Transported to a better life? Joseph Pike, 1829

As a crime historian, I have often read about people who were sentenced to transportation at Gloucestershire’s courts of Quarter Sessions and Assizes. In most cases, I know nothing of the lives of those who were sent to Australia once they left British shores, but recently a reader got in touch with me and told me a fascinating story about how his ancestor, after serving out his sentence in his new country, went on to become a pillar of his local community. Geoff Pike sent me lots of interesting information about his great-grandfather Joseph Pike, who was sentenced to 14 years transportation at the Gloucestershire Lent Assizes in 1829. I thought his story would be of interest to readers of this blog, as it demonstrates that for some convicts, being sent to the other side of the world allowed them to make a fresh start and lead a better life.

Joseph Pike and his accomplice George Burchill were admitted to Gloucester County Gaol on 30 September 1828. Pike was described in the gaol register as a nineteen-year-old labourer from Malmesbury in Wiltshire, who could read and write. He and Burchill were charged with breaking into the dwelling house of Giles Little Edwards and Edward Strange at Tormarton, Gloucestershire, and stealing two cash notes value £2 and three silk handkerchiefs, the property of Edwards, and a silver watch belonging to Strange. Pike’s behaviour while in gaol was described as being “indifferent”. This may have been due in part to the six months he had to wait to be tried at the Gloucestershire Assizes, which began on 1 April 1829.

The indictment against Joseph Pike and George Burchill presented at the Assizes differed slightly from the original charges made against them, as they were accused of breaking into the dwelling house of Giles Little Edwards (no mention of Edward Strange) in the parish of Tormarton, and stealing a gold half sovereign, a shirt pin, a purse, a handkerchief and two bank notes worth one pound each. They both were found guilty and the value of the goods and money they had stolen meant that they were given a mandatory death sentence. Consequently, the ominous words “to be hanged” were written against their names on the indictment.

At these Assizes, judge Sir James Parke sentenced a total of seventeen men to death. However, before he left Gloucester, Justice Parke commuted the sentences of fifteen of the condemned, leaving the two worst offenders to face the hangman. Luckily for Pike and Burchill, the chosen pair were the notorious highwaymen, brothers Matthew and Henry Pinnell. Joseph Pike and his accomplice had their sentences commuted to fourteen years’ transportation. Joseph remained in Gloucester Gaol until 11 May, when he was taken to his ship. He sailed on the “Claudine” for New South Wales, arriving in Sydney on 6 December 1829.


Joseph Pike, in 1885

Joseph Pike, in 1885

An obituary posted in the Kiama Independent and Shoalhaven Advertiser after Pike’s death in 1886 gives the reader useful information on how he spent his first years in Australia (but skilfully avoids any mention that he had been a convict). On his arrival, Joseph was “engaged with a doctor attached to one of the Imperial regiments then in Sydney, and in this service he passed the first few years of his life”. The doctor stayed on after the regiment left, becoming a sheep-farmer and putting Joseph Pike in charge of his flock. The venture failed and Joseph returned to the penal settlement at Parramatta.

Although Joseph had been sentenced to a term of 14 years, in 1836 he was released on a ticket of leave (like parole). In 1838 he married a fellow convict, Mary Talbot, who was from Staffordshire. The wedding took place in the schoolhouse at Parramatta. After their marriage, Joseph and Mary moved to Dapto in New South Wales, where Joseph became a farmer, and in addition turned his hand to property investment, buying and renting out farms and building and renting out stone cottages. The Pikes later moved to Kiama, on the south coast of New South Wales, where Joseph’s pioneering spirit came forth again when he became the first shop-keeper there, opening a general store on Pike’s Hill on 1 January 1847.

