Mary Ann Brooker (Wade) (1777 - 1859)

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Place of Burial: United Kingdom
Birthdate:
Birthplace: Southwark, London, , England
Death: Died in Fairy Meadow, , New South Wales, Australia
Managed by: Michele Jurlina
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Mary Ann Brooker (Wade)

The trial of Mary Wade, aged 11, and Jane Whiting, aged 14, was an extraordinary one. They were tried at the 14 Jan 1789 Old Bailey sessions on a capital charge of highway robbery.

Both girls were ragged children who frequented the Treasury building on Whitehall to beg for halfpence from passers-by.

On 5 Jan Mary Phillips, an eight year old shoemaker's daughter who lived in Charles Street, was sent by her brother to fill a bottle of water at the public wash house adjoining the Treasury building. The two girls approached the child and Wade said she would fill the bottle for her, but dropped and broke it. They said they would replace it if she would follow them up a passage to a privy where they told her to take off her clothes. They ran off with her frock, cap and tippet, leaving the child shut up in the privy crying and wearing only her petticoats. It was already dark and a woman with a lamp came in with washing and sent the girl home.

The girls pawned the frock at James Kimber's rather disreputable pawn shop on Great Almonry for 18p. They were arrested the following week when Catherine McKillen, who often begged with them, reported them to the police after a local woman complained that Wade had robbed her. McKillen said she had heard Wade say 'I wish I had not done it' to which Whiting retorted 'it was through you it was done...it was your own fault. Wade then allegedly said 'I was in a good mind to have chicked ‎[her]‎ down the necessary, and I wish I had done it'. She also said that Wade had been arrested previously for stripping a child 'and chucking her in a ditch' but had been released because of her youth.

Although only 8, the evidence of the victim on oath was accepted by the court. She told the judge the girls had not beaten or hurt her. The judge reprimanded Wade's mother when she appeared in the witness box to speak for her daughter. Mrs Wade said she was married to a drover. 'I hardly can ask you how your child has behaved' the judge said, ' for I am afraid you are as much in fault as she is, by not taking proper care of her, and keeping her at home, and making her industrious; letting her run about the streets, was the sure way to lead to the place where she is now'.

Mrs Wade replied 'It is the other girl that induces her out, when my back is turned, to go a begging with her. I never brought her up to go a begging; all the butchers know me well. I have a great family of them'. The judge told her 'I hope you will take better care of the rest, or else they will all come to the gallows'.

The judge then told the jury that 'the very circumstance of such a child falling into the hands of two strangers, young as they are standing over her and stripping her, does seem to be equivalent to holding a pistol to the breast of a grown person..the tender years of these persons may be a circumstance to be attended to in other views, but...I think it would be a dangerous thing to society, to lower the offence below the rank of actual robbery'.

A guilty verdict was returned and the girls were sentenced to death. It is highly unlikely that there was any serious intention to execute them and the reprieve to transportation for life which followed in April was probably a matter of course. A life sentence was nevertheless a very severe one for girls of such a young age and the authorities may have decided to make an example of them ‎[this was at the time when child labour was widespread]‎. They were both among a group of women sent from Newgate Gaol on 7 May 1789 for embarkation aboard the ship 'Lady Juliana'. Old Bailey transcript 22 Apr 1789: The following Prisoners accepted the conditions mentioned in his Majesty's pardon, viz. To be transported during the term of their lives. Lidia Jones; Elizabeth Shakespeare; Esther Thornton; Catherine Heyland; Ann Steel; Elizabeth Smith; Mary Wade; Jane Whiting.

Mary sailed on the ship 'Lady Juliana' which departed England on 29 Jul 1789 and arrived in the colony on 3 Jun 1790. Each member of the crew soon took a 'wife' from the convicts.


Jonathan Brooker and Mary were living together by 1806. The couple lived in the Hawkesbury area until about 1813 when Brooker was granted 60 acres in the Airds district.

Mary lived with her son Edward at Fairy Meadow in later life. At her death, the Illawarra Mercury commented that she was the matriarch of the largest white family in Australia, with more than 300 descendants at the time of her death ‎(now numbering in the thousands)‎. -------------------- Who was Mary Wade?

Mary Wade came to Australia as a 11 year old convict girl. She was one of a boatload of convict women sent to the two year old colony of New South Wales in 1790.

At age 16, she gave birth to her first child, Sarah Wade.

Mary Wade is reputed to have given birth to 21 children in her childbearing years but only seven survived to have children of their own. Those seven children lived through much better times than Mary and were quite prolific in their child rearing.

When Mary died in 1859 at the age of 82, she had over 300 living descendents and was considered one of the founding mothers of the early settlers in Australia. Tens of thousands of Australians, including our present Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, trace their lineage back to that little convict girl, Mary Wade.

Early descendents seemed to congregate in the Wollongong and Riverina regions, but today they are scattered all over the world.

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Mary Ann Brooker's Timeline

1777
October 5, 1777
Southwark, London, , England
December 21, 1777
Camberwell, Greater London, UK
1792
1792
Age 14
Sydney, NSW, Australia
1793
September 22, 1793
Age 15
Norfolk Island
September 22, 1793
Age 15
Norfolk Island
1796
December 10, 1796
Age 19
Norfolk Island
1803
August 20, 1803
Age 25
Sydney, NSW, Australia
1809
June 24, 1809
Age 31
Windsor, New South Wales, Australia
1810
December 7, 1810
Age 33
Hawkesbury River
1812
November 28, 1812
Age 35
Windsor, NSW, Australia