Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Maria Lord (1780–1859)

by Dianne Snowden

This article was published:

Maria Lord (c.1780-1859), convict and entrepreneur, was born in England, daughter of Robert Riseley and his wife Mary. Tried on 9 August 1802 at Surrey Assizes for stealing from a dwelling house, Maria was transported for seven years, reaching Sydney in the Experiment on 24 June 1804.

On 25 June next year she gave birth to a daughter; the father was recorded as John Thompson, but the child was raised as Caroline Maria Lord. John Pascoe Fawkner claimed that Edward Lord, a well-connected Welsh marine officer who had arrived in Van Diemen's Land in 1804, had chosen Maria Risley from a line-up of convict women at the Female Factory at Parramatta. She was in Hobart Town by 22 December 1805. Until she was pardoned in 1808, Maria seems to have been assigned to Lord as his convict servant, although shortly after her arrival she opened a store with goods brought from Sydney. A daughter was born in 1806, but died after two days, and another was born in 1808; both were named Elizabeth Riseley. Maria married Lord in Hobart on 8 October that year, after she had been granted a free pardon. Five more children followed between 1810 and 1819.

In 1810 David Collins died in office and Edward was briefly acting lieutenant-governor. He then sailed to England, resigned his commission and returned with his own ship stocked with £30,000 worth of goods. Maria and their children had remained in Sydney—a son was baptized there in March 1812. Edward reached Sydney next March and the family resumed business and trading interests in Hobart Town.

While Edward concentrated on acquiring land and capital, Maria expanded her retail interests, forming partnerships with her brother John Risley, who arrived in the colony in 1819. From 1816 Edward travelled regularly to England, often with one or more of his children, who were left there with relations or in schools. During his absence, Maria acted as his agent and ran and extended his business, various well-stocked properties and two hotels. By 1820 she reputedly controlled over a third of colonial resources, holding monopolies for the supply of wheat and meat and a portion of the profitable rum trade. Socially, she was recognized as the wife of one of the colony's richest men.

In August 1823 Dr Samuel Hood replaced Maria as her husband's agent and she announced that she was retiring and leaving for England; however, she moved only to the country, near Longford. Hood advertised in July 1824 that he was not authorized to pay her debts. In October Edward returned to Hobart Town, where he successfully charged Charles Rowcroft, who had been frequently in the company of Maria, with criminal conversation. Immediately after the trial, Lord went back to England, taking his youngest daughter with him. Rowcroft also left the colony. Back in Hobart Town, in 1825 Maria opened a retail shop and a butchery. Edward reappeared briefly in 1828; his convict servant Ann Fry named him as the father of her child. He had also established another family, with five children, in England.

Maria continued in business on a smaller scale, and also ran a boarding house in the 1830s. She later moved to Bothwell, where she operated a trading store. She died there on 22 July 1859.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Alexander, Governors’ Ladies (Hob, 1987)
  • H. Radi (ed), 200 Australian Women (Syd, 1988)
  • P. Tardiff, Notorious Strumpets and Dangerous Girls (Syd, 1990)
  • K. Daniels, Convict Women (Syd, 1998)
  • Papers and Proceedings (Tasmanian Historical Research Association), vol 20, no 2, June 1973, p 98
  • D. Snowden, Women and Work in Van Diemen’s Land (B.A. Hons thesis, University of Tasmania, 1982).

Citation details

Dianne Snowden, 'Lord, Maria (1780–1859)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 15 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (Melbourne University Press), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Riseley, Maria



22 July, 1859 (aged ~ 79)
Bothwell, Tasmania, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Passenger Ship
Convict Record

Crime: theft
Sentence: 7 years