Ann BECK

per Sea Queen 1846,

A Journey to New Norfolk Asylum.

By Stephanie McComb (26/11/2020)

 

The known life of Ann Beck is a tale of hardship, personal suffering and one of desperately poor mental health. Such was the extent of her mental health problems that she was admitted shortly after her arrival on the shores of Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) to New Norfolk Asylum, VDL.

It is the British winter of 1844 and we find an Ann Beck age 34, from the settlement of Liverpool admitted to the Liverpool Workhouse England on the 3rd of December.[1] A place where only those who are destitute and unable to care for themselves and need help to survive are admitted.  Of course we cannot ever be totally sure, we can only assume that this is the Ann of our story but the age and her personal future circumstances dictate that this is likely to be her. For eight months Ann remains at the workhouse finally being discharged in the July of 1845.[2]

In as little as 6 months on the 28th of January 1846, at the age of 35 years, Ann is charged with stealing clothing in Liverpool. She is arrested and placed on a charge of simple larceny. Her trial is held at the court of the Liverpool Quarter Sessions on the 2nd of February. The court indictment file reads:

The Jurors for our Lady the Queen, upon their Oath and affirmation present, That Ann Beck late of the Borough of Liverpool, in the County of Lancaster, Singlewoman on the twenty eighth day of January in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty six with Force and Arms at the Borough aforesaid, in the County aforesaid, and within the jurisdiction of this Court, One Gown of the value of five shillings one shift of the value of three shillings One petticoat of the value of two shillings and one Shirt of the value of one shilling of the Goods and Chattels of Sarah Kemp Then and there being found, feloniously did steal, take and carry away, against the Peace of our said Lady the Queen, her Crown and Dignity.[3]

The witnesses are named as Sarah Kemp, John Turkington and James Burrows.[4] A second act of Larceny is also heard. This time Ann is found stealing on the same day items of bedding, clothes pegs and wood. The court indictment file reads:

The Jurors for our Lady the Queen, upon their Oath and affirmation present, That Ann Beck late of the Borough of Liverpool, in the County of Lancaster, Singlewoman on the twenty eighth day of January in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty six with Force and Arms at the Borough aforesaid, in the County aforesaid, and within the jurisdiction of this Court, One Cotton Sheet of the value of two shillings and six pence, four Clothes pegs of the value of one penny and four pieces of wood of the value of one penny of the Goods and Chattels of Thomas Kemp; and one other sheet of the value of two shillings of the Goods and Chattels of Patrick Flinn Then and there being found, feloniously did steal, take and carry away, against the Peace of our said Lady the Queen, her Crown and Dignity.[5]

In this case the witnesses are named as Sarah Kemp, Patrick Flinn, Margaret MacCourin and James Halliday.[6] Ann pleads guilty to both the offences. The jury find her guilty and hand written in the top right hand corner of the court document it reads her fate of 7 years transportation’.

The following May 1846, three months after her sentencing, Ann embarks on the ship the Sea Queen.[7] Dr. T.W. Jewell R.N. is the Surgeon Superintendent of the vessel and reports in his Medical and Surgical Journal that there are …’170 women and 15 children on board’ … ‘On the 2nd seventy-two, and subsequently on the 4th May ninety-eight Female Convicts from Millbank Prison, London were embarked at Woolwich … ‘all appearance in a healthy condition’.[8] The Sea Queen sets sail on the 12th of May 1846.[9] Overall the sea and weather conditions appear to have been noted as favourable. For the course of the voyage 66 women were placed on the sick list between the 15th of May and the 26th of August. Dr. Jewell diagnoses a range of diseases and conditions ranging from 34 cases of Diarrhoea (the majority occurring in the month of August), Hepatitis, Hematemesis and Hysteria, to name a few.[10] Ann is the first woman to be placed on the sick list three days into the voyage. But she comes to the attention of Dr. Jewell before the ship has even set sail. For he writes on the 15th of May:

On the morning of the 5th May while the ship was lying off Woolwich my attention was first called to this woman, not so particularly in consequence of her disposition to pilfer any and everything that came her way, but from the peculiar manner in which she pursued it, -  nothing escaped from her notice however trifling or useless, and her feet were employed as well as her hands to affect her purposes, - then again the secretive here exercised, concealing such things in her bosom, up her sleeves, beneath her clothes, everywhere where she thought such would not be discovered and  indeed the variety of articles, or rags, yarns, shavings, pieces of cloth, &c that she managed to accumulate thro’ the agency of her hands and feet, was surprising . [11]

