Elizabeth and Jane Ware

Convict Mother and Child

Is Elizabeth Jane's mother?

It is likely that Elizabeth Ware was the second child of William and Sarah Lightburn/Leightburn (of Ombersley, Worcestershire), baptised 4 October 1778. It is also likely that Elizabeth married Thomas Ware 19 Dec 1796 and had daughters Sarah (baptised 21 Oct 1798) and Eve (baptised 4 Jan 1801). Elizabeth was acquitted on one charge but pleaded guilty in July 1803 to possession of forged bank notes and was sentenced to 14 years transportation. She came to Australia in 1804 with her third daughter (perhaps born in Newgate prison and still 'on her breast') on the all-female (except for two) convict ship Experiment I to serve her sentence.

Jane 'Wyer' (the spelling on her marriage certificate) married John Barber in St Luke's church, Liverpool, NSW, 23 Apr 1821. John was convicted of horse stealing and arrived in Australia in 1815 on the Marquis of Wellington. The 1828 Census (running from Nov 1828 to early 1829) has Jane and John with 66 acres of land at Parramatta (with one horse and 6 horned cattle) and three children - Joseph (9), Louisa or Lucy (3) and Andrew (8 mnths). It also has Jane's age as 27 and confirms that she came to Australia on Experiment I. While not completely certain, it seems highly likely that Jane is Elizabeth's daughter: given that the birth date of Elizabeth's third daughter (between end 1801 and early 1803) lines up with Jane's age at the 1828 Census; given that Elizabeth had a baby daughter with her on the Experiment and Jane was on board the same ship; and given the similarity of spelling and pronunciation (particularly taking into account English accents) of the names 'Ware' and 'Wyer'.

Establishing Elizabeth as Jane's mother opens up the prospect of deepening understanding of the genealogy of those linked to Jane and John's children, for example: Joseph; and Lucy, who married John O'Brien (shown as 'Bryan' in certificates before about 1848) from Ireland in Goulburn on 23 Dec 1842. A descendent of John and Lucy, Ada O'Brien, married Cecil (Joe) Mayo, a descendent of Joseph Mayo who arrived in Australia with his family on the 'General Hewitt' in 1848.

As a child, Jane had strong links to the Bergins of Parramatta. William Bergin and Sarah/Mary Tandy (a convict on the Experiment I with Elizabeth and Jane) had their first child (Henry) together in 1805 and their second (Sophia) in 1808. And yet, Marsden's 1806 Female Muster shows two 'illegitimate' children, one male and one female, living with Mary and William. Again, at the time of the General Muster 1814, William and Mary had four children living with them, only three of whom were their own children. Separately, Jane and John Barber, Jane's future husband, are shown to have close ties to the Bergin family. Sophia Bergin was a witness at John and Jane's wedding. Later, William Bergin writes a character reference for John Barber when John is accused of stealing fence posts in 1834. It seems highly likely, therefore, that as a result of Elizabeth and Mary meeting on the Experiment (or before), Jane ended up living with William and Mary. Elizabeth Ware manages to avoid being recorded in the two 1806 musters (Marsden's and General Muster of NSW), as well as the General Muster 1814 (if she is then in the colony). It is therefore unclear whether or not Elizabeth had ongoing close ties with William Bergin and Mary Tandy and, indeed, Jane.

With Jane being cared for, Elizabeth was able to make an ill-fated return to England before her 14-year sentence had expired. She returned to England in 1809 but was sentenced to death for returning before her term. This was at a time when the Bank of England was, on the one hand, seeking to stamp out an explosion in the forging of bank notes though heavy penalties of execution and long transportation terms and, on the other, responding positively to pleading from some prisoners - particularly female prisoners - for clemency and financial assistance. Much of the associated correspondence and Bank records is stored in the archives of the Bank of England. The following potted history of Elizabeth Ware is based on material from those archives, including letters from Elizabeth and her husband Thomas reproduced in Prisoner' Letters to the Bank of England 1781-1827 a book edited by Deirdre Palk, copies of original letters kindly provided by the Bank's Archive and transcripts of letters (not included in Prisoner' Letters) kindly provided by Deirdre Palk. The history follows the structure, and uses some of the wording, from material originally available on Old Bailey online.

