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Sarah COBCROFT nee SMITH 1772-1857

Journal by janilye

Sarah Smith, the daughter of William SMITH 1752 - ? and Esther TURNER 1755-?. was baptised in Holborn, London on the 3 December 1772.
At just 17, Sarah was one of a small group of women and their children who arrived on the Neptune transport on 28 June 1790. She had accepted a government offer of a free passage to the colony for the wives or de facto partners of convicts on the 2nd. fleet.

In the colony she lived with John Frederick COBCROFT who had been born on 9 August 1756 in Keighley, Yorkshire and was onboard the 'Scarborough', (John together with 2 others, had been tried at the Old Bailey in 1788 for highway robbery on Edgeware Rd, London).

For some unknown reason, John and Sarah did not marry until the 24 December 1842, When Mary was 70 and John 86.

It seems almost certain that she embarked as Cobcrofts de facto wife. According to the records of the Neptune she embarked using the name Sarah COBCROFT Two of the other free women who embarked on the Neptune the wives of John WOOD and William FIELDER, having been convicted with COBCROFT were legally married.

The couples children born in the colony were:-

1.Richard William COBCROFT b:3 Feb.1793 Parramatta.d:24 July 1866 Ebeneza. m. (1) Charlotte SMITH 1794-1828 on 2 November 1812 Windsor 8 Children m(2) Mary Ann Cross 1806-1906 on 27 October 1829 Wilberforce. 5 Children

2.Elizabeth COBCROFT 1795 Wilberforce. d:1795, Wilberforce

3.John Frederick COBCROFT b:15 May 1797, Wilberforce d:5 Feb 1881 Broke,m.Mary CREW 1798-1887 at St.Matthews Windsor, on the 29 December 1817. 12 Children

4.Sarah COBCROFT b:13 Sept.1799 d:19 July 1872 m. William BLACKMAN 1801-1854 on 25 Sept 1821, St.Matthews Windsor. 5 Children.

5.Mary Ann COBCROFT b:1801Wilberforce d: 1877 Wilberforce m. Michael FORD in 1820

6.Susanna COBCROFT b:6 March 1805 d:5 Sept. 1868 m.John MCMANIS 1797-1873 at St.Matthews, Windsor in 1823. 10 Children

7.James COBCROFT b:1807 Wilberforce d: 9 Feb.1830 Wilberforce

8.George COBCROFT b:24 JUly 1810 Wilberforce d: 14 August 1874, Wilberforce m. Mary MCGINNES 1818-1903 on 14 December 1835 at St.John's Wilberforce. 13 Children

9.Eliza COBCROFT b:15 Dec.1812 Wilberforce d: 30 July 1894, Wilberforce m. John ROBINSON 1808-? on 27 March 1834 at Pitt Town. 9 children

10.Matilda COBCROFT b: 8 December 1815 Wilberforce.d: 24 Mar. 1860 Parramatta. m.Thomas DUNN 1813-1867 at St.James CofE Sydney 2 children

11.Sarah Margaret COBCROFT b: 5 June 1824 Wilberforce. d: 19 October 1888 at Windsor m.(1) David Charles DUNSTAN 1820-1854 on 8 June 1841 at Wilberforce this marriage produced 6 children. m.(2) John Bolton LAVERACK 1818-1882 on the 18 August 1857 at St.Matthews Windsor. this marriage produced 9 children

12.James who died at 23 in 1830 suffered from a condition described at the time as parralitic insanity (epilepsy) from childhood.

John Cobcroft received a conditional pardon in December 1794 and a 30 acre grant on the left bank of the Hawkesbury river at Wilberforce Reach in July 1795. He was granted another 40 acres in the same district in June 1797. By July 1800 Cobcroft had 17 acres sown in wheat with seven ready for planting Maize, owned 9 hogs and 7 goats. Two years later he had 20 acres in Wheat and barley, 6 in maize and increasing numbers of hogs and goats. His holdings were increased by a 50 acre land grant in September 1802. Cobcroft mustered in 1806 with 120 acres ( nearly 33 cultivated in wheat, maize, barley, orchard and garden), 4 horses, 57 sheep, 40 goats and 15 hogs and 15 bushels of grain in store and supporting his wife and 3 convict workers. While many farmers were suffering from indebtedness and flood damage, his prosperity seems to have continued unchecked. In June 1820 Cobcroft petitioned and received a further 60 acre grant at Kurrajong. Sarah, a midwife, bore a total of ten children. In 1828 Cobcroft was described as a farmer of Wilberforce, living with his wife and their younger children; his older sons and their families were established on farms nearby. As a successful and properous farmer, he held 485 acres in 1828 (130 cultivated) and owned 7 horses and 300 cattle.
He kept the "George and Dragon" public house, at Wilberforce, from about 1822-1846 and was actively involved in the public life of the local community.

