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Walter Preston

1777 – 1819

Walter Preston, engraver and convict, came to New South Wales aboard the Guildford in 1812. Convicted of highway robbery at the Old Bailey in 1811, he was sentenced to death, but this was commuted to transportation for life. On arriving in Sydney, he was assigned to the service of Absalom West, an ex-convict brewer and printer for whom Preston and another convict printmaker, Philip Slaeger, engraved the plates for Views of New South Wales, published by West in 1813 and 1814. Preston re-offended again and in early 1814 was sent to the penal settlement at Newcastle. In company with a convict named Francis Purcell, Preston absconded from Newcastle later that year, but was recaptured and returned to the settlement. Following James Wallis’s appointment to the command at Newcastle in June 1816, he commissioned Preston to produce a series of twelve engravings later published in Wallis’s An Historical Account of the Colony of New South Wales. Preston’s engravings were stated to have been taken from Wallis’s drawings and engraved on plates made from ‘common sheet copper employed in coppering the bottoms of ships’. Art historians, however, have speculated whether images such as Preston’s Corrobborree were based on originals by Lycett. Preston received a conditional pardon in January 1819. Later that year, Preston appeared in court on a charge of ‘stealing various articles of Stationery, the property of the Crown’, but was acquitted. Preston disappears from the records after this time; and details of his subsequent activity remain unknown.

Updated 2018