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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Smith, Maria Ann (1799–1870)

by Megan Martin

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

Maria Ann Smith (1799-1870), orchardist, was baptized on 5 January 1800 in the rural parish church of St Peter and St Paul, Peasmarsh, Sussex, England, daughter of John Sherwood, farm labourer, and his wife Hannah, née Wright. Maria followed her parents into farm service. On 8 August 1819 in the parish church at Ebony, Kent, she married Thomas Smith (1799-1876), a farm labourer from Beckley. Both bride and groom signed with a mark. The Smiths lived at Beckley for the next nineteen years, during which time Maria bore eight children, three of whom died in infancy. With several other farming families from Peasmarsh, Beckley and surrounding villages in eastern Sussex and western Kent, the family migrated to New South Wales under the government bounty scheme. They reached Sydney in the Lady Nugent on 27 November 1838.

Thomas found employment with a settler in the well-established fruit-growing district of Kissing Point (Ryde); he and Maria remained in the district for the rest of their lives. Their youngest and only Australian-born child William was baptized at St Anne's Church of England, Ryde, in May 1842. In the mid-1850s Thomas bought two blocks of land for an orchard, totalling about 24 acres (9.7 ha) on the edge of the Field of Mars common (Eastwood).

Descendants of Thomas and Maria ('Granny') Smith have from time to time disputed the circumstances of the Granny Smith apple's discovery, but the earliest and most authoritative account of its origin appeared in the Farmer and Settler in June 1924, in an article by the Dundas orchardist and local historian Herbert Rumsey. Rumsey interviewed two fruit-growers who had known Maria. One remembered that in 1868 he and his father had been invited by her to examine a seedling apple growing by a creek on her property and that she had explained that the seedling had developed from the remains of some French crab-apples grown in Tasmania. According to this recollection, Mrs Smith herself then began to work a few of these seedling trees and soon afterwards Edward Gallard, a local orchardist, planted out a large number of them, from which he marketed a crop annually until his death in 1914.

Maria Smith had died on 9 March 1870 at Ryde and was buried in St Anne's churchyard. Her husband, three sons and two daughters survived her. The apple was not a commercial variety in her lifetime but its cultivation was sustained by local orchardists, including Gallard—who purchased part of the Smith farm after Thomas's death in 1876. By 1891-92 'Granny Smith's seedlings' had begun to win prizes in the cooking-apple class and several local growers were exhibiting the apples. In 1895 Granny Smith's seedlings were planted on a large scale at the Government Experimental Station at Bathurst. That year the variety was included in the Department of Agriculture's list of fruits suitable for export and began its long and successful commercial life.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Spurway and M. Martin, Granny Smith & Her Apple (leaflet, Ryde, 1992)
  • J. T. Spurway (ed), Australian Biographical and Genealogical Record: Series 1, 1788-1841 (Syd, 1992)
  • Farmer and Settler (Sydney), 20 June 1924, p 13
  • Agricultural Gazette of New South Wales, 1 Oct 1924, p 758
  • Descent, 4, pt 1, 1968, p 14.

Citation details

Megan Martin, 'Smith, Maria Ann (1799–1870)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 24 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2020

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Sherwood, Maria
  • Smith, Granny



9 March 1870
Ryde, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage