Descendants and researchers need to be aware that omissions, errors and inconsistencies have been identified in the records now available for Newcastle and Biloela – most particularly in the Entrance Book – so caution should be used when researching ancestors whose names appear in this record. This major reference is incomplete but this is not immediately evident when viewing the actual reference material and this is even more difficult to notice when viewing images of the document. The original document has now been filmed and is therefore now no longer available for retrieval at NSW State Archives.

Some records of the admissions to the Vernon have also been identified as not having reached State Archives so also appear as gaps in what is available. An analysis of these records visit the //Vernon// page.

The complete list of 193 inmates of the two schools in Newcastle have been identified in two letters held in the Colonial Secretary 'In' Letters (CSIL). One list named the admissions to the Newcastle Industrial School and the other named the separate Newcastle Reformatory admissions. Personal details of these girls may be found by cross-referencing the Entrance Book, letters relating to inmates from the CSIL, letters and reports from the superintendent, newspaper articles, the NSW Police Gazette and the NSW BDM Index and this is what has been achieved on this site. More importantly, in most cases, the families of the girls admitted to Newcastle have been identified even if those families were never recorded in the Entrance Book. It is thought that the register of the Newcastle Reformatory, which has not survived and almost certainly included admissions to both the Biloela Reformatory and the Shaftesbury Reformatory until September 1888, would have been completed in a similar fashion to those from the Industrial School as each was commenced by Agnes KING. Staff appointments to the Newcastle Industrial School have been compiled from the NSW Government Gazettes, Public Service Lists and from correspondence in the CSIL.

Note: All statistics listed below have been compiled from the amalgamated records of the 193 inmates who were sent to Newcastle – 187 to the Industrial School and six to the Newcastle Reformatory.

The Entrance Book (The Register of Warrants)

This register contains the names of the girls admitted to Newcastle, Biloela and Parramatta Industrial Schools. Its title is the Training School for Girls – Biloela – Parramatta. Entrance Book1 so it was therefore in constant use between August 1867 and 19122 – or for approximately fifty-five years. It is thought that because the Entrance Book contained the names of all girls admitted until this late date in the Twentieth Century, that the register was withheld from open access at SRNSW until privacy concerns were not an issue. Throughout this site this record is referred to as the Entrance Book but both SCRIVENER and SRNSW refer to it as The Register of Warrants. The record operated as both an entrance and discharge register for those girls who were admitted to Newcastle and for the first Biloela admissions. There are however some girls whose details show no record of a discharge. A separate register of discharges was commenced in 18773 but this document only records discharges for Newcastle admissions if they were very young when they entered the system.


The Entrance Book [2011]
Image: Jane Ison

Images from the Entrance Book are now available on Ancestry within the 'New South Wales Schools, Directories & Church Histories' section.4 Ancestry has identified the location of all the girls named in the register within the Sydney locality of 'Parramatta' and the SRNSW Index, using the title of the actual record, indicated that admissions were made to either the second school, Biloela, or the third school, Parramatta. The first 118 girls named in this record, even though many of them were arrested from Sydney, were sent to the Newcastle Industrial School – the first Government run institution for girls that operated under the act of 1866.

The register is arranged chronologically and covers admissions firstly to Newcastle Industrial School, then Biloela (Cockatoo Island) and finally, Parramatta Girls' School until 1912. The record is clearly labelled Entrance Book and was almost certainly not a register of warrants. The numbers recorded in the register are very unlikely to refer to warrant numbers even though a warrant was almost always issued for the arrest of any girl admitted to the school. The numbering of the admissions simply refers to the order that the girl appeared in the register. That order was usually, but not always, the order in which they were admitted.

It must be noted that:

  1. Sisters who appeared in court together could be expected to have either the same or consecutive warrant numbers. This doesn't occur in any early admissions.5
  2. Many media reports concerning the first arrest under the Act would suggest that this girl should appear first in the register, but this was not the case.6

Note: Unlike the procedure used in re-admissions to gaols at this time, re-admissions to the school were not given a new admission number when they re-entered the school. Their name was recorded for a second time and the inmate was simply recorded with the notation 'readmitted'. The names of those readmitted were not repeated in SRNSW: CSIL: 72/4799 [1/2176] with the one exception of Mary WILLIAMS (3) whose readmission was made under atypical circumstances.7

The condition of the Entrance Book is truly remarkable for a book used at least weekly for over half a century. With careful inspection of the original document it becomes apparent that at some stage in the past the register had been rebound. During this rebinding approximately forty pages were not included and it is thought that these pages were missing well before the rebinding occurred. These forty pages have therefore not survived. Included within the lost pages was the date and notation that identified that a transfer from Newcastle to Biloela had occurred. A notation indicating when the inmates were transferred to Parramatta does appear in the register. Because of the rebinding the remaining last page of the Newcastle admissions and the remaining first page of the Biloela admissions therefore appear side by side and are tightly bound giving the impression that the information recorded on the second page refers to the names on the first page. This is not the case. An inspection of the table frames in the record shows a mismatch. The handwriting of each page differs and when turning the page, the previously consecutive numbering referring to admissions jumps over 100 places. While the records of the initial intake of girls admitted to Newcastle from 31 August 1867, until 7 October 1869, are documented in the register, from October 1869, (Admission Number 119) until 6 November 1876, (Admission Number 345), inmate names and all their details have not survived.

