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Part 2. Moruya: Town of Pioneers, Picks, Shovels & Convicts


Part 2. Moruya: Town Of Pioneers, Picks, Shovels & Convicts.

Convict George Preddey & His Locksmith Grandsons:

The year of 1827, in which convict George Preddey arrived in Australia, was a time of great events and happenings centred on development in the Colony of NSW and the area around Moruya. These were synonymous to one another in many respects. On the one hand, the Colony needed an assured source for supply of food and building materials- on the other, a defined and dependent market for farmers, settlers, saw millers and the like in which to sell their products. Over many years - each has proved to be highly complementary to the other.

The declaration of the County of St. Vincent (1828-29) removed restrictions to free settlement as far as the banks of Moruya River, and with that came the ‘free-for-all’ of land grabbing and the growing and harvesting of anything saleable in Sydney.

Critical to this, was having the certainty of workers- and one not costly to the government and aspiring entrepeneurs in outer reaches of the Colony. The initial use of convict transportation was somewhat of a failure due to the hap-hazard collection of a less than skilled type of - “a supposedly criminal element”, ‘gathered’ from the streets of London. The British Govt. then ‘upped- the- anti’ for petty crime to enable the ‘selection’ of those with skills that could be of more use to their masters- i.e., a farmer or builder unable to pay his taxes.

The listing of Convict Kids to New Zealand shows boys & girls from the age of twelve years to be registered as full-time ‘trades persons’ – boys listed as bricklayers, carpenters, tailors etc. and girls to be cooks, seamstresses, hairdressers and so on. At first glance there seems little reason for them to be leaving their homeland, but we will never know how many of these- (whom we’ve long thought to be the ‘unfortunates’)–were in fact our very first entrepeneurs!

“Persons of trade may they have been”, but what is not to say -that some with an unforgiving master, others- already accomplished artisans without reward or prospects for advancement, and still others -without family or friend, who decided to casually ‘lift’ an item or two that would get them a seven year ‘stay’ in the Colony and a chance for a better life and future at the end.

Besides – rumours were – “There was less use being made of London’s 17 sets of gallows”- and those who’d worked and been granted their pardon in Australia were already in business- and ‘branching out’. Maybe it was worth taking a chance……?


Was this the way of thinking and ‘style’ of George Preddey, and the enticement that got him to Australia? The charge of “break & enter to steal a knife & fork“ seems laughable –‘even belittling’ for a man, who on release from his fetters, became prominent in business – even considered as a member of Parliament!

The decade or so in which Preddey served his time and established his ‘whereabouts’ in Sydney saw plenty of criminal activity –‘and were it to have been otherwise in his past’ - there was plenty of example & enticement for him to return to old habits on the shedding of his shackles!

This, from the book, “Breaking the Bank: (author Carol King)

It was the largest bank robbery in Australian history. On Sunday 14 September 1828, thieves tunnelled through a sewage drain into the vault of Sydney's Bank of Australia and stole 14 000 in notes and cash - the equivalent of $20 million in today's currency. (2008) This audacious group of convicts not only defied the weekly exhortation 'thou shalt not steal’! They targeted the bank owned by the colony's self-anointed nobility. Delighted at this affront to their betters, Sydney's largely criminal and ex-criminal population did all they could to undermine the authorities' attempts to catch the robbers and retrieve the spoils.

The suburb of Bexley may well have played a part in all this: The heavily forested area could well have been dubbed ‘The Sherwood Forest’ of the times, and later -the then former convict, Preddey – its “Robin Hood.”

James Chandler named the suburb after his birthplace, Bexley, in the south-east of London, England. Chandler bought Sylvester’s Farm in 1822, from Thomas Sylvester who had been granted the land about ten years earlier. That year he was also granted 1,200 acres (490 ha) of land which stretched from what is now Bexley North to most of Rockdale and Kogarah. The estate was heavily timbered and a track through the centre used by timber getters, is today called Forest Road. Queen Victoria Street, Gladstone Street and Beaconsfield Street commemorate the British Queen and two of her prime ministers. Chandler was a well-respected citizen and became known locally as the Squire of Bexley, but his property attracted bushrangers, escaped convicts and other odd types. Chandler was not happy with his ill-assortment of neighbours and sold the land to Charles Thompson and ‘others’ in 1836.


