Report on Female Factory

Evidence Type: Newspaper Report
22 February 1843



On Friday night last, this town was thrown into considerable consternation by an alarming riot which broke out amongst the inmates of the Female Factory. The origin of the affair is this:

On locking the prisoners up for the night, Mr. BELL discovered that three of them were missing, and on making a strict search, he perceived them endeavouring to escape through the roof. He immediately secured and placed them in the cells, which so irritated the other prisoners, that they commenced the most violent abuse; and in fact, had Mr. BELL not speedily withdrawn, his life would have been endangered. For about an hour, they were tolerably quiet; but, as the night drew on, they commenced a simultaneous attack on the doors and windows, which soon yielded to their fury; and they rushed from their dormitories into the inner yards, en masse.

As the gates there are strong and invariably well secured, their progress was stopped; although they endeavoured to batter down the gates, at the same time uttering the most vociferous and terrific yells.

Every endeavour was made to pacify them, but without success; and Mr. BELL forthwith despatched messengers to GILBERT ELIOTT, Esq., the Police Magistrate, who, with the Chief Constable and a strong body of Police soon reached the spot.

By this time, the numbers and fury of the women had increased to such a degree, and the scene had assumed so terrific an appearance that it was deemed advisable to secure the assistance of the military previous to encountering the female desperadoes. A strong detachment of soldiers soon made its appearance, and after placing sentries over every outlet to prevent the possibility of escape, the gates were thrown open, and the police, aided by the military, rushed in upon the prisoners, who instantaneously assailed them with missiles of every description; but, after a desperate struggle, they succeeded in driving the women into a large shed at the bottom of the yard, where they strongly barricaded them, having previously captured several of the ringleaders, who were placed in solitary confinement.

In the melèe, Mr RYAN, the Chief Constable, was seriously injured, several of the Police were much bruised, and a soldier of the 99th regiment received a severe wound on his head by a brickbat. The yells and groans of the women throughout the night were awful, and their struggles to force their way out unceasing; though the latter were ineffectual, through the determination and vigilance of the military and police, who guarded the place throughout the night, the rain falling in torrents the whole time.

In the morning about a hundred of the women were placed in the cells, and the remainder put under careful surveillance.

His Excellency arrived on the spot about eight o’clock on Friday morning; and, after investigating the affair, expressed himself perfectly satisfied with the arrangements which had been made, and ordered the prisoners for the present to be kept in close confinement.

During the day, their conduct was again so violent, that it was found necessary to remove several to the Gaol, and up to to-day (Monday), the military have remained upon the spot, as also, several of the police.

Too much praise cannot be awarded to all the authorities (as well as to Mr. BELL), whose promptness and determination quelled this most desperate riot, without the effusion of blood; an event which could only have happened from the extreme forbearance manifested by both military and police, who blended the greatest mildness with the most determined resolution.

See Original: “COUNTRY NEWS. PARRAMATTA FACTORY,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Wednesday 22 February 1843, p.2