Bridget DOWNS
Name Variations DOWN, DOWNES
Father Peter DOWNS b.c. 1805 m. 18491 d. 18882
Mother Rebecca TITTERTON b.c. 18323 m. 1849 d. aft. 1862
Inmate Bridget DOWNS b. 18504 m. 1872 (see below) d. aft. 1875
Brother John DOWNS b. 18525 m. d.
Brother Samuel DOWNS b. 18536 m. Martha unknown d. 19307
Sister Mary DOWNS b. 18568 m. none - d. 18579
Sister Elizabeth DOWNES b. 185810 m. none - d. 185911
Brother Peter DOWNS b. 185912 m. none - d. 185913
Husband (1) unknown possibly REDMAN or BODMAN b. m. (1) none d.
Husband (2) Li HIONG b. m. (2) 187214 d.
Son Thomas DOWNS b. 187015 m. d.
Daughter Annie DOWNS b. 187216 m. d. 188317
Description
Relationship Name Age Height Hair Eyes Complexion Build Distinguishing features
Father Peter18 40 5' 6¼" brown hazel fair stout19 two inoculation scars on upper right arm
Mother Rebecca20 28 5' 0¾" light blue slight fresh
Inmate Bridget21 23 low stature brown florid stout scurvy marks on face22

Bridget first appeared in the Sydney courts in September 1861 at the age of eleven23 when her mother sent her to steal gin.24 Six years later, on 30 August 1867, Bridget, reported to be fourteen, appeared in court after being arrested in Cleveland Street, Sydney, in company with Eliza and Ann McDONALD.25 The Empire erroneously reported that Bridget was only seven.26 During her court appearance Bridget refused to return home with her father, Peter, when he was sent for after her arrest. The Entrance Book records that she was admitted to the school on 31 August 1867. Bridget was a Catholic and this religion was confirmed in other records. The age of nineteen was pencilled into the Entrance Book and it is thought that this was the age that Bridget provided when she arrived.27 Bridget's educational level recorded that she was working in the First Book and could write on slate.28 Only Bridget’s father was identified in the Entrance Book and Peter was a lighterman in Sydney.29 Bridget’s medical assessment by Dr HARRIS showed that she was not a virgin.30 Because Bridget’s baptism has been identified, it is evident that she was aged either seventeen or eighteen at the time of her arrest and being over the age of sixteen, had been illegally arrested and should never have been sent to Newcastle.

On 22 June 1868, KING wrote to the Colonial Secretary indicating that Bridget, Charlotte PERRY and Sarah Jane WILDGUST had made an escape between five and six in the afternoon of 20 June. Bridget returned to the school of her own accord after crawling under the fence but Sarah and Charlotte were not recaptured until half-past eleven that night when they were found wandering the streets of Newcastle.31 About a fortnight later Bridget was one of ten girls who escaped32 from the school at about six o’clock on the evening of 8 July 1868.33 They were all recaptured by the Newcastle police – some at Borehole34 and some at Waratah – before ten o’clock and were returned to the school. This escape was one of the events that led to the very first riot at the school. Bridget was interviewed by CANE after the riot.

Bridget Downs – age 17 – states that Mrs King called all the girls when they were in the muster room at lot of dirty street walkers. On the occasion of her return the second time she had absconded - Mrs King called her a thief for taking a key of one of the doors to open the Store Room, from which she took two frocks one for herself and one for another girl named Charlotte Perry for them to wear as they went away – she told all the girls & me in the Muster Room That she wanted ducking down the well– and that we were dead shook[?] after the dirty sailors – Mr King throws up to us what our parents were and we do not like this – she said these things in the muster room or the yard, because we were late in coming into muster & this is why we rebel against her - about a month before this last outbreak, on the [unclear] in the presence of the Cook, Mrs King told her – "this girl is perfectly rotten" and walked away – I was one of the first who ran away and one of the three last.

