Australia in the 1820s


Fairs, family picnics, horseracing, cricket matches, football, hunting and the theatre were traditional forms of early colonial entertainment brought to the colonies from the homeland. In country areas these events and celebrations took place at the homes of the wealthy landowners. Assigned convicts, ticket-of-leave workers and gentry alike enjoyed the occasional holiday or half day off work for a picnic, games and races (often horses, and at times using other animals such as pigs). Lime dust was used to mark out the lanes. Betting took place around the races using the imperial currency of the time: pounds, shillings or florins and pence. Some sports outlawed at the time included cockfights and cock throwing, and prize fights.

Alcoholic apple cider, made for the adults, was made by crushing apples in a hand-operated cider press. Music was played on fiddles, flutes and recorders. Children played games brought from England such as chasey, tag and blind man's bluff. Popular nursery rhymes included 'This Little Piggy Went to Market' and 'Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush'.


A snapshot of 1828

  • February
    • The Cape Grim massacre took place in Van Diemen's Land.

  • May
    • Thomas Livingstone Mitchell became Surveyor-General following the death of John Oxley.

  • September
    • Australia's first bank robbery took place. The robbers broke into the vault of the Bank of Australia in Sydney.
    • The holey dollar currency was withdrawn from circulation.

  • November
    • Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur declared martial law against Aboriginal peoples in the settled districts of Van Diemen's Land.
    • The first census was held in New South Wales, showing that 24 per cent of the total population was born in the colony. Children under 12 years comprised only 16 per cent of the total European population. The Indigenous population was not included.


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