These missing pages would not only include admissions of girls but would also identify any young boys who were to be sent to the Industrial School for care by the Matron after the change to the act in 1869. The record for the first boy named in the incomplete Entrance Book has the admission number 351, thus confirming that the names of young boys were recorded in the same register as the girls. Eight boys have to date been identified from the missing pages in the Entrance Book but these young boys were all admitted to Biloela. No boys were named in the one complete list of admissions to Newcastle.8 None are named on the transfer lists to Biloela9 and no indication of any transfer from Newcastle to the Vernon appeared in the Vernon records which are complete for this time. In addition to this lack of written record, coincidentally, during the period when the admission of boys to Newcastle could have occurred, one boy under the age of seven was arrested with his sister in Newcastle. It could therefore be logically expected that in this situation this six-year-old would have accompanied his older sister to the nearby Industrial School rather than to be sent alone to Sydney but this boy was sent by boat to the Vernon off Garden Island.10 Therefore there were no young boys ever admitted to the industrial school at Newcastle. Information on the boys who were admitted to the boys' industrial schools, the Vernon and later the Sobraon, is also available on Ancestry in the 'Schools, Directories & Church Histories' section. The Vernon records complement those of Newcastle, Biloela and Parramatta. The names of any Vernon and Sobraon admissions are not indexed on the Child Welfare Index on the SRNSW website unless they were young and were sent to Biloela or Parramatta.

An attempt to identify all the young boys and girls who were sent to Biloela before November 1876 is still being undertaken as is a list of boys sent to the Vernon during the time the records for the industrial school ship have not survived. The list of these missing admissions may be viewed on this site on the pages named Biloela and the //Vernon//.

Admission Number:
Girls were given an admission number corresponding with their order of arrival with the exception of the twelve girls admitted on 31 August 1867, who were listed according to their age – from oldest to youngest. For girls with admission numbers 46 to 119 an inexplicable second number was recorded.11 These second numbers are mostly consecutive and do not seem to link to location or age. They are thought to be some form of classification – possibly academic. Their use was begun by KING and continued after the arrival of CLARKE. This second number had ceased to be recorded by the time the Biloela admissions commenced.12

Place of Trial:
When girls were admitted to any of the schools their place of arrest was not recorded and the Entrance Book documented the court at which they appeared and were sentenced. An analysis of the court locations for the 187 inmates from the Industrial School and those six from the Reformatory indicated that the largest number of admissions were made from Sydney and its environs (90) but slightly more than half the girls (103) admitted came from the country areas of NSW. The location of the trial of two girls in the missing section of the book is yet to be discovered and remain unidentified even though an exhaustive search has been undertaken. It was extremely rare that families of sisters were admitted from Sydney and there was only one instance where more than two sisters appeared in the Sydney courts and these trials occurred separately. In country areas there were instances of three or more sisters facing court and subsequently being admitted – the most being the cases of the SOLOMON and STANTON sisters from Newcastle and Maitland respectively. Each of these two trials sent five sisters to Newcastle.

Location Individuals Families
Sydney (including Central Police Court, Water Police Court, Parramatta and Penrith) 90 83
Hunter Valley (including Maitland, Newcastle, Singleton, Muswellbrook and Murrurundi) 36 26
The Monaro (including Goulburn, Yass, Cooma, Bega, Stoney Creek and the South Coast) 31 25
Bathurst (including Orange, Hill End and Tamboroora) 20 14
Liverpool Plains (including New England and Coonabarrabran) 8 6
Other police courts (viz. Hay, Kempsey, Deniliquin) 6 5
unknown location 2 2


  • Surnames

Researchers need to consider that at this time in the history of Australia, less than eighty years after European settlement began, many factors contributed to variations in the spelling of surnames in NSW. The Australian accent as we know it was still to develop so an accent could be considered a reliable indication of a person's place of origin. It was almost certainly very difficult to lie about your country of birth at this time. During the mid-1800s the majority of the population was made up of people from all parts of the United Kingdom and Ireland. A large number of people had been born in Australia. Some had been transported and some had arrived under the different immigration programs offered. There were also a small number of assisted immigrants from Germany and a small number of transportees had arrived from different locations across the British Empire.13 The dependency of Australia on sea transport also meant that ship crews from Scandinavia, South-east Asia or the Iberian Peninsula, often stayed to work on the coastal traders or alternatively, jumped ship to seek gold. Many others from around the world worked a passage to one of the Australian colonies. The gold rush of the 1850s had brought more immigrants. Large numbers of Chinese came to prospect or provide services to European communities. The resulting Chinese community grew and often existed on the fringes of every large town. Opium dens were common. This multicultural community contributed to a difficulty in recording surnames for many reasons.

  1. People were not always familiar with the accents of people from different counties within the UK and were almost certainly even less familiar with accents from other countries.14
  2. Transcribers were not always familiar with what would be considered a 'common' spelling for any particular name from any particular county or country – if such a thing actually existed.15
  3. Spelling and punctuation expectations were different to the standard in use today.
  4. Not everyone was able to write their name and even transcribers of names may not have been particularly well-educated.
  5. The circumstances of each incident of recording a name may have contributed to variations in the spelling of names. Was either party suffering from intemperance?16 Did the speaker have a speech impediment? How good was the hearing of the person transcribing the words? What experience did the recorder have with the particular accent? What background noise existed to impede clear hearing?
  6. Interpreting different handwriting with its assortment of tears, blots, blurs, blotches, smudges, water spills and, as time progressed, fading, have ensured further variations.
  7. Was the transcriber reporting accounts written by a third person? Investigation of newspaper reports indicated that the handwriting of reporters 'on the ground' was not correctly scripted into the papers by compositors. Further, compositing errors may have occurred17.
  8. When messages were sent by telegraph, further errors occurred18 so the spelling of surnames in the Police Gazette is often quite different to that recorded in newspapers and/or the Entrance Book.
  • Aliases

It has been found that some of the inmates of the Newcastle Industrial School adopted or acquired an alias.

