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Maria Lord (nee Riseley) was born in England 1780. At age 22 Maria was sentenced to seven years transportation for stealing from a dwelling house and arrived at Sydney on board the Experiment in June 1804. In early 1805 Maria was seven months pregnant and living at the Female Factory (Sydney). On a visit to Sydney from Hobart Town, Lieutenant Edward Lord (nephew of Sir William Owen, the Baronet of Orielton) appears to have chosen Maria to be his partner, possibly by having her assigned to him as his servant. Edward, Maria and baby Caroline (born June 1805) arrived in Hobart Town in November 1805. Maria opened one of the first shops in the colony with the goods she had brought with her from Sydney.
In 1806 a second daughter was born but died within a few days. A third daughter Elizabeth was born in 1807. In 1808 Edward Lord secured Maria’s pardon and the couple were married in October by Rev Robert Knopwood. Their first son (John Owen) was born in Sydney in 1810. Edward Lord was then Acting Governor of VDL (March to July 1810) following the death of Lieutenant-Governor Collins.
A second son Edward was born in Sydney in 1812 while Edward Lord was in England. He returned in 1813 with an order for a land grant of 3000 acres. Edward, Maria and their four children returned to Hobart where they took up residence in Ingle Hall, Macquarie Street (one of the oldest buildings still standing in Hobart). As one of the most important families in the colony, the Lords gave many dinners and balls for their fellow colonists and held races at their country property Orielton. The Lord family are mentioned frequently in the Rev Knopwood’s Diary - he described their housewarming party in October 1814 as the ‘greatest dinner given in the colony’. It is believed that Maria Lord used the left hand side of Ingle Hall to conduct her business; while living in a house immediately behind it, now covered by the Mercury offices.
Further children arrived Corbetta (1815); William (1817); and Emma (1819). In 1816 the eldest son John (aged 6) was sent to England to be educated in the care of the Lord family there, Edward and Eliza would follow later. Edward and Maria’s children appear to have been accepted by his family in England, whereas Maria as a former convict, was not.
In 1819 Edward Lord again left for England taking Caroline with him. Maria, then seven months pregnant, was left in charge of all their retail and property interests, their homes and the two hotels they owned in Hobart. The 1819 Muster shows that the Lords owned 6974 acres; 3,400 cattle; 4500 sheep and 41 horses. They also employed 50 convict servants and 25 free workers. By this time Maria Lord was supplying almost a quarter of all meat purchased by the Commissariat and was reputed to have a monopoly on wheat, meat and the best quality rum in the colony. By 1820 Edward Lord was one of the richest men in the colony.
At the end of 1821 Edward and Caroline returned from England with a further order for a land grant of 300 acres and merchandise for the store. In 1822 Lord chartered Royal George to export 4000 pounds of wool to England taking Corbetta and William with him.
During this time Maria appears to have begun a relationship with Charles Rowcroft, 18 years her junior, and newly arrived in Hobart Town.
In 1823 Dr Samuel Hood arrived from London as Edward Lord’s agent to manage his affairs. In August Maria advertised that she was retiring from business and left Hobart Town to live at New Plains (near Longford). On October 1824 Edward Lord returned to the colony and commenced legal action against Rowcroft charging him with ‘criminal conversation’ with Maria and seeking 1000 pounds in damages. A fortnight after winning his case, but having received only 100 pounds in damages, Lord again left for England taking with him five year old Emma. From this time on, Lord made his home permanently in England with Maria’s children. Only her eldest daughter Caroline who had married in 1823 now remained in the colony.
Lord never divorced Maria, however having been found guilty of adultery, she had no claim on Lord’s property or her children. Maria’s business acumen is generally regarded as having generated the couple’s wealth while it was her husband Edward who had been able to obtain land grants and raise the capital needed for their business activities. Maria was responsible for their business interests, and acted as her husband’s agent during his extended voyages to Sydney and England. After their separation Edward Lord’s fortunes rapidly diminished, and by the time of his death, only the heavily mortgaged property Lawrenny near Hamilton remained.
In August 1825 Maria returned to Hobart Town, announcing the opening of a new shop on the corner of Elizabeth and Liverpool Street, her business ventures continued on a smaller scale until her death. Edward Lord visited the colony in 1827, and before his return to England, fathered a child with his convict nurse Anne Fry. In addition Edward was also in a relationship with his and Maria’s children’s nurse in England, with whom he would have five children.
In 1829 Maria’s two eldest sons John (aged 19) and Edward Robert arrived in Hobart Town. John drowned two months later in a river on his father’s property Lawrenny. Maria appears to have lived quietly after John’s death, continuing her business and running a boarding house for several years. Maria later retired to The Priory at Bothwell, a home bought for her by her son Edward.
Lord again visited in colony in 1838 and the next year took Caroline to England. Maria died on the 22 nd July 1859 and was buried in the family plot at St Mathew's Cemetery, New Norfolk. Edward Lord died in England in August 1859 leaving Maria an annuity in his will, perhaps as a belated recognition, of the contribution made by his estranged wife as his business partner and the mother of his children.
Alison Alexander, Governor’s ladies the wives and mistresses of the Van Diemen’s Land Governors Tasmanian Historical Research Association 1987.
Kay Daniels, Convict Women Allen & Unwin 1998.
‘Edward Lord’ Australian Dictionary of Biography
‘House with a colourful history’ Frank Bolt The Mercury 7 July 2004