Whatever Happened to Martha Alchin?

Whatever Happened to Martha Alchin? 

by Garry Smith

This is not Martha Alchin, just a depiction of a woman of the period

Martha Alchin (nee Latter) (1786-?) was a native of County Kent, England. There were many Alchins in Kent at the time and still are, but was Martha one of my Alchins; this was her married name so what connection is there with the Alchins who came to Jerrawa/Oolong Creek in the late 1840s?

Martha Alchin was committed to Maidstone Gaol in 1834 charged with larceny. Her name appeared in the Greenwich, Woolwich, Deptford, and West Kent Guardian on 13 December 1834. She was tried at the Kent County Sessions at Maidstone on 6 January 1835.

Martha was one of many prisoners sent to Maidstone Gaol in 1834 to await trial
(Greenwich, Woolwich, Deptford and West Kent Guardian, 13 December 1834, 5)

Martha Alchin arrived in the colony of New South Wales aboard the barque Mary on 7 September 1835. She was one of 180 female convicts who had sailed from London on 16 April 1835. The convict indent showed that two convicts had been “relanded” prior to sailing, while one died on the voyage. There were also twenty-six children on board the ship.

Martha Alchin was one of the older prisoners on the ship. At fifty years old she was considerably older than the youngest prisoner, Mary Ellis from Liverpool, who was only fourteen years old. Martha was a married woman, a laundry maid who had been sentenced to seven years transportation for stealing money.

Martha Alchin (nee Latter) was born in 1786 at Speldhurst, Kent, England, the daughter of James and Susannah Latter. She married Richard Alchin (1786-1852) in 1806 at Boxley, Kent and together they had at least seven children, five boys and two girls, all born and baptised at Maidstone, Kent, between 1807 and 1823.

Martha’s husband ended up in the City Workhouse in Canterbury, Kent. In 1835, the year Martha was transported to New South Wales, Richard Alchin is listed among inmates in the workhouse. The 1841 Census of England and Wales records Richard Alchin, miller, living in an institutional setting in Pembury, Kent. By the 1851 census Richard was living with his widowed daughter Martha and her children in Maidstone, Kent. He died in 1852 at Hollingbourne, Kent.

Why did Martha turn to crime? Poverty seems the likely reason.

Extract from Convict Indent, Muster on the 'Mary', 10 September 1835
(Martha 4th from the top of the list)

Martha was described as five feet and half and inch tall, with dark ruddy complexion, brown hair and eyes. We know that she had left behind a husband and surviving children.

The prisoners remained on board the Mary until 17 September 1835 after which they were disembarked and assigned to various applicants. Martha Alchin was one of many women who were taken by colonists who required servants. Martha was assigned to James Floyd, public house owner at Parramatta and appeared in the 1837 convict muster.

What happened during her life in the colony is shrouded in mystery. What is known is that she served her sentence and received her Certificate of Freedom in 1842. The certificate details her appearance in 1842: the notes at the bottom of the certificate make it clear that fifty-seven-year-old Martha had lost several front teeth, had a mole on her nose and another on her forehead; she had also received two broken fingers. No oil painting! While her certificate was dated “15 August 1842” the paperwork was not prepared until 26 May 1843.

Certificate of Freedom for Martha Alchin, 15 August 1842

Martha Alchin, initially thought to be the first Alchin in the colony, turned out not to be. Abel Alchin, soldier and a definite relative, beat Martha by a decade. Was she a relative or not?

What happened to Martha Alchin after she received her Certificate of Freedom? It is highly unlikely that she returned to her family in England. Other questions suggest themselves. Did she remarry in the colony? At fifty-seven years old and with her childbearing days well behind her, this is perhaps a long-shot. She did have experience as both a laundry maid and general servant, so may have been employed as such; where and by whom?

She is a bit of a mystery!