Ann Powell and Martha Shaw were friends, best friends in fact.  They had found each other on the streets of London where they loved to roam and play.  Playing helped them to forget about their struggles and pain.  One of their favourite games was ‘Nick the Hat’. It was their game of grabbing the hat from kids and then running away with it. They would then toss the hat away in a passage or alley then keep on running and playing, not giving it another thought. This game would change their lives forever in 1823 and see them parted for good.

Both Ann and Martha were born in London in 1808. Ann was a thin slender 5 feet (152cm) girl with light brown hair and blue eyes, while Martha was 4 feet, 8.25 inches (143cm) and described as lusty and wore a black bonnet.

Both girls wore black bonnets in fact, Ann’s bonnet was described as ‘very much torn, with blue or red ribbons on it’. Both girls were tried at the Old Bailey on 25 June 1823 accused of pocketpicking (stealing, on the 22 May 1823, a hat, value 10s., the goods of George Davis, from the person of Elizabeth Davis).  They were both found guilty and sentenced to transportation for 14 years.

Proceedings of the Old Bailey

MARTHA SHAW, ANN POWELL, Theft > pocketpicking, 25th June 1823.
Before Mr. Justice Burrough.
895. MARTHA SHAW and ANN POWELL were indicted for stealing, on the 22d of May, a hat, value 10 s., the goods of George Davis, from the person of Elizabeth Davis.

ELIZABETH DAVIS. I am seven years old, (the witness being questioned, appeared perfectly to understand the nature of an oath) and live with my parents, in Tarling-street. One day in May, between eleven and twelve o’clock, in the morning, I had leave to go to Stepney-fair with my brother and sister, who are five and six years old – these two girls followed me and asked me to go into a swing; I said I had no money, they said they would treat me. I would not go, they followed me round the fair. I was coming home – but walked about thinking to miss them, but they followed me, and at last, Shaw took hold of the top of my hat, took it off, and both ran away with it together. Shaw said a wicked word to Powell, and told her to run – they had bonnets on. I saw their faces, and am sure of them. I saw Shaw at the watch-house two or three hours after, and am sure of her. I should have known her if I had met her. It was an old seal skin hat.
MARY ANN DAVIS. I am this child’s mother – she went to the fair the day after it was over, and about twelve o’clock, two boys brought her home without her hat – she described the girls to me and the officer, and said one was lusty, and had a black bonnet, and the other had a black bonnet, very much torn, with blue or red ribbons; I do not know which. The officers took her to the watch-house, where Shaw was, about three o’clock that day – she said directly, that that was the girl who took her hat, and that the other was a thin girl. Powell was taken on the Monday following – she knew them both the moment she saw them.

ROBERT CHRISTIAN. I am an officer, and found Shaw at the watch-house, the girl described her correctly before she saw her, and from her description we took Powell. I asked Shaw how she could rob a child like that – she said she did it, and gave the hat to Powell.

JAMES LEE. I am an officer. I took Powell in Cow-cross, and asked if she knew Shaw, she said “I know what you want me for, it is about the hat; I did not take it, but Shaw did, and threw it down in a passage,” that Shaw asked her to take it off the child’s head, but she would have nothing to do with it. I afterwards found the hat on Saffron-hill.
(Property produced and sworn to.)

ELIZA FISHER. I bought this hat of a girl in the week of the fair, but cannot say who she was.
SHAW – GUILTY. Aged 15.
Transported for Fourteen Years.

Records show that it was Martha who grabbed the hat but on the word of a seven-year-old girl (Elizabeth Davis) both Ann and Martha were found guilty of stealing and were sentenced to 14 years transportation to New South Wales.

On 27 June 1823 Ann and Martha were sent to Newgate Goal in Middlesex to await their transportation.

They departed Woolwich 20 November 1823 to anchor at The Downs on the English Channel until they departed from The Downs on 6 December 1823 on the convict vessel ‘Brothers (1)’ bound for Van Diemen’s Land and New South Wales.  Ann and Martha were two of the 89 convicts transported on the ‘Brothers (1)’ that day.

The ‘Brothers (1)’ was under the command of Captain Charles Morley, and it was the first convict voyage for the vessel. The vessel was built in Whitby England in 1815 and she only made two convict voyages.

Ann Powell was treated by Surgeon James Hall on the voyage and he lists the following in his journal: –

           All these have been treated in a similar manner to the last case; (Was taken ill the night before last; now complains of coldness of the body, pains in the forehead & eyes; soreness and pains in the limbs; sneezing; loss of appetite; eyes watery; pulse 84, full & soft; bowels regular; tongue dry.) they having been more or less affected with an inflammatory infection, or an erethism, of the membranes lining the respiratory or the alimentary canals.

