Edges of Empire Biographical Dictionary

of Convict Women from beyond the British Isles


Edited by Lucy Frost and Colette McAlpine


Who would have thought that a slave in British Hondurus would end up as a female convict in Van Diemen’s Land? Or that two cousins, the oldest aged 12, would be transported from their native Mauritius all the way to New South Wales? And why was a French-born woman with the extravagant name Emme Felicite Gabrielle Chardonez Mallohomme sentenced at London’s Old Bailey to transportation for life?


Edges of Empire is a Biographical Dictionary offering accounts of many of these convicts among nearly 200 others who were tried or born outside the British Isles. All were transported to the Australian colonies of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land between 1788 and 1853. Their life stories have been tracked from numerous sources around the world, sometimes in detail and sometimes with the merest trace of their existence. The contributors to the Biographical Dictionary are researchers of the Female Convicts Research Centre, based in Hobart, Tasmania. For more information go to: http://www.femaleconvicts.org.au.


In addition to the Biographical Dictionary, which includes all the women for whom information has become available,  the more in-depth and comprehensive study, From the Edges of Empire: Convict Women from beyond the British Isles, is available in paperback from Convict Women’s Press Inc.



Feature Story:

Kensell, Theresa

Theresa Kensell (1821?-1889)

by Douglas Wilkie


On 14 April 1852, Theresa Kensell was tried at Surrey Quarter Sessions, Newington, before J. E. Johnson, Esq, and a Bench of Magistrates. Theresa, 31, Edward Conolly, 38, and Robert Edwards, 43, had been indicted for stealing a silver watch from the person of George Wyatt, at Lambeth. Theresa had previously spent twelve months in prison at Vauxhall, and on the new charge she was found guilty and sentenced to transportation for 7 years. Edwards was transported for 10 years, and Conolly was given three months’ hard labor.

Theresa was just over 5 feet 1 inch  (154.94 cm) tall, had a fair complexion, dark brown hair and hazel eyes. Her mouth was described as wide and her nose as flat. When she arrived in Hobart on board the Duchess of Northumberland on 21 April 1853 she told officials that she was a housemaid who could wash if necessary. She said she came from Calcutta and was a widow. Indeed, her husband may have been the person known as Terence Kensella, who died and was buried at Colabah, India on 3 July 1847.

Within a week she was admitted to the House of Correction at Hobart, but was almost immediately employed by J. Wilkinson of Elizabeth Street, where she remained until late September when she was sent to Captain McKay, the Barrack Master. On 14 January 1854 she was assigned to Mr Ahern of Murray Street but clearly did not like the Aherns and absented herself for seven days. She was sent back to the House of Correction and had an extra six weeks added to her probationary period. In March she went to work for A. Perry at Battery Point and remained there until May when she disobeyed orders, and ‘created a disturbance’ while ‘under the influence of liquor’. She was returned to the House of Correction, given nine months’ hard labor, and an instruction was issued that she ‘was not to enter any service south of Oatlands’. She was found a position with A. Thompson at New Norfolk in December 1854. She clearly got on well with the Thompsons and a ticket of leave was recommended in January 1855 and granted in May.

On 4 December 1855 Theresa applied to marry Thomas Merry, a convict with a conditional pardon who, like Theresa had been convicted of stealing a watch, and had been transported on the Pestonjee Bomanjee in 1852. Merry had been appointed a police constable soon after arriving at Hobart, and apart from one conviction for being drunk and disorderly, appears to have an exemplary record. The application to marry was annotated, ‘will be recommended if the clergyman is satisfied 4/12/55’.

It appears that the marriage did not proceed and Theresa remained at New Norfolk until January 1856 when she was found guilty of using obscene language and was returned to the House of Correction for fourteen days. In April she was found engaging in disorderly conduct and out after hours and given a month’s hard labor.

On Monday 12 May 1856 the Hobarton Mercury reported,

Assaulting a Landlady - Theresa Kensall, t.l., was charged with assaulting Mrs. Hargraves, the land lady of the Lord Nelson, Campbell-street, on, the evening of the 7th instant, by striking her on the head with a quart pot,

The prisoner was drinking at the bar, when a row took place, in which, it appeared, she took an active part: Mrs. Hargrave, in her attempt to quell the disturbance, received a violent blow on the head from the prisoner, which rendered her senseless,

Dr. Bright described the nature of the wound sustained by the complainant: there was a wound, on the head, which would, he thought, terminate in an abscess.

The prisoner was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment with hard labor.

Perhaps in an attempt to avoid renewed prison time, on 8 April 1856, Theresa applied to marry John Heveley, a free emigrant. Although the application was approved, no trace of John Heveley has been found and the person referred to may have been one John Everleigh. Again, it is unclear whether the marriage took place, but in March 1857 Theresa obtained a position with W. McLaughton in Argyle Street and had her ticket of leave reinstated in April 1857. She was granted a conditional pardon on 11 August 1857 and her certificate of freedom on 15 September 1859.

No more is heard of Theresa Kenshell until she married George Moore, a shoemaker, at St John the Baptist in Hobart, on 21 November 1870. A subsequent death is registered for Theresa Moore, aged about seventy, at Hobart on 2 September 1889.

Back to List


Further reading: 
Ralph Crane, ‘Out of India: Convict Women in the Web of Empire’, in From the Edges of Empire, eds L. Frost and C. McAlpine, Convict Women’s Press, Hobart 2015, pp. 14-34.




© 2016 Convict Women's Press Inc.