  1. The most common situation occurred when a girl was given the alias by the constables or courts as a result of her mother's associations – usually with a man who was frequently her partner.19 These girls were frequently admitted with two names and rarely, if ever, used the alias. This situation was often dependent upon the girl's age when her mother entered the relationship20.
  2. Within a family, pet given names have been found to have been used even though a baptism or birth recorded a different name.21
  3. Sometimes parents adopted an alias which was given to and used by their children – knowingly22 or unknowingly23
  4. On one occasion it is believed that a girl was admitted with a false name so she would not be returned to or connected with her parents.24
  5. On two occasions girls knowingly created and adopted an alias before their arrest to avoid detection by their family or the authorities.25
  6. After their discharge from Newcastle a different situation arose and many girls adopted an 'alias'. Of the 193 girls admitted to the two Newcastle schools, 141 have been traced with 18 of these unconfirmed, but 52 girls remain 'lost' and it is thought that, as well as never marrying but adopting their partner's surname, an intentional alias has been adopted by many to hide either their past association with what became a notorious location or their life of crime after their discharge. Currently seven girls who made radical name changes have been identified. Most deliberate name changes may be linked to an event or a surname in the past life of the inmate or of her family,26 or a radical variation in spelling.27 Some girls changed their surname quickly either by marrying or by adopting a man's surname. It is thought that one of the most notorious girls simply assumed the name of an acquaintance.28 It was rare that given names were changed but this also occurred.29

The Act for the Relief of Destitute Children 1866 stated that girls under the age of sixteen years could be admitted and that those girls were to remain in the school for a minimum of twelve months. Once they had attained the age of eighteen years they were to be released if they were still in the school. Girls arrested under the act who were sixteen years or older had therefore been admitted illegally. If a girl was older than sixteen and was admitted to the school, parents were required to prove her correct age before the government would approve her release. A large number of girls admitted to Newcastle were often years older than their recorded admission age.

It has been found that ages recorded in the Entrance Book varied from the actual age in a number of cases. Comparisons between the Entrance Book, a court report and a confirmed birth reference have been made where this has been possible. Compilation of all the records available for each girls admitted to the school has resulted in the identification of girls whose actual age differed from their admission age. There have been a number of reasons identified that may explain these age differences.


Stated and Actual Ages of Admissions to Newcastle
Source: Jane Ison

The ages of sixteen of the girls admitted during the first four months were written in pencil. All of these girls were reported in the newspapers as 14 or 15 but were record as 16 years or older in the Entrance Book so had been illegally admitted. It is thought that this occurred because school administrators suspected that these girls were older than the legal age of admission but they were not generally in a position to question or prove the correct admission age. These recorded ages in the Entrance Book do not match ages reported to magistrates in court appearances and while they were therefore admitted to the school illegally, the reason for the illegality usually rested with the information provided to the authorities. Information about inmates may have been either intentionally or inadvertently wrong and KING's reports and CLARKE’S letters reflect their difficulty and frustration in assessing age.

The Entrance Book recorded that a third30 of the girls admitted during the first month were documented as already sixteen years of age or older. This suggested that personal details about age and family were provided by the inmate and not verified, or able to be verified, by any other source including Baptism records, the arrest warrant and court details. The superintendent, CLARKE, complained to the Colonial Secretary concerning irregularities in admission ages.

Reasons for errors in age may include:

  1. Girls and/or their parents may not have known their actual age and no record could not be located at the time of their admission.31
  2. Some parents or carers deliberately stated that a girl was older than her recorded admission age to facilitate their daughter’s release.32
  3. Some girls may have understated their age to try to avoid being gaoled for prostitution, not realizing that an admission to the Industrial School would result in a longer confinement under the terms of the Act. Parents then had to prove the correct age.33 This seems especially true during the early days of the implementation of the law and may possibly be attributed to the lower literacy levels and socio-economic status of most of the families of the inmates. These families were less likely to have read the newspapers that informed the community of the planning for the implementation of the law. Communications concerning the new law were reported in the written media but this news may never have reached those families most likely to be affected by the Act for the Relief of Destitute Children.
  4. It was known, or eventually became known, by the general population that lying about a child's age in court often ensured an admission to Newcastle and later Biloela even though that resulted in an illegal arrest for the girl. Parents deliberately lied to get a warrant to enable the removal of their child from a deprived circumstance, a situation of danger or possibly their own apathy.34 The child may have then told the truth when they arrived at the school.
  5. Parents may have deliberately lied to an earlier institution such as Randwick to enable the removal of their child from a deprived circumstance. This error was then perpetuated.35
  6. Girls may have told deliberate lies to enable them to be discharged sooner.36 This seems to have been especially true in cases of older inmates and in the case of girls who could be considered 'street-wise.'
  7. Some girls and their families didn't know how old they actually were.37
  8. Fewer younger children were admitted to the school as positions for them were often available in the Benevolent Asylum,38 the Asylum for the Relief of Destitute Children – aka the Randwick Asylum – or to the Protestant or Roman Catholic Orphan Schools.39 Younger girls may also have been more likely to be cared for by extended family or friends as they were more amenable, less resentful or more likely to accept a step-mother and so they never reached the school. There is evidence that many of the girls had been living away from their parents prior to 1867 and on reaching adolescence began 'acting out' so their carers subsequently arranged to admit them to the school.40
  9. The admission of older girls also suggested that in some cases the school was used instead of a gaol – possibly as a deliberate decision by the constables or magistrates to help girls who had been, or may have been sent to gaol, who were already working the streets as prostitutes,41 or for their own protection.42
  10. Once a girl had left the school and wished – or needed – to marry, it may have become necessary to lie about her age. The legal age for marriage at this time was twenty-one, so if a girl was isolated from her family, consent was difficult to obtain or unable to be sought to enable her to marry legally. The solutions adopted by the girls varied. Some completely ignored the law,43 others fabricated an age,44 others located a parent,45 and some found or had a guardian.46 There were cases where the local Police Magistrate was sought to provide permission in place of a guardian.47

