Robert Lethbridge was born at Okehampton, Devon in 1790, son of Christopher and Jane (nee Arscott) Lethbridge. The following children were born to Christopher and Jane Lethbridge at Okehampton (3).......
John 22 April 1772
George 10 August 1773
Grace 5 July 1776
Jane 29 December 1777
Catherine 31 August 1779
Sarah Arscott 12 June 1781
Thomas 14 February 1783 Elizabeth 10 August 1785
Christopher 12 February 1789
Robert 2 April 1790
Thomas Arscott 25 November 1794
Robert Lethbridge was appointed Lieutenant in the Royal Navy in 1811 -
He entered the Navy on 5 Dec. 1803, as Fst.-cl. Vol., on board the Princess Royal, 98, Capts. Jas. Washon, Herbert Sawyer, and Robtert Carthew Reynolds; of which ship, stationed in the Channel, he became Midshipman 7 April, 1804. Removing, in May, 1805, to the Unite 36, Capts. Chas. Ogle and Pat. Campbell, he was for five years and a half employed under those officers on the Mediterranean station, where - besides assisting, in May, 1808, at the taking of Il Ronco brig of war, of 16 guns and 100 men, and, in June following, at the simultaneous capture of the Nettuno and Toulie, of similar force - he commanded one of six boats belonging to the Unite and Topaze in an affair near Toulon, and was officially commended for his conduct in defending, in a 10-oared cutter, four prizes, taken on the occasion, against the subsequent attacks of six armed boats. On 29 Oct. 1810, and 17 Jan. 1811, he was successively appointed an acting and a confirmed Lieutenant of the York 74. Capts. Robt. Barton and Alex. Wilmot Schomberg. with whom we find him successively employed in the Mediterranean and North Sea until May, 1813. His last appointment was, on 9 Nov. in the latter year, to the Conquestador 74, Capt. Lord Wm. Stuart, stationed at first in the Channel and then in the West Indies, whence he returned in Sept. 1814. - A Naval Biographical Dictionary By William R. O'Byrne
Voyage on the Grace
In August 1821 Robert Lethbridge, formerly of the Royal Navy, sailed to Australia via the Cape in command of the ship Grace.
The Grace departed Sydney for the return voyage to London in February 1822 with a cargo of whale oil and wool. A fire was discovered on board while off the Cape of Good Hope and while passengers and crew stood off in a longboat, Captain Lethbridge and four men remained on board in an unsuccessful attempt to quell the flames. The ship was burnt to the water line and the passengers and crew eventually made it to Cape Town after a fatiguing journey overland. Dispatches from Governor Macquarie were saved by Captain Lethbridge. See Sydney Gazette 6 September 1822 for the full story.
Robert Lethbridge returned to his home Okehampton, Devon England where he married Mary Cunninghame (born Luxmoore) in September 1822. Robert and Mary Lethbridge arrived in New South Wales on the Lusitania in May 1823 where Robert took up a grant of land at Prospect that he named Flushcombe.
He had been granted 1000 acres by Governor Brisbane for saving the government dispatches when the Grace went down and he was on a list of settlers who received an order for a grant dated 8 May 1825 for 1000 acres. Possession of a 1000 acre grant at Falbrook was authorized by Governor Darling on 20 May 1831 as an additional grant being in lieu of like quantity promised by Gov. Brisbane (5)
The grant at Bridgman near Falbrook was managed by Richard Alcorn who also had a smaller grant nearby. Select here to read about the massacre that took place at Bridgman in 1826.
Some of the assigned servants and workers at Bridgman in 1828 were
Stephen Brooks per Ocean;
James Sheehan per Prince Regent;
John Cope per Phoenix;
James Davis per Albion.
Duncan McCallum per Dick, was employed as a builder and Michael Mulcahy as overseer of convicts in 1828.
Captain Lethbridge also acquired Oakhampton Park at Maitland where he resided for several years and this is the estate which can be seen on the map above next to Henry Owen's Aberglasslyn. His house was considered to be better than most on the Hunter; he drove a very fine carriage and was at one time referred to as 'the Squire of Maitland' (4)
Ellen Walsh per Edward and Mary Ann Smith per Princess Royal were two of the assigned servants working at Oakhampton in 1832.
