Hester Wright


Hester was tried at the Bristol General Quarter Sessions, together with her partner in crime Elizabeth Patrick, on 13 January 1817. For the crime of stealing five yards of lace these two young women were sentenced to seven years transportation. By the time Hester embarked on the convict ship Friendship on 3 July 1817 she had already been incarcerated in gaol for six months and may have been the Hester Wright who, during this time, was found guilty at the March Guildhall Sessions of the Peace of assaulting the Overseer of the Bishopsgate parish for which she served two months confinement.

Where and when Hester was born is not known but from the records it appears that she would have been about 22 when she eventually arrived at Hobart, one of the 50 or so Friendship women who, on arrival at Port Jackson, were transferred in January 1818 by the Duke of Wellington to Hobart. Peter Cosgreave, the surgeon on board the Friendship, labelled Hester ‘A prostitute and mutinous’, an opinion he perhaps justified by the fact that when she reached Hobart she was about seven months pregnant with a child conceived en route, father unknown. The child was born on 10 May 1818 and baptised as Eliza six months later by the Rev Knopwood, who diligently recorded in the ‘Quality or Profession’ column that the mother was unmarried.

Eliza Wright Birth 1818

The 1820 muster shows Hester to be ‘With Eastwood, Hobart Town’. The man in question was most likely to have been the Joseph Eastwood who, with John Eastwood (possibly his brother), had been convicted at Lancaster in March 1808 for being in possession of forged notes, and both sentenced to fourteen years transportation. The pair arrived at Sydney on 26 February 1810 on board the male convict ship Anne. John, aged 46, died at Parramatta in May 1811. Joseph was transferred to Hobart in 1816 on board the Kangaroo. By 1820 Hester was a mother of two girls and, from a subsequent record, it is apparent that Hester and Joseph may have become acquainted some time before the muster of that year. Mary Wright was born on 10 September 1819 and baptised ten days later. Although his name did not appear on the baptism record, Joseph was probably the father, although in the 1822 Settler and Convict list there are no children ascribed to him.

Mary Wright Birth 1819

Joseph Eastwood was not a model convict. His charge sheet shows that he had been absent from muster in 1817, for which he was given extra labour for a week. In October 1818 he had embezzled some beef for which he received 25 lashes and one month in the Gaol Gang. But more seriously, in June 1821, he was back to his old tricks, as reported in the Hobart Town Gazette and Van Diemen’s Land Advertiser.

Joseph Wilkes and Joseph Eastwood were found Guilty of forging two notes of hand, purporting to be drawn by Henry Creswell, of New Norfolk; one for the sum of 12l, the other for 10l sterling; and were sentenced to be transported to Newcastle for the remainder of their original terms of transportation.

What was to become of Hester without any ‘man about the house’ and with two babies to care for? At this time, even if she had been desperate enough to consider it, there was no Female Factory where she might have sought refuge and accommodation. Indeed Governor Macquarie was firmly opposed to any such establishment at Van Diemen’s Land given the relatively small number of female convicts and the demand for them to take on roles as servants, partners and wives. But eventually Macquarie yielded to pressure and in mid-1821 directed that plans be drawn up for a female factory to be established. It was not until 1824, when George Arthur became Lieutenant-General, that consideration was given to the establishment of an orphan school.

Hester did what so women in her situation did. Within two months of Joseph’s departure, she had not only taken up with another man, she had actually married him. On 27 August 1821 Esther Wright, convict, age 25, and William Watts, convict, age 24, were married at Hobart Town in the presence of Sarah Scott and George Northam. Neither groom nor bride could write their names, and their union was sealed by each making their mark. The 1822 muster records Hester as the wife of Wm. Watts and the mother of three daughters.

Wright-Watts Marriage 1821

But who was the father of Hester’s third child, Ann Wright, who had been born on 20 June 1821 and baptised on 17 July of the following month? Had the relationship between Hester and Joseph Eastwood, in whatever form it took, continued up to the time he was sent to Newcastle? At what stage had William Watts come into her life? I do not have the answers to these questions but, as we will see, William Watts was in Tasmania from late 1819.

