John William Spinks and Sophia Frances

John William Spinks and his wife Sophia Frances were free settlers to Van Diemen's Land. They arrived in 1841 as indentured servants of the Van Diemen's Land Company. They came to the island with four children and had eleven more, creating a large family dynasty in the Circular Head area.

The information about John Spink's life in England is contradictory. One source has John born on 13 March 1809 in Foulden, Norfolk, England, the son of John William Spinks and Mary Ann Wiseman.1 Another has John born on 13 March 1810 in Bodney, Norfolk, England.2

Shirley Elrick's site seems to be the more reliable of the two options, with Shirley adding that John Williams Spinks was christened on 12 April 1809 in All Saint's Church, Foulden, Norfolk, England, with the source for that information being the Free Parish Registers Online website. Shirley also notes that John Spinks married Sophia Francis, daughter of Robert Francis and Ann Allen, on 9 January 1830 in St Michael's Church, Great Cressingham, Norfolk, England. Groom was from Bodney. Both illiterate and both single. Witnessed by Robert and Rebecca Francis.3

However, the confusion about the family does not end there. According to most sources, John and Sophia had the following children in England.

  • Eliza Spinks was christened on 25 June 1830 in St Michael's Church, Great Cressingham, Norfolk4
  • Anne Spinks was christened on 17 June 1832 in St Michael's Church, Great Cressingham, Norfolk5
  • Allan Spinks was christened on 23 February 1834 in St Michael's Church, Great Cressingham, Norfolk6
  • Wiseman Casebeagh Spinks was christened on 24 December 1837 in St Michael's Church, Great Cressingham, Norfolk7
  • Eliza was christened on 27 December 1840 in St Michael's Church, Great Cressingham, Norfolk8

The first child named Eliza presumably died in childhood, although there may have been an error with the baptism registration. This was almost certainly the case with the family's emigration information. John and Sophia made the momentous decision to emigrate to the relatively new colony of Van Diemen's Land. They signed up as indentured servants of the Van Diemen's Land Company. The Company had formed in 1824 in an effort to secure an inexpensive supply of wool and other raw materials for the associated manufacturing industries in Britain. The Company purchased large land parcels in North-Western Van Diemen's Land and Circular Head became the head-quarters of the endeavor.9

To work the vast tracts of land, the VDL Co. arranged for the migration of indentured servants from Britain. The Company advertised in local newspapers, and targeted agricultural areas such as Norfolk and Suffolk in search of servants....

The conditions of the labourers involved a six day work week. During summer, work commenced at seven, dinner at noon, work recommenced at one, and the day ended at six. On Sundays, the servants were compelled to attend two Church services. Holidays were provided for the Company’s Charter Day, Christmas and Good Friday. The lack of holidays led to a dispute with the Company, with some servants refusing to work on Boxing Day. The Company also received assigned convicts to be used for splitting timber, fencing, shingle-splitting and rough building. The combination of the indentured servants and the assigned convicts formed the nucleus of the first company settlement.10

The Spinks family arrived in Circular Head in December 1841 aboard the Emu. John Spinks was stated to be aged 33 and a shepherd from Bodney in Norfolk. His wages were 30 pounds per annum with the cost of the families passage at 7 pounds and 10 shillings considered an advance of that income. His wife Sophia was aged 28 and a field worker, and their children were recorded as Eliza (9), Allen (7), Wiseman (3) and Anne (9 months).11 Given the known christening records, it is suggested that the names of Eliza and Ann were transposed, and it was actually Ann that was 9 years old and Eliza who was 9 months.

Detail of the Passenger List of the Emu

Detail of the Passenger List of the Emu
Archives Office of Tasmania

Once on the island John and Sophia would go on to have a further ten children, making fifteen children in all.

  • Rebecca Spinks was born 27 October 1842 and baptised privately on 25 January 1843 in the Horton district. John was a shepherd at Woolnorth.12
  • Elizabeth was born 11 January 1844 (10 January in baptism) as an un-named female and baptised 12 September 1844 in the Horton district. John was a shepherd at Woolnorth.13
  • Susannah Spinks was born 7 February 1845 as an un-named female and baptised on 1 June 1845 in the Horton district. John was a shepherd at Woolnorth.14
  • Robert Benjamin Spinks was born 4 February 1846 (5 February in baptism) and baptised on 19 February 1846 in the Horton district. John was a shepherd at Circular Head.15
  • Sophia Spinks was born 16 April 1847 as an un-named female and baptised on 17 February 1848 in the Horton district. John was a shepherd at Woolnorth.16
  • Mary Ann Spinks was born 25 July 1848 as an un-named female and baptised on 27 January 1850 in the Horton district. John was a farmer at Green Hills.17
  • Jane Spinks was born 20 August 1849 as an un-named female and baptised on 27 January 1850 in the Horton district. John was a farmer at Green Hills.18
  • Charlotte Spinks was born 28 May 1851 (20 May in baptism) as an un-named female and baptised on 4 February 1852 in the Horton district. John was a farmer at Green Hills.19
Baptism Record of Mary Ann and Jane Spinks

