Adopt-a-Convict: Ann Lambert

Historian and Female Factory Online team member Dr. Jennifer McLaren (Macquarie University) tells the tale of Ann Lambert for our “Adopt-a-Convict” blog series. Lambert was an Irish-jigging convict and “water nymph” who saw the inside of many gaols in the colony, including the Parramatta Female Factory.

By Jennifer McLaren


Ann Lambert was one of the thousands of people who left Ireland in the early decades of the nineteenth century. Many arrived in the English port of Liverpool with dreams of travelling further afield, but work in Lancashire was plentiful and onward travel expensive so many remained as rural or industrial labourers.[1] Did Ann intend to travel further, perhaps to North America? As it turned out she travelled far beyond Lancashire—to New South Wales. In 1829 she was convicted of robbing a warehouse and sentenced to fourteen years transportation.

We know little of Ann as an individual, but like many convicts, we can retrieve glimpses of her through the “maze of official correspondence,” and in her case, some newspaper reports.[2] In turn, Ann’s experiences shed light on life at the ‘New’ Female Factory at Parramatta. Ann was born in about 1800 in Strabane, County Tyrone. We don’t know when or with whom she left Ireland, but by the time she left England aboard the Roslyn Castle, she had a husband and son who she probably never saw again. Ann was stout of stature, only just five feet tall, with black hair and blue eyes. Some officials recorded her complexion as “fair,” some as “ruddy.” Ann was Catholic and it’s likely that her mother tongue was Irish.

Roslin Castle (2) (1830), Roslyn Castle, Female Convicts, Female Servants, Sydney, New South Wales, nineteenth century Australia
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE.Domestic Intelligence,” The Sydney Monitor (NSW : 1828 – 1838), Wednesday 14 July 1830, p. 2. Retrieved from National Library of Australia.

As soon as she arrived in New South Wales, Ann was assigned to Edward Sparke senior whose “old-established butcher’s shop and residence” was situated at the corner of King and Pitt Streets, right in the centre of Sydney.[3] It wasn’t long, however, before she absconded from her work, an offence she repeated time and again during her years as a convict. Perhaps the temptations of the city were too much for her. In mid-August, she was arrested for “absenting and drunkness (sic),” and was sentenced to three months at the Parramatta Female Factory, to be served in Third Class. This was the first of over twelve stints Ann served as punishment at the Factory, always in Third Class. The punishment was harsh. Ann ate and slept alongside her fellow Third Class inmates, separate from the First and Second Class women. Her work was hard labour, such as breaking stones sent from the Pennant Hills quarry to metal the roads of Parramatta. Instead of the Sunday dress or the blue jacket and dress of the First and Second Class women, Ann was issued with a rough woven striped jacket and skirt with a leather apron, and her hair roughly cut.[4]

Parramatta Female Factory, Female Factory Online, Irish Convict, Ann Lambert, Mrs Howell laundry, laundress, water nymph, Parramatta, nineteenth century, Police Reports, newspaper
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE. Based on the incarceration and release dates itemised in ANN LAMBERT’s timeline and the fact she was a laundress at Mrs Howell’s establishment at the time of this incident, it appears ANN was the unidentified “water nymph” in question. “POLICE INCIDENTS,” The Sydney Herald (NSW : 1831 – 1842), Thursday 24 April 1834, p. 2. Retrieved from National Library of Australia.

Ann’s frequent stints in the Factory didn’t encourage her to change her ways. By 1833 she was assigned to Mrs Howell, who ran a laundry on Castlereagh Street, Sydney. After more than one occasion before the courts whilst in Mrs Howell’s service, Ann was returned to the government as “incorrigible.” The magistrate noted that “Ann had been determined to make up for lost time, and had behaved so grossly, that forgiveness [by Mrs Howell] was impossible.”[5] Mrs Howell had tried to help Ann in the past; she had interceded in a prior appearance before the magistrate in hopes she would reform, and she had given Ann a “new shawl, which cost fifty shillings, a leghorn bonnet and trimmings,” and a gown. We know this because Ann argued that the clothes were stolen from her on a night out in May 1834. Two people were tried for the theft, including former Female Factory inmate Eliza Ellis, but neither was convicted. According to the Sydney Herald, Ann “rigged herself out” in her new clothes on a Sunday evening and went to see a friend, “when she unfortunately got a little tipsy.” She then “rolled into a house of ill-fame” and went to bed, “taking the precaution of putting her clothes in the corner of the room.” Next thing she knew, Ann was woken by a police constable, who had recovered the clothes from a man by the name of Peter Holmes. Holmes claimed that he’d taken the clothes for safekeeping as he said that Ann “was in bad company.”[6] The outcome of the case was inconclusive, although Ann recovered her clothes, and we get a glimpse of how she spent her leisure time!

