Houison’s He-Creature

A Valentine’s Day Story of Unrequited Love

By Michaela Ann Cameron


By the early 1840s, Parramatta builder and architect James Houison had already left his mark on many of the town’s most prominent private and public structures; Hannibal Hawkins Macarthur’s Vineyard (later known as Subiaco), St. Patrick’s Church, Parramatta’s first built courthouse (1835), the new Parramatta Gaol, Nathaniel Payten’s George Street home, which was later renamed Tara and became the first location for the Anglican girls’ school by that name (demolished), the Methodist Centenary Church, and a Church street office building for himself and business partner Payten.[1] Around 1842, the native of Nairnshire, Scotland turned his talents to designing and building Kia Ora; the elegant Colonial Georgian townhouse at 64 Macquarie Street, Parramatta that served as his family home for the next two decades or so.[2]

James Houison, Architect, Parramatta, Female Factory Online, Parramatta Female Factory, Old Parramattan, history, heritage, colonial architecture, Georgian architecture, nineteenth-century architecture
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE. “Kia Ora,” Houison’s Cottage at 64 Macquarie St, Parramatta. CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. Photo: © Michaela Ann Cameron (2017).

Houison’s architectural vision of his familial abode however—great as it was—most certainly did not include an apparition of a ‘he-creature’ of ‘villainous’ intent upon its ‘unique…wide…semicircular, suspended, stone staircase.’[3] Nevertheless, one Wednesday night in 1844, as his children, Margaret, Alexander, David, Annie, James Jnr, and Marjorie slumbered softly and Mrs. Houison retired to her rest, there came a most unnerving sound: an ‘unaccustomed but stealthy tread on the stairs.’ Soon after this noise shattered Mrs. Houison’s comforting illusion of safe, domestic harmony, she bravely ventured to the landing and there spied a strange he-creature, who bore no resemblance to ‘any of the male portion of the establishment,’ menacingly ascending the ‘continuous flight’ of stairs to the upper-storey of the family domicile.[4]

James Houison, architect, female Houison, Houisons Parramatta, Old Parramattan, Female Factory Online, Houison's Cottage, Kia Ora
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE. Houison tintypes. The architect James Houison himself is pictured to the right. On the left is a female member of the Houison family, which one source states is Mrs. Ann Houison (née Stark), i.e. Houison’s wife. However, the couple were only three years apart in age and, to all appearances, the two subjects pictured here sat for these portraits at the same time in the same setting – yet the female is clearly much younger than James Houison, perhaps only in her teens. The Houisons had nine children, four of which were daughters; one of them was named Annie after Mrs. Ann Houison, which may explain what seems to be the misidentification of the female. [Left] “Portrait of Mrs Ann Houison (née Stark), MIN 267 / FL233769, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales. [Right] “Portrait of James Houison,” MIN 266, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.
Whether polysensory hallucination or flesh and blood, the he-creature, quite rightly, threw Mrs. H. into ‘a state of serious alarm’ — a state which proved contagious to the creature himself. Upon his discovery, he ‘descend[ed] the stairs rather quicker than he ascended, by means of the banisters, which illustration of the sliding scale accomplished, he effected his escape from the premises, leaving a pair of boots and a bottle of wine, which’ almost a week later he had still ‘not considered it prudent…to return and claim.’[5]

Yes, like a true apparition, the he-creature vanished and was never identified, yet the case came before the bar all the same. For the Houisons were all too aware that it had been no ordinary Wednesday in 1844, but February the 14th: the day of Saint Valentine. As such, it was plainly evident that one of the convict maids sleeping in the Houisons’ attic was also blameworthy, inasmuch as she was guilty of inciting the romantic overtures of the creeping he-creature and had very likely arranged a lovers’ tryst.

Much to the surprise of the reporters who covered the case a few days later, the convict woman involved in the secret rendezvous was a ‘specimen of the fair’ who ‘it must be admitted was not cast in the mould that formed the “Venus de Medici” and was at an age when it is generally supposed that its wearer has ceased to cause direful ravage on the heart of weak susceptible man.’

