Hannah Mary Anson (1821?-1891?)

by Keryn Rivett

 

Hannah Mary Anson, also known as Grace Ada Ville, was once convicted as Ada Alice Hickley. She claimed she was born in Madras, India and was convicted of larceny at the Old Bailey, London on May 6 1850 and sentenced to 7 year’s transportation. She reached Tasmania on 7 March 1851 aboard the Emma Eugenia. Hannah was freckled with brown hair and blue eyes. She stood 5 feet 1 inch (154.94 cm) tall, and according to the Surgeon’s Report, she was ‘bad’.

Hannah was tried for bigamy on 8 November 1838. She married in Kensington, England, under the name Octavia Sarah Moore de Bellven to Mr Henry Wyatt, architect. Then, in June 1847 as Octavia Sarah Wyatt, she married Anton Joseph Koller, hair artist, at St James, Westminster. The name Anton became one of her many aliases. Six months later on 30 December 1847, under the name Ada Alice Wyattville, she married Thomas Hinckley, Esq, a civil engineer. Despite all these marriages, the bigamy case was never proven. One detective at the time claimed Hannah was born as Sarah Moore. Apart from this name she had also been known as Sarah Wyatt, Mrs Colonel Ferguson, Mrs Colonel Coyney, Lady Ada Alice Wyattville, Adaria Wyattville, Sarah Hinckley, Ada Alice Hinckley, Sarah Collard or Kolles, Octavia Sarah Moore de Bellville/Belle Ville/Bellone, Anna Mary Anson, Hannah Mary Anson, Ann Ellis, Grace Ada Ville/Addavillby and there were probably others.

The story of the sensational bigamy case reached in the colonies. The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, on Saturday 10 June 1848 reported:

EXTRAORDINARY CASE OF BIGAMY

An extraordinary case of bigamy was investigated on the 18th inst., at the Cheltenham public court. A richly dressed woman, who has lately introduced herself into fashionable circles in this town, under the name of the Lady Ada Alice Wyattville, was placed in the dock, charged with bigamy. From the evidence produced against her, it appears that she was married on the 18th of November, 1838, at Kensington Church, under the name of Octavia Sarah Moore de Bellevue, (at which time she described herself as the daughter of Lucius Moore de Bellevue, Marshal of France) to Mr. Henry Wyatt, architect, son of Mr. Matthius Coles Wyatt, the celebrated sculptor. Subsequent to the marriage the parties went to reside at Boulogne-sur-Mer, but they separated after a short residence there. It further appeared, that in May last, the prisoner was charged with bigamy at the Marlborough street police court London, by inter-marrying with a person named Kolles, from which charge she escaped. The offence now charged against her is, that she contracted marriage on 17th of December last, in the parish church, Cheltenham, under the name of Lady Ada Alice Wyattville, with Mr. Hinckley, civil engineer, her first husband, Henry Wyatt, being alive at the time. The prisoner was fully committed for trial at the next Gloucester Assizes. Observer, Jan 24

Despite all this evidence, she was cleared of the charge. Not long after, as Ada Hinkley, she was convicted of stealing a gold watch and sent to Gloucester gaol for a year. Due to an outbreak of cholera, she was released early. Hannah was soon in trouble again when, in Cheltenham, she stole from some tradesmen, but she disappeared before any action could be taken.

Within a year, as Anna Mary Anson, she charged with two counts, having stolen a bound church service, and a purse and a miniature from a Mrs Charlotte Reeve, who told the court of an elaborate tale Anson had woven. Hannah said she had been born in India, had lived in Pall Mall and that she had family connections to the upper crust of society, including the Duke of Wellington and Queen Victoria herself. Mrs Reeve believed Anson and only discovered a purse and miniature missing after she had left. Elizabeth Edwards, from Chelsea, told the court that she gave her lodgings after Hannah had told her that she was a governess who had lost everything in a fire. Edwards even gave her a new dress. Soon after, Hannah disappeared leaving behind the purse which had been stolen from Reeve.

Hannah tried to get the court’s sympathy by stating she was pregnant, but several days later other cases were brought against her, and the authorities seemed to lose patience. At the Old Bailey on 6 May 1850 she was found guilty of larceny and sentenced to transportation to Van Diemen’s Land. She set sail on the Emma Eugenia in October 1850.

On arrival Hannah said she was married, 30, a governness and that she had two children. She said she was born in Madras. She only mentioned one husband, claiming that Sir Henry Wyattville had deserted her. She said that her mother, Grace Emma Jerusalem, was in Paris and her brothers Henry, David, Samuel were at Inner Temple – ‘the rest being abroad’.

For the first couple of years after her arrival, Hannah remained out of trouble, although she was moved around, being assigned seven times in those two years. On 20 May 1853 she was working for Mrs Secombe of Davey Street, Hobart. Less than two months later Hannah was sent to the Cascades Female Factory after stating her work with Mrs Secombe was too hard. Her punishment was ten days at the washtub. On 26 July 1853, she was granted her ticket of leave which was advertised in the name of Grace Ada Ville. She stayed out of trouble until 21 February 1854 when she was found in bed with a man and sentenced to four months’ hard labour at the Cascades Factory. She was also not to enter into service in Hobart, her ticket of leave was revoked, and a month later Hannah was assigned in Bothwell, well away from Hobart.

Five months later, on 22 July 1854, Hannah was granted a ticket of leave once again, and three months later Edward Gregory, a free man, unsucessfully applied to marry her. The application was refused because she had not been out of trouble for six months. Although her ticket of leave was reinstated, it was revoked when she was charged once again with misconduct and given a sentence of nine months’ hard labour.

In October 1855, a Jean Lanzin applied to marry her. Permission was recommended if the clergyman was satisfied of their previous marital status, but again the marriage did not take place.

Hannah was charged with stealing a gold ring and her existing sentence of transportation was extended for twelve months in April 1856. She was also to spend the following twelve months on probation. Two days later she was charged with misconduct when she was caught pawning a dress which was the property of James Walby. She was sentenced to six months’ hard labour at Cascades Female Factory.

The Cornwall Chronicle reported:

LARCENY. Anna Maria Anson, a ticket of leave holder, was yesterday charged at the police office by Constable Dorset with larceny, in stealing on or about 20th March one gold ring, value £1 the property of one Sydney Barnham. The prisoner pleaded guilty and received a sentence of twelve months’ extension to her existing sentence of transportation. Another charge was afterwards preferred against the prisoner, that of illegally pawning on or about the 24th of March one muslin de laine dress, the property of James Waldy, to which she pleaded guilty and received a sentence of six months’ imprisonment with hard labour. Messrs Henslow and Dowling adjudicated in this case.

Hannah received her certificate of freedom on 14 July 1857.

On 6 December 1865, a Mary Ann Anson married a John Shaw in Port Sorell. Her age is listed as 40, which, if Anson really had been born around 1821 in India, would be close to Hannah’s age. On 12 December 1891, a death was listed for a Hannah Shaw, aged 72, of Longford. Some researchers feel that, as there was a John Shaw in Port Sorell at the time having children with another Mary, this negates the Shaw/Anson marriage. As there were at least fifteen convicts named John Shaw and many women named Mary, it is possible there were at least two John Shaws in the district – one married to a Mary – and one married to Hannah. It is possible this is Hannah, and that perhaps she spent the last thirty years of her life married to John Shaw and living at Port Sorell on the North West Coast of Tasmania.

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