Mary Ann Hipwell was born circa 1765 in St George, Hanover Square, London, England, United Kingdom and died 23 August 1837 Colo, New South Wales, Australia of unspecified causes.

Mary Hipwell - convict in the Third Fleet on the Mary Ann in 1791

Mary's crime

Mary Hipwell, convict, arrived in Port Jackson (Sydney), New South Wales, Australia on 9 July 1791 on the "Mary Anne", a ship of the third fleet. This was a convict ship with only female convicts which had left England on 16 February 1791. Mary had been convicted of theft of a pair of gloves worth 1s at the Old Bailey in London on 27 October 1790, and sentenced to transportation for 7 years.

A letter from, Middlesex County Records Office states:

"Mary Hipwell, spinster, of the parish of St. George, Hanover Square, was committed to the Westminster Bridewell (prison) in Tothill Fields on 26 August 1790 by a justice named N. Bond for stealing silver and jewellery from Elizabeth Tyndale. Being charged with a felony, she was transferred to Newgate Gaol in September, indicted with Benjamin Coulbourne, a labourer, also of St George, Hanover Square, for stealing silver, jewellery and clothing to the value of £207 19s 6d from Elizabeth Tyndale. The trial was postponed owing to the absence of material witness, but at the October Sessions of Gaol Delivery of Newgate at the Old Bailey, the jury found her guilty, but only of stealing gloves to the value of 1s, and sentenced her to be transported beyond the seas for seven years. She then remained in Newgate Gaol until January 1791."

The case was reported in the London Times dated 28 August 1790:

Benjamin Colburn and Mary Hipwell were examined on Charge exhibited against them on the oath of Mrs, Tindyll. Mrs. Tindyll said, that when she left town which was in the beginning of August, she left her house in Bolton-street in the care of Mary Hipwell her servant, previously enjoining her not to quit it, or admit any men. On the 14th of the same month she was informed by letter that her house had been robbed on the 12th, during the time her servant was gone to Sadler's Wells, in company with the other prisoner. On coming to town, she discovered that she had lost property, the intrinsic worth of which is two hundred pounds; but to replace would take a much larger sum, as many very valuable antique medals and gems were among the property stolen.
Duncan Grant, one of Sir Sampson's patrol, who took the prisoners, and searched the box of Mary Hipwell, produced a pair of white gloves and a pillowcase, which he found within it. Mrs. Tindyll swore the gloves and pillowcase were both her property. This circumstance, with the many contradictions prevarications of the prisoners, together with the known character of Colburn, induced her to suspect they were concerned in the robbery.
They were both committed for trial.

The trial of Mary Hipwell and Benjamin Colburn was reported in the London Times dated 28 October 1790:

Before Mr. Justice Heath.
Benjamin Colburn and Mary Hipwell were indicted for stealing wearing apparel, plate, and jewels, to a great amount, the property of Elizabeth Tindall, in her dwelling house.
Mrs. Tindall said, she lived in Bolton-street, Piccadilly, that on the 2nd of August, she went into the country, and left her house in town, in charge of Mary Hipwell. On the 9th August (this is a mistake in the reporting as the robbery did not happen until the 12th), she received a letter from Mr. M'Cay, that her house was robbed. When she came to town she found all the property gone that was stated in the indictment. An officer searched Mary Hipwell's box, and found in it a pair of new gloves, which Mrs. Tindall positively swore to be her property, there was also a pillow case found in the box, which she believed to be her property but could not swear positively to it, as it had no mark upon it.
The Jury found Mary Hipwell guilty of stealing goods (a pair of gloves) to the value of one shilling.
There was no evidence whatever against Colburn. He was taken up merely on suspicion, having kept company with Hipwell. Not guilty.

During the trial Mrs Tindall said "I have no suspicion of the servant (that is Mary) being concerned in the robbery, any farther than quitting her charge, and basely going to Sadler's Wells." Mrs Tindall also stated about the gloves that were found in Mary's possession, and that Mary said in her defence that had been given to her by Mrs Tindall, that "these are mine most certainly; they never were worn; they are marked with the maker's name, and the initials of mine; I know them to be mine; I left them in the cabinet, locked up in a drawer".

