Lieutenant General Joseph Foveaux was a senior British soldier and an accomplished convict-settlement administrator in the Colony of New South Wales.
Joseph Foveaux was born about 1766, possibly on 10th April, the sixth child of Joseph Foveaux and his wife Elizabeth Wheeler. He was christened on 6th April 1767 at Ampthill, Bedfordshire, England.
Foveaux joined the British Army as an ensign in the 60th Regiment of Foot. In June 1789 he volunteered for service in the new Colony of New South Wales with the New South Wales Corps (NSW Corps) and purchased a Lieutenancy. He became a Captain in April 1791, either by purchase or promotion. He arrived at Sydney in 1792. There he was promoted to Major in June 1796, making him one of the senior officers of the corps, and aged just thirty years. As senior officer in the absence of Lieutenant Colonel William Paterson between August 1796 and November 1799 Foveaux controlled the NSW Corps during a period when some of its officers were making their fortunes from trading and extending their landed properties. By 1800, he had 1,027 sheep on the 2,020 acres (817 ha) of land he had been granted, making him the largest landholder and stock-owner in the colony. An early land grant, Surrey Hills Farm, has given its name to the suburb of Surry Hills, near the centre of Sydney.
In 1800, Foveaux offered to go to Norfolk Island as Lieutenant-Governor. Finding the island run down, he built it up with particular attention to public works, for which he earned the praise of Governor King. Having established a reputation as an able and efficient administrator, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1802. More questionable, however, was the dubious morality of allowing the sale of female convicts to settlers.
Throughout his administration, Foveaux was plagued by severe asthma. A stay on the mainland between September 1803 and January 1804 failed to restore his health, and on 9th September 1804 he left Norfolk Island for England, partly to attend to his private affairs, partly in the hope that he would find relief from his malady in a sea voyage. Having recuperated, in December 1807 he was ordered to return to Norfolk Island and resume command if sufficient inhabitants remained there; if the evacuation to Port Dalrymple, Van Dieman's Land (Launceston, Tasmania) was complete he was to proceed to Sydney and act as lieutenant-governor in the absence of Paterson, who was at Port Dalrymple.
Foveaux arrived in Sydney in July 1808, after the corps' military coup that deposed the legal governor and imposed martial law. Assuming command and lieutenant-governorship from Lieutenant Colonel George Johnston, he left the governor, William Bligh, under house arrest and concentrated on improving the roads and bridges of the settlements. Sent back to England in 1810 with the NSW Corps when the new governor arrived, Foveaux was sent to trial for his part in continuing the coup and arrest of Bligh. Unlike the other 'ringleaders' it does not appear to have hampered Foveaux's career as he was appointed commanding officer of the 1st Regiment Greek Light Infantry in 1811 and enjoyed an uneventful military career after that, rising to the rank of Lieutenant General.
On 18th November 1814 in All Saints' Church, Derbyshire, Foveaux married Ann Sherwin nee Bennett, his de facto partner since 1793. Ann had been the wife of a NSW Corps Sergeant and the three had travelled to New South Wales on the same ship originally. Joseph and Ann had a daughter, Ann Noble Foveaux, born in 1803 at Norfolk Island.
Having been widowered for six years, Foveaux passed away, a month short of turning 80 years, on 20th March 1846 at New Road, London, Middlesex, England. He was buried in All Souls Cemetery, Kensal Green.
Foveaux Strait in New Zealand is named in his honour, as are streets in the Sydney suburbs of Airds, Barden Ridge, Bella Vista, Cromer, Harrington Park, Lurnea and Surry Hills, the Maitland suburb of Metford, and the Canberra suburb of Ainslie.
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Categories: Migrants from Bedfordshire to New South Wales | Kensal Green Cemetery, Kensington, Middlesex | Norfolk Island, First (Colonial) Settlement 1788-1814 | Pitt, Arrived 14 Feb 1792 | English Soldier Immigrants to Australia | New South Wales Corps | Rum Rebellion, New South Wales