Thursday, 14 July 2016

NON FICTION Family History Stories. Jane Castings (1813-1895) : "From Female 'Fagin' to Gaoler's Gentlewoman"

In an effort to share family history with other descendants of our families (or anyone else interested) I will be posting some stories of different ancestors that my husband and I have researched.  Please let us know if you can fill in any of the gaps or add any colour to help complete the tapestries.

This story comes from studying with Uni of Tas and completing the unit 'Convict Ancestors' in their Family History Diploma.  Choosing a convict was impossible in my family (as far as I have researched!) making it an easy choice to work with one of the many in my husband's family
So firstly a little introduction to Jane's story: 

Jane Castings is my husband’s ancestor, four generations back.
She was caught and convicted for receiving stolen goods of cheese and bacon in Leicester, England.  Originally it seemed her act was due to the poverty and hard times in England and with four little children she was doing what many were forced to do at that time – stealing food for survival.

However on further research it was a shock to find out that she was described as a female 'Fagin', Charles Dickens style. (*)  She trained and paid a group of teenage boys to steal the goods that she requested and worse still was the cause of a half dozen young boys being transported ‘beyond the seas’.

In 1846 Jane left her husband and children behind in Leicester and was transported for seven years to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) aboard the ‘Sea Queen’.  She served time on the Hulk ‘Anson’ anchored in the Derwent River and in the Cascade Female Factory, Hobart.  Jane delivered an illegitimate child Maria in this House of Correction two years later.

A year prior to gaining her Certificate of Freedom by servitude in 1853, Jane married an ex- convict and they lived for a short time in the old area of Wapping in Hobart. Eventually they moved to the East Coast of Tasmania to be near her daughter Maria and husband William Graham (another ex- convict).  Jane appears to have settled into married life and kept her ’slate clean’ so it can be assumed that leaving England behind, serving her sentence and being given freedom provided her with a positive life in the ‘new land of opportunity’

Photograph of Jane Castings (L) and her daughter Maria Castings (R) who was born in Cascades Female Factory.  
Private Collection

* Reference: Charles Dickens. Book –‘ Oliver Twist’
See Wikipedia, Oliver Twist, Plot Summary.   



There’s something sinister about prisons and I suppose that is the whole idea of them.  But when I visited the remains of the Cascade Female Factory in Hobart, Tasmania in 2012, I wasn’t prepared for the immediate and lasting impact on me.  The re-enactment I watched of the whole convict story - from the 'getting nicked', the trial, the boat trip, arrival at the wharf to the work duties required of them - was too close for comfort. Especially as the main character was a woman who gives birth to a baby in the prison and then grieves the baby’s death.  The prison presented as such a large forbidding area, all those great big stone walls, a desolate place now filled with sad and horrible memories.

I went there to pay respects to Jane Castings my husband’s Great Great Grandmother and her baby girl ‘Maria’  (his Great Grandmother) who was born there in the factory.  

A photo of section of the old Female Factory, Cascades, Hobart 
Page URL:
File URL:://
Attribution: By Beattie Studios, Hobart (State Library of Victoria, image b36020) [Public domain],  
via Wikimedia Commons

Jane herself was born Jane Pratt in Leicestershire, England around 1813 (1) although the birth years on her convict records vary between 1817 and 1832.  However Jane states her age as 33 on a petition she writes in 1846 prior to her transportation (2) and this matches a Baptism record for the Parish of Burbage in Leicester with the date 18th April 1813 (1) that we found when doing our family history trail around the UK in 2015. 
Her parents are listed as Charles and Sophia Pratt on the Baptism record, the same as on Jane's Convict Indent Record (3) father Charles, Mother Sophia, and siblings - brother William and sisters Maria and Sophia and her native place as Burbidge (sic) near Leicester. 

Jane would have been about 19 yo when she married Henry Castings 10 July 1832 (4).  They had four children – William (1833) (5), Sarah (1837) (6), Emma (1839) (7) and son Hiram (1844) (8). 
On her Convict Conduct (9) and Indent Records (3)  it states; lived with Mr Wright MP for the last 2 years  (I have not been able to find out what the MP stands for, maybe it is an error and is meant to be NP abbreviation for Native Place).  This would mean that Jane lived there since the time of Hiram’s birth.  It is noted that Hiram was a Castings family name – Henry Castings brother was Hiram.   
Now - does this mean that the whole family lived with Mr Wright or was it just Jane?  There is no Census at the time for proof.  In the 1841 Census the Castings family were all living together in Navigation Street, St Margaret, Leicester (10) with no sign of a Mr Wright there or nearby. Yet at the time of Jane’s conviction her address is a house in a yard in Redcross Street Leicester (11). 