Cupid, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Shakespeare, Valentine's Day, Saint Valentine, Old Parramattan, Female Factory Online
“Flying between the cold moon and the earth / Cupid all arm’d: a certain aim he took / At a fair vestal throned by the west, / And loos’d his love-shaft smartly from his bow…” An illustration by Alfred Fredericks in William Shakespeare, A Midsummer-Night’s Dream, (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1874) p. 30. Courtesy of The Library of Congress.

‘[S]uch are the blind boy’s vagaries,’ wrote one incredulous reporter for the Australian: ‘he [Cupid] had been flinging his shafts’ willy-nilly![6]

A reporter for the Parramatta Chronicle likewise described the woman as ‘an aged female of rather venerable aspect.’[7] Both reporters called her ‘Mary Peisley,’ but no such name can be found in the convict records. However, the descriptions they provided of Mary P. combined with the fact that ‘Peisley’ could easily have been a misreading of a poorly handwritten ‘Parsley’ adds weight to the possibility that ‘Mary Peisley’ was in fact Mary Parsley (alias Mary Batey); a five-foot-nothing married dairy maid from Dumfriesshire in the Scottish lowlands who had been convicted at the Cumberland Quarter Sessions on 3 July 1838 and sentenced to seven years transportation for stealing a shawl. When Parsley arrived in the colony per Planter (2) (1839), the details recorded in the Convict Indents reveal that she was 42 years old, could read but not write, had a sallow and freckled complexion (though another describes her as ‘ruddy’), dark hazel eyes, brown hair mixed with grey, a small scar on the right side of her mouth, a semicircular scar on the ball of her left thumb, and two scars on the back of her little finger on her left hand.[8] These details of a woman who, in those days, would have been considered ‘past her prime’ align well with the reporters’ descriptions of the ‘aged’ woman they beheld some five years later and knew as Peisley. Other convict records tell us, too, that Parsley was based in the district of Parramatta.[9]

Another servant in the Houisons’ employ divulged all that she knew of the affair, no doubt wishing to shield herself from any accusations that she may have in fact been the true object of the smitten he-creature’s affections. On Valentine’s Day evening, the servant informed the bar, Mary P. had told her that a gentleman wished to give them both ‘an elegant little supper, consisting of a few eggs, and other choice delicacies, such as sausages and cheese, with radishes and ignions [sic], to which was to be superadded a bottle of wine, to crown the banquet. But as witness did not cordially concur in the entertainment, Mary did not press the proposed “petite souper,” and so the matter dropped.’[10]

Valentine's Day, The Comic Almanack (1837), 1830s, nineteenth century
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE. “February – Valentine’s Day,” The Comic Almanack (1837). 1859,0316.618, AN62804001. CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

Mary P. did not disagree with anything her fellow servant had stated but added that she ‘had refused with dignity becoming the employment she was in, and with a proper respect to herself, the entertainment that had certainly been offered to her by a man whom she did not know, but who had come into the yard at the rear of her master’s premises.’ It was at this point of the proceedings that the people assembled to hear her case caught a glimpse of what may have sparked the infatuation of her nocturnal visitor in the first place; for what Mary reportedly lacked in terms of an alluring, youthful visage she most certainly made up for in personality and homespun wisdom! Mary informed those present that she had also refused the man’s advances ‘because she felt perfectly convinced that where gentlemen, instead of making “cupboard love,” voluntarily proffer such, they unfortunately have intentions of a very villainous nature in view towards those they feast, and she was by no means a female of that sort.’[11] Indeed! ‘Tis against nature! Never trust an unaccustomed he-creature bearing snags and vino!

Mary said all the right things but may have pushed things too far when, in an attempt to distance herself from everything untoward, went so far as to suggest that Mrs. Houison seeing a man on the staircase ‘must have been a perfect illusion on the part of that lady—such a thing could not have been.’[12]

‘The Bench, not going the full extent of belief laid down in Sir Walter Scott’s Demonology and Witchcraft, as to these extraordinary illusions of eyesight,’ and apparently unwilling to believe that a convict maid would refuse a dalliance, least of all on Valentine’s Day, sentenced Mary to two months in the Parramatta Female Factory’s third class. Furthermore, she was to spend the first and last week of her sentence in solitary confinement — far beyond the reach of a certain ‘weak, susceptible man’ whose heart she set aflutter.[13]

All this for a woman who never even tasted a single morsel of her Saint Valentine’s feast! Ah, but what a reply Mary P. could give to any fellow inmate of the Parramatta Female Factory who asked: “What are you in for?”

