Eliza Down Williams (née Griffith)

28th Mar 1802 - 6th May 1874


Biography

Daughter of John William Spencer Griffith, owner of Long Hill estate in St Elizabeth, Jamaica. Wife of Thomas Pierce Williams, rector of St Elizabeth.

  1. Eliza, daughter of John William Spencer Griffith and Catherine Campbell his wife, born 28/03/1802 and baptised 07/01/1803 in St Elizabeth.

  2. Thomas Pierce Williams married Eliza Griffith at Long Hill, St Elizabeth, 21/07/1821. She was his second wife. They had five children baptised in St Elizabeth: Eliza Warren (born 25/07/1823, baptised 06/08/1823), Pierce Griffith (born 22/02/1826, baptised 10/08/1826), William Owen (born 25/01/1828, baptised 23/02/1828), Henry Frederick (born 20/07/1829, baptised 20/07/1829) and Pierce Griffith (born 02/11/1830, baptised 04/11/1830).

  3. According to the later testimony of her sister, Eliza arrived England in 1830 in ill-health, although this seems unlikely given the birth of her youngest child in Jamaica in November 1830 - it may be that her sister herself had left Jamaica in 1830 and that was the last time they had met. Eliza's movements after 1830 and up until her appearance in Bath, England, in 1846 are unclear. Certainly within this period she gave birth to two more son, both illegitimate. Later census records suggest one was born c. 1835 in India and another c. 1838 in London. There is an Eliza Williams, born foreign parts, in the Whitechapel Workhouse in London in 1841 - age given as 30 (rounded down to the nearest 5 years) when Eliza would have been 39 (Eliza consistently reduced her given age in later documents).

  4. In March 1846, Eliza Down Williams established herself in lodgings at 4 Henry Street in Bath, and "commenced distributing her patronage" amongst the local tradesmen. Upon non-payment, goods were recovered and she was given notice to leave Henry Street. Within the next few days, then living at 7 New King Street, she was granted further credit and then indicted for non-payment. She drew an order on Messrs. Cox and Greenwood of London to cover the payment for £50 but the order was dishonoured. "The defendant was very genteelly dressed, and had two sons with her, the eldest apparently not more than nine or ten years old, and respectably attired... Mrs Williams describes herself as the widow of an officer in the East India Company's service; and as possessing property in the West Indies to the tune of £300 or £400 a-year." The East India officer has not been traced; he may be a figment of her imagination or the father of her two sons.

  5. Given the title, "The Lady Victimizer", Eliza Down Williams, wife of Thomas Pearce [sic] Williams, clerk [sic], was indicted for having obtained from Mr Tucker by false pretences, sixteen yards of satinet, and other goods, value £13 18s with intent to defraud him of the same. She was found guilty and sentenced to seven months hard labour. No further mention has been found in 1846 of the two boys who attended her earlier indictment.

  6. In May 1847, Eliza Downe Williams was convicted of deception and forgery at the Old Bailey in London and sentenced to be transported for 7 years. She had forged two bills of payment from Admiral John Erskine Douglas and his wife Catherine (Eliza's sister). Catherine provided further information: she had not seen Eliza since 1830 when she came to England from the West Indies in ill-health, "she has applied to me for help", Eliza's husband was living in the West Indies with their children. A newspaper report of the trial described her as "A well-attired middle-aged woman". She gave her age as 36 but would have actually been 45. Following her conviction, "The prisoner's landlord applied to the court to know what he was to do with her two children, who were entirely unprotected, in addition to which he had ascertained that she had made away with several articles of furniture from the room she occupied. [The magistrate] directed him to send [the children] to the Marylebone workhouse, where they would be immediately received."

  7. Arthur Williams, age 8, was admitted to the Marylebone workhouse 08/05/1847, "mother in prison, for forgery". He was discharged 27/05/1847 "To Mrs Brown, 12 Chatham Place." In the census of 1841 there were three inhabitants of 12 Chatham Place, Hackney: William Lewis, age 50, Actuary; Richard Brown, age 40, male servant; Ann Brown, age 40, no occupation given but presumably the wife of Richard Brown. By 1851, 12 Chatham Place was occupied by John Amos (q.v.), a retired West India merchant from the firm Pitcairn and Amos (q.v. under 'Commercial legacies') with his wife and daughter and two servants, neither of whom had the surname Brown. He is likely to be the Arthur Williams, age 13, scholar, born London, a visitor at 43 Dover Street, St George Hanover Square, in the household of Richard Brown, age 53, Steward of Chambers, his wife Ann, age 50, stewardess and their daughter Eaves, age 17, born London. Also in the household was Henry Williams, visitor, age 16, Ironmonger's Apprentice, born India (British Subject), who is likely to be Arthur's older brother mentioned in the reporting of Eliza's 1846 trial, and George Crabb, visitor, age 30, Valet, born Wiltshire. George Crabb may be valet to the person to whom the boys were sent in 1846. Neither of the boys were living with Richard and Ann Brown at 44 Dover Street in the census of 1861.