The questions that remain unanswered:
  • Was there a marriage separation and she was either living with Mr Wright or in the yard of his residence?
And eventually I am interested to discover what became of the Castings Family in England

On 2nd March 1846 Jane's life changed when she was brought before the Leicester Boro Quarter Sessions court for two felonies. See: Court Felonies & Six British Newspaper Articles
Two teenage boys - Charles Anderson and William Smith were accused of stealing 3 pounds of cheese and Jane Castings being an accomplice to the fact. The boys pleaded Not Guilty but were found Guilty by the Jury.  Jane also pleaded Not Guilty and the Jury agreed Not Guilty.
The second charge was for the same couple of lads stealing 4pounds of bacon and Jane for receiving the same knowing it to have been stolen.  Again they all claimed innocence but this time they were all found Guilty.  The boys were sentenced to whippings and hard labour and Jane to be transported beyond the seas for the term of seven years.

It seemed a harsh punishment compared to the boys being the ones who stole the goods.  But on further research through the British Newspapers the reason became obvious.
A headline in ‘The Leicestershire Mercury’ Sat. Feb 28 1846 p.1. for the Leicester Police Courts held in the Town Hall on Mon Feb 23 1846, read:

TRAFFIC IN JUVENILE DELINQUENCY  and the article went on to say: Jane Castings (a married woman, residing in a yard in Redcross-street) was charged with receiving the stolen property, and with carrying on a systematic course of petty thieving, through the instrumentality of these and other youths, whom she paid so much for their “jobs” like any other tradeswoman.

‘The Leicester Chronicle’ on the same day Sat. 28 Feb 1846, p 3.  Reports on the charges against Jane Castings in the Town-hall, Leicester, Monday Feb 23 including:
The police found in Castings’ house, besides the basket, lard, and bacon, which have already been matter of investigation, a quantity of eggs under some flour, a piece of cheese under a bed, and eighteen duplicates for blankets, sheets, frocks, night-gowns, shifts and other articles.

A report of the Borough Sessions in ‘The Leicester Journal’ Friday 06 Mar 1846, pg 4:  
The Recorder, in addressing the Grand Jury, alluded to the case of Jane Castings and the two lads, charged with her, and said he had long had suspicion that there were parties in the town who encouraged juvenile thieves in the commission of offences, and assisted them in the disposal of the stolen property. 

In ‘The Leicestershire Mercury’ the next day Sat 07 Mar 1846 p1, the findings of the trial are reported more fully and the Recorder at the Leicester Quarter Borough Sessions addresses Jane thus:
“Upon you I shall pass a severer sentence – (the prisoner here threw out her arms, and cried aloud for mercy) – Your prayers will bring no mercy from me.  You kept these boys at your house, and taught them to steal that you might live on the guilty fruits of their thefts. – (Prisoner: “Oh!  Have mercy on me for the sake of my children!”) You are not fit to bring your children up.  It is for the sake of your children, and that of other people’s children, that I am about to pass sentence upon you, that you be transported for seven years.”  The prisoner here fell down in the dock, and was carried out of Court screaming… We have since been told that the same woman, Castings, has been the means of getting ‘at least half-a-dozen youths transported’, by encouraging them in acts of robbery!

Jane spent the first few weeks imprisoned at Leicester Boro Gaol until sent to London where she was registered as arriving at Millbank prison on 18th April 1846 (12).

I wonder if her family knew she was in Leicester gaol and whether they were able to visit her there for the last time before she was sent to London?

Whilst in Millbank Penitentiary Jane wrote a begging petition for pardon to the Right Honorable Sir James R G Graham, Baronet, Her Majesty Principal Secretary of State for the Home Department.  Jane denied her guilt and represented her good character and support of her family by working for Mr Barber a Manufacturer in Leicester.  She stated that her husband of 14 years suffered indifferent health and was unable to work regularly as a Turner and Wheeler and she would be leaving her four poor little children in this situation, never able to return to them.

