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Margaret Combs

Sir Robert Seppings 1852

By Rae Blair

Scottish-born Margaret Combs, a married woman, was twenty-six when she arrived in Van Diemen’s Land in the middle of a Hobart winter on 8 July 1852. In the six years leading to her transportation, she was arrested at least three times[1], and was incarcerated in Calton Jail, Edinburgh. She stated her marital status as either married or single, depending on her circumstances. That she lived at times “at no fixed address” might have been as a result of an unstable marriage, and certainly might have contributed to her unlawful activities. She appeared to still be married to John Duff when she arrived in Hobart and that she could not read or write, however, that made little difference to Margaret. She didn’t let any of her past in Scotland get in the way of securing her future. What makes this story so special, is that Margaret turned her life around—from being condemned in court as being “habite and repute a thief” and the perpetrator of a “wicked attack” on a man, to being a respectable boarding house owner who employed servants and became a mother and grandmother.

A marriage and brush with the law

Margaret Combs was born in the Parish of Edinburgh, county Midlothian, Scotland, to Alexander Combs and Mary Crokat on 15 March 1826[2]. She had a sister, Mary, who was two years younger. At the age of sixteen, Margaret married John Duff on 5 October 1842 in the Parish of St Cuthbert’s in Edinburgh.

Margaret was average in height for a woman, being 5’, and was described as having a fresh complexion, large head, black hair and eyebrows with dark eyes, oval face, and having a medium-sized forehead, nose, mouth and chin.[3]

Little is known about the newly-wed Duffs, until just over five years after their marriage. In April 1848, Margaret was arrested for assault and robbery in “a house of disrepute” and incarcerated in Edinburgh’s Calton Jail. When renowned author, Jules Verne, visited Edinburgh in 1859 he described the jail as resembling a small-scale version of a medieval town[4] (the jail was demolished in 1935). It is most likely that Margaret would have been held in The Bridewell whilst she was waiting for her trial.

Calton Jail was built in 1819 and The Bridewell building was adjacent. The Bridewell was set out in a semi-circle, with a pulpit in the middle so that all of the prisoners could either see or hear the preacher. The sleeping cells were described as “airy and fit for one person.”[5] In Margaret’s two months of incarceration, she might have been employed in cooking and washing duties and certainly by the time she arrived in Van Diemen’s Land described her occupation as a ‘Plain Laundress’. In The Bridewell, there were separate rooms for ‘female felons’ and ‘female convicts’, although the distinction is unclear.

At the time of her arrest, Margaret, at age twenty-two, was living at Scott’s Close, Cowgate, in Edinburgh’s Old Town area, and lived close-by to the Edinburgh Sherrif’s Court (they were in the same street). Her husband John worked as a carrier.

Margaret was arrested with another woman, Jane Sheills (aged twenty-four and married to a confectioner). Their case was tried on 26 June 1848 in the Edinburgh High Court of Justiciary, and the Caledonian Mercury reported on events in its paper published three days later.

Both Margaret and Jane pleaded not guilty to the charge of “assaulting a gentleman in a disreputable house in Leith Street, and robbing him of £242.” The gentleman in question was David Pursell. Solicitors, Mr Moncreiff and Mr Logan, appeared as Margaret and Jane’s counsel. After several witnesses were examined, the paper’s article went on to report that “the case was given up by the Crown on account of wanting corroborative testimony to the principal witness, some of the other witnesses who are said to be acquainted with the prisoners, having given evidence quite to the contrary of what was expected by the public prosecutor.” The verdict handed down was the case was “not proven” and Margaret and Jane were “Assoilzied simliciter and dismissed”—that is, they were found not guilty[6].

A freedom short-lived

Perhaps emboldened by the support she received from acquaintances, which enabled her to avoid prosecution, Margaret ran afoul of the law again the next year, and appeared in court on 19 October 1849. But perhaps the reason for her alleged criminal activity might be more related to the fact that she had “no fixed place of residence”[7] at the time and may have been living on the streets. Unlike with her previous arrest, Margaret’s husband John is not mentioned in any proceedings, and indeed, Margaret attests that she is “not married”[8].

