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Sarah Ann Pickering

Married William Henry Wells 1846

Married John Hammond 1877

Sarah Ann Pickering was born on New Years Day 1830 in Sydney, the daughter of Sarah Gordon (who because of the death of her husband Richard Vickers in 1828 was known as the Widow Vickers). Sarah Ann’s father was George Pickering, a convict serving his time and indentured to Mr. Samuel Ratcliff of Parramatta. Sarah Ann’s parents were denied permission to get married in 1830 because George Pickering had a wife living in England, but two years later, after Mrs. Pickering had died in England, they were married at Scots Church Sydney. A second child a George Thomas was born in April 1832. Sarah Ann and her bother George Thomas Pickering were baptised at Scots Church, Sydney on 20th May 1832. Sarah Ann’s mother was not well in 1838 and, though her father had received his Ticket of Leave, he could not get permission from the Sydney Bench to live in Sydney [1]. Sarah Pickering wrote her will in August providing for her children, and was determined her daughters’ Susannah Vickers and Sarah Ann Pickering would have an education. Sarah Ann’s mother died on 13th November 1838 but it would to take until January 1839 before Sarah Ann’s father could get permission to legally live with his 8 year old daughter and 6 year old son who, in the meantime, had been in the care of their half brother Benjamin Gordon aged 21 and half sister Susannah Vickers aged 12 with the support of friends. Sarah Ann attended College High School [2] — Ladies Department and received a prize of a medallion at Christmas 1842.

On 30 September 1846, the 16-year-old Sarah Ann married the 36 year old widower William Henry Wells whose first wife Frances Maria Wells had died in child birth with their second daughter Mary Ann in 1845. William had a 6 year old daughter Fanny Caroline and all appear to go on living in Sarah Ann’s mother’s home at 6 Upper Pitt Street. William Henry Wells was a well known surveyor in both Sydney and Melbourne and wrote The Wells Gazetteer of the Australian Colonies, yet this didn’t stop him from going bankrupt and spending time in the debtors’ prison at Darlinghurst. He is supposed to have complained bitterly that if the government paid him the money he was owed he wouldn’t have been there. Sarah Ann had five sons in the 13 years of their marriage; George William Rowden was born in 1848, Henry Edward Alexander was born in 1850, William Charles was born 24th March 1854 and died 9th April. In the same year Charles was buried Scots Church cemetery. Francis Wilson was born in 1855 and died in 1861. The youngest son was Percy Charles born in 1857.

In 1860 William was on the NSW south coast working, and was drowned when he tried to swim his horse across the flooded Minnamurra River. He was buried in the nearby Jamaroo Cemetery. This left Sarah Ann to bring up her four sons.

In 1852 Sarah’s half sister Susannah Vickers married George Hosegood Wilson, and on 29 August 1853 Susannah and her husband applied for, and were granted, a settlement of her mother’s will. Not much is known of Susannah’s life other than she had one son, and like so many of her family, is believed to have died young. Tragedy and death continued in Sarah’s life: her half brother Benjamin Gordon died in 1853, her father died in 1858 and her brother George did not survive a diving accident in Melbourne, dying the 3rd December 1858 after lying for 3 days on the cement floor of the baths with a broken back. In 1861 Sarah’s six year old son Francis died. On 25 July 1861 Sarah’s stepdaughter Fanny married Henry Welch in Sydney. Fanny died the following year on 28 April 1892 after the birth of her daughter Fanny Caroline Welch. Fanny also died, and both were buried together in the Sydney Burial Grounds.

Sarah’s three surviving sons all had a good education as their grandmother Sarah Pickering held education in much importance. Henry, whom you are descended from, went on to study law and eventually moved to Mudgee became a very successful auctioneer and married and had six children. George never married and stayed close to his mother providing her with a home in her declining years. Percy moved to Inverell and married and had four children, one dying at age 6.

Tragedy hadn’t done with Sarah yet. Sarah married for a second time John Hammond when she was 47 on 11th January 1877. The details are lost in time, but family lore says John committed suicide leaving Sarah once again a widow.

Sarah lived until she was 70 years old, dying of cancer on 14th November, 1900 at her son George’s home in Surry Hills. She is buried at Rookwood Cemetery in the Church of England section.[3]


[1] George Pickering’s Ticket of leave granted March 1838 for Parramatta allowed to visit Sydney from 27 August 1838 but had to remain in the employ of Mr. Samuel Ratcliff. In January 1839 this was changed to the employ of Mr. Hebblewhite the trustee of his wife’s estate and George was granted a pardon on 1 August 1840 and a fuller pardon on 1 August 1847 which was extended to all parts of the World except only the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
[2] College High School was founded in 1842 and the medallion 2nd prize for General Superiority received by Sarah Ann Pickering is in the possession of her great granddaughter Alison Armstrong.
[3] Sarah’s family owns a large collection of surviving documents, because her mother’s will had to be proved for the children to inherit.

Margaret Hardwick, 2010

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