Elizabeth Morris
1775 - 1852


Elizabeth Morris was another West Country girl, baptised at Bisley, Gloucestershire on 31 January 1777. She spent her brief childhood in Bristol and, when only ten, was tried but acquitted of a felony. Two years later she was not so lucky and convicted with two men, John Clements and John Rossiter of grand larceny. When still only twelve years old she was sentenced to seven years transportation in Bristol on 5 April 1790. Elizabeth arrived in New South Wales with the Third Fleet on the Mary Ann, an old French ship of 298 tons, with 149 other women on 6 July 1791.

We don't know what she did when she arrived but it seems likely that the women were taken by boat to Parramatta were they undertook domestic work for groups of male convicts. On 12 February 1793 the fifteen year old Elizabeth gave birth to a daughter, Hannah, the father being John Dalton, another young convict. Dalton arrived on the Albermarle in October 1791 and was perhaps unlucky to find himself in this predicament. A youth had stolen a shawl and, to avoid apprehension, had passed it to Dalton and his friend John Lear. The pair may have been suspected of being minor street villains and as a result Dalton, who was only eleven and Lear thirteen were convicted and transported for seven years. The boys spent four months on a prison hulk before boarding the Albermarle and it was understandable that John and Elizabeth should welcome friendly relationship when the system threw them together at Parramatta in 1792. Elizabeth Morris was about fifteen at this time. We don't know what happened to Dalton but when he finished his sentence he left for Norfolk Island as a crewman on the
Salamander and it seems that he continued a life at sea. Hannah was 21 months old when John left; her mother not yet eighteen.

Mother and daughter were still together when Elizabeth married William Kentwell (also referred to as Cantwell) at St. John's Parramatta on 4 January 1796. At thirty-five he was almost twice her age and had recently completed his sentence. William was born in London on 23 March 1761 and had been baptised in the St Marylebone Church in London on 29 Sept. 1765 . He lived in St. Giles Cripplegate near Covent Garden. When twenty-two he was transported for seven years for stealing 'with force of arms' two linen handkerchiefs valued at two shillings and goods and chattels of 'other persons unknown'. William spent almost three years in prison or in the hulks before he was loaded onto the Admiral Barrington for his voyage to New South Wales. After he arrived on 16 October 1791 it seems probable that William was sent to the Toongabbie camp and was converted from city life to farming.

The Surveyor-General's notebook for 1796 details a 60-acre block at Toongabbie for William Kentwell. Governor Phillip's policy was to allocate 30 acres for 'worthy' convicts at the expiry of their sentence. Twenty further acres were given for a spouse and ten acres for each child so Elizabeth and Hannah allowed the Kentwell grant to be double that given to a single man. Their grant is situated near the present Pendle Hill Railway Station around the intersection of Binalong and Darcy Roads. William's father was also called William, and his mother was Anne. William II and Elizabeth continued the tradition and first child was baptised William Cody at St. John's on 24 November 1799.

The 1800 muster of the colony recorded William Kentwell as being free and farming 15 cleared acres of land at Toongabbie. The farm received rations for a man woman and two children (William III and Hannah). The Kentwell’s were neighbours of Thomas Williams and Ann Davis. The 1805 muster records William and Elizabeth as being married and having one female child born before marriage (Hannah), and another (Charlotte) along with two boys born after marriage (William and John, born 29 Feb. 1804). Although there is no precise record we can calculate that Charlotte was born sometime in 1802. In 1805 the settlers of the district selected William as one of the Trustees of the Prospect Common. The Common was 9345 acres and used for common pasturing by settlers and those holding leases. By 1806 William owned 75 acres and was assigned a convict servant - Lawrence Kirwan. He was now a prosperous small farmer and a member of an association of like-minded emancipists known as the Association of Hawkesbury Settlers. When Governor Bligh arrived in 1806 the Association nailed their colours to the mast and sent the Governor an address of welcome and further letters of support. When the MacArthur forces unseated Bligh and took control of the colony the Association members were at the mercy of the clique of exclusives and members of the NSW Corps. The couple had two more daughters Maria, in 1806, and Harriet in 1809.

