Janet Forrest (1816–57)

by Leonie Mickleborough


Janet Forrest, born in Gibraltar, Spain in 1816, was the daughter of Samuel Forrest who was born in the Parish of Carluch [sic] (Carluke), Lanarkshire Scotland in 1784. At the time of Janet’s birth, and also the birth of her sister Catherine in 1819, Samuel was serving in the Garrison Staff of the 26th Foot Regiment in Gibraltar, having served in the Cameron Highlanders in Portugal. The regiment had left Lisbon on 27 May 1812 and arrived in Gibraltar on 4 June.

Samuel wrote combined letters to his parents and his brother John from Gibraltar on 14 June 1812 and 26 April 1813, and in the second letter, as well as saying how he heard from his sister Jennat [sic] about a month earlier, he told them he had married on 16 March 1813. Samuel served 22 years and one day in the infantry, and from 17 March 1821 to 24 September 1825 (four years and 192 days) was in the Garrison Staff, where he reached the rank of Staff Quarter Master Serjeant. He was discharged on 23 September 1825 at the age of 41 ‘in consequence of a chronic pulmonic complaint’, was 5 feet 8 inches (172.7 cm) tall with grey hair and eyes, a fresh complexion, and was a labourer by trade.

On 8 January 1836 at the Edinburgh Court of Justiciary Scotland, Janet Forrest was charged with ’Theft by housebreaking’. When arrested, Janet, a plain cook and housemaid, claimed she was married and had one child, but later denied this and stated she was single.

According to court evidence, it was possibly overnight on 15–16 October 1835 that Janet, a ‘respectable looking girl of about 18’, did ‘wickedly and feloniously break into and enter’ a shop in Nicolson Street, Edinburgh, which was then occupied by her employer, Alexander Duff, a draper. Janet used a key she had previously ‘feloniously’ stolen and ‘theftuously’ taken from Alexander’s pocket, or in ‘some other way’ she had taken the key from a house in Bristo Street which, at the time was occupied by Alexander.

Janet was found guilty of stealing eight and a half yards of ‘muslin for a dress’, six and a quarter yards of black silk, a handkerchief and three pairs of cotton stockings. This was not her first offence. She had previously entered the shop by also using the key, and had stolen eight yards of printed cotton, nine and a half yards of shawl-pattern cotton, five yards of white cotton, two and a half yards of striped drugget (a cheap fabric, very thin and narrow, usually made of wool, or half wool and half silk or linen), six yards of black silk, two yards of flannel, three silk handkerchiefs, two net collars, one habit shirt, five cotton handkerchiefs, one shawl handkerchief, one quarter of a yard of black silk, one pair of kid gloves, two yards of green satin ribbon, one yard of striped cotton and nine yards of green merino, all Alexander Duff’s property.

Although ‘Mr Crawford handed in certificates as to her good character’ from two previous masters, Janet was sentenced to 7 years’ transportation, until which time she was held in the tollbooth in Edinburgh, where she was reported to be ‘very indifferent’. She later claimed that she had no visitors while in custody, and also denied having any previous convictions, or having been imprisoned.

Janet was transported on the Westmoreland which left from Woolwich on 12 August 1836 for Van Diemen’s Land. On 3 September the surgeon on the vessel listed her as suffering from costiveness (constipation). Two days later, being cured, she was discharged, and was one of 184 female convicts who arrived at the River Derwent on 3 December 1836. The 21 year old was 5 feet 4 inches (162.56 cm) tall, had a fresh complexion and a freckled face, dark grey eyes, dark brown hair and eyebrows and a rather long face and a high forehead.

Her first assignment was possibly to Mr McDougall where, in June 1837 she was charged with insolence to her master. She received a reprimand for this, and the following month, after being absent from her service, she was ordered to spend one month at the wash tub at the Female House of Correction. Janet was then assigned to the Richmond district where she appeared at the Chief Magistrate’s Office on 16 December 1837.

In 1839, while under sentence at the Cascades Female House of Correction, Janet gave birth to a son, James Forrest. On 8 March 1841, at the age of two, James was admitted to the Queen’s Orphan School at New Town, where he remained until 28 August 1850 when he was discharged to his mother, who, by this time, was free by servitude.

On 10 April 1840, Janet was charged with being absent without leave from her master, Mr Walker. She was reprimanded and returned to her service, and the issuing of her ticket of leave was withheld for one month. Her ticket was issued on 27 January 1842, but on 1 February it was suspended for one month, as she had been absent from, and insolent to her then master, Mr Pattinson.

In Hobart Town on 8 January 1843 Janet Forester [sic] gave birth to her second son, William Butterworth, who was baptised four days later, and whose father was named as William Butterworth. On 3 July 1843 William, aged 33 years and Jannett [sic] were married in Hobart Town. Another four sons and one daughter were born to them between 1844 and 1848: Joseph 1844, Kate 1846, George 1846, John 1848 and Samuel 1848.

In 1849 William Butterworth became licensee of the ‘Duke of Wellington Hotel’, Macquarie Street Hobart Town, but on 7 May the following year, at the age of 47, William, a ‘miller’, died of consumption at the ‘Old Mill’ Macquarie Street, and Janet was left with their five young children and her son James Forrest ‘to deplore his loss’. William’s funeral service was held at the nearby St John’s Presbyterian Church, and William’s hotel licence was then granted to W.V. Lawrence.

On 5 February 1851 the publican’s licence of the ‘Royal Oak Inn and Stables’, east of the Barrack Street intersection, and three or four doors from the ‘Duke of Wellington’, was transferred to Janet Butterworth. On 16 May 1851 Janet and 34-year-old Walter Baxter Crooks, a ‘carrier’, were married at St George’s Church of England, Battery Point. On 4 August, the licence of the ‘Royal Oak Inn and Stables’ was transferred from Janet to her husband, Walter. During the year the licence changed hands again, but between 1853 and 1857 Janet once more held it. Her application for a renewal of the licence in 1854 was opposed by Justice Henslowe on the grounds that he had ‘heard frequent complaints of the disorderly state of the house, and when the magistrates visited it, one man was intoxicated’, and the landlady permitted the man to create a disturbance. The Police Magistrate said he had not received any complaints, and as Mr Henslowe was the only dissenting party, the certificate was allowed.

Mrs Janet Crook was living on the premises at the ‘Royal Oak Inn and Stables’ in June 1855 when she gave birth to a daughter. Janet Butterworth [sic] died in Hobart on 27 February 1857, aged 38.

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