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Ann Hannaway - sentenced beyond the seas

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 1760 to 16 Dec 1831
Location: British Empiremap
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By 1760, on the foundations of an older medieval city, the direction of change in London as centre of the British Empire was well established.

Crime also was well established. The formation of the police system was at that time to be found in the Bow Street Runners of 1749. Later in the century, popular politics moved to the agitation of the unsavoury but democratic John Wilkes from the 1760s to 1770s; in the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots of June 1780, and the Revolutionary politics of the 1790s. The fear of crime was escalated by publications of the Proceedings of the Old Bailey. It was in those Proceedings the stories of Ann Hannaway, Robert Nash and Thomas Smith emerge.

The Proceedings of the Old Bailey – Ann Hannaway

Rule of law was the central ideology protecting individual liberty and private property in eighteenth century England. Struggles, first with religious authority until Reformation; and then between the courts, parliament and absolute monarchy until the Glorious Revolution and Constitutional Monarchy; had resulted in the separation of powers which constrained arbitrary authority. From the poorest citizens to the monarch all were bound by rule of law and could have their disputes settled by judges who were independent of manipulation. The ruling class used rule of law to enhance their power; but had, in turn, that power checked with the same rule of law. Generally it was the lower middle class and working class who most often had recourse to law.

The first intimation of the early life of Ann Hannaway is to be found in her third trial when Margaret Richardson, a tailor’s wife and house keeper in Marylebone, says she had known Ann since Ann’s infancy.

First trial 26 May 1784

In her first trial on 26 May 1784, Ann Hannaway and Sarah Scott “… were indicted for feloniously stealing, on the 26th day of April … value 31s. 6d. the property of Thomas Putney, in his dwelling house … Boswell court, Gloucester street … To be each privately whipped, and confined six months in the House of Correction.” [1][2]

The victualling list records that Ann was at the Clerkenwell house of correction. Originally built in 1616 the Middlesex house of correction had been rebuilt in 1775 and often held more than one hundred prisoners at a time. These numbers increased after transportation to America was suspended in 1776, with those sentenced to hard labour. There were 171 prisoners there in 1779. It was difficult to prevent escapes and in 1794 it was replaced by the Cold Bath Fields.

On 1 August 1784, half way through their six month term, Ann’s accomplice, Sarah Scott, was shot in the head and died immediately in the prison yard. The women were said to be rioting because their meal was late and not served in the accustomed place. At the trial of William Stevenson, Charles Price, one of the servants to the gaol keeper, was examined by Mr Garrow. He asked: “Did you think these scolding women, who had not their food in the manner they were accustomed to have it, endangered the gaol?” Charles Price responded: “They said they would set the house and prison on fire, and break the gates and the prison down, if they did not let them out.” The prison guard, William Stevenson, was found not guilty of murder. [3]

Second and third trials 14 January 1789

Five years later, brought to another trial on 14 January 1789, Ann was found not guilty of stealing but was ordered “to be detained, to be tried for receiving part of the same goods, knowing them to be stolen.” [4]

The new trial followed immediately after, and Ann was:

“… was indicted for feloniously receiving, on the 30th of December [1788], one linen sheet, value 3s. one feather-holster, value 2s. one iron footman, value 1s. 6d. the property of Ann Hilton; one man's hat, value 8s. the property of William Hilton, parcel of the afore-mentioned goods, for which John Happy and Richard Cole were convicted, knowing them to have been stolen.” [5]

Two women gave her character. Mrs Woodcock stated: “I live in Snow's-fields; I take in washing. I have known her upwards of three years; never saw any harm of her. She went out a charing; I employed her often myself” and Margaret Richardson had known her for a longer period: “I keep a house in Marybone; my husband is a taylor. I have known her ever since she was a baby; I never knew any harm of her.” (Old Bailey January 1789 trial of Ann Hannaway)

A charwoman was employed on an hourly basis. Ann did not live in the employing household, as would a house or parlourmaid. Ann would be engaged to do the heavier household tasks, perhaps on a regular weekly basis for more than one household, or more informally when, for example, spring cleaning was underway and floors were scrubbed.


Before her trial Ann had been held at Bridewell. From the 1770s prison reformers were expressing their criticism of Bridewell, that prison life corrupted rather than reformed the prisoners and the apprentices. Bridewell hospital was established to provide a home and training for boys from the families of poor citizens. These apprenticeships were considered highly desirable as completing them gave freedom of the City of London and ‘Lock’s Gift’, a charity paying £10 towards setting up as an independent master.

Suggestions were made that the apprentices would be better trained somewhere such as the London Workhouse, leaving Bridewell solely a place of discipline. The apprentices remained until 1827, although the number of arts masters training them was reduced towards the end of the century. With reform, prison life did dramatically change in the last couple of decades, although the changes were different rather than better for the prisoners. Solitary confinement replaced whipping of female prisoners in 1792, and a prison sub-committee, established the same year, was to make weekly inspections. A new wing was constructed in 1797 and women were classified. Well-behaved women were invited to stay here after discharge until they had found a place in service.


