Where Died: St Stephens C of E Camperdown,
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Robert Preston was born in 1805, and married his wife Selina Croft in Manchester England around 1829. As a private in the 50th (Queens Own) Regiment (Reg No 342), he was assigned to act as guard on the Convict Transport "Norfolk" in May 1835, and was promoted to the rank of Corporal for the duration of the voyage. With his wife and children John and Elizabeth (another female child died prior to the voyage), embarked on the "Norfolk" on 4 June 1834. The ship carried 276 convicts and 29 Rank and file from the 50th Regiment.
The Norfolk was in poor condition, and was condemned on arrival in Cork. Those on board were transferred to the "Lady Kennaway, which arrived in Hobart on 28 October 1835 after a voyage 109 days. Robert was reduced to the rank "Private" on arrival, and the family subsequently Hobart for Sydney on 14 November 1834. The Regimental pay sheets record his arrival in NSW, from "Home", shortly after and salary paid at that time was :- Corporal, 10d per day plus 1d or 2d depending on years of service. Private, 6d per day plus 1d or 2d.
Initially, Robert spent short periods of duty at Sydney Town, Liverpool, Landsdown Bridge, Georges River and Goulburn, with his wife, who was now expecting their fourth child, presumably remaining with her children at the Regimental Barracks in lower George Street. Three months after the birth of Mary Anne Preston on 31 May 1835, Robert was posted to duties on Norfolk Island with records indicating that the family arrived there in September of that year. With only one visit to Sydney, documented by the Baptism of a daughter Selina born 8 Jan 1838, the family remained on Norfolk Island until 1839. Although no formal record can be found, it would appear that Selina died as an infant shortly before their return to Sydney in April 1839.
Robert is recorded as buying himself out of the Regiment (for the sum of ten pounds) on 30 June 1839.
It could well be that in addition to the death of their daughter, changes (being introduced by the Commandant, Major Bunbury ) in the living conditions of guards on Norfolk Island, could well have prompted a request to return to Sydney, which then lead to a subsequent decision to leave the Regiment.
It was only two months later that a mutiny broke out amongst the military stationed on Norfolk Island.
Grieving, and with life as they had known it on Norfolk Island ending, they would have returned to face communal barrack life in lower George Street. They would have noted a substantial change in Sydney during the four years they had been away, and would no doubt have experienced difficulty in adapting again to a more regimented military life than they had enjoyed on Norfolk Island. With Robert now attached to the Ordinance Department, he would have seen the expanding opportunities that existed in the areas of trade.
With the opportunity to buy out his remaining contracted service, it is little wonder that at the birth of their next daughter on 27 August 1840 (a second Selina who died an infant in 1841) Robert is recorded as being a "Dealer" with an abode of Lower George Street. This description continues unchanged for the birth of another daughter Sophia 17 March 1842, and son Robert 23 March 1845 (Robert died an infant in 1846).
Robert Preston died in 1850 age 44, and was buried at St Stephens C of E Camperdown, which is also the last resting place of his wife Selina (1867), and a number of other family members.
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