Regrettably, Ann, not only is she observed …‘to pilfer any and everything’[12] but it is also recorded that she does not have the motivation to pay attention to her personal care or hygiene. The ship’s surgeon believes she is …‘indifferent’[13]to her needs and he states …’her clothes were ragged, rendered so by her own acts, - dirty and indifferent as to cleanliness’.[14]  In order to address this he places her under the personal care and supervision of a fellow female convict stating this is in order … ‘to watch her and keep her from mischief and likewise endeavour & keep her to clean & decent’.[15] For the majority of the voyage Ann’s behaviour is described as …‘quiet and reasonable’.[16] Although when Ann’s mood and behaviour is …‘quiet and reasonable’… Dr. Jewell believes her to be … ‘cunning, sly, artful and foolish – always ready with an excuse for any and every foolish act’.[17] To address, and no doubt control and stop this behaviour, Dr. Jewell’s approach is to utilize physical restraint and administer her medication, reporting that … ‘medication and mild restraint were at first employed to check this disposition’.[18] Sadly, and not unsurprisingly, Ann, we can assume, reacts to the stress and conditions on board and the use of restraint. Dr. Jewell, as of the 15th of May, further describes that Ann is displaying behaviour which he says is of a …violent, noisy & irrational manner’.[19] Therefore stricter measures are now administered to control Ann’s behaviour and Ann is placed in a …‘strait – waistcoat’.[20] However he writes that whenever the strait-waistcoat is subsequently removed Ann becomes destructive and she attempts and succeeds in destroying her own clothes:

to destroy mischievously everything that came near her even to her own clothing, of which at several times, when biting thro’ the lacing of the jacket that confined the sleeves she was enabled to remove it, she left herself destitute & naked.[21]

There is no improvement in Ann’s mental condition and two female prisoners are now constantly with her to attend to her needs. At night Ann is now removed to a cell in order to … ‘remove her from all sources of annoyance on the part of her fellow prisoners, as likewise in having the further beneficial effects of reliving her mind, all sources of enquiring and anxiety being removed from her sight’.[22] However, whilst Dr. Jewell provides detail of Ann’s mental state, he reports very little about Ann’s physical health. Only on one occasion does he record her as physically unwell when an instance of …“Icteras”[23] occurred whilst in the …‘tropics’.[24] This he treated with …’active purgatives’.[25] Whilst her diet is …‘generous’. [26]

Dr. Jewell considers what may have been the cause of Ann’s condition and, while her previous personal detailed history is unknown, he concludes that he has sufficient evidence to make a diagnosis of …‘Mania’.[27] He makes his diagnosis from discussion with fellow prisoners who, if they are to be believed, claim that Ann suffered from …‘convulsive fits (epileptic no doubt) when in prison’.[28] Therefore this evidence, coupled with Ann’s presenting behaviour and circumstance, lead him to the following conclusion:

A case of Mania, a disease at all times most distressing, and so generally understood as not to require any remark, beyond what in this instance might have been the cause of it. Whatever may have been the previous history of the female that could have led to any correct conclusion as to what might have induced the disease in question, [1]is indistinct. We only hear of her as one of the lowest and depraved of that class of unfortunate females, whose habits under such circumstances generally correspond with the accompany depravity, intemperance more especially. This in itself we evidence as a frequent cause of cerebral disorganization & maniacal affections, and if as in the instance before us we add the other vitious propensity, we have sufficient data to devise a cause that would lead to the present affection. [29]

Dr. Jewell furthermore concludes that, with such a diagnosis, he finds it to be regretful that Ann has been …‘banished to the penal settlement’[30] as due to her mental condition she will not be in a position to carry out any work within VDL.

