Sarah Bell: Female Factory Matron

By Jennifer McLaren

Supported by a Create NSW Arts and Cultural Grant – Old Parramattans & Female Factory


Beneath are interred the remains of Sarah Bell

the beloved wife of Mr Thomas Bell of Parramatta

who died June 12 1853 aged 50 years

Parramatta Female Factory, Matron Sarah Bell, Grave, Headstone, Inscription, Epitaph, St. John's Cemetery, Parramatta, St. John's Cemetery Project, Old Parramattans
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE. The grave of Sarah Bell in Section 1, Row E, No. 8, St. John’s Cemetery, Parramatta. Photo: Jennifer McLaren (2019).

Sarah Bell’s modest headstone at St. John’s Cemetery in Parramatta remains in reasonably good condition and its simple epitaph is legible to this day.[1] Her death was announced in similarly modest fashion in the Sydney Morning Herald the day after she died. Although the notice tells something of Sarah’s Irish background, there is nothing to suggest the full life she led in the fledgling colony of New South Wales:

Died. At Parramatta, on Sunday, June 12, after 4 days’ illness, Sarah, wife of Mr. Thomas Bell, second daughter of the late John Alexander Esq., of Maryville Gort, County of Galway, Ireland, aged 50 years.[2]

The men in Sarah’s family, especially her husband and eldest son Joshua, attracted far greater attention when they died. Thomas’s glowing obituary in the Queensland Times ran to 450 words, and Joshua’s in the Queenslander was three times as long again.[3] Sarah Bell was not, however, an anonymous figure in Parramatta. As Matron of the Parramatta Female Factory, Sarah was one of only a small number of women in the early Colony of New South Wales with an official government role and salary. [4]

Leaving Ireland

Sarah Bell (née Alexander) hailed from Maryville in County Galway.[5] Born in 1803 to John Alexander and his wife Mary (née Mahon), Sarah’s ancestors had emigrated to Ireland from Scotland in the seventeenth century.[6] The family is believed to have been Protestant, affiliated with the Church of Ireland, and had land in Counties Galway and Clare, which Sarah’s father inherited.[7] She had three brothers: John, James and Arthur. John Jnr. died in infancy and when another brother, James, died in the 1840s, the estate passed to Sarah’s youngest brother, Arthur.[8] The implication in Sarah’s death notice in the Sydney Morning Herald is that she had at least one older sister; however, contemporary genealogical studies often neglected to name female family members, or even to note their existence at all, so we can only speculate as to how many sisters Sarah may have had. Unfortunately, no correspondence in Sarah’s hand survives to provide clues as to any family members she may have remained in contact with after she left Ireland. The first time Sarah appears on the public record is when she and her family arrived in the Australian colonies. But we know that before leaving Ireland as a twenty-eight year old, she had married Thomas Bell and given birth to (at least) five children.[9]

The Bells left wintry Dublin on board the Cleopatra in December 1831 with their five young children, bound for Hobart Town, Van Dieman’s Land (Tasmania).[10] Demand for non-convict labour surged in the Australian colonies in the 1830s, whereas in Ireland, Thomas’s employment opportunities were decreasing. In 1829 the British Parliament passed the Catholic Emancipation Act, which allowed (some) Catholics to sit as members of parliament in Westminster, to vote in elections and to hold government offices. Catholic ‘emancipation’ meant Thomas, a Protestant, faced increased competition for government employment from newly emancipated Catholic men.[11] Perhaps for this reason, he and Sarah ‘incurred very great expense’ to travel to the Australian colonies with five small children in tow: Mary Isabella (five), Joshua Peter (four), Alexander (three), Marmaduke (two) and baby Sarah (three months).[12] Sadly, baby Sarah did not survive the voyage. The Bell family bible records that ‘her remains are laid in the Indian Ocean between the Cape of Good Hope and Van Diemen’s Land.’[13]

The Lumber Yard and Carters’ Barracks, Sydney

The Cleopatra dropped anchor in Hobart Town on 2 May 1832 with the Bells on board—although they soon moved north to Sydney, where Thomas found work at the Lumber Yards.[14] He was employed by the colonial government, most likely supervising the convict labourers there who performed the manufacturing jobs required for public works.[15] The Lumber Yards were Australia’s first large-scale manufacturing enterprise, but by the time Thomas arrived they were in decline and had recently relocated from Bridge Street in Sydney to land adjoining Hyde Park Barracks. Thus, while 183 convicts were assigned to work at the Lumber Yards at the beginning of 1832, by the end of that year only 24 remained.[16]

Carters' Barracks, Pitt St, Sydney, New South Wales, Central Station site, Boys' Barracks, Debtors' Prison, Thomas Bell, Matron Sarah Bell, St. John's Cemetery Project, Female Factory, Old Parramattans
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE. “Sketch shewing projected streets near the Carter’s Barracks,” including the “tread mill.” D Cb 84/19 / FL3483903, State Library of New South Wales.

Within a year, Thomas left the Yards and was appointed Assistant Superintendent at Carters’ Barracks.[17] The Barracks, which had originally housed convict gangs working on the brick fields as carters and brickmakers, was principally a juvenile penal institution, although it ceased to house boys in 1834.[18] Thomas, Sarah and their four children probably lived on site, as Thomas was provided with ‘quarters at the establishment’ in addition to his annual salary of £91.[19] The Barracks was situated near what is now Sydney’s Central Station, bounded by the Sandhills Cemetery, the Benevolent Asylum and the Hay and Cattle Markets, effectively isolated from urban encroachment.[20] Although the area was far from salubrious, the Barracks itself was a grandiose Georgian building that did not appear (at least from the outside) to be a prison.[21] Historian Cameron Nunn has described the layout of the Barracks, which helps us picture where the Bell family may have lived. The U-shaped building was divided into three distinct sections; the northern end consisted of stables capable of accommodating 90 horses; the middle section contained offices, dormitories, a mess hall and kitchen, and accommodation for convict supervisors; the southern end housed a schoolroom and workshop.[22]

Carters' Barracks, Pitt Street, Sydney, New South Wales, Boys' Barracks, Debtors' Prison, Central Station site, St. John's Cemetery Project, St. John's Cemetery, Parramatta, Old Parramattans, Thomas Bell, Sarah Bell, Parramatta Female Factory
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE. Carters’ Barracks by unknown artist, previously attributed to Joseph Fowles, in Drawings in Sydney, [ca. 1840-1850], PX*D 123 / FL3170456, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.
Thomas remained at Carters’ Barracks until mid-1836, during which time the institution transitioned from its function as a juvenile penal establishment to a debtors’ prison. His next appointment would involve not only the ‘head of the household,’ Thomas, but also his wife and the mother of his four children, Sarah.

The Parramatta Female Factory

On 1 September 1836 Sarah was appointed Matron of the Parramatta Female Factory alongside her husband, who was employed as the Factory Steward and Storekeeper. This was a novel arrangement. Never before had a married couple been placed in charge of the factory together. They replaced the incumbent Matron Ann Gordon, whose tenure had been embroiled in controversy for some time. Well-informed gossip had reached Lord Glenelg, the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies in London, that Matron Gordon’s husband and family were effectively bringing the Matron’s reputation—and by extension, the Factory—into disrepute.[23] In July 1836, the Factory’s Board of Management had met to discuss serious charges made by the midwife, Mrs. Neale, against the Matron’s husband, Robert.[24] Mrs. Neale claimed Robert Gordon had subjected her to a prolonged campaign of sexual harassment. The Board accepted Mrs. Neale’s version of events and ruled that Robert Gordon be excluded from the Factory grounds. This was in fact the second time he had been formally excluded.[25] The Gordons’ two daughters had also stirred the gossips. It seems one of the daughters had two illegitimate children living with her at the Factory.[26] Governor Bourke exonerated Mrs. Gordon from blame with regard to her husband and daughters, but decided the time had come to remove her and to place the Factory ‘upon an entirely new footing.’[27] Though the Factory had always been a multipurpose institution, he concluded that the numbers of residents ‘have rendered the place much more a Gaol than an Asylum, and it requires in consequence the Government of a Prison.’[28] Bourke believed, therefore, that a matron alone would not suffice and thus appointed the Bells to manage the Factory in tandem. They came highly recommended. Thomas bore letters of recommendation from the Irish government, and his track record of managing the penal institution at Carters’ Barracks in Sydney.[29] Bourke wrote to Glenelg in London that due to the Bells’ ‘behaviour in other situations of trust’ he ‘had reason to be fully satisfied…’[30]