There is an old story which has been passed down through the family, protesting Mary's innocence, that agrees, in most details, the circumstances of the case. "Mary Hipwell was a maid servant to a Lady who left Mary in charge of the household while she was absent for a few days. Mary was given instructions not to leave the house while her mistress was absent, in spite of this, Mary and her boyfriend went to the opera and in her absence the house was robbed. Mary was held responsible for the robbery, but the only thing which was found in her possession was a silk handkerchief which she had borrowed without permission of her employer." The details that are different in this story are the item which was found it Mary's possession, that she had borrowed the item, and that she went to the opera. She instead went to the Sadler's Wells theatre.

The Sadler's Wells theatre during that week in August 1790 was showing:

Great Variety of Performances, particularly a new Historical Representation in two parts, founded on a late interesting Nautical Event, called ENGLISH HEROISM in which is particularly and correctly given a living Picture of the GUARDIAN FRIGATE, commanded by Lieut. RIOU, in her very perilous situation in the South Seas, embayed amongst the stupendous Floating ISLANDS of ICE, with her providential arrival afterwards at the Cape of Good Hope.

Life Sketch

Mary's year of birth estimate comes the age she gave at her trial in 1790 (26), and the age she gave in the 1828 census (63).

After arriving in New South Wales in July 1791, Mary had a relationship with Richard Reynolds, another Third Fleet convict and bore a son to him in 1794. This son was known an Edward Reynolds Junior.

By late 1797 she had taken up with Thomas Gosper, a fellow Londoner. Their first son Thomas Gosper Jnr was born in July 1798. Mary's son Edward Reynolds had gone with her to part of form the Gosper household at Freeman's Reach. By 1805 Mary and Thomas had 4 sons.

On 1st January 1810, Governor Lachlan Macquarie took over the administration of the colony. The fabric of Colonial society began to change under the new order; emancipists were encouraged to take their rightful place in the main stream of society and some even supped at the Governors table. Concubines were encouraged to become wives, and Mary Hipwell became Mary Gosper. She and Thomas married at St. Matthews Windsor on 19th November 1810, the same day as they baptised their youngest son James. The respectability of the Gosper family was further attested to in February 1816 when a public meeting was held in Windsor to raise subscriptions for the relief of those who were suffering as a consequence of the defeat of the Duke of Wellington at the battle of Waterloo. Edward Reynolds was one of the collectors for the Wilberforce area, and both he and Thomas Gosper pledged two Pounds to the fund. (Dennis Bruce Gosper, "The Pragmatic Pioneers", 1991, pg 8)

The date of Mary's wedding to Thomas Gosper was also seven weeks after Thomas had finished serving his sentence and had received his certificate of freedom.

In 1829 the family purchased additonal land at Upper Colo on the Colo River, a tributory of the Hawkesbury River. The family moved its residence onto this property.

Mary died on 23 August 1837 and is buried with her husband on the family land at Upper Colo. The location of the grave is unknown.

It is believed that there are now over 25,000 descendants of Mary Ann Hipwell.


Offspring of Richard Beale Reynolds (1769-1837) and Mary Ann Hipwell
Name Birth Death Joined with
Edward Reynolds (1794-1832) 26 May 1794 Sydney, New South Wales, Australia 25 November 1832 Colo River, New South Wales, Australia Sarah Maria Singleton (1795-1828)

Offspring of Thomas Roker Alexander Gosper (1768-1847) and Mary Ann Hipwell
Name Birth Death Joined with
Thomas Gosper (1798-1864) 12 July 1798 Freemans Reach, New South Wales, Australia 5 October 1864 Upper Colo, New South Wales, Australia Mary Humphries (c1801-1892)
John Gosper (1801-1886) 1 May 1801 Hawkesbury, New South Wales, Australia 20 November 1886 Windsor, New South Wales, Australia Hannah Beale Reynolds (1806-1888)
Joseph Gosper (1804-1889) 29 April 1804 Wilberforce, New South Wales, Australia 11 February 1889 Kurrajong, New South Wales, Australia Ann Marsden (1812-1870)
James Gosper (1805-1837) 1 October 1805 Freemans Reach, New South Wales, Australia 11 December 1837 Windsor, New South Wales, Australia Margaret Marsden (c1805-1841)


Footnotes (including sources)

‡ General
  • AWT:db: elvaboyle, id: I11511 — no longer available
¶ Death
  • Her date of death was recorded in the family bible of her son Joseph.