Tunks Historical Sites

William Tunks' Mulgrave Place land grant

When William and Sarah arrived back in Sydney from Norfolk Island, they found the colony in the hands of Major Grose and the officers of the New South Wales Rum Corps.  Philip had returned to England and a new governor had not yet been appointed.

Major Grose had been given permission to make land grants, and he was making extensive use of this permission.  His officers became large land holders and private traders.  Farming and building were neglected, prices were extortionate, payments were made in rum and a general state of drunkeness was common.

William and Sarah soon settled down,  He had enlisted in the 102 Regiment of Foot, and remained in it till its disbandment in 1810.  As a private soldier in the New South Wales Corps, he received a grant of twenty five acres on the Hawkesbury River in the district of Mulgrave Place, near Windsor.  His title deed was signed by William Patterson on 22nd May 1795.  A condition of the grant was that William Tonks should reside on the  land and proceed to the improvement and cultivation of his allotment. Major Grose said in a report to the British Government: “I have settled on the banks of the Hawkesbury, twenty two settlers who seem very much pleased with their farms.  They describe the soil as particularly rich and they inform me whatever they have planted has grown in the greatest luxuriance.”

William and Sarah’s infant son Abraham Tunks died Nov 1798 at Sydney, buried 19 Nov 1798 as Abraham Tuncks at Old Sydney Burial ground.

William Tunks Lease Musgrave Place

The site on the Hawkesbury which was originally William Tunks lease is now a Butterfly Farm and Caravan Park.

William Tunks Nepean Land Grant

William Tunks received a land grant of 140 acres on the Nepean River in the District of Evan, near the little township of Castlereagh, and not far from Penrith.  His neighbour on the was Martin Mince, and on the south was John Harris.  

However, the farmers along the Hawkesbury/Nepean suffered a great deal from frequent flood.  The flood in 1806 was disastrous.  The water rose forty-seven-and-a-half-feet, five people were drowned and the loss of property was estimated at 23,000.  Crops were ruined and  livestock drowned.  Houses and fences were washed away and great gullies were cut in the land by swirling floodwaters.  When the water went down a scene of utter desolation faced the settlers.  The floors in the houses still standing were covered with evil smelling silt, and household articles such as bedding and linen were soaked and covered with mud.  Even the water in the well was rendered unfit for drinking,  It was a heartbreaking task to clean up, cope with the snakes, scorpions and centipede in the debris, and start again on the land.

Governor King wanted first hand knowledge of the extent of the damage, and asked Revered Samuel Marsden and Thomas Arndell to visit the settlers and report on their condition.  They stated that “some of them are the objects of the greatest distress.”  The list included a brief, pathetic statement on Tunks.  “Tunks – No wheat – No corn – No pigs – Wife and 3 children.  Wife near her time.”

All this was too much for Sarah and William, and they gave up the struggle.  They leased the farm to John Palmer for the payment of 5 pound per year for 5 years.  At the end of this period, the farm was sold to Palmer, as it was registered in his name in 1812.  “Tonks Farm” was advertised for sale in the Sydney Gazette in October and November 1814, and it was subsequently sold to Samuel Forster for three hundred pounds, and in 1819 John Single purchased it”.  “Memorial to a Marine”

Hadley Park is still standing and will again open to the public.   Read More

Charles Hadley’s son, Thomas Hadley, married William Tunks’ Granddaughter, Rosetta Andrews and they lived at Hadley Park.  Rosetta’s daughter, Henrietta, married James Landers. 


William Tunks Land Grant
Parish map superimposed on current land layout.
Nepean Times Thursday 15 Sep 1948

It is worth a visit to Church Lane,  at the Christchurch Anglican Church you can look down across the Tonks lease and Hadley Park.

John Tunks' Inn - The Shamrock, Rose and Thistle

John Tunks, son of William Tunks and Sarah Lyons, obtained the lease of a Parramatta Town Lot from Governor Brisbane on 30 June 1823. This was on the corner of Church and Ross Streets.  Next he obtained a publican’s licence, and built an inn on this allotment, known as the Shamrock, Rose and Thistle. In 1823, John Andrews held the license. He was John Tunks’ brother-in-law.  In 1832 John Andrews committed suicide by hanging himself from the stable rail in the horse stables at the rear of the pub and John Tunks took over the licence.  