Ann Wright Birth 1821

William Watts, a native of Bristol, and recorded as both a horse-breaker and pipe maker, was one of 220 convicts transported on the Lord Eldon which arrived at Port Jackson in on 30 September 1817. During the six month voyage one prisoner escaped and swam ashore at Madeira and four others died during the passage, but those who did arrive were described by Governor Macquarie as being ‘in good Health’. William had been tried and found guilty at the August 1816 Bristol Quarter Sessions for stealing muslin and sentenced to seven years transportation. Of interest is that Elizabeth Perkins, another of the “Bristol Girls” was on the case list for the same day, so it is likely that she and William Watts had at least a passing acquaintance prior to leaving their homeland. Having spent two years consigned in New South Wales, on 18 November 1819 William was embarked on the Admiral Cockburn ‘for the Public Service in Van Diemen’s Land’. The 1820 muster records him having been sent to Mr. Carter. It was not too long before the first entry was made on William Watts’ conduct sheet. On 20 May 1821 he had been absent from his lodgings at night and absent from Muster at Church (at which all convicts were required to present themselves). These two offences earned him 25 lashes. Three months after his marriage to Hester he escaped from the custody of the constables and, having been apprehended, was dealt out 50 lashes. Only one month later the Hobart Town Gazette recorded that:

William Watts, convict, charged with having in his possession a canvas bag, the property of His Majesty, was found guilty, and sentenced to receive 25 lashes.

Clearly the patience of the authorities was being sorely tried because, for his next offence committed on 1 December 1821 – receiving stolen property belonging to one Charles Rowcraft, William was ‘to be transported to such part of the Territory as His Honor the Lieut Govr may deem proper for 3 years’.  He was sent to Macquarie Harbour, but whether he did his full time there is not clear. In May 1822 he offended again. This time he had absconded from his work place and taken off into the woods. Again he was caught and duly punished with one hundred lashes and six months’ labour in irons. Notwithstanding his poor conduct record, and his original sentence having expired, in July 1823 William Watts obtained his Certificate of Freedom. He committed his first offence as a free man in September of that year. He was caught retailing beer without a licence which cost him a hefty £30.

For the 1823 muster Hester Wright is listed as a servant, employed in Hobart by a Mrs. Wells, possibly Mrs. Charlotte Wells, wife of Thomas Wells, Principal Clerk Colonial Office, and farmer. This raises the question as to whether she and William Watts were still living together by this time. If they were, William was proving to be a feckless, irresponsible and frequently absent husband. And if they had parted, perhaps Hester was better off. Regardless of their situation at the time, within a few years their separation would become permanent.

A small item in the Hobart Town Courier of 21 June 1828 apprised its readers to the fact that William Watts had been convicted of stealing various articles – a quantity of rope and an iron hook – from Mr. Martin of New Norfolk. The newspaper followed up with the sentencing hearing held the following month. William Watts was sentenced to seven years’ transportation at Macquarie Harbour. Like fellow prisoner Robert Burke (one time partner of “Bristol Girl” Sarah Ann Cox), William gave his captors the slip and was for a time a ‘felon at large’, but on 11 November he was committed for trial for being at large before the expiration of his Colonial sentence of 7 years. And it was with Robert Burke, and others, that he appeared before the Hobart court in June 1829 where both were sentenced to death.

In passing sentence, His Honour the Chief Justice noted that they had all been convicted of felony, and of being at large after sentence of transportation for former offences had been passed on them. Further:

The crime of which they now stood convicted, had been punishable with death … There was no favourable point of view in which their crime could be contemplated, for they could only, when at large, live a life of plunder, and it was happy for them that they were arrested when they were, before opportunity had been afforded them to commit new crimes.

Robert Burke was hanged in July 1829, but somehow William Watts was reprieved and ordered back to Macquarie Harbour – but this time he never arrived there.

The hijacking of the brig Cyprus was well covered by the ‘home’ and colonial press and has been recounted by many authors, including Robert Hughes, in his book “The Fatal Shore” [pp 214-216]. The facts of the case were summarised by an article of 21 September 1830 in the Kentish Weekly Post.

Charge of Piracy. – On Monday, four men were charged at the Thames Police Office, with having been concerned in forcibly taking possession of the colonial brig Cyprus, in Aug. 1829, and with having subsequently committed several acts of piracy. The Cyprus was conveying convicts from Hobart Town, Van Dieman’s Land to McQuarrie [sic] Harbour, when 18 of the ruffians arose, got possession of the vessel, and after murdering some of the military guard, put the other prisoners and the crew ashore on a desolate island, without food. The Cyprus has not since been heard of, but in the beginning of March, prisoners arrived at Canton, in a boat, and stated that they had been wrecked. They were accordingly sent home in the East India Company’s ships; and suspicion respecting them having been aroused, advices were sent to England to that effect. From the description given in the Hue and Cry, there is strong reason to believe that prisoners were concerned in the seizure of the Cyprus. They were remanded.
(This account was overly dramatic – none of the guards was actually murdered, and some meagre provisions had been given to the castaways).

