On the 24th February 1830 Elizabeth Bumstead was certainly living dangerously when she decided to steal a pewter pot from the Wheat Sheaf Public House in Camden Town, London, but not satisfied with that she stole 4 more from the Black Cap Public house, and hid them up her petticoats. She knew what the consequences would be if she got caught as her eldest son William had already been transported for theft.
She took off across the fields but was soon apprehended by officer William Jamieson. It was the first time she had been caught stealing and was in a state of great distress as she had 6 hungry children to feed and no money to provide for them. But no leniency was offered and on the 15th April 1830 in the Old Bailey she was convicted and in May 1830 transported to Van Diemen’s Land with 117 other female convicts and 14 free women arriving there in September. Five of her children were sent with her on board The Mellish. In all there were over 100 children on the ship.
This print by Edward Duncan, of ‘The Mellish‘ entering Sydney Harbour is held in the National Library of Australia Source http://nla.gov.au/nla.pic-an9576808
According to the report of the ship’s surgeon the women were well treated, there was considerable effort made to air and dry out their sleeping quarters, they spent several hours each day on deck and were regularly supplied with lime juice or wine. But even so it takes little imagination to conjure up what a frightening and confrontational experience this must have been for them all.
Once they arrived in Van Diemen’s Land she and the children were placed in the female orphan school, but Elizabeth had several brushes with the authorities mainly because she liked a tipple, and sometimes was absent with out leave. The punishments for this varied – sometimes she was placed in a cell for 7 days with bread and water, and on some occasions she was sent to the Female House of correction. She was also sent here when it was discovered she was pregnantSource Women, Infanticide and the Press, 1822–1922 Nicola Goc, University of Tasmania, Australia February 2013
This photo taken early in the 20th century sourced from the files of the State Library of Victoria image b36020
Elizabeth gained her freedom (ticket of leave) 0n 15th April 1837, and died in Hobart in 1853, how she spent her life between those dates I do not know, but it seems she kept clear of the law.
This is a very grim tale. but except for George, the children lived law abiding and useful lives. William was granted a conditional pardon in 1847 and at the time of his death in 1859 his occupation was listed as dealer. George was in prison working as a blacksmith at the time of his death. Three daughters, Mary Ann, Elizabeth and Caroline married and had children.
The baby Sarah is our mystery person – there has not been enough documentary evidence located to conclusively say how her life turned out, and I will write a little more about her in next week’s post on Tasmania.