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  • Title
    Margaret Catchpole - Papers, 1801-1870
  • Creator
  • Call number
    SAFE/A 1508 (Safe 1/272)
  • Level of description
  • Date

  • Type of material
  • Reference code
  • Issue Copy
    Microfilm : CY 965, frames 1-181 (A 1508, filed at Safe 1/272)
  • Physical Description
    0.05 metres of textual material (1 volume) - manuscript

    Margaret Catchpole (1762-1819), convict and pioneer, was born on 14 March 1762 in Suffolk. She worked as a servant for various families until she became the under-nurse and under-cook for Mrs John Cobbold, wife of an Ipswich brewer. Here she was treated like a member of the family and learnt to read and write. She left the Cobbolds in mid-1795, and in May 1797, she stole John Cobbold's horse and rode it to London with the intention of selling it. She was arrested and sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted to 7 years transportation. For three years she was kept in the custody of John Ripshaw, Keeper of New Gaol in Ipswich. In March 1800, she made a spectacular mid-night escape over the 22-foot gaol wall, but was quickly recaptured. Again, she was sentenced to death but this was commuted to transportation for life.
    Margaret reached Sydney on 14 Dec. 1801 and initially worked as cook for the commissary John Palmer. She was determined to keep good company, and worked for well-known families such as the Faithfulls, Rouses, Dights, Woods and Skinners. Her decent and industrious way of life led to her pardon on 31 January 1814 by Governor Macquarie. The rest of her life was spent keeping a small store at Richmond, acting as midwife and nurse, and helping others. She died of influenza on 13 May 1819.
    Her letters provide an important first-hand account of early colonial life in New South Wales.
    The History of Margaret Catchpole, a Suffolk Girl by the Rev. Richard Cobbold was published in 1845.
  • Scope and Content
    Contents include letters, newspaper cuttings and documents concerning Margaret Catchpole's life, trial and transportation to Australia. It includes letters by several members of the Cobbold family - Mrs Cobbold, Charles, Frederick and the Rev. Richard Cobbold. The Rev. Richard Cobbold's letters include correspondence with David Hope, a relative of Mary Reibey, about false speculation confusing the identity of Mary Reibey with Margaret Catchpole. Letters in this collection by Margaret Catchpole are as follows:
    25 May 1801; Letter to Mrs Cobbold from Ipswich Gaol. Typed copy of the original in Ipswich Museum
    21 Jan. 1802; Letter to Mrs Cobbold from Sydney, also including a letter to Dr George Stebbing
    20 Dec. 1804; Letter to Uncle and Aunt Howes from Sydney. Copy made by Mrs Cobbold
    25 May 1807; Letter to Mrs Cobbold from Sydney
    18 Oct. 1807; Letter to Mrs Cobbold from Sydney
    8 Oct. 1809; Letter to Mrs Cobbold from Richmond Hill
    1 Sep. 1811; Letter to Mrs Cobbold from Richmond Hill
  • Finding Aids
  • General note

    Microfilm copy made, Sept. 1986.
    Edited transcriptions, by David A. Mitchell, of the 11 known letters of Margaret Catchpole are held at MLMSS 6241. Transcripts of the 6 letters on this database are by courtesy of David A. Mitchell
    Digital order no:Album ID : 824041
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