In 1846 Sophia Bywater of Louth was charged with stealing 10 yards of printed cotton, 11 yards of muslin and a martin boa from Michael Plaskitts shop in the town.
Her sentence? Transportation to Australia.
Her story, and that of many others, is featured in new book The Transportation of 135 Female Convicts From Lincolnshire to Australia 1787-1851 by Louth man Bill Painter.
He said: “To be banished ‘to a land beyond the seas’ at the turn of the 1800s entailed a passage by sea of nearly 15,000 miles. The destination the remote colony of New South Wales and Tasmania, in the southern ocean. Such was the punishment for 135 women brought before the courts of Lincolnshire.
“They picked your pocket, stole from the market stall, sold your horse, made pies of your sheep, your coffee was poisoned and the barn set alight. They were seldom violent yet some faced the ultimate penalty. The youngest was 12-years-old. Infants accompanied their mothers, but not all survived the hazards they faced.
“Using records made at the time this book attempts to reveal who these women were and the times they lived through, the difficulties they encountered on the journey by sail, and to find out what became of them in the new land.” There were several women from Louth banished overseas but the crime hotspot of the time was undoubtedly Boston.
And what of Sophia Bywater? She sailed to Australia with her infant daughter. The journey took from May to the beginning of September.
After they reached Australia her daughter died aged two of consumption. Sophia got into further trouble and died in a factory at the age of 42 in 1850.
This fascinating book is printed by Louth’s Warple Press and is on sale at Wrights. Bill will be doing a book signing at Wrights on Friday November 8, from 11am to 1pm.