Biographical Profile:

Mary Bryant was a Cornish convict sent to Australia. She was born as Mary Broad in 1765, in Fowell, Cornwall United Kingdom, a tiny fishing village. Her parents, William Broad and Grace Symons Broad, were both fishmongers and sailors, and they did not earn much for a living. At the age of 19 she left home to Plymouth, England seeking work. She eventually got a job as a highwaywoman where she became involved in petty thievery.

In 1786, at the age of 21, Mary was found guilty for assaulting a spinster and robbing her of a silk bonnet, and was sentenced to death. Lucky for Mary, her sentence was then changed to seven years of transportation and she was sent to the prison hulk Dukirk in Plymouth. In May 1787, Mary was sent as a prisoner with the First Fleet aboard the Charlotte to Australia. During the transportation to Australia Mary became pregnant, the result of a liaison formed on the Dunkirk. Mary gave birth to a baby girl, whom she named Charlotte after the ship. Also on the transportation to Australia, Mary fell in love with another convict called William Bryant and got married with him shortly after the arrival in Sydney Cove in 1788. They later had a son together, whom they named Emanuel, in April 1790.

In Sydney Cove, a colony was just starting off and Mary's husband, William, was found useful. They put him on in charge of looking after the fishing boats. Within a year he was convicted of privately selling some of the fish intended for the Government store and received 100 lashes, and this was when Mary and William decided to escape Australia. Also at this time, a supply of ships to arrive from England had failed and it led to the settlement near starvation.

In December 1790 the arrival of a Dutch trading vessel, Waaksamheyd, provided an opportunity to escape. William befriended the captain of the ship, and from him acquired a cart with navigational notes of the northern passage home, as well as a compass and a supply of food for the escape. However his preparations almost came to nothing when he was overheard consulting with five other convicts about the plan and was being reported to the governor. During the first few months of 1791, the Bryants with their close conspirators continued to accumulate provisions and equipment for the escape.

On 28 March, the Bryants finally had a chance to escape and departed on the Wassamheyd, heading for England. Amazingly, the Bryants survived the long journey from Sydney Cove to Coupang in Timor Island, arriving there on June 5. Upon the arrival the Bryants told the Dutch Governor that they were surviviors from a shipwreck. At first the residents from Coupang believed their story but soon discovered that they were convicts that escaped Australia. They were then locked up and sent to Batavia (now known as Jakarta), where Mary's husband and her son died from contracting a disease. Mary and her daughter, Charlotte, was then sent back to England but Charlotte died during the long voyage.

On the arrival of England in June 1792, Mary was sent to Newtown Prison to await trial for her crimes. In May 1793, Mary was pardoned and discharged, and she returned to her family in Cornwall.

There is little or no evidence about the events after she returned to her family in England and her death.

Activity 1: True or False Questions

  1. Mary was born in 1765 to William and Grace Symons Bryant

  2. Her daughter was named after the ship Charlotte.

  3. Her son was named after her father

  4. Mary died in 1800 in Plymouth England

  5. Mary was sent to Newtown Prison on the arrival of England in 1792

  6. The whole family survived the voyage from Timor to England

  7. Mary married William before she gave birth to Charlotte

  8. Mary left her family seeking work in Plymouth England

  9. Mary Bryant was accused of rape and was sentenced to death

  10. Mary arrived in Sydney Cove in 1788

Primary Sources:


What is it? When and where was it made or from?

This medal, called the Charlotte Medal, is a thin silver disc with inscription on both sides. The front shows the ship, and the back has been inscribed with a description of the voyage from Plymouth to Sydney Cove. The Charlotte Medal was engraved by a convict Thomas Barrett who was on board the ship Charlotte with Mary Bryant. This medal was given to the Surgeon on board the ship. 