Handwritten petition for pardon from seven years transportation by Jane Castings. Leicester Borough Quarter Sessions Report, Leicestershire Record Office, Leicester England. 
Reference: Volume DE 4384/336/1, Pages 366 and 367; Under ‘Felonies’Easter Session, Monday 02 March, 1846.

Clemency was not granted.

It was only two months before Jane left her birth country on the ship ‘Sea Queen’ with 169 other women convicts.  They embarked from Woolwich England for Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) Australia on 08 May 1846.

Jane must have been lucky as the Surgeons Report (9) in her Conduct Record has no listing of her attending the Doctor for any complaints of sickness, etc. unlike most of her fellow convict passengers who have many entries.  Surviving 114 days at sea they finally arrived at Hobart, VDL on 29 August 1846.

Picture of Hobart Town 1846: Francais: Hobart-Town. Atlas Pittoresque, planche 156.
Page URL:
Attribution: By Louis Le Breton, Mayer, Griaud. scan Jeffdelonge (Public domain) via Wikimedia.Com

What were all these convict women thinking as they disembarked on their wobbly land-legs and were marched up the hill to the Female Factory to see their new 'home' for the first time ?  “…stone buildings at a distance of about a mile and a half from the town up the Hobart Town rivulet” (13).

What was Jane thinking as she plodded along?  Was she still worried about her young children and sickly husband back in England? Or had the long sea voyage put so much distance between them that she had shut the door on her British life?

We can try to picture this sea-weary convict Jane, looking at the solid rock walls that were to imprison her in this strange new country.  In comparison to the photo of Jane as an older woman (in the Introduction) the various descriptions below of her in her Convict records tell us a little about her at 33 years of age as she is herded through the gates.

CON15/1/3 – Height 5’ 3 ½”, age 27, Trade - housemaid (good), Protestant, can read and write (3).      
CON19/1/5 – Age 20, dark complexion, long head, dark brown hair, oval face, low forehead, light brown eyebrows and blue eyes, long, sharp nose and chin and a wide mouth (14).                                                                                                     

CON41/1/10 Conduct Record – Surgeon’s report – Orderly Mess Woman (9).

HO24/12 Millbank Prison Register – Age 29, born 1817,  Occupation - Worsted Spinner (15).

Entry for Jane Castings, Police No 789, noting no offences recorded and annotated detail 'Ticket of Leave 12 February 1850; Free Certificate 02 March 1833 (sic s.b.: 1853); and her daughter's birth ; Convict conduct Register CON 41/1/10, Image 24 TAHO

When the women convicts first arrived those not allowed to go straight to employment served their Probation on the HMS Anson, the convict hulk anchored in the Derwent River off the Queen's Domain, Hobart.  This was used as a female Place of Correction and the reward for good behaviour was assignment to employers outside the gaol.  The Conduct Record above shows on March 16 1847, a year after her arrival, Jane was assigned for another period of six months on Gang Probation as 3rd Class in the Class System on the HMS 'Anson' Hulk

Picture of a typical Convict Hulk: The Beached 'Discovery' at Deptford.
Page URL:
File URL:

Muster Records were carried out periodically to keep track of the convicts and ex-convicts in the colony. Jane is listed in the 1846 Muster (18) serving Probation on HMS Anson.  The only other record found regarding Jane's workplace is when she was hired by R Walker, Hobart but unfortunately it has no date or particulars (19)

After two years Jane gave birth to a daughter Maria, recorded on her Convict Conduct Record (9)  as: "… delivered of an illegitimate child at the Cascade Factory, 28 October 1848".    Maria's birth is also listed in the ’Children Born to Female Convicts Under Sentence' (16) 
She was baptised on 31st October, three days later as listed on the ‘Baptisms Solomnised at The Female House of Correction, Hobart Town VDL (17).  There is no father listed on any records - most probably this will never be known.