The four men were placed at the bar before Magistrate W. Ballantine, Esq. The prisoners had assumed false names but, fortuitously, two men who happened to be in London at this time were able to identify them – Thomas Capon, High Constable of Hobart Town, and ex-prisoner John Popjoy, who had been granted a pardon for saving the lives of the abandoned passengers and crew of the Cyprus. The latter’s evidence was critical to the case.

Mr Ballantine now asked Popjoy if he could identify the prisoners.
Popjoy – I know them all well Sir. The first, (Williams) is William Watts, we used to call him Wattie on board. He left the chain gang, and turned bushranger – attempted to shoot one man and to stab another, for which he was sentenced to transportation. He has a scar on his upper lip, and the initials W.W. on his right arm.

The others were similarly identified. They were tried at the Admiralty Sessions on 4 November and found guilty and sentenced to death. On the recommendation of the jury, mercy was shown to two of the condemned men. William Watts (together with George Davis) was executed on 16 December 1830. They were the last men to be hanged at Execution Dock, Wapping, which, for more than 400 years, had been used for executing pirates, smugglers and mutineers who had been sentenced to death by Admiralty courts. Like many deeds of derring-do, a convict ballad was composed to immortalise and romanticise the seizing of the Cyprus. I doubt if Hester would have joined in the chorus.

Hester must have rued the day that she met William Watts, particularly as it is possible that Joseph Eastwood might have proved to be a better prospect. In April 1822 Joseph petitioned His Excellency the Governor for a grant of land at the Derwent as follows.

That your Petitioner came to this Colony per Ship Hand [sic] in the year 1808 under sentence of the Law for 14 years.
That your Petitioner having obtained his Certificate and having a family at the Derwent and wishing to further his views in this Colony for the support of himself and his family, in the Agricultry persuits [sic] Most humbly prays Your Excellency [??] to His Humane Consideration granting him such Proportion of Land at the Derwent as is usual given to people of this Description in General.

Also in April, in preparation for his return to the Derwent, Joseph placed a notice in the Sydney Gazette advising that he was leaving New South Wales at the earliest opportunity for Van Diemen’s Land. His departure was somewhat delayed. It seems that he did not return to Hobart until mid-1822. A notice, published in 22 June Hobart Town Gazette, placed by the agents for the brig Glory, which had arrived in Hobart on 31 May, advised the passenger by the name of Eastwood that if he did not pay his passage money his baggage and bedding would be sold to defray the expense. He may also have been the Eastwood, referred to in the Bunster v Eastwood case of March 1823 in which Mr. Bunster advised that, by virtue of a write of fieri facias, he intended to sell by auction a brick dwelling house and allotment situated at the corner of Melville and Harrington Streets. Was the family referred to in Eastwood’s petition Hester, Eliza, Mary and Ann? If so, he would have returned to find Hester now a married woman. In any case, any reunion would have been short-lived if the following 1823 record is for this Joseph Eastwood.

Joseph Eastwood Death 1823

Within a space of ten years Hester Wright had given birth to three daughters and had formed relationships with at least two men who proved to be more trouble than they were worth. Despite her situation Hester had managed to keep out of trouble, or had at least avoided drawing attention to herself, and had received her Certificate of Freedom in June 1824. But by 1828 she was struggling and was forced to resort to the Queens Orphan School, as evidenced by three rather confusing records.

Number 5552: Eliza/Elizabeth WATTS
Mother: WRIGHT, Esther/Hester
Father: WATTS, William
Mother’s ship: Friendship
Father’s ship: Lord Eden [sic]
Age when admitted: 10 yrs
Dated admitted: 9 Sep 1828
Date discharged: 12 Apr 1832, 19 Sep 1836
Discharged to: Thomas Forster, mother
Remarks: Joseph Eastwood, convict to NSW
References: SWD24p379, 28, CSO5/86/1885

Number 5554: Mary/Mary Ann WATTS
Mother: WRIGHT, Esther/Hester
Father: WATTS, William
Mother’s ship: Friendship
Father’s ship: Lord Eden [sic]
Age when admitted: 8 yrs
Dated admitted: 9 Sep 1828
Date discharged: 8 Mar 1832
Discharged to [not recorded]
Remarks: child has been with Whiteburn
References: SWD24p233, 28, CSO5/86/1885

