Kings Langley

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The Surprize, with 256 male convicts, was one of the transports used in the Second Fleet in 1790. In contrast, the Surprize only had 23 men and 60 women passengers, mostly convicts and political prisoners, when it left for Australia a second time on May 2, 1794. It made the journey to Sydney in 176 days, visiting only Rio de Janeiro on the way.

On board the Surprize on this second voyage was a free settler Matthew Pearce (1762-1831), a handsome 32 year old, accompanied by his beautiful wife Martha. Entitled to a land grant, Pearce received 160 (64ha) acres on the north side of the ‘Hawkesbury Road’, 21 miles west of Sydney Town, from Lieutenant-Governor William Paterson. He named his land grant after King’s Langley Manor House, Hertfordshire, England, where he was born. The undulating land was fertile, growing maize, wheat, fruit and vegetables.

Pearce involved himself in the community and was a member of the Grand Jury at Parramatta. He was host to colonial artist John Lewin on many occasions. His son, Matthew Woodward Pearce, settled on a northern quarter of the property when he came of age and built an impressive sand-stock brick home on the high hill that overlooked the estate. This building is now the focus of the Bella Vista historical precinct.

The developers of the suburb of Kings Langley used an historic theme by naming some of the thoroughfares around Cook’s expedition of 1770 - James Cook and Joseph Banks Drives, Solander, Sutherland, Whitby, Plymouth, Tahiti and Venus streets.

Trevor Patrick is a local historian of the north-west of Sydney, Australia. His latest book, In Search of the Pennant Hills, recounts some of these stories (and others) in more detail.