In 1839 records show that a John Tunks (1795-1848) built a new dwelling, (after operating an Inn on the same site for 15 years) located on the N.W corner of the site. The Inn had the same name, the Shamrock, Rose & Thistle. There were various licensees up to 1845. In 1845 Livingstone moved across the road and renamed the Shamrock, Rose & Thistle the Glasgow Arms. 

The license was transferred from William Livingston back to John Tunks in 1848, but he died in May of that year and was buried at St Johns Cemetery and his wife, Phoebe,  ran their  hotel for a year.

 In 1872 the sum of £910 was paid by John Tunks (the son of John Tunks senior), to purchase the site. 

Shamrock, Rose and Thistle Inn
Shamrock, Rose and Thistle Inn


John Tunks descendant, the present-day John Tunks, unveiled a wall plaque indicating the significance of the site. Also present was Ms Amy Walsh, nieceof the present publican (Robby Walsh), who accepted a copy of Joyce Cowell’s book ‘Memorial to a Marine’ from Mavis Baird, (that Marine being William Tunks, John’s father, a ‘First Fleeter’ from the supply ship Sirius).

Read more

Despite OEH objections, the Royal Oaks Hotel will be demolished to make way for the Parramatta Light Rail in 2020.


Castlereagh Church

John Tunks and Esther Arndell  were the first couple to marry in the Anglican Church in Castlereagh on 27 March, 1815. The first Anglican Church was built in 1813 within the surveyed town of Castlereagh. This church was destroyed by fire in the early 1870s. A new church, Christchurch,  was consecrated in 1878 and is located in Church Lane overlooking the fertile river flats. From the church yard you can look down on the area of William Tunks lease on the Nepean River below. 

Castlereagh Church
St John's Cemetery, Parramatta

St.John’s Cemetery: 1 O’Connell Street, Parramatta, NSW 2150.

Australia’s oldest surviving cemetery dating back to 1790. It is the most historic and important cemetery in Australia with graves from the 1788 First Fleet and of well known pioneers, including Governor Phillip’s manservant and gardener, Henry Dodd, The Reverend Samuel Marsden, his wife Elizabeth, land holder D’Arcy Wentworth and family, land holders and farmers the Blaxland family and colonial bridge builder David Lennox.

Read full history of St John’s Cemetery

Sarah  Lyons died at Parramatta in 1837. As their son John, was at this time on the way to becoming a successful businessman, one can only guess as to the reason for the lack of a suitable memorial to her in St John’s Cemetery. The Rev. Samuel Marsden had a particular dislike for Sarah and described
her in earlier years as “that concubine with two (sic) illegitimate children and friendly with one,Amelia Levy!” Again it is a reasonable assumption that the remains of Sarah Tunks, nee Lyons, were relegated to a distant corner of the cemetery.

The main Tunks vault is a roofed sandstone pedestal 6ft x 4.5ft sq. (183cm x 137cm) topped by a cinerary urn. If not the largest vault in the cemetery, it is certainly the most imposing. 


The first interment would have been John Tunks Sr. who died on 1st May, 1848. Phoebe nee Tomlinson, (Mobbs,Tunks, McRoberts, marriages in that order) was also interred in the vault in June, 1888. Her 3rd husband, John McRoberts, also rests within!

In the early 25 yrs of the 20th century, the remains of departed Tunks family were deposited within the vault by means of a
descending stair immediately in front of the tomb. Family oral history relates, that, by descending underneath, a large, cavernous
room was apparent where the coffins were placed in position.

TDAI has carried out restoration work in 1988 and more recently in 2018.  See more information.

Tunks Burials at St John’s Cemetery, Parramatta

The cemetery of St Johns in Parramatta is the oldest existing European burial ground in NSW. It has a proud history of burials including 17 First Fleeters, soldiers, people from the highest ranks of society, convicts, early pioneers of agriculture, administrators, missionaries, and local business people of the district of Parramatta. 