The Bells’ appointment to the Factory must have been a source of great excitement for the family. Sarah and Thomas’s new jobs necessitated a change of scenery from the grimy outskirts of Sydney to the more open country of Parramatta. The Bells’ eldest son Joshua was a student at the recently-established Sydney College (Sydney Grammar School) in central Sydney, so perhaps he remained there as a boarder while the three younger children moved with their parents into their quarters at the Factory.[31] The appointment also raised their household income from £100 to £300 per annum.[32] We know little of Sarah’s day-to-day life in Sydney prior to 1836; however, once she moved to the Factory she had employees and convicts to supervise and a full-time job. While her workload and responsibilities increased significantly so, too, did the level of assistance available to her. The working mother could now afford personal servants, including a house-servant and a cook, and her younger children were cared for by others during the day in a house in Parramatta, a short walk from the Factory.[33] On arrival, though, the Bells had found the Factory in a poor state—the buildings were dilapidated and overcrowded. According to one of their first returns to the Government, the Factory housed 590 women and 134 children.[34] At the Governor’s insistence, work was provided for the various classes of residents. The ‘assignable’ first class women did needlework, second class took in laundry and worked in the Factory hospital, and the prisoners of the third class crushed rocks for the streets of Parramatta.[35] When the Bells took over, the Factory staff comprised a sub-matron, six female convict monitors, a female porter, midwife, constable, gatekeeper, clerk and chaplain. Governor Bourke increased this staff and employed two chaplains—one Catholic and one Anglican.[36]

Matron Sarah Bell, Parramatta Female Factory, Female Factory, St. John's Cemetery, Parramatta, St. John's Cemetery Project, Old Parramattans, Female Factory Online.
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE. On the reverse of this portrait is written “Mrs. Thomas Bell the mother of Joshua Peter Bell, J. Botterill, Photographer, Bee-Hive Chambers, Elizabeth Street, Melbourne.” It appears, therefore, that this is a portrait of Matron Sarah Bell; however, as Sarah Bell died in 1853, notes descendant Sue Bell, this portrait may be a “miniature in oil, watercolour or mezzotint,” which professional photographer J. Botterill also produced in the 1860s in addition to photographs. Moreover, Botterill was based at the Elizabeth Street address in the late 1870s, putting an even later date on this image. “Someone may have given Mr. Botterill a drawing of Sarah,” which became the basis of this (possibly watercolour) image, notes Sue Bell. Original unedited image held in Bell Family Collection, UQFL79, Box 4, Folder 12, Fryer Library, The University of Queensland Library.

A great deal of public excitement surrounded the Bells’ appointment, too. It provided an opportunity for the press and members of the public to further engage in the ongoing debates about management of convict labour and the differing views on punishment and reformation of inmates, not to mention attitudes towards female convicts. Thomas was no stranger to such debates from his time at Carters’ Barracks, which had been built with the ideology of isolation, separation and classification, and the hopeful belief that the state could transform children from criminality to conformity through training, education and religious instruction.[37] The Colonist reported with ‘no slight degree of satisfaction that the hand of reformation has at length reached that pest-house of abomination, the Female Factory at Parramatta.’[38] The editor applauded Thomas’s appointment, noting that his experience and ‘intelligence’ would enable him to restore the Factory to ‘what it was intended to be—a place of punishment for refractory females.’[39] Notably, though, Sarah Bell is entirely absent from the article.[40] The Colonist elicited a strongly-worded response in the Sydney Gazette from ‘Vindex’ of Parramatta.[41] Vindex argued that the Bells’ appointment would have little impact at the Factory unless the ‘Colonial rulers’ changed their approach to discipline. The writer went on to demand that the Factory women be subjected to a ‘low diet, and hard work,’ that the magistracy impose harsher sentences, and ‘Mr Marsden’s proposed system of Flagellation’ be introduced forthwith, as ‘nothing short of it will be effectual with these worthless creatures…’[42]

A month later, the Colonist reported the ‘cheering intelligence’ that the ‘easy-going system pursued under Mrs. Gordon’s administration’ had been overturned.[43] Apparently, the Bells kept the third-class women at the Factory hard at work from six in the morning until six in the evening, preparing materials for the repair of the colony’s roads. The newspaper also reported sarcastically that ‘the ring which was found so efficient when the Carter’s [sic] Barracks establishment was occupied by boys’ had been introduced at the Factory to afford ‘an hour or two’s amusement to such ladies as do not relish hard work.’[44] In other words, the Bells had promptly introduced a treadmill (or treadwheel) at the Factory. The treadmill at Carters’ Barracks was the first such device to be installed in the colony and had been used to punish mostly adult prisoners for minor offences.[45] The use of a treadmill is indicative of an emerging approach to penal labour. As historian Cameron Nunn has explained, while prisoners in English houses of correction were traditionally involved in labour that had a financial benefit, in the new prisons there was a steady disconnection between labour and production. Devices such as the treadmill became a means of ‘equalizing, measuring and regulating and timing the performance of toil rather than seeking to be economically productive.’[46] The treadmill at Carters’ Barracks actually did have a commercial function, as the prisoners’ labour on the wheel ground corn. There is no research to date on the treadmill at the Factory to indicate whether the Bells’ innovation performed a commercial or purely penal role.

A little over a year after taking charge at the Factory, the Bells received a glowing report from the Governor, who declared that all ‘appeared in excellent order and exhibited very advantageously the care and intelligence with [which] the Keeper and Matron discharged their respective duties.’[47] The Bells were, therefore, shocked to discover that their contracts were soon to be terminated. Lord Glenelg, in one of his first acts as Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, had overridden the Governor and appointed a new Matron and Keeper on the advice of prison reformer Mrs. Elizabeth Fry.[48] John Clapham and Julia Leach arrived in February 1838 and, amidst rioting by some Factory inmates, the Bells moved out.[49] The handover between the Bells and their replacements was not friendly. Clapham later accused Thomas of stealing a number of household items when he left, including four chairs, two buckets and some bedsheets, and of converting baby linen into shirts for one of his sons. Clapham also took issue with the Bells using government-issue casks to move their belongings.[50] The Bells returned to Sydney where Thomas was appointed Immigration Agent for the Port of Sydney, but this was an unsettled time for the family, who were required to endure ‘frequent removals.’[51]

Thomas immediately commenced a campaign for compensation for their sudden removal, including recompense for his own missed opportunity at the Debtors’ Prison. He wrote indignantly to the Colonial Secretary that when he was appointed to the Factory he was the ‘keeper of the Debtors Prison and House of Correction in Sydney,’ and that shortly after he left the more senior position of Gaoler had become vacant: ‘I should have got that appointment had I been in Carters Barracks—in consequence of which I sustained a severe loss by leaving.’[52] Thomas argued his removal from the Factory had been ‘without any cause or complaint,’ and that he should be compensated for the loss he had incurred.[53] The Colonial Secretary’s response was soon irrelevant, however, as the Bells were reinstated at the Factory in August 1838. It had become clear that Leach and Clapham were unsuitable for the Factory—not least because of the animosity they developed soon after meeting each other on the ship from Britain.[54]

Day-to-day life at the Factory was busy. As Matron, Sarah supervised the women’s work as well as their medical care. The colonial government was keen that the women at the Factory remain occupied, as a means of keeping them out of mischief, training them, and generating revenue. The Factory contained a weaving shop, and in 1838 Governor Gipps had the women processing New Zealand flax for use in building works—the strands of flax the women produced could be mixed with lime to bind building mortars. The women also produced short flax fibres to produce twine or yarn. Needlework was another source of income at the Factory.[55]

Price lists - the cost of free and convict labour.
CLICK TO ENLARGE. The value of free and convict labour. On the left, the Colonial Secretary announces the price list for the needlework service supplied by the convicts at the Female Factory. On the right, tailors employed at the “Australian Clothing Establishment” on George Street, Sydney, rail against the “itinerants” at the Female Factory “palming off” cheap clothing to the public. The differences in the price lists indicate just how much cheaper the Factory clothes were and how this would have been hard for skilled, free labourers to compete with. “Advertising,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Saturday 19 October 1839, p. 3 and Friday 6 January 1843, p. 3. National Library of Australia.

