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Mary Best

Mary Best, one of 119 convicts transported on the Wanstead, August 1813

Name, Aliases & Gender

Name: Mary Best
Aliases: none
Gender: f

Birth, Occupation & Death

Date of Birth: 1778
Occupation: -
Date of Death: -
Age: -

Life Span

Life span

Female median life span was 53 years*

* Median life span based on contributions

Conviction & Transportation

Sentence Severity

Sentence Severity

Sentenced to Life

Crime: Forgery
Convicted at: Old Bailey
Sentence term: Life
Ship: Wanstead
Departure date: August, 1813
Arrival date: 9th January, 1814
Place of arrival New South Wales
Passenger manifest Travelled with 118 other convicts


Primary source: Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 87, Class and Piece Number HO11/2, Page Number 107 (55); "Prisoner's Letters to the Bank of England 1781 - 1827" edited by Deidre Palk
Source description: This record is one of the entries in the British convict transportation registers 1787-1867 database compiled by State Library of Queensland from British Home Office (HO) records which are available on microfilm as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project.

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Community Contributions

Phil Hands on 9th March, 2018 wrote:

Tried and convicted, under her married name of Best, at the Old Bailey on 13th May 1812 for forging a bank note for the payment of one pound, with intent to defraud the Governor and Company of the Bank of England, she was sentenced to death, this was later commuted to transportation for life.
Left England on 24th August 1813.
Ship:- the ‘Wanstead’ sailed with 120 female convicts on board of which 3 died during the voyage, Mary’s 14 year old daughter, Maria, accompanied her mother.
Arrived on 9th January 1814.

Mary’s husband, William Best, was left behind in England.

Married convict John Palfrey (‘Earl Cornwallis’ 1801) on 17th October 1814 at Parramatta.

Citation details: No 432

John Poulfrey, free, age 50 of the parish of St John Parramatta and Mary Best per Wansted age 37 were married in this church by banns this 17th day of October 1814 by me Samuel Marsden.
Both John and Mary made their X marks in the presence of Richard Jones who made his X mark and Elizabeth Jones who made Her X mark.

Sydney Gazette Friday 8th February 1822 p. 4

ALL Persons are hereby Cautioned against giving Trust or Credit to my Wife, Mary Palfrey, on my Account, she having left her home without any, just cause or provocation. All Persons found harbouring her after this Public Notice, will be prosecuted for the Offence.
John Palfrey.

Robin Sharkey on 29th August, 2021 wrote:

Bury and Norwich Post, 27 May 1812, p.4
At the Old Bailey Sessions, Mary Best was indicted for uttering divers [diverse] 1 pound notes. The charges being clearly proved, the jury, without hesitation, found the prisoner guilty. — Death.
… Sentence f death was passed o the following capital convicts – Thomas Callicot, Mary Best, and Catherine Foster for forgery.

Mary Best wrote on 5 July 1813 from on board the “Wanstead” before departure, to the Bank Of England, seeking some monetary assistance from them, since the B of E was prepared to help women who, ironically, had been found guilty of forging or passing Bank of England notes. She would have had another person write the letter for her, although this person was not very literate:

From Deidre Palk (editor) “Prisoner’s Letters to the Bank of England 1781 - 1827”

“629. [F25/11/18] Mary Best, Wanstead transport ship, Deptford, 5 July 1813

“Honnerd Sir I hope you will Pardon me with the Leberty of Riting to you But it is nessety that oblidges me to it and I hope your Goodness will Conceder my Long Confinement and my family to Be Suported as oblidge me to part with all I ad, and now I am Going to Leve my naterve Countrey and I am very much Desstrest in Deed. Honnerd Sir I Rely on your goodness and I hope you will atend to the Above and your humble Pertichner will Be in Duty Bound and will ever Pray,  Mary Best”

Mary’s name was one of eight women’s ascribed to a second letter dated 23 July 1813. They had all received some payment from the bank, “humble thank you for the favour wee have Recevid from your hands” and were now asking that the Bank “remit us a trifle moar” . See Letter numbered 636 in Deidre Palk book.

Convict Changes History

Phil Hands on 9th March, 2018 made the following changes:

convicted at, date of birth: 1778 (prev. 0000), gender: f, crime

Robin Sharkey on 29th August, 2021 made the following changes:

source: Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 87, Class and Piece Number HO11/2, Page Number 107 (55); "Prisoner's Letters to the Bank of England 1781 - 1827" edited by Deidre Palk (prev. Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 87, Cla

This record was discovered and printed on ConvictRecords.com.au