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CITE THIS

Michaela Ann Cameron, “Houison’s He-Creature: A Valentine’s Day Story of Unrequited Love,” Female Factory Online (2019), https://femalefactoryonline.org/2019/02/14/houisons-he-creature/, accessed [insert current date]


References

Female Factory Online (https://femalefactoryonline.org/, 2019), Law Report of MARY PEISLEY (p18440222), accessed 12 February 2019.

Female Factory Online (https://femalefactoryonline.org/, 2019), Law Report of MARY PEISLEY (p18440224-2), accessed 12 February 2019.

Female Factory Online (https://femalefactoryonline.org/, 2019), MARY PARSLEY (1794–n.d.), accessed 12 February 2019.

Terry Kass, Carol Liston, and John McClymont, Parramatta: A Past Revealed, (Parramatta: Parramatta City Council, 1996).

John McClymont, James Houison 1800–1876: Parramatta’s Forgotten Architect, (Parramatta, NSW: Parramatta and District Historical Society, 2010).

John McClymont and Terry Kass, Pictorial History: Parramatta and District, (Alexandria: Kingsclear Books, 2015).

Robert Summerville, (Thesis), “James Houison: His Life and Work,” (Kensington: University of New South Wales, 1973).


Notes

[1] John McClymont and Terry Kass, Pictorial History: Parramatta and District, (Alexandria: Kingsclear Books, 2015), pp. 33–5, 44–5, 64.

[2] Terry Kass, Carol Liston, and John McClymont, Parramatta: A Past Revealed, (Parramatta: Parramatta City Council, 1996), pp. 94, 100, 158.

[3]Historic House. Where Batman Was Born. Owned by One Family for Century,” Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Wednesday 18 February 1931, p. 12; “Historic Building Becomes Modern Insurance Office,” The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Friday 19 March 1954, p. 8; “Colonial Masterpiece,” The Cumberland Argus (Parramatta, NSW : 1950 – 1962), Wednesday 22 November 1961, p. 2. Further information about the home in its glory days: “Eighty-Seven Years in One House,” The Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 19 May 1929, p. 23.

[4] Female Factory Online (https://femalefactoryonline.org/, 2019), Law Report of MARY PEISLEY (p18440222); “COUNTRY NEWS. PARRAMATTA,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Thursday 22 February 1844, p. 3.

[5] Female Factory Online (https://femalefactoryonline.org/, 2019), Law Report of MARY PEISLEY (p18440222); “COUNTRY NEWS. PARRAMATTA,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Thursday 22 February 1844, p. 3.

[6] Female Factory Online (https://femalefactoryonline.org/, 2019), Law Report of MARY PEISLEY (p18440222); “COUNTRY NEWS. PARRAMATTA,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Thursday 22 February 1844, p. 3.

[7]Police Intelligence,” Parramatta Chronicle and Cumberland General Advertise (NSW : 1843 – 1845), Saturday 24 February 1844, p. 2.

[8] New South Wales Government, Annotated printed indents (i.e., office copies), NRS: 12189; Item: [X642]; Microfiche: 739, (State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia); New South Wales Government, Ticket of Leave Butts, 31 Mar 182720 Aug 1867, NRS: 12202; Item: [4/4187]; Reel: 952, (State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia); New South Wales Government, Butts of Certificates of Freedom, NRS: 12210; Item: [4/4401]; Reel: 1021, (State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales); “SHIPPING. Arrivals,” The Sydney Standard and Colonial Advocate (NSW : 1839), Monday 11 March 1839, p. 2.

[9] New South Wales Government, Ticket of Leave Butts, 31 Mar 182720 Aug 1867, NRS: 12202; Item: [4/4187]; Reel: 952, (State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia).

