Hodnet Man’s Historic Grave

The grade I St Lukes Church.

Recently the web-team were contacted by someone asking permission to use a photograph from our website on a local history site. It was not the first time we have had such a request and the photographer, Geoff Potter, was very happy to grant them permission. The image in question is of St. Luke’s Church (right). What made this request different is the fascinating story which motivated it.

The local history concerned is mainly on the far side of the world – in Australia, thought it starts with the birth of a baby boy right here in Hodnet. Henry Edward Dodd, the son of Ralph and Sarah, was baptised on 1 September 1748 at St. Luke’s Church, Hodnet. But it was not in Shropshire where he became prominent.

Aged around 15 Dodd moved south to Lyndhurst in Hampshire where he found employment as a farm labourer. The owner, Arthur Phillip, was quickly impressed by Dodd’s abilities and thus began a long association between the two. Phillip took Dodd with him when he captained the “First Fleet” of convicts to be sent to Australia. Phillip was appointed the Colony’s first Governor and searched for a good place for the first settlement. In time Dodd was given the task of organising the clearing and cultivating of the ground; his workforce consisted of one hundred convicts.

Phillip expected that he and Dodd would one day return together to Britain, but things took an unexpected turn in January 1791. Dodd was woken during the night by some of his “staff” stealing produce from his own garden. Dodd had been unwell for some months and was no longer young. He chased the intruders for several hours wearing only a shirt. This proved too much for his weakened state and he died that night.

Plaque on Henry Dodd's graveHenry Dodd was buried in what is now Parramatta, today a suburb of Sydney and a major central business district [Google Map]. His grave is the earliest known, undisturbed European one with headstone in situ in Australia. This is why this story has come to light now. There is now a St. John’s Cemetery Project with those involved researching the stories behind the graves in what is Australia’s oldest surviving European cemetery. Of those graves Dodd’s is one of the most significant.

You can read more about this local man who left for Hampshire and ended up as a pioneer settler in Australia on The St. John’s Cemetery Project’s website.

Michaela Ann Cameron of The St. John’s Cemetery Project has given us permission to use two of her photographs on the Hodnet website. The one above is of a plaque added to the grave, whilst below is a picture of the whole grave. The bushel of wheat and large cabbage commemorate Dodd’s achievements at successfully cultivating crops, enabling the colony to become self-sufficient.

Henry Dodd's grave

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