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Bridget Everitt/Everett  (1780-1854)

(Caroline 1839, Henry Wellesley 1837)

By Tony Seymour


The Parish records of Great Ellingham in Norfolk, a small village some 28 kms south-west of Norwich, show that Elizabeth Flint, the daughter of an agricultural labourer, gave birth to an illegitimate daughter, named Lydia, who was baptised on March 19, 1780[1] at St James Church. Three years later, on May 25, 1783[2], Elizabeth also gave birth to an illegitimate son, Daniel Flint who was also baptised at the same church. There are no records to confirm the name of the father(s) for either of the births.

Elizabeth Flint went on to marry Archibald Bale in 1788 and Lydia, now known as Bridget, and Daniel were brought up as Archibald’s children but did not formally take on his name, although Bridget was referred to as “formerly Bridget Bale” on the baptism record of her daughter Hannah Everett who was born in 1817[3].

Nothing certain is known of Bridget’s childhood however the 1802 Electoral Register lists Archibald as a farmer[4]. Archibald must have been a property owner to have had the right to vote, so it can be reasonably assumed that Bridget would have had a comparatively secure life in a rural community. According to the agricultural writer Nathaniel Kent (1737-1810), some two thirds of the entire county of Norfolk was used for arable farming the late 1790s[5].

The first certain record of Bridget can be found in the Parish records of Deopham with Hackford on May 9, 1797 when she was a witness to the marriage of Peter Tann to Martha Flint[6]. Peter and Martha had both been widowed. Martha was born Martha Harrison and had first married John Flint, Bridget’s uncle, in 1774 at Deopham. John died in 1790 aged 37.

In mid 1799, Bridget gave birth to an illegitimate son, Robert Flint[7], who was also known as Robert Flint Poll, and it is almost certain that his father’s name was Robert Poll. Robert Flint Poll, noted his father as “Robert Poll”, a gardener, when he married his second wife Caroline Playford in 1855[8].

Bridget, at age 22, married 20 year old Samuel Everett at St Andrew’s Church in Deopham, on November 26, 1802[9]. It is not known exactly what Samuel’s occupation was at the time, however he was most likely to have been some form of agricultural labourer.

Over the next twenty years, Bridget had six children with Samuel - William Everett (1803-1828), George Everett (1808-?), Archibald Everett (1815-1866), Hannah Everett (1817-1900), Samuel Everett (1820-?) and Mary Everett (1822-1838). All of Samuel and Bridget’s children were baptised in Deopham and all show Samuel Everett and Bridget Flint as their parents (although, as mentioned above, Hannah’s mother is noted as Bridget Bale) – except for Samuel junior (baptised on 16th July 1820). Curiously Samuel’s parents are noted as Samuel and “Lydia Everett (formerly Flint)”[10]. It is possible that at times Bridget may have gone by her adopted father’s family name Bale and may have occasionally also used her birth name Lydia.

Life was very tough for our 19th century working class ancestors, especially for the women. In the absence of any kind of social welfare (any form of social welfare was still nearly a hundred years in the future), it was essential for the family to work constantly to survive. In the event of being unable to provide even the basic essentials of life, many families had to resort to petty crime. The early 19th century was also a time when England had established itself as a dominant global naval power. This brought great wealth to a few but this wealth did not filter down to the masses which had to eek out a living as best they could. This time also marked the middle of the Industrial Revolution which saw many traditional jobs disappear and replaced with poorly paid, insecure and often dangerous occupations.

The first indication that the Everetts were involved in shady dealings appears in the Norfolk Chronicle newspaper dated the January 3, 1824 when Samuel Everett was charged with stealing wood from the Rev James Staughton and Thos. Church, Trustees of John Browne, Esq. deceased”[11]. At this point, four of Samuel and Bridget’s children were aged between 2 and 9 years, so stealing wood, most likely for heating and cooking as it was winter, is surely indicative of their situation.  Again in the Norfolk Chronicle dated the April 7, 1827, under the heading “Norfolk Assize News”, it was reported that Samuel, his son William, step son Robert Poll, Robert Wilson and William Barker were charged with breaking into a general store owned by Samuel Gooch and stealing various goods[12]. All were found guilty except for Robert Poll, and all were sentenced to death which, although shocking to our modern values, was quite usual at the time. It was also usual that capital sentences of this type were almost always commuted to transportation to the Colonies (except for murder) for usually seven or in more serious cases fourteen years. However Samuel must have been considered a particular pain as he was sentenced to transportation for life. (William Everett’s sentence was commuted to two years in Swaffam Gaol due to ill health – he died there 1828[13], aged 25, leaving a wife and three young children).