[10] Female Factory Online (https://femalefactoryonline.org/, 2019), Law Report of MARY PEISLEY (p18440222); “COUNTRY NEWS. PARRAMATTA,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Thursday 22 February 1844, p. 3.

[11] Female Factory Online (https://femalefactoryonline.org/, 2019), Law Report of MARY PEISLEY (p18440222); “COUNTRY NEWS. PARRAMATTA,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Thursday 22 February 1844, p. 3.

[12] Female Factory Online (https://femalefactoryonline.org/, 2019), Law Report of MARY PEISLEY (p18440222); “COUNTRY NEWS. PARRAMATTA,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Thursday 22 February 1844, p. 3.

[13] Female Factory Online (https://femalefactoryonline.org/, 2019), Law Report of MARY PEISLEY (p18440222); “COUNTRY NEWS. PARRAMATTA,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Thursday 22 February 1844, p. 3.

© Copyright Michaela Ann Cameron 2019

Adopt-a-Convict: Adelaide de la Thoreza

A Factory Señorita?

By Michaela Ann Cameron


“I have lived to prove

There is darkness in the brightest dream

And sorrow in the deepest joy.”[1]

Adelaide’s epitaph certainly appears to pay tribute to a bittersweet life full of extraordinary episodes. So exceptional was Adelaide’s tale that the Presbyterian minister Reverend James Cameron deemed the toothless, ‘wrinkled’ elderly Spanish female with a bent figure, indistinct speech, and ‘a gleam of intelligence in [her] smile’[2] a worthy biographical subject and, a year after her death at age 69, published Adelaide de la Thoreza: A Chequered Career (1878).

Parramatta Female Factory convict, Adelaide de la Thoreza
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE: “Adelaide de la Thoreza,” title page, Reverend Dr. James Cameron (1827–1905), Adelaide de la Thoreza: A Chequered Career, (Sydney: Foster & Fairfax, 1878), 37 pp. Courtesy of National Library of Australia, Call number: Np 994.402092 T489C, nla.obj-39562168.

The Reverend’s biography of Adelaide de la Thoreza had it all; noblemen, precocious displays of manipulative behaviour from one barely more than a toddler, ‘political rancour,’[3] Spanish assassins, Italian lovers, a dungeon, a captive forced to drink blood from the skull of his murdered brother, a nun mourning the loss of her executed lover, sudden death by orange pip, countesses, an unwanted marriage proposal by a rich ‘Indian Nabob’ visiting London, a dashing soldier, a vengeful young woman, and a lottery scam.

What the biographical sketch did not have was even the merest mention of the Parramatta Female Factory, which, as it turns out, actually was part of Adelaide’s real-life story. Adelaide gave birth to Alfred de la Thoreza, her base-born child with fellow servant George Smith (aka John Smith), at the Factory’s lying in hospital on 13 July 1831 and the baby boy was baptised in the parish of St. John’s soon after on 7 August 1831.[4] (Adelaide’s name was inaccurately recorded in the parish records as Adelaide de Moresa).

Apparently the Factory chapter of her life was not windswept and interesting enough to make the cut; or, more likely, the attitudes of late-nineteenth-century readers continued to be too prejudiced against the inmates of an institution that was well within living memory for the Reverend to be able to include it in Thoreza’s story and still convincingly paint her the way he wanted to.

Or was Adelaide herself the one who invented a whole new tragically romantic life, perhaps in an effort to erase and thereby cope with the one she had actually led? If so, she was by no means the first to do so. As historian Sue Ballyn concluded after years of tracing Adelaide through the records and being utterly baffled by her melodramatic ‘Gothic Fantasy’ story,

‘many [convicts] saw transportation to be the gateway to a new beginning where a new fictionalised ‘self’ could, to a certain extent, be constructed.’[5]

Most, though, were content with what Ballyn calls ‘small deviations’; lying about their marital status in order to marry again in the colony and claiming to have particular trades that would provide opportunities for a more advantageous work assignment — lies, then, for which there was an obvious pay off.[6] But if the large deviations in Adelaide’s tale were her own invention and not the Reverend’s, then she was in a class of her own when it came to imagination. ‘Not a shred of evidence supports’[7] any of the claims made about her supposed early life in Spain, Italy, and England, nor can any of the players in her saga be positively identified, despite being people of high social status.