Margaret was accused of the “theft of a bank or bankers note for twenty pounds Sterling”[9]. The Advocate Sheriff of the County of Edinburgh, John Thomson Gordon Esq, who tried her case, stated to the jury that Margaret was “lately a prisoner in the Prison of Edinburgh” and her crime was “aggravated by her being habite and repute a thief”[10], which was relevant to her guilt. The jury by a majority found her guilty, and the Sheriff sentenced her to imprisonment at the Prison of Edinburgh for eighteen calendar months from the date of the trial[11].

The Caledonian Mercury reported on 22 October 1849: “Margaret Combe[sic] or Duff was found guilty of the theft of a bank note for £20, from the pocket of Charles John Flower, on the 10th or 11th of September, aggravated by previous conviction, and with being habite and repute a thief, and sentenced to eighteen months’ imprisonment.”

The last straw

Margaret’s sentence of incarceration at the Prison of Edinburgh ended in April 1851, and she secured accommodation at Bull’s Close, Canongate, in the Edinburgh Old Town area[12]. But, three months later, she was arrested again and taken before one of Edinburgh’s magistrates, Andrew Fyfe, Esq. on 23 July. Margaret gave a deposition answering the police charges and was placed back in prison. She would remain there until November that year, when would find herself back in the High Court of Justiciary answering for what was described as a “heinous” crime.

Margaret, who was aged twenty-five, and her co-accused, Marian Gray (aged twenty-four, and also with a history of imprisonment), were facing the charge of “Robbery; as also Theft, aggravated by being habite and repute a thief and previously convicted.”[13] Their case was tried by James Moncreiff, Esq. as Advocate for Her Majesty’s interest. He considered that as Margaret and Marian had been previously convicted of theft, their “crimes (were) of an heinous nature, and severely punishable.”[14]

Mr Moncreiff laid out the charges: “on the 22nd day of July 1851, (Tuesday), or on one or other of the days of that month, or of June immediately preceding, or of August immediately following, in or near Princes Street, Edinburgh, and in or near the division thereof between the Register Office and South Saint Andrew Street, you the said Margaret Combs and Marion Gray did, both and each, or one or other of you, wickedly and feloniously, attack and assault John Rodgers, a printer, then and now or lately residing in or near Glover Street, Arbroath, in the county of Forfar.” (Author’s note: the date of the alleged crime appears a little broad!).

Mr Moncreiff continued: “…and did seize him round the body, and did struggle with him, and did, by force and violence, take from his person or custody, and did rob him of, A Pocket-Book, Two Bank or Banker’s Notes for Five Pounds sterling each, Twelve, or thereby, Bank or Banker’s Notes for One Pound Sterling each, Several Scraps of Paper, and A Shirt-Collar, his property, or in his lawful possession.” (Author’s note: it is quite a mental picture being drawn of this man, a printer, being physically seized by either Margaret or Marian or both—sometime during the summer months of Scotland—and being robbed of all of his possessions, including his shirt collar. But perhaps Mr Moncreiff felt the jury might not be convinced that the two women accused would be capable of overpowering Mr Rodgers, so he covers his bases. Read on.)

“OR OTHERWISE. Time and Place above libelled, you the said Margaret Combs and Marion Gray did, both and each, or one or other of you, wickedly and feloniously, steal and theftuously away take, from the person or custody of the said John Rodgers, The Pocket-Book, Bank or Banker’s Notes, Scraps of Paper, and Shirt-Collar, above libelled, the property, or in the lawful possession, of the said John Rodgers.”

So, the women are either thugs and thieves, or just wicked thieves—that’s quite a distinction.

Mr Moncreiff goes on to confirm that both women have had previous convictions for theft and neither knows how to write, and that the declarations made by both women in the presence of magistrate Andrew Fyfe, Esq. in July (reproduced below), “along with a shirt-collar; being to be used in evidence against both and each of you at your trial; As also, an extract or certified copy of each conviction for the crime of theft, obtained against you the said Margaret Combs, under the name of Margaret Combs or Duff in the Sheriff-court of the county of 19th October 1849, Being to be used in evidence against you the said Margaret Combs at your trial, will, for that purpose, be in due time lodged in the hands of the Clerk of the high Court of Justiciary, before which you the said Margaret Combs and Marion Gray are to be tried that you may respectively have an opportunity of seeing the same: All which, or part thereof, being found proven by the verdict of an Assize, or admitted by the respective judicial confessions of you the said Margaret Combs and Marion Gray, before the Lord Justice-General Lord Justice-Clerk, and Lords Commissioners of Justiciary, you the said Margaret Combs and Marion Gray ought to be punished with the pains of the law, to deter others from committing the like crimes in all time coming.”