For the descendants of William Tunks and Sarah Lyons, the total number of ancestors whose remains lie in this cemetery is 46. There are 4 other burial remains related to Phoebe McRoberts (nee Tunks, Mobbs, Tomlinson). I would not be surprised if we found other family burials at St John’s as the Tunks family were numerous around the township of Parramatta for the first three generations.

Ancestors Buried at St John’s Cemetery with an extant grave

  1. M.A Tunks d21/9/1824 bur22/9/1824 aged 3 months
  2. John Mobbs* d27/12/1828 bur31/12/1828 aged 26
  3. John Andrews d25/4/1832 bur27/4/1832 aged 56
  4. Ann Perry d7/12/1834 bur9/12/1834 aged 42
  5. Sarah Tomlinson* d13/10/1837 bur15/10/1837 aged 57 
  6. William Mobbs* d25/9/1839 bur28/9/1839 aged 54
  7. Lucy Tunks d18/6/1855 bur20/6/1855 aged 22
  8. Edward William Tunks d31/7/1926 bur2/8/1926 aged 49
  9. Harriet Ann Tunks d9/10/1926 bur–/10/1926 aged 75
  10. Charles Robert Tunks d20/7/1930 bur–/7/1930 aged 76
  11. George Henry Tunks d23/5/1933 bur–/5/1933 aged 68
  12. Annie Mary Pye d22/9/1933 bur23/9/1933 aged 63 
  13. Thomas Frederick Tunks d8/7/1939 bur10/7/1939 aged 69
  14. Alfred George Tunks d20/6/1943 bur–/1/1943 aged 70 
  15. Keith John Tunks d30/11/1992 ashes 1992 aged 78  

Ancestors Buried at St John’s Cemetery without an extant grave

  1. Esther Tunks d12/12/1829 bur13/12/1829 aged 33
  2. Robert Tunksd–/10/1836bur29/10/1836aged 3 months
  3. Sarah Tunks d26/7/1837 bur27/7/1837 aged 74
  4. Robert Tomlinson* 19/1/1845 bur22/1/1845 aged 75
  5. Phoebe Tunks d2/4/1869 bur6/4/1869 aged 5 days
  6. George Tunks d17/2/1873 bur18/2/1873 aged 3 weeks
  7. Alister Dawson Tunks d16/5/1877 bur18/5/1877 aged 8 months
  8. Edward Charles Tunks d2/10/1879 bur4/10/1879 aged 53
  9. Cecil Kenneth Tunks d12/11/1882 bur13/11/1882 aged 2 years
  10. Phoebe Marion McRoberts White d26/1/1884 bur28/1/1884 aged 5 years
  11. Beatrice Watsford nee Tunks d23/6/1912 bur–/6/1912 aged 35
  12. Elizabeth White nee Tunks d8/12/1917 bur10/12/1917 aged 71
  13. Mary Ann Tunks d30/5/1918 bur31/5/1918 aged 78 *newspaper
  14. John Robert Tunks d8/7/1930 bur9/7/1930 aged 80
  15. *Sarah Tomlinson, Robert Tomlinson, John Mobbs and William Mobbs are ancestors of Phoebe who was John Tunks’ 2nd wife.

Who Is In The Vault?

The vault was used for burials from 1848 to 1920. Burials after 1920 were in single graves elsewhere in St Johns.

William and Sarah’s oldest son John was the first burial in the vault. John’s second wife Phoebe and Phoebe’s 3rd husband John McRoberts are also buried in the vault.

