Mary Davis was born at Diddlebury, Shropshire, England. Her age as recorded in his journal by First Fleet Surgeon Arthur Bowes places her birth in about 1761 or ’62.[1]Assiduous review of the Diddlebury Parish registers reveals no baptism of a Mary Davies or Davis during that period, or for several years either side. However, there is one only Mary Davies to be found in that record, daughter of a Griffith and Ann Davies, who was baptised on 10th May 1752 in the parish of Diddlebury, Shropshire, England.[2] Perhaps it is no coincidence that Griffith and Ann Davies had baptised another daughter Ann (Davies) little more than a year earlier on 5th January 1751, also in the parish of Diddlebury, Shropshire, England.[3] Could Mary Davies/Davis have been somewhat older than she admitted to Surgeon Bowes ?? Could Mary and Ann Davies, sisters of Diddlebury, be Mary and Ann Davis [sic] late of Diddlebury, co-accused at Salop Assizes ?? 

Mary Davies/Davis embarked on the path leading to New South Wales at the Salop Lent Assizes held at Shrewsbury on Saturday the 12th March 1785, before Sir George Nares (Knight) and Sir James Eyre (Knight), when in the company of Ann Davis and Joseph Owen she was charged with burglary and theft.

(a) That Mary Davis [sic] late of the parish of Diddlebury, Spinster and Ann Davis, ditto, broke into the house of John Wills on 12.11.1784 and stole "one copper kettle of the value of 4s." and that Joseph Owen (q.v.) late of the parish Halford received the same knowing it to be stolen. (b) That Mary Davis [sic] and Ann Davis stole the goods etc. of Sarah Cound (as the charge above) and that Joseph Owen received them knowing them to be stolen. Endorsed: Mary Davis "Guilty" Ann Davis. "Not Guilty nor fled discharged" Joseph Owen "Guilty to be transported for 14 years.[4] 

Found guilty, she was condemned to death, but immediately reprieved, Not so fortunate was one Sarah Davies, separately tried at the same Assizes, also for housebreaking. She was not reprieved and was hanged on March 26th.[5]Whilst Mary's connection with the Griffith Davies family of the Diddlebury Parish remains speculative, that family comprised of four daughters, Ann, Mary, Sarah and Suzanne. It is horrific to contemplate that Mary had to deal not only with her own conviction, but possibly the brutal death of a sister. We know that an Ann Davies was Mary's co-accused, and that Mary's first and eighth grandchildren were named Susannah. Names DO run in families.

Mary’s sentence was commuted on 28th December to seven years transportation. During her trial and incarceration Mary was recorded as both Davies and Davis.[6]A year later on 23rd November 1786 she was ordered to the New Gaol in Southwark and subsequently to Gravesend for embarkation on Lady Penrhyn.[7]

The ship’s Surgeon Arthur Bowes reported that on 18 December 1787, Mary “fell down the fore Hatchway and pitched on her head, which being well defended by false hair, she sustain’d no matereal injury”.[8]Mary Davis, per Lady Penrhyn, was on rations at Sydney Cove during 1788, and at Sydney Cove on 27 September she broke a bottle over the head of John Mara who slept in her hut, but only after he had called her a bitch in a scuffle with some marines.

She was first referred to as Mary Bishop in November of that year, when she was mistakenly recorded in a marriage in the St Philip’s Register on 2nd November, to convict Samuel Day. Exhaustive research has established that the bride on that occasion was in fact Mary Bolton, who 10 months later was assigned to Norfolk Island with Day, where they were documented as married. Please consider: Bolton and Davis (already identified as Bishop) were both named Mary “B______”, were tried for similar crimes on the same day, at the same place, and were transported on the same ship.[9]Classic circumstances for a bureaucratic bungle.

Well established by Dr. Molly Gillen in her landmark work, The Founders of Australia, Mary Davies/Davis per Lady Penrhyn was known as “Mary Bishop” from soon after her arrival in the Colony. It follows that Mary Davis assumed the name Bishop soon after arrival in NSW. The most logical reason for this is that she formed a relationship with a male named Bishop, soon after arrival in NSW. After the elimination of both the other FF Bishops, Joseph (convict, Friendship) and Elias (marine private, Alexander), the tracing of land grants, memorials, entitlements and transfers has built a convincing case that Thomas Bishop (marine private, Friendship/Charlotte) was, at the very least, the common law husband of Mary, and the father of Charlotte Bishop.

