William Frazer

Summary information

Name William Frazer
Date of birth c. 1760
Place of birth Sheffield, England
Date of death June 1791
Place of death Sydney, NSW
Mother -
Father -
Siblings -
Spouse Eleanor Register
Date of marriage 8 November 1783
Place of marriage Yorkshire, England
Children William Frazier
John Frazier
Daniel Frazier
Occupation -

Simpson-Register-Morgan-Abbott-Seitz-Springfield-Edney tree


Richard Simpson (-)

Dorothy Simpson (1733) married Robert Register (-)

Eleanor Register (1764) — William Morgan (1764)

Other information

William and Eleanor married in 1783 in St Andrews Church in Aldorough, Yorkshire, England. In 1784, they had their first child, William.

William and Eleanor were partners in crime. Eleanor and William stole six pieces of fustian, one piece of yellow canvas, and half a gross of white filleting—the property of James Leigh, Robert Leigh, Thomas Leigh, and Thomas Darwell—also goods the property of Marmaduke Clarke.

Eleanor was tried at Quarter Sessions, Manchester, in January 1787. Both Eleanor and William were sentenced to 7 years transportation to New South Wales. On 2 February 1787, Eleanor and William were placed in Lancaster Prison.

It was the custom to transport husband and wife together if there was proof of marriage; however, William had been placed on the Charlotte before the necessary proof was found. On 9 April 1787, Eleanor was placed on the Prince of Wales, and recorded as a singlewoman.

The Charlotte was transporting convicts to New South Wales as part of the First Fleet. The First Fleet set sail from Plymouth on 13 May 1787 for an eight-month journey. On 3 June 1787, the fleet anchored off Santa Crus roads of Teneriffe.

On 13 August 1787, an unnamed woman was transferred between Charlotte and Prince of Wales while anchored at Rio de Janeiro. It is believed by some that the woman was Eleanor, as the 1828 NSW census records that she arrived in Sydney Cove on the Charlotte.

Over a couple of days in the third week of January 1788, the fleet arrived at Sydney. Initially, some went ashore and set up temporary accommodation in tents and caves. Livestock were disembarked on land where the Sydney Opera House stands today.

It is not known what happened to their first son, William. Soon after arriving in New South Wales, Eleanor and William had two further children: John born June 1789 and Daniel born July 1791. John Fraser was the second white child born in the Colony.

William was noted for his surly temper and heavy drinking. On 5 January 1789, he recieved 100 lashes for insolence, and on 23 June 1789 was sentenced to work in irons for a month of druken insolence.

Just prior to Daniel’s birth, William died from heavy drinking.

William was noted in the writings of Watkin Tench. In A Complete Account of the Settlement at Port Jackson, he writes:

In so numerous a community, many persons of perverted genius and of mechanical ingenuity could not but be assembled. Let me produce the following example. Frazer was an iron manufacturer, bred at Sheffield, of whose abilities as a workman we had witnessed many proofs. The governor had written to England for a set of locks to be sent out for the security of the public stores, which were to be so constructed as to be incapable of being picked. On their arrival His Excellency sent for Frazer and bade him examine them, telling him at the same time that they could not be picked. Frazer laughed and asked for a crooked nail only, to open them all. A nail was brought, and in an instant he verified his assertion. Astonished as his dexterity, a gentleman determined to put it to farther proof. He was sent for in a hurry, some days after, to the hospital, where a lock of still superior intricacy and expense to the others had been provided. He was told that the key was lost and the the lock must be immediately picked. He examined it attentively, remarked that it was the production of a workman, and demanded ten minutes to make an instrument to speak with it. Without carrying the lock with him, he went directly to his ship, and at the expiration of his term returned, applied his instrument, and open flew the lock. But it was not only in this part of his business that he excelled. He executed every branch of it in superior style. Had not his villainy been still more notorious than his skill, he would have proved an invaluable possession to a new country. He has passed through innumerable scenes in lide, and had played many parts. When too lay to work at his trade he had turned thief in fifty different shapes, was a receiver of stolen good, a soldier and a travelling conjurer. He once confessed to me that he made a set of tools for a gang of coiners, every man of whom was hanged.

Tom Kenneally elaborates on the same event in The Commonwealth of Thieves (2005):

One morning in March 1789, Mr Commissary Miller approached his storehouse and saw that the wards or shank of a key were still sitting in the padlock on the door. he had believed till that moment that all the keys were in his possession, and to a man of his disposition, the lock chocked with an alien mechanism must have seemed a cosmic disorder. He was able to get the broken piece of key out of the lock, and opening the storehouse, he saw that a large cask had been opened and some provisions removed. He sent for the convict locksmith William Frazier. Earlier, Phillip had called Frazier to government house and showed him some locks for use on a public building and asked his opinion. Frazier asked for a crooked nail to be provided and opened them within seconds. Tench had a low but fascinated opinion of this Yorkshireman, Frazier, who had be transported with his wife, Eleanor Redchester.
.. Frazer told David Collins that he identified the wards, the business end of the key which had become stuck in the lock, as belonging to a key that had been brought to him by Private Joseph hunt for alternation.



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