Father b. unknown m. d. by 1870
Mother b. unknown m. d. by 1870
Inmate Jane TAYLOR b.c. 18581 m. (see below) d. aft. 1874

Jane was admitted to the Newcastle Reformatory on 31 December 1869, at ‘about the age of 10’,2 eleven3 or twelve4 and no verification of the accuracy of any of these ages can be found from a source independent of the industrial school and reformatory records. Jane had been tried in Penrith court on 21 December 1869, before A. M. DOUGHTEY[?], P.M. and the J.P.s, J. RILEY and J. W. SINGLE. There was no specified period of time for her to spend in the reformatory.5 Locating Jane's court appearance in the newspapers is ongoing but no Penrith newspapers from this time, if any exist, have yet been scanned. While it was not recorded on the one list of reformatory girls located, Jane had been sent to Newcastle as she had committed a felony.6 No appropriate admission registers for Penrith or Parramatta Gaols have been found for this time.

Because Jane was admitted to the Newcastle Reformatory, no details of her family, background, religion or education can be confirmed as no reformatory records have survived before 1887. By 1869 Jane was an orphan.7 It is very unlikely that any parents would have been named in any record because it was not the practice in the industrial school to record names of deceased parents. It is believed that this practice was also followed in the reformatory as both registers were commenced by the same school official – Agnes KING. Jane’s details are only recorded in the August 1874 letter8 and the Biloela transfer lists, which indicated that in May 1871 she was a twelve-year-old Catholic.9

On 4 August 1870, Jane absconded from the reformatory buildings in company with the two older reformatory girls, Mary Ann MEEHAN and Ellen YOUNGMAN. Jane’s actions had effected this successful escape. CLARKE, in a letter to the Colonial Secretary, explained how the three had absconded.

I went to the Dormitory where the three girls should be and, found three forms made of blankets in the three beds, and the girls gone. the forms were covered with quilts and looked like people in the beds. Upon further examination, the clothing that the girls had on was found in the paddock in front of the institution.
Mrs King stated that she locked up the girls in the dormitory about six o'clock but that she did not see Jane Taylor in the room, that the other two girls told Mrs King, Jane was under the bed, that it was only her fun, she would be out presently, the Mrs King states that she locked the door and left the key in the lock – that she suspects that Jane Taylor was in another room and that she unlocked the door and let the other two out. I then went in search of them accompanied by two policemen we arrested them about two miles out of town and brought them back to the Institution about 12 o'clock on the same night from what the girls state Mrs King was right in suspecting Taylor but they all say that the door was not locked, that there was no key in it, it was only bolted …
Meehan is now undergoing punishment in solitary confinement and on bread and water diet … The other two are too young to punish in this way … Taylor is about ten.

The three girls were helped in their escape by George ALLSHORN, an omnibus driver, and the future husband of Mary Ann MEEHAN. CLARKE reported that '[h]e took them out of town in an omnibus.' The three were re-captured shortly afterwards10 and ALSHORN was charged with assisting in their escape and was brought before the court by CLARKE. ALSHORN subsequently spent a month in Maitland Gaol as a punishment.11

CLARKE wrote about Jane in his report to the Colonial Secretary on 29 December 1870, and stated that

Taylor was committed on 4th January last for an indefinite period she is a highly intellectual little girl her parents were both dead12

In a further report on 16 February 1871, CLARKE explained his actions when punishing the girls from the two institutions. He again documented that Jane was ten and explained that she was:

committed … for felony [and] was punished some time since by putting eight (8) slaps of a cane on the hands for getting in through the Iron bars of the store windows and stealing stores therefrom; there are constant complaints of this childs stealing things and she is too young to be placed in solitary confinement.

