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Sarah Darke
1777-13 July 1828
1998-1999 Researched and written by Vicki Smith


Sarah Darke's Great-grandfather was Richard Darke, husband of Mary Drinkwater - they were both from Gloucester. Richard and Mary married on 24 March 1705 at Whaddon. They had eleven children, the last three of which were misregistered with the surname of Dart/e. Richard became a Freeman of the City of Gloucester in 1702, he was at the time apprenticed as a gunsmith to Master John Reeve. Richard presented 3 of his sons, on the occasion of their 25th birthday, to the Lord Mayor of Gloucester City so they could also be made a Freeman of the City. Richard possibly died before his son Henry had reached 25 years of age.

Richard and Mary's fourth son, Henry Darke, was christened on 13 March 1721 at St Michael's Church in Gloucester. Henry was made a Freeman of the City in 1747 and he married his first wife, Edith Dawes, on 20 April 1748. Edith had been christened on 14 January 1722 at Bulley, near Upton St Leonard - she was the daughter of Thomas Dawes. (Thomas was christened in 1685 at Langhope, the son of John and Jane Dawes). Henry married his second wife Jane Noakes on 11 June 1758. She died in 1761. Four years later, in 1765, Henry - the son of Henry Darke and Edith (nee Dawes) - married Mary Hannes on 26 July 1772 at Upton St Leonards. (Henry had been born circa 1748 and his wife Mary Hannes had been christened on 17 November 1751 at Upton St Leonards, the daughter of William and Elizabeth Perry.)

Sarah, the daughter of Henry Darke and Mary Hannes, was christened on 23 March 1778 at St Michael's Gloucester. (In C.J. Smee's ‘Fourth Fleet Families of Australia’, Sarah’s Darkes parents are listed as Henry & Mary nee ? and her year of birth as being circa 1777). Sarah Darke (Drake, Dart, Darts) was 18 years old when delivered to Gloucester City Goal on 11 March 1795 after being sentenced to 7 years transportation for theft.

Parchment documents, some damaged and faded including the narrow strip on which Sarah’s indictment was set out, were found in box No ASSI5/115/3 by English Researcher Stephen Wright. The details are as follows:

Sarah Darke, late of St Mary de Crypt in the City of Gloucester and County of the same, spinster, and Sarah Mann, late of the same, spinster, on 11th day of February 1795 stole ‘Four pairs of stays of the value of 6 pounds from the house of John Hoskins in St Mary de Crypt Parish. The reverse side of the indictment was marked ‘True Bill’ so her trial was to proceed, also names the witnesses sworn in to give evidence in court, John Hoskins and William Bourne. Both girls pleaded guilty.

From bundle No 8 of ‘Depositions etc’ for the Lent Assizes there were 3 sworn statements. One statement dated 20 February 1795 was made by John Hoskins, a stay maker whose shop was built onto the front of his house in St Mary de Crypt Parish in the City of Gloucester. He said that 4 pairs of Women’s stays had been stolen from his shop and that he had found one of thesepairs in the possession of Sarah Darke and a second pair in that of Sarah Mann. A second statement by John Hoskins dated the following day states ‘ he had found the 2 pairs when he had gone with a search warrant to the house of Frances Shillam, a widow living outside the City in the Parish of Wootton and acquainted with the two Sarahs. Having found the 2 pairs in their possession, he was told by Frances that the two Sarahs had brought them with them, but that there were no other such items in her house. He searched but found nothing more.....’

A third statement signed by Edward Pithorne/Pitthorne ( a neighbour of Frances Shillam) on 21 February states ‘Frances had come to his house with a pair of stays wanting to leave them there because she was afraid that her house would be searched and ‘her stays’ taken away. That was, he said, at 3pm on 20Feb, and that at just before 6pm he had concluded that they could have been stolen goods, so his wife took them back to Frances.’

The story was then taken up by the remainder of John Hoskins’ statement of 21 Feb - ‘ At about 7pm on 20th, John had learned of Edward’s claims regarding Frances and ‘her stays’, so he went back to her house and met the Constable, who had already found the third pair of stays there. Frances had then admitted that she believed that Sarah Darke had pawned the fourth pair for 5 shillings.’ Both Sarahs were transported on the "Indispensible" arriving 30 April 1796 in N.S.W. (The "Indispensible" carried 131 convict women on a voyage taking about 6 months touching only at Rio. Only 2 convicts died on the voyage. "Sixty of the women were sent up to Parramatta, there to be employed in such labour as was suited to their sex and strength. The remainder were landed at this place (Sydney Cove)" - letter from Gov. John Hunter to Duke of Portland.)

Sarah died 13 July 1828 just prior to the 1828 Census. She was buried at St. John's Cemetery, Parramatta on 14 July 1828. She is buried under a sandstone headstone, Norman with cutaway shoulders, decorated with crossed palm frond and trumpet. There is a matching footstone. Her headstone reads "Sacred to the Memory of SARAH wife of ANDw. SNOWDEN SENr. Who Departed this Life 13th July 1828 Aged 51 Years We hope the Lord will recieve (sic) Her Soul". In the Burial Register she is designated as Free publican's wife. I have a photo of her gravestone.


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Last modified: 30 October, 2006