Through the abhorrent use of an enslaved workforce, plantation owners in the West Indies1 had made huge fortunes from the cultivation of that most sought-after commodity – sugar.2 John Guilding was born on the Caribbean Island of St Vincent circa 1800 and came to New South Wales in 1827 with the intention of establishing his own plantation with a free workforce.3
Later that year, Surveyor Armstrong set out at the behest of the Australian Agricultural Company to explore lands to the north of the Manning River. Guilding was included in this party which discovered an area they named “Jamaica Plains”.4 It was in this location that Guilding obtained a grant of 2560 acres which he named “Mooto” (Moto).5
Guilding appears to have had a reciprocal relationship with Robert Dawson of the AA Co. who provided him with logistical assistance in exchange for Guilding’s advice on tropical crops.6
In 1828, with a workforce of seven assigned convicts, one free-born overseer (also an immigrant from the West Indies) and one boy, Guilding was engaged in cultivating his grant. He experimented with sugar and other crops and grazed cattle on an area known as “Boondabah”.7
His efforts were ultimately unsuccessful and the land was soon on-sold to Richard Jones. Guilding died in 1864 in New Zealand,8 with his eldest son being one of the first European children born in Auckland.9
Author: Penny Teerman
Note: A chapter on John Guilding’s time in the Manning Valley is included in Katherine M Bell’s book “Life in the Lower Manning Valley: The First Thirty Years of Settlement”, which is available to purchase from Manning Valley Historical Society.
Note: The government of one Caribbean Island, Barbados, is currently pursuing reparation for the lives ruined by slavery. See https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-01-04/benedict-cumberbatch-slavery-reparations/101822368
1 Baker, W. (William) & Mitchell, Thomas, Sir, 1792-1855 (1846). Map of County Macquarie: dedicated by permission to Sir T.L. Mitchell, Knt., Surveyor General of New South Wales. Printed and published by W. Baker, [Sydney].
3 The Sugar Barons by Matthew Parker published by Windmill Books 2012.
4 Life in the Lower Manning Valley: The First Thirty Years of Settlement by Katherine M Bell self-published 2016.
5 The Struggle Against Isolation: A History of the Manning Valley by John Ramsland published by Library of Australian History 1987.
6 NSW Government Gazette Tuesday 19 January 1841 (Issue No. 5) P83
7 Life in the Lower Manning Valley: The First Thirty Years of Settlement by Katherine M Bell self-published 2016 and A Million Pounds A Million Acres by Damaris Bairstow self-published 2003.
8 The Struggle Against Isolation: A History of the Manning Valley by John Ramsland published by Library of Australian History 1987
9 Papers Past New Zealand – https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/NZ18640930.2.24
10 Papers Past New Zealand – https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/TAN19150222.2.11?query=John+William+Richard+Guilding&snippet=true