Elizabeth Thomas, Convict,
‘Prince of Wales’
Elizabeth Thomas found herself living on
the streets, freezing cold at night, stomach forever
rumbling with hunger. Little did she know that as she
was contemplating stealing one cotton printed gown
belonging to Jennifer Sturzacker of Chippinglancashire
on the 24th of August 1786, that a higher authority was
already planning her immediate future and The family of
generations to come.
Elizabeth was Born on 30th July 1769 at
Llanddoget, Denbighshire, Wales. Beth was the second
child of four born to Robert and Jane Thomas. Her older
brother John, younger brother Robert and Younger sister
Mary, all grew up in the parish of Balla, Wales.
At the Young age of 16 Beth found herself working as a
housemaid for Hon. Richard Jones Esq. who had an Estate
and Manor at Llay near Gresford, Wales. She was a hard
worker, did all the chores asked of her including
cooking and cleaning. But she was not treated well. In
her young mind it was better to live on the street, in
the cold, begging for food.
She left the service of Hon. Richard
Jones Esq. in August of 1786 and travelled to Chipping
in Lancashire seeking work at the recently established
cotton mill. Alas they were no jobs to be had. And so
began a string of Thefts that would land Young Beth in
Gaol not once, not twice, but three times with in the
year, eventually being transported across the sea’s to
Port Jackson for seven years.
First brush with the law
One evening Beth was sitting outside a
house where she could see the family sitting at their
Dinner table, eating a feast of food, a big warm fire
burning at one end of the room. It looked so warm, and
Beth was aching with Hunger and couldn’t warm her
fingers or toes. There was a young girl about her own
age. She wore a beautiful gown and a nice clean white
apron over the top. Beth wished she could sit at that
table and eat and be warm. Beth couldnt understand why
some people had everything and others had nothing. These
people were very well off and Beth didnt think they
would miss something that could keep her warm at night.
A couple of hours later Beth found
herself at the House of Corrections at Preston,
The year was 1786, Beth was 17 years old
and was charged Upon oath with ” Feloniously stealing a
white apron and shawl, the property of Ann Freeman of
Aughton, Ormskirk, Lancashire”. Beth was tried at the
Wigan October Quarter sessions, found guilty and
sentenced to 3 months imprisonment and a whipping at the
Rogue’s Post in the House of Corrections at Preston.
Beth was Prisoner 26 according to the Preston House of
Corrections Keeper, Edward Cowburne, and is recorded as
: ” Elizabeth Thomas, appearing as above and having been
indicted for, tried and found guilty of Felony. Remanded
to hard labour for three months, and whipped at the
Rogue’s Post in the House of Corrections. Whipped and
detained as below. Was a servant to the honourable
Richard Jones, Esqr. But Absented his service without
Subsequent Brushes with the Law and
Conviction and Transportation
Christmas Day1786 saw Beth detained again
by R. ShuttleworthEsq. on suspicion of feloniously
stealing a printed gown, the property of Jennet
Sturzaker, in Chipping, Lancashire. Before she was
apprehended Beth returned to the Ormsmirk area where she
again stole a woollen cloak from Ann Freeman. Seems Beth
liked Clothing and didnt think the girls would miss them
as they had so many.
On the 11th of January 1787 Beth was
sentenced to be transported for 7 years “across the sea
to such a place as decided by the Privy Council”.
After conviction Beth was taken by wagon
to Lancaster Castle Gaol north of Preston. It wasn't
until May 13th 1787, that Beth was taken to Portsmouth,
then rowed out to the transport Prince of Wales
by the prison turnkey. Then the first fleet set sail for
Botany Bay. 8 Months at sea, the First Fleet with Beth
on board reached Botany Bay on the 20th of January 1788.
Botany Bay was deemed unsuitable, so the fleet moved
north to Port Jackson and established the settlement
that came to be called Sydney Cove. Beth remained on the
ship til the 6th of February when all the female
convicts were processed.
Life as a convict in New South Wales
The first 8 months at Port Jackson were
uneventful for Beth. She did as she was asked, worked
hard and was rewarded for good behaviour.
On the 19th of October 1788 at St.
Phillip’s church Sydney cove, Elizabeth Thomas Married
William Connelly (Convict Alexander). The
witnesses were Mary Dixon (Prince of Wales)and
Thomas Eccles(Scarborough). Beth was 19 years
old. Their first child William Thomas Connelly was born
on the 5th of June 1789 and died 27 October 1789.