On 15 April 1824 the ‘Brothers (1)’ arrive at Hobart in Van Dieman’s Land and landed 50 female convicts, Ann Powell aged 15years was one of them and the remaining 39 female convicts sailed onto Sydney, Martha Shaw aged 15years was one of the 39. This was the last time the two friends would see each other.  Martha landed in Sydney on 7 May 1824, she went on to marry in 1826 to Thomas Wells ‘Baring’ and died on 16 June 1862 aged 54 years.

Ann’s convict record lists her Police number as 28 and Convict ID as 304, her description is height 5 feet; hair light brown; eyes blue; no tattoo; trade on arrival: Servant.

The convict records show a statement made by Ann:

Mother ran away from my father, I went with her, she died on the day I was sentenced.

While the Ship’s report on Ann Powell recorded her as a bad girl.

Ann Powell does not settle well into her new life in Van Dieman’s Land and has over 23 colonial offences over the next 11 years.  Ann Powell was first assigned to Master Garrett and by 12 May 1824 she had absconded from her master’s service and sentenced to Cascade Female Factory.

On 30 May1824 Ann is listed as absconding from service of Sarah Moses.  Two week later 16 June 1824 record lists Improper Conduct in admitting Patrick Roach into Maters house (Master Scott). Sentenced: Imprisonment Crime Class Factory C Class HFF (Hobart Female Factory)

All seems to settle for Ann at this stage until the next year when she is charged on 2 June 1825 with absconding from service of Sarah Moses again. Sentenced: Placed in a Cell at Factory 1 week & fed Bread & Water and Crime Class Hobart FF.

The ‘Hobart Town Gazette and Van Diemen’s Land Advertiser’ published that Ann Powell (28) 4ft, 11in. light brown hair, blue eyes, 19 years of age, a servant, tried at the Old Bailey, London, June 1823 sentence 14years, arrived this Colony per Brothers 1823, native place Cloth Fair, absconded from the service of Sarah Moses, May 30, 1825 – £2 Reward.

Ann is recaptured and assigned to Master Anson but in February 1826 reprimanded for being out after hours.

Only one colonial offence is listed for Ann in 1827 and that is on 22 January 1827 where she is Found in bed with a man in her master’s house between 5 & 6 o’clock in morning.  (Master GW Robinson) Sentenced: confined in a cell 7 days on bread & water and crime class. HFF.

On the 11 October 1828 Ann is returned to Government Female Factory in Launceston and reason listed is ill usage by Master J Reed.  Then on 24 September 1829 Ann is charged with Insolence & gross misconduct & disobedience of orders (Master RP Stewart-Tamar). Sentenced: C Class House of Corrections 6 months, B&W (bread and water) 7 days Cascade FF.

Ann serves out her sentence at the Cascade Female Factory and is reassigned to Mr Dalrymple in Launceston. On 16 May 1830 she absconds from his service.

She is recaptured on 7 June 1830 and committed to gaol at Launceston House of Correction for the period she was absent from her master.

Ann is again absent from her master’s service on 2 August 1830 and returned to the service of the Crown Female Factory and reassignment.

She is assigned to Master Archer in Launceston.  By 15 October 1830 she is charged with General improper conduct particularly on 6, 12 and 16th (Master Archer) Sentenced: confined to Crime Class 3 months and discharged from master’s service.  Returned to Female Factory.

Ann receives one month solitary confinement on bread and water for stealing a pair of stockings when she was ‘on loan’ to Major Welman on 12 February 1831.

After this sentence Ann is sent to George Town Female Factory and spends two years in George Town with 17 months of these two years under sentence and confinement with only seven months assigned to six different masters’ during this period.  Her George Town records show the following: – (see image)

It appears on the surface that Ann preferred to be confined rather than being assigned to a master.

Ann is assigned to Master Hull after she completes her sentence in George Town Female Factory, but Ann is returned by Master Hull to the Cascade Female Factory on 30 October 1833 for assignment in the interior.

The 1833 Muster records Ann as being assigned to Mr Cox and by January 1834 absenting herself from master’s premises at Night (Master Cox). Sentenced: 2 months 2nd class, Factory Hobart Town. Cascade FF.

During 1834 Ann was found drunk or absent from her master’s premises on five occasions and returned to Cascade Female Factory for over 10 months of punishment.

Some of the last records of Ann Powell are in the 1835 Muster, listing her location as assigned to Mr Harper.

On 29 July 1835 Ann Powell died at the Cascade Female Factory in Hobart.  She was finally at peace aged 27 years.

She was buried at St David’s Hobart on 30 July 1835.  Such a sad story for a vibrant, troubled young woman caught up in an unfortunate situation as a child.

Written by Ann Williams-Fitzgerald  2022