William Hazelwood (1748 – 1836) and Elizabeth Hopper (1754 – 1795) Floating Brothel and Norfolk Islanders

William was born in 1748 and baptised on the 17th June 1748 in Mollington, Oxfordshire, England to Oxfordshire his born and bred parents, Thomas Hazlewood and Hannah Hayward. He was the youngest child and had four known siblings, Elizabeth Hazlewood 1743, Mary Hazlewood 1744, and Anna Maria Hazlewood 1747. He also had an older brother also confusingly named William who was born in 1745 and baptised on the 17th November 1745 but who died as an infant of one year and was buried in Mollington on the 13th April 1746.

If ever there was a person who was born it seems to bump from one blighted tragedy to the next, I reckon William must have been a decent contender.  The child who was named for a dead brother was barely a year old when his own father met his demise at the tragically young age of 35 in the October of 1749.  His mother Hannah was left with four children to raise the eldest being only six years of age.

The village of Mollington was and remains a small hamlet in landlocked Oxfordshire where the primary occupation was agriculture. It can be safely assumed that William’s father Thomas was a Labourer employed in this area. How Hannah got on after the death of her husband one can only wonder and figure that she would have been reliant on the support of her family in the village.

On the 15th March 1790, forty-two-year-old William fronted the Kent Assizes and was convicted of stealing a bay mare. He was sentenced to seven years’ transportation to the very distant, remote, and barely colonised Australia. In fact, so remote and far away that William managed to get himself written into history by his inclusion on the third fleet of convicts to the colonies.  It was only a mere handful of years since Captain Cook himself had sailed into Botany Bay. I’m sure that at the time William probably didn’t see the historical value of his impending journey.

On the 27th March 1791 after a year in Gaol waiting, William was transported from Plymouth in Devon by the ship “The William and Ann” to Port Jackson. One of seven ships in the third fleet.  On the 28th August 1791, the ship sailed into Port Jackson in Sydney Cove and William disembarked into the late and temperate winter season with spring just on the cusp.  He wasn’t to linger long and by September he once again was aboard a ship, in this case it was the Salamander and he was enroute to his new home on the new settlement of the isolated Norfolk Island to the north.

The rush to populate vs perish and settle these new lands was in full swing and before he’d even had time to see a decent summer on the 5th November of the same year he was married off to his new bride and fellow convict 37 year old Elizabeth Hopper.  Elizabeth had already been on Norfolk Island for a year before William arrived. The fact that Elizabeth and William had left their first families behind in merry old England and Scotland was conveniently discarded and their nuptial presided over by the Rev. Johnson on Norfolk Island.  Elizabeth herself had also just arrived in the colonies so whether William was the love of her life is dubious at best.

Miss Elizabeth Hopper 

I have an obscure reference to Elizabeth Hopper hailing from the village of Lady on the island of Sanday on the Orkney Islands of Scotland. This must just remain an obscure reference now until I can gain better proof of this.  By 1787 what is certain is that Elizabeth was living in London in England and was tried at the London Old Bailey sessions for stealing. As to more of her background at this stage I am not yet informed.  Elizabeth ended up in London Gaol sentenced to 7 years’ transportation.

Records as follows: –

ELIZABETH HOPPER was indicted for stealing, on the 5th of October, one piece of muslin, containing, in length, two yards and a quarter, value 4 s. the property of Anthony Twydell .

ROBERT WILBERFORCE sworn.

I am apprentice to Mr. Twydell; on the 5th of October last, the prisoner and two other women came into my master’s shop together, and looked at different prints, they liked none; they then looked at remnants, and bid 20 d. for what cost 2 s. 8 d.

They then talked concerning how much would make the child, which the prisoner had in her arms, a frock; I took one piece, consisting of a yard and quarter of muslin, and folded it out of the rest; I was on the other side, and said, I thought they were thieves, the prisoner then went out, and the other two followed:

When they went out our man followed them, and took from the other two women, two pieces of muslin: I did not see him take them; he is not here; and he brought them all back into the shop; and when the prisoner came back, I saw her drop that piece mentioned in the indictment, containing two yards and a quarter of muslin dimity; it was measured and marked at the time, and the constable has had it ever since; his name is Williams; she had a long red cloak on, and it fell before her from under her cloak, the other women were in the shop at the time, and one of them took the child from her; I am positive that it was she that dropped it; they had not purchased anything;

I sent for a constable, and said they should all go to the Compter; she said she was sorry to part with her child; on the 6th they were examined before the Lord Mayor, and the prisoner escaped, and the others were discharged, because she could not be taken again; she was taken again on the 14th; I am positive she is the woman.

(The property proved.)

THOMAS WILLIAMS sworn.

I took the prisoner in Mr. Twydell’s shop; this piece of muslin was given me with her, I have kept it ever since.

PRISONER’s DEFENCE.

The woman in the shop in the black cloak dropped the muslin from under her cloak.

