Sunday 27 August 2017

Sarah Morris - from mother to convict to publican

Sarah Morris, was born Sarah Smith, possibly in London. At age 25 she married John William Morris at Christ Church Spitalfields on 3rd May 18251 and the following year their daughter, Jane, was born on 17th Jan 1826. Jane was baptised at age 3 at the Anglican Church of St John at Parramatta on 1st Feb 18292.

St John’s Church, Parramatta. Image courtesy of the State Library of NSW. # SV1B/Parr/2.

Less than two years after their marriage Sarah was convicted on 26th Oct 1826 for “Theft from a specified place”3.

The Old Bailey October session records the event: Sarah Morris was indicted for stealing, on the 14th of July, 25 yards of linen cloth, value 2l. 10s., the goods of John Marter, in his dwelling-house. 

John Marter responded: I am a linen-draper, and live on Holborn-hill. On the 14th of July, about a quarter to nine o'clock in the evening, the prisoner came to the shop to purchase a small quantity of muslin; I showed her several pieces; she bought a quarter of a yard, which came to 3d. - I saw her stoop down, which made me suspect her; I accused her of taking something off the counter; she said she had; she went to the further end of the shop, and produced this piece of linen cloth from under her gown; it measures 25 yards, and cost me 50s.; I have not measured it; she had not asked for anything but muslin. She was ill last Session, and not able to be tried. 

The police constable’s testimony: I am a constable. I took the prisoner into custody; she seemed much overcome, and implored forgiveness - she had 9d. in her pocket. I do not think she had any companions about.

The verdict was GUILTY, age 27. Of stealing to the value of 39s only. Transported for Seven Years. This was after Sarah had already spent three months awaiting trial in Newgate Prison4. 

Several more months in prison followed, then the “Free Settler or Felon?” website quotes: The prisoners began to come on board the Princess Charlotte on 5th March 1827. On that day 40 women and four children were embarked from Newgate [Prison]. The four women who brought children with them on the voyage were Violet Lawson, Sarah Morris, Ellen Walks and Sophia Zealey5.

Sarah and Jane are listed on the Convict Indent. Sarah is recorded as being a Ribbon Weaver and Needlewoman, native place being Holland6. Unless she meant Holland Park in west London this would indicate that she came to London between 1799 and 1825.

With 91 women and children on board the Princess Charlotte departed from Woolwich on 31st Mar 1827, and took just over four months to arrive in Sydney Cove on 22nd Oct 1827. From here she and Jane were sent to the 1st Class section of the Parramatta Female Factory7. Within six months she was before the Court of General Sessions in Sydney due to being “absent from her service” and as punishment was sent to the 3rd Class section of the Factory for one month from 5th May 1828.

The 1828 Australian Census (Australian copy) shows Sarah as being aged 29 years, still living at the Parramatta Female Factory8, and the UK National Archives (TNA) copy9 of Nov 1828 shows Sarah as working for a baker in King St, Sydney. Jane is listed as living at the Factory (Parramatta).

While still living at the Factory, two years later Sarah gave birth to a daughter, Mary Anne (my great-great-great-great grandmother). At Mary Anne’s baptism on 3rd Apr 1831 Sarah was listed as a single woman at the Factory10. Mary Anne’s father could have been former convict, Irishman John Usher, who arrived on the Medina in 1823. John and Sarah had applied to marry on 13th Aug 1831 but their application was refused by the Reverend Samuel Marsden as Sarah was known to be already married11. This refusal when Mary Ann was 18 months of age. 

One month after Mary Anne’s baptism at Parramatta, in May 1831 Sarah arrived at Newcastle Gaol as “Monitress to the refractory women”12. From there she was admitted to Sydney Gaol in Oct 1831, and then back to Newcastle Gaol a month later in Nov 183113

Two years later Sarah was granted her Certificate of Freedom14
It gives Sarah’s details as following:

28th October 1833
Prisoner’s No.
Sarah the Wife of Willm Morris
Pss Charlotte [Princess Charlotte]
Native Place,
Trade or Calling,
Ribbon Weaver
St of Linen [Stealing of Linen]
Place of Trial,
London G.D. [London Gaol Delivery]
Date of Trial,
26th October 1826
7 Years
Year of Birth,
5 feet 2 inches
Fair freckled
Dark Brown
General Remarks,
A small scar on the fore & middle fingers of the left hand

A month later Sarah had applied to marry former convict, Samuel Bailey. He had arrived on the Lord Eldon in 181715. He had arrived in Newcastle in 1820, for committing another crime once in the Colony. From there he was sent to Norfolk Island as a convict overseer. He had been in Parramatta or Sydney in Nov 1829, so he may have met Sarah then. He had a relationship with Ann Garraway, also of the Factory, producing a son, Samuel Bayly, who was born six months after Mary Anne. 

