Maria Coverly was born on the 14th April 1792 and baptised on the 2nd May at St Giles Cripplegate, London, England. She was the daughter of Richard Coverly and his wife Elizabeth Burton. This was both of her parents second marriage and her parents had been married the previous August on the 15th, 1791.
At the time they were married both Richard Coverley and his wife Elizabeth Burton were both recorded as widower and widow respectively. They were both from the parish of St Luke’s Finsbury. Neither could read nor write as they both signed the banns record with an X as their mark.
It is likely that her father’s first wife Jane Flintoff had died around 1789. It is also likely that they had had some children together. Jane herself had been a widow when she married Richard Coverly on the 1st October 1780 at St Botolph’s in Aldergate. Both of them being from the same parish.
It is also probable that Maria herself may have had some siblings from her own parents marriage. Maria’s father and grandfather were both cordwainer’s or shoemakers (of leather shoes). These were highly skilled trades and well-respected in their fields. From what I have been able to glean it would appear that the men in the Coverley/Coverly family in number and for some generations had been cordwainer’s or shoemakers. The Finsbury area where they came from was a known tradesmen area where cordwainer’s and their families lived and worked. This would have also likely meant a reliable and good income for the little family to live on.
Things didn’t work out that way for long though because a few days before Christmas on the 18th December 1796 at the age of forty one and when Maria was only five, her father died.
Maria’s father and almost certainly her mother had left the Church of England and joined as ‘dissenters’ the non-conformist religious sect known as the Countess of Huntingdon’s connexion. This was firmly established in 1781 when the Countess seceded from the Church of England when she and the local ministers and Bishops could no longer agree on how the faith should be practiced. The Countess was a known philanthropist and had worked tirelessly for forty odd years in the betterment of the unfortunate and in bringing Calvinistic principles to the faithful. She had disagreed with the leaders of the Church of England on what she considered immoderate living and a disregard for the total devotion to Christ that she believed all humans should seek. Leaving the Church of England for commoners alike was no small thing and as such the Coverly’s would have been considered somewhat radical to do so. What the Countess of Huntingdon did have was the support of the monarchy of the day King George III and his wife Queen Charlotte, who were quite supportive in as much as they could be of her devotion to faith. King George himself had been brought up with strict social mores and devotion to his faith by his mother. As such Maria would have been born into quite a religious and conservative family with moderate living principles and a historical trade in their family line. . How Maria wound up in front of the Old Bailey at the age of twenty bears some guessing over.
As her father was a tradesman of London it would be more likely that there would have been some small pension relief fund made available to Maria’s mother through the cordwainer’s trade association. Even so it is likely that her mother, Elizabeth, would have had to bring in an income of some description for herself and Maria. It is also likely that Maria would have gone into service at a young age.
What happened from age five to twenty is anyone’s guess but sadly Maria didn’t marry a local boy from her church, instead she wound up in front of the Old Bailey charged with theft.
Maria was tried at the Old Bailey in Middlesex on the 6th November of 1812. Records from the Old Bailey as follows:
‘MARIA COVALY (name misspelt) was indicted for feloniously stealing, on the 24th of October , three gowns, value 10 s. two petticoats, value 4 s. and one apron, value 1 s. the property of James Smith .
MRS. SMITH. My husband, James Smith , is a leather pipe maker . We live in Castle-Court, Castle-Street, behind Shoreditch Church .
Q. When did you lose these things – A. Come next Saturday it will be a fortnight. I left the prisoner in charge of my place. I went out a little before eleven, and I returned before one; and found the prisoner at the bottom of Wildegate-street.
RICHARD HUTCHINS . I took the prisoner in custody. She confessed to Lock, the officer of the night, that she took the property, and that she would see the procucutrix dead before she should have them.
Q. to Mrs. Smith. How long have you known this woman – A. Only the Tuesday before. I hired her at Spitalfields market.’
So those were fighting words huh! Maria was of course found guilty, recorded as being 21 years of age and sentenced to seven years in Australia. I can just imagine Maria in a Cockney accent threatening the need for a dead mistress before divulging the location of her stolen goods. A great website for those of us Antipodeans for whom British accents are somewhat strange and if you wanted to hear what Maria likely sounded like look at http://dialectblog.com/british-accents/ and look up Cockney.
Spitalfields Market in Maria’s time was a well established trading and meeting place that serviced the population of the eastern end of London. Establishment for mixed merchandise began when Charles the II in 1682 gave approval for the area (which was already long established) to be a market for the trade of foodstuffs. Much like our shopping malls of today, Spitalfields Market became not only a shopping centre but a place of meeting and trade of all manner of needs and wants.
At the time that Maria was living here nearby Spitalfields was also an area that was in slow decline. A large Jewish population were moving into the area, many who were escaping persecution in eastern Europe and the Russian states. The area was overcrowded. Cheap housing in tight clusters was available. There existed a transient workforce with unstable employment due to the instability of the economy in England at the time. It was affordable for the working classes across England and Europe who lived in the London region. History tells us that the area had a high crime and infant mortality rate.