Elizabeth Ware and the Bank of England

Elizabeth Ware (sometimes written as Weare, Wear or Were), was 24 years old at the time of her first trial in July 1803, was the wife of Thomas Ware. On the basis of a magistrate's examination of Thomas around 27 May 1803, Thomas was a shoemaker who worked in the employ of a Mr Brown of Bridges Street, Strand, London, and of Levy Cohen 'near the new church in the Strand'. Thomas became involved in the purchase and disposal of large numbers of forged Bank of England notes, buying them from suppliers in London, Bristol and Bath. Elizabeth became involved in this traffic. Notes, presumably of a magistrate's examination, indicate she was apprehended spending forged notes in a shop at 27 Cranbourne Street, London. Thomas, after being apprehended in 1803, escaped 'under pretence of giving assistance in the detection of others'. He was then thought to reside at Witney in Staffordshire but apparently was not re-apprehended. Elizabeth accepted the plea bargain frequently offered to defendants in Bank of England cases, since the penalty for forgery or for 'uttering' (disposing of) forged notes was execution. Pleading guilty to possession brought a sentence of fourteen years' transportation to New South Wales. It was Bank solicitors who, in response to public pressure arising from the fact that large numbers of petty criminals were attracting capital punishment rather than major forgers, drafted the bill providing for the lesser offence of possession. The bill was passed by parliament and made law in May 1801 (Palk, p. x).

Held in Newgate prison awaiting a ship to be made ready to take convicts to Australia, she sent several letters (and at least two petitions) to the Bank of England (Governor and Directors of the Bank or to Freshfields, the Bank's solicitors). All the letters appear to be written on her behalf in the 'entrepreneurial' (Palk, p. xix) prison system of the time. These letters vary in quality of drafting but are usually well-crafted with quite good grammar and spelling and are invariably florid both in language and handwriting style. Elizabeth wrote on 21 July 1803 seeking support for a petition to the King to allow her to remain in England. She states that she is: 'the unhappy mother of three children and am unfortunately likely to become the parent of another', and begs to be restored to her 'now fatherless Infants'. Her drafter signed this letter 'Elizth Ware' for her. On 16 August, following a response from the Bank suggesting that they might not be able to support her petition since there was some doubt about her 'conduct', she states that their investigator had given them 'Falicious Intellegence': she had not been screening another wrong-doer (perhaps her husband) from justice as the investigator had suggested. On the contrary, she says she provided all the information that she had to give and begs that they should not 'Withhold, form a Friendless and Starving Family, Divested of Every Comfort and Every Hope ... Cloatheless, pennyless and stretched on ye Bare Boards, no one to Offer Comfort or Consolation to my Bursting Heart'. This time her drafter signed the letter off with 'E. Ware'. On 20 Aug 1803, Elizabeth asks for 'some Mitigation of my dreadful Sentence', deploring 'the Fatal Error I have fallen into' which has 'left me with three helpless children (the eldest not being above Five years) and an Increase in Expectancy - entirely friendless and fatherless, having never heard, nor received the least Assistance, from my Husband since my Confinement'. In a somewhat unclear 'PS' on the back of the letter, Elizabeth seems to be apologising for what she says has to be a misunderstanding about threatening words she used towards her husband because she had always advised him to speak the truth about his family. In her next letter of 20 September 1803 she talks of her remorse and distress and asks for 'some pecuniary aid'. Subsequently, on 28 Sep 1803 she writes to thank the Bank for their 'Charitable Donation' referring to the 'comfort myself & Children have derived from your Bounty'. She also takes the opportunity to ask again for 'Amelioration of the dreadful sentence they have pronounced against me'. The writers of these latter three letters added 'her mark' at the end of each letter after her name - 'Elizabeth Weare' in the 20 August letter and 'Elizabeth Ware' in the other two - and an ‘x’ has been placed between her first name and family name, presumably by Elizabeth herself.