The recorded age of the oldest admission was nineteen and this girl was the first entry in the Entrance Book. She48 was recorded in her court report as fifteen but was eventually proved to be too old to have been legally admitted and was returned to her mother. Her case and other similar cases49 indicates that the Entrance Book contains evidence of either deliberate lies or unintentional errors in either an age or in other family details. Of the thirty girls admitted to the school during the first month,50 ten were already sixteen years of age or older. This trend continued but the proportions of older girls reduced. An analysis of the ages of the 193 girls admitted to Newcastle shows that 12% were sixteen or older, 30% were fifteen or older and 45% were fourteen or older at the time of their admission. Because girls were to remain until the age of eighteen unless they were apprenticed, this group of older girls grew and this increasing number of young women was very likely to have contributed to the difficulties in maintaining discipline faced by the school authorities.

The youngest inmate was two years old.51 Of the 193 girls admitted to Newcastle, six were five or younger and fifteen were six or younger. When a child is this young at the time of her admission and was not in the company of sisters, or her return to her family was not possible or was never requested, she was unlikely to know the names of her parents. When she married she was therefore unable to provide their names. The following letter, addressed to the Superintendent at Parramatta Industrial School, provides an insight into the situation these younger girls faced. It was written on 13 June 1911, and appeared in the Entrance Book near the name of Annie HINES52 so presumably the information she desired was furnished.

Dear Sir or Madam,
A few lines to ask you if you would be kind enough to look in the books of the school and tell me my exact age as I do not properly know it. I was put into the school as far as I know when I was 6 years of age I was in the school, it think 6 years and then put to service in Sydney to a Mrs James Innes, commission agent in Sussex Street her private dwelling being Glebe Point I was with her 6 years and now as far as I know am 38 years of age so if you will be kind enough to let me know where I was born and what part of the country I was born I will be very thankful and my mothers and fathers proper name the only thing that I know is that my name is Annie Hynes or Haynes. I don't know what is right the school then being Biloela Cockatoo Island after I left [indecipherable] to Parramatta … it is a few years ago but I suppose it will be in the School Books please reply as soon as you can as I want to know very particular and oblige yours respectfully
Mrs J. S. Jones
Bunny[?] Park
New South Wales
I am sending a stamp for an answer.

Parents (and Ethnicity)
A major aim of this research was to identify each girl's parents – especially where they were not identified in the Entrance Book. In most cases this has been possible and the process is ongoing. It does not seem to have been the intention of the government to identify a girl's family, therefore parents may not have been named. If a parent was deceased, they were identified in the record as 'dead'. Notations indicating 'both parents dead', 'mother absconded', 'father in gaol', 'mother dead' are common. Although no statistics have been found for Newcastle, those that were published from the Vernon suggested that the government was collecting information about the situation in which the children arrested under the act lived. Rare statements gleaned from letters held in the CSIL indicate that more was known of the antecedents of the inmates than was recorded in the Entrance Book. Evidence remains that knowledge of the criminal history of parents – whether their recent criminality or their convict history is uncertain – was used by officials against rebellious or unruly girls53 or was used by members in the Newcastle community who were in a position to know, who could identify more 'desirous' inmates who perhaps would be more trustworthy apprentices.54 Currently the parents of 184 inmates have been identified.

Both parents unknown 7
Probably legitimate – father unknown 3
Illegitimate55 – father unknown 15

Anomalies have been found in the information contained in the records. These errors almost certainly indicate that in many cases personal details were provided by the girls when they were admitted or when they appeared in court. To date only one warrant has been retrieved from the CSIL and this warrant verified that girls were asked to provide their details. The warrant for Sarah AUBURN clearly recorded that her 'Nature, and Proof adduced as to Age', recorded on the warrant and subsequently in the Entrance Book, was by 'her own statement'.56 This method of ascertaining age was almost without doubt adopted with every girl admitted if no further, more reliable, evidence was available.

Errors identified in the record are as follows:

