must never have been far from Edward Yates
mind. Together with several others, Edward Yates petitioned the
Lt-Governor in 1817 to have their families sent out to them. In each
case it was stated that the convicts in question had the means of
supporting their families. ie. they would not be a financial drain
on the colony. This request was forwarded to Governor Macquarie in
July of 1817, but nothing further was heard. Application was again
made in January 1819 and forwarded by Lt.Governor Sorrell to
Colonial Secretary Campbell. This last request was successful and
the wife and children of Edward Yates arrived in Sydney aboard the
"Morley" on the 30th of September 1820. The "Morley" was a convict
ship, and on this trip carried free settlers in addition to its
regular cargo of 121 female convicts.
In 1817 a notice appeared in the Hobart Town Gazette advising
that the British Ministry had agreed that the Home Government would
meet the expense of sending out the wives and children of suitable
convicts. Sorrell firmly believed that the hope and expectation of
family reunion was a humane and effective mechanism for changing the
behaviour of the convict population. The reunion scheme operated for
a period of twenty-five years, during which time approximately 297
wives and 643 children were reunited with their husband's and
father's as free settlers in a colonial culture dominated by the
penal system. Not all petitions for reunion were successful however
and quite frequently the family involved declined to abandon life in
England for a less certain future in the new colonies.
Edward Yates continued as Superintendent of the Government Mill
for a period of 2 years and 9 months, his salary continuing at fifty
pound per annum and a grant of double rations from the Government
Store. During this time he built a two-storey house for himself in
Elizabeth Street, Hobart at an expense of 500 pound.
Once independent of his role as Government Miller, Edward Yates
clearly sensed the value of investing his skills in the private
sector and on September 20, 1820, he was able to announce the
opening of a new, water-driven, flourmill in Liverpool Street
Hobart, owned and operated in partnership with James Tedder. The
millstones for this commercial venture were from a local quarry and
were the first recorded use of non-imported millstones in the colony
of Van Diemen's Land.
The Hobart Town of the early 1820s has been described in the
competed for river frontage with the watermills, which were squat
structures of rough stone served by leat and storage pond. Each had
a white waterfall from its mill wheel into the muddied creek waters
NOTE (i) "Hobart Town"; Peter Bolger, Australian National
University Press 1973, page 17.
In 1820, only ten water mills existed in the entire colony of Van
Diemen's land. In the following decade a further 27 mills were
built. Two of the mills discharging into the Hobart rivulet had been
built by Edward Yates.
The Yates-Tedder partnership was to last less than a year. In May
of 1821, the business relationship was publicly dissolved and James
Tedder bought Edward Yates share of the Liverpool Street venture.
Later in 1821 Edward Yates and his family moved to the Launceston
area of Van Diemen's Land and purchased a small grant of land at a
cost of ninety pounds. On this land was erected a watermill costing
sixteen hundred pound. The first watermill in the Launceston area,
and indeed the first in the northern half of the island, it
commenced grinding in 1822 and ground wheat for the Government for
around five years.
The Government was to make a further grant of 60 acres, 20 acres
of which Edward Yates cleared and cultivated. Two further farms were
purchased on the banks of the North Esk River. Early survey maps of
the area show the Yates grant to be on the North side of the North
Esk River near what is now known as St. Leonards. Edward Yates built
three bridges across the North Esk river, two of which were swept
away by floodwaters. In winter "Yates Bridge" was the only safe
passage between farms on the eastern side of the river and the town
On September 9th, 1823, a further child was born to Edward and
Jane Yates, a daughter - Matilda, who was baptised on September 9th
1825 at St. Johns Church of England, Launceston.
The Journals of the Land Commissioners for Van Diemen's Land
record a visit to Yates Mill on August 14th 1826 and observed that
"Yates had thrown a bridge across the river, however he does not get
much business to his mill".
In January of 1828 Edward Yates made application for a further
grant of Government land. In this case his application was not
successful due to a dispute with James Brumby concerning ownership
of Yates Mill. James Brumby was a very early, and well respected,
settler and he claimed that he had paid Edward Yates to erect the
mill on land previously purchased from him. Brumby further claimed
that he had supported Yates and his family with provisions
throughout the period of building and had directly incurred the cost
of the two bridges across the North Esk River.
According to James Brumby, the agreement was that Edward Yates
would work the flour mill and receive one half share of the profits
and that one half share of the Mill would be made over to him., once
he had paid half the building expenses. The records of these
transactions were left with Mr. William Field of Launceston, whom
Brumby accused of being in league with Edward Yates in an effort to
James Brumby further claimed that Edward Yates forcibly took
possession of the Mill and then refused to yield it to him. Legal
proceedings were undertaken but it has not been possible to
determine what course these proceedings took or indeed the nature of
any settlement reached. However, "Yates Mill" remained the home and
property of members of the Yates family until the early 1840's.
The private and public communication which surrounds the dispute
concerning ownership of Yates Mill provides a revealing insight into
the prevailing social and economic conditions of northern Tasmania
during the early years of settlement. In particular, the records of
the Land Commissioners show that in the late 1820s they recognised
the ex-convict squatters as a threat to the orderly development of
the region. William Field was described as a "notorious rogue", who
with others was exercising power in a manner which prevented smaller
immigrant settlers from establishing themselves. Further Field, and
others with convict origins, appeared to share a strong sense of
community which often offended the sensibilities of those whose
power derived from either government position or inherited personal
Within this extended northern community of ex-convicts, Edward
Yates, his family, & friends, clearly enjoyed a sense of belonging.