The lying-in hospital, Parramatta Female Factory, viewed from where the original main barrack building of the factory once stood. Photo: Michaela Ann Cameron (2014)
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLAGE. The lying-in hospital, Parramatta Female Factory, viewed from where the original main barrack building of the factory once stood. Photo: Michaela Ann Cameron (2014)

Indeed, Adelaide’s epitaph may have been the only true thing in the published biography at all; of this we can be sure, at least, because her headstone at Saint Peter’s Anglican Cemetery, Richmond still bears the inscription to this day [Click here to view a photo of the headstone at Find a Grave].[8] As Ballyn has noted, ‘the first part’ of Reverend Cameron’s biography is, ‘to all intents and purposes, fiction.’[9] Even the part which deals with her conviction at the Old Bailey and sentencing to seven years transportation to the colony of New South Wales diverged wildly from the facts. The only grains of truth in the published biographical treatment of the events leading to her transportation was that some household items were pawned and servants were involved.[10] If the Reverend was the true mastermind behind Adelaide’s reinvention, then it seems he could not abide the notion that Adelaide had been a servant; a convict, yes, but only one who had led the romantic life of a high-born woman cast adrift in a cruel world after which she fell victim to a series of increasingly unfortunate events and found herself in circumstances ill befitting a person of her breeding and stature. Little did the Reverend know when he penned this ‘fictionalised biography,’ today The Old Bailey Online makes retrieving and verifying the details of Adelaide’s court proceedings—and any of the other 197, 744 court cases in its database from 1674 to 1913—the work of mere moments.

The exposure of such blatant whoppers raises so many questions: was Adelaide Eliza de la Thoreza even Spanish at all? If not, was the appearance of the passably authentic Spanish surname in her Old Bailey court record merely early evidence of Adelaide Eliza’s vivid imagination and special talent for reinventing herself as someone more exotic than the dressmaker’s thoroughly English servant girl in Finsbury Square?[11] Could a servant turned convict woman even possess enough knowledge of the political context of Spain in the early nineteenth century to concoct such a rollicking good yarn set in that place and time and put it over a learned Reverend?

When it comes to identifying the great pretender in this instance, my money is on the Reverend Cameron (who is, incidentally, no relation to the author). But, don’t take my Cameronian word for it!

Have a read of the Reverend’s published work in full on the Female Factory Online here. Then take a look at an image of the original court proceedings and transcript on the Old Bailey Online here. Follow it all up by reading “The Biography of Adelaide de la Thoreza: Fact or Fiction?” by Sue Ballyn, Professora Emerita at Barcelona University, and the full text of her even more detailed collaborative chapter with Lucy Frost, “A Spanish convict, her clergyman biographer, and the amanuensis of her bastard son.” If you’re really keen, head to the profile page I have created for Adelaide and peruse all the content I’ve found about Adelaide and her family in the “SOURCES” section. Adelaide’s story certainly captured the imaginations of many and must have been fairly widely read in its day. As a child born at the Female Factory, Adelaide’s son Alfred also has his very own profile page in the Female Factory Online database here.

Whichever of the two storytellers chose the lies over the truth, this much is true: what historians have uncovered of the life Adelaide de la Thoreza actually lived was windswept and interesting enough without all the melodramatic Gothic ornamentation. And, if nothing else, Ballyn and Frost—the people who have spent decades chasing the truth about Adelaide—are at least certain that this particular Parramatta Female Factory inmate did indeed hail from Spain.


CITE THIS

Michaela Ann Cameron, “Adelaide de la Thoreza: A Factory Señorita? Female Factory Online, (2018), https://femalefactoryonline.org/2018/09/14/a-factory-senorita/, accessed [insert date here]


References

Susan Ballyn, “The Biography of Adelaide de la Thoreza: Fact or Fiction?” COOLABAH, No. 20, (2016): 38–47

Susan Ballyn and Lucy Frost, “A Spanish Convict, Her Clergyman Biographer, and the Amanuensis of her Bastard Son,” in Hamish Maxwell-Stewart and Lucy Frost (eds.), Chain Letters: Narrating Convict Lives, (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2001), pp. 91–104.

