Thomas Arndell was baptised at Kington Parish Church, Herefordshire, on 4 March 1753. He was the eleventh and youngest child of Anthony Arndell, tallow chandler and maltster, and his wife, Elizabeth (née Harris). The Arndell family was educated, extensive and long-standing in the Kington area. Thomas later moved to London.  

He was apprenticed to a trade and on 28 March 1775 was admitted into the Freedom of the City of London by Redemption in the Company of Wheelwrights, his profession on the relevant certificate being quoted as "Apothecary". Unfortunately, the actual marriage entry has not yet been located but his wife, Susanna, bore seven children to Thomas between 1772 and 1785, of whom only John (baptised 5 April, 1772) and possibly Anne (baptised 28 June, 1779) survived childhood. John was admitted to St Paul's School, Middlesex, on 13 April, 1779, and later came to the Colony when he was sent by direction of Governor Hunter to assist the surgeon on Norfolk Island in April 1796. Three months later John returned to Sydney Cove but there is no further record of him.  

Four months after the birth of Thomas and Susanna's sixth child, Martha, on 4 August 1781, a daughter, Esther, was born to Thomas and Isabella Francesca Foscari on 14 December 1781. On 10 May 1810, Esther married William Hilton Hovell; they emigrated to the Colony of New South Wales with their two children in 1813, where Hovell became a prominent early explorer in the Colony.  On 6 September 1781, Thomas qualified by oral examination before the Court of Examiners of the Royal College of Surgeons of England as "Mate to an Indiaman (i.e. fit to be an Assistant Surgeon in a ship of the East India Company)". On 24 September 1781, he boarded an East India Company ship, Major, which sailed from Portsmouth on 6 February 1782 to Madras. He returned to England on Rochford on 22 August 1783, as a surgeon, having "served twelve months in a hot climate." On 21 January 1785, the seventh child of Thomas and Susanna was born, but was buried on 26 March 1786.  

Thomas Arndell's Patent of Appointment by the Command of His Majesty King George III to be "Assistant Surgeon to the Settlement within our Territory called New South Wales" was dated 25 October 1786, and he sailed with the First Fleet on 

He was given charge of the hospital at Rose Hill (Parramatta) in 1788 and formed an early liaison with a convict girl who arrived on 
Lady Penrhyn, Elizabeth Burley (Burleigh) (alias Dalton), as their son, William, was baptised at Rose Hill on 5 September 1790. William died on 4 March 1792 and is buried in St John's Church Cemetery, Parramatta. Elizabeth bore five more children to Thomas before they married in 1807, according to an affidavit by the Reverend Samuel Marsden, and their legitimate child was born in 1808.

Thomas Arndell became a prominent person in the Colony and performed some deeds of significance during his life in New South Wales.  On 26 June 1789 he accompanied Watkin Tench on an expedition when they discovered the Nepean River.  

He was the first officer to receive a land grant in the Colony; on 16 July 1792, he was granted 60 acres at Parramatta. He later received grants in the Pennant Hills, Dundas, Mulgrave Place (Cattai) and Windsor areas. Upon his retirement from Parramatta Hospital he settled at Cattai as a farmer, and greatly improved the quality of wool by introducing a Spanish breed of sheep. 
In July 1792 a house was erected on his land at Parramatta but on 5 December 1792, his home, outbuildings and crops were destroyed by fire. In 1796 Dr William Balmain recommended him for the position of apothecary with a small salary in addition to his pension. In 1798 the Reverend Samuel Marsden and Thomas Arndell were appointed by Governor Hunter to inquire into the grievances of early settlers and report on the morals of the community. In 1799 he was appointed a Justice of the Peace for Parramatta and in 1801 for the Territory. He was appointed the first magistrate of the Hawkesbury and from 1804 to 1809 was acting surgeon in the area. On 4 March 1804 he gave the first warning by letter to Parramatta of the Irish Rebellion at Vinegar Hill.  

In 1806 his pension was discontinued without reason and he claimed he was unable to adequately support his family. Governor Macquarie was impressed with his loyalty and honesty and successfully convinced the British Government to restore the pension in 1812.  

On 23 March 1806, when floods rose to within 18 inches of his home at Cattai, he organised flood relief for local residents and reported the farmers' losses. Prior to 1807 he built the first windmill in the Hawkesbury district for grinding flour and it was advertised in the Sydney Gazette for rent with 100 acres of land.  
On 1 December 810, he presented a congratulatory address to Governor Lachlan Macquarie on behalf of the Hawkesbury settlers when the Governor visited the area. 
The first regular church services in the Portland area were held in his home and he paid five pounds per annum towards the cost and maintenance of the Ebenezer school and Presbyterian Church, the oldest church in Australia in which regular services are still held. He always championed the settlers' grievances and opposed the rum trade. As magistrate of the Hawkesbury district, he dealt with aborigines who stole from settlers in the area and endeavoured to establish good relations with neighbouring tribes who were constantly harassing the settlers.

After a painful illness of five weeks, he died on 2 May 1821. His funeral was conducted by the Reverend Samuel Marsden on 6 May at St Matthew's Church, Windsor. 

It is interesting to note that the spouses of his five daughters were of sufficient importance to be written into the Australian Dictionary of Biography, as was Thomas Arndell himself.  
His fulfilling of various civic duties, conscientious upbringing of his family and dedication to medicine and farming are evidence of his character and contribution to the founding of the Colony.



Copyright Fellowship of First Fleeters