Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Elizabeth IV - 1836

Embarked 161 women
Voyage 108 days
Deaths 0
Surgeon's Journal: yes
Previous vessel: Waterloo arrived 6 September 1836
Next vessel: Lady Kennaway arrived 12 October 1836
Master John Austin
Surgeon Robert Espie
Follow the Female Convict Ship Trail
Prisoners and passengers of the Elizabeth identified in the Hunter Valley

The Elizabeth was built at Dartmouth in 1805. This was the only voyage bringing convicts to New South Wales.

Prisoners of the Elizabeth came from counties in England and Wales - London, Lancaster, Surrey, Essex, Chester, Kent, Gloucester, Oxford, Devon, Northumberland, Suffolk, Sussex, Salop, Nottingham, Middlesex, Southampton, Stafford, Leicester, Worcester, Derby, York, Montgomery, Some had been born in Ireland and convicted in England. Three were from Bermuda and Jamaica.

Among their number were nursery maids, housemaids, cooks, laundresses, laundry maids and char women. Their crimes were mostly non-violent and included various forms of stealing, robbery, coining and pledging.

The youngest was Margaret Prout who was 14 years old. Sarah Lasham was the oldest at 61 years of age. Many left children behind in England however there were some who brought them on the ship with them -
Jane Carter (1)
Eliza Kerry 1)
Elizabeth Curtis (1)
Ann Wenham (1)
Ann Wilkinson (1)
Alice McShane (2)
Mary Starkie (1)
Martha Starkie (3, the youngest 14 years old)
Mary Mahoney (1)
Mary Maidmeat (1)
Mary Cattle (1)
Bridget McDonald (1)
Sarah Clackhorn (3)
Rachael Finnegan (1)
Frances Little (1)
Diana Donnathew (2)
Charlotte Chinnery (2)
Bridget Calligan (1)
Ann Reason (1)
Hannah Hart (1 x 12 yrs old).


The Elizabeth departed London on 26 June and were off the coast of Madeira by 8th July 1836.

Surgeon Robert Espie

The voyage of 108 days duration was no more pleasant for the surgeon Robert Espie than it was for the 161 female prisoners who came under his care. Robert Espie was an experienced surgeon having been previously employed on the convict ships Morley in 1817, Shipley in 1818, Dorothy in 1820, Lord Sidmouth in 1823, Lady Rowena in 1826, Mary in 1830(VDL) and Roslin Castle in 1834.

He requested to be assigned to a female convict ship thinking that he was well capable of undertaking the task, however the women of the Elizabeth were a wild, defiant lot and by his own account he was very nearly stabbed by one before the ship even left Woolwich. By the end of the voyage he was fed up as the following extract from his Medical Journal reveals. This was his last voyage as surgeon on a convict ship: -

Front cover of the medical journal of Robert Espie on the voyage of the convict ship Elizabeth in 1836
....Front cover of the Robert Espie';s medical journal with the notation This is a very imperfect Journal but as Mr. Espie is in N.S. Wales on two years leave, I shall on this occasion, pass it. [2]

Surgeon's general remarks -

What I have got to say must be brief, unless I do as some others are in the habit of doing who think to force their way to great notice at the Admiralty by writing a mass of silly trash, that no man could or would read were it his time was paid for at 3d an hour. I know a tall fellow in this service who employed these convict clerks writing while he dictated, and who when his journal was full spliced on to it at a quire of foolscap. This commencement looks a little pettish not to say savouring of scurrility - but mark me I was only in play, for all the abuse to hurl at any one must be of myself - I, like a fine dolthead asked Sir William to get one appointed to a woman's ship and I had the appointment by Sir William's means - I had very nearly suffered stabbing by one of the females before the ship left Woolwich.

I had vainly imagined I knew how to manage convict women having had two ships of that sort before, but from some cause or other I most decidedly did not succeed to my own satisfaction in this last ship, named the Elizabeth. I commenced to giving up my whole time and attention to the service I was employed on, but I had imbibed (and have still a strong prejudice) against corporal punishment and I tried all I could by other means such as solitary confinement and cutting their hair. These trifles only incited them to go to greater lengths to bid me utter defiance with a thousand threats of what they would do when they got to Sydney.

Here now let any man show me what is to be done from the master of the ship down to the lowest boy are all opposed to the Doctor if he has done his duty by preventing prostitution. I saw clearly I had committed an error by being too lenient, I therefore prepared myself with a good stout piece of rope and when I thought they deserved it, I whipped them most soundly over the arms, legs and back and this was continued (whatever the saints may think) till I had conquered every refractory spirit among them and my certificates will testify that the government of New South Wales was perfectly satisfied with my conduct in every particular - so much for the discipline of a female convict ship, but some people might reverse it and say so little - no matter I hate a tedious fool.

