Free settlers call Richmond home

Historic homestead: ‘Durham Bowes’, which overlooks the Lowlands at Richmond. Picture: Michelle Nichols 2012
Historic homestead: ‘Durham Bowes’, which overlooks the Lowlands at Richmond. Picture: Michelle Nichols 2012

In 1801, John Dight (1772-1837) with his wife Hannah (1779-1862) and baby daughter Sarah arrived in the colony as free settlers on board the Earl Cornwallis.

The following year they received a grant of 155 acres from Governor King at Mulgrave Place, later Richmond, to be known as Durham Bowes.

The family increased to four daughters with the birth of Ann in 1806 just days prior to the flood that destroyed their four roomed brick dwelling on the Lowlands grant.

It was then that the nine acres on the Highlands overlooking their farmland was purchased from Edward Luttrell.

The family moved into the two roomed brick dwelling which was later enlarged with the addition of a spacious kitchen.

They establishment a farm complex on the Highlands, known as Dights Hill.

The Dight’s lived in Parramatta for a time, where John was Superintendent at the Lumberyards. Their first son John was born at Parramatta in 1808, while second son George, was born at Richmond in 1810.

John and Hannah’s family increased to thirteen with the birth of their eighth daughter Sophia in 1823. Two years later, Elizabeth their second daughter, married Hamilton Hume, the explorer, following his return from discovering an overland route to Port Phillip.

The distinguished role played by John Dight in the early years of the Colony is well documented. He fulfilled the expectations of the British Government in sending "respectable families" to the Colony as free settlers for the express purpose of farming.

As a primary producer he supplied the Public Store, with much of the labour performed by free men at a very heavy expense when convicts could not be obtained. During the 1820s, John Dight requested further land grants to accommodate his growing number of cattle and to enable him to raise sheep for fine wool production with the assistance of his sons. He was a founding member of the Agricultural Society and became a prominent citizen in the community.

He was appointed Coroner for the districts of Richmond and Evan, now Penrith, in 1828.

Following the death of John Dight in 1837 Hannah remained at Durham Bowes with some of her family and over the ensuing years acquired numerous rural holdings. All five sons became successful pastoral pioneers and five of their daughters became wives of pastoral pioneers. 

At the time of her death in 1862, Hannah Dight had amassed considerable assets. Durham Bowes then passed to grandson, Hamilton Hume Dight.