FF Elizabeth Thomas, Convict, ‘Prince of Wales’ (c1766-1835 )


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, Lancashire.

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 concent. Discharged.”

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.


Norfolk Island

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, settler

Thomas Hill did however return to Port Jackson aboard HMS Reliance in February 1796. So once again Elizabeth finds herself alone on Norfolk Island.

Elizabeth then again cohabited on Norfolk Island, this time with James Waterson, (Convict, Albemarle)

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 aged 68

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 Thomas.

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 March 1995.

Refer FFF Web Site:http://www.fellowshipfirstfleeters.org.au/graves.html

Under FFF Plaque 94 – Installed 25th March 1995for

FF Elizabeth Thomas, Convict, ‘Prince of Wales’ (c1766-1835 )


Written By Deborah Barber on 29th September, 2018



-The Founders of Australia by Mollie Gillen p80 81& 354

-Dispatched Down Under by Ron Withington p357 -359

-1788 by David Hill

-Convict Recordshttps://convictrecords.com.au/convicts/thomas/elizabeth/31627

- Convicts and early settlers 1788-1850. Australia, Emigration and Immigration, History 1788-1850 by Kieran Hosty



Copyright Fellowship of First Fleeters