Reverend James Cameron, Adelaide de la Thoreza: A Chequered Career, (Sydney: Foster & Fairfax, 1878).

Adelaide Eliza Masters (1808–1877),” Find a Grave, (2013), accessed 13 September 2018.

Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0), 11 June 1829, trial of ADELAIDE DE THORAZA (t18290611-289), accessed 10 June 2018.

Parish Baptism Registers, Textual Records, St. John’s Anglican Church Parramatta, New South Wales, Australia.

The Digital Panopticon, (www.digitalpanopticon.org, version 1.1), Adelaide De Thoraza Life Archive, (ID: obpt18290611-289-defend2096), accessed 10 June 2018.


NOTES

[1] Reverend James Cameron, Adelaide de la Thoreza: A Chequered Career, (Sydney: Foster & Fairfax, 1878), p. 35; “Adelaide Eliza Masters (1808–1877),” Find a Grave, (2013), accessed 13 September 2018.

[2] Reverend James Cameron, Adelaide de la Thoreza: A Chequered Career, (Sydney: Foster & Fairfax, 1878), pp.3–4.

[3] Reverend James Cameron, Adelaide de la Thoreza: A Chequered Career, (Sydney: Foster & Fairfax, 1878), p.14.

[4] Baptism “Alfred de Moreza, 7 August 1831,” Parish Baptism Registers, Textual Records, St. John’s Anglican Church Parramatta, New South Wales, Australia.

[5] Susan Ballyn, “The Biography of Adelaide de la Thoreza: Fact or Fiction?” COOLABAH, No. 20, (2016): 39.

[6] Susan Ballyn, “The Biography of Adelaide de la Thoreza: Fact or Fiction?” COOLABAH, No. 20, (2016): 40.

[7] Susan Ballyn and Lucy Frost, “A Spanish Convict, Her Clergyman Biographer, and the Amanuensis of her Bastard Son,” in Hamish Maxwell-Stewart and Lucy Frost (eds.), Chain Letters: Narrating Convict Lives, (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2001), p.95.

[8]Adelaide Eliza Masters (1808–1877),” Find a Grave, (2013), accessed 13 September 2018.

[9] Susan Ballyn, “The Biography of Adelaide de la Thoreza: Fact or Fiction?” COOLABAH, No. 20, (2016): 38.

[10] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0), 11 June 1829, trial of ADELAIDE DE THORAZA (t18290611-289), accessed 10 June 2018.

[11] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0), 11 June 1829, trial of ADELAIDE DE THORAZA (t18290611-289), accessed 10 June 2018.

Female Factory Nicknames

“Gordon’s Aviary,” “The Nunnery,” “The Receptacle for Bolters…” This post highlights the long list of nicknames given to the Parramatta Female Factory by newspaper reporters.

By Michaela Ann Cameron


“Gordon’s Aviary,” “The Nunnery,” “Gordon’s Taming Cage,” “The Receptacle for Bolters…”

The wordsmiths who penned the “Police Reports” certainly came up with many creative ways to refer to the Parramatta Female Factory and, by the same stroke of their poisoned pens, to degrade the Factory’s inmates.

I thought it might be a good idea to start making a list of them as I transcribe each report and add it to the database!

Ann Gordon, Matron of the Parramatta Female Factory 1827-1836
Ann Gordon, Matron of the Parramatta Female Factory, 1827-1836. Photo by Michaela Ann Cameron (2013) of an original photo on display at Cumberland Hospital Museum.

As you can see from the list of nicknames I’ve compiled thus far, the name “GORDON” became synonymous with the Female Factory in the police reports.

“GORDON” refers to ANN GORDON, the Matron of the Parramatta Female Factory between October 1827 and 1836. Gordon had a particularly difficult first day on the job as matron back in October 1827, what with the 1827 Riot that took place in the Factory that very day!

CLICK HERE to view the ever-growing list of Female Factory nicknames.

The Earliest Female Factory Police Report

Is this the earliest police report relating to the Parramatta Female Factories?

By Michaela Ann Cameron


“Police Reports” or, as they were sometimes called, “Police Incidents” were a regular feature in the colonial newspapers along with “Public Notices” of runaway convicts.

