The Providence departed Woolwich on 13 June 1821 with 103 female convicts, 17 free women and children at the expense of the government to join male relatives and a number of free settlers emigrating with their families. The ship touched at Port Praya (Cape Verde Islands) and Rio de Janeiro, and the voyage took 187 days to reach Hobart Town, Van Diemen’s Land on 18 December 1821. Fifty-four women were landed and the ship continued with the remaining female convicts to Port Jackson, New South Wales, arriving on 7 January 1822.[i]
David Reid RN was appointed surgeon superintendent of the Providence. It was his third and last voyage on a transport ship and his medical journal has not survived. He served at Trafalgar on the Bellerophon during the Napoleonic Wars (1808-1815) and was surgeon on the male convict ship the Baring 1815 and 1819.
Dr Reid received land grants from Governor Macquarie comprising 2,000 acres (809 ha) which induced him to settle permanently in the colony to pursue pastoral interests. He emigrated with his wife Agnes and children: Agnes aged 6, David aged 2 and Emma (born at sea) on the Mariner 1823 and they settled at ‘Inverary Park’, Bungonia, New South Wales. His son, David, was imbued with a pioneering spirit and a sense of adventure. Dr Reid fitted him out for an expedition with wagons, drays, men, two year’s supplies and 500 head of cattle in search of grazing land. In 1838 he crossed the Murray River at Hume’s Crossing (now called Albury) and selected land near Wangaratta in Victoria.[ii]
Forty-seven prisoners were Middlesex Gaol deliveries and ten were London Gaol deliveries. Forty-three arrived from counties throughout England and three from Edinburgh. Several had been sentenced to death and respited. Twenty-one were transported for life, forty-nine for 14 years and thirty-three for 7 years.[iii]
Some of the prisoners embarked on board on Saturday 19 May 1821:
Yesterday morning, at five o’clock, 39 female convicts were removed from Newgate by Mr. Brown, the Keeper, assisted by Mr Hardy and other Officers of the prison, in hackney coaches to the landing stairs of the Thames Police Office, where they embarked on board a Gravesend vessel, and were conveyed to the ship Providence, lying off Woolwich, bound for New South Wales. They are most of them young women, and were in high spirits.[iv]
The Newgate contingent had been incarcerated for many months and it’s no wonder they were cheerful. From the time of their conviction, to their arrival in Hobart Town, a period of over twelve months had elapsed.
Middlesex Gaol Deliveries—Possessing and uttering forged Bank of England notes
A large number of the female convicts were tried for possessing forged Bank of England notes and feloniously disposing of them. The poor quality of these notes led to a spate of forgeries and the Bank instituted proceedings for both forgery and uttering. The new Act passed in July 1820 was intended to prevent forging and counterfeiting of bank notes and imposed a penalty of fourteen years transportation. The Bank took a lenient course, not to offer any evidence in support of the capital offence (forgery) against those persons who had pleaded guilty to the minor charge (uttering), and they were consequently acquitted of the capital offence.[v]
The prosecutors, ‘Gentlemen of the Bank’, through their solicitors, Freshfields, received hundreds of letters from male and female prisoners, begging for help to cope with the prison conditions and the voyage.[vi]
Women with children were given favourable consideration and their letters are telling of the deprivations facing them. A few of the female convicts, prior to embarking on the Providence, were among those who sent letters seeking relief: [vii]
Phillis Johns aka Felice Johns, aged 39, was heavily pregnant when she was arrested for uttering a forged bank note to Mr McClew, a linen draper in Moorfields in September 1820. She gave birth to a boy in the Giltspur Street compter. The Bank gave her £2 as she had given birth. Phillis wrote to the Gentlemen of the Bank thanking them and at the same time saying that she was destitute, having three children to support, and that she had pledged and forfeited several articles of apparel. The Bank was sympathetic and gave her 7s 6d a week while she was in Newgate and £5 to sail on the Providence.