It seems Sarah Bell was unenthusiastic about this work, but the Governor encouraged the Factory to take orders from the government and the general public.[56] Pre-cut fabric could be left at Hyde Park Barracks; it was then sent to Parramatta where the women sewed items of clothing. The Factory women also took in laundry.[57] Edward Winstanley’s political sketch, ‘Ways and Means or the Last Shift,’ reveals others, too, were dubious about the value of the Factory Women being utilised to generate government revenue.[58] Despite the protestations depicted in the sketch, the Governor insists that ‘money we must have tho’ the means be ever so dirty.’[59]

Parramatta Female Factory, c1844, Edward Winstanley, "Ways and Means or the Last Shift." Convict women. Laundry. St. John's Cemetery Project, Matron Sarah Bell, Old Parramattans, Female Factory Online
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE. Edward Winstanley, “Ways and Means or the Last Shift.” Printed at top of image “Political Sketches by B.B. No.2,” printed beneath image “Printed and published by E.D. Barlow No.9 Bridge St,” in 8 political lithographic cartoons, mostly by Edward Winstanley, (Sydney: Raphael Clint & Edward Barlow publishers, c.1844), DL PXX 66 / FL991395, Dixson library, State Library of New South Wales.

Mustering residents as well as ordering and distributing rations, including milk, meat, bread, soap and candles, were among the Bells’ duties. Every evening, Sarah counted the residents at the Factory, and every morning Thomas did the same. As Storekeeper, he decided what rations were required and dealt with the government’s contractor to acquire them.[60] On the home front, the Bells’ eldest son Joshua commenced at the new King’s School Parramatta as a boarder.[61] There is no record of where his siblings were educated, if indeed they attended a formal school at all.

Solitary cells, Female Factory, Parramatta, Alexander Maconochie, St. John's Cemetery Project, Female Factory Online, Matron Sarah Bell, Keeper Thomas Bell, Old Parramattans
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE. Alexander Maconochie (1787–1860), “Transverse Section through a Range of Cells Erected at the Female Factory, Parramatta” detail of Alexander Maconochie, Range of solitary cells erected at the Female Factory at Parramatta: accompanying plans and estimates of buildings proposed by Captn. Maconochie, R.N. / [drafted with corrections by] H.H. Lugard, Lt. R.E.; [originally designed by Francis Greenway], ([London]: James & Luke J., Hansard Printers; Ordered by the House of Commons to be printed 15 June, 1841), MAP RM 4336, nla.obj-232459237, National Library of Australia.
During 1838, a new three-storey building was under construction within the Factory complex. While this new building provided desperately needed accommodation, its design indicates the type of environment in which Sarah worked and her family lived—the Factory was undeniably a house of correction. The building had dark cells on the ground floor; only the solitary cells in the floors above contained windows; however, windows would soon be added to the lower level solitary cells, as the building breached British penitentiary rules by confining women to solitary confinement in the dark.[62] The completion of the cells was eagerly anticipated, because solitary was ‘particularly eschew[ed]’ by the refractory convict women as a mode of punishment.[63] Without the threat of solitary, the Australian noted in December 1838, it was ‘impossible to keep female prisoner servants in private families, in consequence of their partiality for the company of their old associates, who lead a life of comparative idleness in the Factory.’[64] Indeed, women were constantly coming and going, with a frequent transport between the Sydney Gaol and the Factory, as the Sydney bench sentenced women to the Factory for periods ranging from 14 days to six months for offences such as insolence, drunkenness or absconding. Consequently, riots and unruly behaviour at the Factory were frequent and overcrowding was constant. According to the ‘State of the Female Factory’ reports that were regularly published in the Government Gazette, the solitary cells were in constant use during the Bells’ tenure.[65] As we shall see, however, the numbers disclosed in these reports were perhaps not always accurately recorded.

The Bells were not the only ones who hoped solitary confinement would ‘work some measure of reform in these generally abandoned characters.’[66] Although the cells had been intended as punishment for women who misbehaved while in the Factory, by the time the Factory cells were completed in October 1839, they were used by the Sydney Police magistrates as a specified punishment for women brought before the courts. In fact, the Chairman of the Quarter Sessions ‘notified his intention of making solitary confinement a part of every sentence passed on females convicted in his Court.’[67] Over the following years, women appearing at the Quarter Sessions were sentenced to specified periods in solitary confinement on ‘bread and water’ as part of their overall sentence to the prison class at the Factory. These were experienced as stints ‘every third week’ or ‘the last day of each week’ of their sentence or ‘the first and last week.’[68] Once the women arrived at the Factory, it was the Bells’ job to enforce these punishments ordered by the courts.

Alexander Maconochie, "Side Elevation of Cells, Elevation of Keeper's House," Parramatta Female Factory, Matron Sarah Bell, Keeper Thomas Bell, St. John's Cemetery Project, Female Factory Online, Old Parramattans
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE. Alexander Maconochie (1787–1860), “Side Elevation of Cells, Elevation of Keeper’s House,” detail of Alexander Maconochie, Range of solitary cells erected at the Female Factory at Parramatta: accompanying plans and estimates of buildings proposed by Captn. Maconochie, R.N. / [drafted with corrections by] H.H. Lugard, Lt. R.E.; [originally designed by Francis Greenway], ([London]: James & Luke J., Hansard Printers; Ordered by the House of Commons to be printed 15 June, 1841), MAP RM 4336, nla.obj-232459237, National Library of Australia.

‘Animosity utterly hostile’ — The Altercation with Mrs. Corcoran

During a visit to the Factory in late 1842, Governor Gipps was petitioned by a number of the residents. The women, he said, were respectful but ‘in a state of great excitement,’ determined to impress upon him the hardship which recent changes to the system of assignment had brought to bear upon them.[69] Gipps made some changes to the assignment system, which allowed a substantial number to leave the Factory into private service. Fatefully for the Bells, he also appointed a Board of Enquiry to investigate the women’s other complaints about conditions at the Factory, including reports of an outbreak of scurvy. The Board attributed the outbreak to ‘gross neglect or incompetency on the part of the persons, who were charged with the immediate superintendence of the institution, or of wilful collusion between them and the Contractor or his Agent.’[70] Although Gipps took no action against the Bells on this occasion, the report confirms all was not well at the Factory. When a quarrel erupted between Sarah and her sub-matron, Mary Corcoran, Gipps could not ignore the problems any longer.

On 9 August 1843, Sarah felt compelled to commit her deep dissatisfaction with her sub-matron to paper. She penned a letter to Gilbert Eliott, the Visiting Magistrate with authority over the Factory, detailing the ‘outrageous and extraordinary conduct of Mrs. Corcoran.’[71] Sarah believed it would be impossible to remain at the Factory ‘unless the overweening power which she possesses be controlled by the timely interposition of your authority.’[72] Corcoran had been at the Factory since early in the Bells’ tenure, working there first as a convict, then as a free woman after receiving her certificate of freedom in December 1838.[73] During that time she had risen from her role as overseer of the third-class inmates to sub-matron.[74] Her long record of arrests for absconding, drunkenness and insolence suggests she was a feisty woman.[75] Regardless, Sarah insisted she was ‘not actuated by any personal feeling’ against Corcoran but by the ‘desire to preserve the order, regularity, and propriety’ she believed should ‘characterize’ the Factory.[76] According to Sarah, Corcoran had for some time ‘sought every opportunity to place impediments in my path,’ which she had borne ‘uncomplainingly’ until the events of the previous evening.[77] Sarah described how, as she walked a few hundred yards from the Factory with the female servants in her employ, she came across a clearly-intoxicated Corcoran, who was on her way back to the Factory from Parramatta. When Sarah returned to the Factory with her children and the servants, Corcoran was waiting for them at the Factory gate, ‘and in my presence fiercely attacked’ one of the servants by striking her on the eye and tore a coat from another.[78] Corcoran caused such a scene that Sarah and her retinue were ‘compelled to seek refuge in my own apartments, fearing every moment that [Corcoran] would make a forcible attack upon myself.’[79] On Bell’s account, which was corroborated by others, Corcoran paced the Factory yard for nearly an hour ‘uttering the most scandalous assertions and threats.’[80]

