Susan Hickmott (nee Piccup/Pickup)

1801-1861

 

 

 

 

Samuel’s third wife was Susan Piccup (sometime spelt Pickup) who he married in the St Mathews Church of England at New Norfolk in Tasmania on 3 January 1848. The wedding certificate records that both parties were of ‘full age’ and were employed as servants. The ceremony was witnessed by Samuel’s brother Thomas and a Rachel Wilden both of who, like Samuel and Susan, signed the certificate with a ‘mark’.

 

Susan was an interesting and possibly a notorious character whose intrusion into the Hickmott story provides a revealing insight into Samuel’s own character (and judgement). The convict records for Tasmania show she was transported there on the ‘America’ on 9 May 1831. She was then 30 years old, was said to be a milliner and dress maker by trade, and came from Manchester in England. Just over 5 feet in height, her complexion was described by the administration’s clerks as ‘brown and freckled’. They added that she had a ‘large visage’, reddish brown hair and a large nose. She and two others - Ann Horrocks, a nursemaid, and Ann Brenchton a house servant – had all been tried at Salop in Shrewsbury on 7 August 1830 and transported for life. Susan’s crime was housebreaking while the other two were convicted of highway robbery. The records further indicate that Susan was married at the time to a Joseph Piccup, another convict who came to Australia on the ‘Red Rover’, and that she had one child.

 

Susan’s behaviour on the voyage out was said by the ship’s authorities to be ‘orderly’. Her early life in Hobart Town was far from so. Her convict record, which was maintained until she was granted a pardon in July 1848, showed her to be constantly in trouble with the colonial authorities. On 10 August 1832, she was charged by T.T Gellibrand with being insolent to her mistress and was returned to the Female House of Correction for assignment to the Interior. Between 1832 to 1836 she was charged with insolence or being out after hours on four further occasions. From then on the gravity and frequency of her crimes and misdemeanours seemed to increase. On 7 June 1836 she was found by Magistrate Graff to be ‘in a public house with a man belonging to the Sandy Bay party’, and was again ‘returned for assignment in the interior’. Three months later, on 29 September 1836, she was again indicted for ‘having improper connections in Hobart Town’ and was returned for assignment ‘a long distance from Hobart’.

 

Following a series of charges and confinements for drunkenness and disorderliness, she was indicted on 27 March 1840 for ‘harbouring a ticket-of-leave man in her lodgings’. This last misdemeanour attracted six months imprisonment and a period of hard labour in the Female House of Correction at Launceston. Her subsequent offences included being out without a pass, drunk in a public house, and ‘conducting herself in an indecent and shameful manner’ (for which she served 12 months hard labour). Despite these and a string of subsequent indiscretions the authorities recommended, on 3 October 1845, that she be given a conditional pardon which, in spite of receiving 14 days hard labour on 12 June 1847 for harbouring an unsuitable personage (about whom the record is unclear), was approved  on 11 July 1848.

 

It may be no coincidence that the granting of the conditional pardon occurred soon after Susan’s marriage to Samuel Hickmott in January the same year. Given their abject failure to change her ways, the authorities were probably only too pleased to pass the responsibility for her behaviour on to someone else. We have no idea whether this stratagem worked for her official record ceased to be maintained once she moved beyond the direct control of the state. On the other hand, I have not researched the colony’s court reports between 1848 and 1860 when she finally left Tasmania and travelled to Victoria. One additional and interesting piece of information about her is that, prior to her marriage to Samuel, Susan (or her prospective spouses) had applied to be married no less than five times. Three of these applications (in August 1836, December 1844 and as late as December 1845) were made by a Michael Brandreth who had been transported to Tasmania on the ‘David Lyon’ in 1830. The other prospective suitors were the convicts John Wise and William Moses whose applications were presented to the authorities in November 1837 and April 1841. Despite, or perhaps because of her character, she seemed to be highly sought after at least by members of the convict fraternity.

 

Samuel may have been very pleased with his catch. Yet again he may possibly have lived to regret his apparent good fortune, especially once he got to know her better. Was this the reason Samuel left Tasmania not long after he received his certificate of freedom on 9 January 1850 and travelled to South Australia to join his son Henry and his family there? It is possible of course that Susan may have gone with him although we have no evidence that she did so. Indeed we are not entirely certain that Samuel went there. We do know that in around 1854 he, like his son Henry, made his way to the Victorian goldfields. We also know that sometime in 1860 he was joined there by Susan. For on 1 July 1861 she died at Inglewood in Victoria of a ‘serious effusion on the brain’. Her death certificate, which was informed by Samuel, states that she was 61 years old, had been born in Manchester in England, and her father was a solicitor by name of Barland. It also states that she had been in the colony for only 14 months.

 

Susan Hickmott (nee Piccup nee Barland) was laid to rest in the cemetery that is located on a rise near the edge of the town of Inglewood and which today in summer looks out across golden wheat fields. No headstone survives, so we only have her death certificate and the register of burials to indicate where she is. As in the case of many of her compatriots, these make no mention that she had been a convict and provide no details of her time in Van Diemen’s Land. We have only Samuel’s word, furthermore, that she was born the daughter of a solicitor. While such a possibility can’t be ruled out, it sits uneasily with what we do know about her life both in England and Tasmania. Was Samuel (in accordance, perhaps, with the wishes of Susan herself) providing her in death with the status and dignity that had been unavailable to her in life? Or was the attempted re-construction of her identity a consequence of the social prejudices that continued to confront the colony’s former convicts? We are likely never to know the full truth of the matter. Her case, however, provides another small example of the personal costs imposed by colonial society on Australia’s citizens of convict origin.

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