The Timber Getters:

The forested area of Bexley was of massive proportions, providing a myriad varieties of timber for a myriad uses – spotted gum, blue gum, red gum, white gum, iron bark, whitewood, bloodwood, turpentine, stringybark, blackbutt and so on, for building furniture, houses, ships, coaches, and so on. In fact, the trees – hundreds of years old, were so large and numerous that it was easier to build around them than remove them – thus the many twists and turns of Forest Road. It is no wonder that numerous bands of timber getters pounced on the opportunity to work in Bexley when Illawarra Road was built. These were hardworking teams who toiled (without machinery) throughout all the daylight hours with their axes and bullocks. The timber getters were followed by charcoal burners, who converted waste timber into charcoal for the blacksmithing needs of the colony. Both jobs were done by hard-living men residing in primitive huts with few facilities for comfort, though they enjoyed regular visits to the various inns around this southern district.


The George Preddey Story:

George Preddey was born in Bath, England in 1807. He was sentenced to seven years transportation (like so many other convicts) for housebreaking and arrived in Sydney aboard “Prince Regent” on 27 September 1827. In England he was a “tallow chandler”, or candle maker, but upon arrival in Sydney he was made to work for Daniel Smallwood, a farmer in Pitt Town (near Richmond) under the indentured servitude system. After his sentence, in 1836, he married free settler Margaret Carey and then worked as a mineral surveyor, dairyman, dray proprietor (cart driver) and sail maker until finally becoming a timber merchant, buying the Summer Hill sawmill and acquiring the business of John Booth and Company, wholesale fuel, timber and produce merchants, in Kent Street,

Frederick Michael Stokes, on 20 October 1859, sold two of his blocks of land to George Preddey for a little over £450. They were along the western side of the Illawarra Road, at the opposite ends of the estate; one was 68 acres and the other was 38 acres. Several days later, on 1 November, Preddey sold 67 acres on the eastern side of the road to a Joseph Davis.

For Preddey, buying the heavily forested land at Bexley was logically the next thing to do when he became a timber merchant. He took up premises in Erskine Street Darling Harbour to set up his timber mill and dealership in 1876. He made two of his sons partners at his business and soon his company became very successful and he very wealthy. (Details on his two son’s involvement in attached map)


“Millions of super feet, (12ins X12 ins.) and super face feet (12ins. x12ins. X 1in.) of milled timber & logs were processed thru these mills, storage facilities, and over Preddey’s wharf in Darling Harbour. The bulk of this (for the most part) came from mills in the Eurobodalla forest and along the NSW South coast”.

After his death in 1879, the business was carried on by his sons, George and William and closed in 1900. William was the father of Arthur Halley Preddey of Moruya, and it was the two that built the Narooma Steam Sawmill.

George Preddey Snr. also had strong involvement with his community, becoming the churchwarden of St. George’s Anglican Church in Hurstville, Chairman of the Gannon’s Forest Road Trust which maintained the Illawarra Road, and a member of the Board at the first government school in Hurstville. (or Gannon’s Forest as it was known back then)


In 1860, Preddey built a house on the 38 acres he’d purchased from Frederick Stokes. It was a spacious two-storey home which he named “Besborough”. The property was self-sufficient and had its own cattle and poultry, large vegetable gardens and an orchard. He lived there in great comfort until just prior to his death in 1879- having moved to Glebe two years earlier. His son inherited Besborough and lived there until his death.

In 1911- his son’s widow subdivided most of the estate and Bexley Council used 10 acres of it to make Bexley Park.

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Next: The brilliance of Preddey’s Genre- ‘instilled’ with all his abilities and achievements in life – continues to grow and ‘flourish’ thru-out the lives of his grandchildren.

The start of-Preddey’s Locksmiths PTY. LTD. Master Locksmiths, – a business that now reaches every corner of the globe and has brought with it international acclaim! NOTE: This is a brief only and formatted for the period 2012-13 (N.M.)