Marion Gray’s declaration[15] made in front of magistrate Andrew Fyfe, Esq. follows:

“Declaration of Marion Gray 23d July 1851,

At Edinburgh, the Twenty-Third day of July, Eighteen Hundred and Fifty-One, In presence of Andrew Fyfe, Esquire one of the Magistrates of Edinburgh and Sheriff-Deputy thereof, Marion Gray presently in custody, being brought for examination, Declares,

I am twenty-four years of age, I am a native of Edinburgh, and reside in Anchor Close. I am not married. And being shown a man who states his name to be John Rodgers, Arbroath, Declares, was in Princes Street yesterday morning early when I was apprehended and taken to the Police Office, but I do not know what for. I had not seen the said John Rodgers in Princes Street before my apprehension. I was with the prisoner Margaret Combs or Duff in Princes Street yesterday morning and had spoken to her two or three minutes before I was apprehended. I was in company with her when I was apprehended. I have no more to say. All or which I declare to be the truth and declare I cannot write.

The Declaration written upon this and the preceding page by William Meudell, apprentice to Robert Monham, Deputy City Clerk of Edinburgh was free and voluntarily emitted of the date it bears by the therein named Marion Gray, who was in her sound and sober senses at the time, and the same having been read over to her, she adhered thereto in presence of Robert Lockhart Dymock, Procurator Fiscal of said city, the said William Meudell, and James Sutherland, City Officer. [signed] Robert Dymock, William Meudell, and James Sutherland.”

Margaret’s declaration[16] made in front of magistrate Andrew Fyfe, Esq., which follows, didn’t help her case:

“Declaration of Margaret Combs 23 July 1851,

At Edinburgh, the Twenty-Third day of July, Eighteen Hundred and Fifty-One, In presence of Andrew Fyfe, Esquire one of the Magistrates of Edinburgh and Sheriff-Deputy thereof, Margaret Combs presently in custody being brought for examination, Declares,

I am twenty-three years of age[17]. I am a native of Edinburgh and reside in Bull’s Close, Canongate, I am not married. And being shown a man who states his name to be John Rodgers, Arbroath, Declares, I have no statement to make and decline answering any questions. All of which I declare to be truth and declare I cannot write at present. [signed] Andrew Fyfe.

The Declaration written upon the preceding page by William Meudell, Apprentice to Robert Monham Deputy City Clerk of Edinburgh was freely and voluntarily emitted of the date it bears by the therein named Margaret Combs, who was in her sound and sober senses at the time and the same having been read over to her she adhered thereto in presence of Robert Lockhart Dymock, Procurator Fiscal of said City, the said William Meudell and Alexander McPherson, City Officer. [signed] Robert Monham, William Meudell, Alexander McPherson.”

The Caledonian Mercury summed it up like this: “Margaret Combs and Marion Gray were charged with assaulting a gentleman in Princes Street on the night of the 22nd July last, and robbing him of a pocket-book containing £22.”

The jury heard from twelve witnesses (including police officers—of all the witnesses, four were general public, including the victim) and only found the case to be proven in respect to Margaret. Marian Gray was discharged. Margaret returned to the court the next day for her sentencing, as reported in the newspaper:

“Edinburgh High Court 11th November 1851: Margaret Combes [sic], who had been found guilty on the previous day of stealing a pocket-book from a gentleman in Princes Street, was placed at the bar, and sentenced to transportation for fourteen years. The Lord Justice-Clerk, in passing sentence, blamed the police for remissness of duty in not having pursued the accomplice of the panel [sic], who made off with the pocket-book.” [18]

