Many infants died in the convict nurseries. The death rate was much higher than that for infants in the normal population.

Dr Rebecca Kippen presented a paper at one of our meetings on infant mortality in the nurseries entitled

'And the Mortality Frightful': Infant and Child Mortality in the Convict Nurseries of Van Diemen's Land.


She has kindly made a copy of her paper publicly available.

A list of all the children (1,148) known to have died in the nurseries at Cascades Female Factory, Dynnyrne and Brickfields between 1829 and 1856 has been compiled. The information has been taken from the Registrar General's Department death records. The list is provided here in alphabetical order of infant's name and includes infants who died on the voyage to Van Diemen's Land.


List of Infant Deaths at Hobart Nurseries 1829–1856
(compiled by Anne Ferran with assistance from Trudy Cowley)

A list of all the children (64) known to have died in the nursery at Ross Female Factory between 1848 and 1855 has been compiled. The information has been taken from the Registrar General's Department death records. The list is provided here in alphabetical order of infant's name.

List of Infant Deaths at Ross Female Factory 1848–1855
(compiled by Anne Ferran with assistance from Trudy Cowley)

Not all of the children who died in the convict nurseries are registered in the official records. Some of these unknown children can be found in the burial registers, but neither are these complete.

Inquests were held for quite a few of these infants and they were often reported in the newspapers. The Vowles case was particularly interesting in that the mother was convicted colonially—she was not a transported convict.


Up until January 1844, Anglican children who died at the nurseries in Hobart were buried at St David's Cemetery, Hobart. From this date, Anglican children were buried at Trinity Burial Ground, Hobart (currently the site of Campbell Street Primary School), until the burial ground at Cascades Female Factory was opened later in the decade.

In Launceston, the last recorded convict's child in the burial registers for St John's Anglican Church is September 1842. These children were (ref: TAHO, NS 748/75 p.44):

Name Age Where Died Burial Date Abode Description
Maria HANLON 9 months Launceston Female Factory 17 Sep 1842 Launceston Hospital convict's child (child of Ann HANLON per Platina)
William MORRISON 5 months Launceston Female Factory 23 Sep 1842 Launceston Hospital convict's child


In Launceston, the last recorded convict's child in the burial registers for Trinity Anglican Church is August 1844. Burials of children who died at Launceston Female Factory and recorded in these burial registers between Februay 1843 and August 1844 are listed below (note some pages are missing from the register—TAHO, NS 1735/9 pp.1–5).

Name Age Where Died Burial Date
Theresa WILLIAMSON 8 months Launceston Female Factory 7 Feb 1843
Henry SHORT 9 months Launceston Female Factory 8 Feb 1843
Henry DALEY 12 months Launceston Female Factory 8 Feb 1843
Rachel Lavinia JOHNSON 9 months Launceston Female Factory 10 Feb 1843
Mary Ann KELLY 2 months Launceston Female Factory 13 Feb 1843
Thomas BAINES/BARNES 11 months Launceston Female Factory 16 Feb 1843
Mary EWAN 3 months Launceston Female Factory 3 Mar 1843
William Horrison HUTTON 6 months Launceston Female Factory 13 Mar 1843
William WANSFORD 4 months Launceston Female Factory 31 Mar 1843
Amelia HARRISTON 2 months Launceston Female Factory 10 Aug 1843
Thomas DRIVERS 1 day Launceston Female Factory 10 Aug 1843
Eliza SOUTER 14 days Launceston Female Factory 1 Sep 1843
James EVANS 4 months Launceston Female Factory 13 Aug 1844
Alexander JONES 2 months 3 weeks Launceston Female Factory 30 Aug 1844



Many of the inquests into the deaths of children in the convict nurseries were reported in local newspapers, particularly for those infants who died at Launceston Female Factory.

With the arrival of an increasing number of female convict ships in the 1840s, the nurseries became overcrowded and so more deaths were reported. Diarrhoea was the main cause of death amongst infants. On 4 June 1842, the Launceston Examiner reported the following inquest.

AN INQUEST was held at the Court-house, on Tuesday last, 31st inst., before P. A. Mulgrave, Esq., coroner, on view of the body of an infant named Theodore Wilson, who died at the Female Factory on the previous Sunday. George Maddox, Assistant Colonial Surgeon. The deceased has been under any care in the Female Factory for the last three month; he was healthy until the 17th instant, when he was attacked by dysentery, caused by dentition and the consequence of his being weaned; he was properly weaned at that time, on account of the state of his mother's health and his age ; I visited him every morning, and applied the usual remedies in such cases, he had every sort of sustenance that was necessary, and was exceedingly well attended by both the mother and nurse; the ward was airy; he died of the before-mentioned disease on the 29th ultimo.