Number No 5839: Mary Ann WRIGHT
Mother: WRIGHT, Hester/Esther
Father: EASTWOOD, Joseph
Mother’s ship: Friendship & D Wellington
Father’s ship: [not recorded]
Age when admitted: 8 yrs
Dated admitted: 6 Sep 1828
Date discharged:[not recorded]
Discharged to: [not recorded]
Remarks: recommended for Queens Orphan School – children illegitimate
References: SWD24p82, CSO1/122

In September 1828 the ages of Hester’s three daughters would have been Eliza 10, Mary 8, and Ann 7. The above records seem to relate only to the two older girls. This begs the question as to why daughter Ann was not registered. Perhaps, assuming that Ann was still alive, Hester had managed to keep her youngest child with her. However this child might have been the subject of an inquest reported in the Hobart Town Gazette in November 1825.

An Inquest was held last week at New Norfolk, before Mr. G. Brooks, Esq. Coroner, on the body of Ann Watt, a child five years of age. Mrs. Watt [sic] having occasion to leave the house for a short period, shut the door, placing the child outside. It appeared that the unfortunate girl, being enticed by some article that was cooking, entered at the window, and in her attempt to obtain the object of her wishes, burned herself so dreadfully, as to live but a few hours.

Mary/Mary Ann Watts/Mary Ann Wright was apparently recorded twice, with a minor difference in the admittance date, and with alternative names for the father. As Mary/Mary Ann Watts she was discharged in 1832 [at age 12], but to whom is not recorded. The record for Eliza could be interpreted as her having been discharged in 1832 [at age 14] to Thomas Forster, returned, and again discharged in 1836 [at age 18], this time to her mother.

It was on 12 January 1829 that Hester’s first colonial offence was recorded against her name in the convict conduct register. She was convicted of being drunk and disorderly and fined 5 shillings. She was fined twice more that year for the same offence on 11 February and 9 June. For each of these her status was given as ‘Ux Watts’. It was as ‘FS’ (free by servitude) that, on 24 January 1837, she was committed for trial for her fourth and last offence – ‘Stealing part of the Carcase of a Sheep, the property of Robt. Patterson otherwise receiving the same well knowing &c’. I have found no record of the Hester’s trial, but a case brought before the Supreme Court in Hobart on 7 March 1837 may be connected. In this matter Robert Patterson of Hamilton deposed that on 21 January 1837 he had seen two men (then prisoners) driving some of his sheep away from his property where they were subsequently found at the prisoner’s hut. If the two matters were linked it might suggest that by this time Hester was living in the Hamilton district.

Unless further information can be found, the 1837 notation on her conduct record brings to an end the documentary trail for Hester Wright. But while have I also found nothing further about her daughters Mary and Ann, something more might have been found for the eldest daughter Eliza.

It was in the Hamilton district that, on 17 April 1850, an Eliza Watts married John Morgan by licence and according to the rites of the Catholic Church. The ceremony was witnessed by Joseph and Ellen Best who were able to sign their names, unlike the bride and groom who both made their Mark. The marriage took place at Hollow Tree, in the central highlands, not far from Hamilton and on the Hamilton-Bothwell road. It was then, and is now, good farming country. John Morgan, a bachelor, gave his age as 38 and occupation as farmer. Spinster Eliza, age 32, was a servant.

Watts-Morgan Marriage 1850.jpg

John Morgan was probably the convict of that name, and one of the 186 convicts who arrived in Van Diemen’s Land per the Lord William Bentinck, having sailed from Portsmouth on 7 May 1832 and arrived on 28 August. This young man had been tried at the Middlesex January Assizes for larceny, found guilty and sentenced to seven years transportation. According to the Appropriation List, he was a 17 year old tailor, and was initially assigned to a Mr. Joynes, a tailor of Murray Street, Hobart. His conduct sheet tells us that he was constantly in trouble – so frequently in fact that his misdemeanours fill half a page of tightly, and hard to read details. There is a litany of absences without leave, disobedience, neglect of duty, and drunkenness. Penalties included being put in the stocks, time on the tread-wheel, lashings and periods of hard labour and imprisonment in the Hulk Chain Gang, and with the Constitution Hill and Spring Hill road gangs. Despite his record, he was issued with his certificate of freedom on 10 February 1841.