Ann Prince, aged 20, with an infant at the breast, was in the company of Phillis Johns when she was arrested, but had escaped. Ann was found the following evening in Lambeth and was apprehended on suspicion of being with Johns. Though no precise charge was made, Ann was overcome with maternal feelings, and begged the Officer to charge her with some offence in the city, rather than in Surrey, as her infant would perish with cold if confined till the next assizes. It was suspected that Ann had resorted to crime in order to get transported to New South Wales to join her husband. Ann then voluntarily confessed to passing a bad note to Mr Jones, a linen draper in Cheapside. In her letter to the Bank, Ann bemoaned that she was taken advantage of during her confinement and had no clothes for the child. The Bank gave her 5s a week while in Newgate and £5 to sail on the Providence.
Jane Gould aka Gold, aged 24, in her letter to the Bank, said that her husband, a prisoner, had ‘gone to the bay’, and she was without friends to help. The Bank considered that she was no worse off than the others and refused relief – but they did give her £5 to sail on the Providence. [viii]
London City—stealing a child
Sarah Jones, aged 25, of Shoe Lane, London, was convicted at the Old Bailey and sentenced to 7 years transportation. William Scott, seventeen months old, was being held in the arms of his ten year old brother Hugh, when Sarah asked if she could kiss the infant. Hugh refused her request and she knocked him to the ground. Sarah gave another boy a halfpenny to hold him down and she ran off with the infant. The locals galvanized into action and they found William stripped naked and wrapped in a towel. Sarah was later apprehended and found in possession of two petticoats, a boot, a frock, a fur hat, a handkerchief, and in her pocket was the other boot. Sarah claimed that she had found a bundle of clothes which she was attempting to sell.[ix]
These misdemeanours comprised picking pockets, highway robbery, uttering forged notes, receiving stolen goods, burglary, shoplifting, grand and petty larceny, for example:
Nell Daverron alias Gwynne, aged 37, was convicted at the Newington Quarter Sessions Surrey and sentenced to 7 years transportation for stealing a pair of bellows.
Ann Lloyd, aged 30, was convicted at Gloucester Quarter Sessions and sentenced to 7 years transportation for stealing four hens, one cock and three beehives.[x]
Hobart Town, Van Diemen’s Land
The female convicts landing in Hobart Town were inspected on board the ship by Lieutenant-Governor Sorell. The whole of them, with the exception of one or two, were said to be in good health, due to the humane care and attention of Dr Reid.[xi]
Mary Connor has an indent recorded in Hobart Town and is presumed to have died shortly before or soon after the ship arrived. An Extract of Indents for female convicts who landed in Hobart Town, prepared by the Colonial Secretary’s Office Sydney on 14 January 1822, is annotated that she ‘died on the passage’, but no death record has been found. [xii]
There is uncertainty whether two women were landed in Hobart Town. They each have indents recorded but no supporting documentation was found.
Margaret McDonald appears on the ship’s muster roll as Margaret Smith, the wife of Alexander McDonald. They were both tried in Edinburgh in March 1820 for the same offence and were sentenced to 14 years transportation. Alexander McDonald was transported to New South Wales on Asia (1) 1820. Margaret petitioned Governor Darling in May 1826 to allow Alexander ‘to work as formerly for his family’. She stated that she was sent to the Factory at Parramatta, New South Wales and shortly afterwards had joined her husband at Minto. They were shunted around by his employers because a wife and family were considered a burden and Alexander went ‘on his own hands’ to support them. However, he was eventually turned in to the Barracks in Sydney. Mr Hely, the Principal Superintendent of Convicts Office at Parramatta received a copy of the petition and said he wasn’t aware that Margaret was actually at large. Governor Darling then ordered Margaret to be sent back to the Factory.[xiii]
Jane Jones alias Jane Linbeck, aged 27, was tried in Lancaster and sentenced to 7 years transportation. She was on board with two young children and had left her husband, Charles Lindbeck, at home alone. He remedied the situation by stealing a cow and was transported to New South Wales on Sesostris 1826. Jane received a certificate of freedom in 1827 no. 1023, and in 1828 Census they were residing at Parramatta with three children.[xiv]
Sydney to Hobart Town