A few months after this court case, Ann returned to the Female Factory for another three months. According to the Australian newspaper, she appeared in court “for about the twentieth time on a similar charge, viz being fond of roaming without leave had and obtained.” The police had taken her out of a house in Goulburn Street in Sydney at ten o’clock on a Tuesday evening “while in the act of dancing an Irish jig.” The magistrate sent her to Third Class for three months “to affect a change in her roaming propensities.”[7] Yet again Ann proved the magistrate wrong—she clearly had no intention of changing her ways. After the three months at the Factory were up, Ann was released but then almost immediately back to Sydney Gaol (in January 1835), and then sentenced to another two months at the Factory.

“In the month of January, 1835, there were sixty-two females confined [in Sydney Gaol] in one room of small size, besides about eight or ten children.”
— High Sheriff Thomas Macquoid to the New South Wales Legislative Council Committee on Police and Gaols.»
Old Sydney Gaol, George Street, Sydney, New South Wales 1833, Johannes Werner, Alexis Nicolas Noël, Female Factory Online
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE. A hand-coloured lithograph of George Street, Sydney, New South Wales with Old Sydney Gaol depicted left of centre. Johannes Werner, “Ansicht der Georgs Strasse zu Sidney, Neu-Sud-Wales [picture]” (Germany: Lith. de Brodtmann, 183-?), Rex Nan Kivell Collection, NK4187 / nla.obj-135796033, after Alexis Nicolas Noël, “Vue de George’s Street a Sydney [picture],” pl. no. 32 of Voyage de la corvette l’Astrolabe. Atlas historique (Paris: Tastu, 1833), Rex Nan Kivell Collection, NK3340 / nla.obj-135791866. Courtesy of National Library of Australia.

In fact, Ann was often out of the Factory for very short periods before she was arrested again and returned to Third Class. Was she lazy? Was she physically or mentally incapable of the work assigned to her? Was she a prostitute or an alcoholic? Or was she defiantly refusing to comply with the terms imposed upon her as a convict? Research on Irish crime in colonial Australia suggests that Ann was by no means unusual in her frequent arrests for public order offences. Later in the century, such offences (like drunkenness and absconding) in NSW accounted for almost three quarters of all arrests, with drunkenness alone accounting for almost half. Women figured particularly prominently in arrests for drunkenness. Recent research by Elizabeth Malcolm and Dianne Hall shows that arrests of Irish immigrants and Catholics in NSW were in line with this general pattern. The police showed a marked inclination to arrest women they suspected of being drunk in public.[8]

In 1835, Ann’s request to marry William Cooper, an emancipated convict, was declined because she already had a husband with one child “at home” in England. Whether she and Cooper remained together is a mystery. Around this time, Ann was assigned to work in Maitland, but like her previous postings, it didn’t last long. She was committed to Newcastle Gaol for a period during 1837, before being assigned to a different man (Mr Reid) in Newcastle. A relatively long period of ‘freedom’ from incarceration followed, but in September 1839 she was committed to gaol from Dungog “with child” (whether she was pregnant or had a child is unknown) to be returned to the government for being “useless in her service.” She stayed for a time at the Newcastle Female Factory, before being transferred to Parramatta.

Newcastle Gaol, Newcastle Female Factory, New South Wales, Female Factory Online, Parramatta Female Factory
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE. Newcastle Gaol, which included the Newcastle Female Factory, is depicted on the right. “Newcastle, showing the soil reclaimed by enclosure from the sand – 16 May 1855” in E. West, F. Terry, Conrad Martens et. al., Colonial sketches: an album of views of Sydney and NSW. Courtesy of State Library of New South Wales, DL PXX 30 / FL3255086.