Elizabeth was transferred from Newgate prison to the transport ship Experiment and from there she wrote, on 21 Nov 1803, a letter headed 'Dear Brother', addressed to Mr Wm. Lightband, Taylor, St James' Market, 10 Market Row, London ('Lightband' corresponds with 'Lightburn' shown in Family Search as Elizabeth's maiden name in the details of her likely marriage to Thomas and Family Search lists William as a son of William and Sarah Leightburn, baptised 6 Jan 1774, almost four years before Elizabeth's baptism). Elizabeth had to leave behind her two older daughters because she asks for news of 'my poor children and my sisters and to give my love to them all' and then asks for a 'little money to enable me to furnish myself and Child with a few Necessarys for the Voyage'. She says she has no money as she had 'only 4 1/2d' when she left Newgate. The letter was intercepted and delivered instead to the Bank of England. Their lawyers on 5 Dec 1803 sent £15 to their legal representative in Portsmouth with a letter to be given to the captain (Withers) of the ship asking the captain to use his judgement to decide how to dispense the money in a manner that would contribute best to the 'comfort' of Elizabeth and her child and, if she conducts herself well, to afford her all the protection he can. Unfortunately, the ship had already sailed from Portsmouth but returned to Portsmouth around 14 December after losing her bowsprit near the Isles of Scilly. The Bank had heard of the ship's return and in a letter of 16 Dec 1803 asks their representative to try again and also to confirm that Elizabeth did in fact have a child with her. The Bank representative delivered the money and letter at Portsmouth, the captain reporting by letter on 18 Dec 1803 to the representative that 'every indulgence' consistent with her convict status will be afforded her as Elizabeth had behaved with 'propriety' since she came on board. The captain enclosed a certificate from the ship's surgeon attesting that she looked after her baby well (and was not pregnant despite her references to that possibility in earlier letters). The captain said that he had decided that somewhat more than half the £15 was to be spent immediately for her needs and the rest kept to help her cope when she arrives in New South Wales. In response to a request from the Bank, the Bank's representative confirms on 24 Dec 1803 that his task is complete, encloses a receipt from the captain for the £15 and invoices his work at £1 9s.

The Experiment left Portsmouth again on 2 Jan 1804. On board were Elizabeth (and her baby), Sarah/Mary Tandy, 134 other female convicts, two male convicts and numerous free settlers (information on free settlers is compiled indirectly from say information from relatives). After damage in a violent gale in the Bay of Biscay, a month in Rio de Janeiro, several deaths (5 or 6 female convicts) and strong winds off the coast of New South Wales, the ship arrived in Sydney 24 Jun 1804 (in this internet reference, 'primary source' refers to microfilm reel containing description of voyage and convict list, 'secondary source' is just a listing of general cargo and reference to 'Jane Wyer/Convict child', as with the listing of other free settlers, does not come from official primary sources).