Jane was transferred from the Newcastle Reformatory to the Biloela Reformatory in May 1871 and she appeared on the Newcastle Reformatory transfer lists.13 In November 1871 she was a witness at Mary Ann MEEHAN’s arson trial where she stated:

I do not know how old I am. I am an inmate of the Reformatory School, and have been there a year. I remember there being a fire in my sleeping room. I awoke and saw smoke, and saw a fire burning at the door. Mary Ann (prisoner) then came over to me and said that if I screamed she would choke me.14

No record for Jane has been found in the Darlinghurst Gaol records for this period so after this court case it is thought that she was returned to the island. According to the August 1874 reformatory list, Jane was discharged with the consent of the Governor on 14 August 1874,15 and this discharge was confirmed in the report by the Officer in Temporary Charge, J. DALE.16 Even though it was likely that Jane was only seventeen at the most by this date, it may be that the government decided that she had turned eighteen so could be released. No documentation for her release has been found and it is believed that none was created at the time as no records of discharge from the Reformatory School have ever been located for any inmate apart from Mary Ann MEEHAN and her discharge was exceptional.

No gaol records or Police Gazette reports exist for a woman of Jane's age after her release from Biloela in August 1874. The woman appearing in the Sydney courts before Jane's admission to Newcastle had been born in Dublin, Ireland, in about 1837/8. No court reports have yet been located after 1874 that permit any identification of the Newcastle admission or her background but it is thought that Jane may have been the woman appearing in the Sydney courts from 30 January 1875,17 and again on 31 January 1876,18 and 26 February 187619 and lastly on 1 November 1876.20 After this last incident Jane did not go to gaol so must have paid her ten shilling fine and this probable payment makes this woman less likely to be the Newcastle admission.


By 1869 Jane was an orphan but there has been no identification of her family made. She was thought to have been born in about 1859 so some record of her birth may appear in the NSW BDM Index as she had been born after compulsory registration in 1856 but it has not been possible to confirm any. Any births for Jane TAYLOR that were registered on the NSW BDM Index are unlikely to record the birth or baptism of the Newcastle admission as the one Sydney record referred to a child who died in 1860. No potential brother was sent to the Vernon in 1869 or 1870 and there were no male TAYLOR inmates sent until after 1871. There were no appropriate admissions to Randwick for people with a Taylor surname before December 1869, or after August 1874.

Penrith deaths of people named TAYLOR between 1857 and 1869 may disclose one or both or Jane's parents.

5526/1860 Mary E. TAYLOR: parents: Henry W. and Eliza
5468/1863 Emily TAYLOR: parents: John and Mary I.
5447/1863 George TAYLOR: Aged 75 years
5456/1863 Margaret TAYLOR: Aged 76 years, died Castlereagh
5458/1864 Ann TAYLOR: parents: John and Mary
7412/1867 Emma M. TAYLOR: parents: Joseph and Rhoda

The only Jane TAYLOR who arrived as an assisted immigrant had been born in about 1853 and had arrived at the age of one with her parents James and Emma aboard the Plantagenet in 1854. This family was Church of England and is well represented on online trees which indicate that neither of Jane's parents were dead by 1869. This arrival is almost certainly not the girl admitted to Newcastle. No other families arrived in NSW or Queensland in time to be arrested in January 1869.

In Victoria, a girl born in 1857 arrived with her mother, Catherine, and possible father, James – whose name had been struck through on the indent – on board the Chesterholme in 1858.21 Another girl born in about 1855 arrived with her parents, Charles and Martha TAYLOR, and brother and sister aboard the Royal Family in 1863.22 No further research has yet been undertaken on the Victorian arrivals.

Where has She Gone?

The lack of any evidence about Jane's life after her discharge suggests that she went into a relationship or married.

There are no appropriate admissions of Jane into the Benevolent Asylum. The first apparently illegitimate birth where the mother was Jane TAYLOR was that of Henry TAYLOR in Sydney in 1882.23 A second illegitimate birth for Frederick G. TAYLOR in Sydney occurred in 1886.24

Other births where the mother was named Jane TAYLOR exist but not until six years later so may not refer to the same person. Jane wasn’t the woman sentenced for stealing wearing apparel and tried in February 1867, at the Sydney Quarter Sessions, nor the woman tried at the Deniliquin Quarter Sessions for stealing from the person as they’re both too old.

Updated March 2017

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