  • John Tunks d1/5/1848 bur3/5/1854 aged 53
  • Phoebe McRoberts d10/6/1888 bur12/6/1888 aged 79
  • John McRoberts d10/5/1889 bur12/5/1889 aged 76
  • Five of John and Phoebe’s sons and three of their wives were buried in the vault.
  • Mary Ann Tunks d28/7/1879 bur29/7/1879 aged 44
  • Henrietta Tunks d13/12/1895 bur15/12/1895 aged 54
  • Henry Tunks d15/11/1899 bur16/11/1899 aged 62 (incorrect age on Vault)
  • Charles Tunks d9/2/1902 bur11/2/1902 aged 70
  • Elizabeth Tunks d12/12/1904 bur13/12/1904 aged 59
  • James Tunks d22/5/1913 bur–/5/1913 aged 80
  • George Tunks d28/4/1916 bur29/4/1916 aged 76
  • Thomas Frederick Tunks d28/1/1920 bur30/1/1922 aged 78
  • Eight grandchildren, and a spouse of a grandchild, of John and Phoebe are buried in the vault.
  • Alfred Frederick Thomas Tunks d13/1/1865    bur15/1/1865 aged 1 year 4 months
  • Edwin Walter Barnett Tunks d26/9/1867    bur27/9/1867 aged 7months 18 days
  • Harold Edwin Tunks d28/1/1878  bur30/1/1878     aged 3
  • John Smith d16/4/1899    bur19/4/1899  aged 42
  • Frederick Arthur Tunks d3/9/1899      bur5/9/1899 aged 36
  • Hercules Robinson Tunks d2/7/1902      bur4/7/1902 aged 30
  • Emelie Tunks d29/10/1911  bur–/10/1911    aged 43
  • Ernest Edward Tunks d6/9/1912 bur–/9/1912      aged 37
  • Mabel Smith d4/10/1914 bur6/10/1914 aged 47
  • Susannah Amelia Nicholls d1/7/1916      bur3/7/1916       aged 72 *newspaper 
  • Alfred George Tunks and Annie Mary Pye names are on the vault but are interred in separate graves.
  • Jessie Willis (1874-1955) has her name on the vault but is not buried at St Johns.
“Tunks Burials – St John’s Cemetery, Parramatta” by Natalie Logan 
Norfolk House, Parramatta

Extract from an article, Norfolk House.

The Commonwealth Gazette
of 4th September, 1990 proclaimed the entry in the Register of National Estate, of Norfolk House, North Parramatta.

The land was granted to John Tunks in about 1841 and the house was built between then and his death in 1848. The house remained in the family until the death of his wife, Phoebe, in 1888. It was bought by the Methodist Church in 1904.

Norfolk House, at 467- 469 Church Street, is of significance for Parramatta for historic, aesthetic, and scientific reasons, for association with John Tunks who built this house, and as a rare example of Colonial Georgian two-storey house in the area. The site also possesses potential to contribute to an understanding of early urban development in Parramatta.

Its significance to Tunks History is indicated by a commemorative plaque unveiled by the Tunks Descendants Association in 2009. 

Read More

TDAI Plaque

Stonehaven - Originally John Tunks Farmhouse

Tunks Farmhouse, on one of the earliest grants made to a new settler, still stands at the Benington Road entrance Kingsdene Estate on Pennant Hills Rd in Carlingford, to the estate. Built of sandstone quarried on the property, it is an early colonial house with french windows and shutters opening on to long verandahs.

The site was included in a very early grant made to John Martin. When Martin died, his fifty acre grant was split up amongst his family.  During the 1840s. John Tunks purchased several of the Martin family’s holding. The first Tunks Farmhouse was built on this land, and some of John’s sons, and later his grandson, became farmers and orchardists at Carlingford.  His son Thomas Frederick owned and occupied the twenty acres which later became part of the Kingsdene Estate.

Thomas was a successful orchardist and was able to undertake the building of a new farmhouse somewhere around the year 1892.

After Thomas’s death on 28 Jan 1920, the farmhouse and land passed from the possession of the Tunks Family. In 1962, the land was sub-divided into the residential estate Kingsdene Estate.

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John Tunks Farm House
2010 TDAI plaque on Stonehaven the site of John Tunks' original farmhouse
Plaque Tunks Farmhouse
The Steamship (Inn) Hotel

TDAI has erected a plaque on the location of the Steamship Inn, Ryde. The inn was situated on the corner of Glebe St (now Victoria Rd) and Cowell St (named after the Cowell/Tunks family that owned the inn). Alderman William Cowell married  Sarah Tunks, the daughter of John Tunks and Esther Arndell. Cowell owned the Steamboat Hotel, Ryde, in the 1860s.

The plaque is at the entrance to the Ryde Services Club it has been studied by many of the locals.

