MARY GROVES OF LINCOLNSHIRE
was born about 1757 in Colsterworth, Lincolnshire,
England based on convict records, but this maybe
incorrect as records show she was christened on the 26th
November 1763 at St John the Baptist Church of England
Colsterworth some 6 years later.
Several of the largest and most elaborate
headstones of the Groves' family are located just
outside the Church door in the graveyard.
Her father was John Groves, a
butcher, and her mother Frances Ayscough. Mary's
family came from Little Ponton and Colsterworth,
Lincolnshire, England. Mary’s claim to fame is her
ancestral connection to Sir Isaac Newton also
born in Colsterworth. The connection comes through
Isaac’s mother Hannah Ayscough.
Mary was charged by the oath of Edward
Cooper with feloniously stealing one yellow canvas
bag, thirteen guineas in gold and eight shillings and
sixpence in silver, the property of the said Edward
Committed by Benjamin Bromhead,
Esq. April 141785 stating “Then and there being
feloniously did wrongfully act against the peace of our
Sovereign George Crown and Dignity”.
Mary Groves was tried on Tuesday the 9
July 1785 at Lincoln, she was charged with stealing "one
yellow canvas bag containing 13 guineas and some silver,
the property of Edward Cooper". Mary was found guilty
and was sentenced to transportation for seven years. The
value of the goods was 237 shillings.
A sentence over 40 shillings carried the
death penalty so she was very lucky that her sentence
was commuted to transportation. She had no occupation
recorded but some may say it was pickpocketing. Her
crime was committed with the accomplice
At the end of December 1786 over 17
months from her trial, she was still held at Lincoln
goal situated within Lincoln Castle. Then with three
other women and a child she was ordered to Portsmouth on
16 March 1787 and delivered on the 25th direct to the
ship Prince of Wales by the turnkey of Lincoln
goal to sail as part of the First Fleet to Sydney Cove.
The Prince of Wales sailed from
Portsmouth, England, with Mary Groves on board on Sunday
13 May 1787. Mary was somewhere between 25 and 29 years
old when she arrived at Sydney Cove on Saturday 26
The ship contained 49 female and 1 male
convict on departure but arrived with 3 male, 62 female
and 3 convict’s children as throughout the journey
further convicts were transferred from other ships in
Over 480 passengers were made up of crew,
marines and their families. Hopefully with this large
number it was a good influence on the convicts and
enabled them to see opportunities that awaited on
completing their sentence.
On Sunday 1st June 1788 Mary Groves and
WilliamDouglas were married. While their marriage
was registered under St Philips Church, Sydney it was
most likely that the marriage was held in the open with
the first church not built until 1793.
William Douglas was also a convict of the
First Fleet travelling on the Alexander, born in
the same parish in Lincolnshire, England, of the same
age and convicted around the same time but that’s
another story. How well did they know each other before?
What is Williams story?
They were married, with the consent of
Arthur Phillip, Governor, by the colony's Chaplain
Reverend Johnson, at St Phillip's Church of
England, Sydney Cove, Port Jackson - William Rowe
and Stephen Barnes witnessing their marriage.
It is from this point that the records
for Mary Groves become vague.
It is highly debatable how many children
Mary Groves and William Douglas had; the number is hotly
contested. The Hawkesbury Pioneer Register had named
seven; they were George, John, Elizabeth b.1796,
James b.1797, Thomas b.1804, William
b.10 June 1809 and Sarah b.1810.
From what is known as The Douglas
Controversy based on the fact that there were three
William Douglas convicts at this time it appears
unlikely that James, Thomas, William and Sarah were the
offspring of Mary Groves and William Douglas. It appears
that by 1801 Mary was no longer around.
It is believed the actual children
belonging to Mary and William were John, born 9
April 1793, who died in infancy and is buried in the
grounds of St Philip's Church of England, Sydney and
Elizabeth and her twin brother Joseph born 8
February 1796. Joseph also died in infancy as there are
no further records. Their daughter Elizabeth married
Daniel Jurd, founding what is called the ‘Jurd
Mary and William Douglas were one of the
first twenty-two pioneer farmers of the Hawkesbury
Valley in an area known as The Green Hills and
which became the town of Windsor established by
Governor Lachlan Macquarie in 1810. A plaque in
Governor Phillip Park at Windsor, with the words that
were written by Lieutenant Governor Grose in
April 1794, honours those first settler families.
Mary's time of death and place of burial
are unknown, it could be assumed she died between 1797
Mary might have been buried on their farm
at the Hawkesbury, or in the original Green Hills
Cemetery on the banks of South Creek which has no
It is also possible, and quite likely,
that she was buried in the cemetery that existed where
today Sydney Town Hall stands. Here there were many
headstones marking the grave sites of convicts and early
settlers, all now lost in the re-use of that early
cemetery land. As for her burial site we are still
waiting for that one piece of documented evidence.
Others say she may have left him.
Mary’s disappearance from the records is
a mystery and I am sure as more evidence is uncovered
the story will grow and is even likely to be re-written,
but I can thank Mary and William as their actions
started a chain of events that gave me and many other
descendants the opportunity to be born and live in this
wonderful country of Australia.
#8404 Craig Daniel Jurd