Bridget made her mark on her statement.35

The teacher, Margaret KELLY reported on 1 September 1868, that Bridget, Mary Ann HOPKINS and Elizabeth SAMPSON 'were ordered to attend school they [had] absented themselves on several occasions and shewn the greatest disinclination to pay attention.'36 By 19 December 1868, Bridget had been at the school for fifteen months and the new superintendent, CLARKE wrote to the Colonial Secretary stating that she and six others were eligible for service. He sought permission to find situations for them all.37 Four days later, on the 22 December, Bridget was seriously burned while she was working in the laundry at the school.38 The fire in her clothing was extinguished but she received severe burns – especially about the abdomen.39 She was treated by Dr HARRIS and his report stated that she was 'still in a precarious state.' In a letter on 5 January 1869, to the Principal Under Secretary, CLARKE verified that she was progressing favourably.40 Although no earlier communication between the Government and Bridget's father has been found, on 31 March CLARKE responded a communication from Peter DOWNS indicating that Bridget 'being past the age at which she can be retained as an Inmate of this Institution, I have to request you will forward the necessary expenses to transmit her to your charge. An immediate answer is particularly requested.' At this time Peter was living in London Place, Sydney.41 On 4 May 1869, Peter wrote to the Colonial Secretary stating:

This is concerning my daughter which was sent to newcastle School and during the time of her being there she has had the misfortune to be burned in consequence of which she is not able to be sent to service and I wish her home but I am not able either to fetch her or send her passage so I am not doing anything or have I earned L12[?] for the last 6 months and I would feel grateful if you would interceed to have her sent home to me by doing so you would much oblige your very humble servant
Peter Downes

The Colonial Secretary responded on 7 May stating: 'Under the circumstances of this poor girl being so seriously burnt and injured the price of her passage 10/6 may be paid from vote[?] for [?]saussion of paupers.42 The Entrance Book and the complete list of admissions43 confirmed that she was released to her father by order of the Colonial Secretary on 25 May 1869. The government paid her fare to Sydney on the steamer44 and she supervised the SMITH sisters, Ann and Marion, on the voyage back to Sydney.45

On 1 August 1870, in his letter to the Colonial Secretary concerning his follow-up of the girls that he had discharged, CLARKE stated that he had been unable to discover anything about Bridget after her having left Newcastle.46 Bridget was very likely to have been the mother of two illegitimate children who were registered in Sydney in 1870 and 1872. These births have been attributed to her but the registrations have not been viewed. She is thought to have been the Bridget DOWNES alias BODMAN47 or REDMAN48 who was sued in July 1872 for using threatening language. She almost without doubt married the Chinese immigrant, Li HIONG, in 1872 but no further evidence of her having that surname has been located. Articles concerning the opium dens of Sydney indicate that Biloela girls had married members of the Chinese community. These unnamed girls were interviewed and it may be that Bridget was one of them. It is almost certain that the marriage to Li HIONG didn’t last as in March 1875, a warrant was issued for the twenty-three-year-old, Bridget DOWNS, who was recorded as a prostitute. She had been drunk and disorderly in Argyle Street.49 She was eventually arrested by constable DAWSON50 and was fined ten shillings and costs.51

No further trace of Bridget has yet been confirmed after this event however, at this stage, while it has not been proved that it is a reference to Bridget, in a chance find in the CSIL a letter from September 1877 stated:

Mary Smith from the Benevolent Asylum is at present residing at No. 1 Harrington St52 with a Mrs Hong formerly the wife of a Chinaman. … The Police know nothing of the character of Mrs Hong for some years past.53

Family

Bridget was the child of Peter DOWNES and Rebecca TITTERTON, who were married in St Mary’s Catholic Church, Sydney, on 12 November 1849, by John Eugene GOURBEILLON. The witnesses were Matthew (X) COLEMAN and Jane (X) VELLA. Bridget was born the following year on 12 October 1850, and was baptized on 24 October at the St James Catholic Church in Sydney by the Rev. John KAVAN. In this record Rebecca’s maiden name was recorded as TARBUCK and the family was living in Argyle Street in Sydney.54

Peter had been transported on the Captain Cook (1) for sheep stealing in 1832. He had been born in about 1805 in county Wexford, Ireland, and had no previous convictions.55 He was recorded as a resident in Pottinger Street in 1875 but does not appear again in Sands Directory even though he did not die until 1888.56 Peter died in Sydney at the age of 81.

