James Underwood (carpenter)

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James Underwood was a British-Australian shipbuilder, distiller and merchant.

Early life[edit]

Underwood was born on 4 September 1771 in Bermondsey, South London. Sentenced to seven years transportation in 1790, Underwood arrived in Sydney in October 1791, where he learned boat building.[1]


His first major ship was the Diana, launched c.1798-99. Going into partnership with Henry Kable, they acquired the Diana as a seal hunting boat in the Bass Strait. With the first notable shipyard in Australia, Underwood and Kable continued to build and maintain vessels mostly for whaling and sealing, and coal transportation, from his yard at the Tank Stream. In partnership with Simeon Lord, Underwood and Kable's sealing activities employed 60 men and shipped and sold 150,000 skins in London. Taking a share in the Sydney Cove, Underwood contracted to take convicts from Britain to Australia.


By 1812 Underwood had severed his previous partnerships and turned his interest to imports and alcohol. He opened the St George Coffee Lounge, which mainly sold alcohol. In July 1824 he opened a distillery with eight vats and a large granary.


In March 1840 he retired to England where he died at his home, Paddington House, Tulse Hill, Surrey, on 10 February 1844, and was buried at West Norwood Cemetery.[2]


  1. ^ Underwood, James (1771–1844), by D. R. Hainsworth, Australian Dictionary of Biography
  2. ^ Friends of West Norwood Cemetery Newsletter 60