You are in [Events] [1830 Agricultural "Swing" Riots] [Berkshire to Botany Bay - Chap 13]

CHAPTER 13

VAN DIEMEN'S LAND

Shortly after their arrival at Portsmouth, Daniel Bates, David Hawkins, Francis Norris and Edmund Steele "were put aboard the Eliza to make up her complement of 200". They were greatly affected on being parted from their companions. The emotion which they showed might have been more intense had they realised that their comrades were to be transported to New South Wales while the Eliza was bound for Van Diemen's Land which had an even worse reputation.

The master of the Eliza a ship of some 540 tons and built in 1806, was Capt.J.S.Groves and the Surgeon-Superintendent was William Anderson. They sailed from Portsmouth on 6th February,1831, and took 112 days over the voyage to Hobart which was reached on May 29th. Before casting anchor in Sullivan's Cove the Eliza would have sailed thirty to forty miles up the River Derwent. Coming up the river from the west "hills rise in regular succession above each other covered with trees of various descriptions such as stringy bark, honeysuckle, box, cherry, black, brown and silver wattle, blue, red and white gum, oak, peppermint, pine, cedar etc.".

The convicts usually remained on board the transport ship for a week or more, during which time the local magistrates "came on board to take the dimensions etc. of the prisoners who were not allowed to leave the ship until they and it had been cleared by the Port Health Officer.".

The Berkshire men probably disembarked at a jetty on what had once been Hunter's Island, but which, for some time before 1831, had been connected with the mainland by a long stone causeway. One of the most prominent landmarks to which their attention would have been drawn was a promontory called Macquarie Point, on which was a lumber-yard where the government employed convict labour. The point was named after a previous governor of the island as was Macquarie Harbour which, until it was abandoned and the prisoners transferred to Port Arthur, was probably the worst of the penal hells to which convicts who committed further offences on the island were sentenced.

On disembarking Norris and his comrades would have been marched to the new convict barracks. One of the first important buildings they would have passed on their way was St.David's Church. Beyond the church was the Supreme Court House, close by which was the Female House of Correction. At the intersection with Murray Street stood the Gaol, and, rising above its substantial walls, was the grimly significant black painted beams of the scaffold. Standing at the entrance to Davey Street was another building of much importance in the convict's scheme of things, the Military Barracks ; the military force available for the use of the governor numbered, in 1830, nearly

1,000. Passing through the Market Place into Campbell Street the prisoners would have been halted before their own barracks. Once inside they were "marshalled in the yard for the inspection of the governor" who examined every man. After the muster they were assigned for service. The government had the first choice of the best workmen, for public works such as road and bridge building. Government officers had the next best, while the remainder were allocated to farmers or other private employers.

According to the evidence which Governor-General Arthur gave before the Molesworth Committee on Transportation some of the Eliza men "died almost immediately from disease apparently induced by despair" and a "great many of them died later due to despair and a deep sense of shame and desperation.". The Berkshire men were either shameless or made, both psychologically and physically, of sterner stuff ; certainly all four were still alive in 1835.

Three of these men were from Kintbury and the fourth from Hungerford. Francis Norris was the "treasurer" of the Kintbury "congregation" , and Daniel Bates and Edmund Steele were members of the five-man delegation which represented the Kintbury men before the local magistrates assembled in Hungerford Town Hall. Why the Hungerford man, David Hawkins, was selected to make up the complement of the Eliza is not clear as he was certainly not one of the leaders ; such bad luck was to be his lot for many years to come.

He and Norris were two of the very small number of the rioters who avoided arrest during the round-up by the posse led by Charles Dundas and Lord Craven. Norris led his pursuers a merry dance before being arrested in an Aldbourne beer-house kept by one Martin Palmer. Hawkins, who had taken refuge in a relative's cottage in Inkpen , was betrayed by an employee of Richard Gibbons whose Hungerford iron foundry had been attacked by the combined Kintbury/Hungerford "mob". On more than one occasion during his sojourn in Van Diemen's Land Hawkins was to rue his decision to lie low in Inkpen instead of making good his escape by going further afield.

