Individual Narrative of Susannah Darke Purbrick

Individual Narrative of Susannah Darke Purbrick

by Maurice Knight (E-mail: unavailable))

Susannah Darke PURBRICK, also known as "Goddy", was born on 21 May 1807 in Gloucester, England. She was christened on 21 June 1807 at the Countess of Huntingdon Chapel, Gloucester. She immigrated in December 1822 to Hobart Town, Van Diemen's Land, aboard the Berwick with Captain Jeffrey at the helm. Conditions aboard were deplorable. The ship arrived in VDL 21 June 1823. Three steerage passengers sued because of conditions and received compensation.

The year of her arrival in the colony, Susannah began teaching as an apprentice under her mentor, Hannah Davice, at Buckinghamshire House, Hobart Town. Hannah married George Carr Clarke who had acquired a large grant near Ross. The estate was named Ellenthorpe. It was to Ellenthorpe Hall that Hannah moved her school accompanied by her young apprentice, Susannah Purbrick. The new facility for educating girls opened at Ellenthorpe on 29 September, 1827. Here Susannah remained for about thirteen years as a teacher; mainly as an instructor of English. She experienced many of the dangers faced by settlers in the Tasmanian wilderness, including the attack on the school by the escaped convicts, Palmer, Regan and Thomas.

For many years Susannah supplemented the family income by raising and selling livestock. In 1830 her employer, Mrs. Hannah Clark, wrote to the Lieutenant Governor requesting a land grant for Miss Purbrick. In her letter she stated:

Since Miss Purbrick's residence here she has lost her parents and the result is that her younger brother and sister are now and in great measure, if not wholly, dependant on her exertions for support. The brother is now here having been brought out at Miss Purbrick's expense: the sister is coming out. The former is however, old enough to take charge of the stock of which Miss Purbrick, by steady energy has acquired possession...

The Lieutenant Governor rejected the petition due mainly to the fact that the request was made by a female. Susannah married John KNIGHT on 18 December 1834 at Ellenthorpe Hall by special license. By 1840 the couple had two children, Hannah and George, and had moved to a 320 acre grant acquired by John Knight on the outskirts of Launceston. The property was named Carr Villa in honour of Susannah's friend and former employer. By 1843 five people were employed at Carr Villa: three men and one woman worked as gardeners or stockmen and one unmarried girl was employed for domestic duties. One of the men employed in agricultural labour held a Ticket-of-Leave.

John Knight acquired a substantial amount of property. He took over the Launceston Advertiser and, in association with Henry Dowling, created the Launceston Courier. These activities stretched the families financial assets and in 1848 Susannah opened Carr Villa School For Girls. Susannah stressed that her methods of instruction were those that had been successfully employed in teaching girls at Ellenthorpe. Her girls' school remained in operation until 1866. The school prospered. On 01 January 1859, the following advertisement appeared in The Launceston Examiner:

Mrs. Knight has the pleasure of announcing to her friends and the public that an addition to the establishment has been recently erected whereby she will be able to accommodate a larger number of young ladies. To meet the depressed state of the times a reduction will be made to the present terms ...

John Knight died December 1860 and Susannah received a legacy of 700 and an annuity of 300. She also received two pieces of property in Earl Street, Launceston, that she later bequeathed to her daughter-in-law with the stipulation that any money derived from the property should be used to educate her grand sons. Susannah Knight died on 17 Oct 1873 at CarrVilla. Her life illustrates the important role played by pioneer women in the early settlement of Australia. Her faith in formal education marks her as a woman of vision.

Printed on: 29 Dec 2002
Prepared by: Maurice Knight, Canada

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Updated 02-Aug-2004