Often, the reports detailed criminal proceedings in which convicts and free people alike were found drunk or being generally “riotous and disorderly” in the streets. Such people were typically fined or sent to “embellish” the wooden contraption known as “the stocks” for a couple of hours, enduring the discomfort of the device and public humiliation in equal measure while they sobered up.

12000843_914993525262129_55487655083146468_o
POLICE REPORTS,” Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803 – 1842), Saturday 29 July 1826, p. 3

The Police Reports also detailed instances of women scaling the Female Factory walls to escape the institution, theft, and the shenanigans of assigned convict servants who absconded from their masters, or committed more serious crimes involving violence towards fellow convict servants or the masters themselves.

1827-03-01-mary-ann-smith
Police Reports,” Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803 – 1842), Thursday 1 March 1827, p. 2

By the 1820s and 1830s the journalists who wrote the police reports turned the column into an arena to showcase their own wordsmithery and comedic flare – even, at times, phonetically transcribing the accents and humorous mispronunciations of the individuals hauled before the Bench. While the reporters certainly took a great deal of artistic license and likely engaged in a friendly competition with reporters writing up the same incidents in rival newspapers, the otherwise unheard voices of ordinary people, like convicts, do shine through. The reports also prove to be a treasure trove of colloquial language and phrases that, for the modern reader, often need to be translated to be understood. On the other hand, the same incidents will turn on a dime from the purely colloquial to references that only the most highly educated and cultured reader at the time would have understood; when the reporters, for example, liken accused individuals to mythological beings from the Greco-Roman pantheon, such as the Sirens and Niobe.

But long before those columns became a regular feature and an arena for the colonial wordsmiths to showcase their talents, and long before the Parramatta Female Factory of the Fleet Street Heritage Precinct was even thought of let alone built, what appears to be a single prototype for the “Police Reports” column was published in the Sydney Gazette in early December 1805. It is the earliest police report relating to the Female Factories at Parramatta I have personally uncovered (although, I must confess, I have never deliberately set out with the intention of finding the earliest Police Report, so there could very well be earlier ones that I have not yet encountered). A woman by the name of “Catharine Malone” features in what appears to be this very special Female Factory first:

1805-12-08 - Catharine Malone
No title,” Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803 – 1842), Sunday 8 December 1805, p. 1.

In this incident, as punishment for her undesirable behaviour, Malone was sent to “The Factory Above the Gaol” which was located at the time in Prince Alfred Park, Parramatta in the vicinity of present-day Riverside Theatres. It is not clear exactly when the Factory Above the Gaol opened; some researchers have stated c.1802, which is when construction of the second stone gaol commenced.[1] Others have stated that 1807 was when the Factory Above the Gaol opened on the second storey of the gaol.[2] However, if nothing else, this already significant piece of evidence indicates that the Factory Above the Gaol was not only operational but that the legal system was already using it as a place of punishment as early as December 1805.

Want to read more Police Reports? Many of the “Police Reports” have already been included on the individual “profile pages” on The Female Factory Online, and there are many more still to come! Browse our ever-growing “Convicts” list to see some of the ones that are already available for your reading pleasure.


Further Reading


NOTES

[1] Terry Kass, Carol Liston and John McClymont (eds.), Parramatta: A Past Revealed, (Parramatta: Parramatta City Council, 1996).

[2] Gallagher Studio and Casey & Lowe, “Prince Alfred Square Landscape Masterplan for City of Parramatta,” (Parramatta: City of Parramatta, 24 October 2016), accessed 5 March 2017.

Romani of the Female Factory & St. John's

The records associated with the Female Factory and St. John’s Cemetery reveal that Old Parramatta was a much more ethnically diverse place than commonly thought!

By Michaela Ann Cameron

St. John’s Cemetery, Parramatta never ceases to surprise the avid researcher…


The headstones and burial records associated with St. John’s Cemetery reveal that Old Parramatta was a much more ethnically diverse place than commonly thought. Today, St. John’s is “Anglican,” but this was not always the case; originally this was a non-denominational cemetery. So while we, of course, find plenty of British Anglican people among the cemetery’s permanent citizens, we also find Chinese, Indian, Muslim, Jewish, African American, German, Dutch, and French people here as well, to name a few. To this multicultural list, it seems we can now add the Romani (Roma): a nomadic people thought to have originated in Northern India and migrated to Europe where they are now predominantly located.

