Charlotte Meredith was born on 26 April 1794. Her mother was Mary Kirk, a convict who was placed on board the Royal Admiral for transportation to New South Wales. Charlotte was baptised on 11 June 1794 at St. Phillip’s Church, Sydney. The father’s name is given as Frederick Meredith. At this time, Mary Kirk owned a cottage named “Behind the Hospital Palings”. It is thought that the relationship between Frederick and Mary continued for many years.
On 21 December 1800, Mary Kirk married Robert Inch who came to Australia on the free ship Nautitaus. Shipping records show that he was self employed as a boatman and later was owner and master of the boat Charlotte which was part of the Mosquito Fleet, which sailed between Sydney and the Hawkesbury carrying food for the colony. A notice appeared in the Sydney Gazette on 2 October 1808 detailing the wreckage of the Charlotte. Robert Inch was drowned in the wreck.
Six months later, Mary Kirk was sailing on board the Argument when it was wrecked off the Heads of Broken Bay. She was drowned, which left Charlotte alone, just a few weeks from her fifteenth birthday. Her natural father, Frederick Meredith, was to administer Mary Kirk’s estate.
In the years following the death of her mother and stepfather, Charlotte began a long relationship with William Stewart. While they had three children together and Charlotte was even listed as the mother of William’s two sons from his previous marriage, there is no record of them marrying.
William Stewart arrived in the colony from India in 1801, as the Chief Mate on the Calcutta. He served in the Navy for four years between 1793 and 1797. He was a master mariner, sealer, whaler and also master and owner of the Fly, another of the small ships which acted as a transport for food and supplies.
William had two children from his previous marriage to a convict named Ann Brownlow. These children were Samuel Bap, born 25 April 1804, and William Bap, born 10 May 1805. Ann Brownlow died on 1 August 1808, and the children were acknowledged and cared for by William Stewart, however, Charlotte is named as their mother in several records. Charlotte and William had three children. Jane Rebecca was born I 3 December 1814, Robert was born 28 July 1816 and John was born 13 November 1818.
William Stewart continued to work as a master mariner while living with Charlotte, and his two eldest sons, Samuel and William worked with him. Samuel was sailing on the Fly when it sank off the coast of Van Dieman’s Land in 1814. At ten years old, he had been left alone after his father was arrested and taken ashore. He survived and accompanied his father on many more expeditions. On 15 December 1821, Robert Johnston, Captain of the Government Colonial Cutter Snapper, reported the loss of William Stewart, believed to have been killed by Aboriginals at Twofold Bay. Many years later, Robert Stewart produced evidence that his father had been in government employ, surveying the south coast. A family story tells that his sons were last at sea with him. However, it would only have been Samuel.
Although William arrived in the colony with a good sum of money, he was having difficulty with collecting money he was owed at the time of his death. Charlotte may have had trouble collecting his money while he was away, and if they had not been officially married, it would have been very difficult for her to claim his estate. Life for Charlotte must have been very difficult after the death of her husband, having to care for and raise three small children. The youngest, John, was placed in an orphanage. Records show an application to the orphanage from Mrs Stewart on 12 November 1823, however no details are mentioned. Charlotte and her daughter Jane began work as housekeepers for Mr Walker. Robert began work as an apprentice to Mr E. Hunt and during this time appears to have been living under the care of Mr Thomas Edwards. It is unknown what became of William.
Charlotte’s future took a turn for the better, following her marriage to Charles Farrell in 1825. Charles Farrell came to the colony from Ireland, as a free settler on the Ardent in 1824. His wife and child died on the voyage, and he arrived with one son and an Uncle, John Cuffe. When Charles Farrell left Ireland, he brought with him a letter from Lord Bathurst concerning a land grant.
According to the 1828 census, Charlotte and Charles were living in Kent Street Sydney. At this time, Charles was employed as a tide-waiter under the Controller of Customs at the Port of Sydney.
Charlotte and Charles had two children born in Sydney. The first was James Lawrence born on 10 March 1825 and Mary Elizabeth born 30 May 1828. On 28 September 1830, Charles Farrell wrote to the orphanage where John Stewart had been placed. In the letter, he asked for the boy to be released into his care for the purpose of beginning an apprenticeship.
Due to ill health from rheumatism, Charles resigned from his position under the Controller of Customs and was granted 1,280 acres at Reids Mistake, Lake Macquarie. The family then moved to Port Macquarie. Port Macquarie was first settled in 1821 after a route had been found by Surveyor John Oxley on his journey of discovery from the inland, over and down the ranges. The reason for settlement was solely as a place of banishment for those who continued to break the laws of the day and the majority of multiple offenders. However, by 1830 conditions were completely different. Port Macquarie had outlived its usefulness as a penal settlement, and it was found that with the encroaching settlers along the Hunter River to Newcastle, the convicts were in a position to escape. The government opened the area to free settlers and one of the first to take up the offer was Charles Farrell. The first business licence was granted to Stephen Partridge and Charles Farrell was granted the second on 19 September 1830. This was located on the south side of Clarence Street, between Horton and Hoy Streets and became the site of the Settlers Arms Hotel. Charles also applied for 100 acres near Limeburner’s Creek on October 1837. This appears to have been finalised in 1840. Charles and Charlotte lived on this property for the remainder of their lives.
Charles Farrell died 1 October l842. Charlotte remained in Port Macquarie after his death, she died 3 March 1851.
Charlotte’s intrepid, resourceful nature must have included a good dash of courage. She supported her husbands during their business lives and cared for them during illness, as well as raising eight children of her own and three step-children. Charlotte then moved to Port Macquarie at a time when government officials described it as a miserable settlement. The process of uprooting herself and the family from Sydney to face the challenges of life on the frontiers must have imposed great strain, worry and anxiety. There was no regular supply of any of the necessities of life, except hard work. The measure of love and admiration, which her family had for her, may be found in the fact that each of her children named a daughter after her.
Charlotte managed to survive and succeed against the odds, which would have overwhelmed many others, and she will always be remembered by her family as on outstanding lady.
The children of Charlotte and William Stewart
Jane Rebecca Stewart b. 13 December 1812 d. 1888
Robert Stewart b. 28 July 1816 d. 9 June1875
John Stewart b. l3 November 1818
The children of Charlotte and Charles Farrell
James Lawrence Farrell b. 10 May 1825 d. 26 Jul 1877 m. 1 July I847 Annie McDonald
Mary Elizabeth Farrell b. 5 June 1831
Charlotte Rosina Farrell b. 5 June 1831 d. 1866 m. John Lackey 1831 – 1886
Charles Frederick Farrell b. 10 March 1833 d. 1896 m. 27 August 1853 Jane Ann Warlters
William Thomas Farrell b. 28 July 1835 d 27 Sep 1906 m. 12 August 1858 Frances Fanny Kidd
Image: General view of Sydney Cove 1794 (oil painting) ML DG60