The Conduct Record (9) also shows she was given a Ticket of Leave on 12 February 1850.  So she was now free to work for herself or others, so long as it was within the law and within a designated district and that she stayed well behaved.  What ever happened in this period Jane seems to have reformed and received no bad reports. However she would have become pregnant around the middle of 1851 because in 1852 Tasmanian Birth Records (20) register a female child born in Hobart on 20th March to Jane (formerly Castings) and David Haines (sic) a shoemaker.  (Could Jane have been working for David Haynes on her Ticket of Leave?)  After much research no further information about this baby has been found at all, and unlike Maria she is not listed as a birth or baptism at the Female Factory.  No record of her death has been found in the Tasmanian BDMs, so there is a question left hanging as to who this baby girl was and whether she survived or died - possibly shortly after birth.

Entry for Birth of unnamed female daughter of Jane (formerly Castings) and David Haines (sic), 1852 in Hobart, Tasmania. TAHO

After almost seven years on 2nd March 1853 Jane received her Certificate of Freedom by servitude with a clean record.  Little Maria had survived where many babies and infants did not. 

Certificate of Freedom Granted, listing Jane Castings 'Sea Queen'. The Cornwall Chronicle, Launceston, Tasmania, Saturday 12 March 1853, p208.  TROVE

Like many of the other convicts Jane remarried, regardless of her first husband in England. (At that time seven years apart seemed to be accepted as sufficient time to move on) 
On the 14th February 1853, at St George’s Church, Hobart, Jane wed David Haynes a shoemaker and ex convict.  (See Marriage Register entry below)
No record has been found in the 'Convict Permission to Marry Records'. 
David and Jane went on to have two more children – Selina (1854) (21) and David jr (1857) (22).

Entry for Jane Casting (sic) and David Haynes in the Marriage Register, District of Hobart, RGD37/1/12 no 265, 14 February 1853. TAHO
Reference: Marriages, Source: Family Australia, Tasmania Civil Registration 1803-1933

Jane’s daughter Maria Castings married a man much older than herself, an ex convict and also a shoemaker (23) who lived on the East Coast of Tasmania.  Later on Jane and David Haynes and children moved to Swansea and settled there near daughter Maria and her husband William Graham and family.  
Serendipity puts David now in the positions of Gaoler/Watchhouse keeper and Poundkeeper for the Swansea area - making wife Jane - the Gaoler's Gentlewoman !  

It appears Jane led a lawful life in Van Diemen’s Land, with no more sign of her Dickens female ‘Fagin’ character (Introduction *).  It is only hoped that her recruited juvenile boy criminals were also able to make the most of their new lives over the seas and far away from home.

Jane died on April 23rd 1895 (24) as a respectable free settler and is buried at Swansea Cemetery, with a lovely headstone erected by her husband David. 
Interestingly he names his wife as 'Maria Jane' and has her age inscribed as 74 years although in reality she would have actually lived to be 82 years old.

Newspaper Death Notice for Jane Haynes, The Mercury Hobart, Thursday 25 April 1895, Family Notices p1. TROVE

The wording on Jane's gravestone reads:

'In Memory of Maria Jane Castings
beloved wife of 

David Haynes
April 23rd 1895
Aged 74 years’

“Someday Sometime our eyes shall see
The faces kept in memory
Someday their hands shall clasp our hand
Just over in the morning land”   

Gravestone for Jane Castings at Swansea Cemetery, Tasmania, 2012
Private Collection



(1) The Record Office for Leicestershire, England. Parish Records, Baptisms: Parish of Burbage & Burback, Co of Leicester, 18 April 1813, Reg No: 11, Jane, daughter of Charles (labourer) and Sophia Pratt, Burbage.

(2) The Record Office for Leicestershire, England. Leicester Boro Qtr Sessions Report: Volume DE4384/336/1, Jane Castings, pp 366,367. Under 'Felonies' Easter Session, Monday 02 March 1846.

(3) TAHO, CON15/1/3, Image 314, Indent Register, Jane Castings Sea Queen 1846

(4) Find My Past Used by permission of Family Search Intl, England Marriages 1538-1973 Transcription, Leicester, Leicestershire, England: Jane Pratt and Henry Castings 10 July 1832

(5) Family Search, England and Wales Census 1841, Index. William Castings, St Margaret, Leicester, Leicestershire, England (accessed 22 February 2015)

(6) Family Search, England and Wales Census 1841, Index. Sarah Castings, St Margaret, Leicester, Leicestershire, England (accessed 22 February 2015)

(7) Family Search, England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975, St George, Leicester, Leicestershire, England, Index Project Batch No: CO5981-1, System Origin: England -ODM, GS Film No microfilm 590955, 870054, 870055. Emma Castings Christening 14 August 1839 (accessed 22 February 2015)

(8) Family Search, England and Wales Birth Registration Index 1837-2008, Vol 15, p.106, Line No 25,  Leicester, Leicestershire, England. Hiram Castings Birth Jan-Feb-Mar 1844. (accessed 22 February 2015)

(9) TAHO, CON41/1/10, Image 24, Convict Conduct Register: Police No 789, Jane Castings Sea Queen 1846.

