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Cowper, Mary Stephena (1805 - 1859)

January 1805, Drypool, Yorkshire, England.

17 April 1859, Newcastle, NSW, Australia.

Religious Influence:


02 September 1828, Sydney, NSW, Australia:

Dr George Brooks


Descendant Families:
Brooks Family
Kenrick Family
Platt Family
Hirst Family
Cobb Family



Mary Stephena Cowper

Mary Stephena was born about January 1805, at Drypool, Yorkshire, England.  She was baptised on 6 March 1805, at St. Peter’s, Drypool.  Mary was the only daughter born to William and Hannah (nee Horner).  Her father was still working for the Royal Engineers Department, and was apparently preparing to leave in order to commence his religious studies under the direction of Reverend Thomas Dykes.  At about the time her father completed his studies, he was offered the position of Assistant Chaplain in the Colony of NSW.  Unfortunately, William’s first wife Hannah died only a few months before the family were set to sail for the new Colony.  However, the acceptance of the position of Assistant Colonial Chaplain by William resulted in the sailing of William and his new wife Ann Cowper, (nee Barrell) and his family of three sons, Henry, Thomas, Charles and daughter Mary Stephena in the ‘Indispensible’. They left Portsmouth, England on 2nd March 1809 arriving in Sydney on 18th August 1809.

Mary Stephena had experienced at the age of 4 the grief of losing her mother, gaining a new stepmother, leaving her homeland and undertaking an enormous voyage (169 days) to the other side of the world aboard a convict transport vessel with 62 female convicts to arrive in the new largely unexplored country and penal Colony that was Sydney, New South Wales – leaving behind in England the wider Cowper family, Grandparents, Uncles, Aunt’s, Cousins who would normally have played an integral part of any family life in this time period – and even today.

It is assumed that Mary along with her brothers was privately educated by her father.  Very little is known of Mary prior to her marriage to Dr George Brooks in 1828, but it is known that Mary and her stepmother Ann Cowper (nee Barrell)  taught children at the Female School of Industry and the Female Orphanage in the mid 1820’s. Her father Rev William Cowper held positions in these institutions.



No known Picture

Mary Stephena Cowper




Dr George Brooks arrived in Sydney aboard the vessel "David Shaw" on 16th October 1819 and was appointed to be Colonial Assistant Surgeon at the General Hospital in Sydney on the 20th November 1819, as the notice below shows.

mary stephena dr george brooks appointment

Source: The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser - Saturday 20 November 1819

The marriage of Dr George Brooks and Mary Stephena Cowper took place on 2nd September 1828 at St. Philip’s, Anglican Church in Sydney, and was performed by Mary’s father Reverend William Cowper.

mary stephena married
Source: The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser - Wednesday 3 September 1828

After her marriage Mary moved to Newcastle, NSW where her husband Dr. George Brooks was posted as the Surgeon-in-charge at the Newcastle Medical Facility.  Dr. George Brooks, assistant surgeon at Newcastle, obtained a grant by purchase of 320 acres from Gov. Darling in 1830. This grant today approximates an area bounded on the south by Cowper Street, west by Nelson Street, east by Robert Street and extended north to the old racecourse. Brooks later bartered 50 acres of this land for 50 head of cattle. These 50 acres formed the Lemongrove Estate and is now the main shopping centre of Wallsend. It is interesting to note here that Dr. Brooks, who was appointed to Newcastle in 1822 at a salary of 273 pounds and 15 shillings a year, and, at first, served as overseer and wards-man at the hospital remained as surgeon until 1847. He was largely responsible for the early development of Newcastle Hospital.

On the 1st September 1828, the day before her the wedding, Governor Sir Ralph Darling allocated a portion of land in the parish of Hexham, adjoining her future husbands farm to Mary to “mark my appreciation of the manner in which Mr. Cowper, who is a very exemplary man had discharged his duties and to help his daughter by removing the impediment to matrimony which appears to exist”.

mary stephena trustees
Source: The New South Wales Government Gazette – No 351 – 22 August 1838


Additional information on George Brooks can be found at these sites.

The family had 4 children

  • Hannah Euphemia Brooks, b. 1829 (married Atwill Kenrick) d. 1915



This drawing of Hannah Euphemia Brooks kindly provided by Rod Hirst (decendant via Hannah’s marriage to Atwill Kenrick)









  • George William Brooks, b. 1832 (never married), d.1866
  • John William Brooks, b. 1834 (married Elizabeth Ann Collins), d. 1911
  • Mary Eliza Brooks, b. 1837 (married William Hampden Platt), d. 1917


Their first child was named Hannah Euphemia Brooks in recognition of Mary’s mother Hannah Horner who had died when Mary was only 4 years old, Hannah later married Atwill Kenrick and named one of her children Mary Stephena Kenrick in honour of her mother, to the right is a picture of Mary Stephena Kenrick, kindly provided by Rod Hirst (Mary Stephena Kenrick married Percy Verney Hirst)


                      Mary Stephena Kenrick




Mrs. Mary Stephena Brooks later divided her property, "Mary Land," among her children, one portion going to a daughter who married Mr William Platt. This area, when subdivided in 1861, which was to become the Newcaslte suburb called Plattsburg which exists today. The Grant was held in trust by her brothers Henry and Charles Cowper and George Miller. The total land holdings that Mary and George had around the Ironbark Creek, Mount Sugarloaf area amounted to nearly 3,600 Acres. 

mary stephena marriage portion grants

Source: The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser - Thursday 20 June 1839

The 1280 acres of land that was granted to Mary Stephena in 1828 was resumed by the Crown on 8 November 1895.

Dr. George Brooks died on 2 May 1854, and was buried in the Christ Church Cemetery that was adjacent to Christ Church Cathedral. 

Mary Stephena Brooks died on 17 April 1859, also in Newcastle, and was buried in the Christ Church Cemetery that was adjacent to Christ Church Cathedral with her husband.