Eleanor Wilson.—I am the mother of the deceased, he was born on the 21st September last at Avoca, and I came into the Factory with my child on the 20th December last; he had not had a day's illness until the 17th instant, when he was afflicted with purging, and continued suffering under that disease until between ten and eleven  o'clock of last Sunday morning, when he died in the factory; whilst ill he was regularly attended by Dr. Maddox, and had all the nourishment that was requisite; it was necessary to wean the child  on account of the state of my health.

Ann Smith.—I am a nurse in the Female Factory at Launceston, and I have attended the deceased since the 17th instant, his mother appeared very fond of him; he was afflicted with dysentery, and died of that complaint on Sunday morning last; Dr Maddox attended the deceased regularly, and sometimes Dr. Benson; he had medicines that were sent him, and the nourishment he required, amongst other things wine and arrow root; he was as well attended as he could have been in other situation.

Verdict—died by the visitation of God.

On 4 February 1843 (p.2 c.3), the Cornwall Chronicle reported the following inquest.

CORONER'S INQUEST.—Another inquest was held at the Court House this afternoon, before W. H. Breton, Esq., Coroner, on view of the body of a child named Teresa Williamson, eight months old, who has been labouring under Diarrhoea for the last month, in the Factory, and who died in that establishment yesterday morning. Verdict—"Died by the visitation of God."

The child was born as Thezia Williamson to Margaret Williams (probably transported on Arab II) at Launceston Female Factory on 18 June 1842.

One week later, the Cornwall Chronicle (11 February 1843, p.2 c.6–7) reported the following inquests into deaths of infants at Launceston Female Factory.

MORTALITY IN THE FACTORY.—On Thursday last, two several inquests were holden at the Court-house, on children who had died in the Female House of Correction. This morning a third inquest has taken place, and summonses are issued for a fourth on Monday next. A number of children are also dangerously ill of the same complaint, "Diarrhoea". The Factory is very much crowded at present, bur Dr. Maddox stated that the apartment where the children were kept was both large and well ventilated. The several witnesses also gave in evidence that every attention was paid by the medical gentlemen whose duty it is to visit that establishment. We think that the doors of no Medical Hospital ought to be hermetically sealed against the visits of the medical profession.


Another inquest was held, the same day, at the Court House, before P. A. Mulgrave, Esq., on the body of a child named Henry Shirt, who died in the female house of correction of dysentery. The jury returned a verdict of "Died by the visitation of God."

An inquest was also held the same day, at the same place, on the body of another child, who died in the above establishment. The [coroner] enquired of the jury whether they desired the attendance of any other witness than the gentleman who attended the factory hospital; but they expressed themselves satisfied, and returned a similar verdict as the above.

Another weeke later, on 18 February 1843, the Launceston Examiner (p.107) reported an inquest into the death of John Perry at the Launceston Female Factory Nursery. John was the illegitimate son of Hannah Perry per Rajah and was born at the Factory on 30 May 1842.

AN INQUEST was held on Thursday last, before P. A. Mulgrave, Esq., on view of the body of a child named John Perry, who died in the factory on the previous Tuesday evening.

Dr. Maddox—Deceased was born in the factory nine months ago, and was healthy until the 28th ultimo, when he was attacked with diarrhoea, from which he died on teh 14th inst.; I attended deceased twice a day, and frequently consulted Dr. Benson on his case; the usual medicines were administered, and he had nutritive diet; his mother and nurser were very attentive to him.

Hannah Perry—The deceased (my child) was born in the factory on teh 30th May last; about three weeks ago he was attacked with purging; he was regularly attended by Drs. Maddox and Benson; medicines were administered to him, and the warm bath and leeches applied; he had beef tea, arrowroot, and wine; he died on the 14th instant.

Ann Henniker—Have nursed the deceased in the factory for the last seven weeks, during which time he has been suffering under a violent purging; he was regularly attneded by Drs. Maddox and Benson, and had medicines, nutritive diet, and a warm bath; the room in which he was kept was airy.

Verdict—Died by the visitation of God.

Another inquest was reported in the Cornwall Chronicle on 4 March 1843 (p.2 c.6).

CORONERS' INQUESTS.—An inquest was held on Thursday last, at the Court-house, on the body of an infant, who died in the Female House of Correction. The jury returned a verdict of Died by the visitation of God.

Then, a week later, the Cornwall Chronicle (11 March 1843, p.2. c.7) reported another inquest into the death of an infant at Launceston Female Factory Nursery.

CORONER'S INQUEST.—An inquest was held this day at the Court-house, before P. A. Mulgrave, Esquire, on the body of an infant, who died in the Female House of Correction. The jury, after hearing the evidence adduced, returned a verdict of Died by the visitation of God.