After settling in Kiama, Joseph Pike became a leading member of the community. When his adopted town became the Municipality of Kiama in 1859, Joseph became one of its founding aldermen, and served in that capacity until his death. During that time, he was Mayor four times. He donated all the stone to build Christ Church in Kiama, and was its senior Churchwarden from its establishment in 1860 until the end of his life. Geoff Pike says that  his ancestor was “identified with practically every political and public improving movement in Kiama”.

Joseph Pike died on 5 December 1886. He had ten children by his wife Mary, five of whom survived him. His obituary said he had “more than a fair share of public spirit, and served the people in the capacity of alderman for 37 years, and as mayor for some five or six years, with all the energy, business tact and singleness of purpose that could possess any man.” There had been a large attendance at his funeral, even though it was held the day after his death. The writer of the obituary had known Joseph Pike personally for forty years, and described him as a “blunt, outspoken, straight forward, honest Christian citizen”. Quite a commendation for a man whose life had once been considered so worthless.


Geoff Pike at the gravestone of his Great-Grandfather, Joseph Pike. Mary Pike’s gravestone is next to her husband’s.



Gloucestershire Archives, County Prison Register, Lent 1829 (Q/Gc5/3)

National Archives, Assize Records, Oxford Circuit, Indictment, provided by Geoff Pike

Bath Chronicle, 16 April 1829

Obituary, Kiama Independent and Shoalhaven Advertiser, 10 Dec 1886 (provided by Geoff Pike)

Notes of Geoff Pike

Gloucester convicts on the First Fleet to Australia, 1787-88

On 13 May 1787, a convoy of ships set sail from Portsmouth, carrying over 700 convicts to the British government’s new penal colony in Australia. Among the transportees were a number of convicts from Gloucester prison.

Britain had previously transported convicts to the American colonies, but this could no longer be done from the mid-1770s, when the American War of Independence began. Prisoners were still sentenced to transportation after that, but they were either kept in their local prison or sent to work on hulks on the Thames, while a new place could be found which was suitable for a penal colony. In January 1787, it was announced in Parliament that Botany Bay in Australia was to be the destination for Britain’s transportees.

For several months, convicts were removed from their prisons and sent to hulks at Portsmouth and Plymouth, before being put on board one of the convict ships. They then had to wait for the weather to be good enough to set sail. On 13 May 1787, the fleet finally left Portsmouth, led by the flag ship Sirius, carrying the new colony’s governor, Captain Arthur Phillip, and followed by six convict ships and several other vessels carrying supplies. The journey, via Tenerife, Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town, took eight months, with the first ship reaching Botany Bay on 18 January 1788. Unfortunately, for various reasons, Botany Bay was found to be unsuitable for setting up a colony, and a better area was found at Port Jackson, 12 kilometres north. The First Fleet re-embarked and arrived at Port Jackson, quickly renamed Sydney Cove, on 26 January 1788.

The First Fleet entering Port Jackson, Jan 26, 1788. Courtesy of Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.

The Gloucester prisoners

No definitive number of convicts who sailed on the First Fleet has ever been decided upon, and likewise there seems to be no agreement as to the exact number of transportees from Gloucester. According to the Gloucester Journal of 16 April 1787, 30 to 40 convicts were sent from Gloucester’s County Prison to Portsmouth or Plymouth to await transportation, but fewer than this appear to have sailed for Australia. In the various available indexes and databases, the number of prisoners who were said to have been tried at Gloucester is between 21 and 25, while another 21 to 23 are thought to have come from Bristol. From my own research, I believe there were 21 Gloucester prisoners.

The names of the transportees from Gloucester Prison (in alphabetical order) are:

Samuel DAVIS; Samuel DAY; Samuel GRIFFITHS (alias BRISCOW and BUTCHER); George GUEST (or GESS); Joseph HAINES; Henry HATHAWAY; Elizabeth LOCK; Joseph LONG; John MARROTT (or MERRITT or MARRIOTT); Betty MASON; Richard MORGAN; William OKEY; Elizabeth PARKER; James PRICE; Edward PUGH; Edward RISBY; Isaac ROGERS; Daniel SMART; Richard SMART; John SUMMERS; William WHITING.