  1. The warrant of Sarah AUBURN was in the name Margaret WHITE as she had fabricated both an alias and family details at the time of her arrest because she was running away from home. The Entrance Book recorded the alias as her correct name and her real name was recorded in pencil. Based on the information recorded on the warrant, the Entrance Book would have indicated that her father was dead and her mother had remarried James WHITE,57 but Sarah's family page is the first missing page of the Entrance Book so what was actually recorded there cannot be confirmed.
  2. The father of Lucy AH KIN who was admitted in 1868, was not named and was recorded as dead, yet a receipt58 from 1871 showing that Le AH KIN had financially supported his daughter while she was in Newcastle. Lucy is believed to have been deliberately dishonest about him due to the circumstances of her arrest.
  3. The mother of Catherine SMITH (2) had had her admitted to Newcastle under a warrant taken out by her. Catherine's admission only recorded that her father was dead and didn't identify the name of her mother. It is considered likely that Catherine refused to provide this information due to her anger at the circumstances.
  4. The father of seven-year-old Mary ALLEN was recorded as Thomas. Subsequent correspondence from Mary's uncle,59 supported by entries in the Police Gazette,60 proved that this record was wrong and that her father's name was William. His identity wasn't known in the area of Mary's arrest and as Mary was quite young when she was arrested it is considered that this was not a deliberate falsehood. There is no clear explanation as to why the record is in error but it is conceivable that Mary's brother, William, was known in the family by the pet name, Thomas, and Mary knew him to be named after his father.
  5. Twelve-year-old Mary Ann KINNAIRD was admitted with the surname KINNEAR. Her father was recorded as James and her mother as Mary Ann. A petition from 1872 proved that her father's correct name was Thomas. The entire entry in the Entrance Book appears to have been a deliberate lie told by Mary Ann as the alias is pencilled in later and was almost certainly added once the falsehood was discovered. Court appearances for Thomas show that he also used both surnames and was well-known in his home town as a frequent offender so it is thought that Mary Ann 'took the heat off him' by lying. Subsequent research has verified that the correct surname should have been KINNEAR and that KINNAIRD was the alias which has subsequently been adopted by all descendants and still used within the family today.
  6. The father of eight-year-old Rachel WILLIS was recorded in the book as William but was he was identified as Thomas at the time of her baptism. When Rachel was arrested her father hadn't been living with his family for over five years, but her mother who was alive wasn't named. It is unknown why this is the case but Rachel may not have known her father because she was a baby when he disappeared. It is also possible, but less likely, that Thomas was actually an alias used by Rachel's father and his name really was William and Rachel told the truth when she was admitted.
  7. The family information on the admission of Fanny DARLING in the Entrance Book recorded the name of her mother and stated that her father was dead. Petitions from her father and the registration of the death of her mother show this entry to be incorrect. It is likely that Fanny knew nothing of her father but her mother was familiar.
  8. The COE sisters were in the care of someone who wasn't related to them and were admitted with the name of COLE. It is unknown whether this error was deliberate or unintentional as both girls were aware of their correct surname as they used it after their discharge from the school. It is unknown whether they or their carer provided the information on their warrant and in the Entrance Book. It is also unknown whether they were aware of the spelling of their surname as it was recorded in the Entrance Book.
  • Ethnicity

There was, with one exception, no reference made to the ethnicity of the girls in Newcastle when they were admitted. The admissions were almost exclusively girls of European61 ancestry and in every case at least one parent was European. The distribution of religion gives a broad indication of the number of girls who may have been Irish or of Irish descent. Only one girl was recorded on her admission as having Aboriginal ancestry62 and research has to date identified only one other inmate who was of Aboriginal descent.63 One of these girls was living within the European community and not with her indigenous community. The arrest details of the other have not been located. One girl had Chinese ancestry64 but her ethnicity was not noted in the book. The records associated with other girls or their families suggest other, less common, heritage – German,65 African,66 Portugese67 or Gypsy68.

Note: While unconnected with the Entrance Book, the choice of husband, partner or liaison made by many of the girls shows the diversity of the nationality of men in NSW during the 1870s and 1880s. Eleven of the girls, although of European ancestry, made relationships or marriages into the Chinese community or married an East Indian sailor or Pacific or South Sea Islanders. Many others made marriages to Italians, Portuguese or Spaniards. 

Reading Ability:
The first 94 admissions to the school show a far more comprehensive assessment of reading ability than later admissions whose ability is only recorded as 'read.' No further analysis has been undertaken but there appears to be no correlation between age and reading ability in these records. An individual level of attainment for reading is recorded.
Could not read 5
Alphabet 23
First Book 29
Second Book 25
Third Book 7
Not Stated 3
Writing Ability:
The first 94 admissions to the school show a far more comprehensive assessment of writing ability than in later admissions who are only recorded as able to 'write.' No further analysis has been undertaken but there appears to be no correlation between age and writing ability. An individual level of attainment for writing is recorded.
Could not write 6
Write on Slate 43
Large Hand 7
Small Hand 7
Copy Book 12
Not Stated 17

Membership of Christian faiths was the only religious data collected. There was no distinction made between different Protestant religions. Because many individual records are in the missing pages of the Entrance Book, confirmation of religion cannot easily be made. The Biloela transfer lists do contain a notation of religion so if a girl was still in the school in May 1871, it is possible to know what was once recorded in the missing pages in the Entrance Book.69 The records that do exist indicate a slightly higher number of Roman Catholics over Protestants. Further details concerning the arrangements for religious insrtuction may be located in The School.

Admission Date:
The book is arranged chronologically but admission dates for those girls in the approximately forty missing pages have been retrieved from SRNSW: CSIL: 72/4799 [1/2176] and CSIL: 71/3610 [1/2144]. The admission pattern suggests that the book was updated on a regular, rather than daily, basis.70

Discharge Information:
Preparation for future employment was provided by the school in addition to formal academic lessons. The circumstances under which a girl was discharged from the school varied. The vast majority of discharges from Newcastle were into apprenticeships or for girls over the age of 18, placed in service. But girls were also discharged to their friends or relatives or to another institution. Two girls died in the school.