It may be that Eliza had been employed by Joseph and Ellen (Eleanor) Best who themselves had been married in a Catholic ceremony in January 1848, Joseph being a farmer and his bride a farmer’s daughter. John’s stated occupation was aspirational rather than factual, because for the registrations of the births and deaths of his children he was variously recorded as ‘labourer’, ‘splitter’ and ‘sawyer’. So he too may have been employed by the Bests.

Indeed, the Bests may have encouraged John and Eliza to legitimise their relationship and also the children who had been born prior to their marriage. Citing John Morgan as the father, on 16 January 1843 Eliza Watts of Hamilton had registered the birth, on 12 December 1842, of an unnamed son. On the same day, she registered the death of this child, who only lived for one day. The death record is found under the surname Watts. It was as Eliza Morgan, mother, that she registered the next birth, again an unnamed son of John Morgan, in January 1844. The registrations of two daughters followed, Ann and Elizabeth, born in November 1847 and October 1849 respectively. It has been mooted that Eliza had possibly given birth to three other children, for whom no birth registration has been found – Mary (1839), Hugh (1840), and Ellen (1846). However death registrations have been located for Hugh and Ellen. Hugh Morgan’s sudden death at the age of 14 on 11 December 1852 at Hollow Tree was the subject of an inquest. It was determined that death, from concussion of the brain, was accidental. It is interesting to note that at the time of his death, and for the previous six years, he had been living with a family named Hobbs. Scarlet fever was the cause of 8 year old Ellen Morgan’s death in March 1854. Her mother, Eliza Morgan, registered the death at Bothwell.

What can we make of this somewhat complicated family set up? The key to clarifying the situation is establishing when John Morgan and Eliza Watts ‘became a couple’. If, as has been suggested (“historybylarzus”), the unnamed child born in 1844 was the first one to be fathered by John Morgan, who fathered Eliza’s earlier children? But even though the 1842 birth was registered in the name Watts, the purported father was John Morgan. Is there any significance in the fact that Hugh had lived away from home from about 1844? Without anything firmer to rely on there really is no answer to these questions and, regardless, all the children were known by the surname Morgan.

John and Eliza went on to have eight more children – Ann (1847), Elizabeth (1849), Thomas (1851-1911), Emma (1854), Hugh (1856-1938), James (1859-1860), James (1862), and Easter (1864). As ‘Easter’ is a variation of the names ‘Esther’ and ’Hester’, could this perhaps indicate a familial link to Hester/Esther Watts (Wright)?

John Morgan died aged 71 at Hamilton on 28 January 1882. His occupation was given as farmer and the cause of death was paralysis, a distressing way to end a life. Eliza was 82 years old when she died on 3 August 1894. Her son James Morgan of Spring Hill was the informant and the cause of death was dropsy and heart disease.

Life for Hester Wright, an illiterate servant girl with few if any resources to fall back on, held out very little hope for happiness and good fortune. As just one of many female convicts who found themselves in Van Diemen’s Land, Hester Wright was virtually unnoticed, her life of little significance. But within the microcosm of her own family she was eminently significant as the founding member of a small dynasty. Hopefully, if she lived long enough, and if Eliza Morgan was her daughter, she found fulfilment and some joy through her grandchildren.

The Other Hester Wright

This person has caused some ‘difficulties’ for a few researchers, including me. On 20 November 1848, by banns and in accordance with the rites and ceremonies of the Church of Scotland, Hester Wright, a 45 year old widow, married a much younger man, 27 year old bachelor Hancy O’Neill who, as Hance O’Neill, had arrived at Van Diemen’s Land on 3 August 1842 on the Isabella Watson, having been sentenced in October 1841 at County Down to 7 years transportation. His sentence having been served, he was granted his freedom in 1848. The marriage ceremony was conducted at the house of the bride in the district of Morven. This Hester not only had property, but could also sign her own name, unlike the groom, who made his mark. Prior to this, it was as Hester Wright that she witnessed the marriage of her 18 year old daughter Susan to James Smith, on 15 February 1842 at the Independent Chapel, Tamar Street, Launceston.

The next record found for Hester O’Neill relates to her death. Under the heading ‘Another Sudden Death’ the Launceston Weekly Examiner reported that on 1 May 1874 an inquest was held at the O’Connell Inn ‘touching the death of Hester O’Neill’ who was found dead in her house in Wellington-street on the previous morning. It was the milkman who found her dead in her chair, and her daughter, Mrs. Susan Smith, who formally identified the body. According to Susan Smith, her mother lived alone, having been separated from her husband for twenty years. Dr. Miller gave evidence that her death would appear to have been from natural causes, and that was the verdict of the jury. Her death entry described her as a 72 year old ‘Gentlewoman’ and gave the cause of death as disease of the heart.

