Family Names

Thursday, 26 January 2017

An assault on a servant girl - poor Ellen Carey

Martha met Sarah Jackson on the SS Nairnshire in 1889 on their way to Australia and had formed a friendship during the three-month journey.[1]  After arrival, they both secured positions as domestic servants.  On Thursday evening, 15th May 1890, Martha and Sarah had been out for the evening in the company of John Hayes and William George Arnold.
Figure 1 Photographer unknown, Studio portrait of a young lady thought to be Martha Sarah Ellis possibly taken circa 1888 (before she leaves England for Australia), digital image,  Jim Bennett's Private Photo  Collection currently held by Dorothy Bennett
The girls heard that Ellen Carey “had told several persons that they were bad characters, and had advised persons against associating with them.”[2]  According to the testimony given, they made their way to Mr. Justice Stone's house where Ellen was working as a domestic servant.  They must have decided to confront Ellen when they arrived.

Their companion Mr Haynes told the court that the assault “was provoked by the persisted efforts of the complainant [the victim Ellen Carey] to damage the characters of Ellis and Jackson.”[3]  On arriving at their destination Martha knocked on the door and spoke to Ellen.  Martha “went inside first, followed by [Sarah] Jackson. There was no disturbance whilst Ellis was inside, but when Jackson went in, I heard screaming.”[4] Ellen suffered a blow that dislocated her jaw and a beating “as soon as she opened the door, Jackson flew in, pulled her hair, and thumped her in the back.”[5] The fight broke up when Ellen called for Miss Stone, her employer’s daughter, to come to her aid.

Photographer A.H.Stone,  Rose Hill, George Frederick Stone's residence, Adelaide Terrace, Perth, circa 1860, digital image, Collection of photographs taken by A.H. Stone during the 1860s and featuring people, buildings and scenes in Perth ; 6923B/97 Accessed 7 May 2017. [House where the assault is thought to have occurred, in 1890]
Both Martha and Sarah were found guilty of assault and were fined 40s each.  The judge also commented that “if there was a suitable institution for their detention he would send them in for a time”.

The incident was reported in the following 4 papers over a period of 6 days:
  1. Anon, ‘TO-DAY'S CITY POLICE NEWS’, The Daily News, 19 May 1890, p. 3. Accessed 26 Jan 2017,
  2. Anon, ‘NEWS AND NOTES’, The West Australian, 20 May 1890, p. 3, column 1. Accessed 7 May 2017, [summary and list of court cases for previous day]; Anon, ‘Assault on A Servant Girls’, The West Australian, 20 May 1890, p. 3, column 6. Accessed 26 Jan 2017, [In-depth report of case]
  3. Anon, ‘TO-DAYS CITY POLICE NEWS’, The Inquirer and Commercial News, 21 May 1890, p. 2. Accessed 26 Jan 2017,
  4. Anon, ‘ASSAULT ON A SERVANT GIRL’, Western Mail, p.6. 24 May 1890, p. 6.  Accessed 26 Jan 2017,

Details of the Court case
The case of assault was heard before the Acting Police Magistrate, Mr, J. Cowan in the Perth Police Court, on Monday 19 May 1890. 
The crime was committed on Thursday 15 May 1890 those charged were Martha Ellis, Sarah Jackson and John Hayes for assaulting Ellen Carey. Mr Hayes was discharged but the two girls Ellis and Jackson were fined but according to the judge if there "had been a proper institution, they would have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment,.

Research already conducted
WA Police Gazettes – no listing found in the indexes for 1890 or 1891

Further research required
At State Records Office of Western Australia possibilities include:-

To read more about Martha Sarah Ellis click here

Edit History

Originally posted on the 25 January 2017
Updated and revised on 7 May 2017

[1] Shipping Records for the ‘Nairnshire’, Page 3 Passenger listing, 8 Oct 1889; Passenger and Crew Lists; Shipping Records for the ‘Nairnshire’; State Records Office, Western Australia
[2] Anon, "TO-DAYS CITY POLICE NEWS," The Inquirer and Commercial News, May 21 1890, p. 2, col. 7; digital images, TROVE ( : accessed 26 Jan 2017), Digitalised Newspapers. 
[3] Anon, "NEWS AND NOTES," The West Australian, May 20 1890, p. 3, col. 6; digital images, TROVE ( : accessed 26 Jan 2017), Digitised Newspapers.
[4] Anon, "TO-DAYS CITY POLICE NEWS," The Inquirer and Commercial News, May 21 1890, p. 2, col. 7; digital images, TROVE ( : accessed 26 Jan 2017), Digitalised Newspapers.
[5] Anon, "TO-DAY'S CITY POLICE NEWS," The Daily News, 19 May 1890, p. 3, col. 7; digital images, TROVE ( : accessed 26 Jan 2017), Digitalised Newspapers.

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