A lady from Wales
by Grahame Thom
As published in the Journal of the 1788-1820 Pioneer Association, the 1788-1820 Gazette, No 69, Dec 1981, pp 2-5. Please click on link below for more about John and Margaret Manning.
In 1979 Deirdre Beddoe of Wales published her research on Welsh women who had been sent to Australia as convicts. Her book, Welsh Convict Women , studies the background of 283 Welsh women transported to New South Wales and Tasmania between 1787 and 1852.(1)
One of the 283 was my ancestor Margaret Llewellyn. Margaret was baptised on 21 November 1773 at Llansamlet, near Swansea, Wales; her parents being James Llewellyn and Mary William.(2) Nothing is known of Margaret’s early life but it is likely that the Llewellyn family was one of the lower class struggling to make ends meet . Margaret had at least two sisters, Jane and Elizabeth.(2)
On 14 May 1795 Margaret married Thomas Beynon of North Cornley in the parish of Pyle, at Llansamlet.(2) Thomas and Margaret had a son William baptised on 20 September 1795 at Pyle.(3) What was North Cornley like in the 1790’s? The parish is about 16 kilometres south-east of Swansea and its inhabitants probably worked at subsistence level with produce of wheat and barley being sold in Swansea and other large towns in the area. The Beynons were probably involved in, or part of the supporting industries to agricultural production. But in 1797, when aged 23, Margaret was a partner in a deed that resulted in her taking up residence in Sydney.
On 3 January 1797 Margaret, together with an accomplice Ann David, aged 19, burgled a shop in North Cornley.(4) One could imagine plans for carrying out this deed being formulated during the spirit of the New Year’s revelries. It would seem that this act was deliberate as the charge was the serious one of burglary which, if convicted, carried the death sentence. It is interesting to hypothesise as to the reasons why these two young girls carried out the deed. Were their families desperate for goods and/or money? Was this their first offence or the first to be caught? What did they plan to do with the goods? Possibly they intended to sell to friends and others so as to gain much needed income.
Ann David confessed that she took the goods from the shop and Margaret admitted she received the goods out of the hands of Ann at the shop door. Margaret said the burglary took place between 10 and 11 pm. From the following list of goods stolen it would seem that the shop owner, Cecily Williams, sold assorted goods and the establishment was probably the local general store.
50 yards of ribband Value 10s 0p
2 ozs. of black silk 4s 6p
6 dozen buttons 4s 6p
2 dozen stay laces 1s 6p
1 oz. of thread 2p
1 piece of tape 5p
4 muslin handkerchieves 8s 0p
1 yard of calicano ( sic ) 10p
1 yard of cotton 2s 0p
9 inches of striped cotton 6p
2 yards of muslin 1s 0p
3 lbs of pigtail tobacco 9s 0p
16 pairs of black tin buckles 8s 0p
1 oz. snuff 3p
20 pieces of copper coin ( called halfpence) 10p
3 lbs of butter 1s 10.5p
2 combs 3p
The following is a quote from Deirdre Beddoe’s book (page 63) :-
A number of witnesses made statements before the justices regarding this case. One woman witness said that she had noticed something amiss on her way to work: the shop door was wide open. Cecily’s sister, Margaret, a spinster, also made a statement. She had been alerted to the open shop by the first witness and when she came down stairs she perceived, ‘about seven paines of glass had been broken in the window and that the door which adjoins to the window frame, on the lane side, had been unbolted on the inside apparently by a hand through the broken window’. She quickly noticed the theft.
The goods were subsequently found by the local constable, John Hopkin, in the house of Thomas Beynon, Margaret ‘ s husband. Margaret and Ann both confessed.(1)
The two women would have been sent to either Cardiff or Swansea to await judgement. The court handed down the death sentence on both on 1 April 1797. The conduct of both of them in gaol was described as orderly, so this and perhaps the knowledge that there was a shortage of young women in Australia could have caused the sentence to be commuted to transportation for life to the Eastern Coast of New South Wales. (5)
Four years were to pass before Margaret and Ann came on board the Nile at Spithead, England. They set sail for Sydney on 21 June 1801, arriving on 14 December 1801 after an uneventful voyage.(6) It is likely that Margaret did not see her husband or son again, although it is possible she visited Wales around 1820 as the muster of that year states she had left the colony.(7) Of all the records consulted there is no evidence that either Thomas or William came to Australia. A limited search of parish registers in Wales revealed one entry of interest; a Thomas Beynon aged 60 years was buried in Pyle on 5 May 1824.(8)
From just about the time of her arrival Margaret lived with John Manning at No. 14 The Sign of the Compass, South Row (O’Connell Street), Sydney.(9) John, a Londoner, had been convicted of stealing and sentenced to transportation for seven years. He arrived on the Royal Admiral in 1800 and over the next 50 years was described as a carpenter, undertaker and builder.
Events moved quickly after Margaret arrived, as the first of their five children, Mary, was born on 18 October 1802.(10) The Manning family lived a quiet but productive life in O’Connell Street,(11) and Margaret died there on 1 December 1849. There is no evidence that John and Margaret married, even though in several musters and the 1828 NSW Census Margaret is described as the wife of John Manning. Rev Samuel Marsden’s 1806 Female Muster describes Margaret as a concubine.(12) But she was described on her burial certificate as the Wife of a Gentleman.(13)
One wonders at what Margaret must have thought about her transportation and the early years of Sydney, especially when it is realised that life was so different to that in Wales. Perhaps it was a better life. Deirdre Beddoe’s book makes interesting reading as she explores the background of, and some of the influences on the lives of Welsh women convicts.
1 Beddoe, Deirdre – Welsh Convict Women – Stewart Williams Publishers, Barry, Wales, 1979.
2 Llansamlet Parish Register, Glamorgan Record Office
3 Pyle and Kenfig Parish Register, Glamorgan Record Office
4 Great Sessions, County of Glamorgan, National Library of Wales, 4:629/7
5 National Library of Wales, 4: 630/1
6 Bateson, Charles – The Convict Ships
7 HO 10/14, AJCP Reel 64
8 Newton Parish Register, Glamorgan Record Office
9 Card Index – Petitions, Mitchell Library, Sydney
10 Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages, NSW, entry No. 1548, Vol 1
11 Thom, Grahame – John and Margaret Manning, The Ancestral Searcher, Dec 1979
12 Baxter, Carol J. – “Musters of New South wales and Norfolk Island 1805-1806”, page 151
13 Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages, NSW, entry No. 612, Vol 34B
Please click on the link below to see Margaret’s will.
The story of John and Margaret Manning