The Governor promptly ordered an Enquiry into Corcoran’s conduct. However, in the course of the Enquiry, Corcoran submitted her own statement detailing thirteen charges against Thomas and Sarah Bell for fraud and breach of trust. The Board investigated the events of the evening of 8 August together with Corcoran’s complaints, and reported to the Governor that ‘it appears extremely probable’ Corcoran did behave as charged, and that there existed between her and the Bells ‘a degree of animosity utterly hostile to the preservation of discipline and regularity in the Factory.’[81] Nevertheless, the Board also took seriously Corcoran’s charges against the Bells, who were suspended immediately. The Governor permitted them to remain in the ‘House which they have hitherto occupied,’ but they were strictly prohibited from communicating with ‘the women’ at the Factory.[82] The Governor referred the matter to the Attorney General, with instructions that the Bells, Corcoran and Mr. John Hamilton (the agent for the contractor from whom Thomas ordered rations) should appear before the Bench of Magistrates at Parramatta to answer the charges. The Governor did note, however, that Sarah was not to be prosecuted ‘unless in the course of the proceedings it should appear distinctly that she acted in any case altogether independently and free from the control of her husband.’[83]

A Legal Quagmire

On 6 October 1843, Thomas Bell, John Hamilton and Mary Corcoran were charged at Parramatta with embezzlement and conspiracy.[84] Sarah joined her husband, Hamilton and Corcoran at the committal hearing the following day. The case centred on allegations that Thomas had routinely overstated the number of residents at the Factory, and with Hamilton had drawn funds from the Crown to buy more rations than they actually purchased—pocketing the difference between them. Sarah and Corcoran were both promptly discharged. The Prosecutor could not establish a sufficient case against Sarah to make her a party to the information at the heart of the alleged conspiracy and Corcoran was to be a witness for the prosecution.

The court examined many witnesses over a number of days in deciding whether to commit Thomas and Hamilton to trial, but it was Corcoran’s evidence that was key. She swore she had noticed the number of children residing in the Factory was less than the number the Bells were reporting to the government. She told the court that on one occasion, ‘there might have been 70 or 80 less in the Factory than appeared in the Gazette.’[85] She also explained how the women were mustered and their numbers recorded, and the way rations were distributed—from milk, meat and bread to candles and soap. Corcoran hinted, too, that Sarah knew of the scam. She recalled Sarah had once told her to say ‘that she [Corcoran] gave out the extra bread, and that if she did not, herself [Mrs. Bell] and the children would be destroyed.’[86]

Supreme Court of New South Wales, King Street
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE. The King Street Courts to the left of St. James’s Church, Sydney were the setting for Thomas Bell and John Hamilton’s encounters with the Supreme Court of New South Wales in 1844. John Rae, “Supreme Court of New South Wales and St. James’ Church from Elizabeth Street,” in John Rae, Views in Old Sydney, (1842), DL PX 41 / FL8670773, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.

In the end, the Prosecutor had little doubt there was a ‘fraudulent arrangement’ between Thomas Bell and John Hamilton. They were committed to trial and released on bail of £200 each.[87] To prove their innocence, they would need to demonstrate in the first instance that the quantities of rations were really required and, second, that the rations they had charged the Crown for had really been supplied. This was to be a technical trial, which would examine the Factory’s administrative processes and records in laborious detail.

Little did Sarah know, the following two years (and more) would be marred by the looming criminal prosecution against her husband. We know nothing of her activities during this time, although we know the family continued to live somewhere in Parramatta.[88] Sarah probably took employment of some description to help support the family. There can be no doubt the lengthy delays in the trial were a source of anxiety, not to mention the damage to Thomas’s (and the family’s) reputation in New South Wales.

It was three months before the case came before the criminal sessions. Bell and Hamilton pleaded not guilty. Perhaps they were relieved to hear what happened next. It seems that, as was customary, one of the allegedly fraudulent returns Bell had submitted to the Commissariat Office in Sydney had been shipped to England—but no duplicates were kept in Sydney. The Attorney-General told the court he had written to London requesting the return of the document and, as the document was central to the prosecution case, the trial must be adjourned until the mail arrived.[89] Bell and Hamilton’s case was listed at each ensuing quarterly criminal sessions, but in both April and July 1844, the Attorney-General had to assure the court that the documents ‘were expected by return of post.’[90] On each occasion, the trial was postponed, and the court became increasingly agitated by the delay.[91] In April 1845, the Attorney-General received the long-awaited reply from England.[92]

Off the Hook

Criminal Court House, Darlinghurst, 1845, Supreme Court House, Sydney 1845, New South Wales, St. John's Cemetery Project, Old Parramattans, Keeper Thomas Bell, Matron Sarah Bell, Female Factory Online, G. E. Peacock
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE. In 1845, the Criminal Court House, Darlinghurst served as the location for Thomas Bell and John Hamilton’s trial after the Supreme Court relocated there for criminal jurisdiction while the King Street Courts were under renovation. The Supreme Court Judges deemed this courthouse too remote from town and Chief Justice Stephen complained bitterly of its terrible acoustics. G. E. Peacock, “Supreme Court House, Sydney N.S.W., 1845,” ML 659 / FL3145056, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.

The case was eventually heard in October 1845, ‘continued by various adjournments until early January.’[93] The Attorney-General grumbled that the hearing dragged on entirely because of Bell and Hamilton’s conduct—their lawyer insisted on reading long documents aloud in court, which he was sure was designed to delay proceedings.[94] The Australian declined to report on the evidence until all witnesses were examined, citing ‘a principle of justice’; although, the evidence was likely just too tedious to report at length, as the witnesses recounted record-keeping procedures and examined records in minute detail.[95] In his report to the Governor, the Attorney-General later complained that Bell’s counsel ‘occupied three entire days in reading documents…and that during this time many of the jurymen were amusing themselves by reading books and newspapers.’[96] Meanwhile, the foreman of the jury complained of an attack of gout. Whether it was for this reason or some other reason is uncertain, but the case was adjourned until early January 1846. When the appointed day arrived, however, the foreman was so ill he was unable to attend. With only eleven jurors in attendance, the judges decided the case could not carry on and that they had no power to direct any further adjournments in the matter. With that, Bell and Hamilton walked free.[97]

The conclusion of the trial was somewhat unsatisfactory—it had ended on a legal technicality. Did Bell enrich himself at the expense of the Crown? What did Sarah know? For his part, Hamilton was outraged he had not been able to exonerate himself and petitioned James Macarthur, his member of parliament. Yet it seems Hamilton had a dubious record. He had been committed for another fraud regarding supplies to the Hospital at Parramatta, with very similar charges to those brought against he and Bell at the Factory.[98] Indeed, the Attorney-General could have renewed the prosecution against Bell and Hamilton, but he later explained to the New South Wales Legislative Council that a key unnamed witness who had kept the books of the Factory ‘had sailed for India,’ most likely Alexander Cameron, the Factory bookkeeper.[99]

Life After Parramatta

Thomas Bell, Keeper, Parramatta Female Factory, 1864, Female Factory Online, St. John's Cemetery Project, Old Parramattans
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE. A portrait of Female Factory Keeper, Thomas Bell, in later life, (1864), by J. W. Wilder. D16-10-91. John Oxley Library, Brisbane, State Library of Queensland.

Soon after the case against him came to a close, Thomas paid £3200 for ‘Jimbour,’ a sheep and cattle station on the Darling Downs in the north of the colony.[100] He also sought compensation from the Government for his dismissal and later offered his services as Principal Gaoler at Darlinghurst Gaol in Sydney—the government declined on both counts.[101] In 1847, Sarah (and perhaps Thomas) was still living in Parramatta. We know this, because in March 1847 she waited with her daughter Mary for Mary’s fiancé Henry Dennis to arrive for their wedding in Sydney.[102] Tragically, the wedding never occurred as Henry was one of the 44 people who died when the steamer Sovereign floundered on the spit outside Amity Point in Moreton Bay on the night of 12 March 1847.[103]

There is nothing on the public record to illuminate the last few years of Sarah’s life. What is clear, however, is that she was far from an anonymous figure in early European Parramatta. She played a prominent role in the Female Factory and would have been a familiar presence during her husband’s drawn-out trial. She may have been buried alone at St. John’s Cemetery, but her legacy lived on in her children and their descendants hundreds of miles north on the Darling Downs.


