Guide to the Reminiscences of John Watts (as filmed by the AJCP)



National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Created: 2018

Collection Summary

Watts, John
Reminiscences of John Watts (as filmed by AJCP)
Date Range
Collection Number
1 item (1 volume)
Language of Materials
Australian Joint Copying Project
The Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) online portal was created with the assistance of the Australian Public Service Modernisation Fund, 2017-2020. The National Library of Australia gratefully acknowledges the contribution of the other foundation AJCP partners, the State Library of New South Wales and The National Archives of the UK, and all other organisations which supported the work of the AJCP, the world's most extensive collaborative copying project, operating from 1948 to 1997.


Scope and Contents

Recollections of Watts' experiences in Australia from 1840 to 1867. He describes in some detail farming activities and personalities of the Darling Downs. Includes sketches of scenes and photographs of himself, Arthur Hodgson. L.A. Steiger and Robert Ramsay. the later part of the volume includes descriptions of his work as Secretary for Public Works including matters relating to the constuction of the Ipswich-Toowoomba Railway.

Conditions Governing Access

Available for access.

Conditions Governing Use

Many of the records digitised as part of the AJCP are still in copyright. Readers wishing to publish or reproduce documents should seek permission, in the first instance, from the owner of the original material.

Preferred Citation

Acknowledgement of use of this material should refer to the location of the original material and to the Australian Joint Copying Project.

Items from this collection should include references to the location of the original material and to the AJCP nla.obj number, which serves as the online identifier for the digital copy.

Example: M Series: Journal of Capt. James Cook, 18 February-23 September 1770, British Library Add. MS 27885 (AJCP ref:

Archival History

Filmed at the private residence of Mrs A.T. Peppercorn, Buckinghamshire, as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project, 1958 (AJCP Reel: M680585). Original microfilm digitised as part of the NLA AJCP Online Delivery Project, 2017-2020.

Existence and Location of Originals

The private residence of Mrs. A.T. Peppercorn, Buckinghamshire.

Existence and Location of Copies

The original AJCP microfilm of the records filmed from this collection is available at the National Library of Australia [] as well as other institutions holding AJCP microfilm.

Finding Aid Note

This finding aid is a revised online version of the original finding aid prepared by the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP), published by the National Library of Australia in 2018. The original AJCP finding aids were unpublished typescripts or photocopies available from libraries that held copies of the original microfilm.

Dates used in this finding aid refer to the date range of the records selected for filming rather than to the date range of the Series or Files.


Indigenous Australians; Australia; Budgelaing station, Queensland; Darling Downs, Queensland; Eton Vale station, Queensland; Farms and farming: Queensland; Hodgson, Sir Arthur; Ipswich, Queensland; Moreton Bay: Queensland; Paintings, drawings and prints: Queensland; Paintings, drawings, and prints; Photographs; Politicians: Australia; Queensland; Queensland: politics and government; Railways: Queensland; Ramsay, Robert; Sea Voyages; South Australia; ; Steiger, L.A.; Toowoomba, Queensland; Watts, John


Originally cited in Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook. Part 8: Miscellaneous (M) Series. Third Edition, published 1998. Entry 481, p. 187.

Biographical / Historical

John Watts (1821-1902), the son of a doctor, was born in Frampton-upon-Severn, Gloucestershire. He worked as a farmer and blacksmith, before emigrating to South Australia in 1840. He returned to England in 1843. In 1847 he again sailed to Australia and settled in Queensland. He worked as the manager on two sheep stations in the Darling Downs owned by Charles Mallard, 'Budgelaing' and 'Felton Downs'. By 1856 he was working for Arthur Hodgson at 'Eton Vale' and subsequently entered into a partnership with Hodgson.

Watts had a relatively brief career in Queensland politics. In May 1860 he was elected to the first Parliament as the member for Drayton and Toowoomba. He resigned in July 1862. His wife died in 1863 while he was visiting England. On his return, he was appointed a member of the Legislative Council in April 1864, but resigned on 31 October on his election to the Legislative Assembly as the member for the Western Downs. On 21 July 1866 Watts was appointed minister for Lands and Public Works in the caretaker Herbert Government. When Arthur Macalister returned to power on 7 August 1866, he made Watts was Minister for Public Works. Watts resigned on 3 in May 1867.

Watts sold his share of 'Eton Vale' and returned to England in 1868. He re-married and he and his wife lived at Norton Court, Gloucestershire. He died at Wimborne, Dorset, in 1902.

Item Descriptions

Reminiscences of John Watts, 1901 (File)

Written in 1901 when he was aged 80 and living in retirement in England, mainly dealing with his life in Queensland in 1847-1868.

The reminiscences refer briefly to his childhood in Gloucestershire, before describing his voyage to South Australia in 1840, his work on a farm at Mount Barker, later employment with the contractor of the government wood supply in Adelaide, and the return voyage via Cape Horn in 1843. The main part of the manuscript begins with Watts's voyage to Sydney in 1847, his impressions of Brisbane, and his work managing stations on the Darling Downs. Initially working for Charles Mallard on 'Budgelaing', he refers in some detail to sheep farming, moving sheep and cattle between stations, the erection of huts, floods, relations with Aboriginals, the Native Mounted Police and murders of Aboriginals, boundary disputes, recount stories of locals, and his work and partnership with Arthur Hodgson at 'Eton Vale'. The last part begins with the formation of Queensland as a separate colony in 1859, and continues with the election of Watts to the first Parliament, his illness and return to England in 1863, his travels in Europe with Hodgson and Sir Daniel Cooper, the death of his wife, his appointment to the Legislative Council and election to the Legislative Assembly in 1864, problems faced as Minister for Works in relation to the management of the railways, the opening of the first railway to the Darling Downs, his resignation from Parliament and return to England. At the end are some general reflections about his life in Queensland and the development of the colony since 1847.

On page 83 Watts referred to George Dalrymple as being premier when Watts was briefly minister for Lands and Public Works in 1866. In fact, Robert Herbert was the caretaker premier.

Scattered through the text are a number of photographs, the subjects including bush scenes, farms, 'Eton Vale', Brisbane, Drayton, Toowoomba, Watts and his first wife, Sir Arthur and Lady Hodgson, Sir George and Lady Bowen, and the garden at 'Norton Court'. The reproductions are extremely poor.