The Rajah Quilt

The Rajah Quilt

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Ross Female Factory

A selection of the baby bonnets made for Roses from the Heart

The commandant's cottage of the Ross Female Factory

A series of interpretive plaques in the grounds explain the factory.

Photos from our visit to the Cascades Female Factory

The metal Rajah Quilt interpretation is inscribed in the centre with the names of the convicts who were transported on the Rajah in 1841.

                                            Grace Stevens, my great great great Grandmother.

Information about the metal Rajah Quilt project

Standing outside the gates to the yard which the convicts would have arrived in when they walked from the Hobart Docks - a distance of about 5 km.

Looking from the overseers tower.

Women in Crime Class spent their days at wash tubs carved from sandstone blocks like this one.   

This was Monday 22nd February - in our summer.  The night before had been very cold and there was snow on the mountain.

The floor plan from one of the later areas which were solitary cells.

The drain channel from the solitary cells, waste drained straight into the nearby Cascade River.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cascades Female Factory

Last weekend I had the opportunity to visit the Cascades Female Factory for the first time.  It was a very emotional experience as I pondered on the arrival in Van Diemen's Land of many of my ancestors.  In particular my female convict ancestors, who are:

Elizabeth Banks on the Frances Charlotte

Grace Stevens on the Rajah

Ann Willis on the New Grove

Margaret Roberts on the Angelina.

The Female Factory was a prison.  After it was built in 1828, the female convicts were all sent there upon arrival in Hobart.  In the Assignment system the women who were well behaved on board their ship and on arrival were selected for service to households in the growing colony.  The women who hadn't behaved so well were placed in second class, these women did all the sewing for the inmates, the staff and soldiers and also 'contract' sewing.  The women who were badly behaved and/or committed another offence on or after arrival were placed in Crime Class.  The women in crime class did all the laundry, for the prison, the hospital, the staff and also 'contract' laundry.  The women could be put in crime class as punishment if they were accused of wrong doing after being put in service.  Many women returned to the Female Factory pregnant after being placed on a property - many were assaulted during their assignments - they were given a sentence in crime class during the pregnancy and afterwards.  Babies born to women in the factory were removed to the orphanage at 6 months of age, if they survived.

Grace arrived in 1841 and in the 1841 musters is listed as 'in service to J Archer Launceston' - so she must have been well behaved. 

Elizabeth was returned to the factory a couple of times.  On one occasion for being pregnant.  There is no record of whether she delivered the baby.

During the visit I was lucky to meet and have lunch with Christina Henri.  Christina has been artist-in-residence at the Female Factory and created the Roses from the Heart convict bonnet project.

I'll share some more about this next time,


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Elizabeth's time as a convict

Last time I told you about Elizabeth's background, her sentencing, and her arrival in Van Diemen's land.
On disembarking, she, along with 94 other women (seven had died on the way), would have marched to the female factory and heard Governor Arthur tell how she might improve her lot.

Women Were Graded

Prisoners were then divided on their record into three classes:

1.         Those newly arrived from England with a good behaviour record.  This class also included women who had been returned from service in the colony with a good record and those who had served a satisfactory probationary period in Class 2.  Only Class 1 women were considered suitable for assignment around the colony.

2.         Women guilty of minor offences and those who through improved conduct merited removal from third class.  After a probationary period they could go up to first class.

3.         Crime class for those transported a second time or guilty of misconduct on voyage or after arrival.

Women who became pregnant in service were sent to the factory.

According to the regulations for running the Female Factory it published in the Hobart Town Gazette 3rd November 1829, women in first class were to wear a dress without a distinguishing mark;  those in second class the same but with a large yellow ‘C’ on the sleeve  Those in third class were to have a large yellow cross on their back and petticoat.  All were to get two aprons, two caps, two handkerchiefs, and two pairs of stockings.

Their daily routine in summer was rise at 5.30 ready for work at 6.  Then breakfast at 8, prayers and labour at 8.30 until dinner at noon.  After that they laboured until sunset.  Evening meal came at 7.30 followed by prayers at 8.00.

Reports say the women in the factory were orderly and quiet although they frequently used bad language and, according to one report, sang improper songs.  They attempted to burn the place down in 1827.