This death may have been that of William Harrisson Hutton whose mother Agnes Hutton arrived on theMajestic and died on 10 March 1843.

The Cornwall Chronicle was still reporting these inquests into children who died at Launceston Female Factory Nursery in April. On 1 April 1843 (p.2 c.6) the following article appeared.

An adjourned inquest was held on the same day at the Court House, before P. A. Mulgrave, Esq., on the body of a female child who died in the Female House of Corrrection on the 24th instant. The child had been placed in the Factory on the 20th February, when Mary Ann Sinclair, th emother, was committed for trial on a charge of felony, the child being placed in the Factory as an act of humanity. After a patient investigation, the jury returnred a verdict of "Died by the visitation of God, but the child's death was accelerated by having ardent spirits administered by some person unknown." The spirits must have been given previous to the child being received into the Factory.

Another inquest was held on Thursday last, at the Court House, before the same coroner, on the body of an infant named William Wansford, who died in the Female House of Correction on the 29th instnat. It appwared from the evidence of Dr. Maddox and the mother of the deceased, that the infant had been sickly from its birth, and died from an attack of bronchitis. Evidence was given that every attention had been paid by the medical officer and nurse. The jury returned a verdict of "Died by the visitation of God."

The Mary Ann Sinclair referred to in the first report may have been Marion Sinclair who arrived on the Arab II in 1836. William Wansford referred to in the second part was the son of Susan Wandford per Hindostan.

'Died by the visitation of God' was a catch-all phrase for cause of death. Many of these were deaths from diarrhoea, the major cause of death amongst infants.

On 22 April 1843, the Cornwall Chronicle (p.3) reported the dumping of a child on the steps of the Launceston Female Factory. Thus, the nurseries also operated as orphanages to some extent.

EXPOSURE OF A CHILD.—On Tuesday morning last, a male infant was found on the step of the Female Factory wrapped up in a blanket, apparently only a few hours old. Although deserted by its unnatural parent, the infant is doing well. We recommend this child to the especial care of the government.

Four and a half years after this spate of reportings of inquests into infant deaths at Launceston Female Factory, the Launceston Examiner reported the following on 28 August 1847 (p.553 c.3).

INQUEST.—An inquest was held on Friday morning, at the Female Factory, on the body of a child named Mary O'Brien, a few months of age. The usual verdict of "died from natural causes" was returned.

The following inquest was reported in the Launceston Examiner on 3 February 1849:

INQUEST.—An inquest was held yesterday at the female factory before Wm. Tarleton, Esquire, coroner, on the body of Susanna Williams, a child of a prisoner of the crown, aged twelve months. It appeared the child was in good health until Wednesday last, when it was suddenly taken ill and died yesterday morning. Every care and attention had been shown by those attending the child. The jury returned a verdict of died by the visitation of God."

On 17 December 1851, the Launceston Examiner printed a letter by the Launceston Female Factory Medical Officer, Henry Graham, regarding the recent incidence of diarrhoea amongst children in the establishment.

TO THE EDITOR OF THE LAUNCESTON EXAMINER. INQUEST AT FACTORY. Sir,—In the Examiner of Saturday last, a letter appears from " A Juryman," having reference to an inquest held on the body of a child at the Female Factory, on the 6th instant, in which my evidence as medical officer of the establishment is greatly misrepresented; as I do not wish evidence or perverted evidence of mine brought forward in vindication of any party—I beg you will have the goodness to publish the substance of the evidence given by me on that occasion. I deposed that the deceased child had been delicate from birth, that it was attacked with diaorrhea, which terminated fatally. That the disease had in a few days assumed an epidemic character in the establishment among the children, and the same disease was very prevalent in the town. That in children of weak and delicate constitutions it became more virulent and fatal, than in those of more robust frames. The weakness and delicacy of some children in the Factory is attributed to the previous irregular and immoral habits of the mothers, many of whom had been common prostitutes prior to their coming into the Factory. The majority of the children in the factory here, are robust, and of good constitutions. There are some suffering from the causes alluded to by “a Juryman," but few in comparison to the aggregate number.—I remain, sir, your obedient servant, H. GRAHAM.

The Vowles Case

The high mortality rates of children in the female factories rated mention in the newspapers. An incident a Cascades Female Factory in 1838 resulted in a scathing editorial in the True Colonist on 23 March 1838 (pp.4–5) which attacked the Medical Attendant, Dr M'Braire, and the Superintendent, Mr John Hutchinson. The inquest provides insight into the operation of the Factory, particularly the Nursery, and some of the employees.

It was after the publicity of such cases that the nursery was moved first to Liverpool Street then to Dynnyrne House.


