Sarah COBCROFT nee SMITH 1772-1857
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
The Sydney Morning Herald , Thursday 23 August 1866
COBCROFT July 24th, at his residence, Wilberforce, Richard W. Cobcroft,
aged 73, leaving a very numerous family and circle of friends and
acquaintances, by whom he was much respected.
2.Elizabeth COBCROFT 1795 Wilberforce. d:1795, Wilberforce
NSW.BDM DEATHS 515/1795 V1795515 148 COBCROFT ELIZABETH INFANT
3.John Frederick COBCROFT b:15 May 1797, Wilberforce d: 7 February 1881 Charlton. m.Mary CREW 1798-1887 at St.Matthews Windsor, on the 29 December 1817. 12 Children
The Maitland Mercury, Thursday 10 February 1881
Deceased, at Charlton, John Frederick Cobcroft,
83 years and 9 months on the 7th inst.,
at his son's residence, Four mile Creek.
4.Sarah COBCROFT b:13 Sept.1799 d:19 July 1872, Mudgee. m. William BLACKMAN 1801-1854 on 25 Sept 1821, St.Matthews Windsor. 5 Children.
NSW.BDM DEATHS 5066/1872 BLACKMAN SARAH JOHN DIED MUDGEE MUDGEE
5.Mary Ann COBCROFT b:1801 Wilberforce d: 5 September 1877 Sackville Reach m. Michael FORD in 1820
The Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 21 September 1877
FORD Sept. 5, Sackville Reach, Mrs. Mary Ann Ford, 75
6.Susanna COBCROFT b:6 March 1805 d:5 September 1868 m.John MCMANIS/MCMANUS 1797-1873 at St.Matthews, Windsor in 1823. 10 Children
Empire , Wednesday 9 September 1868
On the 5th instant, at her residence, Western Road, Parramatta,
Susannah McManus, aged 63 years.
7.James COBCROFT b:1807 Wilberforce d: 9 Feb.1830 Wilberforce James who died at 23 in 1830 suffered from a condition described at the time as paralitic insanity (epilepsy) from childhood.
NSW.BDM. DEATHS 416/1830 V1830416 14 COBCROFT JAMES AGE 23
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
Empire, Thursday 20 August 1874
The Hawkesbury Times is sorry to record that
Mr. G. A Cobcroft, senior, an old and respected residant
of the district, died at 8 o'clock on Friday morning at
his residence, Wilberforce, through injuries received by
a cow falling upon him three months ago.
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.
Windsor and Richmond Gazette, Saturday 4 August 1894
We have to chronicle yet another death from
influenza. Mrs Eliza Robinson, an old and
respected resident of Wilberforce, passed over to
the great majority on Tuesday morning, at the
advanced age of 81 years. Deceased was the wife
of Mr John Robinson, and leaves a large family of
sons and daughters, all of whom occupy respectable
positions in life. She lived nearly the whole
of her life-time in Wilberforce, and was related to
several families around the district. The interment
took place on Wednesday afternoon in the
Church of England Cemetery. The service for
the dead was conducted at deceased's late residence,
prior to the cortege leaving, by the Rev B. Dinning,
among the mourners from Sydney was
Mr. Corner, a son-in-law of deceased's.
The duties of undertaker were carried out by Mr. R. W. Dunstan, of Windsor
10.Matilda COBCROFT b: 8 December 1815 Wilberforce.d: 24 March 1860 Parramatta. m.Thomas DUNN 1813-1867 at St.James CofE Sydney 2 children
Empire, Tuesday 27 March 1860
On the 24th March, at Parramatta, Mrs. Matilda Dunn, the
beloved wife of Mr. Thormas Dunn, Balmain.
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.
The Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday 12 July 1853
At his residence, Wilberforce, on the 4th
June last, Mr. John Cobcroft, aged 90 years,
an old and much respected colonist, leaving an
aged widow, three sons and five daughters,
fifty-eight grand-children, and forty-seven
great grand-children to deplore their loss.
Empire, Tuesday 2 June 1857
At her residence, on Sunday, 31 May ultimo, Mrs Sarah Cobcroft,
after a long and painful illness, aged 85 years, relict of
late John Cobcroft, Wilberforce, leaving a large family to lament
their loss, having lived to see the fifth generation.
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.
The painting below
Creator Backler, Joseph, 1813-1895
Sarah Cobcroft, 1856 / oil portrait by Joseph Backler
Level of Description Collection
Date of Work 1856
Type of Material Graphic Materials
Call Number ML 169
Issue Copy Digitised :
Physical Description Paintings : 1 oil Paintings ; 91.2 x 71.1 cm
Presented by Lady Colin Davidson, a great-great grandaughter of Cobcroft's, Nov 1962
Access Conditions Access to this pictures collection via appointment only. Please submit your request through Ask a Librarian.
Copying Conditions Out of copyright - Artist died before 1955
Please acknowledge: - Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales
Signed at lower right: J. Backler 1856