|Margaret FITZGERALD (1818 - 1901)
Born: 1818 - Lambeth, England
Died: 9 Jan 1901 - Fingal, Tasmania, Australia
Husband: John BERWICK (1803 - 1883)
Married: 1 Apr 1839 - Launceston, Tasmania, Australia
Trial: Surrey, 23 March 1835
Departure: London, 13 June 1835
Arrival: 20 October 1835
By the age of 21 Margaret’s prospects looked very bleak. She was living by her wits on the streets of Lambeth in Surrey, homeless and destitute, destined for a life of poverty.
Margaret along with her friend Mary Ellis were arrested for stealing rhino from a drunken sailor named Robert Bell. Bell had recently returned from a long sea voyage and on leaving his vessel met the women in the New Cut, Lambeth and asked them to join him. They visited several public houses during the evening and he treated the girls to several drinks. The women accompanied Bell in a cab to Orchard Street, Westminster. When Bell attempted to step out of the vehicle he fell down drunk dropping his pouch containing 10 sovereigns and it was at that moment the women made away with the coins and ran in the direction of Union Court.
It was alleged Margaret had secreted away the sovereigns in her mouth and when the officer seized her by the throat she attempted to swallow the coins. By all reports the officer only recovered six of the missing sovereigns. Margaret confessed she had only been released from Brixton Gaol that morning and denied the charges brought against her. Mary Ellis was released without charge. (1)
The Brixton Prison also known as the Surrey House of Correction was built in 1819 to accommodate 175 prisoners, consisting of 149 single cells and 12 double cells. The prison soon reached capacity and by 1836 was severely overcrowded. Eventually the facility was expanded to accommodate 800 prisoners. Female prisoners were kept in solitary confinement for long periods of time, sometimes upward of four months in cells 8’ x 7½’ x 6’ with little or no ventilation. On admission prisoners were required to have a bath and the male prisoners were to have their hair cut short. Before moving to a cell block the prisoners were examined by the prison's surgeon William Gardner. All prisoners had their clothing fumigated and returned to them to wear. If their clothing was worn out they were issued with prison dress (slop clothing) to wear. Their old clothing would be returned to them to wear for court appearances. Prisoners were put to work doing repetitive manual labour including picking oakum, which involved pulling old rope apart.
The prison had its own infirmary and the surgeon visited the prison daily. The surgeon examined inmates prior to their release to ensure the prisoners were well enough to be released. The surgeon was required to report on the health of the prisoners and the state of the prison to the Surrey magistrates at each Quarter Session.
Prisoner’s diet usually consisted of soup, meat and cocoa. Some reports suggest that people in the workhouse actually committed minor offences in order to be sent to Brixton prison.
The Surrey magistrates decided to close the prison and the facility was offered for sale in 1852. The site occupied about five acres of prime land and fronted Bleak-hall Lane. (2)
When transportation of prisoners ceased to Van Diemen’s Land it became necessary for the prison to be transformed into a female correctional facility. During the latter part of the 19th century the facility was used as a military prison. Eventually turned into a male prison and named Her Majesty’s Prison Brixton and operated by Her Majesty’s Prison Service. The site has a long career as a place of incarceration and is touted as London’s oldest prison.
Margaret who was described as 21 years of age, was brought before the Surrey County Quarter Sessions and found guilty of larceny from a person. She was sentenced to six months imprisonment. (3)
In March the following year Margaret was again before the Surrey court accused of robbing George Copleston. Copleston worked at the Half-way public house as a waiter and had known Margaret since childhood. The police intelligence report dubbed Margaret Fitzgerald "the sovereign eater, one of the most notorious prostitutes on the Surrey side of the metropolis." (4)
The sovereign Eater. - Margaret Fitzgerald, one of the most notorious prostitutes on the Surrey side of the metropolis, was placed at the bar before Messrs. White and Burrell, charged with robbing George Copleston, a waiter at the Half-way public-house, Lambeth, of a sovereign, under the following circumstances:-
It appeared from the evidence of police constable Cockerel, of the L division, No.108, that the prisoner has long been celebrated for her exploits in the neighbourhood of Lambeth, and has generally contrived to evade justice by swallowing the cash of which she had duped her victims.
It was stated by one of the officers of this establishment that on one occasion when he had her in custody ten sovereigns had been deposited in her mouth, seven of which he had compelled her to disgorge, but the remaining three had not been heard of afterwards, although no doubt could exist but that she had swallowed them.
The prosecutor stated that he met the prisoner at the Victoria Theatre, and they adjourned to the Victoria Tavern to take some refreshment; after remaining there some time he produced a sovereign to pay the reckoning, when the prisoner without any hesitation seized the money, and to his great surprise swallowed it.
Benjamin Bradfield, of Vauxhall street, corroborated this testimony. She was searched at the station-house, but only a few halfpence fund upon her.
