Jane Curtis (1816?-?)

by Leonie Mickleborough


According to Jane Curtis’ convict conduct record, she arrived in Van Diemen’s Land in 1844, her ‘proper name’ was Leonora Crosby and she was born about 1816 in Gibraltar Spain. In the 1800s, Gibraltar was one of the strategic bases outside England where British regiments were serving. Soldiers were permitted to take their lawful wives in the proportion of six to every 100, and in making the selection, those of the ‘best character and most likely to be useful to the Troops were first chosen’.

At the Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey) London in March 1844 when the 28-year-old housemaid, laundress and plain cook was charged with larceny Leonora used her maiden name of Jane Curtis. However, three years earlier, she was recorded in the census for the Parish of St Luke, Chelsea, as Leonora Crosbie aged 25, married, born in Ireland and living in North Street, Chelsea, London with her husband Joseph Crosbie aged 35, a cooper, who was born in Ireland, Thomas Crosbie aged ten (who may have been her stepson), Leonora aged seven, Ellen four, and one-year-old Catherine. Two years later at the age of seven, Leonora’s daughter Ellen died, and was buried on 6 March 1843 in the Parish of St Luke, Chelsea Middlesex.

At Jane Curtis’s trial in March 1844 witness Mary Connor stated how she met Jane on 2 January 1844 and ‘out of charity’, took her home to George Street Ratcliff, where she provided Jane with ‘lodging for nothing’. According to Mary, after Jane left the next day, she missed some clothing including a cloak and a shawl.

In her defence Jane, who had been arrested by police constable George Carr, said that on the Saturday evening she and ‘a captain’ were drinking ‘from one place to another till the places were all shut’. After meeting Mary, they went to her home and had ‘three or four pots of half-and-half’ and both stayed overnight. They met again the following Tuesday at Mary’s home, where they had ‘ever so much to drink’, after which, the captain left, and Jane and Mary had ‘more drink’, and when Mary’s husband Dennis arrived home, he found them ‘both tipsy’.

Jane was convicted of stealing one cloak valued at 10/-, one shawl 8/-, one bonnet 3/-, one pair of stockings 6d and one handkerchief 2d, all goods belonging to Dennis Connor.  Jane was sentenced to 7 years’ transportation.  She had three former convictions, at least one as Leonora Crosbie. In 1838 at the age of 25, as Leonora Crosbie, she was found guilty of larceny and was imprisoned for three months. She was also gaoled for twelve months for shoplifting, and fourteen days for ‘pledging’ (pawning stolen goods).

Following her conviction on 4 March 1844, Jane was held in custody before departure.  She left from London on 8 September 1844 aboard the Tasmania, and was one of 189 female convicts who arrived at the River Derwent in Hobart Town on 20 December 1844, two convicts having died on the passage. On arrival, Jane was recorded as 5 feet 1 inch (154.94 cm) tall, with a fresh complexion, dark brown hair, black eyebrows and hazel eyes. She stated she was able to read and write, her religion was ‘Protestant’, she had a brother William, and her husband Joseph and three children lived in London.

Jane was soon assigned to W.E. Nairne Esquire, but on 8 September 1845 she was charged with neglect of duty and being drunk, and received a reprimand. She was admonished again the following February, and in March 1846 for being absent without leave, she was sentenced to three months’ hard labour in the Crime Class at the Cascades Female House of Correction. In January 1847, while assigned to Mr Moses, she neglected her duty and was absent without leave, which resulted in her being sent back to the Female Factory for two months’ hard labour.

Jane was assigned to Mr Thomson after release but her compliant behaviour only lasted for one month. She was found on the premises of her former master Mr W.E. Nairne in April 1847, and sentenced to another six months’ hard labour at Cascades. Not deterred, on 5 July 1848 while assigned to Mr Gardiner she was found guilty of ‘Misconduct in being in bed with a male passholder’. This resulted in a further sentence of hard labour.

On 31 July 1849, Jane and 31-year-old Robert Mabey applied to marry. Robert had arrived on 4 February 1844 aboard the Anson, sentenced to 10 years’ transportation after being convicted at the Kent Assizes of uttering a forged note for £24/2/6, on which ‘the name of Augustus Applegard was forged’. Robert was a ‘Perfect’ tailor who could also ‘Cut out’, and was married to Esther, who, with their three children, lived at Bexley Heath. Robert’s father Thomas, his brothers John and Edward and his sister Emma lived at Langport, Somersetshire.

In Van Diemen’s Land Robert’s convict conduct record reveals two cases of misconduct. On 12 August 1844 he was sentenced to twenty months working in a gang at the Slopen Island Probation Station, and on 8 January 1848, he was sentenced to six days’ solitary confinement. In contrast, in his ‘favour’ he was praised for his ‘Meritorious Conduct on the occasions of Two Fires … 14/4/45’ at Slopen Island.

The marriage of Jane Curtis and Robert Maby [sic] was approved, and took place on 28 August 1849 at St George’s Church of England, Battery Point. On 6 February 1849, Robert was granted his ticket of leave, and his conditional pardon was approved on 25 March 1851.

Meanwhile, on 10 June 1854 at the Adjourned General Session at Westminster, Jane’s former husband Joseph Crosbie was found guilty of false pretences and imprisoned for two months. Joseph still resided at New Road, Chelsea when he re-married, his wife listed as Mary, who was born about 1816 in Surrey Epsom. However, the marriage did not last, as 38 year old Augusta Mary Crosbie of New Road, died in 1853 and was buried on 28 May at Kensington Brompton district, Middlesex. Joseph and Jane’s daughter, twenty year old Leonora, married Maurice Mulcahy, a 21 year old policeman on 27 March 1854 in the Parish of Upper Chelsea. Maurice died in late 1858. Leonora returned to live with her widowed father, and in 1861 they resided at Little Saffron Hill, Middlesex.  In 1881 Leonora Mulcahy, the 46-year-old widow and seamstress, was an inmate at the Convent of the Good Shepherd Penitentiary, East Finchley.

In Van Diemen’s Land Jane Curtis was granted her ticket of leave on 25 September 1849, and on 5 July 1852, her certificate of freedom. No more records have been located for Jane and Robert Mabey. They may have either accidentally or deliberately covered their tracks to commence a new life, but whatever the circumstances, they are typical of many convicts who, once free of the convict system, disappear from the records.

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