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Herbert, Deborah (c. 1767–1819)

Deborah Ellam (c.1767-1819), a servant, and two other women, were found guilty on 30 August 1784 at Chester, England, of stealing two gowns and six yards of cotton cloth from two women in a dwelling house. Sentenced to 7 years transportation, Ellam remained at Chester Castle gaol until she embarked for New South Wales on the Prince of Wales in February 1787, arriving in Sydney in January 1788 as part of the First Fleet.

Ellam married John Herbert on 2 April 1788 at St Philip's Church, Sydney. Deborah took her husband to court on 5 December 1788 complaining that he beat her. They had been arguing about pigs that had strayed into their garden after she was absent talking to a neighbour. She was recorded as saying that she had struck her husband and would strike him again 'were he as big as the side of a house if he struck her'. Herbert responded that he heard her say that she would 'blow her gentleman up' and that 'she provoked him very much with her tongue, that he then struck her and that she struck him again'. Deborah then left the house and was absent all night. Herbert said they agreed to separate. The complaint was considered trivial by the court. Deborah was ordered to receive 25 lashes and to return to her husband.

The couple had seven children by 1806. Deborah Herbert died on 3 June 1819 at Parramatta 'universally respected by her numerous friends and acquaintances'. Her age was given as 52.

* information from Mollie Gillen,

  • The Founders of Australia: A Biographical Dictionary of the First Fleet (1989), pp 117-18
  • 'John Herbert and Deborah Ellam', Fellowship of First Fleeters website, — accessed 13 September 2020

Citation details

'Herbert, Deborah (c. 1767–1819)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 4 December 2020.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Ellam, Deborah
  • Ellias, Deborah
  • Allum, Deborah
  • Hellam, Deborah

c. 1767


3 June 1819
Parramatta, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


Passenger Ship
Key Events
Key Places
Social Issues
Convict Record

Crime: theft
Sentence: 7 years