According to an entry in the England and Wales National Probate Calendar, on 13 May 1875:

Administration of the effects of Hester O’Neil [sic] late of Launceston in Tasmania Widow who died 30 April 1874 at Launceston was granted at the Principal Registry under the usual Limitations to Thomas Brightwell of Surrey-street Norwich in the County of Norfolk Gentleman the lawful Attorney of Susan Smith (Wife of James Smith) now residing at Carrick in Tasmania and William Wright and Thomas Wright both now residing in Victoria the Children and three Next of Kin. (Effects under £100).

The ‘other’ Hester Wright had been born Hester Salter, a daughter of William Salter and his wife Lucy (née Pyke). She was baptised privately at Whinbergh, Norwich, Norfolk, on 2 July 1797 and again on 13 January 1806 when, with three of her siblings, she was ‘received into the church’. At the age of 18, she married 41 year old widower Garner Wright, of Knettishall, Suffolk, on 17 January 1815, also at Whinbergh, by licence and with the consent of her parents.

In 1840 Hester Wright, together with children Susan, Thomas and Mary, arrived at Launceston on 16 March on the barque Arab, having sailed from London on 16 October 1839. According to a Launceston obituary for Susan Smith, the Wrights had come to the colony to take charge of the Danbury Park farm, in West Tamar, then owned by a Captain Freeman. That may well have been the case, but another reason might have been that Garner Wright had been declared bankrupt, and in March 1838, his application for debtors prison discharge was scheduled to be heard. He appeared in the 1841 census, but one year later he died. He was buried at Thetford, Norfolk, on 15 July 1842.



All Norfolk, England, Bishop’s Transcripts, 1579-1935
Australia, Birth Index, 1788-1922
Australia Convict Transportation Registers – Other Fleets & Ships, 1791-1868
England & Wales, Criminal Registers, 1791-1892
England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995
England, Select Deaths and Burials 1538-1991
England, Select Marriages, 1538-1973
New South Wales and Tasmania, Australia Convict Musters, 1806-1849
New South Wales, Australia, Colonial Secretary’s Papers, 1788-1856
New South Wales, Settler and Convict Lists, 1787-1834
Norfolk, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1940
Tasmania, Australia, Convict Court and Selected Records, 1800-1899

Family Tree – Eliza Watts – https://www.ancestry.co.uk/family-tree/person/tree/102601268/person/220017976871/facts


1841 England, Wales and Scotland Census Transcription

Other Websites
Biographical Database of Australia (BDA), http://www.bda-online.org.au/
Convict Female Factories Research Association, https://sites.google.com/site/convictfemalefactories/home
Convict Records, http://www.convictrecords.com.au/
Female Convicts Research Centre, http://www.femaleconvicts.org.au/
Friends of the Orphan Schools, St John’s Park Precinct New Town, http://www.orphanschool.org.au/searchorphans.php
historybylarzus, https://historybylarzus.wordpress.com/
Index, Friendship Female Convict List Tasmania, http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~austas/friendship.htm
Lachlan and Elizabeth Macquarie Archive (LEMA), http://www.mq.edu.au/macquarie-archive/
P R Eldershaw, “Wells, Thomas (1782-1833)”, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/wells-thomas-2779/text3953
Tasmanian Name Index (LINC), https://linctas.ent.sirsidynix.net.au/client/en_AU/names
The International Centre for Convict Studies, http://iccs.arts.utas.edu.au/convicts.html
Wikipedia, Execution Dock, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Execution_Dock

Online Newspapers
The British Library Archive
Bristol Mirror
Bury and Norwich Post
Kentish Weekly Post
Lancaster Gazette
Morning Advertiser
Norfolk Chronicle
Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser

Colonial Times
Daily Telegraph (Launceston)
Hobart Town Courier and Van Diemen’s Land Gazette
Hobart Town Gazette
Hobart Town Gazette and Van Diemen’s Land Advertiser
Launceston Examiner
Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser
The Hobart Town Courier

Lucy Frost, “Protecting the Children: Early Years of the King’s Orphans Schools in Van Diemen’s Land”, Coolabah, No.10, Australian Studies Centre, Universitat de Barcelona, 2013
Philip Tardiff, Notorious Strumpets and Dangerous Girls,CD electronic format, Gould Genealogy and History, Ridgehaven, South Australia, 2008
Robert Hughes, The Fatal Shore, Pan Books, London, 1998