Baptism Record of Mary Ann and Jane Spinks
Archives Office of Tasmania

As if to break the ongoing births of children John and Sophia's oldest surviving daughter Ann Spinks (20) married Dennis Carroll (22) on 10 February 1852 in the Horton district.20 Dennis was born about 1830 in Ireland, the son of Thomas Carroll and Agnes Kenny.

The family had arrived in Launceston aboard the Thomas Lawrie on 12 March 1840 under contract to the Van Diemen's Land Company.

Carroll, Thomas; VDL Co. Servant per Thomas Laurie 1840; age 35; Native Place Russels Town, Co. Kildare [Ireland]; wife Agnes, 35; Children - Dennis (9), Patrick (7), Thomas (5), Jane (12), Bridget (6 months).21

Ann and Dennis had ten children that have been traced. Two of those children arrived before Ann's parents John and Sophia Spinks delivered yet more children, creating the odd situation where the following children were uncle and aunt to older nephews and nieces.

  • John William Spinks was born 24 October 1853 and baptised on 2 January 1854 in the Horton district. John was a farmer at Green Hills.22
  • Janet Maria Spinks was born 12 June 1856 as an un-named female and baptised on 15 March 1856 in St. Paul's Church in the Horton district. John was a farmer at Green Hills.23

John and Sophia's oldest son married next. Allan Spinks (23) married Bridget Carroll (18) on 15 March 1857, Horton, Tasmania.24 Bridget was born about 1839, the daughter of Thomas Carroll and Agnes Kenny, and sister to Dennis Carroll, so the two families were deeply entwined and obviously heavily associated. Allan and Bridget had nine children that have been traced.

With all those children it was inevitable that tragedy would befall the family at some point, which it did later in the year Allan was married. Janet Maria Spinks died on 18 August 1857 in the Horton district. The cause of death was recorded as inflammation of the bones of the leg and Janet's brother Allan Spinks of Stanley registered the event.25

Janet's death was an aberration however in what was a largely successful family that defined the odds, particularly in an age where disease was difficult to treat. Overall John and Sophia Spinks's children prospered, although the same can't be said for their grand-children. A case in point was the family of John and Sophia's son Wiseman. Wiseman Spinks (21) married Phoebe Blake (16) on 23 May 1858 in the Horton district.26 Phoebe was born on 19 March 1842 in the Horton district, the daughter of William Blake and Sarah Karry.27 Wiseman and Phoebe had ten children that have been traced, six of whom however died in infancy.

Large families were generally the rule at this time, due to the high rate of infant mortality. John and Sophia's daughters were evidence of that. Rebecca Spinks (17) married Joseph Smith (22) on 11 June 1860 in the Horton district.28 Joseph was born on 24 May 1839 in Launceston, the son of Joseph Smith and Mary Ann Kingham.29 Rebecca and Joseph had fifteen children that have been traced.

Eliza Spinks also had a large family. Eliza Spinks (Adult) married William Marthick (Adult) on 28 December 1863 in the Horton district.30 William Marthick was born on 11 November 1833 in Lavenham, Suffolk, England to William Mattock and Martha (Codd) Mattock.31 Eliza and William had eleven children that have been traced.

An exception to that observation however was John and Sophia's daughter Elizabeth. Elizabeth Spinks (Adult) married Michael Lawler (Adult) on 14 January 1867 in the Horton district.32 Michael was born about 1820 in Dublin, Ireland, and had a fascinating and accomplished history. He was a learned man, and practiced as a lawyer, a police officer and a publican. Elizabeth and Michael moved to an urban based life in Launceston and had three children that have been traced.

The three daughters to marry next however returned to the normal routine of rural life and large families. Jane Spinks (18) married Robert Boot (20) on 19 February 1867 in the Horton district.33 Robert was born on 7 March 1849 in Launceston, the son of William Boot and Harriet Nunn.34 Jane and Robert had eleven children that have been traced.