Relief from convict life came for Ann in the form of her Ticket of Leave in December 1842. Three years later she finally received her Certificate of Freedom. Ann disappears from the record for the following five years, but she re-emerges spectacularly in 1850 when she was convicted alongside an accomplice (Thomas McCluckie) for larceny and receiving. Both were sentenced to six months’ imprisonment and hard labour at Darlinghurst Gaol. When she was released from gaol on 8 February 1851, Ann finally disappeared for good from the public record.

John Rae, Darlinghurst Gaol, Female Factory Online, Parramatta Female Factory, convicts
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE. John Rae, “Hyde Park, Museum, Darlinghurst Gaol, Sydney Grammar School, Burdekin’s and Lyons’ Terraces, 1842.” Courtesy of Dixson Galleries, State Library of New South Wales, DG SV*/Sp Coll/Rae/19 / FL3158895.

CITE THIS

Jennifer McLaren, “Adopt-a-Convict: Ann Lambert,” Female Factory Online, (2018) https://femalefactoryonline.org/2018/11/17/adopt-a-convict-ann-lambert/, accessed [insert current date]

Read more about Dr. McLaren’s research and find links to her websites here.
You can also follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

References

Patricia E. Burritt, Old Sydney Gaol: The 1979 Rescue Excavation, (Sydney: Sydney Cove Authority, September, 1980), accessed 12 November 2018.

Female Factory Online (www.femalefactoryonline.org, 2018), ANN LAMBERT, accessed 8 November 2018.

Female Factory Online (www.femalefactoryonline.org, 2018), ELIZABETH PATRICK aka ELIZA ELLIS, accessed 8 November 2018.

Laura Kelly, “Irish Migration to Liverpool and Lancashire in the Nineteenth Century,” (2014), University of Warwick, Centre for the History of Medicine, accessed 8 November 2018.

Carol Liston, “Convict Women in the Female Factories of New South Wales,” in Gay Hendriksen, Trudy Cowley, and Carol Liston, Women Transported: Life in Australias Convict Female Factories, (Parramatta, N.S.W: Parramatta City Council Heritage Centre, 2008).

Elizabeth Malcolm and Dianne Hall, A New History of the Irish in Australia (Sydney: NewSouth Publishing, 2018).

New South Wales Legislative Council Committee on Police and Gaols, Final Report of the Committee on Police and Gaols, (Sydney: Ordered by the Council to be printed, 1835).

Trove (https://trove.nla.gov.au/)


NOTES

Research assistance for this piece was provided by Michaela Ann Cameron.

[1] Laura Kelly, “Irish Migration to Liverpool and Lancashire in the Nineteenth Century,” (2014), University of Warwick, Centre for the History of Medicine, https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/history/chm/outreach/migration/backgroundreading/migration/, accessed 8 November 2018.

[2] Carol Liston, “Convict Women in the Female Factories of New South Wales,” in Gay Hendriksen, Trudy Cowley, and Carol Liston, Women Transported: Life in Australias Convict Female Factories, (Parramatta, N.S.W: Parramatta City Council Heritage Centre, 2008), p. 29.

[3]Classified Advertising: TO LET,Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803 – 1842), Tuesday 3 April 1832, p. 1.

[4] Carol Liston, “Convict Women in the Female Factories of New South Wales,” in Gay Hendriksen, Trudy Cowley, and Carol Liston, Women Transported: Life in Australias Convict Female Factories, (Parramatta, N.S.W: Parramatta City Council Heritage Centre, 2008), pp. 36, 39.

[5] “Police Report,” The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW: 1803 – 1842), Thursday 30 May 1833, p. 3.

[6] “Police Incidents,” The Sydney Herald (NSW: 1831 – 1842), Thursday 8 May 1834, pp. 2–3.

[7] “Police Incidents,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW: 1824 -1848), Friday 17 October 1834, p. 2.

[8] Elizabeth Malcolm and Dianne Hall, A New History of the Irish in Australia (Sydney: NewSouth Publishing, 2018), pp. 209–211.

© Copyright Jennifer McLaren 2018

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.