The University of Wollongong First Fleet database gives some interesting information on some of these Gloucester convicts.

Seventeen male prisoners from Gloucester sailed on board the Alexander. This ship was the largest, but not the most hygienic, of the transports, and it had already lost sixteen people to an outbreak of typhus before the fleet left Portsmouth. Ten more convicts died on the journey. Two Gloucester transportees who died before or during the voyage on the Alexander were Isaac Rogers (condemned and reprieved March 1785 for highway robbery, commuted to 14 years transportation), and Richard Smart (sentenced to 7 years transportation at Quarter Sessions, January 1786, for stealing wool). Richard Smart’s brother, Daniel Smart, who was convicted for the same offence, survived the journey, but did not last long in Australia, dying some time in 1788.

Samuel Davis, aged about 17, (sentenced to transportation for 7 years in July 1785, for stealing a silver watch), was killed by Aborigines some time in 1788. William Okey (condemned and reprieved for burglary, March 1784) also was killed by Aborigines, in 1792.

The three female transportees from Gloucester all had interesting stories.

Elizabeth Lock, who had travelled to Australia on the Lady Penrhyn, had been sentenced to 7 years transportation at the Assizes in March 1783, for burglary. She married a fellow Gloucester convict, Richard Morgan, on 30 March 1788. However, Morgan was sent to Norfolk Island in 1790 and he lived there with another woman, before eventually settling in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania). Elizabeth Lock left New South Wales in 1795.

Betty Mason had been tried in March 1785 and found guilty of stealing money and a purse. She was condemned to death but reprieved, and sentenced to 14 years transportation instead. With her on the Friendship was her one-year-old son (presumably conceived and born in Gloucester gaol), who sadly died during the journey. She married convict Richard Hawkes on 14 Feb 1790.

Elizabeth Parker, who was tried in March 1785 for burglary, travelled on the convict ship Friendship with her daughter, who had been conceived in Gloucester gaol, and the child’s father, Edward Pugh. Elizabeth became ill during the voyage and was transferred onto the Charlotte at Cape Town. Unfortunately, she died soon after landing, being buried on 19 February 1788 (as Elizabeth Pugh). Edward Pugh married another convict in June the same year.

To finish on a happier note, some of the Gloucester convicts made a success of their new lives in Australia. A good example is John Marrott (also written as Merritt or Marriott) who was convicted at Gloucestershire’s Lent Assizes in March 1784 of breaking and entering, and stealing a large quantity of cloth. He was condemned and reprieved, then sentenced to 7 years transportation. According to the website Fellowship of First Fleeters, in January 1794 he was granted 50 acres of land in the Prospect district, and went on to become one of the Colony’s most successful emancipist farmers. He died in May 1812, aged 69.



Irene Wyatt, Transportees from Gloucestershire to Australia, 1783-1842 (Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaelogical Society, 1988)

Robert Hughes, The Fatal Shore (1987)

A.G.L. Shaw, Convicts & The Colonies (1966)


University of Wollongong First Fleet database

Fellowship of First Fleeters (Information on some of the Gloucester transportees)

Australia’s First Fleet (this gives a slightly different list of convicts from Gloucester than the Univesrity of Wollongong database)

The First Fleet – Project Gutenberg Australia (useful information on the voyage)






Elizabeth Parker, the Swing Riots, and the Tetbury parish clerk

Tetbury, 1807 (

Tetbury, 1807 (

The Swing Riots were disturbances which took place in 1830 and 1831, mostly in the southern counties of England. Agricultural labourers, who were already suffering due to low wages and a lack of work after several years of bad harvests, rose up when their employers introduced threshing machines into their workplaces. The riots got their name from the threatening letters which were sent to farmers and other employers, which were signed “Captain Swing.”