A pregnant Mary Davis arrived on Norfolk Island aboard HMS Sirius, departing Port Jackson on 5 March 1790, and disembarking at Cascade, Norfolk Island on 15 March 1790. Sometime between August and November Mary gave birth to a daughter, entered into the Victualling Book under her mother’s name, as was the convention, but later identified as Charlotte Bishop.[10]Mary reconnected with her partner Thomas Bishop, discharged from the marines, after his voyage to Norfolk Island as a free settler aboard the Atlantic in November 1791.[11] Thomas and Mary settled at Grenville Vale on a 60 acre land grant; however, it seems that the land grant was surrendered before it was officially issued.[12]Thomas and Mary were one of the many couples married in November 1791 by Rev Richard Johnson. In March of 1792, Mary’s sentence of 7 years expired. After a successful growing season Thomas sold 50 bushels of corn to the Commissariat, but the family, along with a number of the other marine settlers, was impoverished by the Commissar’s failure to pay them. In March 1793 Thomas and Mary left Norfolk Island with their infant daughter Charlotte, travelling to Sydney aboard the Kitty.

Thomas received a land grant of 110 acres at Hen and Chicken Bay along the Parramatta River near Breakfast Point on 1 June 1793.[13] It is unclear whether the Bishops ever took up residence there. Thomas died in early December 1793 in Sydney, and was buried 10 December 1793 in the Old Sydney Burial Ground. His land was known as Bishop’s Farm and was sold by his widow Mary Bishop to James Squire, colonial brewer for £45, on 11 August 1794.[14]

In November 1798 Mary Bishop was in employment with Harry Parsons of the NSW Corps.[15]Parsons, who was a contemporary of the Bishops on Norfolk Island[16], was not long married to Mary Swain and they had 3 children under the age of 4. Mrs Bishop, together with 6 year old Charlotte, was no doubt of valued assistance to the family.

By 1800 Mary was living in Sydney and, being off stores, was in good employment, probably already at Government House. According to the “General Muster 1806” and Rev. Samuel Marsden’s “Female Register” of 1806, Mary Bishop was living and working at the Government House in Parramatta, free by servitude, classified as a concubine with one natural child.[17]As Marsden classed all women in the colony (excepting some widows) as either "married" or "concubine", Mary’s status suggests she was perhaps by then cohabiting with a new partner.

Mary received a town lot lease located in the main street of Parramatta in May 1809.[18]  Mary also received a land grant of 30 acres at South Creek Bringelly in November 1809, known as Bishop’s Farm, both grants among the few reconfirmed (in his own words …”to deserving and Meritorious persons”) after Governor Macquarie annulled caretaker Governor Paterson’s grants in January 1810.[19]At that time Mary was in her 10th year of service as the housekeeper at Government House at Parramatta in receipt of a salary of £20 per annum.[20]During her tenure, she served 4 governors: King, Bligh, Macquarie, and the caretaker Paterson and was therefore well located to witness the only two rebellions in the colony’s history; the Irish led Castle Hill revolt of 4th ~ 5th March 1804 and the NSW Corps’ military coup of 26thJanuary 1808.

Mary was succeeded in the Governor’s housekeeper role in September 1810 by Jemima Bolton (soon to become Mrs Jemima Fisher). Retired also in that September was Private James Martin, after 9 years service as a Light-horseman in the Governor’s Bodyguard. James and Mary were not only intimate personal servants of the colony’s governor, but recipients, soon after their release from public service, of simultaneous, adjacent land grants on the South Creek, at Bringelly, of 80 ac. and 30 ac. respectively. Over the ensuing years, Mary and/or her family were repeatedly associated in the public record with the person of James Martin. He was a witness to the marriage of Charlotte to Richard Shrimpton on 9th August 1819. He is recorded in the 1822 muster as the carer of a 10 year old male child who was of appropriate age to be Charlotte’s son Alexander, and was indisputably head of household in the 1828 census entry of both Mary, recorded as his housekeeper, and Alexander Crabb, her grandson. In the meantime, in 1825 James acted again as a witness in a Bishop family transaction, this time to the sale of Mary’s George Street allotment to Samuel Barber. After the 1828 census, both James and Mary appear to have fallen from the public gaze, until their deaths, Mary’s in 1839, and a probable record for James in 1843, although a James Martin, storekeeper in Sussex Street in the 1842 Electoral Roll could well be him, given this occupation. This was no casual association.