Agnes KING did not discharge any girl as a apprentice although five girls were returned to their parents during her superintendency. The first apprenticeships from the school were arranged by CLARKE within months of his arrival so he was required to canvass those who might want an apprentice because the school was new and he needed to inform the community that domestic servants could be acquired from Newcastle. Initially CLARKE was faced with the complication that many families, while being happy to pay fair wages for servants, declined to take on girls as apprentices. This was especially true for the first discharges he made as, unbeknownst to the Colonial Secretary, these girls had often been inadvertently illegally arrested and were therefore too old for apprenticeships so CLARKE had arranged that they would be taken into service. While CLARKE had little or no proof of this, he stressed to the Colonial Secretary that they were 'fully grown young women' and urged the Colonial Secretary to approve what he had been able to arrange.71

Sometimes prospective employers wrote to the Colonial Secretary requesting a particular or suitable girl to work for them but most often the superintendent sourced placements for inmates and negotiated the terms of the apprenticeships. Remaining records indicate that the superintendents Joseph CLARKE and Selina WALKER and the relieving superintendent, John DALE, worked hard to arrange suitable apprenticeships. CLARKE was very careful to match religions and checked how the apprenticeship was working. He also responded quickly if a girl made a complaint of mistreatment. Mostly the girls seemed to be treated well and the little evidence that remained of their experiences was positive. One or two instances of mistreatment have been identified.

After this large number of initial apprenticeships regular discharges were made by all superintendents. Most girls were apprenticed as domestic servants. This could occur from the age of 12 once the required 12 months in the school had been served. They cleaned, cooked, sewed and helped maintain the large properties employing many men as shearers, shepherds and labourers. Apprenticeships to private families also occurred and girls did domestic chores or were employed as housemaids or nursemaids. Apprenticeships to learn a trade were less common but opportunities to learn the trades of dressmaking or upholstery were identified. For apprenticeships arranged by CLARKE, remuneration for the girls varied and he was required to negotiate terms for each individual apprenticeship. Little evidence remains for rates of pay for any apprenticeships arranged by LUCAS as few letters for those that he discharged appear in the CSIL. By the time DALE and then WALKER took over the superintendency of Biloela, wages for apprentices appear to have been standardised. Further details of the process of arranging apprenticeships for girls are outlined in The School.

Not every record in the Entrance Book provided information about a girl's discharge and not every girl without this information went to Biloela. Discharge notes for all inmates who left the school before April 1872 appear on one complete list in the CSIL.72 Wherever possible discharge details have been retrieved from individual letters in the CSIL.

There were some cases where parents managed to obtain their daughter's release even though the girl hadn't served the required twelve months. Most were cases where parents proved that the inmate was over the age of sixteen. A Baptismal Certificate or statutory declaration was required even though girls who were 'over 18 years of age … can demand to be released.'73 13
Once twelve months had been served, girls were not automatically returned to their family and it was up to parents to seek a discharge. Discharges could also be made to relatives or friends but only occurred after a police check of the family was undertaken or the local minister of religion supported the application. Where a police report was unsatisfactory a discharge was usually refused. 34
Girls still in the Industrial School were released once they reached the age of eighteen.74 14
Once an inmate reached the age of eighteen75 she was too old for an apprenticeship so the Superintendent sought an appropriate position in service – often to avoid returning her immediately to her family. 8
The Superintendent sought to find apprenticeships once a girl reached the age of twelve. A girl's age can generally be calculated by the length of her apprenticeship. 160
Transfers were made to other institutions but any girls who were imprisoned from the school were expected to be returned upon their discharge from gaol.76 5
They died. 2
unknown method of discharge 13

Note 1: Updated October 2019
Note 2: Numbers of discharges exceed 193 because some girls were readmitted to the school and were therefore discharged at least twice.

  • Discharge to Parents or Relatives

Individual letters show that an investigation into the circumstances of parents by the police occurred if a request was made for a discharge of the girl to her parents. A police assessment of the circumstances of the parents was then undertaken and the request was often refused if there was some suspicion about the suitability or ability of the family to care for the girl. The opinion of the Superintendent was also sought and this opinion carried considerable weight to the eventual decision.

  • Apprenticeships or Service

The need for apprentices in the expanding agricultural areas as well as for general household situations was great. Newspapers rarely reported the successes of the school but in January 1871, the Newcastle Chronicle noted that

During the past fourteen or fifteen months, between twenty five and thirty of the Industrial School girls were hired out as servants in the town and country, and out of this number only two misconducted themselves, the remainder being reported by their employers as industrious and well conducted persons.77

While a small number of girls from the school behaved in a difficult manner whilst in Newcastle, the majority of the girls seem to have responded well to the opportunity to earn an honest and respectable living.78 No official direction, instruction or regulation has yet been located but it was common practice for CLARKE to attempt to gain employment for girls as far from their family as possible only if he considered that the girl was at risk. This meant that the girl was less likely to return immediately to their parents and when she did, she had some money of her own. In at least one case letters confirm that this request for separation from their family was made by the girl.79 If a girl was already eighteen, wherever possible these eighteen-year-old girls, too old for apprenticeship, were placed in service.80

Evidence also remains that a large number of girls were returned as apprentices to areas where they had been arrested. Apprenticeships for at least two admissions who had been arrested in country NSW, Sarah DIXON and Jane FIRTH, were apprenticed to Sydney and this was atypical. Of Jane the Colonial Secretary only cautiously granted permission after checking her warrant. It was noted that:

It is not usual nor intended to apprentice girls in Sydney.81

Letters concerning the placement of apprentices at this time indicated that CLARKE, the superintendent, attempted to match the girls with their prospective employer but it is unknown whether this was due to a directive or personal care choice. He appeared to have ensured that their religions were matched so there was less likelihood of conflicts occurring. In one case he reported to the Colonial Secretary that he considered that the difference in their religions was unlikely to be an issue.