Sale of Oakhampton Park
In 1844 the beautiful Estate of Oakhampton Park was advertised for lease. Still owned by Robert Lethbridge, the stone house on the estate had recently undergone a thorough repair, newly papered and painted. The cleared land comprised of about 80 acres and the run bounded by the Hunter River consisted of 400 acres. The lake situated at the foot of the lawn abounded in wildfowl and fish. All the land situated on the south west side of the Lake (295 acres) was to be sold.
In November 1848 five hundred acres of the Oakhampton estate was auctioned by local auctioneer Jeremiah Ledsam. At this time it was described as situated within 1 1/2 miles of West Maitland and being of rich arable land, well watered by the River Hunter on the one side, and by a lagoon on the other. The property was said to be renown for its productive qualities and unrivalled in New South Wales. The land was to be sub-divided into farms of 20 acres each and upwards with 'a view to encourage, establish and perpetuate an industrious yeomanry'.
Boiling Down Facility
Later a boiling down facility was established at or near Oakhampton by John Nott.
Return to England
In 1849 Robert Lethbridge returned to England. In the 1851 Census he and Mary resided at Okehampton, Devon with their unmarried children Mary Jane age 25, Elford C. age 21, Harriet age 17 (who had all been born in New South Wales). His occupation is given as Lieut. R.N. (Half Pay). Mary Lethbridge died in Devon in July 1851.
Robert Lethbridge died on June 3rd 1864 at the Vicarage West Shurrock, Essex, aged 74 years. (1) His Will was dated 6 July 1864....The Will of the Honourable Robert Lethbridge formerly of Sydney in the Colony of New South Wales afterwards of Southsea in the County of Southampton but late of West Thurrock Romford in the county of Essex, Captain in HM Navy deceased, who died 3 June 1864 at West Thurrock aforesaid was proved at the Principal Registry by the oaths of the Reverend Elford Copland Lethbridge of West Thurrock aforesaid Clerk the Son etc.
Notes and Links
1). Obituary of George Langworthy Lethbridge, son of Robert Lethbridge: - An old Singleton identity in the person of Mr. George Langworthy Lethbridge passed away recently when within a few weeks of his 90th birthday. The deceased was a son of Captain Robert Lethbridge, R.N., who was given a grant of land by Governor Bourke for his conduct in saving the Governor's despatches when his ship was burnt at sea in 1821. The late Mr. Lethbridge was born at Parramatta in 1827, and was educated at The King's School, and in England. After his return from England he was occupied on his father's estate at Bridgman, near Singleton, and a little later went to manage a cattle station of his father's on the Horton River, near Barraba. Here he resided for no less than 30 years, living for the most part in a small bark-covered hut. When the cattle station was sold he returned to Bridgman, where he lived for over 40 years. During the period of his life at the cattle station, which was known as Currangandi, Mr. Lethbridge took part in an interesting expedition of exploration.
The party, which includedMr. Kelman, of Kirkton, Mr. William Carter, of Goorangoola, and two aborigines, started on February 14, 1854. They went as far as Peake Range, being the third party out after Leichhardt, the great explorer. The second party -- Hedley Mitchell's - was killed by blacks; and Mr. Lethbridge's party got Mitchell's horses and brought them in. They returned about the middle of August, having been out six months from day of starting. A lot of country was taken up on the head of Palm Tree Creek, a tributary of the Dawson, with more country on the Dawson and Mackenzie rivers. On the eastern side of the Peake Range a beautiful bit of Downs country, with plenty of water, fell to the lot of Mr. Lethbridge, and to this day is called Lethbridge's Pocket. Mr. Lethbridge was a noted breeder of stock while at Bridgman, and was for many years a member of the Northern Agricultural Association. He was a noted authority on sheep. He took a keen interest in local affairs, and had been for many years the oldest J.P. in the district. The fact that a driving accident had crippled him many years ago did not prevent him regularly being present at the committee meeting of the Agricultural Association, and attending other duties. He took a lively interest in public matters up to within a few months of his death, which occurred at a private hospital in Singleton. The funeral took place at Bridgman, the burial service being conducted by Archdeacon Tollis, of East Maitland, and the Rev. C. N. Mell, of Singleton. - SMH 31 May 1917
. Ancestry.com. England and Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010. Original data: Principal Probate Registry. Calendar of the Grants of Probate and Letters of Administration made in the Probate Registries of the High Court of Justice in England. London, England
. Family Search.org - Lethbridge family of Okehampton
. Wood, W. Allan, Dawn in the valley : the story of settlement in the Hunter River Valley to 1833, Sydney, 1972. p. 275