Margaret Fitzgerald, in reply, said that she had only just come out of prison the day previously, after a six month’s confinement. She had known the complainant from a child, and they had drank about a dozen glasses of rum and water on the night in question. She positively denied the act of swallowing the sovereign.
Under the circumstances the prisoner was remanded.
At the spring Quarter Session Margaret was brought before magistrates White and Burrell. After Copleston and a witness gave their testimony a verdict of guilty was passed.
This wasn't Margaret's first offence and may have contributed to her being sentenced to seven years transportation. (5)
Margaret was removed back to gaol to wait for the next prisoner transport ship. Two months later Margaret along with several other female prisoners awaiting transportation were placed in an open top dray and driven to Woolwich where they were loaded aboard the Hector.
The Hector barque was built at Newcastle in 1819 and weighed 325 ton. Her master was G. M. Smith and the superintendent appointed for the voyage was Morgan Price a Royal Naval surgeon. (6)
Taken on board at Woolwich were upwards of two hundred passengers including a number of free women and children. A number of the passengers had made the journey from Scotland to London by sea on a small sloop. The surgeon, Price inspected the prisoners when they embarked and expressed his concerns for the health of one prisoner, Jane Campbell, a 52 year old Scottish women, who he had deduced was a habitual drunkard. He wrote in his journal “that I was of opinion that she could not survive the voyage.” Although he reported her state of health to the authorities he failed to secure her removal from the vessel prior to sailing. (7)
Arrived from the River and sailed, the Hector, Smith for Hobart Town. (8)
Morgan treated ten prisoners during the voyage and recorded their name, age, symptoms and treatment. Despite any pre-existing health issues when the ship sailed into Hobart Town, Van Diemen's Land on the 20 October all the passengers along with 134 female prisoners were declared healthy.
The Hobart Town Courier announced the arrival of the Hector and named several of the passengers on board.
Trade and Shipping
The bark Hector, Capt. Smith, arrived on Tuesday, from Woolwich, 13th June, with
134 female prisoners, under the superintendence of Morgan Price, Esq., R.N.-
Passengers, Assistant Surgeon Smith, of the 21st regiment, Mrs Grishand and 6 children, Mrs McDonald and 6 children, Mrs Spark and child, Mrs Poole and child, Mrs Crouch. (9)
Upon arrival to assist with identifying prisoners a detailed description of each prisoner’s physical characteristics were recorded. This information would assist with the identification of prisoners who were apprehended absenting themselves from their masters or who may have escaped from a work party into the bush. Details included full name along with any known alias, trade, age, complexion, facial features, hair and eye colour along with any identifying marks, tattoos or deformities. Sometimes the native place was recorded. Upon arrival at the Derwent, Margaret was described as a 21 year old housemaid from Lambeth, with a large round face with a fresh complexion, black hair and eyebrows, hazel eyes, with a long nose and large chin, of above average height 5’3¾” tall with a stout build. On her right arm were the initials T. F. R. H and on her left arm L. H. (10)
The women disembarked at the Old Wharf and were marched to the Cascade Female Factory for processing. Most of the women were already assigned to work for a settler. (11)
Margaret's first impressions of Van Diemen's Land must have been one of uncertainty and bewilderment as she walked along the road towards cascades with Mount Wellington as the backdrop and the towering eucalypts reaching out to touch the clouds. A stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of her home town of Lambeth which flanked the growing metropolis of London.
Margaret’s long confinement on the journey to the colony didn’t transform her behaviour. Shortly after being assigned to Halls she left his service. Halls reported her absence and when she returned she was arrested and sentenced to two months hard labour and spent the next two months in the Female Factory at the wash tub.
A female factory was constructed on the site formerly occupied by Thomas Yardley Lowe's distillery in cascades (South Hobart). The factory was built to replace the dilapidated building used to accommodate female prisoners attached to the Hobart Gaol. The site was named the Cascades Female Factory and the first female prisoners were received in December 1828 where they were divided into three classes. The facility was used as a hiring depot for female servants, these prisoners were rated as first class and were usually well behaved prisoners who had recently arrived from England. The second class was reserved for female prisoners who committed minor offences. Well behaved prisoners were required to cook and assist in the hospital, while the second class women made clothing and repaired linen.
Female prisoners who were convicted of serious crimes in the Supreme Court or had been transported for a second time were sentenced to hard labour known as the crime class. The more troublesome repeat offenders were required to do laundry, card or spin wool. The women worked between ten and twelve hours a day and were kept segregated from women in the other classes.
Children who made the voyage with their mother were placed in the nursery. This allowed the women to be assigned to domestic service without the added burden of the children.
The women received a daily food ration which consisted of ½ lb. of meat, a small loaf of bread, a small quantity of sugar and salt. ½ lb. of vegetables usually potatoes and cabbage, along with a small piece of soap. (12)
A conduct record was kept for each prisoner and during the assignment period the following details were recorded.