So in mid 1827 Bridget was left without a husband and still responsible for feeding, clothing and housing 3 of her children still at home who were aged between 5 and 10 years.

The next time we encounter Bridget is in an news article in the Norfolk Chronicle dated October 20, 1832 when she was “charged with having obtained under false pretences five sovereigns, from the Churchwardens of Deopham….”. She was found not guilty[14].

Desperation may have prompted Bridget to try a somewhat unorthodox way out of her predicament. In August 1832, Bridget tried to marry Nathaniel Rolfe (1806-1878) at Wymondham, Norfolk[15] however the banns were not followed through and in fact have been crossed out of the Parish records. Not to be deterred, they tried to marry again at Deopham with Hackford[16] (this time Nathaniel is noted as “Roof”) sometime between April and September 1834, again unsuccessfully. The banns record shows Bridget described as a widow on both occasions, which she may well have thought was reasonable because, as far as she was concerned, Samuel may as well have been dead and she would probably never see him again. The Church probably begged to differ.

According to the Norfolk Saxon News, dated the March 18, 1837[17], on January 25 of that year William Howes aged 21 and his brother John, 29, Nathaniel Rolfe, 37 (Bridget’s intended, actually he was 31) and Archibald Everett, 21 (Bridget’s son), broke into the granary owned by farmer Garrett Oddin Taylor and stole eight bushels (about 218 kilos) of wheat. It was a well-planned heist whereby at the dead of night they lodged a cart underneath the granary, bored a hole in the floor and filled up numerous bags with the wheat. They then stopped up the hole with a cork and made off with their booty. The fact that it was wheat that was stolen is again indicative of the plight of the average Norfolk family.

A search of the Everett house not only revealed part of the haul, but changed the course of Bridget’s life. In addition to the perpetrators being indicted, Bridget and her 19 year old daughter Hannah were charged with receiving part of the wheat knowing it to be stolen. All paries were found guilty by a jury and received the following sentences[18]:

William Howes – already sentenced to 14 years transportation

John Howes – 7 years transportation (after having been in custody on five previous occasions)

Nathaniel Rolfe – 1 year imprisonment

Archibald Everett – 12 month imprisonment

Bridget Everett – 14 years transportation

Hannah Everett – 3 months imprisonment

These sentences are not particularly unusual for the times, however Bridget’s sentence of 14 years transportation does seem excessively harsh.

Who knows what could have gone through the minds of the thousands of ordinary men and women who were convicted on what were mainly petty offences and sentenced to what was effectively life-long banishment to the other side of the world. Even the concept of “the other side of the world” would have had very little meaning for most of them. The realisation that they would in all probability never see their home or loved ones again must have been very hard.

Bridget would have been held in the county gaol at Norwich Castle pending her being placed on a convict ship bound for Australia. Bridget was in prison from March until June or July 1837 when she was taken to Woolwich on the Thames in London and placed on board the Henry Wellesley.

The Convict Indents for the Henry Wellesley, described Bridget as being 55 years old, able to read but not write, a Methodist, married, and her occupation was noted as a country servant. Her complexion is described as dark, ruddy and freckled, her hair was brown mixed with grey, her eyes were grey and she stood 4’ 10½’’ (148 cms) tall. She also had a lump on the back of her left hand. It was noted that her husband Samuel had been transported to Hobart Town for life ten years previously[19].

The female convicts were disembarked in Sydney on the January 3, 1838 after a voyage of 155 days. Bridget’s voyage appears to have been relatively uneventful as she is not mentioned at all in Ship Surgeon William Leyson’s journal. Considering that Bridget would have been one of the oldest prisoners on board, this is perhaps testimony to her stamina.