Susannah Spinks (23) married Thomas Allen (23) on 9 April 1867 in the Horton district.35 Thomas was born on 26 October 1843 in Hobart, the son of Henry John Allen and Mariane Scanlin.36 Susannah and Thomas had eleven children that have been traced.

Mary Ann Spinks (20) married David Bissett (25) on 4 July 1868 in the Horton district.37 David was born about 1843. Mary and David had ten children that have been traced.

Sophia Spinks (21) married William Henry Butcher (28) on 23 November 1868 in the Horton district.38 William was born about 1840 in Somerset, England, the son of Elias Butcher and Mary Garland.39 Sophia and William had eight children that have been traced.

Charlotte Spinks (21) married Thomas George House (21) on 7 July 1872, Horton, Tasmania.40 Thomas was born on 12 March 1851 in the Horton district, the son of Thomas House and Elizabeth Horder.41 Charlotte and Thomas had eight children that have been traced.

John William Spinks Jnr. married Amelia Tarrant on 9 January 1875 in the Horton district.42 Amelia was born about 1852. John and Amelia had ten children that have been traced.

Phoebe Spinks (33), nee Blake, died of cancer of the womb, on 29 December 1875 in the Horton district.43

Robert Benjamin Spinks (28) married Martha Ann Williams (20) on 4 September 1876 in the Horton district.44 Martha was born on 17 April 1856 in the Horton district, the daughter of John Williams and Rosanna Brown.45 Robert and Martha Ann had nine children that have been traced, five of whom died in infancy.

Sophia Spinks, nee Francis, died of senility, on 16 April 1882 in the Horton district.46

John William Spinks married Elizabeth Ann Young on 10 June 1885 in the Horton district.47

John William Spinks died of (1) Morbis Cordis and (2) Hydrothorax, on 20 October 1885 in the Horton district. He was stated to be aged 78 at death.48

Martha Ann Spinks, nee Williams, the wife of Robert Spinks, died of complications of childbirth, on 14 August 1888 in the Horton district.49

Wiseman Spinks (54) married for a second time to Sarah Ann Robinson (51) on 19 April 1892 in Emu Bay, Tasmania.50 Sarah was born about 1841.

Allan Spinks (58) died of (1) Morbis Cordis and (2) Dropsy, on 29 October 1892 in Stanley, Tasmania.51

Michael Brennan Lawler, the husband of Elizabeth Spinks, died of Senility on 21 April 1895 in Launceston, Tasmania.52


An old and well-known resident of Launceston - Mr Michael B. Lawler - died yesterday afternoon at his late home, the Victoria Tavern, Elizabeth-street. The deceased was a native of Dublin, and was born about the year 1820. He received a good education, and left school for a lawyer's office. When about 18 years of age, however, he entered the army, in which he remained for about eight years, during which period he saw a great deal of active service in South Africa. When he left the army he held the position of Colour-Sergeant in his regiment (the sixth). He spent three years in South Africa, and left for Australia when the gold fever was at its height. He joined the mounted police, and took part in the proceedings at the famous Eureka stockade. Five years of active life were spent in Victoria, and he was associated in the force with Messrs Nicholson, Hare (now P.M.), and A. Grubb (now at Circular Head), the two former having subsequently taken part in the capture of the famous Kelly gang. During his career in the detective force in Victoria the deceased received a reward of £500 for the discovery of the murderer of a girl named Sophia Lewis, in which work he was associated with Detective Easton, who retired some time ago. He left the Victorian police and came to Tasmania about 35 years ago. After a residence of about eight months at Perth he was influenced by the rush to the New Zealand gold diggings and visited that colony in the early period of the Shotover excitement. Leaving New Z.ialand he returned to Tasmania and joined the police, fulfilling with credit to himself the duties of district constable at Table Cape for about five years. He married at Circular Head, and shortly afterwards came to Launceston, entering upon the business of landlord of the Wilmot Arms 25 years ago. He also had charge of the Fire Brigade Inn, Brisbaune-street, and recently took the Victoria Tavern, where he died yesterday afternoon at about three o'clock, leaving a widow, three sons, and one daughter to mourn their loss. The deceased had one brother, who was shot at the battle of Balaclava, and a sister who died a few years since. He might have been termed a model hotelkeeper, having always boasted that during his lengthy career as host he never had one complaint against him for disobeying the Licensing Act, He was much respected, and made many friends in Tasmania, who will greatly regret his demise.53

