Mary Harvey

(Hector, 1835)

By Helen Ménard



Lady Justice was not always blind for Mary. She spent many months in prison in England for alleged offences for which she was never convicted – including murdering her own child!  In her mid-forties, she was ultimately convicted of theft and transported to Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) for 14 years – many received lesser sentences for more serious crimes. Her only alleged transgression in the colony involved an unspecified felony of which she was, again, acquitted.[1] Yet, she was still ordered to be detained in the house of correction for 12 months – for a crime she didn’t commit!

However, it seems Mary eventually managed to ‘shake the curse’. After she received a ticket of leave in 1841 and her daughter married the same year, Mary appeared to assume a low profile, never remarried or left Tasmania, and lived with her daughter Ann and her family in Hobart until her death in old age. Her burial site is marked in history - many women were not so fortunate.

Life in England

Mary’s records suggest she was born near Norwich, Norfolk[2]  or North Yarmouth[3] sometime from 1791-1794.[4] She allegedly had six children,[5] four of whom have not been traced.[6] While John Weaver was listed as the father of Mary’s youngest son William Henry, there is no record that Mary and John ever married.[7] Mary’s daughter Ann was born about 1822 and William Henry was born on 17 September 1834 at Norwich.[8] He died on 13 May 1837 at New Town, VDL not quite 3 years old.[9]

In 1828 Mary Harvey was charged with murder (of her child) and, after appearing before the Norwich Assizes, was found not guilty.[10] After spending nine months in prison,[11] her case was reported as follows:

No true bill against Mary Harvey for poisoning her child.

She was afterwards arraigned on the Coroner’s inquest and acquitted, no evidence being offered for the prosecution.

Mr Dalrymple, by the wish of the judge, stated that he, with two other surgeons, examined the body and found not the slightest appearance of mineral or vegetable poison. The body had an exceedingly healthy appearance and it was their opinion that the child died from exhaustion.[12]

The Assizes was a regional court circuit held twice-yearly at Lent (March/April) and Trinity (July/August). They could also be held in winter if there were a large number of cases. On the whole, Assizes dealt with the more serious offences such as murder, rape, infanticide, felonies, highway robbery, coining, forgery, vagrancy and witchcraft. Most of the counties of England were grouped together into six Assizes circuits, which included Home, Midland, Norfolk, Northern, Oxford and Western. The exceptions were London and Middlesex, where trials were held at the Old Bailey or Middlesex Sessions House, and Cheshire, Durham and Lancashire, which did not join the Assizes circuit until the 19th century.[13]

Six years later in August 1834, Mary (who would have been eight months pregnant at the time) and three other male accomplices were charged with receiving several gross of yarn (wool) the property of John Hammond, Yarn Factory.[14] Their indictment for ‘jointly receiving’ was unsupported by evidence and, despite the prosecutor having the option to indict each of the accused separately, ultimately all the prisoners were acquitted.[15] Several days after their acquittal, each accused was apprehended again and, this time, indicted for receiving the yarn at different times.[16] In their defence the prisoners pleaded they had already been tried and acquitted. When the matter was argued before the court legal argument regarding the validity of the indictments was reserved for consideration of the judges and the prisoners were bailed to reappear at the next assizes.[17]

But Mary was on her third strike! She appeared before court again in April 1835 whereupon the details of the previous trial were presented and, on this occasion, she was indicted on three separate charges of shoplifting. It is unclear from the records whether the charges of shoplifting were in any way related to the previously adjourned charges of receiving.  Nonetheless, she was only tried on one count, was convicted and sentenced to transportation for 14 years.[18] In passing sentence the court noted Mary was ‘an old and notorious offender’,[19] yet there were no records before the court of any previous convictions. Could it be that being socially disadvantaged and simply appearing before the court on charges for which there was ultimately no evidence constituted ‘offending’? Where was Lady Justice’s blindfold?

