ANN SMITH (COLPITTS) 1759 Ė 1832

 

 

The earliest record family researchers have of Ann Colpitts is that of Ann Watson. The early court records of the1780ís described Ann Watson as a widow and a Scot. Her actual maiden name however has yet to be established.

 

From a series of more than a dozen entries from the Newcastle Courant newspaper between 1780 -1785 both Ann and her partner Thomas Colpitts were involved in many acts of petty larceny. Together they were part of a long standing gang described as the Bishop Auckland gang. Although Ann and Thomas were often described as members of this Bishop Auckland Gang, it seems likely that these petty crimes were the sporadic acts of associated tinkers and villains rather than that of an organised gang of criminals. The gang was regularly reported as frequenting Gateshead and Gateshead Fell near Newcastle and had warerooms at both places. They were regulars at the local Crown and Canon Inn where no doubt nefarious transactions took place.

 

Over about a decade, Ann and her partner Tom Colpitts became quite notorious in the border area of north eastern England. Thomas was jailed on about five occasions and Ann on three occasions. One of her visits to the prison was for picking a Highlanders pocket. She must have been very skilled at her profession. Ann may have been traditionally Scottish tight with her money but she was not so inclined with other peopleís pockets and purses!

 

There is no evidence that Ann and Thomas were ever married. They had at least three children over the period from 1779 to 1784. It is likely that the children may have ended up in the Work Houses since both their parents were often behind bars. Apart from petty larceny, Thomas was also convicted for forgery of the British currency. Despite public floggings and regular incarcerations, he remained a serial criminal of varied and dubious talents. Ann was tried at Durham on 20 July 1785 for stealing twelve handkerchiefs from a shop with a value of twenty shillings. She was sentenced to transportation for seven years and left England with The First Fleet on the Lady Penrhyn. She was listed as aged 28 years and her occupation as being a servant; perhaps to Tom Colpitts!

 

On the voyage to Botany Bay, Ann was recorded as acting as a midwife. She also formed a liaison with a marine John Colethread. She bore him a son during the voyage and another in the colony but both died in their infancy. On 25 September 1791, Ann Colpitts married Thomas Smith at St Johnís Parramatta. They had three daughters: Mary (1792), Jane (1795) and Elizabeth (1797).

 

Two months before receiving his land grant, Joseph Hatton had married a convict, Rose Sparrow on 18 March 1792. Rose arrived in the colony with her mother in 1791. However in June 1795 she stabbed Joe in the stomach in a fit of jealousy and we can only guess that a relationship with Ann Colpitts may have been the likely cause. Hatton generously requested that his wife be put well away from him and she not be committed to trial; perhaps he had a guilty conscience. While Joseph was well rid of her, thirty seven years later after Annís death in 1832, Rose Sparrow, still Hatton by marriage, was to reappear and make an unsuccessful claim on his estate.

 

By the 1800 Muster, Ann and her three daughters were living with Joseph Hatton at Kissing Point together with Joseph Hatton junior who was born that year. Twenty-two settlers including Joseph Hatton partly subscribed to the building of the first bark schoolhouse and chapel Ė one of the earliest in the colony. In July 1800, the new structure was officially opened and Joseph and Annís son, young Joseph, was one of three children christened on that momentous day for the settlers of the district. That bark structure was to be the forerunner of St Anneís Church.

 

While Joseph and Ann both came from northern England in the Yorkshire area, it is difficult to determine if they knew each other prior to their arrival at Sydney Cove in 1788. However, Joseph was described at his trial as a hawker and peddler and Ann was a clever pickpocket and thief so there is a somewhat complementary nature about their liaison.

 

By 1802, Joseph had sold his fifty acres to the colonial brewer James Squire and had purchased John Jones original grant of thirty acres. Life continued to be very hard on the land and to make matters worse, in December 1804, The Sydney Gazette reported that the family had been robbed of all its possessions. So having become respectable settlers in their new homeland, it is ironic that Joe and Ann became victims of the very sorts of crimes they themselves had committed while back in England. Nevertheless, after their turbulent lives back in the Old Dart, Joe and Ann took their opportunities and together became a leading family in the life of the small rural community of Kissing Point.

 

Joseph died on 1 June 1828 having lived half of his life in England and the other half in New South Wales. Ann died four years later on 3 August 1832. Her death notice and obituary referred to her as Mrs. Hatton of Kissing Point. This was the name she was known by for many years in the local district. She was buried however by her legal married name of Ann Smith.

 

After her death young Joseph took control of the whole thirty acres and laid claim to it. He had probably been working the grant through Joe seniorís later years and before Annís death. Apparently young Joseph stated that the original will made by his father in 1823 had gone missing

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 However his half sister Elizabeth Bryan (nee Smith) must have known the contents of her stepfatherís will and attempted to win back her share. Meanwhile in 1834, Rose Sparrow, Joeís legal wife, reappeared and won her case in the Supreme Court for the ownership of all of Joseph Hattonís possessions including Jones Farm. She based her case on the fact that Joseph Hatton had left no will. By now it became evident that young Joseph would need to ďfind the willĒ or Rose Sparrow would become the owner. Miraculously, young Joseph was soon able to find it and in March 1837 Elizabeth finally won her case and received from Joseph junior as her share of the estate the adjoining twenty acres of Richard Hawkes farm that Joseph senior had previously purchased. Rose Sparrow received only a small amount of cash. Justice was finally delivered.

 

The Hatton familiesí long association with St Anneís church at Ryde goes back now for seven generations. From such humble beginnings Joseph Hatton and Ann Colpitts have left an enduring legacy of which we can all be proud and it is fitting that after all these years Annís two memorial plaques are now rightfully placed next to those of Joseph Hatton.

 

Paul Coghlan

18 Wyarama Street

Allambie Heights NSW 2100

acattain@bigpond.com

 

9452 2088

 

 

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