James Bloodworth

The Heritage Behind
The James Bloodworth Awards Trade Tool Awards 1993-94

In Developing Building Industry Connection’s Trade Tool Awards program, we decided to use the Awards as an acknowledgement to the Building Industry and the great people who are part of it.

Obviously someone had to be the first settlement builder in Australia, and the history records tell us that Mr James Bloodworth was regarded as the Colony’s first builder of note.  Although not a volunteer passenger on board ship, James Bloodworth made his way to Australia on board the Charlotte as part of the First Fleet.  Bloodworth originated from Kingston-on-Thames and was convicted of a felony in 1785 (rumour has it he borrowed a few tools on-site) a matter for which he was sentenced to 7 years transportation.

On arrival at Sydney Cove, he was soon appointed master bricklayer to the settlement, and began construction of Government House and the barracks for the Officers and Marines.  There was no shortage of timber, but some of it (like the gum tree Angophora costata) was not suitable for building.  There was sandstone which could be cut slowly into blocks, and clay which could be made into bricks and tiles.  There was also sand to make mortar, but no lime to go with it.  Rock oysters were collected, eaten, and their shells burned to produce lime – a tasty way to improvise!  Much use was made of cabbage-tree palms, which were soft and easy to fell and saw, and rushes (for rooftops) from Rushcutters Bay.  Bloodworth completed Government House in 1789 and it stood until 1845.  He built private homes, a storehouse, and Kings Wharf in 1790.

In 1790 he was pardoned and free to return to England, but bound himself to an agreement with Governor Phillip to work for 2 years, stipulating that he be clothed and fed during that time.  By 1794 he was overseeing works at various locations around Sydney.  Due to his good reputation, Bloodworth was offered Government work at Port Dalrymple and the Derwent, but rejected this and stayed in Sydney.

190 years later, we are proud to name “Building Industry Connection’s Trade Tool Awards” in honour of James Bloodworth – a builder, a leader of men and a good bloke to whom we are all indebted.

from February’s issue of Building Industry Connection magazine.  Submitted by Rick Stonehouse for the First Fleet Folio June 1994

Governor Arthur Phillip brought out with him from England, a Canvass House, which was erected on the east side of Sydney Cove within a few days after landing.  It consisted of timber framed panels covered with oil cloth.  It was found to be neither water proof nor windproof.  Tents for a small number of convicts were pitched nearby. 

 William Bradley Governor’s House, Port Jackson from his voyage to NSW (Mitchell Library)

James Bloodworth, the convict bricklayer, can be credited with the first permanent Government House (as seen in Bradley’s illustration) on what is now the south-west corner of Phillip and Bridge Streets, which lasted from 1788 to 1845. For the walls of Government House some lime mortar was obtained by burning shells, but elsewhere mud-mortar had to be used. 


Further Reading:
Cobley, Dr John Sydney Cove 1788 The first year of the Settlement in Australia Holder & Stoughton, 1963
Gillen, Mollie , The Founders of Australia – A Biographical Dictionary of the First Fleet Library of Australian History, Sydney, 1989
Herman M, Early Australian architects and their work (Syd, 1954)


© First Fleet Fellowship Victoria Inc 2011