After her trial when Ann had been found guilty and sentenced to transportation for fourteen years, she would be held at Newgate until her embarkation. Newgate prison was in use for over 700 years from 1188 to 1902. In 1770 £50,000 granted by Parliament and land provided by the City of London enabled the prison site to enlarge and for a new sessions house to be built. The work was almost finished when a mob stormed it during the Gordon riots in June 1780. Gutted by fire, the cost of repairs was estimated at £30,000. The new prison was completed in 1782 not many years before Ann Hannaway was incarcerated there for the months before her transportation. The new prison was laid out around a central courtyard, and was divided into two sections: poor prisoners had a common area and for those able to afford more comfortable accommodation there was the state area. These sections were further sub-divided to accommodate either felons or debtors and the problems of such incarceration are described by Charles Dickens in many of his novels.

Second Fleet - 1790 Neptune: Ann Hannaway

Ann Hannaway was first listed to be transported on 'Lady Juliana' but research indicates that her son James was born about the time of sailing. This would be the reason why they were transported on the later vessel 'Neptune'. Ann had been convicted earlier than the third week in October so she would have boarded the vessel while the 'Neptune' was at Woolwich. 'Neptune' sailed from Portsmouth 7 January 1790 and reached Port Jackson 28 June 1790.

The 'Neptune' was a ship of the Second Fleet, with 'Scarborough' and 'Surprize' the other transports, infamous for the inhumanity of Neptune’s captain Donald Trail. Although fresh food had been procured in Africa for the convicts as per government order, Donald Trail withheld the provisions from the convicts. He kept the stores for his private sale when he reached Port Jackson. The women fared better than the men, most likely because prison diets prior to transportation included more vegetables in the women’s diet than in that of the men working from the hulks. Another reason is that the men were kept, perhaps for long periods of the five and a half month journey, in rigid slave irons, with less movement possible that the usual convict chains. The women are believed to have had more freedom.

Elizabeth Macarthur

Elizabeth Macarthur, treated contemptuously by Trail, writes in her Journal that her passage way to the deck was used as a convict hospital:

“… the consequences of which was that I never left my cabin until I finally quitted the ship. Thus precluded from the common advantages even the convicts enjoyed of air and exercise, no language can express – no imagination can conceive – the misery I experienced.” [6]

The Macarthurs transferred to another of the ships. The evidence in her journal gives me cause to suspect that Trail may have treated the wives and convict women well to spite Elizabeth Macarthur.

On arrival most of the men were unable to walk and many had died, and the death rate rose further after arrival. Descriptions of the state of their hold do not bear thinking about. In another instance of how the women may have fared better: during the later private prosecution of Donald Trail witnesses remarked that the reason for mass desertion of 'Neptune' by the seamen had been “bad usage and short allowance”. The captain had also broken his promise to the seamen that the women convicts were to be distributed among them. This is supported by the fact that no children were discovered in later records to have been born to the 'Neptune' women within the appropriate time. Trail was not penalised at this instance, and was noted later as being in Africa and defrauding the Government provisions supply system.

For Ann Hannaway and her fellow women exiles, arrival at the colony probably meant more freedom and, although landed into a ‘starving colony’, better food than they had in England:

“The immediate benefit to the women on landing was that they were rid of their irons forever. … From then on they were exiles from their native land but with very little restraint on their liberty.” [7]

Port Jackson

Having arrived per 'Neptune' at Port Jackson on 28 June 1790 Ann would disembark at Sydney Cove, and probably complete her journey to Parramatta in boats rowed by convict constables. This was a distance of fifteen miles taking eight to ten hours; and then a short walk along the river to the nine huts on Quakers Row used at the time for a Female Factory.

The first few years of the colony had relatively small numbers of convict women arriving in Sydney. By being assigned as servants, wives and housekeepers to the male population their numbers could be easily be absorbed into the population. By May 1792 the women’s work was organised. They had a more comfortable life than the male exiles. If not selected as wives by a settler, an officer or soldier, then they become hutkeepers. Otherwise they had a daily quota of garments to sew for the colony. However, for a very slight offense they would be kept constantly at the same work as the men.

Within five weeks of her arrival in the colony Ann Hannaway and her infant son were transferred to Norfolk Island on 'Surprize', arriving there on 7 August 1790. By February 1791 there was a population of approximately 630 people at Norfolk Island.

First settlement of Norfolk Island – between 1791 and 1796

Ann Hannaway and her infant son James were in the group of twenty four of the 'Neptune' women arriving at Norfolk Island per 'Surprize' on 7 August 1790. Ann probably lived on the regulation communal two acres shared and worked by three men and three women and their children, and stocked from the government stores with three pigs and corn seed. When Robert Nash arrived in the following year Ann may have chosen him out of the new arrivals to suggest to him the value of marriage and the General Order of 8 January 1791.

