A Factory Señorita?

Adelaide de la Thoreza (c.1806–1877)

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.


Michaela Ann Cameron, “Adelaide de la Thoreza: A Factory Señorita? Female Factory Online, (2018),, accessed [insert date here]


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 (, 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, (, version 1.1), Adelaide De Thoraza Life Archive, (ID: obpt18290611-289-defend2096), accessed 10 June 2018.


[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 (, version 8.0), 11 June 1829, trial of ADELAIDE DE THORAZA (t18290611-289), accessed 10 June 2018.

[11] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, 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.

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.

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
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


[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.

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).

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.


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).


Historical Significance: HERstory and so much more…

img_4897-1Located on land within the current Cumberland Psychiatric Hospital, 5 minutes walk from Parramatta Gaol and close to Parramatta Park, the Parramatta Female Factory is the largest, most intact, and oldest surviving Female Factory in Australia. It is also the first purpose-built Female Factory and the one on which the rest were based. And yet, many people have not heard of the Parramatta Female Factory or seen it, because it is not a World Heritage site. Consequently, the Parramatta factory is seriously endangered; as convict historian Babette Smith has noted, the envisaged residential development of the site “will reduce the remaining buildings to unrelated quaint artefacts.”

The Factory at Parramatta was designed by Francis Greenway – the convict turned colonial architect who also designed Sydney’s Hyde Park Barracks.  Two of Greenway’s buildings are extant at the Factory in addition to other original Factory buildings and features. Male convicts were forced to build the factory – their tell-tale marks can still be seen all over the factory’s sandstone bricks. They built it for female convicts, as it was to serve as a women’s refuge, prison, labour exchange, workhouse, hospital, factory, and a marriage bureau all rolled into one.

But, in addition to the male convict stories and those of the estimated 5000 female convicts who went through the Parramatta factory alone, it is also a site of significance for children. Since Parramatta was the colony’s major town, many members of Australia’s first generation were born in the Factory’s “lying in” hospital – Australia’s first dedicated women’s hospital. Children born to the factory’s inmates lived at the Female Factory, too, until they were old enough or, more often, cramped conditions required them to be moved to the Macquarie-era orphanages; the Female Orphan School (now the Whitlam Institute at the University of Western Sydney campus) and the Male Orphan School at Liverpool.

The Female Factory can also lay claim to being the site of Australia’s first female workers’ riot. In 1827, the third class women (the crime class), who typically performed hard labour such as breaking rocks, “assailed the gates” like “Amazonian banditti” “with pick-axes, axes, and iron-crows” and “poured forth, thick as bees from a hive, over Parramatta and the adjoining neighbourhood.”

img_1961-1The reports of court proceedings also capture the voices of hundreds of female convicts sentenced to the Factory; women like Julia Allen, who accused her master of being “a dirty, disagreeable, detrimental little devil – a foul mouthed evil-speaking, sanctified, cantankerous coxcomb…” Such reports are wonderful in their own right, but imagine how much more powerful this kind of material could be for young people if the Female Factory was preserved as a site dedicated to educating them about and immersing them in the female convict experience in a multimodal way.


img_5680-1As a convict site, it is part of the UK and Australia’s shared criminal past. Nevertheless, its significance goes well beyond the cessation of convict transportation. This site and the larger precinct of which it is a part is also connected to our nation’s early history of mental health care as it went on to become the Parramatta Lunatic Asylum – a history that has continued right through to the site’s present-day Cumberland Psychiatric Hospital and NSW Institute of Psychiatry. In the late nineteenth century, other parts of the Female Factory Precinct became the Roman Catholic Orphanage and ultimately the infamous Parramatta Girls Home. The play “Parra Girls” by Alana Valentine is based on the oral history testimony of women who spent time in the Parramatta Girls Home.

So much history. So many important, funny, tragic, and confronting stories that cannot be forgotten, because this is just as much “our history” as the story of what happened at Gallipoli. To quantify this, it is estimated that 1 in 7 Australians are descendants of a Female Factory inmate – you might even be that one in seven without even knowing it.

Its cultural, historical, and architectural value is evident – many of Australia’s historians and architects have already gotten behind this cause. Its potential economic value as a tourist destination is also clear.


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Why You Should Save the Parramatta Female Factory

A few good reasons why you should join these people and sign the Parramatta Female Factory Friends’ NEW petition asking the Federal Government to submit an application for this unparalleled heritage site to be recognised as a National and World Heritage Site.