CITE THIS

Jennifer McLaren, “Sarah Bell: Female Factory Matron,” St. John’s Cemetery Project (2019), https://stjohnscemeteryproject.org/bio/sarah-bell, accessed [insert current date]


References

Primary Sources

Bell Family Collection UQFL79: Manuscript Finding Aid, University of Queensland, https://www.library.uq.edu.au/fryer-library/ms/uqfl79.pdf, accessed online 26 May 2019.

Secondary Sources

Sue Bell, “A Trip to County Galway, Ireland,” Genealogical Society of Queensland Inc Blog (2018), https://gsq-blog.gsq.org.au/a-trip-to-county-galway-ireland/#_ftn3, accessed online 26 May 2019.

Sue Bell, “Special Feature – Sarah Bell and Thomas Bell,” Parramatta Female Factory Friends Inc. Newsletter, 14, (March/April 2017), p. 5.

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

Laurel May Heath, (MA Thesis), “The Female Factories of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land: An Examination of their Role in Control, Punishment and Reformation of Prisoners between 1804 and 1854,” (Canberra, Australian National University, 1978). http://hdl.handle.net/1885/10869

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

Cameron Nunn, “‘Making Them Good and Useful’: The Ideology of Juvenile Penal Reformation at Carters’ Barracks and Point Puer,” History Australia, Vol. 14, No. 3 (2017): 329–343.

W. M. Robbins, “‘The Lumber Yards: A Case Study in the Management of Convict Labour 1788–1832,” Labour History, No. 79, (November 2000): 141–161.


NOTES

Thanks to Sue Bell, descendant of Sarah Bell, for her research assistance in this essay and to Michaela Ann Cameron for recommending primary sources from the Female Factory Online database relating to Factory statistics, solitary confinement, and opposition to the Factory women taking in needlework and washing as a source of revenue for the Factory.

[1] According to an inscription in the Bell family bible, Sarah was buried in “Captain Moffatts [sic] tomb in St. Johns Burial Ground.” The bible is held by Anita O’Connor, a descendant of Sarah Bell. The plot is thought to have been purchased by Captain Robert Gerald Moffatt, who had been a magistrate in Parramatta between 1834 and 1843. Moffatt, whose nephew married Sarah’s daughter Mary, died on the Darling Downs in 1848 and was buried there, leaving his burial plot available. Sue Bell, “Thomas and Sarah Bell,” Bicentennial Publication, (Parramatta: Parramatta Female Factory Friends, forthcoming 2020).

[2]Family Notices: Died,” The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW: 1842 1954), Monday 13 June 1853, p. 2.

[3]Local and General News,” Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 – 1908), Saturday 7 September 1872, p. 3; “Death of Sir Joshua Peter Bell,” The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939), Saturday 31 December 1881, p. 2. See also entries on Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/bell-sir-joshua-peter-2969/text35640, accessed 21 June 2019.

[4] Hilary Golder, Politics, Patronage and Public Works: The Administration of New South Wales, Vol. 1 1842–1900, (Sydney: UNSW Press, 2005), p. 84.

[5] For more on Sarah Bell’s origins, see Sue Bell, “A Trip to County Galway, Ireland,” Genealogical Society of Queensland Inc Blog (2018), https://gsq-blog.gsq.org.au/a-trip-to-county-galway-ireland/#_ftn3, accessed 26 May 2019.

[6]Alexander Family,” in National University of Ireland Galway, Landed Estates Database (http://www.landedestates.ie/, version 1.2.7b2, 18 May 2011, Phase II beta), http://landedestates.nuigalway.ie/LandedEstates/jsp/estate-show.jsp?id=1339, accessed 26 May 2019.

[7] Sir Bernard Burke, A Genealogical History of the Dormant, Abegnant, forfeited, and Extinct Peerages of the British Empire, (London: Harrison, 1866), p. 4. For more on Sarah Bell’s origins, see Sue Bell, “A Trip to County Galway, Ireland,” Genealogical Society of Queensland Inc Blog (2018), https://gsq-blog.gsq.org.au/a-trip-to-county-galway-ireland/#_ftn3, accessed 26 May 2019.

[8] Rev. Charles Rogers, Memorials of the Earl of Stirling and of the House of Alexander, Vol. II, (Edinburgh: William Paterson, 1877), pp. 44–45.

[9] I have not been able to find a record of the Bells’ marriage online.

[10]No title,” The Hobart Town Courier (Tas. : 1827 – 1839), Saturday 5 May 1832, p. 2.

[11] Robin F. Haines, Emigration and the Labouring Poor: Australian Recruitment in Britain and Ireland, 1831–60 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 1997), p. 14.

[12] Thomas Bell, “Memo,” 28 May 1838 sent to the Colonial Secretary under cover of letter 8 December 1838, “Colonial Secretary, Report of Board of Enquiry 5 September 1843 / Female Factory,” New South Wales Government, Main Series of Letters Received [Colonial Secretary], Series: 905, (State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia). Sue Bell, “Special Feature – Sarah Bell and Thomas Bell,” Parramatta Female Factory Friends Inc. Newsletter, 14 (March/April 2017), p. 5, n. 1.

[13] Sue Bell, “Special Feature – Sarah Bell and Thomas Bell,” Parramatta Female Factory Friends Inc. Newsletter, 14 (March/April 2017), p. 5, n. 1.

[14]No title,” The Hobart Town Courier (Tas. : 1827 – 1839), Saturday 5 May 1832, p. 2; “Domestic Intelligence,” The Sydney Herald (NSW : 1831 – 1842), Thursday 4 July 1833, p. 3.

[15] W. M. Robbins, “The Lumber Yards: A Case Study in the Management of Convict Labour 1788–1832,” Labour History, No. 79, (November 2000): 144.

[16] W. M. Robbins, “The Lumber Yards: A Case Study in the Management of Convict Labour 1788–1832,”Labour History, No. 79, (November 2000): 145–46.

[17] Note that another man by the name of Thomas Bell arrived in the Colony of New South Wales around the same time as Thomas and Sarah Bell, on board the Red Rover. The Sydney Gazette reported incorrectly that Thomas Bell of the Red Rover was appointed to the position at Carters’ Barracks, when in fact it was Sarah Bell’s husband who was appointed at the Barracks. See “No title,” The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), Saturday 6 July 1833, p. 2.

[18] Cameron Nunn, “‘Making Them Good and Useful’: The Ideology of Juvenile Penal Reformation at Carters’ Barracks and Point Puer,” History Australia, Vol. 14, No. 3 (2017): 329.

[19] Thomas Bell was appointed on 1 July 1833. “Convict Establishments,” New South Wales Government, Returns of the Colony, 1822–1857, Series: 1286, Year: 1833, (State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia).

[20] Cameron Nunn, “An Analysis of Early Juvenile Prison Architecture in New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land,” Journal of Australian Colonial History, Vol. 18 (2016): 42.

[21] For more on the area around the Barracks, listen to “Episode 2: Burial Grounds,” The Burial Files, a podcast produced by the State Library of New South Wales (2019), https://audio.sl.nsw.gov.au/node/52 accessed 8 August 2019.

[22] Cameron Nunn, “An Analysis of Early Juvenile Prison Architecture in New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land,” Journal of Australian Colonial History, Vol. 18 (2016): 43.

[23] Charles Grant, “Lord Glenelg to Sir Richard Bourke. (Despatch marked “Separate and Confidential,” per ship Prince George), Downing Street, 10th December, 1836,” in Frederick Watson (ed.), Historical Records of Australia, Series I: Governors’ Despatches to and from England, Vol. XVIII. July, 1835–June, 1837, (Sydney: The Library Committee of the Commonwealth Parliament, 1923), pp. 613–14.

[25] Laurel May Heath, (MA Thesis), “The Female Factories of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land: An Examination of their Role in Control, Punishment and Reformation of Prisoners between 1804 and 1854,” (Canberra: Australian National University, 1978), pp. 103–105, http://hdl.handle.net/1885/10869, accessed 8 August 2019.

[26] Laurel May Heath, (MA Thesis), “The Female Factories of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land: An Examination of their Role in Control, Punishment and Reformation of Prisoners between 1804 and 1854,” (Canberra: Australian National University, 1978), p. 105, http://hdl.handle.net/1885/10869, accessed 8 August 2019.

