The punishment of being ‘removed to the interior’ served three main functions:

- it protected well-behaved females from being corrupted by association with bad company and bad habits, which may have included drinking and prostitution

- it isolated badly behaved women

- it was a means of providing female servants to settlers in unappealing, isolated regions.


Female convicts returned to the government, under warrant of a magistrate, were required to complete a term of punishment within the House of Correction (refer also to Crime Class punishment), such as solitary confinement, bread and water, or hard labour – usually at the wash tub.  The conviction also determined if the convict was to be re-assigned to a different location.  It was sometimes noted on conduct records that the convict was not to be re-assigned in Hobart Town or a town/district nominated by the magistrate, for example:


- Mary Ann M'Cleish, passholder, was charged with being out after hours. ’Constable Hands stated the prisoner has become connected with some fellow who was always enticing her from her service. Three months' hard labour and a removal to the interior, that the force of aggregation might be overcome’.[1]


- Jane Carr (per Edward): for using improper language and ‘going into the mens hut’, Jane was returned to the House of Correction for one month then ‘not to be assigned within 40 Miles of this Town’.


- Catherine McCallum (per Anna Maria): in 1853 Catherine was convicted of being absent all night from her service. She received two months’ hard labour and it was recommended that she not be allowed to reside south of Oatlands.


- Ann Jones [1] (per Asia): for ‘having in her Separate Apartment two notes of an improper character &tc.’, Ann was punished with three months’ hard labour in a separate cell and was then sent to ‘the other side of the Island’ on expiration of her sentence. Ann completed her sentence in Launceston, a town that was perceived as receiving the rejects.[2]


Based on the conduct report provided by the surgeon superintendent on board their transport ship to Van Diemen’s Land, some female convicts were removed to the interior immediately on arrival. Sarah Fenton and Rachel Chamberlain, female convicts who arrived on the Mary Ann on 2 May 1822, received an extremely adverse conduct report by the ship’s surgeon superintendent, who had been troubled by their behaviour for the entire voyage. Within two days of their arrival a ship left Hobart Town for the recently established penal station at remote Macquarie Harbour with two female prisoners on board, believed to be Sarah and Rachel.


Sending convicts to the interior to the service of settlers presented some initial challenges to the government. In 1825 Lt. Governor Arthur, pointed out:

‘throughout the settled districts Hobart Town to Launceston, a distance of One Hundred and Twenty Miles, there is no Court house, nor Jail for secure imprisonment; and hence, whatever Crimes are committed in the Interior, the Criminals are from necessity sent from thence to Hobart Town, which throngs the Jail in the manner I have described’. [3]

The lack of infrastructure and store houses was also hindering Prisoners being sent into the interior to the service of settlers.[4] This problem was solved when, after the establishment of seven Police Districts in 1827, government precincts, (with court houses, store houses, barracks and gaols) were established at New Norfolk, Oatlands, Campbell town, Norfolk Plains [Longford], and Richmond. George Town already had store houses, watch houses and gaol cells, etc., built during the expansion of public buildings in the northern settlements a decade earlier, and 1829 saw the opening of a Female Factory. Launceston’s gaol was built in 1827 and waited until 1832 for the completion of an adjacent Female Factory.[5] As the Police sub-districts became established, small gaols were built at Bothwell (Clyde district), Swansea (Oyster Bay district), Brighton, and many of the smaller towns.  Finally, the Ross Female Factory was completed in 1848.


Being assigned to settlers in the isolated interior of Van Diemen’s Land exposed the female convicts to a range of challenges that would have included raids by bushrangers and natives, rough unformed roads and a lack of amenities.  A mail coach ride from Hobart to Launceston took 14 hours in 1849.[6]  The women often took matters into their own hands:   the 1841 Enquiry into Female Convict Prison Discipline heard ‘that many women ordered to be assigned in the interior only commit offences for the purpose of being brought down to Hobart Town’.[7]  An article in the Launceston Advertiser on Thursday 12 February 1846 stated:   

If a convict woman is hired for country service, and on proceeding to her destination, observes that her employer resides in a remote and consequently retired part of the country, she declares that punishment is better than such solitude, as it brings her to town, and she requests to be returned to government.


This statement would apply to 19-year-old Susan Featherstone (per Platina 1837).  In 1838 Susan, having been absent all night, was sentenced to hard labor at the wash tub for one month then assigned in the interior. In 1839 her assignment to Mr. Bethon’s service (Woodlands at Green Ponds) ended with a charge of gross misconduct and general irregular conduct. She was punished with three months hard labour at the wash tub and returned to Government.   If Susan’s aim was to return to town life she succeeded.


Transportation of the convicts to their new assignments in the interior, or back to a Female Factory for punishment, was also a problem:  the convict women were placed in the care of coachmen, constables or agents / servants of their assigned masters for their journey.  They would have waited in a district gaol until transportation could be arranged back to a House of Correction.  The 1841 Enquiry heard that some constables charged with escorting the women had been punished for misconduct:

…for making them drunk, for taking them to disorderly houses in Hobart Town, for leaving them at large & absconding with the warrant. They are seldom brought straight to the watch-house unless passed in with the district Constable. The constables are generally themselves convicts, men who have been vagrants & travelling thieves, at home frequenting the fairs & Staties/Statutes/ where they have fallen in with the class of women generally misconducting themselves in assigned service in this country, they having themselves been vagrants, hawkers, or pickpockets.[8]


The punishment of being removed to the interior sometimes resulted in female convicts leaving husbands and dependent children behind, as in the case of Jeannet Beaton:



GREEN PONDS, March 28 [1849]

Jeannet Beaton (ticket-of-leave) was charged before the Police Magistrate and Richard Pitt, Esq , J.P., with being a disorderly character and sleeping away from her authorised place of residence : it appeared she had been ordered to leave Hobart Town (not for her good conduct), and take up her abode in the interior ; she had pitched her tent at the Ponds, but had not escaped the vigilance of the constabulary : she pleaded for pity, and urged her distressed state of mind, having been compelled to leave her husband and two children at Hobart Town, and promising to obtain a respectable service, she was admonished. The idea of sending females of her description into the interior for reformation appears injudicious ; but the frailty of human nature, and the difficulty of adopting means to eradicate the seeds of vice and dissipation not only "puzzles the wise," but frustrates the endeavours of the wisest men.[9]





[1] Article - The Britannia and Trades' Advocate,Thursday 30 November 1848 - Page 2

[2] Coultman Smith, R., Shadow Over Tasmania, 1946, 4th edn. P.27.

[3] Advertising - Launceston Examiner, Saturday 22 December 1849 - Page 2

[4] HRA Series III Vol. IV. p. 287, July 1825

[5] Ibid

[6] HRA Series III Vol. II., 23rd June 1817 p.252

[7] p.65.


[9] Article - Colonial Times, 6 April 1849 - Page 3


By E. Crawford (Nov. 2021)


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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].