Mary Groves 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 Cooper.

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 William Hales.


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 January 1788.


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 the fleet.

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 Dynasty’.

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 and 1800.


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 surviving headstones.

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




Copyright Fellowship of First Fleeters