Who was the Mystery Woman of Hambledon Cottage?

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Sculpture in St John's Cathedral
Sculpture in St John's Cathedral

Penelope Lucas has been a mystery woman for the past two hundred years. Despite the scarcity of description she was an important guiding influence in the lives of the Macarthur daughters, Emmeline, Elizabeth and Mary Isabella. She was governess on Elizabeth Farm, Parramatta from 1805 until her passing in 1836.

The congregation of St John's Cathedral, Parramatta honoured her with a beautiful sculpture within the Cathedral following her death.

Penelope was born in Hampshire, England in 1766, the same year that Elizabeth Veale, later to become Mrs John Macarthur, entered the world. During her lifetime she was a close spectator to John Macarthur's outbursts against many men of influence and even the governors of the colony. Community leaders visiting Elizabeth Farm invariably met (Mrs) Lucas since she was companion and confidante to Mrs Elizabeth Macarthur. Reverend Samuel Marsden, Gregory Blaxland, Thomas J. Bigge, and Surgeon John Harris all knew Penelope by sight.

Trevor Patrick is a local historian of the north-west of Sydney, Australia. His latest book, In Search of the Pennant Hills, recounts some of these stories (and others) in more detail.