© Leonie Fretwell, 2017

7 comments on “Hester Wright

  1. Rosemary Torvaldsen says:

    Hello Leonie, I’m almost certain I’m a descendant of Hester Wright from her daughter Mary. Mary used the surname Eastwood on documents such as her children’s births and was married as Heastwood (I assume a recording error). I was very interested to read your research. I had some issues with the Hester Wright who married O’Neill as some details such as her daughter’s name didn’t align with other information I had so thank you for clearing up that red herring. Mary Ann Green (nee Eastwood) was my grandmother’s grandmother and her birth was noted as Van Diemens Land. I was very interested in this piece of information but couldn’t find any birth information for her. On her daughter’s marriage record her maiden name was recorded as something other than Eastwood but I couldn’t decipher it. While looking at cemetery records I came across the burial records for Mary Ann Green and her maiden name was “Wright”. When I re looked at her daughter’s marriage records her maiden name was now clear as Wright on that document. Armed with this information I found the baptism records by Rev Knopwood. As the dates aligned, I felt I’d found my great-great grandmothers birth records and the connection to Hester Wright.


    • It was great to hear from you and to learn that my Hester Wright account has assisted you with your own research. You also helped me with the other daughter Mary Ann whom I had not followed up on – but with you mentioning the name Heastwood I have spent the day trying to piece together something of her life. I have identified her marriage to butcher George Green, who probably came to Tasmania as a free person with his mother Anne – this has yet to be confirmed. I have located a bevy of children born to George and Mary Ann, the first batch in Tasmania and the rest in Victoria. And I have found a few absolute gems in TROVE, which you have no doubt already seen. These are a report on George’s death (Weekly Times, 9 Apr 1887, p.11) and an obit (Traralgon Record, 8 April 1887, p.2); and a report on Mary Ann’s death (The Age, 28 Feb 1908, p.8) which mentions not only that eight of her 15 children were still alive but also that she had 120 surviving grand and great grandchildren (what a legacy for Hester!), and a most informative long obit under the title “A Gippsland Pioneer” (Traralgon Record, 3 Mar 1908, p.3).

      Following a research trip to Tasmania earlier this year I have spent some time revising some of my earlier research, including the account on Hester – not too many changes, but a bit of tidying up and a few photographs. I intended to upload this to the Persons of Interest site, but now I would like to delay this so that – thanks to your leads and subject to your OK – I can incorporate additional material on Mary Ann and her family. Any background info that you might be able to add would be much appreciated, and before I upload it I will send (email) the revised version through to you for checking.

      Once again – thank you for getting in touch.



      • Rosemary Torvaldsen says:

        Hi Leonie, the Trove items were gems and I hadn’t seen them before! I’d appreciate it if you could contact me on my email and I can send you a file with the documents I’ve gathered. My starting point was my grandmother who served as a nurse during WW1 and was born in Sale Vic. I think Hester left a legacy greater than her convict record would indicate.


      • Sally Edsall says:

        I am thrilled to have found your account online. I think you may have left a comment on my blog some time ago. Sorry I did not see it earlier….I replied recently. My blog:


        Mary Ann Green (nee Heastwood, or Eastwood) was my 3rd great-grandmother, via her son George Green.

        Mary Ann married a man named George Osbaldeston Green. Now HE is a fascinating character, son of a ne’er do well member of the British aristocracy named George Osbaldeston, and a liaison he had with a certain “Miss Green” of Lincoln. In biographies of him, Miss Green is described as a “member of the frail sisterhood” (ie prostitute). George Osbaldeston was nicknamed “The Squire of England” and through him, the ancestral line traces back to William the Conqueror and beyond. He was a cheat, liar, and all round wastrel!

        Miss Green and son were despatched to Tasmania about the time the father pursued a career in politics (in a very dilettantish way, at the behest of his mother who was looking for money – she and George having wasted it away).