Other researchers have speculated on Mary’s final years, which are purported to have been spent in the household of her daughter Charlotte, possibly on the eventual Shrimpton 30 ac. grant atop Bowen Mountain in the Kurrajong. It was at Kurrajong that Mary died on New Year’s Day of 1839.However, Mary disposed of her George Street lease in 1825 and was living with James Martin in 1828. There is no extant evidence that she didn’t see out her years in his company. Her presence at Kurrajong at New Year in 1839 may indeed have been on a festive season visit.

Thomas and Mary Bishop, tragic couple, who had no more than a handful of years together, punctuated by servitude and duty, gifted the infant colony but one child, Charlotte. She, on the other hand, made amends ……by bearing ten children (to six different fathers) …..Mary and Charlotte rest together in the cemetery of St Peters, Richmond NSW. Their descendants are legion.


[1]The Founders of Australia. p.98 Mollie Gillen.

[2]Shropshire Parish Registers (Vol 15). p.180 Shropshire Parish Register Society. General editor; 1900-1906, W.P.W. Phillimore

[3]Shropshire Parish Registers (Vol 15). p.178 Shropshire Parish Register Society. General editor; 1900-1906, W.P.W. Phillimore.

[4]P.R.O. Assizes 5/105, Part 1

[5]The British Chronicle or Pugh’s Hereford Journal, March 31 1785

[6]London Gazette, October 1788. ~ CONVICTS TRANSPORTED TO THE NEW COLONY “Your Correspondent looks to our Readers and has ascertained as far as possible the names of those who have been convicted of crimes in the Country of England since 1783 and have been sentenced by His Majesty's Judges to be sent to that part of New Holland known as New South Wales……. 

 Surname   1st  Name     Trial Place      Sentence

DAVIES       Mary              Shrewsbury  7 years

 See also “The Women of Botany Bay” ~ Portia Robinson…. Courtesy of  …Accessed on 26 November 2011.

See also "The Crimes of the First Fleet Convicts" ~ John Cobley ~ ISBN 0207145628 ….  entry for “Mary Davies”

[7]The Founders of Australia. p.98 Mollie Gillen. 

[8]The Founders of Australia. p.98 Mollie Gillen. 

[10]CY Reel 367 NI Victualling List 1792-1796 Convict's Children pg 76a. State Library of NSW ~ Microfilm

[11]The Founders of Australia. p.98 Mollie Gillen.

[12]List of persons settled on Norfolk Is. who have not got their grants. (Thomas Bishop – Marine ~ Grenville Vale ~ first in possession Nov 25th 1791)  HRA, Series 1, Vol. 1, p. 281.

[13]Registers of Land Grants and Leases, Vol. 1a, Fol. 61.

[14]Release of Bishop’s Farm to James Squire 11 Aug 1794 ~ Bishop to Squire Conveyance (hand written original document.)

[15]Governor Hunter's assignment report :Women Convicts, 1798 / [Cathy Dunn, Milton NSW, 1995].

[16]Parsons, a First Fleet marine private in Captain James Shea’s company, transferred to Norfolk Island per HMS Supply on the same 4th March 1790 voyage as the ill fated Sirius conveying Mary (Davis) Bishop. (see Australia’s Red Coat Settlers, accessed 5th September 2012)

[17]The Founders of Australia. p.99 Mollie Gillen.

[18]Colonial Secretary’s Papers 1788-1825, SANSW, 9/2731, Fiche 3268, p. 218.

[19]Colonial Secretary’s Papers 1788-1825, SNSW, 4/1821, Fiche 3001, no. 21.

[20]Colonial Secretary’s Papers 1788-1825, SNSW, 2/8332, Fiche 3001, p. 2.



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