The life of Ann Orchard (1827 - 1882)


Ann came from an ordinary background in a small town in England but events were to transform her life.  She was born and brought up in Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire, and married her first husband, William Cozens DINHAM, in Newport, Monmouthshire in 1847.  It’s not clear how or where Ann met William or why they were married in Newport, although William may have had relatives there.


William, who had been born near Bath in 1825, was described as a “timekeeper” on the marriage certificate.  He had been warder at Usk Prison since 1846, and then, by 1851, he was an innkeeper in Abergavenny. 


1851 was an eventful year for Ann and began with an incident that would change her life.  One January night, a house was burgled in Usk and the two thieves, drunk on stolen liquor, left a trail of clues along the road that led the police to Abergavenny, about 11 miles away.  There, some months later, the police found some of the stolen items at the inn in Monk Street kept by William and Ann.  Ann was arrested but there was no trace of William.


The police discovered that, several years earlier, Ann had worked as a dressmaker for the owner of the house that had been burgled.  They alleged that she had provided the thieves with information about valuables that were in the house and where they could be found.  They also suspected that William had taken the stolen silverware and sold it in Bristol.


Ann was convicted at Monmouth Assizes on 8 August 1851 of inciting a burglary.  The jury asked the judge to show her mercy on the grounds that she had been influenced by her husband but, after considering the matter overnight, Mr. Justice ERLE sentenced Ann to ten years transportation to Australia.  There are fascinating reports of the trial in both the “Monmouthshire Beacon” and the “The Times”. As "The Times" said, "This case was remarkable for the train of circumstantial evidence by which the guilt of the woman was established" but neither paper mentions the fact that Ann was the mother of two small children, a son aged three years and a daughter of only six months.


Ann sailed from Woolwich the following March on the convict transport “Sir Robert Seppings”.  After a voyage lasting 112 days she, and all but one of the other female convicts, arrived safely in Hobart, Tasmania on 8 July 1852.  Her convict record describes her as “4'11", black hair, grey eyes”, as having two children in England, and a husband in America.


Ann’s eldest child, William Couzens DINHAM (born 1848) was brought up by Ann’s sister Elizabeth and her husband, John GAINER, at the “Yew Tree” in Cam, near Wotton-under-Edge.  John was a carpenter who taught William his trade and later also became an innkeeper – the “Yew Tree” is still a public house.  A second child, Eliza Ann DINHAM, is mentioned in Ann’s convict record, was included in the 1851 census for Abergavenny, and was only a few months old when her mother was arrested. Sadly, Eliza died at sea on the convict transport, Sir Robert Seppings, when she was only 13 months old so she presumably spent most of her short life in prison with her mother.


In Hobart, Ann was assigned to work in a hotel and then soon released with a “ticket of leave”.  She was given permission to marry Charles RIDDIFORD, a fellow convict and native of Wotton-under-Edge, despite the fact that her convict record showed that she was married.  Their daughter, Sarah Ann RIDDIFORD, was born in 1854 but Charles died soon afterwards.


Now a widow, Ann began a relationship with John FOSTER, a wealthy landowner and businessman who was thirty-five years her senior, and an established figure in Hobart.  They had six children and were married in 1863, living in Hobart until John’s death in 1875, when Ann returned to England with her surviving children.  (One, John Henry FOSTER, had been killed in a fall from his pony when only six years old.)


It has been suggested that John FOSTER took a considerable risk to his reputation and fortune by marrying Ann.  He had come to Tasmania with his mother as a free settler, after selling their farm in Lancashire, at a time when farming incomes in England were depressed.  As free settlers, the family had been given substantial land grants in Tasmania and were allocated convicts to work for them.


John Foster was certainly aware of Ann’s origins.  He sponsored her sister Maria, and her husband, William THORNBURY, to come to Tasmania, with their children, as free settlers in 1859.


After returning to England, Ann and her children lived a very comfortable life in Brighton and London.  Ann's daughter "Annie" (Sarah Ann RIDDIFORD) married Frederick WINGROVE in Brighton in 1876, and her FOSTER children were educated at private schools.  One year, the whole family enjoyed a holiday in Paris.  Ann died in Kensington, London on 2 May 1882 and was buried in All Souls Cemetery, Kensal Green, which is one of London’s first private cemeteries.   Far away, in Hobart, a clerk read of Ann’s death in a London newspaper and made the final entry to Ann Dinham’s convict record.


Ann had remained in contact with her eldest son, William DINHAM (b.1848), in England.  A fragment of a letter shows that she was sending him money.  There is also a story, handed down in the family, that William was called to her deathbed but arrived too late to see her.  However, there was no mention of William in Ann's will and it seems that her FOSTER relatives were unaware of his existence.


Ann has living descendants in England and Australia.  Ann’s first son, William, became a carpenter, working for the Great Western Railway, and had eight children, including his eldest son, also William DINHAM (born 1874) who moved to Stafford, where he married in 1905 and established a wagon repair works.  There are FOSTER descendants in Tasmania, where Ann's name is inscribed on a family memorial in Hobart.


Ann’s first husband, William C. DINHAM (b 1825), settled in the USA.  Like Ann, he also remarried, in New Jersey in 1853, before moving to south-west Iowa where he became a farmer in Page County, and where he died in 1899.  His obituary, published in the “Villisca Review”, says that he was a respected local citizen.  There are descendants of William C. DINHAM (b 1825) in the USA.


Glover, Margaret "Where the Two Rivers Meet", Paper read at the "Colonial Eye" Conference, University of Tasmania, 3-6 February 1999 (For copyright reasons, I am unable to post this interesting paper on the web but, if you contact me by email, I may be able to send you a copy.) 

Smith, James Montagu; editor Cuffley, Peter; " Send the Boy to Sea - The Memoirs of a Sailor on the Goldfields ", The Five Mile Press, 2001 - includes a chapter on the voyage of the Sir Robert Seppings that took Ann to Hobart.

External links

Ann Orchard's Family Tree is at

Wotton-under-Edge Heritage Centre:

Kensal Green Cemetery:

Friends of Kensal Green Cemetery:

Officers at Usk Gaol, 1847/48 (includes William Dinham):

Entry for John Foster in the Australian Dictionary of Biography:

Official photograph of John Foster:

AUS-Tasmanian Genealogy Mailing List:

These pages belong to Bryan Pready .

WorldConnect on RootsWeb