Amelia Moss (1813?-1837)

by Jan Richardson


On 31 December 1832, Amelia Moss was convicted of ‘Larceny from a Person’ at the Epiphany Session of the Bristol Quarter Sessions. The local newspaper reported that Amelia Moss and Ann Stiles were transported for 7 years ‘for stealing money to the amount of £8 and upwards from John Nurse’. They arrived together in Sydney Cove on board the Buffalo in October 1833. Ann Stiles was a 17-year-old ‘Nurse Maid’ with a ‘Fair Ruddy’ complexion, ‘Light Sandy’ hair and ‘Hazel grey’ eyes. Amelia Moss was a 20-year-old housemaid, unmarried and with no children. Although she was born and tried in Bristol, Amelia was described as having a ‘Copper Color’ complexion that was a ‘little pock pitted’, as well as ‘Black Woolly’ hair and ‘Dark Chestnut’ eyes. She also had ‘thick’ lips and several sets of letters or initials tattooed on both of her arms.

On arriving in New South Wales, Amelia was assigned to ‘Wm Woolcott, Sydney’. In May 1834, less than a year after being transported, 21-year-old Amelia received permission to marry John Kigley, an ex-convict, who, at 42 years old, was twice her age. Kigley, a soldier, was born in Cavan, Ireland in about 1792 but was tried in Madras, India, before being transported to New South Wales on the Greyhound in 1818. It seems they did not marry as there is no record of any such marriage. In June 1834 the Australian newspaper reported that:

Amelia Moss, a sable virgin of about twenty, was next shewn to the bar, charged by her mistress, Mrs. Woolcot, of George-street, with being extremely abusive on Saturday evening, and among other odd things, threatening to make away with herself. It appeared that the cause of her outrageous conduct had its origins in a love affair, the object of Amelia’s devotions being a free fellow servant, but from some recent circumstances, there had been a cessation of the usual attentions, which had been the cause of effecting [sic] her heart.…

Amelia was sentenced to one month in the Third Class of the Parramatta Female Factory and it was recommended that she be reassigned ‘up the Country’ so that she was ‘at a distance from Sydney’.

In August 1836 Rev Samuel Marsden granted Amelia permission to marry Henry House, a ‘native of the Colony’, but there is also no record of this marriage taking place. Instead, in January 1837, Amelia, a ‘woman of colour, assigned to Mr Yaldwin of Newtown’, was charged with stealing several valuable items from Mrs Yaldwin’s bedchamber and sentenced to twelve months in the Third Class of the Female Factory. Amelia also faced a second charge of assaulting a free female servant named Eliza Gardner whom Amelia suspected of implicating her in the thefts. A constable gave evidence that Amelia ‘rushed at’ Gardner and dealt her ‘a violent blow’ on the face, causing her to bleed. For this crime Amelia was committed for an additional twelve months, bringing her total sentence to two years in the Female Factory.

On 1 August 1837, Amelia was transferred from the Factory to the Sydney Gaol along with five other convict women. She was described in the gaol description book as a stout ‘Woman of Colour’ with black hair and brown eyes. From Sydney Gaol the six women were sent to the ‘Interior Port Macquarie’, presumably because they had caused trouble at the Female Factory and were being punished by being sent far from Sydney.  Within a few months of arriving in Port Macquarie, Amelia Moss, the ‘sable virgin’ from Bristol, was dead—her life cut short when she was about 26 years of age.  Her burial certificate records that she was still a convict (‘Bond’) and that she was buried on 28 November 1837. The actual date of her death, however, was not recorded. As with so many other female convicts, Amelia’s death does not appear to have been reported in the newspapers and there is no clue as to why she died so suddenly and at such a young age.

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