Topic: Ann Gordon (nee King) (1795-1868)

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Ann Gordon spent nine years as the superintendent and matron of the Female Factory at Parramatta. She was my fourth great grandmother - Debbie McCauley (2013).

Ann King (1795-1868)

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Ann King was born in 1795 in Portsmouth, Hampshire, England. Her parents were James and Ann King (nee Ovey). James was a government courier in the military. He had been wounded at the Battle of Quebec (1775).

It has been said that Ann had a brother, Andrew (or James Henry King) who was killed in the Battle of Waterloo (1815) and another one, John, who was also in the Navy. Ann's sister Martha married George Lambert in 1812 who was a member of the 21st Limerick County Regiment .

Ann's illegitimate daughter, Letitia Ann King, was born in Hampshire on 21 December 1809.

On 2 May 1812 Ann married Robert Gordon of the 21st Limerick County Regiment in St Mary's Church of England, Portsmouth, Hampshire. Robert was the son of Irish Militia Sergeant John Gordon and Mary Molloy. He, along with George Lambert, had arrived in Portsmouth from Ireland in August 1811 with their regiment.

In August 1813 the County Militia returned to Ireland along with Robert and his family as well as George Lambert and his family. In June 1816 Robert enlisted as a private in the 48th Regiment.

On 28 March 1817 Ann, Robert and their daughter Caroline departed from Cork, Ireland on the ship Matilda. During the voyage Ann gave birth to Maria Matilda. They arrived in Sydney, Australia, on 3 August 1817. Letitia was left behind in Ireland to be raised by her grandparents, but she was never forgotten by her mother who wrote to her on 5 January 1845; 'There is no doubt you lost a friend a humble friend in your poor grandmother but pray be comforted and consider you have a friend a home and a mother that never forgot you although length of time and circumstances and thousands of miles across the wide ocean separated us. Yet my poor child, you were never forgotten by your mother'.

Ann King had six children:

  1. Letitia Ann King (1809-1892). Born in Portsmouth, England, on 21 December 1809. She married Edward Watts Garmonsway (1809-1875) on 10 January 1831 in St John's Parish, Limerick, Ireland. They emigrated to New Zealand in 1852. Letitia died in Pirongia on 25 January 1892 (reg. 1892/675). 
  2. Caroline Ann Gordon (1813-1853). Born in Portsmouth, England, in 1813. Aged 3 when she arrived in Australia, she had two illegitimate children. Died in Maitland, NSW, Australia, on 28 August 1853 and buried on 30 August 1853 in St. Peter’s Old Burial Ground at East Maitland. 
  3. Robert Gordon (1815-?). Christened on 22 March 1815 at St. Michael's Church of Ireland in Limerick.
  4. Maria Matilda Gordon (1817-1882). Born 4 June 1817 whilst at sea on board the Matilda on the way to Australia. She was named for this military transport vessel. Maria had a relationship with Captain Frank Adams (1809-1869), later marrying James Fullford (c1815-1880). Maria died on 4 June 1882 and was buried in Campbell's Hill Cemetery, Maitland, NSW, Australia.
  5. Henry Meldrum Gordon (1820-1910). Born 6 March 1820 in Parramatta, Australia. He married Maria Battley (1823-1901) on 30 January 1843. After she died he married Frances Eliza Atkinson (c1865-?). Henry was the Police Magistrate in Wollombi, New South Wales. He died in East Maitland on 16 August 1910. He was buried in East Maitland Cemetery. 
  6. Sarah Ann Gordon (1822-1889). Born 3 May 1822 in Newcastle, Australia. Married Captain William Moir (1811-1881) in Auckland, New Zealand on 18 September 1847. Sarah died at Mangawai on 11 August 1889 and was buried at Te Arai Cemetery.

Robert was sent to the Newcastle garrison where Ann later gave birth to William Henry and Sarah Ann. The regiment departed for India in 1824, but the Gordon family elected to settle in Australia. Robert had completed twenty-nine years of service and paid for his discharge with £20. He received a 100 acre land grand which was advertised for sale in The Sydney Herald on 13 June 1833.

The Female Factory at Parramatta was a place of supervision for transported women who were not assigned as servants to settlers in the colony. Surrounded by a 16 foot wall, it was Parramatta's principal female penitentiary, and played an important role in the provision of medical care for the wider female convict community whilst enforcing moral and social standards upon both convict and destitute free women. As well as a prison, it was a maternity home, marriage bureau, employment exchange and hostel or refuge for women between jobs. There were three classes of inmate, first class were eligible for assigned service, second class for pregnant or nursing mothers, the old, weak and infirm and those moved up from third class on probation, and the third class which was the prison. First class inmates produced clothes for the inmates and male convicts. Second and third class inmates prepared flax and wool for weaving. Breaking up stones for building purposes was a third class occupation.

In October 1827 Ann was appointed superintendent and matron of the factory at a salary of £150 per annum, including quarters, fuel and light. Ann tried to implement policies designed to achieve the smooth running of an institution that was both a place of punishment and asylum, to maintain the health and welfare of the women, alleviate overcrowding where possible, provide some employment and encourage moral improvement. Governor Ralph Darling (1825-1831) commended her superintendency.

