• Born 10 April 1849, Mount Gambier, South Australia
  • Baptised 26 February 1851, Mount Gambier
  • Died 23 July 1881, Gipps Ward, Royal Melbourne Hospital
  • Buried 25 July 1881 Melbourne General Cemetery

Henrietta BYNG

A Castlemaine newspaper reported that Henrietta Byng was charged with having no lawful visible means of support and sent to gaol for six months.  ‘The prisoner, a young woman of colour, having in her arms a baby, wept appealingly at the sentence.’ A euphemism for prostitution, it is difficult to ascertain if Henrietta was deserted or a prostitute.

The Daylesford Express reported that T. Rowling and Co., carriers, had made arrangements for a waggon team to leave Malmsbury.

The baby in her arms was Emma Jane Rogers who was born around 1867 in Castlemaine, The Loddon, and had a hard life. When her mother was sentenced, she was made a Ward of the State. She is listed in the Index to Children’s Registers of State Wards, 1850-1893, under the name Emma Jane ROGERS – 1867 – OS (Old Series) 4- 13 and OS 9 126 (see also BYNG, Emma and BYNG, Emma Jane Rogers, and JOHNS, Emma Jane Rogers 1867 OS 9 126 see ROGERS Emma Jane and BYNG, Emma Jane 1867 OS 4 13 See ROGERS Emma Jane and BYNG, Emma Jane 1867 OS 9 126 see JOHNS Emma Jane Rogers

The Bendigo Advertiser newspaper of Thursday 30 May 1872 seems to verify that Henrietta Byng was engaged in prostitution with other women described as ‘six notorious prostitutes’.

Wednesday, 29th May
(Before the Mayor, Mr. Aspinall, and Mr. Bayne.)
DISORDERLY CHARACTERS.-Sarah Hawkins, Henrietta Byng, Minnie Bently, Mary Brown, Mary O’Shanassy, and Maria Murray, six notorious prostitutes, were charged with riotous and disorderly behaviour in a public place. On the application of Sergeant Drought, the defendants were remanded for one week.

Henrietta BYNG, The Tasmanian Tribune, Tuesday 2 June 1874 from The Bendigo Independent

Henrietta BYNG, Attempted Suicide, Bendigo Advertiser, 22 May 1874








The Advertiser of 22 May 1874 describes Henrietta as a coloured girl, drunk, in the lock-up, and again remanded for a week. She tried to commit suicide a few times during the night by strangling herself with her clothing but was stopped in the attempt by the lock-up keeper. She ‘appeared to be in a weak state of body and mind, and was remanded for a week’.


Henrietta, a laundress, married John John, a steward of Dominica, West Indies, in 1876 in Victoria. At this time she attempted to get custody of her daughter Emma Jane.

She then appears as Alice Jones whose ‘husband’ is Alexander Jones. She died of phthisis on 23 July 1881 at Gipps Ward Melbourne General Hospital. Her death certificate states that Emma Jane was her daughter, born in 1867 by a former marriage, and states her parents are John Byng a publican and Mary Ann Byng (nee Wallace).It also states she was born in Adelaide South Australia and had been 30 years in Victoria, which is approximately correct. Henrietta was born on 10 April 1849 at Mount Gambier, South Australia, to John Byng and Mary Ann Wallace and baptised there in 1851.




Thomas BYNG, freed slave, Henrietta’s grandfather

His father Thomas Byng came from a plantation in South Carolina. The story of Thomas Byng, a South Carolina slave who was evacuated with other British Loyalists to Digby, Nova Scotia and fought with the British. The times, his struggle and his legacy is told in the book Thomas Byng, Slave, Black Loyalist, Schoolmaster … a likely lad has been told and published by Barry Wright (2019).


John BYNG, Henrietta’s father

Her father John Byng was born around 1809 in Digby, Nova Scotia. He was baptised on 3 April 1809 in Novia Scotia, Canada. It appears that he may have been married and produced children in Canada before coming to Australia.

John Byng applied for a licence for the first hotel in Mount Gambier. He said he was a ‘poor man’ who had put all his efforts into building a house in Mount Gambier. His application was refused.


South Australian 15 June 1847

Mount Gambier Hotel-John Byng, applicant.
Supported by Mr James, who read a letter in his favour from Evelyn, Sturt, Esq, J. P., and a certificate to his character from a solicitor at Melbourne. Mr Giles said that public-houses were curses to sheep farmers -positive curses, wherever they went. Mr James observed that there was a township laid out, a police barracks, the post-office, and numerous settlers. Mr, Giles had 20,000 sheep, of the Company’s there, and he thought it a mischief to give public-houses where there were shepherds alone to support them.
Mr James-lt is on the overland route, and the settlers at present feel the necessary hospitality a positive nuisance. Mr Wigley thought the whole depended on that question. For stations, a public house could not be required ; for travellers, it might. Mr Giles would sooner lay out fifty pounds a year at the Company’s station, in hospitality to travellers, than be would have a public-house there. The applicant said that he was a poor man; he had laid put all he had in building the house, and if the license were refused, it would entirely ruin him. The Bench intimated that he could apply next quarter.
Mr James observed that be had already travelled three hundred miles overland, to make the application, and would have to return the same distance, besides being for a month in town. He trusted the letter of Mr Sturt, a neighbouring settler, one of their own Bench, would have some weight with them. Refused

Adjustable marriages: Relationships, Divorce and Bigamy on the Goldfields. Talk by Senior Curator Julia Bradshaw, Canterbury Museum, New Zealand.

Louisa BYNG, Henrietta’s older sister (YouTube link below)

Her sibling Louisa also had multiple marriages. Louisa Byng was born on October 30, 1845, in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, the daughter of Mary and John. She was married three times and had ten sons and four daughters. She died on June 28, 1928, in Wanganui, Manawatu-Wanganui, New Zealand, at the age of 82, and was buried there. Louisa married James Diggle at Taradale, Victoria on 19 March 1863 when she was 17 years old. Her son James was born in 1864 at Taradale. Her daughter Annie Louisa Diggle/Copley was born on 6 November 1868 in West Coast, New Zealand. Her son Frederick Byng Copley was born 1869 NZ; Ralph Copley was born in 1871 in NZ. When her husband James Diggle was killed in a mining accident on 6 August 1874 in Taradale at the aged of 42 years she was free to marry Godfrey Copley in New Zealand. She was 29 years of age when she married Copley. Joshua Cyril Copley was born in 1874; Samuel 1874 in Ross, New Zealand; Arthur in 1875; William Wallace Copley in 1876; William John Copley 1878; and her daughter Emma Eliza was born October 1880 in Ross, NZ.

In 1881 her sister Henrietta died and on 23 January 1882 this was followed by the death of her husband Godfrey Copley in Otago New Zealand. Their son Godfrey Copley was born in July 1882 after the death of his father.

Louisa then married George Purvis in New Zealand on 19 November 1883 when she was 38 years of age. She then had more children: George Alexander 8 October 1884; Henrietta (Hettie) Elizabeth October 1886; and Margaret Frances 8 August 1890. Her son Arthur passed away in Wanganui, Manawatu-Wanganui, New Zealand, on September 1890 aged 15 years.

Her sister Emma died on 5 September 1895 in Victoria when Louisa was 49 years old. Her third husband George Purvis passed away on 29 October 1900 at the ag of 70 years. They had been married 16 years.

Louisa Byng died on 28 June 1928 in Wanganui, Manawatu-Wanganui, New Zealand, when she was 82 years old. She is buried at Wanganui, Rangitikei, New Zealand.