We briefly noticed last week, the death of the infant Vowles, the latest victim of the cruel treatment (of which so much has been said and written) to which the poor innocent children, confined in the Factory for the offences of their parents are subjected. It is very possible that much of what is reported or imagined of these cruelties may be exaggerated but, confirmed as these reports and opnions are by the vast number of deaths which occur in that dismal prison amongst its unoffending inmates the infants, and by the details in the case before us, the authorities must be held inexcuseable by every class in the colony, if the present excitement of the public mind is not allayed by an openenquiry into the management and state of the Factory generally, and particularly into the treatment of the children and the healthiness or unhealthiness of the place where they are confined; a close committee of Government Officers, whether medical or prison discipline functionaries, will not satisfy the public mind, on the contrary, the attempt to meet the present excitement by an enquirty so conducted will only have the effect of making an impression that the grounds of complaint are greater than the public now suppose them to be, and that the authorities are desirous by a sham report under official sanction to cloke mismanagement and something worse, which they are afraid to expose to the public eye, for fear of the censure which must attach to every person implicated in tolerating their existence, after they have been so often forced upon their attention by the public voice speaking through the press. Let the enquiry be conducted, by gentlemen, who cannot be suspected of official or prison discipline bias. Probably one of the Judges, would be the fittest person to preside on such an enquiry, assisted by Magistrates in whom the public repose confidence, unconnected with public office—at least with the prison discipline branch of it. Let the leading medical practitioners, unconnected with the Government Medical Department, be either appointed on the committee or requested carefully to examine the state of the establishment and give evidence thereon before the committee. Let Dr. M'Braire's conduct be subjected to the most perfect scrutiny. For if the impression that has gone abroad of his want of humanity and attention to these hus unfortunate fellow creatures be unfounded, it is but justice to him that his vindication should be established in the most satisfactory manner, or if there is any just grounds for the impressions that exist against him, it is a duty to society that an adequate censure should be passed upon him not only as a warning to other medical men who may be entrusted with the discharge of a similar duty, but, with a view to prevent him from again, being entrusted with the medical charge of any other public institution either of charity or for punishment. Will Sir John make no enquiry into the correctness of the reason assigned by the coroner for not summoning Dr. M'Braire to give evidence on the Inquest. Has Dr. M'Braire ever refused to obey the summons of the Coroner, if he has, he ought to have been instantly dismissed from the service of the Government. For there is an end to all the authority of the laws, as well as of those who administer them, if the example of setting their authority at defiance, is to be suffered to pass with impunity in the immediate servants of the Government. And it is generally reported that Dr M'Braire has evinced the same spirit of contumacy, with respect to the authority of the head of his own department. But we think Mr. Moore lost sight of his duty to the public and of the respect due to his office in taking any hearsay statement of Dr. M'Braire's intention as a reason for not issuing a summons, if he considered that his evidence was at all material, (and eveyr man must think that it was most material on such an enquiry) and in the event of his refusing to obey the summons it was Mr. Moore's duty to have adjourned the inquest until he had taken the necessary steps to compel his attendance and made his contempt of the summons a subject of complaint to the Governor. While we contend against every abuse of power we hold that the good order of society can never be maintained whereany man is suffered to treat with contempt or defiance, the lawful mandate of any lawfully constituted authority, and the contempt or defiance is not against the individual but against the law which he is (no matter how unworthily) appointed to administer.

According to our promise we copy the evidence, from the Colonial Times without one word of comment. We heard the whole of the evidence of Mary Vowles, and we can vouch for its correctness; but in addition to what was elicited by the Coroner, the poor woman told us as she left the room, (in answer to a question which we put to her), that she was, on the authority of Mr. Hutchinson, confined for two days in the cell, and for what?For the heinous offence of running into the presence of Mr. Hutchinson to pray for permission to see her dying child!!!

Has Mr. Hutchinson authority to inflict such a punishment without reference to a magistrate? and if he has, we think that the man who could inflict such a punishment for such an offence, committed under such circumstances, is not a proper person to be invested with such authority. But let our readers peruse the evidence, and let them judge for themselves:—


On Thursday the 15 inst. pursuant to a requisition, an inquest was held at the Rose and Crown, New Town Road before J.H. Moore, Esq. the Coroner, and a highly intelligent jury of fifteen, to enquire into the cause of the death of Thomas Vowles, an infant, the son of Job and Mary Vowles, of Veteran's row, when the following evidence was adduced:—

Mary Vowles—I am the mother of the deceased child Thomas Vowles; I am a prisoner of the Crown, but came free into the colony in the Princess Royal; I was ordered into the Factory for six weeks, and hard labour; I went in on the 3rd of February last; my child was then alive and quite healthy; I was nursing it and had plenty of milk at that time; the child was teething; I took the child to the Factory with me, by Mr. Spode’s special permission; I do not know whether it is usual for mothers under sentence to be allowed to suckle their children; my husband told me he had applied to Mr. Spode for special leave to suckle my baby; I carried it to the Factory when I was going in for punishment, and had the child in my arms when I went in

[The Coroner here cautioned the witness not to permit her feelings to exaggerate the evidence. He was anxious and determined, as far as he could, to arrive at the truth, and would commit any witness, whom the jury might consider to deviate from the truth?]