Under Governor Richard Bourke (1831-1837) the numbers in the factory grew and conditions deteriorated. Built for 300 inmates, the population rapidly grew to over 600 women and children. By the mid-1830s discipline had degenerated and unsubstantiated rumours reached London about immoral conduct by members of the matron's family, including her husband. Bourke's disabled son was rumoured to be the father of Ann's daughter Caroline's illegitimate children; Jessie Maria Parker (b. 21 August 1833) and Frederick James Faunce (b. 20 October 1835). This was not the case, however, as Jessie's father was a Mr Parker and Frederick's father was 4th Regiment (King's Own) officer Lieutenant Alured Tasker Faunce.

Robert lost the position of Female Factory Storekeeper position in 1835. 

In September 1836 Ann Gordon's services were terminated, although 'no blame was attached to her' and she paid out a year's wages.

In 1837-38 Robert held the publican's licence for the "Jolly Sailor" hotel in George Street in Parramatta which was most likely funded by Ann's termination payment. Some time after this the family moved to Maitland. It is likely that Ann owned a farm and built at least one house. A letter written on 5 September 1889 to Letitia by her niece Ada Fanny Gordon (daughter of Henry Meldrum Gordon) says; 'It is a house that Grandma built intending to leave it to her children but one day the poor woman was informed that it was no longer her’s, he husband had sold it without her knowledge. She also had a farm that went the same way. Had she been left to herself she would have been a very rich woman. She had the gift of managing and saving successfully'. Raymond (2000) speculates that 'it was pressure to pay gambling debts that caused Ann's farm and house to be sold'.

More evidence that all was not well in the marriage between Ann and Robert can be found in a letter from Ann to her daughter Letitia in England dated 5 January 1845, in which she wrote; 'The three girls Caroline, Maria and Sarah and their children are at present at home with me and as for their father, I have had to keep him for this last ten years without his earning one single shilling but spending all he can get'.

Robert died in Maitland from cancer in 1863. Ann died on 6 June 1868 at Maitland.  They were buried together in St. Peter’s Old Burial Ground at East Maitland, along with daughter Caroline and grandson Oscar Henry .


Ann's surviving letters:

5 January 1845 In which Ann writes to her daughter Letitia to console her after the death of her grandmother, and hoping that Letitia will be able to manage a visit to the family in Australia and letting out some frustration that her husband, Robert, has made no money over the past ten years but spends everything her can get his hands on.

8 January 1854 In which Ann writes to her daughter Letitia about the death of her daughter Caroline, her longing that her and Letitia cannot live closer together in order to give comfort to each other.

20 April 1862 In which Ann writes to her daughter Letitia about Letitia's son who appears to have been bonded to a Mr Russell at 274 Castlereagh Street, Sydney, who, despite his parent's wishes, is unwilling to release the son from his service.



Baxter, C. 2006). An Irresistible Temptation: The true story of Jane New and a Colonial Scandal. NSW, Australia: Allen & Unwin.

Edward Garmonsway and Letitia King: Their descendants. A booklet to commemorate the Garmonsway family reunion held 16-17 April 1983 in Cambridge, N. Z. by Barbara Kelly, Julie Fox and Peter Wood (1983).

Gordon Family Letters (1845-1892)

Raymond, J. (2000). Gordon Family History

Smith, B. (2008). A Cargo of Women: Susannah Watson and the covicts of the Princess Royal. NSW, Australia: Allen & Unwin.

Weatherburn, H. (2005). Ann Gordon (1795-1868): Australian Dictionary of Biography

this page was archived at Perma cc February 2017

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Ann Gordon (nee King) (1795-1868)

First Names:Ann
Last Name:King
Date of Birth:1795
Place of Birth:Portsmouth, Hampshire
Country of birth:England
Date of death:6 June 1868
Place of death:East Maitland, New South Wales, Australia
Place of burial:St Peter’s Old Burial Ground, East Maitland Church of England Burial Ground
Family Surname:Gordon
Occupation:Convict Administrator
First settled:Australia
Date of Arrival:3 August 1817
Name of the ship:Matilda
Date of sailing:28 March 1817
Port of arrival:Sydney, NSW, Australia
Sailed from:Cork, Ireland
Spouses name:Robert Gordon
Spouses date of birth:c1788
Spouses place of birth:St John's Parish, Limerick, Ireland
Spouses date of death:19 January 1863
Spouses place of death:Maitland, NSW, Australia
Spouses place of burial:St Peter’s Old Burial Ground, East Maitland, New South Wales, Australia
Spouses nationality:Irish
Date of marriage:2 May 1812
Place of marriage:St Mary's Church of England, Portsmouth, Hampshire
Fathers name:James King
Mothers name:Ann Ovey
Mothers date of death:c1844
Mothers place of death:possibly Limerick, Ireland
Name of sibilings:Andrew King, John King, and Martha King
Name of the children:Sarah Ann Gordon, Letitia Ann King, Caroline Ann Gordon, Maria Matilda Gordon, Henry Meldrum Gordon, and Robert Gordon