Two women who continued on board the Providence and landed at Port Jackson later arrived in Hobart Town with their husbands:
Elizabeth Harris, aged 25 from Wales, was sentenced at the Southampton Assizes to 14 years transportation. She married James Jarvis per Speke 1821 on 11 March 1822 at Parramatta. They arrived in Hobart Town on the Deveron 1824 as assigned servants to Mr Murdoch. In 1825 they both received conditional pardons.[xv]
Ann White, aged 27 from Exeter, was convicted at the Old Bailey for uttering forged bank notes and was sentenced to 14 years transportation. She married David Heys aka Hayes per Asia (1) 1820 in Sydney in 1825. On 22 May 1833, Ann only had a few months to serve and was waiting for permission to accompany her husband to Hobart Town. They boarded the Harlequin in Sydney promising the Master that if permission was not obtained, she would not go. Some constables arrived and took her into custody. Ann had a narrow escape from being transported for 14 years, having the benefit of the Master’s testimony and she was allowed to proceed with her husband. They arrived in Hobart Town on 27 September 1833 on the Funchal. David Hayes set up business in Frederick Street Launceston as a potter—manufacturing bread pans, foot, leg and bidet pans, washing pans, water monkeys, garden pots and chimney pipes.[xvi]
Hobart Town Female Factory
The Old Hobart Gaol was situated on the corner of Macquarie and Murray Streets and in June 1821 a small factory specifically to house recalcitrant female convicts was constructed in its precinct. The room measured only 4 by 3 metres and was divided from the old Gaol by a brick wall.[xvii]
A number of the female convicts on the Providence were imprisoned at various times in the Female Factory, for misdemeanours comprising, insolence, neglect of duty, being drunk and disorderly and absenting themselves from service.[xviii]
Elizabeth Callaghan, aged 19, was transported for 14 years (death respited) for feloniously disposing of a forged and counterfeit Bank note. In March 1822 she was drunk and disorderly and confined in the Gaol for 7 days, to wear an iron collar for that period and to sit in the stocks twice for two hours. She was absent from service for one night in June 1822 and sent to the Gaol to sit in the stocks for three hours. In January 1823, she was absent for one day and night, and put on a bread and water diet for one week and ordered to sit in the stocks for two hours each day. On 4 March 1825, Elizabeth absconded and a £2 reward was posted. She married John Batman in 1828 at Launceston, who later went to Port Phillip and was a founder of the present day site of Melbourne Victoria.
Lydia Hines, aged 17, one of the youngest on board the ship, was convicted for having a forged Bank note and was transported for 14 years. Her list of misdemeanours is pitiful with 23 colonial offences recorded. In July 1823 she stole a silver spoon and was sent to the Female Factory and put on a bread and water diet for 7 days. In October that year, while at work in the Factory, she was found wetting the yarn spun to increase its weight, in order to lessen her workload, and was ordered to spend 7 days on a bread and water diet. Further infractions for insolence and absenting from service saw her in and out of the Factory. By October 1825 Lydia had had enough and escaped from the Factory through a hole in the wall. She was ordered to spend 7 days in a cell on a bread and water diet, to wear an iron collar for that period and her hair was cut off. Her misdemeanours continued and so too did her punishments. In March 1828 she was drunk and disorderly and confined in a cell for 14 days on a bread and water diet and had her head shaved. The last offence was in January 1835 for being drunk and disorderly, when she received her lightest punishment of all, and was reprimanded.
Macquarie Harbour Penal Station
Four female convicts who arrived on the Providence were sent to Macquarie Harbour Penal Station which is situated on the west coast of Van Diemen’s Land. Male convicts were housed on Sarah Island, and a small number of women on a nearby island. The male convicts stripped Huon pines used for ship building. It was remote and inaccessible by land, considered almost impossible to escape from, but many men nevertheless tried.[xix]
Elizabeth Gould, aged 21, was sentenced to 14 years transportation at the Old Bailey for uttering forged notes. She married John Boothroyde per Dromedary 1819 at George Town in 1823. A few months later she was convicted for receiving a quantity of pork knowing it to be stolen and was sent to Macquarie Harbour for three years.