Samuel’s Ticket of Leave was then changed to from Parramatta to Maitland. By Dec 1833 he was living in Maitland, and he and Sarah applied to marry a few times before they were ultimately successful16

In all of Sarah’s previous applications to marry (both to John Usher and Samuel Bailey), she declared which ship she had arrived on. In the final application both Sarah and Samuel did not state which ships they came on, so the clerk could not use this information to cross-reference with their convict indents and realise that Sarah was already married to William Morris. Once this approval came through they were married at St Peters Anglican Church, East Maitland on 26 Dec 183617. Mary Anne later married Charles John Brackenreg, and Jane married Robert Lorne Pattison17.

By the time Sarah and Samuel married they had a child, Elizabeth C Bailey18 (1835 – 1914). Elizabeth married George Robert Brackenreg, a brother to Mary Anne’s husband.

More children followed:
Samuel Joseph Bailey 1837 – 1838 – died as an infant, buried at Glebe Cemetery
Henry Bailey 1839 – 1895 – married Esther Mary Hogan 
Caroline Grace Bailey 1841 – 1913 – married Charles Langford
Emily Phoebe Bailey 1844 – 1922 – married Thomas Gibson
Louisa Pattison Bailey 1849 – 19 – married William Henry Atkinson

From 1840 - 1854 Samuel was the Licensee of the Cottage of Content Hotel in Banks St, East Maitland19. As well as caring for their large family Sarah would have been of immense help to Samuel in the operation of this business.

Bailey’s “Cottage of Content” Hotel, cnr Banks St & Lawes St, East Maitland

Sarah died on 13th June 186018 at the Hotel, age 60. She was buried two days later at the Glebe Cemetery near St Peters Anglican Church, East Maitland. Sadly, no headstone marks the site of her grave. 

[1] Pallot's Marriage Index for England: 1780 – 1837,
[2] Australia, Births and Baptisms, 1792-1981,
[4] England & Wales, Criminal Registers, 1791-1892,
[6] State Archives NSW; Series: NRS 12188; Item: [4/4012]; Microfiche: 665
[7] New South Wales, Australia, Gaol Description and Entrance Books, 1818-1930,
[8] 1828 New South Wales, Australia Census (Australian Copy),
[9] 1828 New South Wales, Australia Census (TNA Copy),
[10] New South Wales, Australia, St. John's Parramatta, Baptisms, 1790-1916,
[11] New South Wales, Australia, Registers of Convicts' Applications to Marry, 1826-1851,
[12] Archive Office of NSW, Reel 2722 1836- 1838. Newcastle Gaol Entrance Books
[13] New South Wales, Australia, Gaol Description and Entrance Books, 1818-1930,
[14] New South Wales Government. Butts of Certificates of Freedom. NRS 1165, 1166, 1167, 12208, 12210, reels 601, 602, 604, 982-1027. State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales. 
[15] New South Wales, Australia, Convict Indents, 1788-1842,
[16] New South Wales, Australia, Registers of Convicts' Applications to Marry, 1826-1851,
[17] Australia Marriage Index, 1788-1950,
[18] New South Wales Births Deaths Marriages


  1. Whew! That's quite a story. Interesting that they cared she was married to William Morris yet plainly he didn't come over the seas after her.

  2. He didn't keep their daughter Jane at home in England either. Sounds like she's better off without him. She worked out how to get permission to marry eventually.

  3. Very interesting Janelle. I don't have any convict ancestors so I haven't followed a convict woman's life. I agree with what you and Pauleen said, I'm glad she got to marry eventually. Kylie :-)

  4. I have included your blog in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at

    Thank you, Chris

    I loved reading all this, having a passion for convict stories... what different times for women back then.

  5. Hi Janelle, I am your distant cousin and I just wanted to say I appreciate your efforts so much! I connect to you thus - my grandad is Peter Englert, his maternal Grandma was Mabel Bawden (nee Brackenrig). I loved hearing about Sarah Bailey and Esther Salomon. Thanks again x feel free to email back, I grew up on the coast and Mum is in Terrigal xx

    1. Hi Unknown! I've just found some old messages waiting to be moderated & here is yours. Thank you so much for contacting me. Please feel free to email me at janellemcollins at hotmail dot com. I'd love to hear more about how we're related. :)