Inscription Steamboat Hotel
The Steamship (inn) Hotel
The Steamboat Hotel: 1890: Sarah Jane Cowell (granny Matthews) with husband James Matthews standing in front.
TDAI Plaque Ryde
Australian Arms Hotel - Penrith

James Thomas (Thomas) Andrews born on 20 October 18291 was the tenth child of John and Ann Andrews and Grandson of William Tunks and Sarah Lyons.

Thomas participated fully in the Penrith community at large. He was a butcher there for many years. In May 1871 when the first Penrith Municipal Council was formed he was one of the councillors and he was a patron of the Penrith Racing Club in 1872.

The Australian Arms Hotel, presently situated on the north-east corner of High and Lawson Streets, has a long history in Penrith. In the mid-1880’s, the site was occupied by a Thomas Andrews who operated a butcher’s shop. Andrews later opened a public house on the site – this was to become known as the Australian Arms Hotel. 


When Mr. Andrews died in the early 1890’s, his widow Harriett (his second wife), after keeping on the business for some time, rebuilt the hotel, but soon afterwards retired into private life. Mrs. Andrews died on 25 August 1901, at the age of 49, after a long illness. A year after her death in November 1902, the hotel was auctioned and eventually renovated by one of the new licensees, Mr. Richard Aughey.

The present building on the site was built in 1940, the old hotel being demolished. In 1960

Tunks Park Northbridge

The Park was named after William Tunks II, the first Mayor of St Leonards from 1867 until 1883  and Grandson of William Tunks, a marine who came with the First Fleet.

William Tunks II
William Tunk II Memorial Fountain - North Sydney

Reconstructed fountain first erected in 1885 in this location. Built as a memorial to William Tunks, a figure in local politics, being first Mayor of East St. Leonards and Member of State Parliament for the area for ten years. Important to the park as Tunks was largely responsible for maintaining the integrity of the park in the 1870s. See also under St. Leonards Park Group.  William Tunks II was the Grandson of William Tunks, a marine who came with the First Fleet.


Dedication Memorial Fountain
Dedication of Tunks Memorial Fountain
William Tunks Memorial Fountain
© North Sydney Council
Tunks Avenue
Tunks Avenue to commemorate William Tunks II First Mayor of St Leonards
St Leonards Park - North Sydney

William Tunks II, the first mayor of the newly created township of St Leonards, made it his first duty to have the public reserve dedicated as a public park in 1867 as a centrepiece for the new municipality. The first portion of land was dedicated in 1867 and set aside for public recreation and cricket, with the second section, not dedicated until 1869. The original cricket ground, now known as North Sydney Oval, was dedicated and the first pitch laid on 6 December 1867, making it one of the oldest continuously used cricket pitches in Australia. The first pavilion for spectators was constructed in 1879 on the south-western side of the oval and then replaced in 1909. This was further replaced in 1929 with the current Duncan Thompson Stand on the north western side of the oval. An Act of Parliament in 1879 gave the land its name St Leonards Park.

Mayor Tunks was very interested in the development of St Leonards Park and took a personal interest in its construction, attending to the location of pathways, the plantings of shrubs and trees, some even cultivated from his own garden. Local residents raised funds in 1873 for a perimeter fence and for further plantings of pines, camphor laurels and figs. The design was influenced by the English Public Parks Movement and Charles Moore, the Director of the Sydney Botanical Gardens, as he promoted the use of Moreton Bay and Port Jackson figs in many parks across Sydney.

William Tunks II was the Grandson of William Tunks, a marine who came with the First Fleet.

St Leonard's Park

The large fig trees in the formal avenue of Fig Tree Lane were most possibly planted at this time and were influenced by the middle-class practice of the leisurely promenade.

In 1883, Tunks suffered a fatal fall in the park. His memory is however, perpetuated on a Carrara marble fountain erected in his honour in 1885 with funds raised by the public. The fountain is still present today to the north of the War Memorial and is known as the Tunks Memorial Fountain.


Gore Hill Cemetery

The Gore Hill Memorial Cemetery is a heritage-listed cemetery located on the Pacific Highway, Gore Hill, St Leonards in the City of Willoughby local government area of New South Wales, Australia. It was established on 19 May 1868 by the New South Wales politician, William Tunks, and is one of the oldest and most significant remaining cemeteries in metropolitan Sydney.

