• Born c 1827, London, England in 1827

Interior Adelphi Theatre, owned by Sarah Hanmer

Sarah Ann Hanmer (nee McCullough) was born to London Merchant William McCullough around 1827.

The strikingly beautiful Sarah Hanmer was young when she fell pregnant to accountant Frederick Ford. If we were to believe what was recorded on the Australian shipping lists, she was only fourteen years old when she went to Whitehall, Westminster to have her baby. Her determination is illustrated even in her early life when she kept her baby, a daughter she named Julia Ford. By 1844 Sarah, an actress of some standing, was living in Bagnigge Wells, Clerkenwell near Saddler’s Wells theatre. Frederick Ford had married at Clerkenwell the year before. Julia carried his name, but no marriage can be found between her parents Sarah and Frederick.

The next year, 1844, Sarah married comedian Henry Augustus Leicester Hanmer at St James, Clerkenwell. Sarah arrived in Ballarat in 1853 without her husband, but accompanied by her brother William McCullough and daughter, then known as Julia Ford Hanmer. Curiously Henry Augustus Leicester Hanmer, born 1811 at St Leonards, Shoreditch, London, married again in 1853. Perhaps the distance and communications between London and Melbourne saved him from a charge of bigamy.

Sarah and her daughter were set to make a remarkable and significant contribution to the social fabric of one of Australia’s foremost goldfields towns.