The Sea Queen arrived in Hobart on the 29th of August 1846. The Hobart Town Courier and Government Gazette provides the shipping news that the Sea Queen has arrived:

August 29_ Arrived the bark, Sea Queen, 404 tons, 4 guns, Wood, from Woolwich 12th May, with 169 female prisoners and 15 children, Dr Jewell, R.N., Surgeon Superintendent, Matron, Mrs Ireland - passenger, Master Ireland. [31]

The ship’s Daily Sick Book records that on the 1st of September Ann is discharged from the ship to the hospital in Hobart. [32] Therefore no record of her physical description is taken.[33] Nor do we have any details of Ann’s family. Her convict records are brief, recording that she has previous offences against ‘property’ and oflarceny’.[34] The Goal report states five times imprisoned for ‘vagrancy’, also a ‘thief’ and a ‘prostitute’.[35] Dr. Jewell, within the ship’s Medical and Surgical Journal, makes one final entry for Ann. He reports:

she was removed to a “Lunatic Asylum”, which since being her I visited, and I regret to say no amendment has as yet manifested itself rather I might add, report most unfavourably. [36]

The Lunatic Asylum the surgeon refers to is the New Norfolk Asylum. But Ann’s time spent at the asylum is short for sadly Ann dies on the 7th of November 1846 at the asylum.[37] Her cause of death is not obtainable from online records, if it was recorded it would no doubt, in my opinion, state the cause as Mania.

The Sea Queen had left England on the12th of May taking 109 days to arrive in Hobart. A voyage which would have been extremely difficult and stressful for each of the 170 women and 15 children on board.  For Ann, with such mental health problems, coupled with the use of physical restraint and a daily confinement to a cell, it must have felt to be a mental and physical torture. Ann was clearly unwell pre-transportation and we will never know if an undiagnosed physical illness contributed, or was indeed the cause, of her mental health problems. But what we can say is that for Ann the long and crowded voyage, physical restraint, cell confinement and a sense of depersonalisation would have undoubtedly escalated her mental health deterioration and sadly lead to her subsequent early death a very long way from her home town of Liverpool. The story of Ann Beck is indeed a very sad tale.

 

Stephanie McComb

25th November 2020

 

[1] Liverpool Record Office. Liverpool Workhouse. 353 SEL 18-24:Date 1841-1928

[2] Liverpool Record Office. Liverpool Workhouse. 353 SEL 18-24: Date 1841-1928

[3] Liverpool Record Office. Liverpool Borough Sessions. Indictments and Papers of the Sessions held on Monday – the second day of February 1846. 347 QUA 1/60.1 Vol.

[4] Liverpool Record Office. Liverpool Borough Sessions. Indictments and Papers of the Sessions held on Monday – the second day of February 1846. 347 QUA 1/60.1 Vol.

[5] Liverpool Record Office. Liverpool Borough Sessions. Indictments and Papers of the Sessions held on Monday – the second day of February 1846. 347 QUA 1/60.1 Vol.

[6] Liverpool Record Office. Liverpool Borough Sessions. Indictments and Papers of the Sessions held on Monday – the second day of February 1846. 347 QUA 1/60.1 Vol.

[7] Ancestry.Co.UK. Australian Convict Transportation Registers – other Fleets and Ships; 1791-1968. HO 11/5 image No 27.

[8] The National Archives. ADM 101/66/10/1 1846 Sick List. Ancestry. Co. UK. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817, 1856. Medical and Surgical Journal of her Majesty’s Female - Convict Ship Sea Queen.   

[9] TA, CON 41/1/10 Ann Beck, Sea Queen: 1846, image 11.

[10] The National Archives. ADM 101/66/10/1 1846 Sick List. Ancestry. Co. UK. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817, 1856. Medical and Surgical Journal of her Majesty’s Female - Convict Ship Sea Queen.  

[11] The National Archives. ADM 101/66/10/1 1846 Sick List. Ancestry. Co. UK. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817, 1856. Medical and Surgical Journal of her Majesty’s Female - Convict Ship Sea Queen.  

[12] The National Archives. ADM 101/66/10/1 1846 Sick List. Ancestry. Co. UK. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817, 1856. Medical and Surgical Journal of her Majesty’s Female - Convict Ship Sea Queen.  

[13]The National Archives. ADM 101/66/10/1 1846 Sick List. Ancestry. Co. UK. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817, 1856. Medical and Surgical Journal of her Majesty’s Female - Convict Ship Sea Queen.  

[14]The National Archives. ADM 101/66/10/1 1846 Sick List. Ancestry. Co. UK. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817, 1856. Medical and Surgical Journal of her Majesty’s Female - Convict Ship Sea Queen.  

[15] The National Archives. ADM 101/66/10/1 1846 Sick List. Ancestry. Co. UK. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817, 1856. Medical and Surgical Journal of her Majesty’s Female - Convict Ship Sea Queen.  

