|Mother:||DENHAM, Mary Ann|
|Mother's ship:||Sir Charles Forbes|
|Age when admitted:||11yrs|
|Date admitted:||18 Apr 1850|
|Date discharged:||9 Oct 1852|
|Institution(s):||Queens Orphan School|
|Discharged to:||Normal School|
|Remarks:||father dead, mother left the colony - left arm amputated after accident as a child - became a teacher & inspector of schools in NSW & Norfolk Island - buried at Rookwood Cemetery, Sydney|
|References:||SWD7, 28, CSO26/1/4456,CSO24/134/4456p81 Launceston Examiner 20 Jan 1847, Maitland Daily Mercury 4 May 1912p4|
Samuel Bent’s story is one of courage and inspiration in the face of great adversity. I am a direct descendent of Jane Bent, his sister, and came across Samuel’s extraordinary life while researching my great grandmother. I would be delighted to hear from Samuel’s direct descendants, particularly if they can add to the story below.
Samuel was the fifth of six children, born to convicts Benjamin Bent and Mary Ann Denham. His father Benjamin Bent, a London shoemaker, had been sentenced to seven years transportation (exact crime not specified) and had arrived in Sydney Cove on the transport ship Morley in November 1818, aged 25 years. He was granted his Certificate of Freedom on 12 May 1825. Subsequently he went to Hobart where he met and married Mary Ann Denham, 16 March 1829. (It is interesting to note that Benjamin’s older brother, Andrew, was also a convict and later became Tasmania’s first Government Printer.)
Mary Ann Denham, a nursery-maid, had also come from London. Aged 16 years, she had been sentenced to 14 years transportation for the theft of a gold watch and chain. She arrived in Hobart on the Sir Charles Forbes in January 1827 and was assigned as a domestic servant to various households. She was freed by servitude 11 May 1840.
The Bents had six children:
The 1842 census shows the family living at 16 Argyle Street, Hobart. However, tragedy struck soon afterwards when Benjamin died from dysentery, 15 April 1843, aged 49 years. Samuel was just five years old. It must have been such a struggle for his mother to look after the six children while running the shoemaking business in Argyle Street. Subsequently she married the much younger Edmund Wilson, also a bootmaker, and went on to have four more sons, three of whom survived to adulthood.
Samuel was sent off to work on a farm on the Norfolk Plains as a child labourer. There a horrendous accident occurred, as reported in the Colonial Times, Friday 22 January 1847, p. 3.
An accident of a shocking nature occurred a few days ago at Norfolk Plains. Samuel Bent, residing with Mr. Brown, was accidentally untangled in a machine for crushing bark, the left hand and wrist were literally ground to pieces, and in attempting to extricate the left, the right hand was severely lacerated. The boy was taken to St John's Hospital, where Dr. Pugh amputated the left arm below the elbow; hopes are entertained for the cure of the remaining hand.
Samuel survived with one arm but the family apparently could not look after him and he was admitted to the Queens Orphanage School, 18 April 1850. He was described as an intelligent boy and was sent to the Normal School situated within the Orphanage grounds. The orphanage admission records state that his father had died and that his mother had left the Colony.
(It is not clear exactly what happened to Samuel’s siblings but apparently the Bent girls made their way to Port Phillip where they subsequently married and raised families. At some stage they were joined by the Wilsons: Mary Ann Wilson is listed as a witness at her daughter Jane’s wedding in Richmond, Melbourne in 1873.)
Samuel Bent was discharged from the orphanage, 9 October 1852, aged 14 years. He presumably then moved to New South Wales, possibly with his brother Benjamin. The next several years are a mystery but Samuel reappears in official records in 1863 with his marriage to Margaret Paton in Bathurst. (They went on to have a large family, five of whom survived to adulthood (Gertrude, b. 1865; Edgar, b. 1866; Evelyn, b. 1869; Athalia, b 1873; Madeline, b 1881.)
By 1865 Samuel Bent was teaching in the Church of England School in Mudgee. After nine years there, he transferred to Kiama and then in 1877 was appointed principal of the Newtown Superior Public School, Sydney. (A ‘superior public school’ was a primary school with some secondary classes.) A large school of up to 1500 pupils, Bent was there for 13 years. He was appointed an acting Inspector of Schools in 1890 but after six months asked to return to teaching and was appointed principal of Balmain Superior Public School, finally retiring in 1902. His farewell banquet at the Elite Hall, Queen Victoria Markets, 3 July 1902 was attended by more than 100 guests. He was praised for his long and valuable service in the department, which had included being sent to Norfolk Island in 1897 to review its failing education system. (He recommended many changes, no doubt influenced by his own childhood experiences.) Samuel Bent was presented with an inscribed silver salver and a tea and coffee service and the speaker concluded with these words:
‘He was loved by all with whom he came in contact, and his influence in the minds of the younger people in this State had been of incalculable value.’
What an amazing tribute to a boy from the Queens Orphan School in Hobart!
Samuel Bent retired to Balmain and died at his daughter’s home in Maitland, Hunter Valley, 3 May 1912. He is buried at Rookwood Cemetery, Sydney.