Now, a word sir as to the doctoring of them that required little or no trouble and the cases I have detailed in the foregoing part of this journal are the only ones I could possibly put together, for I have no genius at furbishing up a mess of disgusting egotism and pompous inanity making a mountain where there was hardly a wart, here then I sum up this sketch by saying that the whole of the persons under my charge on board the Elizabeth female convict ship landed at Sydney N.S.W in a much better state of health than when they embarked on board of her at Woolwich and when I know that this statement will be overlooked by so enlightened a judge of these matters as the present head of the medical department of the navy I cannot believe that a verbose and laboured summary would have gained his favour a bit more than this one which is so easily got through. [Signed] Robert Espie, Surgeon, R.N, 26 October 1836, Sydney, N.S.W.

Convicts and passengers treated by the surgeon during the voyage:
Bridget McDonald, convict, aged 24;
Mary Starkie, convict, aged 20;
Susan McCoy, free woman, aged 51; debilitas, nausea marina. Put on sick list, 8 July 1836 off Madiera.
Mary East, convict, aged 38;
Francis Beadle, convict, aged 22;
Susan Harry, convict, aged 20;
Ann Bennett, convict, aged 22;
Margaret Bailey, convict, aged 52;
Priscilla Denton, convict, aged 19;
Susan Hurry, convict, aged 20;
Martha Starkie, convict, aged 54;
Ann Wenham, convict, age 39. [2]

Port Jackson

The Elizabeth arrived at Port Jackson on 12 October 1836.

Life in the Colony

How did the women fare after arrival in the colony? Many of them particularly those with children, would probably have been transferred by water to the Female Factory at Parramatta.

Extract from New South Wales Government Gazette of Wednesday, 7th September, 1836.-

Return of the Establishment of the Female. Factory, Paramatta. Establishment authorized from 1st September, 1836. 1 keeper, 200/; 1 matron, 100/ ; 3 turnkeys (male), at 60/. each, 180/.; 4 turnkeys (female), at 50/. each, 200/.; 1 clerk, 120/.; 1 midwife, 50/.; 1 chaplain, 50/.; 1 Roman-catholic chaplain, 50/.; 1 schoolmaster or mistress, 50/.; total, 1,000/. Statistics of the British Colony, Robert Martin

Other women were sent for private assignment in the city or further out in the country......

Twenty-two of the women who arrived on the Elizabeth have so far been identified residing in the Hunter region in the following decades. Select here to find out more about prisoners and passengers of the Elizabeth sent to the Hunter.

Some continued their life of crime and chaos.....

Twenty eight year old Maria Gibson a housemaid from Dublin who was tried at the Old Bailey for stealing a purse was one of the women who left her children behind and so was not sent immediately to the Female Factory. She was assigned to the private service of William Kelman probably soon after arrival. Just three days afterwards, before she could be taken to his estate at the Hunter River she absconded, if only for a brief time. She was sentenced to two months in the female factory after she had been found 'basking in the sunshine and snoring delightfully at 3 o'clock in the afternoon.[1] She was returned to the service of the Kelman family afterwards. Maria received her Ticket of Leave in 1840, however this was cancelled for drunkenness and residing in a disorderly house in 1842. Her ticket was issued again and cancelled in 1843 for living in an immoral state. Maria received a Certificate of Freedom in 1845.

Some such as Eliza Hill and Caroline Martin became familiar with the walls of Newcastle Gaol and Newcastle Female Factory, perhaps not for any crime, but because it was customary to accommodate women who were in transit in the gaols. Eliza Hill was sent to Newcastle gaol from Maitland in October 1837, being pregnant and Caroline Martin was returned when her various assignments were terminated.

Notes and Links

1). The Elizabeth was one of five convict ships transporting female prisoners to New South Wales in the year 1836, the others being the Henry Wellesley, Thomas Harrison, Roslin Castle and Pyramus. A total of 668 female prisoners arrived in the colony in 1836. Two ships brought English prisoners - the Elizabeth and the Henry Wellesley. There were no prisoners convicted in Scotland on the Elizabeth.

2). Leicestershire Sessions 4th January - Sarah Holden, 25, pleaded guilty to picking the pocket of Thomas Bates of Loughborough, of a purse containing a ten pound note, three five pound notes, and sixteen sovereigns, and a half, on the 12th November, and was sentenced to seven years transportation. - The Leicester Chronicle 2 January 1836

3). The following Petitions have been transcribed by researcher Keith Searson in UK in conjunction with Colette McAlpine of the Female Convict Research Centre in Tasmania.....

