From the Thorley Archives

Transported From Thorley

James Collins, Thomas Freeth, Timothy Hoy, William Linsell, William Pettit, John Prior, Charles Welling and Benjamin Wood were all classified as Thorley convicts and subsequently sentenced to transportation between 1807 and 1863.

Ken Griffen in his book 'Transported Beyond the Seas' has researched and catalogued all 1,303 men and women from Hertfordshire who were transported to Australia. Recently Ken guided me through the archives of the Hertford Record Office (HALS) to find out more details about our eight Thorley criminals.

Having been arrested by the constables in Bishop's Stortford, the accused would have stood for trial at the Herts Assizes or Quarter Sessions at Hertford. Following sentencing they would be sent to a local gaol and then on to prison hulks which were non-sea going ships usually moored in the Thames estuary. Over 350 ships were used to transport convicts to Australia, where, on landing, their personal details were recorded. Further records show the time spent there and, sentences having been served, the dates of tickets of leave and eventually pardons. Some even returned home to Britain.

A sign posted beside Thorley Lock
on the Stort Navigation
(now in the Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum)

The following extracts are illustrations from these additional documentary resources.

Benjamin Wood's crime was to steal a piece of his employer's cloth which was being used to cover a stack of clover, worth 10/- (50p). He had used the cloth to make into a smock frock for himself. When the constable searched his house he identified the cloth as it had a seam down the front 'which was not usual and corresponded to the seam on the rick cloth'. For this he was sentenced to 14 years transportation in 1854.

On October 28th 1839, William Pettit was apprehended at the Coach and Horses public house in Thorley Street having stolen a horse from Market Bosworth in Leicestershire. The archives contain the original sworn witness statements and contemporary newspaper accounts of the trial. Pettit pleaded guilty and received a 10 year transportation sentence.

James Collins' crime of setting fire to a stack of barley has been previously documented in the article 'Justice in Thorley' - From the Archives, Nov. 2003. Further research has revealed that, after receiving a sentence of penal servitude of three years, he spent a year in three prisons - Millbank, Pentonville and Portland - before embarking on 'The Merchantman 2' ship to Australia in July 1864. Australian records show that he was granted a 'Ticket of Leave' on 19th June 1866.

In 1833 John Prior received the death sentence for stealing ten waistcoats from James Dodd of Barratts in North Street. This sentence was later commuted to transportation and he unusually served his whole sentence on various prison hulks. Initially he was sent to the 'Cumberland' hulk and from there shipped to Bermuda where he served his time on the 'Antelope' hulk ship. From there he returned to England in 1843 where he remained on the 'Leven' hulk until receiving his pardon in April 1843.

Further details regarding some convicted criminals are quite brief. For instance all that is known about Thomas Hoy is that after being convicted of stealing goods to the value of 52=10=0 from a James Hawkins and sentence to death, he was kept on a captivity hulk from April 1807 until June 1808. He was then put on board the 'Admiral Gambier' which sailed on 2nd July 1808. There are no further records of his arrival in Australia.

Some prisoners died before they reached Australia. William Linsell, aged 23, was sent to captivity hulk on 15th May 1816 and died before being transported. There are no reports of the circumstances of this death.

Thomas Freeth's time in New South Wales is well documented. Arrived 28/11/1827 - age 45 - died Port Stephen 23/04/1833 - read/write - Protestant - single - no children - born London - occupation, brass founder - 14 year sentence - height 5' 6 " - complexion, ruddy - hair, dark brown - eyes, hazel - cuts : on forehead over left eye, two cuts on back of head, cut left eye.

When Charles Welling was disembarked from the 'Andromeda' in Van Diemans Land (Tasmania) in 1827 he was posted to the Tasmanian Police Service. His service record though shows a catalogue of offences e.g. neglect of duty, (thirty lashes) - drinking in a public house after hours, (hard labour) - being drunk and allowing a woman to absent herself to go with the soldiers, (to serve an additional 12 months in the Police Service). Eventually he got Free Leave (prior to his pardon) in 1857.

Such fascinating insights provided invaluable information and colour for those wishing to trace their criminal ancestors. From his Hertfordshire database Ken Griffen was able to point to my own criminal ancestry. In 1787 James Rand (19) and Abel Brett (18), of Stocking Pelham, with four other accomplices, broke into George Sworder's woodyard at the Stocking Pelham Hall with intent to murder. All six were sentenced to death but their sentences were later commuted to transportation. Other records exist to show that James Rand became a reformed character in Australia and a respected landowner. Abel Brett wasn't transported and his later whereabouts will require further research.

Ken's current project is to document details of all 162,000 transportees from the whole of the British Isles. He aims to publish this on a CD in 2008!

Bill Hardy
March 2006

From the Archives