Mary Vowles continued—I was undressed, as is customary, and clothed in the prison dress.

Coroner, to Mr. Hutchinson, who was in attendance.—This, I believe, is intended as a precaution to prevent infection, &c.?

Mr. Hutchinson—It is, Sir; and also to prevent the conveyance of any improper article into the establishment.

Mary Vowles, continued.—After I was dressed a woman name Spruce I think, took the child away from me, by Mr. Hutchinson's orders, Mr. Hutchinson being present; the woman took away the child, from the place where I was; I told Mr. Hutchinson that I was suckling the baby, when he said, if I made any noise, and did not go into the yard, he ould put me in a cell. I had, at this time, received notice from my husband, that Mr. Spode had given me especial permission to have the child with me, for the purpose of suckling it; I told Mr. Hutchinson that I had this permission; I told him this in the presence of Mr. Cato and the van-man. Mr. Hutchinson still refused to let me have the child to suckle. The van-man said to Mr. Hutchinson, "This woman has permission to go with her child;" Mrs. Cato said to me, "It is a pity for the child to be taken from you, and you had better ask Mr. Hutchinson to give you leave to have the baby with you," I did again apply to Mr. Hutchinson, and he again refused; Mrs Cato went up stairs to Mr. and Mrs. Hutchinson, and in my hearing said, it was a pity to have the baby taken from me, and she begged of them to let me be with my child. I did not exactly hear the reply, but Mr. Hutchinson called out to me, if I did not go quietly into the yard, he would put me in a cell. The child was taken from me; this was on the day in which I entered the Factory; the woman, who received the child, went in through the door, leading into the nursery; I was prevented from following her. The child had not a minute's illness from the day of its birth up to that time; it was a strong healthy child. I next saw my baby in about five days afterwards; this was on a day, on which according to the regulations, mothers are permitted to see their children; I did not know my own child, it was looking so sickly, and altered, much for the worse; the baby, after being a few minutes with me, recognised me. The day before that in which mothers were permitted to see their children, I asked Mr. Hutchinson, at a time when he was giving wool to women to pick, if he would allow me a bit of paper, to write to my husband, as he wished to have the child, for it was not suffered to be with me. Mr. Hutchinson answered, "No such think; you have no business here." I then asked a woman for paper, and having no money, offered her my bread for it, I could not rest day or night for thinking about my baby. This woman asked me 3d for the paper; her name was Emma, and she was a servant to Mr. Bedford. She had paper at that time, but gave it to some one else. It was by word of mouth that I communicated to my husband that I was separated from my child; this was after the visiting day; the child was at this time teething; I was not permitted to see the child again, till he went home. My husband, I believe, took away the child; I was not allowed to see the child on parting. I did not serve the whole period of my sentence in the Factory; I served five weeks all but one day; my husband was anxious that I should go home, and see my baby before it died; it was my only child. My husband applied for me to get out, and I was permitted to go out under an order from Mr. Spode; I was forgiven the remainder of my sentence.

Coroner.—Just like Mr. Spode, he is so kind.

Mary Vowles, resumed.—When I got home, I thought my baby was dying; I could not feel any motion in the dear child, till I had had it in my arms for ten minutes; this was on a Friday, and on the Monday following (yesterday week) the baby died. When we went into the Factory, the child's bowels were quite regular, and the evacuations were of a natural quality; when I came home, they were quite green, and every thing seemed to pass through it immediately; this continued to the day of its death. The child had eight teeth, and did not suffer in cutting them.

By Dr. Dermer.—I had been in the habit of feeding and suckling the child, before I went into the factory.

Coroner.—I had plenty of milk to suckle the child; but I thought it would be easier to wean the baby, if I fed it a little now and then; I had not begun to wean it.

Foreman.—The child was in the Factory in the weaning ward, to the best of my knowledge; it was there a fortnight and three days. Mr. Spode, I believe, remitted my sentence, on the application of my husband. I sent a piece of paper to my husband, but it never reached him.

By the Coroner.—When Mr. Hutchinson threatened to put me in the cell, I made use of no rude words to him. When I saw the child, on the visiting day, I examined it, and found on his back a black bruise, about half the size of my hand and a slight mark on the groin; Elizabeth Bennett and Louisa Fuller saw the bruises. The turnkeys at the Factory are females; I said to one of them, that I wanted to see Mr. Hutchinson, or the mistress, to show them the child; but I did not see either on that occasion. I do not know of any children being ill-treated, or tied to the bannisters, or whipped with bones from stays. On the visiting day, the child was not able to stand.