Colonial Secretary 'In' Letters (CSIL) aka the Joan Reese Index

Lists and individual letters relating to inmates are indexed on fiches held in State Records of NSW, Kingswood, which also holds the original letters. This index was created by Joan Reese and is available on fiche, CD and USB. As at May 2013, none of the letters recorded on the index has been filmed so are only available at SRNSW in original form. Some letters are personal requests from those connected with the girls to either the superintendent or the Colonial Secretary. Some are reports from the different superintendents concerning discharges, punishments and apprenticeships. Not all the girls admitted to Newcastle are mentioned in the index or the correspondence. Difficulties in interpreting the handwriting of the period mean that some names in the index may be very different to the girl's actual name. There are no specific letters for Reformatory girls identified in the Index under the subject of reformatory.

Some of the letters in the CSIL contain lists of the girls who were sent to Newcastle. The most significant are ranked here in order of importance and relevance. The lists variously record admission age, current age, admission date, religion and occasionally, remarks.

  1. Although not specifically named in the CSIL Index, the letter SRNSW: CSIL: 71/3610 [1/2144], contains four lists compiled on 1 May 1871, in preparation for the transfer from Newcastle to Biloela. They are: a list of all the girls in the institution on that date and any returned to the institution before the transfer; a list of the girls aged ten or younger who were to make the transfer; a list of the girls older than ten who were to make the transfer and a list of the girls in the Reformatory.
  2. A list, probably compiled for the NSW Government in mid-1872, requested information concerning the girls at the school.82 To date one list that pre-dates this request has been found.83 It contains the names of the 187 girls admitted to Newcastle and includes their chronological admission number and discharge details. The admission number of four of these girls (numbers between 105 and 108 inclusive) varies slightly from their admission numbers in the Entrance Book. It also includes the names of the first girls admitted to Biloela. There are no boys listed. To date this is the only complete list of the Newcastle girls located but there may be other lists created closer to the August date that haven't yet been found in the correspondence. Some transcription errors in both given names and surnames have been identified on this record. It is conceivable that further errors may have occurred with records for the girls whose names appear in the missing section of the Entrance Book but because the original record is missing, it is impossible to cross-check them.
  3. A letter to the Principal Under-secretary in 1874 named the girls who were admitted to the Newcastle Reformatory and the Biloela Reformatory up until April 1874. It includes details of the trial dates and locations for the first nineteen girls admitted to the two reformatories.84 This is the only known list of the Reformatory girls.
  4. The 'July 1867 List'85 was compiled by the constables of Sydney in July 1867, one month before the first arrests were made. It contains the names of thirty-eight girls who were considered by the constables to fall under the terms of the Industrial School Act. Not all of these girls were sent to Newcastle but the list contains valuable information that hasn't been found in any other reference for those who were ultimately admitted. The preface to this letter suggest that constables across the state were also asked to compile a list for their area. A list naming the at risk boys of Sydney was also compiled and is dated 14 May 1867. This record is also not specifically identified in the CSIL Index but it may be located at CSIL: 67/585 [4/615].
  5. CLARKE's 1870 List86 was compiled on 1 August 1870, by Joseph Hines CLARKE, the Superintendent at the time, and sent to the Colonial Secretary in response to what CLARKE considered adverse and erroneous publicity. He reported on the welfare of the forty-seven girls discharged by him after his arrival as Superintendent late in 1868. It adds new details to the family information outlined in the Entrance Book and reports on the progress and behaviour of each girl after she was discharged from the school. He also includes some statistics showing how few of the discharged girls had 'gone to bad.' It is one of the first examples of welfare follow-up for any Government Institution in NSW.
  6. Shortly after the school transferred to Sydney, LUCAS compiled a list of girls who were eligible for service.87 Under the terms of the act, these girls must have been admitted to the school at least a year earlier.
  7. The first forty-one names in the book are duplicated in a letter on 2 November 1867, from the Superintendent Agnes KING88 to the under-secretary. This list contains almost no additional information on the background of any of the girls.
  8. Two assessments for each inmate were made on her admission. Educational attainments in reading and writing abilities were assessed. Medical observations and a physical examination by the visiting medical attendant also occurred. The list compiled by Dr. Richard HARRIS89 on 14 November 1867, called A Synopsis of the Inmates of the Newcastle Industrial School, records the results of a physical examination of the first forty-two girls in the school. Two had ringworm. Twenty-five were recorded as virgins and of the remaining seventeen, all except five were sexually healthy. Of those five, two had gonorrhoea and three had syphilis. Records of subsequent examinations have not been located, but CLARKE refers to HARRIS having a list of the Signs of Virginity for the first eighty girls. HARRIS was instructed to stop this physical examination once CLARKE became aware that it was occurring but HARRIS did not comply and this created considerable friction between the two men.

The Letters of the Superintendent

This register90 records a chronological list of copies of the letters and memos of Joseph Hines CLARKE from shortly after his appointment as superintendent until 18 March 1871. It is a fragile record containing duplicates of his correspondence written on tissue paper. The first pages are missing. The record contains copies of reports to the Colonial Secretary, communication with members of the public and potential employers and in-school memos. The content addresses the issues of the administration of the school, the maintenance of the site and letters about individual girls or members of staff. Some of these original letters have been recorded in the CSIL index but the originals for some of the copies do not appear in the CSIL index so must be tracked through the register of letters on microfilm which has not yet been done. CLARKE's letters also contains the names of some Reformatory girls as copies of letters pertaining to the reformatory may be found within the record.

Newspaper Reports

Newspaper reports of trials under the act often contain the names of family members and are very valuable as almost no Police Court documents remain.