  2. Janet Miller says:

    Hello Leonie
    Once again I read with fascination your writings.. I admire your research and at the same time commend you. Hester Wright has been a thorn in my side for many years now. In order to prove Hester/Watts /Oneil was not Hester Salter who married Garner Wright I have done endless research on that family BUT my DNA shows a relationship in the 6th to 8th cousin range with a Glen Staff who IS a descended from Hester Salter but it is still by far uncertain just where we cross paths and he has nothing further back than Garner. the husband of Hester Salter and I fear that that is where the connection is.Recently I have been searching for Hetsres death which given the letters I have was at least after 1858 when she was in Launceston. My thoughts are that fater her inheritance and considering her life she may have moved else where.The other researchers I am in contact with have no information on her but their research corroborates mine though giving me no more information than I already have which leaves me far short of my desired position. I have not exhausted my research at Norfolk record office, but that is all on what would be her father and uncle and so far have been little use though interesting.
    I am interested to know your connection when you have some time.


    • Hi Janet

      It was great to hear from you – the second query re Hester in one day! I have re-read my Hester account and yet again tried searching for possible deaths, departures, etc – but to no avail. It is so tempting to link her with the Hester who married Mr. Oneil, but as yet I cannot be convinced they are one and the same. So it is interesting to hear that somewhere in your DNA past there is an apparent link.

      I made a research trip to Tasmania earlier this year as a result of which I am in the process of revising my research – including that for Hester Wright – not too many changes, but some tidying up and a few photos. I have also heard from another Hester researcher with information on the second daughter May Ann who I had not followed up on previously. Once the rewrite is completed I will upload the revised version to the Persons of Interest site.

      You ask if I have any family connection with Hester, and I have to admit that I am not related in any way. I was ‘introduced’ to her via a newspaper item which caught my eye, and roused my curiosity – Readers of the Bristol Mirror of 7 June 1817 were advised that:

      On Friday se’nnight, the ten undermentioned female convicts were removed from Newgate in this city, to the transport ship Friendship, lying at Deptford, viz. Elizabeth Perkins, Sarah North, Eliza Patrick, Harriot Neat, Hester Wright, Sarah Ann Cox, Ann Kennicott, Lucy Meares, Sophia Richards, and Sarah Hopkins.

      Who were they? What crimes had they committed? What sentences had been meted out to them? What happened to them on arrival at the other end of the world?

      Having worked on the accounts of these ten women I have now turned my attention to the other 87 women who landed at Port Jackson on 14 January 1818 – a somewhat daunting project which will keep me occupied for some time!

      If you find out anything more I would love to hear it, and of course if I discover anything of use I will let you know.



  3. Sally Edsall says:

    Hi Leonie and Rosemary,

    Leonie – I think you may be the person who left a message on my Mary Ann (H)eastwood blog entry a while back asking about use of a photo?

    I am a descendent of Mary Ann…she is my great-great-great grandmother. Her son with George Green, also named George (born 1838 in Tasmania), married Dorothea Lenz. Their daughter Amelia (born 1864 in Sale, Vic) married Joseph Henry Pearson. Their daughter, Ella (born 1892 in Walhalla, Vic), married Albert Percival (Percy) Smith, and their daughter Alison (born 1928) is my mum.

    I have an Ancestry tree with all this info – soon to be added to due to your wonderful research.

    I have been doing some blogs about some of my female ancestors. Mary Ann’s entry is here: http://herstoryfamily.blogspot.com/2018/05/

    Her mother, Miss Green of Lincolnshire, is here: http://herstoryfamily.blogspot.com/2018/05/miss-green-of-lincoln-4th-great.html

    The Miss Green story takes us back into the British aristocracy to William the Conqueror, so fantastic women ancestors include Eleanor of Aquitaine (25 the great-grandmother) and Katharine Swynford (19th great grandmother). George Green’s father, George Osbaldeston (which name turns up as Mary Ann’s husband George’s middle name) was a ne’eer do well aristocrat nicknamed “The Squire of England”. He was a liar, cheat, womaniser and wastrel! Very colourful. He wrote a boastful memoir, which includes reference to Miss Green and the son they had. He acknowledges his son, but had him and his mother packed off to the colonies, about the time that his socially grasping mother envisaged a parliamentary career for George. Alas he was more interested in riding to hounds and placing bets on his prowess at cricket and horse racing to be bothered to turn up once elected!

    Anyway, Rosemary, I am pleased to have met another descendent, and Leonie, love your research. Please use anything from the blogs that you wish.

    I am currently caught up in other events, but hope to have a post on Amelia Green, Hester’s great-granddaughter not too far away. Her life was quite tragic. She suicided by drowning in the Thompson River at Heyfield. Her daughter, Ella, also died tragically young, at age 42. My mum is a very well 90 year old.

    Love to hear from you both,



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