Amelia Spinks, nee Tarrant, died on 20 July 1906 in Forest, Tasmania.54


Our Forest correspondent wired on Saturday :? Quite a gloom fell over the whole community, when it became known that the wife of Mr John Spinks, sen., had expired at the age of 54. She died on Friday morning at her residence, after a long and lingering illness, comprising nine years of suffering. On Friday last the deceased lady took a sudden change for the worse, and died as stated. Deceased leaves a husband and a large grown-up family to mourn her loss. The family is well-known and respected by everybody, and many hearts go out in friendly sympathy to the bereaved family in their hour of sorrow. The funeral is to take place to-morrow at Stanley.55

Wiseman Casebeagh Spinks died on 7 October 1907 in Forest, Tasmania.56

Rebecca Smith, nee Spinks, died on 20 February 1908, Stanley, Tasmania.57

Robert Benjamin Spinks died on 3 October 1910 in Mooreville Road, Burnie, Tasmania.58 Robert was buried on 5 October 1910 in Wivenhoe, Tasmania.


Mr. Robert Benjamin Spinks, who was reported in yesterday's issue to be suffering from a severe attack of pneumonia, died yesterday at his son's residence, Mooreville road, aged 64 years. Although grave fears were entertained for Mr. Spinks' recovery the news of his death came as a severe shock to many friends. Deceased was the third son of the late John Spinks, who came out from England in the early forties under engagement to the Van Diemen's Land Co. Mr. R. B. Spinks was a very old resident of Stanley and Montagu. About 23 years ago he purchased a farm from the V.D.L. Co. on the Mooreville road, where he resided up to the time of his death. His wife predeceased him about 22 years ago. Two sons and one daughter, Mrs. George Russell, survive him out of a family of ten. The funeral will take place tomorrow, leaving his late residence at 12.30 p.m. and arriving at the Wivenhoe Cemetery at 3 p.m.59

William Marthick, the husband of Eliza Spinks, died on 31 January 1911 in Duck River, Tasmania.60

Thomas House, the husband of Charlotte Spinks, died on 9 June 1912 in Mengha, Tasmania.61

William Henry Butcher, the husband of Sophia Spinks, died on 18 June 1918 in Entally House in Carrick, Tasmania.62

BUTCHER.— On June 19 (sic), at his residence, Illawarra, Tas., William Henry, beloved husband of Sophia Butcher, father of John and Louis, aged 75 years.63

Sophia Butcher, nee Spinks, the wife of William Butcher, died on 5 June 1920 in Tullah, Tasmania.64

Advice mas received from Tullah of the death of Mrs Sophia Butcher, which took place at 12.30 p.m. on Saturday. The deceased lady, who was well-known in Zeehan, where she resided prior to going to Tullah, was 72 years of age, and had been under medical treatment for some time.65

Ann Carroll, nee Spinks, the wife of Dennis Carroll, died on 30 August 1920, Tasmania.66 Ann was buried on 1 September 1920 in Stanley, Tasmania.

The death occurred at Stanley on Monday afternoon of Mrs. Ann Carroll, relict of the late Mr Dennis Carroll. The old lady. who was 90 years of age last May, had been ailing for some weeks, and she had a peaceful end. The deceased lady was one of the oldest residents of Circular Head. She came out from England as a girl with her parents (the late Mr. and Mrs. John Spinks) about 80 years ago. Her father was engaged as a shepherd by the V.D.L. Co., and brought sheep direct to the Woolnorth Estate from the old country. There was only one hut at Stanley at the time of their landing. Deceased was married in 1852 to the late Mr. Dennis Carroll, and they lived for an unbroken succession of 64 years on a Green Hills farm as tenants of the company. On Mr. Carroll's death 12 years ago, Mrs. Carroll lived with her son Thomas at Irish Town for many years. Some six months ago she came into Stanley, and resided with her daughter, Mrs. W. S. H. Smith. She was a fine old lady, universally esteemed, and could recount many interesting incidents of early Circular Head life. She was a staunch adherent of the Catholic Church. She leaves a family of three sons, Messrs. T. J., D. P., and J. K. Carroll, all of Irish Town, and two daughters, Mrs. W. S. H. Smith. of Stanley, and Mrs. Clune, of Deloraine. There is a big family connection of children of three generations. The deceased was a sister to Mr. John Spinks, of Forest; Mrs. T. House, Mengha; Mrs. Lawler, Launceston; Mrs. Marthick, Scotch Town; Mrs. Bissett, Wynyard; and Mrs. T. Allen, Ridgley. The funeral took place yesterday afternoon.67

Jane Boot, nee Spinks, the wife of Robert Boot, died on 30 August 1922 in Smithton, Tasmania.68

BOOTE.-On August 30, at the residence of her son, Mr. W. Boote, Smithton, Jane, the beloved wife of Robert Boote, and mother of Robert, William, Clarence and Alfred, and Mrs. Ingamells, Mrs. Lethborg, and Mrs. Bilson. Aged 73 years.69

Joseph Smith, the husband of Rebecca Spinks, died on 3 September 1923 in Stanley, Tasmania.70

Susanna Allen, nee Spinks, died 27 June 1924 in Launceston, Tasmania.71 Susanna was buried on 29 June 1924 in Launceston, Tasmania.