In August 1809 William Kentwell, and seven others, drowned in the Hawkesbury/Nepean River near Windsor during a flood. It seems that he was returning home after purchasing horses for the Government when the accident happened. Elizabeth, now thirty-one, was left with six children, the youngest being just a few months old. Three weeks after she was widowed, on 23rd August 1809, Elizabeth took seven-year-old Charlotte to the Female Orphan Institution. She continued to run the farm with the help of Hannah and the two boys and, a little while later, an Irish convict called Murtagh (Murty) Shields who had a wife and six children at home in Kilkenny. Shields had been tried for horse stealing and was transported for life in 1800. (He may have been assigned to the Kentwell's in place of Kirwan.)

In February 1813 Elizabeth gave birth to her seventh child a boy she called James. Twenty four years later when she took him to be baptised at St. John's in December 1837, she revealed that Murty was his father. By 1814 Murty Shields had moved on and Elizabeth had formed a relationship with another convict, twenty-one year-old Thomas Thompkins. He was born in Northampton but moved to London and obtained a position in the household of William Strong Esq. in Russell Square. He was eventually promoted to Upper-Footman in 1812 but succumbed to temptation and left Strong's house in February 1812 and took some of his employer's silver plate with him to his lodgings across the river at 8 Blackfriars Rd. Southwark. When he attempted to pawn the silver he was caught and convicted at the Old Bailey a fortnight later. He was sentenced to death but as his previous employer stated that he had 'always behaved with the greatest deportment (and) was of good character', it was commuted to transportation for life.

He was 5'7" tall of fair ruddy complexion with brown hair and hazel eyes and when he arrived in Sydney in June 1813 on the Fortune 2 was sent to the lumberyard in Parramatta. He remained at this work until 13 December 1817 when he obtained a Ticket-of-Leave on the recommendation of William Jewell and Rev. Samuel Marsden. Jewell, who ran the yard, said Thomas was 'sober, honest and industrious' and Marsden judged him an 'honest and industrious man being of very good character'.

So Elizabeth, now forty, seems to have found another good man and she married Thomas Thompkins at St. John's 6 August 1815. In a reversal of the situation of her first marriage she was almost twice the age of her groom. The bride's eldest daughter, now Mrs. Hannah Beckett, was a witness. Elizabeth’s first child with Thomas, Henry Thomas, was born at Toongabbie year later but this happy event was overshadowed when her eldest son, the sixteen year-old William Cody Kentwell, was killed by natives at Wilberforce around the same time. The second child of Elizabeth and Thomas, Sarah T, was born two years later in October 1817. D'Arcy Wentworth, one of the Macarthur clique, forced Elizabeth off at least some of William's land in 1815. She received a bull and two cows as part payment for the land. But in May 1820 when her son John Kentwell applied for a land grant he said he was living with his widowed mother at Toongabbie. His grant of 100 acres, of which fourteen were cultivated, adjoined the western boundary of the land of Thomas Ashford. He owned 2 horses and eight cows. He had married Elizabeth James in 1824 and their daughter Elizabeth Jane was born the next year.

Watson records Thomas Thompkins as obtaining a conditional pardon in November 1825 but the 1828? Census records Elizabeth as being aged 50 and Thomas, 34 and still on ticket-of-leave. Her younger children were 13 and 11 and her others were now living separately as adults. In 1822, despite his status, Thomas had bought 50 acres originally granted to Patrick Silk at Castle Hill. He next bought the adjacent 40 acres from Thomas Ashford in 1823 and became a neighbour of John and Elizabeth Kentwell. The 1828 Census recorded him as being a landowner at Baulkam Hills with 90 acres. Twenty-six acres were cleared and cultivated and he owned 3 horses and 19 cows; he also had the services of two convict servants.

Thomas Tompkins became seriously ill and sold his farm. In July 1829 John Pye paid £200 for the 90 acres. Two days after Christmas of that year Thomas died aged thirty-eight and was buried in St John's Churchyard. Elizabeth became a widow for the second time at age fifty-nine and still had the fourteen year-old Henry and twelve year-old Sarah to raise. Elizabeth lived on for another twenty-three years and remained at Castle Hill where at least four of her children still lived. She died in 1852 aged seventy-five and was buried at St John's Parramatta. She had been twice married in the Church and had borne twelve children with four fathers.