(10) Find My Past, England Wales & Scotland Census 1841 Transcription, HO107, Piece no 604, Bk 13, Folio 30, p 3, Navigation St, St Margaret, Leicester, Leicestershire, England: Henry Castings

(11) British Newspapers, The Leicestershire Mercury, Leicester Police Courts held in the Town Hall on Monday February 23 1846, Traffic in Juvenile Delinquency, Jane Castings Saturday Feb 28 1846, p.1

(12) Find My Past, England & Wales, Crime, Prisons & Punishment, 1770-1935 Transcription. Source: Millbank Prison Registers – Female Prisoners Volume 1, HO24/12. Jane Castings 1846

(13) TROVE, Launceston Examiner, Tasmania, 'Backward Glances' by G. P. Saturday, 12 November, 1892, p.2

(14) TAHO, CON19/1/5, Image 174, Description List, Jane Castings Sea Queen 1846

(15) Find My Past: England & Wales, Crime, Prisons & Punishment,1770-1935 Transcription. Source: Home Office Registers of Criminal Petitions 1843-1846, Piece No 10 – HO19, Jane Castings 1846

(16) Female Convicts Research Centre website, Children Born to Female Convicts Under Sentence - extracted from Tasmanian BDM Records. Hobart. Mother - Jane CASTINGS, Child - Maria, 28 October 1848 , Hobart Female House of Correction. at

(17) Ancestry, Baptisms of Children of Convicted Women 1833-1854, Baptisms Solomnised at The Female House of Correction, Hobart Town VDL 1848 & 1849, Maria Castings daughter of Jane Castings 'Sea Queen', Baptized October 31 1848

(18) Ancestry, New South Wales and Tasmania, Australia Convict Musters 1806-1849, HO10/39, Tasmania Ledger Returns S-Z, 1846, Image 353, Jane Castings, Sea Queen 1846: Probation 'Anson'

(19) Ancestry, New South Wales and Tasmania, Australia Convict Musters 1806-1849, HO10/41, Tasmania List of Convicts (Incomplete) 1808 - 1849, Image 347, Jane Castings, Sea Queen 1846: Hired by R Walker, Hobart

(20) TAHO, Births in the District of Hobart, 1852, No 1247, Birth Unnamed Female Haines
(sic) 20 March 1852, Registered 15 April 1852 - David and Jane Haines (sic) formerly Castings

(21) Ancestry, Australia Birth Index 1788-1922, Registration Hobart, Tasmania No. 1616. Birth Female Haynes 06 November 1854, Parents: David Haynes and Jane Pratt

(22) TAHO, Births in the District of Hobart, 1857, No 562, Birth David Haynes 01 June 1857, Registered 06 July 1857, Parents: David Haynes (Bootmaker) and Jane Haynes formerly Castings

(23) TAHO, RGD37/1/27 no 98, Marriage at Glamorgan, Tasmania, William Graham and Maria Jane Haynes, 15 October 1868

(24) Ancestry, Australia Death Index, 1787-1985, Reg No. 282, Glamorgan Tasmania,
Maria Haynes/Castings, 23 April 1895 


  1. This information was SO interesting and helpful - We do a podcast podcast called "Killer Fun" where we examine the overlap of crime and entertainment. I'm sure you know that Jane Castings is featured on a wine bottle by the make 19 Crimes and we checked it out. Your information was so helpful in rounding out Mrs. Castings' story.

  2. Hi Christy and Jackie
    Yes we were involved in the company developing the label for the wine bottle. It is amazing and fun but quite eerie to watch and listen to Jane talking to us now. I will have to look for your podcast. Thank you for your lovely feedback. (sorry it took me so long to reply - but being a learner blogger I have just worked out how comments work - hopeless aren't I ? Cheers