Soon after disembarking, Bridget was assigned to a James Mitchell of Sydney[20].  This was most probably James Mitchell (1792-1869) the physician and industrialist who saw active service during the Napoleonic Wars in Spain and in America at the Battle of New Orleans as well as in the Netherlands. He was also stationed at the British Military Hospital in Brussels during the Battle of Waterloo. He was appointed assistant surgeon to the 48th Regiment in Sydney and arrived on board the John Barry in November 1821[21]. Furthermore, one of his children, David Scott Mitchell (1836-1907), went on to become a renowned collector of Australiana, particularly books. David Mitchell was very famous and wealthy in his day and in 1898 advised the trustees of the NSW public library of his intention to bequeath his vast collection to the State of New South Wales. A specific library was built to house the collection. Mitchell died in 1907 at which time the collection was received together with the enormous sum of £70,000 which was used to add to the collection over the years[22]. Today the Mitchell Library is recognised as an invaluable resource to both scholars and the general public.

At the time that Bridget was assigned to him in 1838, James Mitchell was operating a private practice in Cumberland Place (present day The Rocks) which he ran in conjunction with his duties at the Sydney Hospital to which he was posted in 1823. He had resigned from the Army in 1833.

Bridget worked as a domestic servant for Mitchell until October 1839 (she may well have cared for young David as part of her duties) when she was assigned to her husband Samuel[23] who had been in living near Launceston, Tasmania (Van Diemen’s Land) since his transportation in 1827. Samuel worked as a farmer’s labourer for a William Jolly[24] and received his Ticket of Leave in 1834[25]. He largely kept himself out of trouble which eventually earned him a Conditional Pardon in April 1840[26] and a Full Pardon in 1843[27].

Bridget left Sydney on board the Caroline on October 12, 1839[28] and arrived in Launceston 10 days later[29]. Bridget and Samuel had not seen each for 12 years. No doubt they had much to catch up as they both neared the time when they would be relatively free. Bridget was granted her Ticket of Leave in August 1843[30] but as fate would have it, Samuel died of “Dropsey” (sic)[31], associated with congestive heart failure, at almost the exact same time, on the 7th of August 1843. This was just four months after receiving his Full Pardon. At least he and Bridget enjoyed a few last years together before he died a free man.

Bridget remained in Van Diemen’s Land and was recommended for an Absolute Pardon in December 1844[32] which would have been confirmed about a year later.

Bridget’s exact movements after the end of 1845 are not known, however at some stage after 1845 she returned to Sydney. Bridget is next mentioned on the public record when she married a John Bourke at St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral in Sydney on the December 27, 1852[33] and they moved to the tiny township of Bong Bong near Moss Vale about 130 kms south west of Sydney. The township itself no longer exists but the local church, Christ Church, Bong Bong, built in 1845, is still active and very much part of the local community around Moss Vale. Bong Bong was initially established as a law and order centre for the newly opened up Southern Highlands. Nothing at all is known about John Bourke however he may have also been a former convict.

Unfortunately fate would again take a hand to cut short her married life. Bridget died on the April 22, 1854 and was buried at Bong Bong on April 26, [34]. Her death was sudden and was investigated by the local Coroner’s Office which, April 24, 1854, concluded that she died of “suffocation by accident”[35]. No other details were provided and there is no mention of Bridget’s passing in any of the contemporary newspapers. She was noted as having been 72 years old, but more likely 74, quite a respectable age for those times.

Bridget’s life was hard, but it can be said with some confidence that, despite being separated from her family and the inevitable heartache that would have caused, she lived a much better and healthier life in the Colonies than if she had stayed in rural Norfolk.

© Tony Seymour 2022


[1] Lydia Flint, Great Ellingham Baptism and Burial Records 1751-1812

[2] Daniel Flint, Great Ellingham Baptism and Burial Records 1751-1812

[3] Hannah Everett, Norfolk, England, C of E Births and Baptisms 1813-1915, Deopham with Hackford

[4] Archibald Bale, UK Poll Book and Electoral Registers 1538-1893

[5] General View of the Agriculture of the County of Norfolk, Nathaniel Kent 1804

[6] Peter Tann and Martha Flint, Norfolk, England C of E Marriage and Burial Registers 1600-1935, Deopham

[7] Robert Poll, Great Ellingham Baptism and Burial Records 1751-1812

[8] Robert Flint Poll and Caroline Playford, Norfolk, England Marriage and Banns 1754-1936, East Dereham

[9] Bridget Flint and Samuel Everett, Norfolk, England. Bishop and Archdeacon Transcripts of Parich Registers 1600-1935, Deepham (sic)

© Tony Seymour 2022

[10] Samuel Everett, Norfolk, England, C of E Births and Baptisms 1813-1915, Deopham with Hackford

[11] The Norfolk Chronicle 3 Jan 1824 p. 2

[12] The Norfolk Chronicle 7 Apr 1827 p. 2

[13] Norfolk, England, C of E Deaths and Burials 1813-1995, Swaffam

© Tony Seymour 2022

[14] The Norfolk Chronicle, 20 Oct 1832 p. 2

[15] Norfolk, England, C of E Marriage Banns 1754-1936, Wymondham

[16] Norfolk, England, C of E Marriage Banns 1754-1936, Deopham with Hackford

[17] Norfolk Saxon News, 18 Mar 1837 p. 4

[18] Ibid.

