Eliza Emily Donnithorne 1821 - 1886 :: FamilyTreeCircles.com Genealogy
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Eliza Emily Donnithorne 1821 - 1886

Journal by janilye

Eliza Emily Donnithorne born in Cape Town in 1821 and died in Newtown, Sydney in 1886 was the daughter of the former East India Company judge and Master of the Mint, James Donnithorne b: 17 April 1773, St Mary Aldermanbury, London and died 25 May 1852 in Newtown, Sydney. His father was Nicholas Donnithorne 1744-1796 fron Truro, Cornwall.

James DONNITHORNE arrived in New South Wales in 1838 and settled into the Georgian mansion 'Camperdown Lodge' at 36 King Street, Newtown New South Wales. Eliza Emily returned to England after her mother and sisters Maria and Penelope died of Cholera in Calcutta in 1832 and she did not arrive in New South Wales until the 25 June 1846 aboard the 669 ton barque 'Agincourt' with Captain Neatby.

James married Sarah Eliza BAMPTON 1790-1832, the daughter of Captain William Wright BAMPTON 1759-1813 in Mirzapore, Bengal on the 8 October 1807.

Now we all love a good urban legend and Newtown has a beauty. The thing is all legends seem to have a habit of growing and changing shape over the years.

This is the Legend of Emily Eliza Donnithorne

James Donnithorne spoilt his only surviving daughter, catering to all her demands. He arranged several marriages for her which she rejected, instead; falling in love with a shipping clerk named George Cuthbertson. Eliza's father consented to the marriage in 1846.

George Cuthbertson, jilted Eliza Emily Donnithorne he was probably driven away by her overbearing father, Cuthbertson would die in India during the Sepoy rebellion in 1858, while his fiance in Sydney waited anxiously for his return.

Suffering a nervous breakdown due to her abandonment, Eliza insisted the wedding feast be left untouched on the long dining room table in the grand mansion, Camperdown Lodge, ready for festivities and ceremonies to commence once the absent groom arrived.

Her orders were complied with by her father, retired Judge James Donnithorne, over concern for her state of mind. Those concerns were amplified by Eliza's refusal to wear anything except her wedding dress as she whiled away the days waiting for her groom. Unknown to all, Eliza was in the early stages of pregnancy.

To avoid further scandal, her newborn baby was spirited away by the Judge who arranged for its adoption while falsely telling his daughter of its death. This blow, coupled with the subsequent death of her father, sent the pretty young woman over the edge.

After her father's funeral, all but two servants were dismissed. The imposing estate would be sealed off from the world for the next 40 years. Windows and shutters were permanently closed, drapes drawn, and the house was blanketed in total darkness. Expensive European paintings and furnishings were gradually blanketed in the dust of decades, falling to ruin anonymously while weeds and overgrowth consumed the outside of the once stately house.

A generation of neighbors were born, lived and died, believing the house to be abandoned. Oblivious to the passage of time, Eliza grew old. Her wedding dress decayed and hung off her withering body as she drifted like a ghost through the dusty ruins of her world.

She refused to leave the grounds or see anyone except her lawyer and minister, who described rotting chairs collapsing under them as the mistress of the house held court, sitting solemnly in her discolored wedding dress while candles cast eerie shadows on the walls. Merciful death finally arrived in 1886 when Eliza died of heart disease, a fitting end for a woman who suffered so long from a broken heart.

A generous woman, her donations helped build the local church where she was buried, while the bulk of her considerable estate was left to charities and her trusty servants.


Eliza Emily Donnithorne, was widely considered at the time to be Charles Dickens' Miss Havisham, in Great Expectations. Although this cannot be proven, many think it true.

But that, in shutting out the light of day, she had shut out infinitely more; that, in seclusion, she had secluded herself from a thousand natural healing influences; that, her mind, brooding solitary, had grown diseased, as all minds do and must and will that reverse the appointed order of their Maker.. Great Expectations, chapter 49

There are several versions of her story, none of them all quite matching up.

Twickenham Museum version makes very interesting reading and probably as close as we are ever going to get to the truth.

Well here is my contribution:

The following appeared in what can only be described as a gossip column called 'THE DRAMA' in a paper called Bells Life in Sydney and Sporting Reviewer on Saturday 8 April 1848.
ON DIT.--The member for Durham is about to lead to the hymeneal, altar the accomplished daughter of Judge Donnithorne ; rumour adds that the "man of fashion" has eight thousand reasons for so doing.

Now I do hate to be a myth buster but the member for Durham in 1848 is of course Stuart Alexander DONALDSON 1812-1867. So that puts paid to our shipping clerk Cuthbertson ; or was she jilted twice!!
(now who was Cuthbertson)

Now I did say it was a gossip column so I searched further also reading Matt Murphy's story in The Newtown Project He gives a wedding date of 1856 that's 3 years after Eliza's father dies.(Now who would be around to spirit the baby away?

Matt Murphy asked himself the same question I've been asking;

"Why hasn't anyone gone to St.Stephens Church Newtown and checked the banns for the intended nuptials of Miss Donnithorne?"

Guess what! Matt Murphy checked and from 1845 to 1865 there are no Donnithorne's listed.

Good for you Matt Murphy. But really - Is that it?
How disappointing when urban legends lose their mystery.

James Donnithorne 1773-1852
Obituary Sydney Morning Herald, May 27 1852
THE LATE JAMES DONNITHORNE, ESQUIRE. Amongst the obituaries of the present week we regret to notice that of James Donnithorne, Esq., who for a long period of his life enjoyed some of the highest appointments in the gift of the Honorable East India Company. His father was a personal friend of George the Fourth, while Prince Regent, and held the appointment of Governor of the Stannaries for the Duchy of Cornwall, in which county his property of St. Agnes had long been possessed by his family, his uncles having held the high and honorable offices of Master of the Household, and Ambassador at the Court of Hanover, during the reigns of George the Second and Third. By the personal gift and under the especial patronage of the Prince Regent, his son, the present lamented James Donnithorne, Esq., was sent to India as the first writer in the Hon. East India Company's service. With talent and praiseworthy ability he rose to the highest distinction, and after having
acted for many years as Master of the Mint, at the receipt of 12,000 a year, he resigned to enter upon an appointment more favorable to his constitution. After a period of forty-two years he retired from the service of the company, to enjoy that repose from the fatigue of an honourable and active life which his declining age required ; and preferring the genial clime of this favoured land, adopted it as his home. He has now sunk under the weight of years, leaving behind him a name that will long be remembered by many for his unbounded hospitality, by all for his universal benevolence.- S. M. Herald, May 27.

According to Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary, Donnithorne family tradition had it that they were descended from a Spaniard, Don Thoan, who was shipwrecked off Cornwall

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by janilye Profile | Research | Contact | Subscribe | Block this user
on 2012-01-29 21:52:11

janilye - 7th generation, Convict stock. Born in New South Wales now living in Victoria, carrying, with pride 'The Birthstain'.

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