Rags to Riches: Elizabeth Richards @ Robley

This is truly a story of rags to riches as Elizabeth Richards went from being convicted of stealing printed cotton and lace to being the wife of a wealthy property owner.

The first chapter of the story began on 14th of August 1805 when 20 year old Elizabeth Richards @ Richie @ Riches was convicted in the Surrey Court of stealing printed cotton and lace from a dwelling house and was sentenced to death. This was later commuted to life imprisonment and she was transported to Sydney on the Alexander 1 arriving on the 20th of August 1806.

She commenced a relationship with Private Edward Robley of the 73rd Regiment. As a result of this relationship a girl Isabella Leonora Robley was born in about 1810.

In May 1812 Private Edward Robley was transferred to Port Dalrymple in north Van Deimen's Land. In July 1812 Elizabeth Richards was also transferred to Port Dalrymple accompanied by her two year old daughter, Isabella Leonora Robley. From that time Elizabeth Richards used the surname Robley.

In May 1814 Private Edward Robley was transferred, with the 73rd Regiment, to Ceylon. Elizabeth Robley then commenced a relationship with William Field a butcher who had been transported for 14 years after having been convicted in May 1800 on a charge of receiving stolen sheep.

The following children were born from that relationship:

  1. William 1816.
  2. Thomas 1817.
  3. Richard 1820. Died 1820.
  4. John 1821.
  5. Charles 1826.

The last three were registered as the father being William Field and the mother being Elizabeth Robley.

At a muster in Port Dalrymple in 1819 Elizabeth was shown as owning 43 cattle and 359 sheep, and Isabella as owning 20 cattle and 80 sheep. There was no listing for land.

As a result of his occupation, government contracts with meat and other business acumen, Field acquired large amounts of property through the State and could be classified as wealthy when he died at Launceston on the 12th of December 1837. His properties were left to his wife Elizabeth, his sons and Isabella Robley.

Elizabeth then reverted to using the name Richards, and her death at Launceston on 22nd of October 1847 aged 62 years is registered as Elizabeth Richards.

Isabella Leonara Robley married Alexander Rose at Launceston on the 27th of April 1831.

They had two children:

During the time that Elizabeth Robley and her daughter Isabella were living at Port Dalrymple, they were befriended by Mary Smith who had been convicted in the Lancaster Quarter Sessions on the 22nd of July 1817 on a charge of larcency, and had been transported to Sydney on the Maria 1 arriving on the 17th of September 1818, and transferred to Port Dalrymple, on the Henrietta, on the 11th of October 1818.

Mary Smith took up a relationship with a Thomas Taylor although she continued to be known as Mrs Smith. On his death she inherited 4 farms in the northern part of the state, at Norfolk Plains, and one in the Midlands at Antill Ponds. About 1832 with her claimed intent that she wished to have life interest is these properties, by deed of gift, she assigned the properties to Isabella Leonora Rose nee Robley. In 1837 after she had made public, and published claims, that she had been dispossessed of her land, she was sued for libel by Alexander Rose. Initially the Court found in favour of Mary Smith but on an appeal the court did not reach a conclusion. ( I have been unable to locate any record of finality.)

Isabella Leonora Rose nee Robley died at Launceston on 5th of October 1840 aged approximately 30 years.

William Rose, the son of Alexander Rose and Isabella Leonora Robley, died in Awanui, Auckland, New Zealand, on 23 Dec 1872, apparently unmarried - although this has not been categorically established.

Elizabeth Richards @ Robley died at Launceston on 22nd of October 1847 aged 62 years.

Edward Robley, who was a descendant of Rev. William Robley and Margaret Nevison, married Ann Hutchinson in Northumberland on the 10th of January 1819. There is no record of a family.

(For family research only)

(Trevor Hoodless 2004)