Stores at Sydney cove were running low as
no more ships had arrived since 1788. In order to lessen
the pressure of dwindling stores, on the 6th March 1790
William Connelly and Elizabeth Thomas and many others,
were sent to Norfolk Island on the HMS Sirius,
arriving on the 13th March.
The sea around Norfolk Island was rough,
making it difficult to off load the convicts using long
boats. Cascade Bay was selected as a better place to
land. Once the convicts were on land the ship had to go
out to sea as the waters were too rough. The HMS
Sirius returned on the 19th of March to Off load the
rest of the stores. Alas the seas remained a challenge
and the HMS Sirius hit the reef and sunk with the
stores. Martial Law was declared to conserve food even
though the stores were eventually recovered.
On 14 June 1790 Elizabeth Thomas was
tried for keeping a Kettle from one of the Seamen, she
was ordered to return the kettle. William became a
member of the Night Watch, patrolling the region between
the beach and the causeway.By July 1791, William was
listed as supporting two people on a 1 acre lot at
Sydney Town, Norfolk Island
On the 5th February 1791, William
Connelly and Elizabeth Thomas each received two month
old pigs from government stores.
By July William Connelly had cleared one
acre of timbered block. And again on the 26th of August
1791 Elizabeth Thomas was issued with more swine. Things
were going well for William and Beth.
In December 1791 William was appointed by
King as one of four night watchmen stationed at the
narrowest pass between the beach of the middle bay and
the stream of water abreast of the gate leading to the
causeway at Sydney Town
On 16th February 1792 William Connelly
sold 3 bushells of Indian corn valued at one pound four
shillings and one sow worth three pounds fifteen
shillings.(8) On January 1793 William sold 15 bushells
of Maize valued at ten pounds fifteen shillings.
By this time William Connelly was a free
man. He took his money and leaving a pregnant Elizabeth
behind on Norfolk Island, boarding the Sugar Cane
bound for Bengal India.
After which, Elizabeth the cohabited with
a ThomasHill, (Convict, HMS Gorgon). In June 1794
Elizabeth Thomas was recorded as not married, free, off
stores with one child (John) supporting by Thomas Hill,
Thomas Hill did however return to Port
Jackson aboard HMS Reliance in February 1796. So
once again Elizabeth finds herself alone on Norfolk
Elizabeth then again cohabited on Norfolk
Island, this time with James Waterson, (Convict,
She was a strong woman by now. She
continued to work her land, increase her stock and sold
goods to the government stores. In July 1804 Elizabeth’s
household of one female adult and only four children,
owning 16 acres of granted land on Norfolk Island and
nominated under the name of Elizabeth Thomas, and being
the only listed household under a women’s name that they
may wish to vacate their respective Allotments of Land,
with no mentioned on James Waterson
The family left Norfolk Island for VDL
aboard the Estramina in May 1808, travelling with
five children (Mary, Elizabeth, William, James and
Thomas). Elizabeth left behind on Norfolk Island 14
acres of cleared land with a thatched, boarded and
floored house and a thatched log outhouse, with a
building value of £14
They arrived in Hobart 5th June 1808.
James Waterson and Elizabeth Thomas
married 13 April 1812, Hobart. In 1818 Elizabeth
recorded with the surname of Waterson, abode Hobart, off
stores. James received a land grant of Clarence Plains
of 35 acres
Elizabeth Thomas Waterson died at Hollow
Tree (now St. Matthews church, Rokeby) on 28th July 1835
James died 6 January 1858 aged 91 years,
buried 10 January 1858, Rokeby, Clarence Plains.
His death notice appeared in the
Hobart Town Daily Mercury, 5 August 1858: On
Wednesday the 6th inst, at Clarence Plains Mr. James
Waterson, aged 91 years. Friends are respectfully
ínformed that the funeral will take place on Sunday next
at 2 pm from his late residence.
His headstone features a First Fleet
Fellowship burial plaque to Elizabeth Waterson nee
Also buried with James is their son
William Waterson died 1858.
The Fellowship of First Fleeters
installed a FFF Plaque on Elizabeth Thomas’s Grave on 25th
Refer FFF Web Site:http://www.fellowshipfirstfleeters.org.au/graves.html
Plaque 94 – Installed 25th March 1995for
FF Elizabeth Thomas, Convict,
‘Prince of Wales’ (c1766-1835 )
Written By Deborah Barber on 29th September, 2018
Founders of Australia by Mollie Gillen p80 81& 354
Down Under by Ron Withington p357 -359
by David Hill
Convicts and early settlers 1788-1850.
Australia, Emigration and Immigration,
by Kieran Hosty