Australia in the 1810s


Indigenous games and sports included handmade balls that were kicked, thrown or hit, a game similar to marbles, and bowling. In the Torres Strait, spinning tops were used, board games were played on the ground with stones and string games were popular. As well as being recreational, games could also improve skills for hunting and other more serious activities.

Sports, including hunting, cricket, rowing, racing and boxing, were generally popular in 19th-century Australian society. Cricket and football gained designated playing grounds. In September 1810, Governor Macquarie named Hyde Park, an area variously known as the 'Race Course', 'The Common', the 'Cricket Ground' and the 'Exercising Ground'. It had been part of the Domain and was now set aside for the use of the people of Sydney for recreation and leisure and also as a place of exercise and drills for the troops and their horses.

The colony's first official hors race meeting took place over three days as part of a sports carnival in October 1810. It was organised by the officers of the 73rd Regiment, Macquarie's own regiment. Macquarie himself attended each of the three days and presented the prize of a silver cup valued at £50. In 1810 there were 1,100 horses in the colony. Gambling was prominent and many dice and card games were common in pubs and meeting places. Social activities included dancing, regattas and fishing.

One of England's most popular sports was bare-knuckled prize fighting, which was brought to the colony by the working class. The fights were sponsored by the gentry and offered significant prizes for the winners. It is thought that the first boxing match in Australia took place on 7 January 1814 between two convicts, Charles Sefton and 22-year-old John Berringer (1792–1826). It was fought under the English prize-fighting contest rules and involved them running a kilometre before the fight took place. After 54 rounds, Berringer was declared the victor.


A snapshot of 1818

  • January
    • Celebrations were held on the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the colony.

  • March
    • Samuel Marsden resigned from the magistracy, and in the Gazette of 28 March 1818 it was announced that his services had been dispensed with.

  • May
    • A regular mail service started operating between Hobart Town and Launceston.

  • June
    • The Benevolent Society of New South Wales was formed under Government Macquarie's patronage.

  • November
    • A lantern was lit for the first time at the Macquarie Tower lighthouse at South Head.
    • John Oxley names Castlereagh, the Liverpool Plains and the Peel River, and crossed the Great Dividing Range to reach Port Macquarie.
    • The legendary Aboriginal tracker Bundle and another Aboriginal man, Broughton, accompanied Charles Throsby on an expedition south.


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