On 27 May 1835 Mary was transferred from the City Gaol to the Hector at Woolwich awaiting transportation to VDL.[20]

Early years in VDL

Mary Harvey left London aboard the convict ship the Hector on 11 June 1835 with 134 other female convicts and arrived in Hobart on 20 October 1835.[21] Mary was one of ten women admitted to the ship’s hospital during the journey and was treated over a three week period for ‘sickness, vomiting, heart burn and stomach complaint … constipated bowels … a defective billiary [sic] secretion which probably is combined with a disease [sic] state of the Liver … depression’.[22] The ship’s surgeon, Morgan Price, noted ‘it appears by her own statement that she had been for a considerable time past habituated to drinking of spirituous liquors and otherwise had been loose and depraved.’[23] Mary was accompanied to VDL by her 13 year old daughter Ann and her baby son William Henry.[24] There is no mention of either child in Price’s journal other than a comment that ‘all the prisoners, free women and children were landed in a clean and healthy state.’[25] On arrival, Ann was admitted to the Queen’s Orphan School[26] but it seems that Mary’s 12 month old son remained with her.

Mary arrived in VDL during the assignment period and her first assignment was with a Mr Petrey.[27] In June 1836 Ann Harvey was discharged from the Queen’s Orphan School into her mother’s care.[28] Six months later in December, Mary’s young son William was admitted to the King’s Orphan School in New Town,[29] with no indication in the records as to why this was necessary. Children were often admitted when they arrived with their parents on convict transports, when their parents were undergoing punishment, or when they were destitute.[30] What was Mary’s situation at the time? Tragically, William Henry died six months later while still institutionalised and was buried in St John’s Cemetery on 17 May 1837.[31] The orphanage records simply stated he ‘died in hospital’.[32] He was not even 3 years old. Joyce Purtscher describes the institution as follows:

The orphanage was run by the Convict Department and in reality was a children's prison. The only offence committed was to have been born into convict families, destitute families or to have been unlucky enough to lose a parent. Like the convict stain, there appeared to be a stigma and denial that grew out of being in the orphanage …

Because of overcrowding and lack of hygiene, infectious diseases were rife and caused many deaths … Most of the deaths happened to the very young children … measles, diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid, scarlet fever, teething, marasmus and consumption.[33]

Surely Mary must have been devastated by the loss of her only son.

Mary Harvey was granted permission to marry Joseph Henley (free) on 27 March 1837 but there are no records confirming that the marriage ever took place.[34] Several years later, in December 1839 and while in service of a Mr White, Mary was charged with an unspecified felony but was acquitted. Despite her acquittal, and without any recorded explanation, it was recommended and confirmed by the Lieutenant Governor that she be detained in the house of correction for 12 months before further assignment.[35] Had Mary fallen afoul of the authorities in some way? Nonetheless, she managed to stay under the radar until June 1841 when she was granted a ticket of leave and her conditional pardon was approved in September 1844.

From here on it seems that Mary’s life became entwined with that of her daughter Ann and her family and, quite possibly, her worst days were behind her.

Ann and William

Ann Harvey (19, spinster) was granted permission to marry William Stevenson (29, bachelor, TL) on 28 September 1841[36] and they married at Hobart on 1 November 1841 with her mother, Mary Harvey, as one of the witnesses.[37]

William had been tried and convicted in Newcastle under Lyme, England in March 1831 of horse stealing and sentenced to transportation for life.[38] A gentleman’s servant, single and 26 he arrived in VDL aboard the Elizabeth on 14 February 1832[39] and was initially assigned to G. Frankland Esq..[40]

William’s employer was most likely Surveyor-General, George Frankland (1800-1838) who acquired seven acres of land at Secheron Bay (Battery Point) on the south side of Hobart’s harbour in 1831. Frankland built a large residence on the estate, Secheron House, which is still standing today, and offered parcels along his river frontage for sale to merchants and ship builders wanting direct access to private warehouses and wharves.[41] He was accused of using the government resources of his office to personal advantage through these land deals.[42] By September 1838 Frankland wanted to leave the colony feeling he had done his duty as map maker to settlers and administrators alike, and being somewhat tired of accusations that he was using the resources of his office for private gain. He had advertised Secheron House for sale in January 1838 but when it didn’t sell he tendered it to the government for five years. Frankland died in December 1838.[43]

