Woodger Family Grave at All Saints Church, Sutton Forest, NSW

                 Photograph M.A. Gourley


Commemoration Plaque for John Woodger unveiled on the family grave at Sutton Forest, NS

Photograph by Colin Gourley

Jean Young stands beside the Woodger Family Grave at All Saints Sutton Forest, NSW. Jean unveiled the plaque commemorating her ancestor John Woodgers arrival in NSW on 24th January 1827

Photograph by Colin Gourley

After 180 years descendants of John Woodger (1805-1854) and his wife Jane Butler (1816-1878) gathered in the church hall at All Saints Sutton Forest to meet for the very first time as a family group.

From the moment the first descendant walked in the door the room was buzzing with talk as cousins asked questions and found their places  in a family tree containing at that point over 600 names and which by the reunions ending on Sunday had increased significantly.

Photographs by Colin Gourley

This was an amazing weekend with many different tales unfolding and many revelations being made, discoveries of unknown siblings of parents leading to two 1st cousins meeting for the first time. Family archives were produced and many precious unknown family photos made their appearance. The intimacy of the church hall made an impact and helped with the atmosphere of the morning and it was obvious that everyone was going to enjoy the rest of the weekend.

Photographs by Colin Gourley

The afternoon saw many  taking advantage and driving around Sutton Forest to view the district. High on everyone's agenda was Oldbury Farm, where John Woodger had worked on his arrival in 1827 as an indentured servant to James Atkinson. Although now in private ownership we were able to get views of the house from several vantage points. This particular part of Southern Highlands is unspoilt and many of the original estates remain intact with their hedges  and old trees reminding us of the roads and lanes of Kent.

The room for the Reunion Dinner on Saturday night at the Moss Vale Services Club  was filled and we were honoured to have the Mayor of Wingecarribee Shire, Councillor Gordon Lewis and Mrs Lewis  and Mr Max Rogers from the Berrima Historical Society as our guest for the evening.  Colin Gourley acted as MC for the evening and welcomed everyone to the dinner. The Roll was called and descendants were asked to stand to show which branch of the family they belonged, The majority present were from Robert Woodger, followed by Jesset with the two representatives of Jane Woodger getting a cheer. Following this the MC  invited the Mayor to speak A singular honour for the evening was bestowed by Councillor Lewis donning his chain of office at the start of his address of welcome  to those present. Mr Rogers followed the Mayor and spoke about the Berrima Historical Society and its collections which do have papers relevant to our family and  issued an invitation to everyone to visit the Society's rooms opening especially for the following afternoon.

Photographs by Colin Gourley

Following on  from this was a talk by Mary Anne Gourley who has for a number of years been researching the family's origins in Kent.

Maureen Faull then talked about Jane Woodger only surviving daughter of John and Jane, and her husband Andrew Smith and their family's life.  Maureen pointed out the Jane has been in use as a first name in the family for five generations and is still in use in the family today.

Ian Wood talked about Robert Woodger the eldest surviving son and his family and how he Ian was been able to track the family's movements through NSW to Queanbeyan. Ian has spent the last three years reading newspapers local to the area of Queanbeyan and Goulburn and from advertisements and articles he found has compiled a book which he was pleased to launch. (For copies please contact me and I will forward on the information.)

James Kemp from Bega  a descendant of Jesset Woodger the youngest surviving son,  gave an account of that families life which was also extremely tough. The family eventually brought land at Genoa in Northern Victoria where they established a dairy farm. It was unfortunate the although Jesset and his wife Catherine Smith, sister of Andrew, husband of Jane Woodger, had several sons, non married and so the family name was lost from this branch.

Finally Neil Woodger gave us a talk about John Woodger and his arrival in  NSW. His job, the harshness of the land, his marriage to Jane Butler and the family they produced. Neil quipped that Jane on her convict papers was stated as being 4'11" tall and it was amusing to him that he is a descendant of a "munchkin" - Neil being well over 6". Neil described the living conditions and the housing provided for the workers on  the Oldbury estate and how diseases could decimate a family so easily with the Woodger family grave giving evidence to this fact with the burials of the majority of the children of the family in the one grave with their father and grandfather..

The evening ended with Mary Anne Gourley thanking the Mayor and Mrs Lewis and Mr Rogers for attending. and hoping that all present had enjoyed the evening.


Sunday morning after some light rain saw the weather that had held the previous day return. We converged on All Saints, Sutton Forest to take part in the church service. This beautiful old sandstone church was full as we joined the congregation to take part in the service conducted by Rev. Cyril Turner. At its completion we made our way to the Woodger Family grave where Mary Anne Gourley made a short speech short noting that although the weekend was primarily for the descendants to gather and meet, some mark should be left for future generations. Mary Anne asked Jean Young the oldest descendant attending  to unveil the  commemoration plaque.

Photo courtesy  Cliff Crane


Jean Young unveils the plaque commemorating her ancestor John Woodgers arrival in NSW in  1827

Photograph courtesy Cliff Crane

After such a busy weekend it was  fitting that the gathering concluded where it had started in the Church Hall with a light lunch provided by the very kind Ladies of the Parish. This was welcomed by all present and it was a good wind down to the weekend. Many took the opportunity following this to head for the Berrima Historical Society which had opened its doors especially for the extended Woodger Clan, while some who had not done so the previous day wandered  around Sutton Forest and took the drive down Oldbury Road to catch glimpses of the farm where in 1827 our ancestor arrived to work and begin a new life.

 Photograph by Colin Gourley


I would like to thank my aunt Helen Woodger and James Parkes Woodger for their support for the Reunion

Also my thanks to my husband Colin  for his work before during and after the Reunion.

Hello to my cousin Trevor and his family.

A video of the weekend has been produced please contact me for detaiils.


A series of group photos were taken by a commercial photographer on Saturday night, and are available please contact me for details. Also Colin is being preparing a CD using the photo's he took as a PowerPoint presentation of the weekend  also a video but this will all depend on number interested. Contact me if you would like to purchase a copy- proceeds to the production of the book on the family's history. 

 Contact  me at maryanne at accordit dot com dot au. if you missed out on photos  and don't forget the Southern  Highlands News had a write up of the gathering  in its edition this week. Contact them direct for copies.


The  story of John Woodger of West Peckham, his family, their origins and their descendants in Australia.  

  (The phrase "Gone but not forgotten" appears on the headstone of my great grandfather Robert Woodger  (1837-1895) who is buried in Queanbeyan Cemetery).


Whilst this webpage is under construction I am including a list of Woodger descendants and their spouses. To see this list please click here

Click here for useful links.