[16] The National Archives. ADM 101/66/10/1 1846 Sick List. Ancestry. Co. UK. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817, 1856. Medical and Surgical Journal of her Majesty’s Female - Convict Ship Sea Queen.  

[17] The National Archives. ADM 101/66/10/1 1846 Sick List. Ancestry. Co. UK. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817, 1856. Medical and Surgical Journal of her Majesty’s Female - Convict Ship Sea Queen.  

[18] The National Archives. ADM 101/66/10/1 1846 Sick List. Ancestry. Co. UK. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817, 1856. Medical and Surgical Journal of her Majesty’s Female - Convict Ship Sea Queen.  

[19] The National Archives. ADM 101/66/10/1 1846 Sick List. Ancestry. Co. UK. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817, 1856. Medical and Surgical Journal of her Majesty’s Female - Convict Ship Sea Queen.  

[20] The National Archives. ADM 101/66/10/1 1846 Sick List. Ancestry. Co. UK. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817, 1856. Medical and Surgical Journal of her Majesty’s Female - Convict Ship Sea Queen.  

[21] The National Archives. ADM 101/66/10/1 1846 Sick List. Ancestry. Co. UK. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817, 1856. Medical and Surgical Journal of her Majesty’s Female - Convict Ship Sea Queen. 

[22] The National Archives. ADM 101/66/10/1 1846 Sick List. Ancestry. Co. UK. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817, 1856. Medical and Surgical Journal of her Majesty’s Female - Convict Ship Sea Queen.  

[23] The National Archives. ADM 101/66/10/1 1846 Sick List. Ancestry. Co. UK. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817, 1856. Medical and Surgical Journal of her Majesty’s Female - Convict Ship Sea Queen.  

[24] The National Archives. ADM 101/66/10/1 1846 Sick List. Ancestry. Co. UK. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817, 1856. Medical and Surgical Journal of her Majesty’s Female - Convict Ship Sea Queen. 

[25] The National Archives. ADM 101/66/10/1 1846 Sick List. Ancestry. Co. UK. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817, 1856. Medical and Surgical Journal of her Majesty’s Female - Convict Ship Sea Queen.  

[26] The National Archives. ADM 101/66/10/1 1846 Sick List. Ancestry. Co. UK. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817, 1856. Medical and Surgical Journal of her Majesty’s Female - Convict Ship Sea Queen.  

[27] The National Archives. ADM 101/66/10/1 1846 Sick List. Ancestry. Co. UK. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817, 1856. Medical and Surgical Journal of her Majesty’s Female - Convict Ship Sea Queen.  

[28] The National Archives. ADM 101/66/10/1 1846 Sick List. Ancestry. Co. UK. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817, 1856. Medical and Surgical Journal of her Majesty’s Female - Convict Ship Sea Queen.

[29]  The National Archives. ADM 101/66/10/1 1846 Sick List. Ancestry. Co. UK. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817, 1856. Medical and Surgical Journal of her Majesty’s Female - Convict Ship Sea Queen.

[30] The National Archives. ADM 101/66/10/1 1846 Sick List. Ancestry. Co. UK. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817, 1856. Medical and Surgical Journal of her Majesty’s Female - Convict Ship Sea Queen.

[31] Trove. The Hobart Town Courier and Government Gazette, Hobart Town, Wednesday Morning, September 2, 1846. Vol. XIX. page 2.

[32] The National Archives. ADM 101/66/10/1 1846 Sick List. Ancestry. Co. UK. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817, 1856. Medical and Surgical Journal of her Majesty’s Female - Convict Ship Sea Queen.

[33] TA. CON 19/1/5. Ann Beck. Sea Queen Image 171.

[34] TA. CON 41/1/10.Ann Beck. Sea Queen. Image 11.

[35] TA. CON 41/1/10. Ann Beck. Sea Queen. Image 11.

[36] The National Archives. ADM 101/66/10/1 1846 Sick List. Ancestry. Co. UK. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817, 1856. Medical and Surgical Journal of her Majesty’s Female - Convict Ship Sea Queen

[37] TA. CON 63//1/2. Ann Beck. Sea Queen. Image 2.

Reference

www.femaleconvicts.org.au

 

 

 

 

 


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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 [date].

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