By a Juror.—I never had any quarrel with any of the nurses.

The deposition being read over to the witness before signing it, she applied to make the following statement, and her application was immediately granted:—A woman, named Jones, a turnkey, came to me, after the visiting day; I was then up stairs, in a place where the women pick the wool. I heard some one, from a room below call out, "Where is the young woman who came by the Princess Royal?" Accordingly, I came down, as that was the way I was generally accosted; the woman called me out, and said, the woman that had my child had sent to know if I had a little money, to buy sago for the child, who had eaten nothing for two days. I told her I had no money, nor any way of getting any, but if my aptron or handkerchief would be of any use, she might take them. She said, "No, never mind, I won't take those things from you." I then began to cry and fret about my child. Elizabeth Bennett heard this conversation between this woman and me. She said, "if I had a pocket full of money, I would not give any of them a farthing, for they will not use the child a bit the better for it." I asked a turnkey, named Agnes, to let me though to see Mr. Hutchinson, that I might get leave to see my child. She would not let me, but I ran through, and saw Mr. Cato; I knew it was a breach of the regulations, but I was anxious to see my child. Mr. Cato said, if I did not go into my yard, he would put me in the cell. I accordingly went back. I told Mr. Cato what I wanted to see Mr. Hutchinson for, when he said, Mr. Hutchinson was not at home. In about ten minutes, I was put into the cell by Mr. Hutchinson's order.

Mr. Hutchinson.—Why did you not report these things to me, when you saw me in the morning?

Witness.—Because I was told that it might get some women into trouble, and that my child would not be treated any the better.

By a Juror.—I did not report to Mr. Hutchinson about the bruises, which I discovered on the visiting day, because I was persuaded not to do so, as I would get no good by it; but I was advised to get my child out of the Factory as quick as possible.

Job Vowles, the father, who gave his evidence in a very upright and straightforward manner corroborated his wife's testimony, as regarded the health of the child, previously to its going into the factory; he deposed, also, to making an application to Mr. Spode for leave to let the child go with the mother; he did not accompany the wife to the factory; he explained to Mr. Spode that he wished the child to be suckled by the mother, and Mr. Spode directed the clerk to wirte out the order to that effect; witness never saw the order.

Mr. Hutchinson here produced the order, which merely stated, that the child of Mary Vowles was to be received into the Female House of Correction with the mother.

Job Vowles continued.—Witness understood from Mr. Spode that the child was to have been suckled by the mother in the prison [So Mr. Spode understood, for so he told us the morning before the mother was released from the factory.—Ed. T.C.]; did not see the child again, till he went to fetch it away; in consdquence of hearing from his wife that the child was in very bad health, he went to Mr. Spode for an order to take away the child; this was on the 21st February, about a fortnight aand three days after it went in. I did not see my wife when I went to the factory; this would be contrary to regulations when under punishment; I did not ask to see her. I got the child from a woman in the Factory—the baby was ll but dead; it could scarcely move itself; I carried it home; it had greatly lost its flesh; it evacuated green matter with peas in it, for fourteen days; it was in great pain when it had its evacuations; I fed it with a little chicken and mutton broth; I took the child to Rowe and Maclachlan's Dispensary; Mr. Rowe said it was teething, and gave it some powders. Till I got the communication from my wife I did not know the child was ill; I made but one application for an order, which was immediately given, both for child and mother to come out.

By the Foreman.—Mr. Rowe said, he did not think there was any thing the matter with the child, but teething; I explained to Mr. Maclachlan how the child had been, bu he made no observation—he only prescribed.

By a Juror.—I told Mr. Rowe about the evacuation of the peas.

By another Juror.—The only mark I saw was a bruise on the forehead, about the size of a large bean, and a burn on the finger.

Coroner.—When I took the child from the Factory, I did not think I should carry it home alive. The driver of the van was standing at a door in the Police Office, and he heard Mr. Spode give directions for an order to be written for the child to be suckled.

Coroner, on the part of Mr. Hutchinson.—From the time the child came from the Factory, to the time it voided the peas, the food it got at my house was oatmeal gruel, sago, and arrow-root, with a little mlik and sugar—all the food the child took I made myself; no neighbour could give it any. I distinctly swear the child never ate any peas in my house; I always fed it myself; the child was not strong enough to get the peas itself; after it came from the Factory, it could not raise itself even in the cradle.