[27] Minute, dated 4 August 1836, on correspondence committee to Colonial Secretary, cited in Laurel May Heath, (MA Thesis), “The Female Factories of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land: An Examination of their Role in Control, Punishment and Reformation of Prisoners between 1804 and 1854,” (Canberra: Australian National University, 1978), p. 106, n. 49. http://hdl.handle.net/1885/10869, accessed 8 August 2019.

[28] Minute on correspondence committee to Colonial Secretary, dated 4 August 1836, cited in Laurel May Heath, (MA Thesis), “The Female Factories of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land: An Examination of their Role in Control, Punishment and Reformation of Prisoners between 1804 and 1854,” (Canberra: Australian National University, 1978), p. 106, n. 49, http://hdl.handle.net/1885/10869, accessed 8 August 2019.

[29] Thomas Bell, “Memo,” 28 May 1838 sent to the Colonial Secretary under cover of letter 8 December 1838, “Colonial Secretary, Report of Board of Enquiry 5 September 1843 / Female Factory,” New South Wales Government, Main Series of Letters Received [Colonial Secretary], Series: 905, (State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia).

[30] Richard Bourke, “Sir Richard Bourke to Lord Glenelg, Government House, 10 Septr., 1836,” in Frederick Watson (ed.), Historical Records of Australia, Series I: Governors’ Despatches to and from England, Vol. XVIII. July, 1835–June, 1837, (Sydney: The Library Committee of the Commonwealth Parliament, 1923), p. 533.

[31] A. A. Morrison, “Bell, Sir Joshua Peter (1827–1881),” Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, published first in hardcopy 1969, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/bell-sir-joshua-peter-2969/text4325, accessed online 24 May 2019. For more on Sydney Grammar School, see Christopher Mooney, “Anglican Attempts to Found One Good Grammar School in the Town of Sydney, Journal of Educational Administration and History, Vol. 27, No. 2, (1995): 123–138.

[32] Thomas Bell’s salary at the Barracks was £100: “Convict Establishments,” New South Wales Government, Returns of the Colony, 1822–1857, Series: 1286, Year: 1833, (State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia).

[33] “Report of the Board of Inquiry on the charge of improper conduct preferred by Mrs. Bell the Matron against Mrs. Corcoran the Sub-Matron of the Female Factory Parramatta,” 5 September 1843, “Colonial Secretary, Report of Board of Enquiry 5 September 1843 / Female Factory,” New South Wales Government, Main Series of Letters Received [Colonial Secretary], Series: 905, (State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia).

[34] “Government Gazette Notices,” New South Wales Government Gazette (Sydney, NSW : 1832 – 1900), Wednesday 7 September 1836, [Issue No. 238], p. 705.

[35] Laurel May Heath, (MA Thesis), “The Female Factories of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land: An Examination of their Role in Control, Punishment and Reformation of Prisoners between 1804 and 1854,” (Canberra: Australian National University, 1978), pp. 109–10, http://hdl.handle.net/1885/10869, accessed 8 August 2019.

[36] Laurel May Heath, (MA Thesis), “The Female Factories of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land: An Examination of their Role in Control, Punishment and Reformation of Prisoners between 1804 and 1854,” (Canberra: Australian National University, 1978), pp. 107–108, http://hdl.handle.net/1885/10869, accessed 8 August 2019.

[37] Cameron Nunn, “‘Making Them Good and Useful’: The Ideology of Juvenile Penal Reformation at Carters’ Barracks and Point Puer,” History Australia, Vol. 14, No. 3 (2017): 330.

[38]Domestic Intelligence – The Female Factory,” The Colonist (Sydney, NSW : 1835 – 1840), Thursday 25 August 1836, p. 2.

[39]Domestic Intelligence – The Female Factory,” The Colonist (Sydney, NSW : 1835 – 1840), Thursday 25 August 1836, p. 2.

[40] The report also (perhaps erroneously) refers to Bell’s experience in managing “Mr Marshall’s “female women,” who, though not altogether so intractable as the Factory ladies, were by no means an easy handling…” “Domestic Intelligence – The Female Factory,” The Colonist (Sydney, NSW : 1835 – 1840), Thursday 25 August 1836, p. 2.

[41]The Parramatta Female Factory. To the Editor of the Sydney Gazette,” Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), Tuesday 30 August 1836, p. 3.

[42]The Parramatta Female Factory. To the Editor of the Sydney Gazette,” Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), Tuesday 30 August 1836, p. 3.

[43]The Female Factory,” The Colonist (Sydney, NSW : 1835 – 1840), Thursday 15 September 1836, p. 3.

[44]The Female Factory,” The Colonist (Sydney, NSW : 1835 – 1840), Thursday 15 September 1836, p. 3.

[45] Cameron Nunn, “An Analysis of Early Juvenile Prison Architecture in New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land,” Journal of Australian Colonial History, Vol. 18 (2016): 48.

[46] Cameron Nunn, “An Analysis of Early Juvenile Prison Architecture in New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land,” Journal of Australian Colonial History, Vol. 18 (2016): 48.

[47] Thomson to Bell, dated 22 November 1837, cited in Laurel May Heath, (MA Thesis), “The Female Factories of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land: An Examination of their Role in Control, Punishment and Reformation of Prisoners between 1804 and 1854,” (Canberra: Australian National University, 1978), p. 112, http://hdl.handle.net/1885/10869, accessed 8 August 2019.

[48] Thomas Bell, “Memo,” 28 May 1838 sent to the Colonial Secretary under cover of letter 8 December 1838, “Colonial Secretary, Report of Board of Enquiry 5 September 1843 / Female Factory,” New South Wales Government, Main Series of Letters Received [Colonial Secretary], Series: 905, (State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia).

[49] The reason for the rioting on this day is not documented, but rioting was relatively common—usually in response to living conditions, food rations etc.

[50] Laurel May Heath, (MA Thesis), “The Female Factories of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land: An Examination of their Role in Control, Punishment and Reformation of Prisoners between 1804 and 1854,” (Canberra: Australian National University, 1978), pp. 125–26, http://hdl.handle.net/1885/10869, accessed 8 August 2019.

[51]The Factory,” The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), Thirsday 14 December 1837, p. 2; Thomas Bell, “Memo,” 28 May 1838 sent to the Colonial Secretary under cover of letter 8 December 1838, “Colonial Secretary, Report of Board of Enquiry 5 September 1843 / Female Factory,” New South Wales Government, Main Series of Letters Received [Colonial Secretary], Series: 905, (State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia).

[52] Thomas Bell, “Memo,” 28 May 1838 sent to the Colonial Secretary under cover of letter 8 December 1838, “Colonial Secretary, Report of Board of Enquiry 5 September 1843 / Female Factory,” New South Wales Government, Main Series of Letters Received [Colonial Secretary], Series: 905, (State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia).

[53] Thomas Bell, “Memo,” 28 May 1838 sent to the Colonial Secretary under cover of letter 8 December 1838, “Colonial Secretary, Report of Board of Enquiry 5 September 1843 / Female Factory,” New South Wales Government, Main Series of Letters Received [Colonial Secretary], Series: 905, (State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia).

[54] Carol Liston, “Convict Women in the Female Factories of New South Wales,” in Gay Hendriksen, Trudy Cowley and Carol Liston, Women Transported: Life in Australia’s Convict Female Factories (Parramatta, N.S.W.: Parramatta City Council Heritage Centre, 2008), p. 40.

[55]Female Factory,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Tuesday 22 October 1839, p. 2, Female Factory Online (https://femalefactoryonline.org/, 2019), 22 October 1839, report on Female Factory, (r18391022), https://femalefactoryonline.org/female-factory-reports/r18391022/, accessed 10 August 2019.

[56] Edward Deas Thomson, “Colonial Secretary’s Office: Female Factory, Sydney, 26th February, 1839,” New South Wales Government Gazette (Sydney, NSW : 1832 – 1900), Wednesday 27 February 1839 [Issue No. 394], p. 253. For reference to Matron Sarah Bell’s lack of enthusiasm about the work see Laurel May Heath, (MA Thesis), “The Female Factories of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land: An Examination of their Role in Control, Punishment and Reformation of Prisoners between 1804 and 1854,” (Canberra: Australian National University, 1978), p. 149, http://hdl.handle.net/1885/10869, accessed 8 August 2019.