Reverend Richard Johnson arrived 2 November 1791 on Norfolk Island with Lieutenant-governor King and his family and others aboard the 'Atlantic' on its way to Bengal for provisions. Reverend Johnson married about 100 couples in the three weeks he was on the island, before returning to Port Jackson on 'Queen' leaving Norfolk Island 22 November 1791. Robert and Ann must have had a whirlwind ‘courtship’ to avail themselves of Reverend Johnson’s marriage services, and to benefit of Major Ross’s General Order.

First settlement of Norfolk Island – between 1800 and 1808

On 23 March 23 1796 Robert NASH received his conditional pardon. He was producing wheat, maize, corn and pork in good quantities on Norfolk Island. By 1798 he was appointed master of carpenters and two years later in December 1800 he was granted an absolute pardon and may have had extra land granted to him. Ann Hannaway is listed from this administrative era as a free woman from expired sentence, and, as Robert was in government employment, the family is entitled to the government stores. Robert and Ann built a second house which in 1801 they rented to Reverend Henry Fulton and his family. William Maum, schoolteacher, was another of the 'Minerva' rebels to arrive to Norfolk Island on Buffalo.

Robert and Ann’s family was growing: three daughters were born by 1802, and another daughter, Susan Nash was born in 1805. Two other children did not survive. In October 1801 the Nash’s also leased 17 perches with a house upon to William Broughton at Sydney NI for £100. In 1802 he is listed as overseer, probably still overseeing the carpenters. At some time Robert bought Lot 91 of 10 acres from Thomas Dixon located on the headland between Collins Head and Balls Bay, and on 30 March 1802 he had the lease of 60 acres at Balls Bay. On 16 December 1804 Robert Nash paid £30 for the land grant of 22 acres belonging to Thomas McQueen located at East Point. Robert was assistant at the store in 1805 and on 21 December Robert Nash bought Lot 32, a ten acre lease for £30 from Noah Mortimer, located to the north of Kingston, above Quality Row. Robert is known to have had a plough and millstones at the time of evacuation. He would be grain growing and milling on some of these parcels of land and was known to be a good supplier to the public store. By August 1806 Robert was agent of the stores. After Robert Nash and Ann Hannaway were evacuated in 1808, James Mitchell was acting as his agent regarding claims for goods and real estate left on Norfolk Island.

Van Diemens Land

Departing 3 September 1808 from Norfolk Island on the 'City of Edinburgh', the Nash family arrived in Hobart Town on 2 October 1808. It was a long rough journey after the encouraging remarks of William Maum’s experience. The family included Robert Nash and Ann Hannaway; and four daughters, Elizabeth, Maria, Sarah, and Susan; and a servant - not named. James Hannaway, Ann’s son now about the age of 18 years who had farmed his 14 acres on Norfolk Island, also sailed to the Derwent on 'City of Edinburgh'.

Reg Wright in 'The forgotten generation of Norfolk Island and Van Diemens Land' argues that the Norfolk Islanders created a permanent change to the colony that was of great benefit. They were predominantly free and had been their own masters for years, settled on thriving farms of their own making. Wright documents a letter from David Collins to Viscount Castlereagh which gives an insight to the proactivity from the first of the Norfolk Island settlers to arrive at the Derwent. Some took stock equal in value to their evacuated dwellings, others requested nails and tools to build their homes. Wright also records John Pascoe Fawkner’s observations of their arrival at the Derwent. They brought skills of opening new country; of felling, splitting and sawing timber, of clearing land and building strong huts and farm buildings; they knew how to cultivate grains and to gather the harvest. They also brought good vegetable seeds. And not least, the Norfolk Islanders brought a younger healthy generation, young women and young men, imbued with all the skills of pioneering life.

Ann Hannaway lived over 20 years in Van Diemens Land, working with her husband and raising the next generation. She died at Pittwater on the 16 December 1831 at the age of 71 years, having lived a long and fruitful life in partnership with an able entrepreneur after their unpromising beginnings.


  1. Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 02 January 2019), May 1784, trial of SARAH SCOTT ANN HANNAWAY (t17840526-76). https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?id=t17840526-76-defend688&div=t17840526-76#highlight
  2. Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 02 January 2019), May 1784 (s17840526-1). https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?id=s17840526-1-person1344&div=s17840526-1#highlight
  3. Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 02 January 2019), September 1784, trial of WILLIAM STEVENSON (t17840915-66). https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?id=t17840915-66-defend771&div=t17840915-66#highlight
  4. Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 02 January 2019), January 1789, trial of ANN HANNAWAY JOHN HAPPY RICHARD COLE (t17890114-61). https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?id=t17890114-61-defend595&div=t17890114-61#highlight
  5. Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 02 January 2019), January 1789, trial of ANN HANNAWAY (t17890114-62). https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?id=t17890114-62-defend615&div=t17890114-62#highlight
  6. Some Early Records of the Macarthurs of Camden. http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks13/1302011h.html
  7. Anne Needham, The women of the 1790 Neptune, Anne Needham: Dural, NSW, 1992, p. 128

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