GUILTY . 12 December 1787

Transported for seven years .

Tried by the London Jury before Mr. ROSE

Old Bailey Online
Whether Elizabeth was married in England and Hopper was her married name?  I am yet not certain. Undoubtedly, she did indeed have a child who was left behind in England when she was transported. Elizabeth was around 35 when she left England.  Elizabeth Hopper was transported aboard the Lady Juliana which was also given the rather insalubrious moniker of ‘the floating brothel’.

The Lady Juliana was the first of the Second Fleet ships to arrive in Port Jackson on the 6th June 1790. She departed England in 1789 with a cargo of 226 female convicts.  She took a remarkable 309 days to reach Port Jackson. One of the slowest journeys made by a convict ship. She called in at Tenerife and St Jago enroute and spent forty-five days at Rio de Janeiro and nineteen days at the Cape of good Hope.  Unlike the other ships in the second fleet the women on the Lady Juliana were treated very well and given fresh rations when available. This was largely since there was an attitude of each man aboard being able to take a ‘willing wife’ from amongs the ladies for the duration of the journey.
They were free to move around openly and it was remarked that the sailors made no attempt to suppress their licentious activity with the convicts. The Doctor on board kept the women in good health with only five dying throughout the journey.  There were also a considerable number of babes born on this journey.  Upon their arrival in Port Jackson the nearly starving colonists greeted this first shipload of useless women from the second fleet with open disdain. It had been over two years since they had had supplies or news from England and it was food and seed and supplies that they had looked for not a cargo load of more to be fed and victualled.   This was quickly rectified a few days later when the Justinian sailed into Port Jackson with the much-needed supplies.  Within a week or so the remainder of the Second Fleet sailed into Port Jackson. The drought which had affected the growth of their first crops broke and soon the colony was growing enough food to feed themselves. Before long the Hawkesbury land was opened and it became the food bowl for the colony.  The ships steward John Nicol as an older man recalled a fascinating account of the voyage which makes for a detailed description of the journey.

Furthermore, I recommend you read Sian Rees book, The Floating Brothel.  It is a truly descriptive and engaging read.  a documentary from Timewatch, “The Floating Brothel which documents the story of the women aboard the Lady Juliana and gives insight into the life that its inhabitants were living on her journey to the colonies.  Most of the female cargo of the Lady Julian were convicted as petty thieves and prostitutes. Whatever society may have thought of them, they were certainly resilient and went on to be the early pioneering women who were the mothers to our nation in its early days.   There is a physical memorial to the women of the Lady Juliana in the gardens of Wallabadah in New South Wales. This originally was opened with a rather impressive set of gardens and memorials to the first fleeter but this was extended in 2009 to the second fleeter as well.  A stone memorial has the names engraved of the women aboard ‘the floating brothel.’

William and Elizabeth had it would appear a few years of married life together before they were blessed with the news that a baby would soon be born toward the end of the year.  On the 15th November 1795, almost four years to the day of their marriage, little Maria Hopper- Hazelwood came into the world.  Tragically it would appear Elizabeth died on either the day of birth or not long after and was subsequently buried and William cast with the role of sole provider for the tiny infant.  Throughout the time that William was living on Norfolk Island he was frequently ‘on the stores’ or receiving victuals from the colony store. This was common on Norfolk Island among the settlers. He was granted five acres of land on Norfolk Island on the 1st November 1803. He would later be recompensed for this when they were resettled in Van Diemen’s Land.  William was on the last ship of the fleet out of Norfolk Island with Maria on the City of Edinburgh. One of the interesting things about those aboard the City of Edinburgh was that they were mostly very reluctant to leave Norfolk Island. To the point where in many cases they had to be rounded up from the surrounding bush where they had disappeared to and forced to board and evacuate the island.  I kind of like the idea of William hiding out in the bush with a wee grubby-faced Maria, refusing to be ‘moved on’.

When William and his daughter Maria were resettled in New Norfolk in Tasmania in 1808 they continued to be supplied by the stores for some years. Life was very tough on the tiny island and very little was in place to receive them.  They were on the fifth embarkation from Norfolk Island and sailed to Van Diemen’s land aboard the City of Edinburgh.  Apparently, the trip that took around a month to get to the southern isle was through poor conditions and wretched weather.  The complaints of those aboard were loud and frequent.  They arrived on an isle where supplies were not in good order and a rapid influx of persons had taken the tiny population in the greatest apace of time to over 1000. Those disembarking the City of Edinburgh were remarked to be in a desperate state and some of them near naked in remnants of apparel.

Eventually William established a small holding for himself where he farmed on the Back River are of the Derwent and this would one day make up Maria’s inheritance. It would also be where William and Elizabeth’s daughter Maria would meet her husband fellow convict Robert Hay.  To date I’ve not been able to find any reference to William remarrying or having any more children.  At his death, his only family were listed as his daughter Maria and her husband Robert Hay.

 

 

 

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