[57] For the Factory’s needlework price list and the announcement that they were also accepting washing, see “Advertising,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Saturday 19 October 1839, p. 3, Female Factory Online (https://femalefactoryonline.org/, 2019), 19 October 1839, report on Female Factory, (r18391018), https://femalefactoryonline.org/female-factory-reports/r18391018/, accessed 10 August 2019. See also the ongoing advertisements and reports regarding this service in the newspaper: “No title,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Thursday 18 July 1839, p. 3, Female Factory Online (https://femalefactoryonline.org/, 2019), 18 July 1839, report on Female Factory, (r18390718), https://femalefactoryonline.org/female-factory-reports/r18390718/, accessed 10 August 2019 and “Advertising,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Tuesday 14 July 1840, p. 2, Female Factory Online (https://femalefactoryonline.org/, 2019), 14 July 1840, report on Female Factory, (r18400714), https://femalefactoryonline.org/female-factory-reports/r18400714/, accessed 10 August 2019. Carol Liston, “Convict Women in the Female Factories of New South Wales,” in Gay Hendriksen, Trudy Cowley and Carol Liston, Women Transported: Life in Australia’s Convict Female Factories (Parramatta, N.S.W.: Parramatta City Council Heritage Centre, 2008), pp. 41–42.

[58] One letter written under the pseudonym “Attentive Reader” to the editor of the Australian, for example, argued that far from preventing the idle Factory women from descending into corruption, needlework being “merely a mechanical employment” allowed “the imagination” to “run…riot” and would, therefore, foster more evils: “Correspondence. To the Editor of The Australian,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Thursday 31 October 1839, p. 3, Female Factory Online (https://femalefactoryonline.org/, 2019), 31 October 1839, report on Female Factory, (r18391031), https://femalefactoryonline.org/female-factory-reports/r18391031/, accessed 10 August 2019. Free tailors and seamstresses, too, openly opposed the Factory women’s unfree labour and cheap prices, with which they could not compete. See for example, “Advertising,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Friday 6 January 1843, p. 3, Female Factory Online (https://femalefactoryonline.org/, 2019), 6 January 1843, Advertisement, (r18430106), https://femalefactoryonline.org/female-factory-reports/r18430106/, accessed 10 August 2019.

[59] Edward Winstanley, “Ways and Means or the Last Shift,” in 8 Political Lithographic Cartoons, Mostly by Edward Winstanley, (Sydney: Raphael Clint & Edward Barlow Publishers, c.1844), DL PXX 6 / FL991395, Dixson Library, State Library of New South Wales, https://search.sl.nsw.gov.au/permalink/f/1ocrdrt/ADLIB110312403, accessed 4 August 2019.

[60]Parramatta: The Factory Case,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Tuesday 17 October 1843, p. 4.

[61] Peter Yeend. The King’s School Register 1831–1990, (Sydney: The Council of the King’s School Parramatta, 1982, Second Edition, 1990), p. 38.

[62] Carol Liston, “Convict Women in the Female Factories of New South Wales,” in Gay Hendriksen, Trudy Cowley and Carol Liston, Women Transported: Life in Australia’s Convict Female Factories (Parramatta, N.S.W.: Parramatta City Council Heritage Centre, 2008), p. 43.

[63]No title,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Thursday 20 December 1838, p. 2, Female Factory Online (https://femalefactoryonline.org/, 2019), 20 December 1838, report on Female Factory, (r18381220), https://femalefactoryonline.org/female-factory-reports/r18381220/, accessed 4 August 2019, and “No title,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Thursday 25 April 1839, p. 2, Female Factory Online (https://femalefactoryonline.org/, 2019), 25 April 1839, report on Female Factory, (r18390425), https://femalefactoryonline.org/female-factory-reports/r18390425/, accessed 10 August 2019.

[64]No title,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Thursday 20 December 1838, p. 2. See also Female Factory Online (https://femalefactoryonline.org/, 2019), 20 December 1838, report on Female Factory, (r18381220), https://femalefactoryonline.org/female-factory-reports/r18381220/, accessed 4 August 2019.

[65] For example, this report shows a total of 68 women were in solitary confinement on 5 January 1841: “State of the Female Factory, Parramatta,” New South Wales Government Gazette (Sydney, NSW : 1832 – 1900), Friday 8 January 1841, [Issue No.2], p. 33. There was at least one report, however, complaining that not enough women were in solitary based on the published statistics. See “No title,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Tuesday 18 June 1839, p. 3, Female Factory Online (https://femalefactoryonline.org/, 2019), 18 June 1839, report on Female Factory, (r18390618), https://femalefactoryonline.org/female-factory-reports/r18390618/, accessed 10 August 2019.

[66]No title,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Thursday 20 December 1838, p. 2. See also Female Factory Online (https://femalefactoryonline.org/, 2019), 20 December 1838, report on Female Factory, (r18381220), https://femalefactoryonline.org/female-factory-reports/r18381220/, accessed 4 August 2019.

[67] The Chairman of the Quarter Sessions “notified his intention of making solitary confinement a part of every sentence passed on females convicted in his Court.” “Satisfactory to Masters of Servants,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Thursday 10 October 1839, p. 2. See also Female Factory Online (https://femalefactoryonline.org/, 2019), 10 October 1839, report on Female Factory, (r18391010-2), https://femalefactoryonline.org/female-factory-reports/r18391010-2/, accessed 4 August 2019; Carol Liston, “Convict Women in the Female Factories of New South Wales,” in Gay Hendriksen, Trudy Cowley and Carol Liston, Women Transported: Life in Australia’s Convict Female Factories (Parramatta, N.S.W.: Parramatta City Council Heritage Centre, 2008), p. 43.

[68] See for example, “Local Intelligence. Quarter Sessions,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Thursday 7 August 1845, p. 4, Female Factory Online (https://femalefactoryonline.org/, 2019), 7 Augusst 1845, law report of SARAH COONEY, (p18450807-2), https://femalefactoryonline.org/law-reports/p18450807-2/, accessed 10 August 2019; “Police Intelligence. Monday,” Parramatta Chronicle and Cumberland General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 – 1845), Saturday 24 February 1844, p. 2, Female Factory Online (https://femalefactoryonline.org/, 2019), 24 February 1844, law report of MARY PEISLEY, (p18440224-2), https://femalefactoryonline.org/law-reports/p18440224-2/, accessed 10 August 2019; “Local Intelligence. Quarter Sessions,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Thursday 7 August 1845, p. 4, Female Factory Online (https://femalefactoryonline.org/, 2019), 7 August 1845, law report of MARY MORAN, (p18450807), https://femalefactoryonline.org/law-reports/p18450807/; “Local Intelligence. Court Of Quarter Sessions,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Thursday 19 June 1845, p. 4, Female Factory Online (https://femalefactoryonline.org/, 2019), 19 June 1845, law report of ANN EVANS, (p18450619-3), https://femalefactoryonline.org/law-reports/p18450619-3/, accessed 10 August 2019; “Country News. Parramatta,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Friday 5 April 1844, p. 3, Female Factory Online (https://femalefactoryonline.org/, 2019), 5 April 1844, law report of CATHERINE HANDLEY, (p18440405), https://femalefactoryonline.org/law-reports/p18440405/, accessed 10 August 2019; “Country News. Parramatta,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Tuesday 16 January 1844, p. 3, Female Factory Online (https://femalefactoryonline.org/, 2019), 16 January 1844, law report of ALICIA BIRD, (p18440116), https://femalefactoryonline.org/law-reports/p18440116/, accessed 10 August 2019.

[69] Laurel May Heath, (MA Thesis), “The Female Factories of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land: An Examination of their Role in Control, Punishment and Reformation of Prisoners between 1804 and 1854,” (Canberra: Australian National University, 1978), pp. 152–53, http://hdl.handle.net/1885/10869, accessed 8 August 2019.