A free ride to England

Transportation of Scottish prisoners to the antipodes occurred from an English port, which meant prisoners needed to undertake the journey to an English prison first—for Margaret, this trip would cover more than 600 km. There was no central depot at which Scottish women could be assembled before transportation, so it was at the discretion of each prison to prepare the women for their journey. There was little or no opportunity for the women to be provided with any small amount of goods to take with them. Many of the women sentenced to transportation represented some of the poorest and most destitute within Scottish society, and thus would have little or nothing by way of possessions to their name. So, they would set out on this epic journey with only what the ship’s surgeon could provide: prison clothes and work tools to keep them occupied, such as those required for sewing.[19]

On 24 January 1852, Millbank Prison—located in Pimlico, London—confirmed the arrival of prisoner #4259 Margaret Combs, age twenty-three[20], married[21], and of no occupation, from the Edinburgh Goal. She remained in this prison until 16 March 1852, the day after her actual twenty-sixth birthday[22], when she was discharged to the transport Sir Robert Seppings. With extremely cold winds blowing from the north-east, the Sir Robert Seppings departed Woolwich two days later, and arrived in Hobart, Van Diemen’s Land on 8 July 1852 (a journey of 112 days).[23]

During the voyage, Margaret needed the attention of the surgeon for ‘catarrh’ on 31 May 1852 (her age is listed as twenty-five) and was on the ‘sick list’ for two days, when she was declared ‘cured’[24]. The surgeon, Lennox T. Cunningham, was described by James Montagu Smith, a 15-year-old boy seaman on his second voyage to Australia, as a “good doctor but an ‘infernal old scoundrel’ that reminded him of a ‘lecherous old Turk in the midst of his harem’.”[25] During the voyage, the women were allowed on deck during the day and had their meals there if the weather was good, but at night they were locked below deck.[26]

Van Diemen’s Land—a new world

When Margaret stepped off the boat in the middle of Hobart’s winter, she would have gathered shivering on the wharf amongst the other two hundred and eighteen prisoners who survived the journey (one prisoner starved herself to death), plus some sixteen children who also survived (they buried five children during the voyage)[27].

After Margaret’s physical and criminal details were noted on the official records, she and the other prisoners and children were taken to the Brickfields Hiring Depot[28] on 12 July 1852. In her records, it is noted she was married and had “Nine times in prison”.[29] We can only confirm three incarcerations for Margaret, according to a search of the Crown Counsel Procedure Books[30] and a search of the relevant newspapers: in 1848 for theft of £242 (where she was found not guilty); for theft of bank note (where she received eighteen months jail) and the theft of pocket book and £22 (where she received fourteen years transportation).[31]

Now at the Brickfields Hiring Depot (which would be closed four months later), Margaret and the other prisoners could expect to be hired out to a private employer.[32] She didn’t have to wait long. On 16 July 1852, four days later, Margaret, with the occupation as a ‘plain laundress’, was allocated to a Thomas Goldie in Hobart Town.[33]

Later, Margaret was allocated to the Hobart Post Office, and although her records are difficult to decipher here, it appears she absconded and may have spent time at the Cascades Female Factory. [34]

A positive influence leading to freedom

At some time in the three months after her arrival, Margaret met Thomas Bailey. Bailey stood half a foot taller than her, with a fair complexion, dark brown hair, grey eyes and red whiskers. He wore a tattoo of an anchor on the inside left arm and a small cross on the inside right. A Protestant, he could read and write a little. A labourer by occupation, he was tried at the Middlesex County Criminal Court on 10 May 1847 for housebreaking and stealing jewellery, for which he was transported for ten years. He sailed out on the William Jardine and arrived in November 1850 aged twenty-seven.[35]

On 20 October 1852, Margaret and Thomas Bailey applied to be married which was granted.[36] Within four months after her arrival, on 22 November 1852 Margaret Combs (aged twenty-six and potentially still married to John Duff) and Thomas Bailey (aged twenty-seven[37]) were married at the Church of England, St John’s New Town, Van Diemen’s Land. He was listed as a bachelor labourer and she a spinster. Their marriage was witnessed by John Paynter and Sarah White[38].

The marriage was good for both Margaret and Thomas (who was known as Henry and changed the spelling of his surname from Bailey to Bayley).

By the time of their marriage, Henry Bailey already had his Ticket of Leave (granted 18 May 1852) and seven months after their marriage, his Conditional Pardon came through on 14 June 1853.

Margaret’s Ticket of Leave was granted a year later, on 29 August 1854[39] which had to be held for six months.