There are some really fantastic photographs of ‘Spitalfield life’ that can be found at http://spitalfieldslife.com/2010/12/26/the-ghosts-of-old-london/. These pictures give a picture of the area that Maria was raised in.
Following what was likely a pretty grim stint in Newgate prison Maria finally made it onto a convict ship, the Wanstead. The Wanstead left from Spithead in England in August 1813. Upon arrival in Sydney on the 9th January, 1814, Maria was taken from the Wanstead on the 13th January and transferred up the river to the Parramatta Womens Factory where she was put to work. Maria was transferred along with a fellow shipmate Catherine Latimore whose grandchild would marry Maria’s grandchild some years later. The two families would eventually make their way to the Hawkesbury. Thus bringing their families together. At this time Maria was 21 years of age.
The following year on the 2nd March 1815, Maria gave birth to her first child, Elizabeth Coverley. Maria was not married however a fellow convict William Bidgood, who would call himself William Badgood, was identified as the father and a month later the two of them took baby Elizabeth to St John’s in Parramatta and have her dutifully baptised by the Reverend Samuel Marsden.
William Bidgood was born around 1779 in Uplowman in Devon England. His parents were William Bidgood and Mary Waddleton. I have found references to him recorded as ‘the younger’ so assume his father was the ‘older’ a common reference in those days. William found trouble in his early twenties and as a result was tried at the Devon Assizes on the 16 March 1801 in for sheep stealing. He was convicted and sentenced to life as a convict. William was consequently sent out to New South Wales. He came out on the Glatton leaving England in September 1802 and arriving on the 11th March 1803.
In 1806 William was listed as working for the Government at Castle Hill a convict work farm.
Now I’m not exactly sure yet what happened to William Bidgood/Badgood but he disappears from the scene and the last I can find of him to date is an appearance on the convict rolls in 1820.
During 1817 Maria managed to get in front of the Reverend Samuel Marsden again, this time with her new son William who was born on the 13th February. It is hard to work out what is written in the register but I think it is William McGloughland and this is written as his father’s name also. Coverly being how Maria’s surname is spelt. Again Maria is unmarried at the time her son is born. She has him baptised in the same church as her daughter at St John’s in Parramatta. What bothers me about this entry is that the person recording it is clearly literate, Maria is not and the spelling is so far off even for those times. A quick search gave me nothing under this spelling. I’m assuming that the spelling is probably Mclaughlan or Mclachlan or some other reason?
by 1819 Maria was living at the Parramatta Female Factory with two children and she is well into her sentence as a convict. I have not been able to locate any records to the contrary so it would appear that Maria does her full sentence.
Life for Maria took a definite change on the 7th February 1820 thee Colonial Secretaries papers records Maria as Cobley, being given permission to marry another convict, James Lord. They had sought permission to marry which due to their convict status (even though Maria’s ended in 1819) was a pre-requisite. James was still serving his sentence when they married. As to the constantly differing changes in how Maria’s surname was spelled I doubt she was trying to be coy, rather as woman who could neither read nor write the spelling to her would have been irrelevant and it was probably just how she pronounced it.
By 1822 Maria and James Lord both employed by Mr Williamson still in the vicinity of Parramatta and living locally. The family would move around Sydney somewhat before 1825 when James Lord moved the family up to Richmond in the Hawkesbury. It would appear at this time that both had been employed in work as servants.
John had come out from England as a convict arriving on the Lord Eldon in 1817. He had been tried at the Hereford Assizes and sentenced to seven years transportation.
Maria and James would go on to have a number of children, Ann (b 1820), Esther (b 1823), James (b 1823 would die as an infant), Sarah (b 1825 – d 1827 died aged 2), Henrietta (b 1826 died as an infant), male brother unnamed (born and died 1827), John (b 1827), Maria (b 1828 died as an infant), Richard (b 1829).
You can’t even begin to imagine for a mother what it must have been to bury five of her ten children. I know things were tough back in those early days of Australia but even so this seems an unendurable hardship to lose so many children under the age of two and I would think the toll on Maria would have been quite heavy.
Now Maria must have been a pretty interesting character because on the 24th July 1830 the Sydney Gazette reported that Maria (Lord) had been in front of the Windsor Quarter Sessions charged and found guilty of indecently exposing her person. She was sentenced to the third class of the Female Factory at the house of corrections for three months. This would have made Maria thirty-nine years of age at the time and not what was expected of matrons of the colony. Maria was sentenced to go to the Parramatta Female Factory.
What I can surmise whilst I wait for the records from the state library to arrive is that someone who had ‘done well’ shall we say does not expose their person in public.
There is almost no mention of Maria and James in the Hawkesbury in a pioneering sense so I don’t think they were doing particularly well from a financial point of view.
James is recorded on the convict register as having died on the 23 November 1833 at the age of forty nine.
In her later years it appears that Maria lived with her eldest child, Elizabeth and with whom she was living I assume when she died. Maria died on the 1st January 1864 in the Windsor district.