In 1864, William Tunks, prominent Parramatta businessman, who owned land in the North Shore area, was elected member for St Leonards in the Legislative Assembly of NSW. Tunks soon moved to North Sydney and began an interest in local affairs, in particular the establishment of a general cemetery in the area. In 1867 the Surveyor General instructed licensed surveyor Armstrong to confer with Tunks and examine locations for a general cemetery.

William Tunks died in 1883 and was buried at the entrance to the Church of England section, the first burial in this section. A monument was erected. In 1884 the first combined Committee of trustees was formed.


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William Tunks MLA Headstone
William Tunks MLA Headstone - Gore Hill Cemetery


Died 12th APRIL 1883
Jesus is coming

Tunks Creek

Tunks Creek rises near Dural and enters Berowra Creek in Galston Gorge. William Tunks, a marine who came with the First Fleet, had descendants who settled in the Mobbs Hill area. One of these is thought to have found Tunks Creek.


Bridge over Tunks Creek
© Dept of Environment, NSW
Pioneer Families Bicentennial Memorial - Windsor

The Memorial was erected to commemorate the bicentenary of Australia in 1988 and is a tribute to the pioneers of the district. 

Thompson Square is the centre of one of the earliest settled districts in Australia. Its collection of colonial buildings has remained largely intact since being built in the period between 1815 and 1880. The Square was refurbished as a Bicentennial project, ensuring that it remains a tribute to the pioneers of the district.

The anchor at the top of the Square on the Pioneer Families Bicentennial Memorial is an appropriate symbol for the districts early days. It serves as a reminder that the majority of craft that plied the Hawkesbury River were made or sailed by local pioneers for the transport of the life-saving grain grown by other Hawkesbury pioneers. Together, these early Hawkesbury settlers ensured the survival of the colony of New South Wales. This monument contains plaques listing pioneer families who in 1988 contributed to the cost of erecting this to all Hawkesbury pioneers.

The bicentenary of Australia was celebrated in 1988. It marked 200 years since the arrival of the First Fleet of British convict ships at Sydney in 1788.  The Australian Bicentennial Authority (ABA), pursuant to the Australian Bicentennial Authority Act 1980, was set up to plan, fund and coordinate projects that emphasized the nation’s cultural heritage. 1988 is considered the official bicentenary year of the founding of Australia.


Pioneer Family Bicentennial Memorial
Bicentennial Memorial Windsor
Tunks Footbridge
Tunks Footbridge
Warragamba Dam Workers Memorial

The memorial honours the 15 labourers, carpenters, drillers, and other workers who died in workplace accidents while building the dam, constructing the emergency pipeline or clearing the valley. The memorial was unveiled during the 50th anniversary celebrations.

For close to 20 years, 1800 people from more than 25 nations worked three shifts a day, seven days a week to build Warragamba Dam, and the result was an engineering marvel that continues to provide most of Sydney’s water today.

Those killed during the construction are listed below : –

  • Sidney Richard Tunks, 34 years, labourer – 8 November 1938 (Warragamba Emergency Supply Scheme)
  • + Fourteen other workers.

Read more

Warragamba Dam Workers Memorial
McQuade Park - Celebration of the Pioneers of the Hawkesbury 1794-1994

If William and Sarah were looking down on McQuade Park, Windsor on 15 May 1993, I’m sure they would have been most surprised to see their descendants, Graham Tunks, Vicki Read, Elizabeth King and Myrl Skinner proudly taking part in the “Celebration of the Pioneers of the Hawkesbury” at a tree planting of some 140 trees.  Each was identified by a neat concrete block bearing a silver-metal plague with the name of the Pioneer and also the Sponsor.

The 140 trees planted were privately sponsored by individuals and many family groups such as the Tunks Descendants Association and is a project if the 1994 Hawkesbury Bicentennial Celebrations.

William and Sarah’s trees are Melaleucas Nos 37 and 88, alongside the oval, almost opposite St Matthew’s.  Do check the progress of these living memorials if passing through Windsor.

McQuade Park
Image by: Ian Jack

Dedicated to 
by The Tunks Descendants’Association

Dedicated to 
by The Tunks Descendants’Association