Over the past couple of months, our volunteer research assistant Suzannah Gaulke has been busy transcribing and compiling lists of Female Factory women and children who died in the Factory and were buried in the parish of St. John’s.

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The small building to the left of the big blue doors was the “dead house” at the Parramatta Female Factory. Photo: Michaela Ann Cameron (2014)

Sometimes, the old-fashioned and scrawly or faded handwriting in the burial records is just a bit too hard to read, or the spelling just a tad too “creative” to work out the name and more than one pair of eyes is needed. The name “Sovole” was one of those ones we both thought seemed a bit questionable, so I took a look at the original record for the thirteen-month-old baby boy who died at the Factory in May 1832 and realised the name was actually “Lovell.”

Having solved the mystery of the surname, I added his full name “Nathaniel Lovell” to the list, feeling that the little fellow finally had a digital memorial now, if not one of stone, and assumed that would be the end of it. Indeed, Nathaniel Lovell’s name had been one of hundreds I looked at and edited that night. I subsequently worked on completely unrelated historical research for my PhD thesis over the next couple of days, pushing the little boy’s name further and further from my mind.

Just three days later, though, I happened to be on a city-bound train scrolling through my Twitter feed (which, ordinarily, I have no time to do) and near the very top of my feed was the following tweet:

I was immediately drawn in by the prospect of reading a biography about the statistically less common case of a Romani “beggar woman” who became a convict and was incarcerated at the Parramatta Female Factory in North Parramatta’s Fleet Street Heritage Precinct. So I clicked and started reading it on my iPhone. As I read this beautiful piece of thorough research about Sapy Lovell by blogger Cherryseed who, it turns out, was writing about her own convict ancestor, the name “Lovell” began to faintly tinkle “Lovell…Lovell” in my mind before crescendoing into a rambunctiously ringing bell: I am reading about that little boy’s mother!

The timing of it was pretty unbelievable…It almost felt like the Lovells were having a little family reunion in my head.

By the time I reached the end of the piece, I learnt that poor Sapy was a “repeat offender” and, thus, a regular inmate at the Parramatta Female Factory. I also learnt that Sapy’s baby Nathaniel was likely the son of Lewis Boswell, also a Romani convict based at Sydney’s Hyde Park Barracks who had been transported per Surrey I (4) (1823), and that Nathaniel had been born in the Female Factory as well as died there. But that was not all: Sapy’s elder son, Louis Lovell, who was born in a workhouse gaol in England, had also died at the Factory soon after he and Sapy had arrived in the colony on board the convict transport ship Louisa (1827).

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Government Notice,” The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803 – 1842), Friday 7 December 1827, p.1

In my excitement, I reached out to Cherryseed and asked her permission to provide a link to her lovely piece about Sapy on the little boys’ “profile pages” as well as Lewis Boswell’s biography on Nathaniel’s profile on The St. John’s Cemetery Project database, and she graciously obliged, happy in the knowledge that these babies who didn’t stand a chance in the colony were being recognised on our website.

We do not know where Sapy was laid to rest, but at least now we know that her two little boys, Louis and Nathaniel, who belonged to a nomadic people and yet were doomed to spend their whole existence incarcerated, lie somewhere in this cemetery in unmarked graves. And though they were merely 15 months and 13 months old when they passed away, as far as our current research indicates at least, they are the sole representatives of the Romani people at St. John’s Cemetery, Parramatta and a pathway into the bigger life story of a beggar woman transported for the theft of a spoon.

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Be sure to read the whole story “Beggar Woman: Sapy Lovell,” and all about Nathaniel’s father, “Thief – Lewis Boswell.

While you’re there, check out the rest of Cherryseed‘s visually and textually stunning blog Tinker-Tailor-Soldier-Sailor.

In memory of Louis Lovell (1826-1828) and Nathaniel Lovell (1831-1832).