The History of Cadhay

The tale of Mary Reibey:

Christened Molly Haydock she was born in 1777 in Bury, Lancashire. Her father died in1779 and it appears that her mother died shortly afterwards. She was brought up by her grandmother and at the age of fourteen she ran away disguised as a boy. After five months she was arrested as a horse thief and was condemned to death by hanging but she still never disclosed her identity. The deception was only discovered prior to her sailing to Australia after the sentence was commuted to transportation.

Arriving in Parramatta it is supposed that she was immediately employed by the Lieutenant Governor and his wife as a nurse maid. She later moved to Sydney and married Thomas Reibey in 1794 with whom she had seven children. Thomas acquired a sloop, the Raven, which he used to run a cargo business between the Port of Sydney and the Hawkesbury. The business was later extended to include a trading store and several more small sloops as well as a number of farms. Before his death in 1811 Thomas was away in Bengal purchasing teas, sugar, callicoes and china and the business was effectively being run by Mary.

Mary substantially expanded the business and her fleet of vessels. She sailed back to England with her two eldest daughters in 1820 returning to Sydney a year later. She continued to accumulate land in strategic areas of New South Wales and Tasmania. Her eldest son Thomas II consolidated the shipping business and moved to Tasmania. His third child James II inherited the property of his uncle, James I, was ordained and became the rector of Denbury in Devon. His grand daughter, Charlotte (Sugar Plum) married Major Barton William-Powlett. They moved to Cadhay in 1924 and later bought the house probably with the proceeds from the sale of property in Tasmania. This brought the house back into the Powlett family after 300 years’ absence.

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