Sarah Hammond, aged 40, from Leicester, appears in 1822 Muster at Macquarie Harbour. Sarah was transported for 7 years and stated on arrival that she did not know where her husband and three children were.
Mary Revlet, aged 37, a widow and native of Jamaica, an ‘old offender’ was sentenced to transportation for life for stealing wearing apparel, and appears in 1822 Muster at Macquarie Harbour. She died in April 1847 and is buried in the grounds of the Prisoner’s Barracks at Hobart Town.
Elizabeth Slater, aged 18, a servant from Liverpool, was sentenced to 14 years transportation for uttering forged bank notes. Her first colonial offence was stealing from Mrs Sarah Birch and she was confined for six months in the Hobart Gaol. Elizabeth appears in 1822 Muster as a nurse in the hospital at Macquarie Harbour.
Over half of the women who landed in Hobart Town on the Providence were married within one or two years. Marriage would have given them hope of stability and freedom from servitude by being assigned to their husbands, but unfortunately not all made good choices. In most cases, their crimes were due to the poverty and appalling social conditions in their native lands. Having endured a voyage to a land some never knew existed, speaks of their courage and fortitude for facing the future. After serving their sentences they were released into the community and have left legacies of contributing to Australian society, through their descendants to this day.
The Female Convicts Research Centre Inc. has all of the female convicts who arrived in Van Diemen’s Land on its database. This database can be assessed by guest users following the links: https://www.femaleconvicts.org.au/search.
For information about the female convicts who proceeded to Port Jackson: https://www.freesettlerorfelon.com/convict_ship_providence_1822.htm
By Rhonda Arthur
[i] Providence ship: The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser [NSW:1803/SAT 10 NOV 1821/PAGE 2/SHIP NEWS. The ship John Barry arrived in Sydney from Ireland. At Rio Janeiro she left the Providence female convict ship, for the Derwent, in this port. Hobart Town Gazette and Van Diemen’s Land Advertiser (Tas.:1821-1825)/Sat 22 Dec 1821/Page 2/HOBART TOWN. SHIP NEWS.
[ii] David Reid RN: Charles Bateson ‘Reid, David (1777-1840)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Biography, Australian National University, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/reid-david-2585/test3543, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 3 November 2021. State Records Authority of New South Wales; Kingswood, NSW, Australia; Archive Reel: 2561; Series: 1217; Description: Index to Copies of Deeds to Land Grants 1826-1856. Hobart Town Gazette and Van Diemen’s Land Advertiser (Tas.:1821-1825)/Sat 27 Sep 1823/Page 2/HOBART TOWN.
David Reid Jnr: The Albury Banner and Wodonga Express (NSW:1871-1938)/Fri 11 May 1906/Page 24, DEATH OF BORDER PIONEERS. Wodonga and Towong Sentinel (Vic.:1885-1954)/Fri 11 May 1906/Page 3/ A PIONEER.
[iii] Ancestry.com. New South Wales, Australia Convict Ship Muster Rolls and Related Records, 1790-1849[database on-line].
[iv] Johnson’s Sunday Monitor—Sunday 20 May 1821, p3 of 4.
[v] Clive Emsley, Tim Hitchcock and Robert Shoemaker, “London History-Currency, Coinage and the Cost of Living:, Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 7.0 14 November 2021).
[vi] Citation: BHO Chicago MLA 'Introduction', in Prisoners' Letters to the Bank of England, 1781-1827, ed. Deirdre Palk (London, 2007), pp. vii-xxv. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/london-record-soc/vol42/vii-xxv [accessed 17 November 2021].
[vii] Citation: BHO Chicago MLA. Prisoners' Letters to the Bank of England, 1781-1827, ed. Deirdre Palk (London, 2007), British History Online http://www.british-
[viii] Phillis Johns aka Felice Johns Convict ID 10411; Ann Prince Convict ID1128 The Statesman (London) Tues 12 Sept 1820, p4 POLICE. BANK CASE, Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser Frid 22 Sept 1820, p3 of 4 POLICE GUILDHALL. Married Charles Prince per Shipley in Hobart Town 7 January 1822 RGD 36-1-1 no 526; and Jane Gould aka Gold Convict ID10408.