Throughout her working life Sarah acted as a midwife to the women of Wilberforce district and delivered the children of convict women free of charge.

[The portrait (below) of her painted in her old age shows a determined and indomitable matriarch.
She was reunited with her sister Susannah after a separation of 50 years when the latter arrived in the colony in 1839 (dying 1844),]

John Cobcroft died in Wilberforce on the 4 June 1853. Sarah died on 31 May 1857, aged 85, and was buried with her husband in the family vault in Wilberforce Cemetery. Their descendants are estimated to number well over 8,000.

Notes: See D. Bowd, Hawkesbury Journey p98; Sarah Smith was unable to write her name; some publications have incorrectly identified her as a female convict of this name who arrived on the Neptune; Sarah stated in her 1825 memorial (AONSW 4/1840C, p777) that she had come free to the colony together with six other females sent out by Government for the purpose of practising midwifery per ship Neptune; although she undoubtedly became a skilled midwife in the colony
there is no evidence that the Government sent free women to the colony for this specific purpose; her statement is more likely a slight distortion of the circumstances of her arrival in an attempt to
give her position and services a more official appearance; some details contibuted by W.J. Luxford, P. McIntyre & A. Needham.

Source: The Second Fleet, Britains Grim Convict Armada of 1790; Michael C. Flynn, 1993 ISBN 0 908120 83 4; pp 541-2
Decendant Research Source: janilye tree in Ancestry.com.au
Early Spelling- Cawcroft, Cocroft, Cockcroft and Cobcraft. The name was changed to COBCROFT in 1756.However, in Australia the name was presented as both Cobcraft and Cobcroft in the early days.

by janilye Profile | Research | Contact | Subscribe | Block this user
on 2011-04-29 23:11:17

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

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by liddycobby on 2011-09-03 22:25:40

I am a direct descendant of George Cobcroft, Son of John Cobcroft and Sarah Smith. I am not sure how many generations.

Heather Cobcroft

by janilye on 2011-09-04 03:45:11

Another very well known Hawkesbury family. I'm not directly related, however, they feature largely in my tree through Susannah and her marriage.

by historyhead on 2012-09-29 09:04:05


I am trying to find out where George Cobcroft and his wife Maria McGinnis ran his Inn called the "Retreat Inn" and later the "Old Retreat Inn" in Wilberforce. Have you heard of this? My ancestor Lucinda Lockart/Lockhart (nee Turnbull) ran it years later as an "accommodation house".

Warm Regards,


by janilye on 2012-09-29 14:39:38

George had 'The Pack Bullock' in Colo from about 1835 then 20 years later he had 'The Old Retreat Newly Revived " Yes that's what he called it and it was in Wilberforce.
George Cobcroft 1810-1874 only had it for about 5 years then it went to his nephew,
George Alexander Cobcroft 1830-1879 grandson of this Sarah Cobcroft, nee Smith. son of Richard William Cobcroft 1793-1866.
and after George Alexander's death, his widow, Caroline Cobcroft, nee Jasper 1832-1883 inherited the license. Her brother William Jasper helped her run it.
In 1900 Henry Cobcroft ( better known as William Cobcroft) son of George Alexabder and Caroline took over the license the next year on 3 March 1901 his wife Margaret stabbed him in a domestic dispute. He was a very violent man, she was defending herself and consequently found not guilty.
Throughout the 19th century, it was commonly known as the 'Retreat Hotel' I suppose it wasn't Newly Revived after 50 years.

By the way Lucinda's father Ralph Turnbull's old stone house was once a pub

by historyhead on 2012-10-21 21:40:31

Hi Janilye,

I have found the exact spot where the "Old Retreat Inn" was in Wilberforce - it was directly opposite the old public school which of course is the same plot of land as the current Wilberforce Public School - but on the George Road side. It seems there is a little lane there now.


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