  1. The invaluable resource, Trove91 at the National Library of Australia (NLA), has enabled access to the newspapers of the time. Any records found on Trove relating to individual girls have been corrected so they will be found on a name search.
  2. As yet unscanned papers or papers undergoing the scanning process – Newcastle Pilot – issue 1 on 6 September 1867,92 Goulburn Herald and the Goulburn Evening Penny Post – have also been viewed and as these papers are scanned, even more details may be discovered.
  3. It is believed that no newspaper reports for arrests at either Penrith or Parramatta were ever recorded in the newspapers. None have been found but more significantly, reports were regularly glued into Entrance Book for the Vernon and no newspaper reports for boys tried in these locations have been found in the Vernon admissions records.

Other Sources

  1. The record named as the Industrial School Discharge book93 commenced on 4 January 1876. It gives the discharge date of girls who were at Biloela but only included references to Newcastle girls if they were very young when admitted to Newcastle or were readmitted to the school. While the Discharge Book contains an index of correspondence from 25 February 1869, it contains none of these letters. This date suggests that the book may once have contained letters or admissions concerning the Newcastle Reformatory.
  2. Rev. Canon SELWYN was Anglican minister in Christ Church, Newcastle. His papers, held in the Mitchell Library, contain a summary of the Protestant girls admitted before June 1868 – ten months after the school enrolled its first inmate. The list94 was compiled after 17 June 1868,95 and is recorded in the same order as the Entrance Book.
  3. The NSW Police Gazette provides valuable information about arrests and gaol entrance books – especially for Darlinghurst and Maitland. They have been invaluable for personal or background information of those admitted during this period. It was very easy to be sent to gaol during the 1800s!
  4. Inmates or their families may have moved from institution to institution. The public, private or religious institutions at the time where inmates may have sought refuge were:-
  • The Randwick Asylum96
  • The House of the Good Shepherd97 (also known as the Sydney Refuge)

The House of the Good Shepherd (c.1870)
Source: The National Archives UK

  • The Sydney Benevolent Asylum98 has an online search facility and originals are held in the Mitchell Library.
  • The Industrial School for Boys, the I.S.S. Vernon, operated at the same time as the Newcastle Industrial School for Girls. It was the partner institution for Newcastle and later Biloela. The Vernon records were compiled under the same act. They are invaluable in identifying the families of some of the girls whose records are missing but registers of admissions between approximately February 1877 to March 1886 have not survived.99 If a brother and sister were arrested together, the Index for the Vernon and Sobroan, the records for the Vernon, on Ancestry and one supplementary list of boys on the Vernon in 1872,100 contributed information about their family. To date twenty-two sets of brothers and sisters have been located.101 Children from one hundred and sixty-one families were admitted to Newcastle so these twenty-two families represent just over 12% of total admissions.


' feet e.g. 5' read five feet (1' = approximately 30 cm)
" inches e.g. 5' 6" read five feet six inches
aka also known as may also refer to a deliberate alias
ACT Australian Capital Territory established 1911 – located within NSW
ARK Archive Records Kit part of SRNSW – much of which is now on Ancestry
AO Archives Office The generic name of archives repositories and the name of State Records NSW.
AP Absolute Pardon The ultimate reward for convicts - especially those with a 'Life' sentence. A return to England was permitted.
BC born in the colony When used in NSW police and gaol records referring to NSW only and synonymous with the notation 'Native of the Colony'.
BDM births – deaths – marriages In Australia each state kept its own records.102
BFHG Bathurst Family History Group
C Census103 e.g. 1828C – The census of 1828
C Confinement when used in connection with a gaol term
CP Conditional Pardon A pardon awarded to convicts permitting their freedom within NSW. No return to England was allowed.
CPO Central Police Office located in Sydney
CSIL Colonial Secretary In Letters located at SRNSW at Kingswood, NSW
Esq. Esquire At this time in NSW used as in UK – a title of respect previously accorded to men of higher social rank.104
GG Government Gazette
HL Hard Labour
HVPRI Hunter Valley Parish Register Index available on microfilm at Newcastle Central Library
ISS Industrial School Ship In NSW these ships were the Vernon and the Sobraon.
JP Justice of the Peace
KIA Killed in Action
LL Light Labour
M Muster Any references on this site are almost always convict musters but separate army musters do exist.
ML Mitchell Library part of the State Library, Sydney
NC native of the colony In the PG the usual meaning was born in NSW.
NFHS Newcastle Family History Society
NLA National Library of Australia Canberra, ACT
NSW New South Wales transportation began 1788 and officially ended in 1840 but didn't completely cease until 1850105
PG Police Gazette the state is named first
PM Police Magistrate
PROV Public Record Office – Victoria
PS Penal Servitude
Qld Queensland separated from NSW in 1851106
QS Quarter Sessions local courts held four times a year107
SA South Australia proclaimed in 1836108 – SA was never a penal colony
SAG Society of Australian Genealogists
SARNSW State Archives and Records NSW repository in Kingswood, NSW, previously AO of NSW and SRNSW
Tas. Tasmania effective from 1856109 – formerly named Van Diemen's Land
ToL Ticket of Leave A 'ToL man' had previously been a convict.
V Volume microfilm of copies of pre-1856 church registers (to V123) – available in the ARK
Vic. Victoria separated from NSW In 1851110
VDL Van Diemen's Land transportation began 1803 and ended in 1854 – named Tasmania from 1856
WA Western Australia transportation began 1850 and ended 1868
WPO Water Police Office located in Sydney near Circular Quay
(X) made his/her mark as in: given name (X) surname

Updated October 2019

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