Rebecca had arrived free at the age of 16 aboard the Earl Grey in 1848. She was recorded on the indent as a Protestant who had been born in County Down, Ireland, who was unable to read or write. Her parents were identified as Hugh and Catherine and both were recorded on the indent as deceased.57 Rebecca has been identified twice in reports from the Sydney courts. On 24 August 1855, as Rebecca DOWNS, she appeared for drunkenness.58 Six years later she was imprisoned for seven days for using obscene language on 23 August 1861.59 Her arrival details were confirmed at the time of her Darlinghurst gaol admissions in 1855, 1860 and 1861. Specific locations for her birth were identified as Belfast in 185560 and Ellesborough in 186161 but no specific location for this town has been identified. During her 1860 admission the records indicate that she was either confined and subsequently delivered a child or that a child was confined with her. No registration has been found for any birth of a child in 1860. Rebecca was consistently reported to be a Protestant.62

No date of death has been identified for Rebecca but as she isn’t named in the Entrance Book it may be that she was dead by this date – although this wasn’t stated at the time of Bridget's admission. It also must be considered that she had not died but had abandoned her husband who was nearly thirty years her senior and whose religion was in conflict with hers. It is almost certain, although no confirmation has been found, that by about 1860 Peter and Rebecca were living separately. No further gaol admissions for a woman named Rebecca who arrived aboard the Earl Grey have been identified.

Most of the children of Peter and Rebecca died in infancy. Bridget's brother, Samuel, appeared to be the only sibling who survived. He does not appear to have married but had two daughters, Ethel DOWNS,63 who never married, and Martha DOWNS aka GRAINGER who married William BRICKELL aka BRICHELL64 with a woman named Martha.65 Bridget has not been mentioned in any Funeral Notice for Samuel's family.

Where has She Gone?

No trace of Bridget has been verified after March 1875 and it is considered possible that she began a relationship and assumed the surname of her partner. No mentions of any of Bridget's known children have been found in any of the few Funeral Notices for her brother's family. No trace of her two children have yet been confirmed. It is interesting that no birth has been located to match the 187466 death of the apparently illegitimate child, Annie COUST, whose mother was Bridget and no trace of Bridget COUST can be found.

A Bridget DOWNES begins to appear in Sands Directory from 1883 living in 26 Bennett Street, Sydney, and by 1892 she was living at 108 Cowper Street. There was no male DOWNES living at that address. In 1886 two women of this name appear and it is unknown whether these entries refer to one or two women.67 One was living in Montague Villa in 1887. Montague Villa was on the corner of Elizabeth and Cooper Streets. Numerous advertisements between 1883 and 1889 indicate that Montague Villa was a boarding house.68 In 1903 the funeral of a Dennis CONNELLAN left from Montague Villa.

The woman who died in 1892 has not been investigated but the names of her parents on the registration do not match those of the Newcastle admission.69

The Bridget DOWNS who had a pair of winkers stolen by Thomas PETTY is likely to be the resident of Collector and is therefore unlikely to be the Newcastle girl as PETTY was arrested in Gunning in 1874.70 Unless she has lied, Bridget didn't marry Philip P. CALLACHOR in 1886 as this woman was the child of Charles DOWNES.71 Bridget was not the woman who married William Henry CROFT as she died in 193972 and was the child of Francis and Mary who had been born in about 1866.73 The Bridget DOWNES living in Gunnedah was too young to be the Newcastle admission.74 The marriage of Bridget HONEN to Patrick FOX in Sydney in 187575 indicated that Bridget HONAN was the daughter of P. HONAN of Tipperary.76 This therefore is very unlikely to be a marriage of Bridget with a misspelling of HIONG.

Updated June 2016

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