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Battery Brown
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Battery Brown

Sydney in 1835 by Robert Russell - SLVic


Bombadier ‘Battery’ Brown, a veteran of the 1812 war with the United States, was recruited in England for service in the colony, arriving in Sydney in 1823 aboard the Jupiter. Already married three times before his arrival, he married his fourth wife, Cecilia Halls, in 1827 at Scots Church in The Rocks.

Brown served as Ordnance Sergeant at Dawes Point Battery from 1824 to 1838. In September 1824, in a petition to the Governor, he describes himself as "… a Military man at the Head of the Artillery Department and also of the Civil Branch of the Ordnance". His job involved the handling and storage of gunpowder, and from 1823 to 1835 he lived at Dawes Point Battery.

The weekly newspaper Bell’s Life in Sydney recalled how Brown came about his nickname ‘Battery’ after being called up for jury duty on the Queen’s birthday:

It happened on an anniversary of this joyful event that a gentleman with a jolly red face and a most important looking frame, and upon whose cranium the bump of self-esteem was fully developed, was summoned to attend upon the jury. On coming into Court, he rushed wildly up to the Bench … and exclaimed in a most stentorian voice- “Your Honor, I can't sit upon the jury to-day." "Pray Sir," said the Chief oddly, "who are you?" "Me Sir! me; Why Sir, my name's Brown- Sir-yes Sir, Mr. Brown."  "Oh! Mr. Brown- ah- very good-pray may I ask in what name you were christened?"

“Yes, your Honor”, replied the speaker in a most pompous manner, "my name is Abner Wellington Willerton Brown. I belong to the Ordnance Department; and the reason I cannot by any possibility attend as a juryman to-day is because- because- I am commanding officer in charge of Dawes's Battery, and deputed in virtue of my office, to fire a royal salute in honor of her Majesty Victoria's birthday, blessed be her name!" “Very good” replied Sir James, " I cannot sufficiently express my admiration of your excessive loyalty Mr. Abner Wellington Willerton Battery Brown, but this much I will say, that since you are this day about to perform the Can-on Law we will discharge you from administering the Civil Law." Upon this judicial intimation Mr. Abner Wellington Willerton Brown bowed gracefully, and retired. It is almost unnecessary to remark that he bears the cognomen of “Battery Brown" to this hour.

Brown’s activities and personal life made the daily papers regularly, until an embarrassing exposé in The Sydney Gazette in March 1838 revealed an affair between Brown and a neighbour’s servant, which led to his resignation as Ordnance Storekeeper and departure from Sydney:

An old man, commonly known as Battery Brown … It appears he had been playing the gay Lothario to the assigned servant of his neighbour, who … Caught the gentleman in flagranti delicto …

Brown left for London in disgrace and as a subject of public ridicule in April 1838, without his wife Cecilia and without paying his debts. The following year, aged 65, he remarried. His fifth wife, Charlotte Creake, was much younger than him, and they had six children together. Brown remained in England, dying in 1855 of “senility and a diseased bladder” at the age of 81.