125. Fitzgerald Margaret
Ship and date of arrival: Hector 20 Oct 1835
When tried and when: Surrey Q.S. 23 March 1835
Transported for stealing from the person.Gaol report
Bad convicted before many times in Prison. Single
stated this offence, Stealing from the person of George
Copplestone, once for a Sovereign 6 months, 3 or 4 times
imprisoned for Vagrancy, 12 months on the Town, Single, Surgeon...
- December 8th 1835 Halls. Absent without leave on Friday night last. 2 months hard labour at the Wash Tub in the House of Correction and returned to Government.
- February 23 1836 Bullen. Absent from her service without leave, Cell on Bread & Water 6 days. March 21 1836 Bullen. Coming to Mr Fletcher’s house enticing his servant away. Remanded to the Factory and to be assigned in the Cornwall District.
- June 13 1836 Scott. Absent without leave, Crime Class 3 months.
- November 2 1836 Brumby. Absent without leave, Crime class 3 months.
- June 15 1837 Brumby. Drunk 2 months hard labour at the Female House of Correction 7 days of which time to be confined in a Cell on Bread & Water returned to Government.
- Sept 22 1837 Pettingell. Out after hours reprimanded.
- Sept 29 1837 Capon. Absent without leave and bringing strangers into her masters house 10 days solitary confinement on Bread & Water.
- Nov 21 1837 Hardwick. Disobeying of orders in refusing to work 2 months Crime Class Launceston.
- Jan 31 1838 Baker. Absent without leave 3 months hard labour Female House of Correction Launceston.
- August 1 1839 Berwick. Drunkenness & disorderly conduct. Reported at the request of her husband.
- March 18 1840 Berwick. Drunk & disorderly conduct – 3 months Crime Class Female House of Correction. (13)
Settlers who had government assigned servants were required to ensure they weren’t out after hours without proper authority otherwise they would be excluded from receiving servants in the future. (14)
Government Public Notices
INHABITANTS and Settlers who have now
Or at any Time received assigned Female
Servants, are desired on no account to offer
them to quit their service without immediate
notice to the Police, or District Constable;
And it is to be clearly understood, that should
Any assigned Female Servant be allowed to
Absent herself from her place without due
Notice and report as required by regulation,
the employer will be excluded from the indulgence
of receiving Government Servants in future. (14)
Following her stint at the wash tub Margaret was assigned to Mr Bullen. Shortly after being released on the 23 February Margaret was again absent from her master’s service. This time her punishment was to be confined to a cell in the female factory for six days and only receive bread and water. Margaret was returned to her master only to reoffend two weeks later on 21 March. Charged with trying to encourage Mr Fletcher’s servant to go away with her, Margaret was immediately returned to Cascades to await her fate. The magistrates decided her next assignment would be in the Cornwall District (Launceston). By June Margaret was working for a Mr Scott and was charged with being absent without leave. Margaret's punishment was three months in the crime class at the female factory. The list of offences continues for several years and consisted of being absent without leave, one offence of bringing strangers to her master’s residence and another for disobeying orders by refusing to work.
The Female Factory
A female factory was constructed on the site formerly occupied by Thomas Yardley Lowe's distillery in Cascades (South Hobart). The factory was built to replace the dilapidated building used to accommodate female prisoners attached to the Hobart Gaol. The site was named the Cascades female Factory and the first female prisoners were received in December 1828 where they were divided into three classes.
The facility was used as a hiring depot for female servants, these prisoners were rated as first class and were usually well behaved prisoners who had recently arrived from England. The second class was reserved for female prisoners who committed minor offences. Well behaved prisoners were required to cook and assist in the hospital, while the second class women made clothing and repaired linen.
Female prisoners who were convicted of serious crimes in the Supreme Court or had been transported for a second time were sentenced to hard labour known as the crime class. The more troublesome repeat offenders were sentenced to the washtub to wash all the laundry. The Orphan School and Hobart Gaol provided an endless supply of laundry. The women worked between ten and twelve hours a day and were kept segregated from women in the other classes.
Children who made the voyage with their mother were placed in the nursery. This allowed the women to be assigned to domestic service without the added burden of the children.
The women received a daily food ration which consisted of ½ lb. of meat, a small loaf of bread, a small quantity of sugar and salt. ½ lb. of vegetables usually potatoes and cabbage, along with a small piece of soap.
During the convict period five factories operated across Van Diemen's Land at Cascades, Hobart, George Town, Launceston and Ross.