[70] Charles Trevelyan, “[Enclosure]: Mr. C. E. Trevelyan to Under-Secretary Stephen, Treasury Chambers, 26th March, 1844,” in Edward George Geoffrey Smith Stanley, “Lord Stanley to Sir George Gipps, Downing Street, 12 April, 1844, (Despatch No. 54 per ship Meg Merrilies), in Frederick Watson (ed.), Historical Records of Australia, Series 1: Governors’ Despatches to and from England, Vol. XXIII. July 1843–September 1844, (Sydney: The Library Committee of the Commonwealth Parliament, 1925), p. 535, http://hdl.handle.net/1959.9/512058, accessed 4 August 2019.

[71] Mrs. Sarah Bell to Gilbert Eliott Esq., 9 August 1843, “Colonial Secretary, Report of Board of Enquiry 5 September 1843 / Female Factory,” New South Wales Government, Main Series of Letters Received [Colonial Secretary], Series: 905, (State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia).

[72] Mrs. Sarah Bell to Gilbert Eliott Esq., 9 August 1843, “Colonial Secretary, Report of Board of Enquiry 5 September 1843 / Female Factory,” New South Wales Government, Main Series of Letters Received [Colonial Secretary], Series: 905, (State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia).

[73] “Certificate of Freedom of MARY CORCORAN per Hooghly (1831), 17 December 1838,” New South Wales Government, Butts of Certificates of Freedom, Series: NRS 12210; [4/4345; Reel: 1002], No: 38/1094, (State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales).

[74]Parramatta,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Tuesday 17 October 1843, p. 3.

[75] “Mary Corcoran per “Hooghley” arrived 27 Sept 1831,” in “Colonial Secretary, Report of Board of Enquiry 5 September 1843 / Female Factory,” New South Wales Government, Main Series of Letters Received [Colonial Secretary], Series: 905, (State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia). It is important to note that arrests for public drunkenness are more complicated than they may appear at face value: see Elizabeth Malcolm and Dianne Hall, A New History of the Irish in Australia, (Sydney: NewSouth Publishing, 2018), in particular Chapter 7, “Crime and the Irish: From Vagrancy to the Gallows.” Bell’s predecessor at the Factory had requested a remission of Corcoran’s sentence, but the Governor declined the request on the basis of her criminal record: Colonial Secretary to the Matron of the Female Factory, 22 June 1831, “Colonial Secretary, Report of Board of Enquiry 5 September 1843 / Female Factory,” New South Wales Government, Main Series of Letters Received [Colonial Secretary], Series: 905, (State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia).

[76] Mrs. Sarah Bell to Gilbert Eliott Esq., 9 August 1843, “Colonial Secretary, Report of Board of Enquiry 5 September 1843 / Female Factory,” New South Wales Government, Main Series of Letters Received [Colonial Secretary], Series: 905, (State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia).

[77] Mrs. Sarah Bell to Gilbert Eliott Esq., 9 August 1843, “Colonial Secretary, Report of Board of Enquiry 5 September 1843 / Female Factory,” New South Wales Government, Main Series of Letters Received [Colonial Secretary], Series: 905, (State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia).

[78] Mrs. Sarah Bell to Gilbert Eliott Esq., 9 August 1843, “Colonial Secretary, Report of Board of Enquiry 5 September 1843 / Female Factory,” New South Wales Government, Main Series of Letters Received [Colonial Secretary], Series: 905, (State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia).

[79] Mrs. Sarah Bell to Gilbert Eliott Esq., 9 August 1843, “Colonial Secretary, Report of Board of Enquiry 5 September 1843 / Female Factory,” New South Wales Government, Main Series of Letters Received [Colonial Secretary], Series: 905, (State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia).

[80] Mrs. Sarah Bell to Gilbert Eliott Esq., 9 August 1843, “Colonial Secretary, Report of Board of Enquiry 5 September 1843 / Female Factory,” New South Wales Government, Main Series of Letters Received [Colonial Secretary], Series: 905, (State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia).

[81] Commissariat Office to the Colonial Secretary, 5 September 1843, “Colonial Secretary, Report of Board of Enquiry 5 September 1843 / Female Factory,” New South Wales Government, Main Series of Letters Received [Colonial Secretary], Series: 905, (State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia).

[82] Governor Gipps, “Memo,” 26 September 1843, “Colonial Secretary, Report of Board of Enquiry 5 September 1843 / Female Factory,” New South Wales Government, Main Series of Letters Received [Colonial Secretary], Series: 905, (State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia).

[83] Governor Gipps, “Memo,” 29 September 1843, “Colonial Secretary, Report of Board of Enquiry 5 September 1843 / Female Factory,” New South Wales Government, Main Series of Letters Received [Colonial Secretary], Series: 905, (State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia).

[84]Country News. Parramatta. Police Office, October 6,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Tuesday 10 October 1843, p. 4.

[85]Parramatta,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Tuesday 17 October 1843, p. 3.

[86]Parramatta,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Tuesday 17 October 1843, p. 3.

[87]Parramatta. The Factory Case. (Concluded from third page.),” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Tuesday 17 October 1843, p. 4.

[88]Jimbour History,” The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939), Saturday 1 April 1899, p. 609.

[89]Law Intelligence, Supreme Court—Criminal Side. Saturday. Indictment for Conspiracy,” Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Monday 29 January 1844, p. 2.

[90]Law Intelligence, Supreme Court—Criminal Side. Parramatta Gaol,” Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Thursday 4 April 1844, p. 2.

[91]Law Intelligence, Supreme Court—Criminal Side. Parramatta Gaol,” Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Thursday 4 April 1844, p. 2; “Parramatta Factory Cases,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Monday 8 July 1844, p. 3.

[92]Legislative Council: Mr. Hamilton,” Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Saturday 17 October 1846, p. 2.

[93] George Gipps, “Sir George Gipps to Lord Stanley, Government House, 28th Feby., 1846, (Despatch No. 53 per ship Eweretta,” in Frederick Watson (ed.), Historical Records of Australia, Series 1, Governors’ Despatches to and from England, Vol. XXIV, October 1844–March 1846, (Sydney: The Library Committee of the Commonwealth Parliament, 1925), pp.791–92, accessed online http://hdl.handle.net/1959.9/535609, 4 August 2019.

[94]Legislative Council: Mr. Hamilton,” Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Saturday 17 October 1846, p. 2.

[95]Law Intelligence: Central Criminal Court: The Queen v. Thomas Bell and John Hamilton,” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Thursday 9 October 1845, p. 3.

[96] George Gipps, “Sir George Gipps to Lord Stanley, Government House, 28th Feby., 1846, (Despatch No. 53 per ship Eweretta,” in Frederick Watson (ed.), Historical Records of Australia, Series 1, Governors’ Despatches to and from England, Vol. XXIV, October 1844–March 1846, (Sydney: The Library Committee of the Commonwealth Parliament, 1925), pp.791–92, accessed online http://hdl.handle.net/1959.9/535609, 4 August 2019.

[97]Legislative Council: Mr. Hamilton,” Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Saturday 17 October 1846, p. 2.

[98]Legislative Council: Mr. Hamilton,” Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Saturday 17 October 1846, p. 2.

[99]Legislative Council: Mr. Hamilton,” Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Saturday 17 October 1846, p. 2. With regard to Alexander Cameron: in addition to being the Factory Bookkeeper, he had previously had cause to sail to India. See: “Parrmatta. The Factory Case. (Concluded from third page.),” The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 – 1848), Tuesday 17 October 1843, p. 4; NOTICE is hereby given, that the usual Licenses of Departure were this day granted,” New South Wales Government Gazette (Sydney, NSW : 1832 – 1900), Friday 26 November 1841 [Issue No.97]p. 1629 and “Advertising,” The Sydney Herald (NSW : 1831 – 1842), Wednesday 24 November 1841, p. 3.

[100]Jimbour History,” The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939), Saturday 1 April 1899, p. 609.

[101] Sue Bell, “Thomas and Sarah Bell,” Bicentennial Publication, (Parramatta: Parramatta Female Factory Friends, forthcoming 2020).

[102] Bell Family Collection UQFL79: Manuscript Finding Aid, University of Queensland, p. 23, https://www.library.uq.edu.au/fryer-library/ms/uqfl79.pdf, accessed 26 May 2019.

[103]Wreck of the Sovereign Steamer on Thursday Morning Last—Forty-Four Lives Lost,” The Moreton Bay Courier (Brisbane, Qld: 1846 – 1861), Saturday 13 March 1847, p. 2.

© Copyright 2019 Jennifer McLaren