The factory was no holiday resort.  Those in crime class would often suffer dehumanising treatment like having their heads shaved, being put in solitary, given hard labour at the wash trough or put in an iron collar.  In 1832 there were about 200 women held there.  With the far greater proportion of men in the colony, men, and not only convicts, would go to the factory to select a wife.

Elizabeth gave her occupation as servant and was assigned to settlers around the colony.  On 12th August 1833 she ran into trouble for disobedience and insolence to his mistress, Mrs Sheppard, and was sent off to a solitary working cell for a month;  on 13th November next she was in the Foster household but had to be sent to Crime Class for being pregnant.  It is not recorded whether that was in Launceston or Hobart.

Whether Elizabeth successfully delivered her child is not known.  There are no baptism records of a child by the name of Banks.  One might suspect Charles as the father but there are no records to confirm it.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


1.  Elizabeth Banks, daughter of James Banks and Constance SCOTT, was born on 22 Mar 1816 in Wolverhampton, Sts, Eng, was christened on 4 May 1816 in Wolverhampton, Sts, Eng, and died on 15 Jul 1851 in Port Sorell, Tas, Aus, at age 35. 

Christening Notes:The Minister was Thomas Walker,

General Notes:Elizabeth was tried at Stafford on 8 March 1832 for Larceny on the 11 Dec 1831. It is said that she did feloniously and maliciously incite, move, procure, aid, council, hire and command Henry Tisset to steal and drive away one cow of the price of Ten pound that belonged to Henry Crutchley. Also on the same day did the same of a Samuel Morris's cow.Elizabeth was sentenced to 7 years.On the Record of Convict arrivals it was stated that she was "orderly on board". and Offences and sentences:-
August 12, 1833:  Sheppard/disobedience and insolence to her Mistress, Solitary                              working cell on month.
November 13, 1833: Foster/returned to the Crime class, being pregnant.
February 4, 1836: Scott/Found absent from her Master's premises at 2 o'clock this
                              morning. 3 months Crime Class, Launceston.
The description of Elizabeth was
Trade: Servant
Height: 4' 10 3/4"
Age: 19
Complexion: Fair
Head: Round
Hair: Brown
Visage: Round
Forehead: Medium Height
Eyebrows: Brown
Eyes: Light Grey
Nose: Small
Mouth: Small, lips full
Chin: Small
Remarks: Slightly pockpitted,

Noted events in her life were:

  She had a residence on 26 Sep 1841 in Cleveland Tas, Aus.

Elizabeth married Charles Dewhurst, son of Thomas Dewhirst and Hannah WILKINSON, on 7 May 1836 in Campbell Town, Tas, Aus. 

Marriage Notes:Charles and Elizabeth applied for an application to marry on 2 February 1836.

Noted events in his life were:

  He was employed in 1837-1887 in Port Sorell, Tas, Aus. Blacksmith
  He had a residence on 26 Sep 1841 in Cleveland Tas, Aus.
  He had a residence in 1836 in Campbell Town, Tas, Aus.

I do not know how Charles and Elizabeth met.  One can only assume that they had work in the same area or for the same property owner.  She was a convict, employed in the district, and because of this both he and she had to apply for permission to marry.  This they did on 2nd February 1835 and approval was granted eight days later.

Elizabeth came from Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, with perhaps a less fortunate background than Charles.  She stood four foot ten and three quarter inches when she arrived aged 19.  Her small nose, mouth, and chin, were set in a round, slightly pock pitted, fair complexioned face under brown hair.

Elizabeth left England on ‘Frances Charlotte’, a barque about two thirds the size of the ship on which Charles came, on 15th September 1832 making good time to arrive in the Derwent on 10th January 1833.

Her trial had been at the Stafford Assizes in March so she had six months in gaol after her trial before leaving and during that time she earned the gaol report “Bad character, sullen disposition, very orderly (?) in prison, connections very bad”.  Her brother had been transported for stealing.

She had been sentenced to seven years for stealing a cow.  If one reads the indictment one gets the impression that her crime was inciting a fellow to steal the cow.  She was sentenced to death but evidently had this commuted to seven years.

On the ship she behaved well.

On disembarking, she, along with 94 other women (seven had died on the way), would have marched to the female factory and heard Governor Arthur tell how she might improve her lot.

Charles and Elizabeth were listed as witnesses at the marriage of Grace Stevens and Charles Blight.

I'll tell you more about their life together soon,