Judith Panton.—I am the mother of six children; I used to see Mrs. Vowles's child daily, before it went into the Factory; it was a healthy, well-looking child; the mother was suckling it before she went into the Factory; she did not mention to me, that she intended to wean the child—it was teething; as a mother of so many children, I would not think it right to wean a child while teething; the day the fater brought the child from the Factory, he brought it to my place; the baby looked very bad, very much worn and spent; I did not think it likely to live. Mrs. Vowles did not come home with the child at the time, but about a fortnight after; I used to wash and dress the child every morning, till the mother came home; the evacuations of the child were green, with peas in them. The father said, "Is it not surprising, Mrs. Panton, how this poor child is passing green peas through it?" I saw the peas in the cloth—they were round and hard; for two or three mornings, I noticed the child to be evacuating peas; the evacuations were generally of a green liquid matter; the father used to feed the child on arrow-root and sago; I told him this was the best food for him. The child lingered on, and died on Monday night last, at 12 o'clock.

By a Juror.—The only mark I noticed on the child was a blister on the finger. I saw the cloth taken from the child, with peas in it.

Mrs. Cato.—I am assistant matron and midwife to the Female House of Correction. I received a prisoner, named Mary Vowles, myself; it is the regulation to change the dress, and to put on the prison dress; she had a child with her. She entreated Mr. Hutchinson, in my presence, to go with her child to the nursery. I did not notice the child to be ill; if it had been, it would have attracted my attention. A woman of the name of Spruce was an overseer at that time, in the weaning nursery; she got charge of the child. I recollect Mary Vowles telling Mr. Hutchinson that Mr. Spode had said she might be with her child; I am sure she did not make use of the word "suckle," but said she had permission to be with her child. I recollect saying to Mr. Hutchinson, "This woman begs very hard to be with her child," and Mr. Hutchinson said, he could not allow it, as the warrant did not express it. Spruce took away the child into the nursery, without the mother going with it. I do not hink I heard Mr. Hutchinson say, he would put Mary Vowles in a cell, when she was pleading so hard to see her chid. Mary Vowles said to Mr. Hutchinson, that if she could not have her child with her, she would send it back to her husband. Mr. Hutchinson said, "Yes, you can send it back, if you can get any one to take it; I have no wish to keep it." There was not alternative, but that the child should to into the nursery. Mary Vowles said, "If I cannot go to the nursery with my child, I will take it with me to the crime class." Mr. Hutchinson said, "No, you cannot do that, as it would not live there; it must be placed in the nursery, appropriated for children." I do not recollect the van man saying, that Mr. Spode had given an order to receive the chidl; I am sure I do not recollect Mary Vowles saying that she was suckling her baby. It is customary in the establishment for mothers to see their children once a month; this is not a government regulation, but a portion of the internal management, arranged by the Superintendent.

By the Foreman.—Dr. M'Braire is the Medical Attendant; I do not know what are his duties; he often visits the nursery; the children, when indiposed—[Query? ought to be?—Reporter] taken to the doctor.

[Here the Foreman recommended, that, when children were indisposed, they ought to be taken to mothers, or mothers ought to be allowed to go to the children.]

Foreman.—Under whose care are the children in the nursery?

Mrs. Cato.—Under Mrs. Hutchinson, who has two windows looking into it.

By a Juror.—Mrs. Hutchinson and myself examine the clothes of prisoners coming into the factory; they are undressed, and clean linen given them, their clothes being put by till washed.

By another Juror.—Mothers known to be suckling, are allowed a share in the weaning of a child for three or six days, although sentenced to the crime class; if very young, the mothers, if sent to the crime class, are permitted to have their children with them.

By another Juror.—Is it not customary to allow mothers to accompany infants for three days?

Mrs. Cato.—Yes, if the circumstances be known.

Mary Vowles recalled.—I informed Mr. Hutchinson and Mrs. Cato that I was suckling the child. The van-man said he heard Mr. Spode say I was to suckle the child. [It was here suggested by, we believe, Mrs. Cato, that if Mary Vowles was suckling the child, she would have suffered some inconvenience.—Mary Vowles replied that she did so, and suffered much.

William Cox, examined.—I am the van-man; I saw Job Vowles at the Police Ofice, on the morning of the 3rd February. Vowles to an order to take his child to the factory; the father brought the child to the van, but I could not receive the child without an order; the father then brought an order the child to go to the factory; the father did not, in my hearing, assign any reason for asking the child to go to its mother. It is customary to send unweaned children into the factory with their mothers. I asked the mother (Mary Vowles) whether she was suckling the child; she said she was. I am not aware that the order was given because she was suckling the child; I delivered th emother and child at the factory. I heard Mary Vowles entreat to be allowed to go with her child, when I went into the office, and something was passing between Mr. Hutchinson and her. I heard Mr. Hutchinson say, that if she did take the child with her to the crime class, the child would die. Mary Vowles said she did not care where she went, so that she had the child with her. I do not recollect hearing Mr. Spode give directions to Mary Vowles to have the child suckled. I said to Mr. Hutchinson, that there was an order to admit the child. When I was at the factory, I knew the mother was suckling the child, but did not tell Mr. Hutchinson so.