Six and a half years later, Elizabeth Ware was apprehended on the ship Aolis in Woolwich Reach having returned from New South Wales well before the expiry of her sentence. Sentenced to death for this at the Old Bailey 6 Dec 1809, While in Newgate, she twice wrote to the Bank asking them (Governor and Directors) to support her petition to the King for a pardon. In support of her petition of 25 Dec 1809 (which she says was signed by almost fifty 'loyal subjects'), she expresses 'sorrow and contrition' at her original crime, though claiming influence of and direction from her husband who 'fled from Justice'. On the crime of returning before her term she claims she had believed her original sentence to be for seven years and she 'embraced the only opportunity that might ever probably happen, to infold in her longing arms her long lost Children'. In seeking not only to be spared death but to be restored to her children she refers to the suffering associated with 'leaving behind her two unprotected female infant Children, and a third, hanging at her breast,' having to share 'the sufferings of its unhappy Mother'. She also said that her husband, Thomas, had died and another man 'of the purest morals, and very respectable connexions,' wished to marry her and was waiting for her to be pardoned 'to make her happy in the management of an extensive eating house' (the location of which is not mentioned). Again, the drafter had Elizabeth add her 'x' at the end, this time between 'Elizabeth' and 'Ware'. Elizabeth wrote again on 25 Mar 1810 and again about a fortnight later, thanking the Bank for prior 'favors', pointing to her desperate situation in Newgate, explaining that it had been some weeks since she had received any assistance and, on advice from an agent of Freshfields, begging for financial support by way of 'a trifell weekley'. In contrast to Elizabeth's earlier finely-written letters, these letters are written in rougher hand with poor construction, poor spelling and no punctuation. Perhaps they were written by a visitor, or a turnkey or other such moderately educated person who does not ask for an ‘x’ to be added to the 'Elizh Ware' and 'E. Ware' sign-offs. This change may reflect Elizabeth's lack of funds to pay for quality drafting assistance. She explains later in a letter of 23 Oct 1810 that during this time of financial distress she had to sell or pawn virtually all of her clothing. This letter is back in fine drafting style and this time it seems that Elizabeth added her full signature at the end herself: a boldly-written 'Elizabeth Were' with some ink splodging perhaps caused by pressing down hard.

Minutes of the Bank's Committee for Law Suits show (4 Jan 1810) that Elizabeth's petitions were at first rejected by the Bank but then report (30 May 1810) that 'His Majesty has been pleased to' repeal her death sentence and require her to complete her sentence in New South Wales. In recognition of her 'extreme' distress and three unsupported children, the Bank was to pay her 7 shillings a week (from May 1810) 'during her confinement in Newgate', at a time when a labourer's weekly wage could be less than £1 (Palk, p. ix). Elizabeth's 23 Oct 1810 letter thanks the Bank for the weekly 7s payment which she says is 'of such essential Service to myself and Children'. She goes on to say that she has been told to prepare to be 'sent off to New South Wales on the next ship, which is expected very shortly to Sail' and wonders whether the generosity of the Bank that she experienced last time she was transported could be repeated.

Elizabeth wrote at least two more letters to the Bank. The letters are once again in less than fine writing, perhaps by the same rougher hand as before but now being signed off with 'Elizabeth Ware'. The second of these letters, dated 9 Feb 1811, is jointly authored with Amelia Bellars who was also convicted of possessing forged bank notes and sentenced to transportation. Both letters talk of the hope of money to enable redemption of clothes before sailing. The 9 Feb letter says it would 'be teribly distrasing to be put on shore in a foring Country Naked and Distrast' - and of imminent departure from prison to go on board a ship ('Tuesday naxt is the day we expact' in the 9 Feb letter). In response to these letters, the Bank agreed (6 Nov 1810) to pay Elizabeth and Amelia each £5 for necessities 'for their Voyage, being on the point of Sailing' - the level of payment often made to women, but not men, on embarking the transport ships (Palk, p. xxi).

The Friends convict ship sailed in April 1811 and arrived in Sydney 10 Oct 1811 with 100 female convicts. What became of Elizabeth is unknown. While Amelia Bellars is included in the list of female convicts on Friends, Elizabeth Ware is not - but that could be because she may have been linked to the Experiment I, her original ship. She is also not included in the General Muster 1814 or the 1828 Census, though she may have re-married before these surveys. Meanwhile, her daughter Jane was growing up under the care of Sarah/Mary Tandy and William Bergin of Parramatta.

25 July 2012 

Contact Wayne Mayo, compiler of this material