ALLEN.-The funeral of the late Mrs. Allen is appointed to leave her late residence, 13 Wilmot-street, on Sunday afternoon, June 29th, at 2.30 o'clock, for interment in the Carr Villa Cemetery. Friends are invited to attend.72

ALLEN.--On the 27th June, 1924, at her residence, 13 Wllmot-street, Launceston, Susannah, dearly beloved wife of Tom Allen, aged 79 years. Coast papers please copy.73

Robert Boote, the husband of Jane Spinks, died on 11 August 1925 in Scottsdale, Tasmania.74

Thomas Allen, the husband of Susannah Spinks, died on 22 May 1926 in the Homeopathic Hospital in Launceston, Tasmania.75

Mary Ann Bissett, nee Spinks, the wife of David Bissett, died on 21 October 1927 in Stowport, Tasmania.76

Old Resident's Death

Mrs Mary A. Bissett died at the residence of her son, Mr. Alexander Bissett, Stowport, yesterday. Deceased was the daughter of the late Mr. Spinks, and was born at sea off Cape Grim, 81 years ago, the first landing place being Woolnorth, Tasmania, where she lived the greater part of her life. She had a family of 12 sons and two daughters, the only surviving members being Messrs. Mungo Bissett, Devonport, and Alexander Bissett, Stowport; also a number of grandchildren.77

John William Spinks Jnr. died 14 April 1928 in Amy Road, Launceston, Tasmania.78

SPINKS. - On the 14th April, 1928, at the residence of his son-in-law, Mr. L. N. Allen, Amy-road, Launceston, John William, relict of the late Amelia Spinks (formerly of Stanley), aged 76 years.79

Eliza Marthick, nee Spinks, died 7 October 1930, Stanley, Tasmania. Eliza was buried on 9 October 1930 in Scotchtown, Tasmania.

Death of Mrs. E. Marthick.

Mrs. Eliza Marthick, one of the oldest residents of Circular Head, passed away yesterday evening at the residence of her daughter, Mrs. J. J. King, Stanley. Mrs. Marthick, who was 90 years of age, had been ill for about six months. She was born in England, and when only six months old left with her parents in the ship Emu for Stanley, where the family arrived a few months later.

The late Mrs. Marthick lived a few years at Woolnorth, and for a time at Green Hills. Her married life was spent in the Smithton district. There are four sons and three daughters; 38 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren. Her sons are Messrs. Eldred Marthick (Alcomie), Hiram Marthick (Scotchtown), Ephraim Marthick (Irishtown) and Thomas Marthick (Smithton). The daughters are Mesdames J. J. King (Stanley), H. E. Medwin and C. Egan (Melbourne).

The funeral will take place to-morrow at the Scotchtown cemetery.80


The oldest surviving resident of Circular Head, Mrs. Eliza Marthick, died at the residence of her son-in-law, Mr. J. J. King, Stanley, on Tuesday evening. She would have been 90 years of age next month had she lived. She came to Australia as an infant in the sailing ship Emu with her father, the founder of the Spinks family in the district, and who was an employee at the Van Diensen's Land Company. He lived on the Green Hills where once the whole family was tied up by the bushrangers, Brady and O'Connor just before they committed the Stage (sic) Farm murder nearly 80 years ago. Mrs. Marthic's health had been excellent until a few months ago. She was a lovable lady, very interesting to talk to, and very industrious, spending much time with her needle and crochet hook. She was treated with loving care and attention by her descendants, who took great pride in her, and she retained her faculties and cheerfulness to within a few days of her death, when she became unconscious. Her husband was the late Mr. William Marthick, and her sons Eldred, Hiram, Ephraim, and Thomas are well known residents of Circular Head. Mesdames J. J. King, Herbert Medwin, and Charles Egan are daughters.81

Charlotte House, nee Spinks, died 30 January 1940, Black River, Tasmania.

HOUSE.- On January 30, 1940, at the Post Office, Black River, Charlotte, relict of the late Thomas G. House, and loving mother of Ernest, Benjamin, Maud, Mildred, Hilda and Ruby, in her 90th year. At rest.82