© Tony Seymour 2022

[19] Henry Wellesley Convict Indents 1837 p. 225

[20] NSW and Tasmania, Australia Convict Musters, 1806-1849 pp. 45-46

[21] Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol. 2, 1967 – Mitchell, James (1792-1869) by Elizabeth Guilford

[22] Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol. 5, 1974 – Mitchell, David Scott (1836-1907) by G.D. Richardson

© Tony Seymour 2022

[23] NSW and Tasmania, Australia Convict Musters, 1806-1849 p. 360

[24] Van Diemans Land Convict Conduct Register 1827 p. 66

[25] Tasmanian (Hobart Town, Tas: 1827-1839) 3 Jan 1834 p. 3

[26] NSW and Tasmania, Australia, Convict Pardons and Tickets of Leave 1834-1859 pp. 327-328

[27] Tasmania, Australia, Register of Free Pardons Issued 1842-1843

[28] The Colonist (Sydney NSW: 1835-1840) 12 Oct 1839 p. 2

[29] Launceston Advertiser (Tas: 1829-1846) 24 Oct 1839 p. 2

[30] NSW and Tasmania, Australia Convict Pardons and Tickets of Leave 1834-1859 pp. 67-68

[31] Deaths in the District of Launceston 1843

[32] Hobart Town Advertiser (Tas: 1839-1861) 28 Dec 1844 p. 4

[33] Bridget Everet (sic) and John Bourke NSW marriage certificate 27 Dec 1852

[34] Christ Church, Bong Bong NSW Burial Register 1854 p. 4

[35] NSW, Australia, Registers of Coroners’ Inquests 1821-1937  © Tony Seymour 2022


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Convict Lives: Young girls transported to Van Diemen's Land.

Edited by Alison Alexander

Launched  May 7, 2023 by Emeritus Professor Kate Warner, Faculty of Law, University of Tasmania

Female Convicts Research Centre and Convict Women's Press are pleased to announce the latest publication in the Convict Lives series.

This book tells the stories of 28 convict girls transported at a young age to Van Diemen’s Land. These vivid stories from Convict Women’s Press continue our series of books that bring convict women to life.

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Lost Voices Presents FORGOTTEN - Hobart Playhouse 14-16th July

This haunting, unforgettable drama by acclaimed playwright and social historian Cate Whittaker relives one of the few female rebellions in World History at the Parramatta Female Convict Factory Penitentiary in 1827 led by Irish Catholic women. Struggling to survive starvation after two women have died these courageous women go on strike, and then overpower their guards to take control of the Factory yard. When the military are called ,they are fired on at point blank range and rise phoenix-like to hurl back their stones and fill the yard to bursting such that the soldiers dare not enter. It is a pyrrhic victory for the new Matron arriving the next day has been told to get the ringleaders names and they are to be hanged at the gates. Facing final defeat they break down the gates and dodging bayonets make it to the town to tell the press of the Governor’s mismanagement and manslaughter. Governor Darling’s contract was not removed yet all records of the event were wiped from colonial records, til now. Now Forgotten gives these brave women, from whom one in seven Australian’s descend, their rightful and respected place in our History.

This production is under the gifted direction of NIDA MFA Madeleine Diggins leading a young cast for new Drama Graduates in a not-for-profit Actors Cooperative. It comes to Hobart, after its second sell-out audience success at the National Theatre of Parramatta and has been endorsed by the Irish Consul General to appear in the Dublin Festival as a fine example of Irish Australian Art.

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The Marita Bardenhagen Memorial Award for Local History is a biennial prize acknowledging outstanding original research in the field of local history with significant Tasmanian content.  Entries are to be in the form of a published work appearing in the three years preceding the year of the award. More information is available here...

Entries open on 14 June 2023 and close 30 September 2023.

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