Three years into their marriage, Henry was working as a Ginger Beer Maker, and on 17 October 1855, Margaret Bayley (formerly Combes [sic]) produced a son, Henry John Bayley. That Margaret had taught herself to read and write is evidenced when she signed the birth registration document in her own hand “Mag Bayley mother [living at] Bathurst Street”.[40]

Gold fever hits

On 20 February 1856, Margaret joined her husband, Henry, in having her Conditional Pardon approved.[41] She had served just four years and three months of her fourteen year transportation sentence. However, their Conditional Pardons were granted upon condition they shall not return or be found within the counties in which they were severally convicted or the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland during the remaining term of their sentences of transportation.

Even though they couldn’t yet return to the United Kingdom, there was nothing now keeping them in Hobart, and the shiny gold fields in Victoria drew their attention.

The gold rush started in Victoria five years earlier, and there’s no doubt stories would have filtered through about the fortune to be made there. It is unclear exactly when they arrived in Victoria, but Margaret (maiden name Combs) gave birth to a son, William Bayley in 1857 at Epsom Victoria.[42]

Epsom is part of the greater area of Bendigo in central Victoria. The official discovery of gold at Bendigo occurred in October 1851, a few months after discoveries at Clunes (June), Mount Alexander (July) and Ballarat (August). The Bendigo Creek contained rich alluvial gold, as did several nearby gullies. The in-rush of miners was notable for the populations of Cornish, Welsh, Irish, Scots, 'Yankees', Germans and Chinese. Of the 166,550 persons inhabiting the large area over which the gold fields extended, no less than 124,891 were dwellers in tents, three-fourths of which consist of but a single apartment.[43]

It appears that Margaret and Henry lived cheek-by-jowl in a tent with their two young children, as Margaret gave witness evidence in court supporting a woman, Catherine Mathews, who “was in her tent” when she’d been assaulted. Margaret’s corroborating evidence sent the defendant to jail.[44]

Despite returns from gold prospecting were on the decline as early as 1857[45], Henry Bayley, Epsom, was granted a refreshment of his miner’s licence in December 1858.[46] With the flurry of puddlers working the area, there were complaints about the lack of water and that “many (miners) are quite at a stand still for the want of it”. There was also a push to enlarge the claims of both diggers and puddlers because the miners’ “chances were fewer of getting paid for his labour…than they would be were the ground still as rich as in the early days of gold-digging.”[47]

However, by 1860, the family had had enough, and despite Margaret not yet reaching the expiration of her sentence, the family had saved enough money to purchased passage to England (Margaret’s transportation sentence would not expire until 11 November 1865[48]).

Returning home

The family moved to Henry’s birthplace, Middlesex, and lived at 235 High Street, Shadwell in the Tower Hamlets of London. It would be Margaret and Henry’s home for the next twenty-seven years. The home was more expansive than what Margaret would be used to, and they set it up as a coffee and boarding house.

Shadwell is east of London, and lies on the northern bank of the Thames. When the Bayley’s moved there, it was at a time of great change for the area. A new entrance to the docks had recently been constructed (1858) to allow access for larger ships, and in 1865 during excavation for the creation of more docks at Shadwell, four nearby houses were flooded.[49] During Victorian times, Shadwell and the East End were not seen as pleasant places. The growth of Shadwell's port led to an increase in the number of prostitutes in the area, and the area was known as the centre of the capital's opium smoking.[50]

However, the Bayley family used the demographics of the area to their advantage. In the 1861 census, Margaret and Henry had nine boarders living with them, made up of seamen, mariners, porters and dock labourers. They also had a live-in domestic servant.[51] Their sons, Henry (aged six) and William (aged four) were both in school.

Over the next ten years, Henry (now aged 48) moved back to his brewing roots, and now sold beer from their home. Margaret (now 45) managed the boarding house, and in the 1871 census they had one boarder with them and a servant. It is unclear what fifteen-year-old Henry junior’s occupation was, but his thirteen-year-old brother, William, was working as a tobacconist’s assistant.[52]

The Bayley family continued this life, selling beer and taking in boarders, and their children grew. By 1881, their son Henry (now 25) had the occupation of plumber, and William (23) had married the year earlier to Mary Lucy Glover on 20 December 1880 and had moved out.[53] The following year, the family would celebrate their other son, Henry’s marriage to Mary Ann Thompson on 24 December 1882.