According to George Loveless, the leader of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, it mattered little whether the convicts were assigned to work for the government or as servants to colonists. He had found the conditions on the government farm extremely arduous, and of the private employers he had this to say, "Some few get kind masters, who consider their prisoners are men, possessed of natural feelings similar to other men, and treat them accordingly. But the greater part are so situated that, bad as government usage is, they are far worse off; treated like dogs, worked from the dawn of morning till the close of day, often half-naked and all but starved.". If an assigned man complained of his treatment or failed to perform some impossible task which his master had given him, the latter could, and often did, have him arrested and taken before a magistrate, himself quite probably a settler. To list "the multitude of offences, mistakes or errors to which the prisoner is frequently liable and for which a charge may be brought against him, would tire the patience and disgust the feelings.". The "charges are often brought against them without any foundation whatever" and the form of punishment was all too often to be "married to the three sisters", i.e. to be tied to a triangle and flogged.

In keeping with the ill-luck which seems to have dogged him, one of those who experienced this kind of treatment was the unfortunate DAVID HAWKINS ,whose name appears often in the account books of the Hungerford Overseers of the Poor in the years preceding the riots, and who had been parted from his wife and five children, was assigned to a Mr.Horton (probably the J.Horton who, in 1834, was the Overseer of the Engineer's Department and, in 1835, Superintendent of the government quarry) who turned out to be the kind of master described by Loveless.

In spite of his "good character and connexions" Hawkins was subjected to three floggings in the space of fifteen months. On 10th December,1833, he received 50 lashes for "insolence and disobedience"; on 22nd July,1834, a further 50 lashes for "assault and disorderly conduct"; and on 10th March,1835, he was sentenced to 25 lashes for "disobedience and insolent language to his master.". George Loveless was an eye-witness of more than one such flogging and he reported that before the victim had received twenty lashes he saw "their flesh fly from their backs into the air.". On 24th April, 1837, Hawkins' sufferings were terminated by the grant of a Free Pardon which gave him the opportunity to put as great a distance as he wished between himself and his sadistic task-master.

EDMUND STEELE, a 42-year old married man from Kintbury, had been sentenced to be separated from his wife, Maria, and their eight children "for the term of his natural life." On his arrival in the colony he was assigned to Robert Taylor, the eldest son of George Taylor who had emigrated to Van Diemen's Land in 1822. George Taylor obtained an 800 acre land grant on the Macquarie River which he named "Valleyfield". His three sons were each granted 700 acres to the south of their father's estate. George Taylor had died before the "Swing" men arrived in the colony and Robert, as eldest son, inherited "Valleyfield". Prior to inheriting his father's estate Robert had acquired an additional 2,500 acres and several town allotments in Perth and Campbelltown. Apart from the fact that he received a Free Pardon on 24th April,1837, nothing more is known about Steele's fate.

FRANCIS NORRIS was engaged on "Public Works" which might well have been a euphemism for working in chains on the road construction gangs, but which, in his case, meant the fairly "cushy" job of Watchman in the Prisoners' Barracks, Hobart, a position he was still holding in November, 1838. Prior to this, on 24th February,1836, Norris, who was a widower, submitted an application for permission to marry Ann Drury, a free spinster, and, permission having been granted by the Colonial Secretary, they were married in Holy Trinity Church, Hobart, on 4th April,1836. (No children were recorded in the Baptismal registers of either of the two early Hobart churches up to 1843.). In April,1838, Norris was granted a Conditional Pardon, which meant that, though he was free to go anywhere in the colony, he could not return to England even if he wished to.

In December,1840, Norris was convicted of larceny and sentenced to six months imprisonment with hard labour. The latter meant labouring in the chain gang constructing the road between Hobart and Glenorch. Some books dealing with convict life tell some horrific stories of conditions in the chain gangs.The sober evidence of Sir Richard Bourke, a former governor of New South Wales, is no less horrifying. He stated "that the condition of the convicts in the chain gangs was one of great privation and unhappiness.They are locked up from sunset to sunrise in caravans or boxes which held from 20 to 28 men, but in which the whole number can neither stand upright nor sit down at the same time (except with their legs at right angles to their bodies), and which, in some instances, do not allow more than 18 inches in width for each individual to lie upon on the bare boards. They are kept to work under strict military guard during the day, and are liable to flagellation for trifling offences such as an exhibition of obstinacy, insolence and the like ....".

DANIEL BATES, a young carpenter/wheelwright of Kintbury, was singled out by the judge of the Special Commission which tried the machine breakers at Reading, for a lengthy homily. The judge is reported as having said that his crimes were of a very deep dye and the Court assured him that the scale had long been balancing as to whether death should not be the almost immediate consequence of them. Only the good character which he had received and the strong recommendation for mercy made by the jury saved him. This strong recommendation to mercy meant that Bates was eventually sentenced to transportation "for the term of his natural Life."