Anne Spruce.—I am overseer of the weaning ward, and take charge of certain chidlren; Mary Vowles's child was given me to nurse; I heard no entreaty from the mother to go to her child nor for the child to go with her; did not know that Vowles was suckling; I did not see any thing the matter with the child when I took charge of it. I heard the nurse that had charge of that child, say it was ill about ten days. The nurse took it to the doctor. My duty as overseer was to see to the proper distribution of the children's food to each nurse, whose duty it was to give it to the children. The provisions are given to me, and I give them to the cook, who hands them round to the nurse. The food consists of milk, bread and sugar; no peas are ever given; sago is the properest thing to give to children; the children that were sick had sago and wine; the deceased child got sago and wine; I gave it to him myself, because he was ill; not very ill; sago is usually given to children when sick; warm milk and bread and sugar are given, when first taken from the breast, and warm milk at night afterwards.

By the Foreman.—Witness knows, that the full allowance is served out to the children, and consumed.

The Foreman here observed, that it was proper that the overseer ought to ask whether the child was suckling or not.

By the Foreman.—It is the overseer's duty to chastise the children; infants just weaned; never saw the deceased, Thomas Vowles chastised.

Elizabeth Bennett.—I am a prisoner of the Crown; observed that the child looked very thin; understod it was not weaned; did not think there was any milk in his mother's breast; I saw no bruize on the child; "I did not see none whatsomever; I was too much occupied with my own baby, to attend to any one's else."

[This witness gave her evidence very flippently, and very disrespectfully—she was, evidently, in our opinion, biassed by any idea of concealing the facts; her manner was highly reprehensible.—Reporter.]

Louisa Fuller.—I am a prisoner of the crown, and am in the nursery at the Female House of Correction; recollects that Mary Vowles was crying, because her baby was put in the nursery. I saw her milk her breasts once, and but once; she came out with me to see her child, as I came out to see mine. I saw the child; it looked like a weaning child; I saw a black mark upon it, as if it had been falling about and got bruised. I told the mother not to mind it, as children will fall about; the mark which I saw, was not bigger than a sixpence. The proper time to see children is once a month; but Mr. Hutchinson is kind enough to let us see them oftener when sickly. I did not Mary Vowles complaining, she would not be allowed to suckle her child.

Mr. Colonial Assistant Surgeon, Dr. Dermer.—I have examined the body of the deceased, with a view to ascertain the cause of its death; the cause of its death was "obstinate diarrhoea;" I think it was brought on by the visitation of God, in consequence, partly by weaning, and partly by teething—the child thereby sinking rapidly. I did not attend this child, having only been appointed to the Factory yesterday. The mother ought, if she had milk enough, to have been permitted to suckle the child; this course would have been much more desirable. If the mother had milk enough, I would have ordered the mother to have suckled it. In my opinion, the child ought to have been brought under the notice of the medical attendant; it would have been more judicious to have permitted the mother to suckle the child, and this is the course which I shoud have adopted.

The Coroner stated, that he had not summoned Dr. M'Braire, as he was given to understand, that he would not attend.

The Coroner now briefly addressed the jury, who retired, and brought in the following verdice:—"That the said Thomas Vowles came to his death in a natural way by Diarrhoea, induced by teething and weaning, and that he died on the 12th instant. And the Jury are strongly impressed, that the confined state of the nurseries, and want of proper precaution at the time of receiving the child, Thomas Vowles, at the House of Correction, and in the nursing, induced the same."

Mary Vowles (nee Maria Phelan) gave birth to her son Thomas on 24 February 1837. On 3 February 1838 she was charged with using bad language to Mrs Susan Martin and sentenced to six weeks hard labour at Cascades Female Factory. The Elizabeth Bennett mentioned above was possibly the convict who arrived in 1834 on board the Edward; Louisa Fuller is likely to have been the convict who arrived from Sydney on the Siren in 1836; and Ann Spruce is likely to have been the convict who arrived on the Westmoreland in 1836.

You can read more about the Vowles case in the story titled Sentenced in Van Diemen's Land: Mary Vowles in Convict Lives: Women at Cascades Female Factory.


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For academic referencing (suggestion only) Database: [http address], FCRC Female Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land database, entry for xxxx ID no xxx, accessed online [date].

For academic referencing (suggestion only) Website:  Female Convicts Research Centre Inc., accessed online [date] from [http address].