Seven years later, Margaret’s life as she knew it would change with the death of her husband on 14 February 1888. He had a personal estate of £268 12s, and Margaret was his sole beneficiary.

With the death of her husband, Margaret retired the beer shop and sold their home at 235 High Street Shadwell, and moved to 15 Blakesley Street, St George in the East—an area adjacent to the location of their former home. Three years after the death of her husband, Margaret (aged 65) had her daughter-in-law, Lucy Bayley, and William and Lucy’s children living with her: Margaret, Catherine and William. It is unknown what occupation William had, but perhaps he was a seaman, which would explain his absence in the 1891 Census, and perhaps why his mother, wife and children lived together in Margaret’s house. Margaret continued to employ a servant.[54]

Margaret moved house again, to 20 Blakesley Street, Commercial Road, Middlesex, where she died on 20 September 1892. Her son, Henry, who continued his occupation as a plumber, administered her will, distributing her personal effects of £1167 1s 3d.

From very rough beginnings with a marriage that was not positive for Margaret at aged sixteen—which resulted in her being jailed several times and eventually being taken from her homeland and held in a foreign land—to the opportunities afforded to her through meeting Henry Bayley. Margaret endured and didn’t let her situation crush her, instead, she worked for her future. Margaret learnt to read and write and through her and Henry’s enterprising capacity, created a supportive life for their sons and grandchildren.


The author wishes to acknowledge the contribution of the following people for the bulk of the research for this article on Margaret Combs:

Transcription of convict records for the Sir Robert Seppings: M. Lowe, J. Lorimar, T. McKay, C. Griffin, C. McAlpine, and S. Kirkby.

Contributing research on the life of Margaret Combs: M. Lowe, M. Mann, K. Searson, T. Curry, D. Guiver, A. Davidson, B. Painter, S. Rackham, P. Selley, M. Bonnell, B. Holland, P. Bellas, T. Cready, M. Halliwell, M. Hall, A. Kennett, L. Prescott, D. Norris, Jill and Jan, L. Newham, M. Randles, M. Hubble, A. Skelcher, P. Hand, G. McLeod, J. Waddell, L. Grocott, W. Edwards, J. Hamill, Caroline, B. Pollock, and C. McAlpine


[1] Margaret’s official convict record states she was in jail nine times, however, a search of Scottish records only supports three arrests

[2] Familysearch.org

[3] Description List. Libraries Tasmania: CON19-1-10 Image 111

[4] https://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/whats-on/arts-and-entertainment/lost-edinburgh-calton-jail-1562700 (accessed 30 January 2023)

[5] Gurney J.J. Notes on a visit made to some of the prisons in Scotland and The North of England in company with Elizabeth Fry (1819) via McDonald, L. Scottish Prisons 18th and 19th Century. Female Convicts Research Centre Inc website

[6] Scottish Indexes: Crown Office Precognitions. NRS Reference AD/14/48/413 and High Court of Justiciary Trial Papers NRS Reference JC26/1848/487

[7] Sheriff-Court of the County of Edinburgh. Extract Conviction. National Records of Scotland

[8] Ibid

[9] Ibid

[10] Ibid

[11] Ibid

[12] Scottish Indexes. Crown Office Precognitions. NRS Reference: AD14/51/442

[13] Sheriff-Court of the County of Edinburgh. Extract Conviction. National Records of Scotland. And, Caledonian Mercury 13th November 1851

[14] Ibid

[15] Ibid

[16] Ibid

[17] Margaret was aged twenty-five at the time

[18] Ibid and see also Scottish Indexes: High Court of Justiciary Trial Papers. NRS Reference: JC8/60, F.2V and JC26/1851/612, Related Precognitions: AD14/51/442 url:https://www.scottishindexes.com/jcentry.aspx?jcid=1851612 (accessed 4 December 2022)

[19] McDonald, Lilian. Scottish Prisons 18th and 19th Century. Female Convicts Research Centre

[20] Margaret was actually twenty-five at the time. Also, accessed from Freecen.org.uk the Census dated 30 March 1851—that is, the year before she arrived at Millbank Prison—Margaret Combs was in the Prison of Edinburgh, married, age twenty-four. No occupation, born in Edinburgh, Midlothian

[21] Margaret declared herself ‘unmarried’ in July 1851 and was in prison from this time

[22] See previous note

[23] Original convict records. Libraries Tasmania: 13828. NAME_INDEXES: 1382247 CON41-1-34 Image 40

[24] Surgeon Superintendent’s report

[25] Smith, James Montagu; Ed: Cuffley, Peter (2001). Send the boy to sea: the memoirs of a sailor on the goldfields. The Five Mile Press. pp. 22–37.