It may have been some small consolation to his widowed mother that Bates seems to have prospered in the land of his banishment, though not without becoming involved in some somewhat romantic escapades. He had, like Norris, been assigned to "Public Works" in which, being a craftsman, he was probably engaged on useful rather than purely penal tasks. On October 22nd, 1833, however, he was brought before the magistrate who reprimanded him for being "out after hours". That he may have spent this time with a female convict is suggested by the events which followed. Just a year later, on 6th October, 1834, he applied for permission to marry a female convict named Mary Ann Stringer. This application was not sent on to the Colonial Secretary until March of the following year, because in January we find him being found guilty of "holding communication with a female prisoner". For this offence he was sentenced to three months hard labour at his trade, but this sentence was cancelled by the Governor "in consequence of his general good conduct". His Excellency must also have granted the application for permission to marry for, on 6th April,1835, Daniel Bates married his Mary Ann in Holy Trinity Church, Hobart. Two years later , on 24th April,1837, Bates gained his freedom. As this pardon was an absolute one he could have returned to England. It would seem that he preferred to settle down in the colony and work at his trade.

The 1842 and 1843 Census returns list a Daniel Bates, wheelwright, residing in the former year in Murray Street, Hobart, and in 1843 at Brown's River, Kingston, a few miles south-west of Hobart. The 1856 Electoral Roll for the Brown's River District lists a Daniel Bates as a freeholder, as do the Valuation Rolls for 1858. 1861 and 1862. The Hobart Town Gazette (an official publication) lists him as the proprietor of a cottage and land (of 1¼ acres) valued at £18 per annum. The same publication for 10th November, 1874, lists him as residing in the same cottage but someone else is named as the proprietor. His name is omitted altogether from the Gazette of 1875. As, by this time, he would have reached the biblical "three score years and ten", it is not unreasonable to assume that Daniel Bates had at last left this life having almost certainly had a better one than if he had not been transported.

Solomon Allen, the leader of the group which attacked the house of an infirm old woman, Martha Davies of Binstead, and , one waving a cutlass, broke down the door, was sentenced to fourteen years transportation. ( For acts of violence which were much less intimidating a rioter from the Kintbury area would have been lucky to have had a death sentence commuted to transportation for life.). The assignment register lists Allen as having been assigned to "R.W.Loane, Sydney", but Loane was a restless man who did not settle anywhere for long. He had arrived at Hobart in 1809 in his own ship, but, in 1813, he was operating as a merchant in Sydney.

A few years later he was back in Hobart where he built an imposing residence in Macquarie Street. In 1825 he left this in the charge of his house-keeper who was said to have been his mistress, and returned to Sydney. On 18th January,1833, he left Sydney for the last time and sailed for Hobart on the "Duckenfield" ; on this trip he was accompanied by Allen. While Allen was on the island he was convicted of five minor misdemeanours. They must have been very minor otherwise it is unlikely that he would have been granted an Absolute Pardon, on 8th May, 1838. The following year R.W.Loane and his wife left the colony and returned to England. It is possible that Allen accompanied his erstwhile master on this voyage also, but no firm evidence has been found to confirm this.

See also:

- Berkshire to Botany Bay - Introduction

Part 1 - Berkshire:

- Berkshire to Botany Bay - Chapter 1 "Distress and consequent repair"

- Berkshire to Botany Bay - Chapter 2 "Now is our time"

- Berkshire to Botany Bay - Chapter 3 "Severity is the only remedy"

- Berkshire to Botany Bay - Chapter 4 "A chase tho' the country"

- Berkshire to Botany Bay - Chapter 5 "No friend in Heaven"

- Berkshire to Botany Bay - Chapter 6 "Each in his separate hell"

- Berkshire to Botany Bay - Chapter 7 "Aftermath"

Part 2: To "Botany Bay"

- Berkshire to Botany Bay - Chapter 8 "The hulks and the convict ships"

- Berkshire to Botany Bay - Chapter 9 "Botany Bay"

- Berkshire to Botany Bay - Chapter 10 "Green pastures"

- Berkshire to Botany Bay - Chapter 11 "Beyond the Blue Mountains"

- Berkshire to Botany Bay - Chapter 12 "The valley of the hunter"

- Berkshire to Botany Bay - Chapter 13 "Van Diemen's land"

- Berkshire to Botany Bay - Postscript

- Berkshire to Botany Bay - Tables & Sources