With a clean conduct record to this point, and still in the service of Frankland, William was committed to trial in August 1833 for receiving one piece of figured silk (a waistcoat) the property of Mr Joynes.[44] However, the only records of William’s trial are abbreviated notes in his transportation records which are only partly legible.[45] He must have been found guilty as there is an indecipherable period of imprisonment with hard labor and for the next couple of years he spent time at Bridgewater and Port Arthur.[46] In December 1833 he was sentenced to 25 lashes for disfiguring his irons and in July 1835 was sent to Port Arthur to work in irons for a month for ‘not performing a due proportion of work as a sawyer during the past weeks’.[47] William was eventually granted a ticket of leave in August 1840 and a conditional pardon in September 1843.[48] He was now as free as he would ever be.

Ann and William had at least eight children – Eliza Anne (1843-); William (1846-); Emily (1849-1852); Charles Edward (1852-); Alfred James (1854-); Alice Mary (1857-1927); Arthur Golding (1863-) and Frances Amy (1867-).[49] Grandmother Mary Harvey (mother in law of William Stevenson, father) was the informant for Eliza Anne’s birth when the family was living in Melville St, Hobart.[50] Eliza Anne married Charles Golding Eady in 1862, with her father William as witness.[51] Together they had three sons - Charles Golding in 1864 who died in infancy;[52] Albert Charles (1866-1890)[53] and William George (1869-).[54]

By 1843 William had obviously set himself up as a butcher[55] and appeared to be still in operation in 1867 when his last child was born.[56] At least three of his sons took up the same trade in later years.[57] However, William must have experienced some financial difficulties as, in March 1855, he was facing insolvency proceedings – with unpaid debts of around £870 - and one of his creditors being Mary Harvey claiming £6 13s 4d for unpaid wages as a servant.[58] It is possible that William had branched out into the hospitality business as, apart from the Bank of Van Diemen’s Land, his other creditors consisted of a licensed victualler, two brewers and a cook.[59]

William Stevenson died on the way to hospital[60]at Hobart on 16 May 1887[61] in his 80th year from chronic bronchitis and old age.[62] Ann Stevenson died a few years later on 16 September 1896 from pancreatic and liver cancer, aged 71.[63]

The last word

Regardless of the financial worries Ann and William may have faced, it is apparent that Mary remained a part of their family and died, a widow born in England, from ‘natural decay’ at William’s home in Park Street, Hobart on 4 March 1871.[64]

HARVEY - On the 4th of March, at the residence of her son-in-law, W. Stevenson, Park-street, Mary Harvey, aged 77 years. The funeral will leave her late residence on Tuesday, the 7th Instant, at half-past 2 o'clock. Friends are respectfully invited to attend.[65]

Maybe, in the end, Mary was able to put her self-confessed past of ‘habituated drinking’ and otherwise ‘loose and depraved’ behaviour behind her.[66]

Yet, some questions remain - did Mary ever want to return to England to see the children she left behind? Did she ever have any contact with any of them? Given that William would never have been able to return to England because of his life sentence, did Mary decide to stay and make a life with Ann’s family in Tasmania?


[1] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON40/1/5 p127 DI 131

[2] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON19/1/13 p179 DI 165


[4] CON19 suggests she was 44 on arrival in VDL in 1835; an entry in the ship Surgeon’s journal puts her at 42 in 1835; her death in 1871 states her age as 77; LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD35/1/8 N292 DI 33; TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.: 1860 -1954) Mon 6 Mar 1871 p1 Family Notices; there are several possible births  for a Mary Harvey in Norwich around 1790 but no means of positive identification;

[5] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON40/1/5 p127 DI 131

[6] There are several possible births to a Mary Harvey in Norfolk between 1820 and 1834 (Henry 1820; William 1822; John 1827; Honor 1828, etc.) but no verification that they are Mary’s children. The registers often only record one parent so there is no way of knowing whether or not Harvey is the mother’s married or single name.

