James Oatley

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James Oatley, Snr. (c. 1769–1839) was a British-born colonial Australian watchmaker and one-time convict. Oatley, allegedly from Stafford and aged 44, was sentenced to penal transportation for life at Hampshire Assizes in March 1814; the reason for his conviction is not stated.

Life in colonial Sydney[edit]

On 27 January 1815, Oatley arrived in Sydney, New South Wales on board the Marquis of Wellington. On 25 October 1821, he was given a conditional pardon. In this record, James is mentioned as a "native of Warwickshire", and a physical description is also provided; he is described as being pale, with dark brown hair, grey eyes, 5'5", and "stout" (with the remainder of the instrument of pardon being difficult to read).

Oatley was awarded several land grants; in 1831 and on 30 October 1832, 24 December 1833, 23 January 1834, and 27 July 1835. Areas covered by these land grants include Snugborough (in the vicinity of the modern Moorefields Road, Kingsgrove), which he farmed, and Needwood Forest (now Hurstville Grove). In total, the land approximately covered is similar to that now bounded by Canterbury Road, Belmore, to the north, King George Road to the west, Kingsgrove Road to the east, and the Georges River to the south.


On 9 October 1839, Oatley died. His death notice in the Sydney Monitor gives his age as 72 years; the Parish record of his burial gives James' age as 70 years. James was buried on his property, Snugborough.


Oatley and his family's legacy has been reflected via geography. In 1903, the southern Sydney suburb of Oatley was named after the family. Prior to that, the area west of the railway line was known as New Oatley's, which was a sub-district of Hurstville, and Oatley Platform; east of the railway line was known as Oatley's, which was a sub-district of Kogarah. In 1905, Frederick Street, Oatley, named after Ferederick Stokes Oatley, was constructed as the main street of the new suburb.

Oatley Street, Woollahra, lying between Ocean Street and Edgecliffe Street, existed in the 1850s and early 1860s. Frederick Stokes Oatley resided between Ocean Street and Oatley Street, Woollahra.

Oatley Lane, Oatley Street, and Oatley Road, all of which were named after James Oatley, Jnr., existed in East Sydney. Oatley Road extended into Paddington. A remnant of Oatley Road still exists in Paddington, running beside the Victoria Barracks.

The original Oatley land between Moorefields Road and the railway line through Kingsgrove Station remained largely as open paddocks until it was subdivided for housing and industry in the early 1970s. A street off Kingsgrove Road was named after James Oatley. Just north of Moorefields Road are Robert Street and Eleanor Avenue.

Personal life[edit]

Oatley was married twice. In England, he married Mary, the mother of his three sons; Robert, James, Jnr., and George (1820–1821). Mary arrived in Sydney on 8 June 1815 on board the Northampton, with their eldest son, Robert, was born during the voyage. Later, James became the foster father of Frederick Stokes, who assumed the surname Oatley.

After Mary's death, Oatley married Mary Ann Bogg in 1833.


  • Robert Oatley (1815–1876): a cooper by trade, Robert was born at sea en route to Sydney, whereat he was baptised. Robert did not marry.
  • James Oatley, Jnr. (1817–1878): a coach builder and engineer by trade, James, Jnr. assumed responsibiility for running the family farm after Oatley, Snr.'s death. The farm was later sold and James became an innkeeper (also described as licencee and victualler) until he entered the NSW Parliament as a Member of the Legislative Assembly in 1868.[1][2] James married Eleanor Johnson (also known as Ellen, Helena, and Emily), with whom he had eight children. After Eleanor's death, James married Margaret Curtis, with whom he had one daughter.
  • Frederick Stokes Oatley (1819–1890) was a watchmaker and Inspector of Abattoirs. Frederick married Jane Weedon, with whom he had twelve children. James gave to Frederick his watchmaking business in George Street, Sydney, and Needwood Forest. By the 1860s, Frederick had given up the watchmaking business; and, in 1881, he sold 300 acres (1.2 km2) of Needwood Forest.

Other descendents of Oatley, Snr.[edit]

  • Gwen Ruth Oatley (1918–24 December 2000): the granddaughter of James Oatley, Jnr.'s last son, Frederick, Gwen was awarded an OAM in 1978 for services to the Australian film industry. Her obituary was published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 25 January 2001.
  • Frederick "Dudley" Weedon Oatley (1884–28 March 1919): the grandson of Frederick Stokes Oatley, Frederick was a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Australian Imperial Force and served in World War One. When he died, he was given a funeral on 30 March 1919 with full military honours.

See also[edit]



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