What this source reveals

This source may not be from or to Mary Bryant but it can still reveal things about her. This source reveals the voyage from Plymouth to Sydney Cove. It gives us a feel of what Mary may have experienced in the journey. It give a brief description of an important part of Mary's lfe. That is her journey from England to Australia.

Brief discussion of different perspectives

This source may not reveal Mary's courageous personality but it gives a description of an important perspective of her life. That is the journey from England to Australia. This source shows how long and treacherous the journey took. It also shows what Mary may have experienced in the voyage. This source is an excellent source of one perspetive of Mary's life.


What is it? When and where was it made or from?

This is a primary source of the ship Charlotte. It was a First Fleet transport ship, where Mary had on voyage on. It was built and skippered by Thomas Gilbert. It left Plymouth in 1787 and arrived in Sydney Cove in 1788.

What this source reveals

This source reveals what sort of environment Mary Bryant was in when she had her journey from England to Australia. It shows that the ship was small and cramped up with many people. It gives an impression of what Mary's journey could of been like.

Brief discussion describing different prespectives

This source shows the type of environment Mary was in on her voyage from England to Australia. You can see that that the ship she was in was relatively small. This gives an impression that her journey was horrible, treachous and very cramped with with people. It also shows the horrible environment she had to face when she gave birth to her daughter.


What is it? When and where was it made or from?

This source is a sketch of the prison hulk, Dunkirk, by Mary Bryant as she was waiting to board the ship Charlotte.

What this source reveals

This source reveals the first part of Mary's punishment when she was found guilty of assault and robbery. It shows what environment she was in. It also shows the size of the enviroment.

Brief discussion describing different perspectives

This source shows the horrible conditions Mary had to face in the first part of her punishment. It gives us an impression that there wasn't many rooms in the prison so it was very cramped up and disgusting. Mary must of hard a very hard time living in it and she was lucky not to had contracted any diseases when she was in the prison.

Activity 2 - Crossword

Legacy and impact on history:

Mary's escape story became well known and well covered in the press when she returned to England. She made a huge impact on history that she became like a celebrity in England. After her escape many other convicts started following in her footsteps and attempted many escapes and some even succeeded. Even in the late 20th century and now she is still remembered. Many authors wrote books about her life and especially the story of her escape. There was even a TV mini-series produced in 2005 called The Incredible Journey of Mary Bryant which is also about her life and escape.

Activity 3 - Cloze Passage

Timeline of her life/career:


Activity 4 - Find-a-word

Map of her life:


Picture Gallery:


Mary Bryant's voyage from Plymouth to Sydney Cove --------------------------------- Sydney Cove in 1788
5758##S[1].jpgthe Cornwall fishing village where Mary was born


The prison hulk where Mary was kept in

English actor Romola Garai as Mary Bryant in the tv mini-series The Incredible Journey of Mary Bryant

Activity 5 - Extended Response

Using one of the three primary sources, describe the environment of the punishment Mary Bryant had to face when she was found guilty of assault and robbery.

Recommended Reading List:

The Girl From Botany Bay by Carolly Erickson, published in 2004 by Pan Macmillan Australia

The Girl From Botany Bay is a well written, extraordinary story of Mary Bryant's escape from Australia

The True Story of Mary Bryant - Escape From Botany Bay by Gerald and Loreeta Hausman, publish in 2003 by Orchard Books

This is an excellent first person narrative with an engaging voice that brings this terrible time in history to life.

Australian Dictionary of Biography,

A very useful webpage about Mary Bryant with accurate information. 

Australian Government,

A very good webpage with accurate information about Mary Bryant and other convicts from the First Fleet

A Long Way Home - The Life and Adventures of Mary Bryant by Mike Walker, published in 2005 by John Wiley & Sons Ltd

This book is a great read about Mary's journey to Australia and her escape.

CKD Boats Blogspot, www.cdkboats.blogspot/2008/10/strange-case-of-mary-brant_29.html

This is a website with useful sources about the life of Mary Bryant

By: Rosemary Guo