Sarah Wilson was tried at the Old Bailey in 1836......

To the Right Honourable Lord John Russell His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Home Department
The humble petition of LETITIA WILSON of No 5 Clarence Place Pancras Road - Widow
Most Humbly and Respectfully Sheweth
That your Petitioner is a poor hard working widow with a family of two children entirely dependant on her for support and always made it her study to bring them up in a moral correct and honest manner to the utmost of her power but unfortunately your Petitioners eldest daughter SARAH WILSON of the age of 19 years in an unguarded moment so far forgot herself through the instigation of another female as to mix herself up to a petty theft of two small table cloths and one towel the property of one Mrs Lydia Gregory. That your Petitioners daughter for such offence was convicted at the last March Sessions at the Central Old Bailey (it having been proved that she pledged the articles) and sentenced to transportation for the term of seven years, and is now in Newgate awaiting her sentence.

Your Petitioner therefore now pressures to address your Lordship in the sincere hope that the severe sentence passed on your unfortunate petitioners daughter may be mitigated and that her poor daughter may not be sent from her native country for this her first offence but that your Lordship may in mercy order her to be sent to the Penitentiary at Millbank when your Petitioner hopes she will yet make a useful and honest member of society. And your Petitioner will as in duty ever pray. The Prosecutrix of SARAH WILSON and the undersigned inhabitants and householders beg leave to recommend the Petition of LETITIA WILSON to get the sentence of transportation passed on her daughter SARAH WILSON at the last Old Bailey Sessions mitigated to confinement in the Penitentiary and we sincerely hope that mercy may be extended to her. Job Gregory - for his wife Lydia Gregory William Frewin William Calton Thomas Salisbury John Radford Samuel Dyer John Basett - Kings Cross Andrew Carton - Kings Cross SARAH WILSON OLD BAILEY 1836 LARCENY 7 YEARS TRANSPORTATION SOURCE - HOME OFFICE CRIMINAL PETITIONS - SERIES 1 SERIES - HO 17 PIECE NUMBER - 79 ITEM NUMBER - OW 47


To Lord John Russell His Majesty's Principle Secretary of State for the Home Department The humble Petition of MARY MALONE a convict in Newgate. Sheweth That your Lordships petitioner is a young female of 18 years of age and has been generally brought up with her father and mother. That her father filled respectable situations for many years in London (as will appear by his testimonials) and supported her mother and 4 younger children comfortably. That her said father has being afflicted and forced to go into Bartholomews Hospital where he remained for 6 months, and is at present an out patient of the said hospital. That in consequence of her fathers illness her mother (for the support for the young and helpless family) has taken up the course of selling fowls and butter and obtained several customers , in the neighbourhood of Chelsea and the West End of London, and to assist her in her walks , Petitioner frequently went along with her.

That on Saturday the 2nd day of April last, Petitioner was ordered to return home and prepare some food for the younger children, when on her (Petitioners) way she was accosted by a female (MARY MASON of whom she have had a slight knowledge as living in the same neighbourhood) when solicitor Petitioner to go along with her to the shop of Mr THOMAS a Linen Draper in the Kings Road Sloane Square to purchase shawl for which she had said she had 20/- Petitioner considering her to be honest and just did go along with her and ultimately both were charge with taking of a shawl valued at 3/- That Petitioner had no knowledge whatever of the theft and was led innocently into the disaster that Petitioner and the female MASON were on that day sent to Clerkenwell and on Monday 4th April was tried (prematurely not having the power or time of being forward respectable witnesses to speak to her character who knew her from her child hood, and that it was the first that she ever stood charged with) found GUILTY and sentenced to seven years transportation, from an afflicted father, mother and 4 young and hopeless brothers and sister - that Petitioner do most humbly submit the signatures of respectable persons in support of her character and do most humbly implore your Lordships humane consideration of her case, and the circumstances which have led to her disaster, and do most humbly implore your Lordship for a mitigated sentence to have her sent to the Penitentiary or Refuge for the Destitute or any other place your Lordship wisdom may deem fit which would alleviate the distress and anxiety of Petitioner and her distracted parents and as in duty bound shall ever pray.

I know the parents of the Petitioner and know them to be honest, industrious people and always [ ] Petitioner an Industrious honest young woman John Traynor No 9 Pepper Lane

I Andrew [Finn] knows the Petitioner thus fours years and knew her always to be a sober and industrious young woman Andrew {Finn} 9 Johns Court King Street


[1] Sydney Gazette 29 October 1836

[2] Journal of Robert Espie. UK Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857 . The National Archives, Kew, Surry

[3] Convict Indents. State Archives NSW; Series: NRS 12189; Item: [X639]; Microfiche: 720