By January 1839 Margaret had formed a relationship with former convict John Berwick. Due to the fact Margaret was still carrying out her sentence she could not marry without permission from the convict department. A request to marry was sent to the muster master on the 17 January 1839. Nearly a year had passed since Margaret’s last transgression and due to her good behaviour she was granted permission to marry. (15)
The couple were married by Reverend Browne on 1st April 1839 at St John’s Church in Launceston before Robert Rule and William Jones. John Berwick a 36 year old free labourer signed the register with his mark. Margaret Fitzgerald still aged 21, a convict signed her mark. (16)
John was working as a farm labourer at St Patrick Head at the eastern end of the Fingal Valley when their first child was born on the 15 August 1841. (17) The following year on the 23rd March 1842 Margaret had completed her seven year sentence and had settled into married life. Motherhood must have agreed with Margaret by the 1846 muster she was holding a ‘free certificate’ and had several children at her feet. (18)
Margaret Fitzgerald a loved daughter, wife and mother.
Berwick - In fond and loving memory
of my dear mother, Margaret Berwick,
who departed this life at Scamander on
9th December 1901.
Rest, dearest mother, thy toil is o'er,
Thy loving hands shall toil no more;
No more thy gentle eyes shall weep
rest, darling mother, gently sleep.
Thou art not forgotten, dearest mother,
nor will thou ever be.
As long as life and memory last
I will remember thee.
Inserted by her loving daughter
Mrs Thomas Treloggen, St Helens.
||Police Intelligence, Morning Post, London, England, Thursday, 6 March 1834, p4, British Newspaper Archive, retrieved 13 May 2016. http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000174/18340306/032/0004
||Class: HO 27; Piece: 48; Page: 269. Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Criminal Registers, 1791-1892 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009. Original data: Home Office: Criminal Registers, Middlesex and Home Office: Criminal Registers, England and Wales; Records created or inherited by the Home Office, Ministry of Home Security, and related bodies, Series HO 26 and HO 27; The National Archives of the UK (TNA), Kew, Surrey, England, Margaret Fitzgerald, image 36 retrieved 13 May 2016.
||1835 Police Intelligence, Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser, London, England, 12 March 1835, p4, c3, British Newspaper Archive, retrieved 13 May 2016. 2016. http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0001257/18350312/018/0004
||Class: HO 27; Piece: 50; Page: 284, Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Criminal Registers, 1791-1892 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009. This collection was indexed by Ancestry World Archives Project contributors. Original data: Home Office: Criminal Registers, Middlesex and Home Office: Criminal Registers, England and Wales; Records created or inherited by the Home Office, Ministry of Home Security, and related bodies, Series HO 26 and HO 27; The National Archives of the UK (TNA), Kew, Surrey, England, retrieved May 2016.
||Hector, The Convict Ships, Charles Bateson, ISBN 0 908120 51 6, p.362
||Morgan Price, Surgeon’s Journal for Hector, 19 May to 24 Oct 1835, Ancestry.com. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857
||Hector, Ship News, Morning Post, London England, Thurs 18 June 1835, p4 c3. http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000174/18350618/028/0004.
Retrieved 13 May 2016
||Trade and Shipping, The Hobart Town Courier, Fri 23 Oct 1835, p3, c1. http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/4178969. Retrieved 3 June 2016
||TAHO, CON19/1/13, p155, Description list, Margaret Fitzgerald.
||Female Prisoners, The True Colonist Van Diemen’s Land Political Despatch and Agricultural Commercial, Fri 23 Oct 1835, p2, c4. http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/200329163 "Our Little Particular." The True Colonist Van Diemen's Land Political Despatch, and Agricultural and Commercial... (Hobart Town, Tas.1834 - 1844) 23 October 1835: 2. Web. 6 Jun 2016
||Cascades Female Factory https://femalefactory.org.au/history/
||TAHO, Conduct Record, Margaret Fitzgerald, Hector 13 Jun 1835, CON40/1/3, No.125.
||The Hobart Town Gazette and Southern Reporter, Sat 1 Jul 1820, p1. Web 1 June 2016. http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/658025
||TAHO, Permission to Marry John Berwick & Margaret Fitzgerald, 5 Feb 1839, CON 52/1/1 p19.
||TAHO, Marriage John Berwick & Margaret Fitzgerald, St John, Launceston, 1 April 1839, RGD 37/1/1 no.277.
||TAHO, Birth Certificate Charles Berwick, 15 Aug 1841, Avoca, RGD33/1/26 no.1140.
||Ledger Returns, 1846, Margaret Fitzgerald, p375. Class: HO 10; Piece: 39. Ancestry.com. New South Wales and Tasmania, Australia Convict Musters, 1806-1849 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007. Original data: Home Office: Settlers and Convicts, New South Wales and Tasmania; (The National Archives Microfilm Publication HO10, Pieces 5, 19-20, 32-51); The National Archives of the UK (TNA), Kew, Surrey, England, retrieved May 2016.
||Examiner (Launceston, Tas.1900-1954) In Memoriam, Margaret Berwick, Fri 9 Dec 1904, p1.