George Hunn Nobbs

George Hunn Nobbs (16 October 1799 – 5 November 1884) was an English (he claimed Irish) missionary on Pitcairn Island and later Norfolk Island, where his many descendants still live today.

He claimed he was born in Moira, County Down, the illegitimate son of Francis Rawdon-Hastings 1st Marquis of Hastings (17541826) and Jemima Ffrench, and that the marquis did not acknowledge him, and also that he was fostered by the elderly Nobbs family who lived near Yarmouth. However, evidence from parish registers discovered in July 2000 by Macquarie University researcher Alexandra Starling[1] suggest it was more likely that George was the illegitimate son of Jemima Hunn [registered as Jaminia in parish records] who later married John Nobbs, schoolmaster of St Nicholas Yarmouth Norfolk England. Jemima Hunn and John Nobbs had two daughters after their marriage on 13 June 1800 in Greater Yarmouth Norfolk, [namely Charlotte baptised 1801 and Jemima baptised 1802].

According to this evidence, 'George Nobbs Hunn' was baptised in the parish church of Runham, Norfolk on 27 October 1799. Nobbs may have invented such a story of his youth to impress the Islanders, alternatively he may not have been told the truth regarding his birth, and the details embellished by relatives at a later date. He spent an adventurous youth serving in various merchant ships, visiting both India and Africa. In 1828 he arrived on Pitcairn Island where he became schoolmaster and unordained parson to a community descended from HMS Bounty mutineers and Tahitian islanders. On 18 October 1829 Nobbs married Sarah Christian, the granddaughter of Fletcher Christian, who had led the mutiny. Nobbs left the island for a time during the despotic rule of Joshua Hill; he returned when Hill was expelled in 1837 and became the leader of the community.

He greatly impressed Rear Admiral Sir Fairfax Moresby who visited the island in 1852. Moresby supported an application by Nobbs to be sanctioned in his position. Nobbs sailed with Moresby to Valparaíso in Chile from where Nobbs continued his journey to London, arriving in October 1852. During his two-month visit to London he was ordained as a minister in the Colonies, was accredited by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel with an annual stipend of £50, addressed the first meeting of the Pitcairn Fund Committee and was received by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at Osborne House. He set sail on his return voyage to Pitcairn on 17 December 1852. During his visit to London Nobbs had convinced his supporters that the island could no longer support the Pitcairn community. On his return he found the islanders badly affected by a prolonged drought and an outbreak of influenza. In 1856 the community moved to Norfolk Island, a Crown Colony previously occupied by convict prisoners. Much of the island had been cultivated, and there were roads and houses awaiting occupation. However, it became clear that the islanders could no longer continue in the same seclusion they had experienced on Pitcairn. Nobbs expressed their disappointment in a letter her wrote to Sir Fairfax Moresby in 1866: "We own nothing beyond our 50-acre (200,000 m2) allotments, not sheep, nor ground on which the sheep feed; all is Government property and may be best disposed of as seems best to Government." Ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the island was now claimed by the Melanesian Mission. After a period of intransigence, he was eventually reconciled and accepted the work of the mission on the island. When Nobbs died most of the island community, numbering around 470, attended his funeral.


Nobbs and Sarah Christian had 12 children and have many descendants living in the Australasian area.

  1. Reuben Elias Nobbs (19 September 1830 - 2 March 1855) unmarried
  2. Esther Maria Nobbs (30 August 1832 - 23 July 1910) married Abraham Blatchly Quintal, grandson of Matthew Quintal, 12 children
  3. Fletcher Christian Nobbs (1 September 1833 - 3 March 1912) married Susan Quintal, granddaughter of Matthew Quintal, 9 children
  4. Francis Mason Nobbs (7 September 1835 - 15 June 1909) married Harriett Augusta Quintal, great granddaughter of Matthew Quintal, 11 children
  5. Jane Agnes Nobbs (6 October 1836 - 21 April 1926) married John Quintal, great grandson of Matthew Quintal, 9 children
  6. Ann Naomi Nobbs (4 July 1838 - 27 September 1931) married Caleb Quintal, grandson of Matthew Quintal, 7 children
  7. James Wingate Johnstone Nobbs (22 September 1839 - 26 March 1909) married Isabella Emily Christian, great-granddaughter of Fletcher Christian, 12 children.
  8. George Edwin Coffin Nobbs (5 May 1843 - 5 September 1864) Died from tetanus contracted as a result of being hit by an arrow in Graciosa Bay, Santa Cruz Island while accompanying Bishop John Patteson on one of his missions in the Solomon Islands aboard the Southern Cross.
  9. Jemima Sarah Nobbs (13 May 1845 - 14 January 1920) married Gilbert Edwin Christian, great grandson of Fletcher Christian, 1 child
  10. Alfred Augustine Nobbs (27 November 1846 - 28 September 1906) married Mary Emily Christian, twice great great granddaughter of Fletcher Christian and great granddaughter of Matthew Quintal, 8 children
  11. Sydney Nobbs Rawdon (born Sydney Herbert Nobbs) (born 27 May 1848 died in England) married Adelina Sophia Christian, great granddaughter of both Fletcher Christian and Matthew Quintal, 2 sons (died in infancy), married Albina Dora Boyd (a Canadian), at least 4 children
  12. Alice Henrietta Florence Nobbs (born 12 March 1857) married Joseph Whiteley Hebblethwaite, 2 children


  1. Alexandra Starling: Masters Thesis: A History of Conflict; Australia's Relationship with the Pitcairn People on Norfolk Island 1856-1980 July 2000; Macquarie University Sydney
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