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Scenic Saturday – Cascades Female Factory, Hobart

Cascade Female Factory – Mt Wellington in the background

On 21 April 1853 Margaret Stewart (1836-1889), my paternal 2 x great grandmother, arrived in Hobart on the convict ship the Duchess of Northumberland. Margaret was one of 216 female convicts on the ship. They were the last group of female convicts sent to Van Dieman’s Land (Tasmania).[1]

Margaret, from Paisley in Scotland, had been sentenced to seven years transportation for stealing ‘a gown and petticoat’. Prior to that conviction Margaret had already been in prison four times for theft. [2] You have to wonder what were her first impressions of the Female Factory. G. C. Munday’s description, written in 1855, is a grim one.

The Cascades factory is seated at the foot of Mount Wellington, wedged in a gully between high hills—a bad situation, except as regards the supply of water, which is plentiful. The buildings are enclosed within a high wall, with barred gates and vigilant turnkeys ; it is, in short, a gaol in every respect according to the respective deserts of the inmates.

Godfrey Charles Mundy, 1855 [3]

My 2 x great grandmother would have been classified as a first class prisoner on arrival because of her good record on the voyage. This classification entitled her to work as an assigned servant outside the factory. The classification had three levels – first class, second class and crime class. Placement was determined by behaviour. [4]

“Females guilty of disobedience of orders, neglect of work, profane, obscene, or abusive language, insubordination, or other turbulent or disorderly or disrespectful conduct, shall be punished by the superintendent with close confinement in a dark or other cell, until her case shall be brought under consideration of the Principal Superintendent.”

Rules & Regulations 1829 [5]

Margaret’s time as a first class prisoner was short lived. Just over a month after her arrival she absconded from her Master, a Mr Tongue of Liverpool Street. [6] She would have automatically been reclassified into the crime class at hard labour on reduced rations.

Margaret’s records, now easily read on the Digital Panopticon demonstrate that absconding from Mr Tongue was the beginning of a pattern of minor offences and absconding.Her records paint a picture of a feisty woman!

Some incidents were serious and punishment was severe. On 28 November 1853 Margaret was sentenced to ‘3 days bread & water and to be allowed 1 blanket only for 7 days” because she broke the factory’s regulations by “having a blanket improperly on her person“.[7]

Other incidents were minor but were still recorded. On 25 February 1854 Margaret committed a “breach of the regulations in scrubbing the floor of her apartment before the regulation hour”, something for which she received an admonishment.[8]


In the 1857 Van Dieman’s Land census Margaret is recorded as having her Ticket of Leave and living with my 2 x great grandfather Henry Jacob Woolley at Cradoc.The census includes a child, highly likely to be their eldest child Robert.[9]

Later the same year the family moved to the mainland shortly after Margaret received her Conditional Pardon (June 1857).[10] The eldest daughter Melinda Margaret Woolley (1857-1937) was born in Newcastle in December 1857.

It his highly likely the family moved because Henry Jacob Woolley was married to Mary Borehill.[11]



[1] ‘Convict Ships’ ,, Accessed 4 October 2019

[2] The Digital Panopticon Margaret Stewart, VDL Founders and Survivors Convicts, 28th April 1852, Record ID fas366 ( Version 1.1, consulted 5th October 2019.

[3] Female Convicts Research Centre Inc.,’Cascades Female Factory’,, Accessed 4 October 2019.

[4] Cascades Female Factory, ‘Life In The Cascades Female Factory’,, Accessed 4 October 2019.

[5] Cascades Female Factory, ‘Life In The Cascades Female Factoty’

[6] [7] [8] The Digital Panopticon Margaret Stewart, VDL Founders and Survivors Convicts, 28th April 1852, Record ID fas366

[9] Margaret Stewart, Residence, 1857 Census, CEN1/1/114-43, Libraries Tasmania, Accessed 5 October 2019

[10]Margaret Stewart, Pardon, Libraries Tasmania, Hobart MOW 17 6, Conduct Registers of Female Convicts arriving in the Period of the Probation System, CON41-1-37

[11] Ancestry, Marriage record for Henry (Jacob) Woolley, Australia Marriage Index, 1788-1950, Accessed 5 October 2019

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