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Mary Reibey

1777 - 1855


Born
12 May 1777 in Bury, Lancashire, England and was baptised Molly Haydock.
Early Years

Following the death of her parents, she was reared by a grandmother and sent into service.

She ran away, and was arrested for horse stealing in August 1791.

At the time, she was disguised as a man and was going under the name of James Burrow.

She was sentenced to seven years' transportation and arrived in Sydney, Australia, on the Royal Admiral in October 1792.

Married

On 7 September 1794, 17-year-old Mary married Thomas Reibey,

After he had proposed to her several times Mary finally agreed to marry the junior officer on the store ship Britannia.

Thomas Reiby

Thomas Reibey was granted land on the Hawkesbury River, where he and Mary lived and farmed following their marriage.

They built a farmhouse called Reibycroft, which is now listed on the Register of the National Estate.

Thomas Reibey commenced a cargo business along the Hawkesbury River to Sydney, and later moved to Sydney.

Thomas Reibey's business undertakings prospered, enabling him in 1804 to build a substantial stone residence on a further grant of land near Macquarie Place.

He acquired several farms on the Hawkesbury River, and traded in coal, cedar, furs and skins and entered into a partnership with Edward Wills.

Their trading activities were extended to Bass Strait, the Pacific Islands and, from 1809, to China and India.

Death of Thomas

When Thomas Reibey died on 5 April 1811, Mary assumed sole responsibility for the care of seven children and the control of numerous business enterprises.

She was no stranger to this task, having managed her husband's affairs during his frequent absences from Sydney.

Mary Takes Over

Now a woman of considerable wealth by her husband's businesses, Mary Reibey continued to expand her business interests.

In 1812 she opened a new warehouse in George Street and in 1817 extended her shipping operations with the purchase of further vessels.

By 1828, when she gradually retired from active involvement in commerce, she had acquired extensive property holdings in the city.

In the emancipist society of New South Wales, she gained respect for her charitable works and her interest in the church and education.

She was appointed one of the Governors of the Free Grammar School in 1825.

Figtree Farm

In 1835 she bought 60 acres (24 hectares) of land in the suburb of Hunters Hil and soon expanded her holding to 110 acres (45 hectares), which sloped down to the Lane Cove River.

Reibey built a cottage in around 1836, where she lived for some time.

She called it Figtree Farm after a large Port Jackson fig tree nearby and used it as a country retreat from Sydney.

She rented it for three years to the artist Joseph Fowles (1810–78), whose unpublished journal of 1838 contains detailed descriptions, the earliest we have, of the natural environment of the peninsula.

The cottage, situated on the shores of the Lane Cove River, was later acquired by the Joubert brothers, who enlarged it.

Death

On her retirement, she built a house at Newtown, Sydney, where she lived until her death on 30 May 1855.

Five of her seven children had predeceased her.



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