Thomas Andrews: The Life of a Butcher and Community Leader in 19th Century Australia

Thomas Andrews, the grandson of Marine First Fleeter William Tunks and Sarah Lyons (convict on Lady Juliana),  was born on October 20, 1829, in the Evans district of New South Wales, Australia, as the tenth child of John and Ann Andrews.  Although he was christened as James Thomas, he was known only as Thomas Andrews.  His father committed suicide in 1832, leaving his mother with nine children to care for.  Ann Andrews secured a Publican’s Licence for The Straggler Hotel in Parramatta in 1932, but she died in 1934 when Thomas was only five years old.  What happened to Thomas after his mother’s death is unknown, but it is believed that one of his older siblings took him in.

Marriage and Family Life

Thomas Andrews married his first wife, Mary Brownlow, in 1853 when he was 23 years old.  They had four children, Charlotte Rosetta (1856), George Thomas (1862), Harriet Louise (1869), and Thomas James (1868).  Thomas ran a butcher shop in High St, Penrith, and lived in a house next door to the shop.  In 1870, Mary passed away, leaving Thomas to care for their four children.

In 1872, Thomas married Harriett Rooney, daughter of the Police Sergeant in Penrith. Together, they had four children: Alfred Hadley (1872), Edwin James (1874), Rebecca Mary (1876), and a baby who did not survive.  Thomas continued to work as a butcher after his second marriage.

Community Leadership

Thomas Andrews was an active member of the Penrith community.  He served as a patron of the Penrith Racing Club in 1872 and was one of the councillors when the first Penrith Municipal Council was formed in May 1871.

Engineering Marvels

In the 1860s, the railway came to Penrith, and a long zig-zag was constructed to ascend the ridge west of the river, designed by Chief Engineer John Whitton.  The Victoria Bridge was built to cross the Nepean in 1860, and in 1867, the Knapsack Viaduct was constructed to carry the line across Knapsack Gully.  The coming of the railway ended the mixed grazing domination of the local Penrith economy, as the western lands were brought within reach of the Sydney markets.


Reports suggest that in about 1860 Thomas Andrews was running a butcher’s shop in High St and by 1872 he had built additions to it and had become the licensee of the first Australian Arms Hotel on that site.  In 1877 he died and the licence passed to his wife Harriet. (see below for history of the Australian Arms Hotel).


Thomas Andrews passed away on July 26, 1878, at his residence in High-street, Penrith. He was 48 years old and left behind his wife and seven children. His end was peaceful, according to an obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald on July 31, 1878.


Thomas Andrews was a butcher and community leader in 19th-century Australia.  He faced many challenges in his life, including the death of his father when he was only two years old, the death of his mother when he was five years old and the death of his first wife when he had four children to care for.  Despite these challenges, he participated fully in the Penrith community, serving as a councillor and a patron of the Penrith Racing Club.  He witnessed the construction of the Victoria Bridge and the Knapsack Viaduct, which transformed the local economy.  Thomas Andrews’ life is a testament to the resilience and determination of the people who helped build Australia.

The Australian Arms Hotel

The land on which the Hotel stands was originally part of a parcel of 100 acres granted to Sarah McHenry on 6 June 1834. Sarah McHenry was the wife of John McHenry, who had arrived in the colony in 1819 and acquired 1200 acres around Penrith through grant. It is believed that the 100 acre parcel was promised by Governor Macquarie in 1821; around 1827 McHenry built Lemon Grove within the northern part of this area. The Lemon Grove estate of 65 acres north of the railway line was eventually subdivided into 249 town blocks in 1885.

In the meantime, development had been occurring in the southern part of the grant along High Street. There is some uncertainty about the early history of the buildings on the present site of the Australian Arms Hotel It has been reported that about 1836 a hotel known as Hogan’s Pub stood there. Other reports suggest that in about 1860 Thomas Andrews was running a butcher’s shop on the site and by 1872 he had built additions to it and had become the licensee of the first Australian Arms Hotel on that site. In 1877 he died and the licence passed to his wife Harriet.

Her obituary in 1901 stated that she had had a new hotel built on the site where the old house stood.

Read More about the full history of The Australian Arms Hotel 

Figure 1: High Street, Penrith c.1906. The Australian Arms Hotel is on the right hand side and Cram Place (also a local heritage item) can be seen on the left. Image courtesy of Penrith City Library photographic collection, creator Charles Kerry

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