  8. The East India connection has not been determined for certain but there was a Lieutenant Arthur Henry Williams of the 13th Regiment NI (Native Infantry), East India Company, who died age 31 years and 2 months on 18/07/1837 in Deesa, Bombay. He was very likely the Arthur Henry Williams baptised 17/08/1806 in St Clear's, Carmarthen, son of a former Bengal Army Lieutenant named Walter Williams of Penycoed and his wife Anne. He became a Bombay cadet in 1828. Henry would have been born in 1834 or 1835 and Arthur in 1837 or the first half of 1838. Arthur Henry Williams married Rachel Lock in Pembrokeshire in 1832 and was in Dessee, Bombay for the baptisms of their two children Laura Christiana (1834), Walter Arthur (1835). A third child, Fanny Chamier Elizabeth, was baptised after Arthur Henry's death (1837).

  9. "On 9 September 1847 the Cadet departed with Eliza, 164 other female convicts, and 29 children on board, arriving in Hobart on 2 January 1848. Eliza was described as being 4 feet 11½ (15.13 cm) tall with a fresh complexion, having light brown hair and blue eyes, and was a governess, housekeeper and dressmaker. For falsely representing herself as a needle woman, Eliza was sentenced to one months’ hard labour on 25 September 1848. On 28 July the following year she married Nicholas Valliant at St Peter’s Church, Fingal, he being described as a 38-year-old bachelor boot-maker and Eliza as a widowed dressmaker, also 38. The marriage was short lived though, as Nicholas officially complained to the authorities on 8 August 1850 that the pair continually fought and could not agree, and so Eliza was returned to the government at the mutual request of both parties. Eliza received her ticket of leave in November 1850 and had a conditional pardon approved two years later. After serving out her sentence she received her certificate of freedom on 7 August 1855 at Launceston, but beyond this time it is difficult to determine what became of Eliza due to her common name."

  10. Her second marriage, to Nicholas Valliant, in 1849, was very likely bigamous. Thomas Pierce Williams died on 23/08/1862 at the Rectory, Montego Bay, aged 73, effects under £6000. His and Eliza's eldest child, Eliza Warren Williams, of 6 Blenheim Crescent, Clarendon Road, Notting Hill, London, was the sole executrix. Eliza Warren Williams of 11 Shaftesbury Avenue, Lower Weston, near Bath, spinster, died 08/10/1892, probate to Rev. Thomas Pierce Williams, clerk, and Richard Matthias Bridge Sowton, gentleman, effect £3796 11s 3d.

  11. She was probably the Eliza Vallient, age 65, who died at Launceston, 06/05/1874.


Sources

  1. Familysearch.org, Jamaica Church of England Parish Register Transcripts, 1664-1880 [database online].

  2. Ibid.

  3. Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette 19/03/1846.

  4. Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser 22/04/1846.

  5. Old Bailey Proceedings Online (www.oldbaileyonline.org, version 8.0, 10 April 2020), May 1847, trial of ELIZA DOWNE WILLIAMS (t18470510-1176); Morning Advertiser 07/05/1847, London Evening Standard 07/05/1847.

  6. Ancestry.com, London, England, Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records, 1764-1930 [database online]; 1841, 1851 and 1861 censuses online. See separate entry for John Amos.

  7. Findmypast.co.uk, Carmarthenshire Baptisms [database online]; http://indiafamily.bl.uk/ui/FullDisplay.aspx?RecordId=014-000294796 [database online]; Findmypast.co.uk, British India Office Ecclesiastical Returns [database online]; Findmypast.co.uk, British India Office Births & Baptisms [database online].

  8. Steve Rhodes, 'Eliza Downe Williams', Edges of Empire Biographical Dictionary, https://www.eoe.convictwomenspress.com.au/index.php/biographical-dictionary/26-w/178-williams-eliza-downe [accessed 10/04/2020].

  9. National Probate Calendar 1862 and 1892.

  10. Ancestry.com, Australia, Death Index, 1787-1985 [database online].

We are grateful to Mary Hewitt for her extensive help with compiling this entry.


Further Information

Absentee?
Transatlantic
Maiden Name
Griffith
Spouse
[1] Thomas Pierce Williams [2] Nicholas Valliant [bigamous?]
Children
With [1] Eliza Warren, Pierce Griffith, William Owen, Henry Frederick, Pierce Griffith. Also probably Henry and Arthur, illegitimate

Legacies Summary

Imperial (1)

Other
Australia: Tasmania 
notes →
Eliza Down Williams was transported to Tasmania following a conviction for forgery. She likely died there in...

Relationships (8)

Daughter → Father
Notes →
...
Daughter → Mother
Grand-daughter → Grandfather
Niece → Uncle
Niece → Uncle
Second Wife → Husband
Mother → Son
Mother → Daughter

Addresses (4)

Launceston, Tasmania, Australia
4 Henry Street, Bath, Somerset, South-west England, England
7 New King Street, Bath, Somerset, South-west England, England
Stafford Street, London, Middlesex, London, England