[26] Ibid

[27] Ibid

[28] In North Hobart, on the site of the current North Hobart Oval

[29] Original convict records. Libraries Tasmania CON41-1-34 Image 40; CON15-1-7 Image 256 and CON19-1-10 Image 111

[30] Scottish Indexes

[31] Prison register of Calton Jail, Edinburgh, 1848 (refs: HH21/5/8 p. 11; HH21/5/8 p. 73; and HH21/5/8 p. 135

[32] Ibid

[33] Female Convicts Database. Record #11154

[34] Ibid

[35] Original convict records. Libraries Tasmania: CON33-1-98 Image 8

[36] Original convict records. Libraries Tasmania. CON52/1/5 Page 18

[37] If his original convict records are correct, he was twenty-nine when he was married to Margaret

[38] Original convict records. Libraries Tasmania: RGD37/1/11 no 596 Image 223

[39] Ibid

[40] Libraries Tasmania. RGD33/1/6/ record no 621, Image 73

[41] Ancestry.com.au Tasmania Convict Court and Selected Records 1800-1899. Registers of conditional pardons issued 1853-1856

[42] Births Deaths and Marriages Victoria. Registration number 17180/1857

[43] 1857 Victorian Census. https://hccda.ada.edu.au/Collated_Census_Tables/VIC-1857-census.html (ACCESSED 29 January 2023)

[44] Bendigo Advertiser, Wednesday 10 June 1857. District Police Office—violent assault

[45] The Age, Thursday, 21 May 1857. The Bendigo Gold-fields

[46] Bendigo Advertiser, Thursday, 2 December 1858. Municipal Police Court—refreshment licences

[47] Ibid

[48] Ibid

[49] North Devon Journal. 28 September 1865 via British Newspaper Archive

[50] Glinert, Ed (June 2007). Literary London: A Street by Street Exploration of the Capital's Literary Heritage. Penguin. ISBN 9780141026244

[51] United Kingdom 1861 Census. Parish of Shadwell, Parliamentary Borough of Tower Hamlets, Ecclesiastical District of Stepney. Page 35, number of schedule 161

[52] United Kingdom 1871 Census. Parish of Shadwell, Parliamentary Borough of Tower Hamlets, Ecclesiastical District of Stepney. Page 60, number of schedule 325

[53] United Kingdom 1881 Census. Parish of Shadwell, Parliamentary Borough of Tower Hamlets, Ecclesiastical District of Stepney. Page 57

[54] United Kingdom 1891 Census. Parish of St George in the East, Ecclesiastical parish of Christchurch. Page 12


Latest News:

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.

Publisher:  Convict Women's Press Inc.

Available from selected bookshops or online at Convict Women's Press Inc.

ISBN: 9-780648-401919

CL YG web small 


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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Book at the Playhouse, Hobart: https://playhouse.org.au/shows/forgotten-the-female-convict-rebellion-14-16-july-2023/


The Marita Bardenhagen Memorial Award

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.

How to apply: Application forms are available from Dr Dianne Snowden AM at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Other Updates:

Books, Theses & Reports - Convict Lives:  Young girls transported to Van Diemen's Land edited by Alison Alexander (4/05/2023)

Freedoms - The Path to Freedom. Page updated and edited by Helen Menard 1/05/2023, to include  'Freedom v emancipation'.

Featured in Publications - A list of VDL convict women featured in publications (compiled and updated by Ros Escott April 2023).

Pre-Transportation: The British Justice System in the 18th & 19th Centuries -  A new page for the website, contributed by Helen Menard 18/03/2023.

Terms of Access - Additional Policy for accessing and using our website (6/02/2023)



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