Sarah Payne (1813?-?)

by Douglas Wilkie


The circumstances that led to Sarah Payne being born in Portugal around 1813 are unknown, as is the name of her parents, but at some time she married Joseph Payne who was two years older.

Between seven and nine o’clock in the evening of 17 September 1833, Sarah and Joseph went to the shop of Thomas Finnimore Evans, a woollen draper of no. 1 Norton Falgate in London. They asked Thomas Newman, the shop assistant, to show them some waistcoat pieces. Joseph bought one of the pieces for half a sovereign, but when they left Newman discovered several other pieces were missing. He caught up with them about ten doors away and accused them of theft, which they denied. But while he was trying to search them another person came up behind Sarah and was seen being passed one of the pieces. As Newman moved to take hold of the missing item, Sarah and Joseph took flight. Newman pursued Sarah and gave her into the custody of police constable Matthew Peek. A passer-by, Frederick Evans, pursued Joseph along White Lion Street, caught him, and handed him over to police constable Henry Townley.

Sarah and Joseph Payne were tried at the Old Bailey on 17 October 1833 on a charge of stealing three yards of valentia fabric, valued at fourteen shillings. They were found guilty and each was sentenced to transportation for 7 years. Sarah had a previous conviction and sentence of six weeks. The only records of a Sarah Payne being brought to trial in the years immediately before 1833 are one in 1823 in Berkshire for larceny, with a sentence of one month—but Sarah would have been aged ten at the time; a trial in 1825 for murder, with an outcome of “No Bill”—in other words, there was insufficient evidence for an indictment—but Sarah was still aged only twelve; and a third at Clerkenwell in April 1830 when a Sarah Payne was charged with “concealing the birth of her infant”, to which she was found not guilty. It is therefore unclear what her previous misdemeanour might have been.

Joseph was transported on the Hooghley; Sarah on the Numa. When the Numa arrived at Sydney 13 June 1834 Sarah’s details were noted. She was aged twenty-one; five feet two and a half inches (158.75 cm) tall; had a “stout build”, sallow and freckled complexion; brown hair and eyes (although another description gives black hair); and noticeably the tattoo “J M JAMES J S” on her left upper arm. She could read and write, was a protestant, was married, and gave her occupation as a kitchen maid and silk weaver. The tattoo is presumably a clue to a former relationship or a family member.

Sarah was assigned to Mr Jay of Sydney. A year later, on 2 June 1835, she was admitted to the 3rd class of the Parramatta Female Factory.

Despite her marriage to Joseph Payne on 23 July 1838, she was granted permission to marry James Read at Liverpool. Joseph Payne was granted a ticket of leave at Bathurst in 1839.

Sarah gained her certificate of freedom 16 December 1841.

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