[ix] Sarah Jones Convict ID 1129; Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org version 8.0, 13 November 2021), October 1820, trial of SARAH JONES (t18201028-49).
[x] Nell Daverron alias Gwynne Convict ID 10404; Ann Lloyd Convict ID 1143.
[xi] Hobart Town Gazette and Van Diemen’s Land Advertiser, Sat 22 Dec 1821, page 2/HOBART TOWN.
[xii] TAHO CON13-1-2 P148-149—Assignment List for fifty-four female convicts landed in Hobart Town. (no 4) is blank as Mary Lloyd has been excised and reappears as (no 52). Phillis Johns aka Felice Johns does not appear on this list. Jane Jones (no 8) and Margaret McDonald (no 25) both appear on this list. TAHO CON13-1-2 P151-153—Extracts from Indents for fifty-three female convicts landed in Hobart Town. Mary Connor (no 3) annotated ‘died on the passage’. Phillis Johns aka Felice Johns (no 11) appears on this list. Margaret McDonald and Jane Jones do not appear on this list. A note has been added at the bottom of p152 ‘another Mary Ann Smith as described in the accompanying List (No 47) appears also to have been landed in Hobart Town, making the number 54’. It actually adds up to 55 if Mary Connor is included.
[xiii] Margaret McDonald Convict ID 146507 Petition dated 8 May 1826 State Archives & Records NSW Assignment and Employment of Convicts Petitions from Wives of Convicts 1826-1827 and 9 Aug 1824, McDonald Alexr, Asia(1), To whom assigned: Jno McIntyre, Cambd [Cambridge St] Colonial Secretary Papers, Special Bundles Series: NRS 898 Reels 6020-6040, 6070; Fiche 3260-3312.
[xiv] Jane Jones alias Linbeck Convict ID 146508 and Charles Lindbeck aka Limbeck: State Archives NSW; Bound Indenture Sesostris 1826: (noted that his wife Jane arrived on Providence and was with Mrs Shelly at Parramatta), Series: NRS 12188; Item: [4/4011]; Microfiche: 660. NSW Muster 1825 HO10/19 Jane Lindbeck GS Mrs Shelly Parramatta and Charles aged 7, State Records Authority of New South Wales; Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia; 1828 Census: Householders' Returns; Series Number: NRS 1273; Reel: 2507.
[xv] Elizabeth Harris Convict ID 3393 Colonial Secretary Papers Series: NRS 898: Reels 6020-6040, 6070; Fiche 3260-3312.
[xvi] Ann White Convict ID 5335 The Tasmanian (Hobart Town, Tas.: 1827-1839) /Fri 13 Sep 1833/Page 7/Miscellaneous Extracts. The Tasmanian (Hobart Town, Tas.: 1827-1839)/Fri 4 Oct 1833/Page 7/ Domestic Intelligence. The Independent (Launceston, Tas.: 1831-1835)/Sat 13 Dec 1834/Page 1/Advertising NEW POTTERY.
[xviii] Colonial Offences: Elizabeth Callaghan Convict ID 1126, TAHO CON40-1-1P256; Lydia Hines Convict ID 1125, TAHO CON40-1-5P28. Recommended reading: Convict Lives: Elizabeth Callaghan’s Convict Story by Don Bradmore https://www.femaleconvicts.org.au/about-convict-lives/profiles.
[xix] Macquarie Harbour: https://www.tasfamily.net.au/~schafferi/index.php?file=kop28.php. Elizabeth Gould Convict ID 1249 Sarah Hammond Convict ID 10409, Mary Revlet Convict ID 10416, Elizabeth Slater Convict ID 1131. Recommended reading of female convicts at Macquarie Harbour: https://www.femaleconvicts.org.au/convict-institutions/punishments - by E Crawford Nov 2020.
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