Sampler, Ann Marsh, September 1788, Hyde Park Barracks collection

The most precious item revealed was acquired by the museum for the collection but was not found at the Barracks. It is a finely embroidered sampler made in 1788 by convict Ann Marsh who was transported for stealing a bushel of wheat and arrived in Australia on the Lady Juliana. She became very successful and was one of the first convict women to own and manage a number of businesses in Sydney — the Kings Head Tavern, in High St (modern day George St) Sydney & the Passenger Boat Service from Sydney to Parramatta. She held a bank account and was literate. Documents exist in the NSW State Archives of her partitioning Governor Lachlan Macquarie for convict indentured labour to help her run the passenger boat service to Parramatta after her husband William Chapman died in 1811. A number of her children were sent to the Sydney orphanage after William’s death. Ann died on March 7, 1823, her age given as 54 years. She had been married four times.

Fiona Starr says: “It was originally thought that Ann traded the sampler with her gaoler in England for extra food, after her conviction. Now, it is now more generally accepted that Ann gave the sampler to the woman who taught her to read and write (before she was convicted for stealing a bushel of wheat in March 1789). The descendants of the teacher brought the sampler to Australia in the 1960s.” There were four of Ann’s descendants at the talk on the day. It was very emotional for them to see the sampler.

Sampler, Ann Marsh, September 1788, Hyde Park Barracks collection, Sydney Living Museums, photograph Gary Crockett © SLM

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