The animosity between William Field and James Brumby may however
have its origins as far back as the time they both spent on Norfolk
Island - one as a convict and the other as a free settler. Both
Field and Brumby were relocated from Norfolk Island to participate
in the established of Port Dalrymple, later to become the city of
Edward Yates died suddenly on the 7th of September 1829, leaving
his wife a widow with five children to support. He was buried in
Launceston on September 11th 1829.
Jane Yates memorialised the Government in 1829, seeking a further
grant of land in her own name. It is the contents of this memorial,
or submission, which gives us the first of only two first-person
records of the fortunes of the Yates family in Tasmania. In April of
1831, Jane Yates remarried - however it is believed that she
continued to live at the mill with her new husband, George Willet
until her death in 1833, aged 56 years.
The October 7, 1836 edition of the "Hobart Town Gazette" contains
a three-column advertisement offering for sale, Yates Mill and 100
acres. It is possible that this was a mortgagee sale, since the
advertisement appears in the name of William Field. Another
explanation is that he, as a long time friend of the family, is
acting on their behalf as an agent.
Yates Mill - North Esk River
Apply W.Field, Sale
Comprising the mill and good
W.B. house, all necessary outbuildings
Yates Mill was also for sale in 1838, approximately 15 months
after being offered by William Field. On January 20, 1838, the
following advertisement appears in the "Cornwall Chronicle".
It is possible that this second sale (ii) was on behalf of a
mortgagee and was initiated by the executors of William Field's
estate. The outcome of this offer for sale is not known, however it
is thought that the Mill was rented by Mr. Guillan, in 1846, who
subsequently pulled down the old mill and built the Albion Mill in
NOTE (ii) "The Story of Port Dalrymple - Life and Work in
Northern Tasmania", Llwelyn Slingsby Bethell, p 130.
The closing years of the operation of Yates Mill on the North Esk
River are described in the autobiography of Thomas Wilkes Monds, one
of the founders of the Launceston firm Monds and Afleck. This is the
second of the first-person records describing the fortunes of the
Yates family and includes a description of the final fate of Yates
Mill on the North Esk. Monds recollections, written in old age, are
as follows :
".....I may mention here that the
old North Esk mill was built by a man named Yates, who had been a
flour miller in the old country and was, I believe the first flour
mill in the north of Tasmania. In those days mills had to be built
where water power could be obtained to drive them and consequently
in out-of-the-way places, and sometimes in fact generally, in places
most inconvenient to cart the grain to and fro, for in the early
days of the colony steam engines could not be obtained and, failing
water power, windmills had to be used, which were always very
Adam Yates(iii) , who built and
owned the North Esk mill, worked it himself for many years -
probably thirty years or more. He reared a large family there of
fine boys and handsome girls, and when he died the mill passed into
the hands of a gentleman called Inall, who had married the eldest
daughter of Mr. Yates. She was called the Maid of the Mill, and a
fine handsome woman she was. Mr Inall, however, being a draper by
trade, did not understand the milling business, so the mill, being a
very primitive structure at the best, soon fell into disrepair. The
property being mortgaged, the mortgagee foreclosed and the property
passed away from the Yates family. The new owner then arranged with
Mr. Guillan to let the latter have the property on a lease for
twenty-one years on the condition that he built a new mill; hence
the reason for our going there.
Mr Inall had of course to remove
from the old mill and homestead, but the family remained in the old
home for a time, and when the children saw us pulling down the old
mill, they cried as if their hearts would break. They had been used
to see the splash of the merry water-wheel and hear the beating of
the millstones from their infancy, and felt it hard to leave the old
home, but such is life, they had to go; and we made a new home and a
new mill, which we christened the Albion Mills.
Mrs Inall was a splendid specimen
of a good wife and mother, kind-hearted and hospitable; and being
but a boy myself, I loved her as my mother, for during the short
time she remained in the old home she showed me much kindness."
NOTE (iii) Records often confuse Adam and Edward Yates, adding
considerable weight to conjecture that Adam Yates was strongly
linked for a time with the operation of Yates Mill. Adam Yates and
family travelled to the Port Phillip district in mid 1840s, first
settling in Geelong and later establishing themselves in Ballarat
So ends the story of Yates Mill, its demolition brings to a close
the first chapter of the story of our Yates line in Australia. It is
a chapter closely linked to the development of industry in Van
Diemen's Land and the journey from penal settlement to colony.
No trace remains of Yates Mill on the North Esk. The Yates
Tedder-Mill and the prolific milling establishments which edged the
Hobart Rivulet have disappeared leaving virtually no evidence of
their existence. The water wheels, mill machinery and the mill
structures themselves fell victim to early urban expansion.
The ultimate irony is that while the physical evidence for the
endeavours of the Yates family, and other early millers, have been
lost to history, James Brumby's name lives on as part of Australian
folklore. We no longer recall that William Field's wild cattle were
known as "W.F's" - a reference to their distinctive brand, but
Brumby's wild horses which so freely roamed the northern regions of
Tasmania became the "brumby" and an Australian icon.