Jack Preddey, great grandson of George and son of Arthur Halley Preddey, was a brilliant motor mechanic, auto electrician and first commenced business in a garage in Cobargo, NSW and then moved to Engadine in the Sutherland Shire. He was also a keen inventor, an ability that nature ‘ensured’ - flowed on to his three sons John, Peter & Brian.

John first started school at St. Marys in Moruya. The three brothers were then Sutherland residents from schooldays, (with John attending De La Salle, Cronulla) Peter &Brian, (St. Patricks) Over some 40 years, They have built a Master Locksmithing business equal to any in the country.

Not unlike the start of all businesses of the times – it was never easy. It was a case of endurance of dirt roads, difficulty of transport, pan toilets and leaving school aged 14 to work and help relieve the burden of support on parents.

But work started before school’s end for the eldest, John, with him helping his father deliver tank water into the late hours of night from Engadine to Helensburgh.

Peter learnt his trade as a locksmith, earning today’s equivalent of $6 (1993) a week, and at age20, started his own business in the Eastern suburbs. He worked a14 -16 hour a day for eight years till deciding it was time for the Sutherland Shire to have its own qualified locksmith.

He initially operated a small lock-smith/ key cutting bar in Endeavour Arcade, at the opening of Miranda Fair. He then joined with brother, Brian, who was working for the Chubb safe Co. and older brother John, (who had followed his father into the automotive & electrical trade) to setup an independent business of the Locksmith trade.

They purchased premises opposite Miranda Fair in Central Avenue and operated there for many years, before moving to their present premises in the Kingsway, so they could develop their original site.

The three brothers set up three divisions of Preddey’s Master Locksmiths, with John taking over the management of Preddeys, as well as designing and marketing automotive locking devices.

Peter and Brian started a company called ADI Security Products which manufactured all their own designed locking devices for Australian and overseas use.

Said John, “The times were rapidly changing, and with more and more clubs & other businesses being started, came more ‘breaking & entering’. The culprits were becoming more sophisticated and our workload was increasing -sometimes unnecessarily. Although we did have a radio controlled service, it could be most inconvenient to be called out night-times. We all agreed it was time for a new unbreakable locking device …..!

…..Since the expertise and engineering requirements needed to produce any high security locking device was already considered to be at its ‘peak’ -the idea of a completely new concept was somewhat ‘revolutionary’.

The work would require a person with inventive and engineering skills, a great deal of patience and above all – “the ability to ‘cast aside’ the disappointments of the many ‘failures’ that were sure to come along the way”.

Brian elected to tackle the task – but required time away from the business to concentrate. The nominated time proved too short and eventually grew to two years, but at the end he produced the now world renowned Bi- Lock!”

Brian started The Australian Lock Company with his invention “the Bi Lock”, This Company became Australia’s leading manufacturer of high security locks.

The full story of its ‘promotion’ and success will be told by John Preddey in Part 3 of this series - but suffice to say here- there was a dramatic increase in revenue for businesses that elected to have the new locking system installed.

I recall a conversation with a very proud John Preddey in 2012. Said John, “In the next ten years or so – our business was well set up and attracting the interest of a number of high profile government establishments. Whenever an official vehicle parked out front and couple of black suited & tied gents stepped out- we knew that our staff could not only take care of their current needs – but offer solutions to any up and coming problems they may have.

Preddeys hold many government contracts including ANSTO at Lucas Heights, and many poker machines are locked with the Preddey’s Australian Lock Company “Bi-Lock”.

With all this, and the added invention of the Galaxy Lock, (the design of which has completely turned old locking systems ‘on their head’) - the Preddey systems of locking allows them to manufacture devices for every conceivable need from prison & bank doors, household & safety screens, strong boxes, and all the needs of the automotive industry, including electronic key control & card systems. (As at 2012-13 N.M.)

Next: The unique story of how the BiLock was promoted in England, with a glass box containing one thousand pounds - and an update on where the Preddey family is at today. (Norm Moore)

#normmoore #MoruyaHistory #History

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