Note: This biography is extracted from "The Women of the 1790 Neptune" by Ann Needham and others. I am extremely grateful for the extensive research they have done.
Ann Calcut married James Beckett on January 30, 1791 at Parramatta. He was a Second Fleeter, transported on the Surprize. He had been sentenced to death in Shrewsbury on July 26, 1788, for a robbery on the highway, reprieved, and his sentence commuted to transportation for life.
Tench mentioned him in 1790 at Parramatta: "Brick kilns are now erected here and bricks manufactured by a convict by the name of Becket, who came out on the last fleet, and has fifty-two people to work under him. He says they are very good, and would sell at Birmingham, where he worked about 18 months ago, at more than thirty shillings per thousand." James Beckett probably combined farming with brickmaking. When his son, James, 'a native of the colony' died in 1876, sixty-eight years after his father, the occupation of his father given on James junior's death certificate was 'brickmaker'.
In the 1800-1802 settlers book he is shown with land, livestock and himself and his wife and four children off stores. Their first child, a son, had been baptised on the same day as the first child of Mary Leary and John Ramsay. Both children died in infancy.
It appears that James Beckett was farming land at Toongabbie which had been granted to Edward Kelly by Governor Hunter on November 12, 1799. The grant document bears a notation to the effect that the grant to Kelly was cancelled by Governor King because the land was sold contrary to a provision in the deed forbidding the sale of the land. The land in Kelly's grant was re-granted to Beckett in 1806 by Governor King and the delay in granting it to him was probably due to the fact that he had taken possession of it against government policy. Doris A Sargeant in 'The Toongabble Story' refers to a map drawn around 1803 which shows eighty-four allotments at Toongabbie, including a holding for Beckett.
In 1802 James Beckett appeared on a list of names of those in Parramatta given the right to bear arms. He was allowed a gun. Maps of the time show a "Parramatta population boundary" which includes Toongabbie in Parramatta.
James Beckett is recorded as dead in 1808 in documents listing debts due to the Crown connected with the Bigge Inquiry, twelve or so years later, into Governor Macquarie's administration of the colony, although his debt was incurred before Macquarie's time. This list of debtors is a curious one. Most of the debts are for paltry amounts and the debtors were often landholders and farmers with assets which would have made their debts recoverable, but, perhaps as a matter of convenience after the lapse of so much time, the debtors were recorded as insolvent when they died.
Ann Calcut was listed, in error, as 'Ann Beckett, came free and married in England' on Marsden's 1806 list. She is on the 1811 muster, the 1814 muster as a widow, and in 1821, the words 'Parramatta - in colony' are added to her name.
The Toongabble land remained in possession of the family until 1843. Ann Calcut, a countrywoman like so many of her contemporaries, managed the farm with the help of her two sons. In 1820 her son Samuel married and he and his wife continued to live on the Toongabble farm. In 1820, also, the elder son, James, petitioned Governor Macquarie for land and was granted sixty acres. In the petition he said he resided at Parramatta.
There is no record of her death. It would be expected that the death of the grantee of land, and his wife if he predeceased her, could be discovered in the recital establishing the title of the vendors in the deed of conveyance when the Toongabble land was sold. The vendors were the eldest surviving son of James and Ann Beckett, James Beckett, and his wife, Mary. There is no recital at all in the deed. It is difficult to understand how they can have been deemed competent to give a good title to the land without any explanation as to how they came to be the vendors, especially as the land had for many years been occupied not by them but by the widow of James's younger brother, Samuel.
Ann Calcut and James Beckett had four children who survived to adulthood, and thirty grandchildren. A granddaughter, Elizabeth Beckett, married David Howard, a grandson of Rachel Watkins.
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