Harriot Sampson appears to have been of Huguenot descent. Her father was Pierre Sampson, baptised in London on 8 August 1758, son of Guillame and Elizabeth Sampson.
She was born around 1796.
Like many people of her time, Harriot Sampson went under many names (frequently using Maria) and appears to given a number of stories as to her birth and marital status.
It may be that she was was the “HARRIET SAMPSON indicted for feloniously stealing, on the 19th of September 1811, in the dwelling-house of John Lewis , a silk purse, value 1 s. a dollar, a seven shilling piece, five shillings, and two one pound notes , the property of Ann Nash, spinster. The prosecutrix and witnesses were called, and not appearing in court, their recognizances were ordered to be estreated, and the prisoner was ACQUITTED . First Middlesex Jury, before Mr. Justice Heath”.
She married James Sleigh at the Greyfriar’s Church in Newgate in January 1812. From this marriage were born James Edward (January 1812) and Edward (1813).
She was arrested on 20 December 1816 for stealing 15 yards of poplin; tried at the Old Bailey in January 1817 and sentenced on 8 March 1817.
“172. HARRIETT SLEA was indicted for stealing, on the 20th of December, fifteen yards of poplin, value 2l. 10s., the goods of Thomas Flint and John Ray , in their dwelling-house .
ROBERT SAMPSON . I am shopman to Thomas Hunt and John Ray, haberdashers , Grafton-street . On the 20th of December the prisoner was at my masters’ shop, there were several persons in the shop at the time; I was serving some ladies. One of the shopwomen was near me; she had occasion to go away, and as she passed me she gave me our watch-word, which was a signal for me to look to the goods on the counter. I saw a piece of poplin taken off the counter by a woman in a black veil, who was standing behind some ladies; thinking it was taken to look at, I waited some time, it not being returned, I looked up and saw the prisoner, who had a black veil on, going to the door; I went after her, and took hold of her as she was opening the door; I held her with one hand, and put my other hand to her side to prevent the poplin from falling, which she had under her arm. I took her into the counting-house and took it from her. It was the piece I had seen taken off the counter; it is worth 50s. cost price.
HAMMOND WELLS . I am a constable; I took the prisoner into custody.
(Produced and sworn to.)
Prisoner. I beg for mercy, not for myself, but for two fatherless children.
GUILTY – DEATH . Aged 36.
Second Middlesex Jury, before Mr. Justice Abbott.”
She embarked on the “Maria”, with “child”, on 22 March 1818. The Maria was a 427 ton convict leaving Deal on 15 May 1818 arriving in Sydney on 17th Sep 1818. Its master was Henry Williams.
She disembarked later that month and was forwarded to the Female Factory in Parramatta, with child, for distribution. The Female Factory produced the rough woollen cloth from which the convicts’ uniforms were made. In 1818 it was little more than a primitive and foul loft above a jail, measuring some twenty feet by sixty, which was incapable of housing the level of convict women sent to it. For this reason many found lodging with local settlers on whatever terms they could negotiate.
She was assigned to a Mrs Shelley later that year and to James Larra in 1821. She was granted permission to marry twice in 1821 and married in December 1821 George Kenniwell (who had a relationship and child of another woman). Her son Edward also arrived that year and was admitted to an orphan school, from which he was released on application in 1826. She had petitioned the Archdeacon of the Colony, Thomas Hobbs Scott, on the 8 May 1826 for the release of Edward Sleigh from the Orphan School. The petition stated that George and ‘Elizabeth’ Kenniwell carried on the business of “Shopkeepers and Dealers” and that the release of Edward would assist them in their business because George was frequently absent in the country on business. Alex Warren wrote an accompanying reference stating that “he had found her strictly honest, and particularly exemplary in the management of her little family”.
Her first child to George Kenniwell was born in February 1822 with their marriage taking place in December. There is no evidence that her marriage to Sleigh had terminated although she was self-described as a widow. She appeared to be at Port Macquarie from about August 1823 to around 1825 and was assigned to Alex Warren as shown on the 1827 Census.
She received her ticket of leave in December 1828 and was granted a conditional pardon in 1838. After her husband’s murder on 1 January 1842, Harriet moved to Maitland, where she died on 4 October 1849, aged 53. She is buried at Glebe Cemetery (Old St Peters), Maitland. There is no remaining headstone.