[7]; baptism of William Henry at St Mary Coslany, Norwich 12 October 1834, Father John Weaver;

[8]; baptism of William Henry at St Mary Coslany, Norwich 12 October 1834


[10] Criminal Register, Summer Assizes for Norwich, Norfolk 1828;

[11] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON40/1/5 p127 DI 131

[12] Norwich Mercury 16 August 1828;


[14] Norfolk Chronicle -- SATURDAY 2 AUGUST 1834;;

[15] Ibid

[16] Ibid

[17] Ibid

[18] Norwich Mercury 18 April 1835;;

[19] Ibid

[20] Norfolk Chronicle - SATURDAY 30 MAY 1835;;

[21] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON40/1/5 p127 DI 131


[23] Ibid

[24] Ibid



[27] 1835 Muster


[29] Ibid


[31] Ibid

[32] LIB TAS: TAS ARCH: TA148 SWD28/1/1 Girls p10


[34] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON52/1/1 p78

[35] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON40/1/5 p127 DI 131

[36] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON52/1/2 p181; William’s birthdate varied across the records – 1806 on transportation; 1812 on marriage; and 1819 on death.

[37] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD37/1/2 N955 DI 127

[38] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON31/1/39 p181 DI 186

[39] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON31/1/39 p181 DI 186; CON18/1/6 p198 DI 105

[40] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON27/1/5 DI 123


[42] Colonial Times, 29 November 1836


[44] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON31/1/39 p181 DI 186; The Tasmanian Fri 23 Aug 1833 p5 Police Reports

[45] LIB TAS: Names Index: CON31/1/39 p181 DI 186

[46] Ibid

[47] Ibid

[48] Ibid

[49] LIB TAS: Names Index; more information on this family can be found on the FCRC database under research notes for Mary Harvey.

[50] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD33/1/1 N1680 DI 183

[51] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD37/1/21 N249 DI 137

[52] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD33/1/9 N7204 DI 32; RGD35/1/7 N4810 DI 74

[53] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD37/1/44 N542 DI 263

[54] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD33/1/10 N365 DI 42; more information on this family can be found on the FCRC database under research notes for Mary Harvey.

[55] See Eliza’s birth & baptism notice LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD32/1/3 N2047 DI 95

[56] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD33/1/9 N9383 DI 276

[57] See marriage records for sons: LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD37/1/37 N195 DI 116; RGD37/1/33 N319 DI 168

[58] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: Hobart Town Advertiser (Tas.: 1839 -1861) Fri 23 Mar 1855 p2 Insolvent Court; TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Courier (Hobart, Tas.: 1840 -1859) Fri 23 Mar 1855 p3 Insolvent Court

[59] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Courier (Hobart, Tas.: 1840 -1859) Fri 23 Mar 1855 p3 Insolvent Court

[60] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes:  Launceston Examiner, Tue 17 May 1887, p2, Tasmanian Intelligence

[61] William’s birthdate varied across the records – 1806 on transportation; 1812 on marriage; and 1819 on death. His death notice in the press stated he was in his 80th year (c. 1807); TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes:  Tasmanian News, Tue 17 May 1887, p2, Family Notices

[62] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD35/1/11 N684 DI 86; TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes:  Tasmanian News, Tue 17 May 1887, p2, Family Notices

[63] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD35/1/15 N909 DI 118; AF35/1/1 (BU 6325); given Ann’s birthdate was most probably 1822 she was more likely to have been 74 when she died.

[64] LIB TAS: Names Index: RGD35/1/8 N292 DI 33; TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.: 1860 -1954) Mon 6 Mar 1871 p1 Family Notices

[65] TROVE: Newspapers & Gazettes: The Mercury (Hobart, Tas.: 1860 -1954) Mon 6 Mar 1871 p1 Family Notices



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