The riots spread into Gloucestershire in November 1830, with the Tetbury area seeing the worst of the disturbances. Amongst the many people arrested afterwards was one woman, Elizabeth Parker. She has sometimes been cited as one of only two females who were transported for taking part in the Swing Riots. In fact, she was sentenced to be transported for this crime, but never sailed, as she was pardoned a few months after being convicted. However, less than a year after being released from Gloucester Gaol, she was back, awaiting trial for another offence. The circumstances in both of the cases she was tried for reveal an intriguing relationship with one Daniel Cole, parish clerk and assistant poor law officer in Tetbury.

Elizabeth Parker was committed to Gloucester Gaol on 4 December 1830. In the Gaol Registers, she was described as being 23 and a “labourer”. She was in fact a prostitute, and she was unusual for the time in that she could read and write. She was charged on the oaths of Daniel Cole and others with having been among a mob which destroyed a threshing machine belonging to Jacob Hayward, at his farm in Beverstone, on 26 November.

At the County Quarter Sessions, which began in Gloucester on 3 January 1831, Elizabeth took the stand at the court room behind Shire Hall, along with 23 men. Witnesses who had been sworn in as special constables on the day of the riots gave their evidence, and described coming across a mob of over 100 people on Beverstone Road, many of whom were armed with sticks, pick-axes and sledge-hammers. They were being addressed by four magistrates, who tried to persuade them to go home, but they announced that they would go to Beverstone to break the machine there. The constables followed them to Mr Hayward’s yard, where they witnessed some of the mob attacking his threshing machine.

John Tidcomb, a farmer of Tetbury, identified Elizabeth Parker as being part of the mob, and stated that he heard her say, “Be d—-d if we don’t go to Beverstone, and break the machine!” Daniel Cole stated that he had seen the mob in Mr Hayward’s yard, attacking the machine. He said Elizabeth Parker was not actually hitting the machine when he saw her, but she was holding a sledge-hammer. Isaac Hayward, the nephew of the prosecutor, Jacob Hayward, stated that he had seen Elizabeth Parker and some of the men in the act of breaking the machine. When it came to the defence of the accused, all of the men produced character witnesses, but Elizabeth Parker had no-one to speak for her. The jury deliberated for 5 minutes, then found all the defendants guilty.

When all the rioters were gathered together for sentencing at the end of the trials, the Chairman of the Quarter Sessions said that a distinction had been made between the leaders of the mobs and the rest. Elizabeth Parker was singled out as a leader: “A woman, the only female prisoner, who had, by violent language and by every means in her power, been active in stimulating her companions to acts of outrage, and had even personally assisted with a large sledge hammer.” Along with the other “leaders”, she  was sentenced to be transported, in her case for seven years. 

Elizabeth Parker was granted royal clemency in July 1831 and was released from prison. She returned to Tetbury and presumably continued in her usual occupation, but on 27 March 1832, she was committed to Gloucester Gaol again. This time, she was charged with stealing 2 five pound notes, 5 sovereigns and 5 half sovereigns, from the person of Daniel Cole.

Elizabeth was tried at the Lent Assizes which began on 28 March, 1832. The details of her trial were reported in the Morning Post. Daniel Cole was in the “Boat Inn” (meaning the Boot Inn, I think) in Tetbury, when Elizabeth Parker came in. Cole “accompanied her down the yard”, where he stayed with her for about half an hour. The next morning, he realised that all his money was gone. One of his five pound notes was identified by him in a shop, where Parker had bought some items.

Under cross-examination, Cole said he was the assistant overseer of the poor and collector of public taxes of the parish of Tetbury. He was married with one child. He went in to the inn at about 9 pm, and stayed about 2 hours, drinking in the parlour, with the landlord, Elizabeth Parker, and two others. He was not drunk, but he was “rather fresh.” He gave the prisoner no money. He saw Elizabeth Parker next morning at the Prince and Princess public house. He didn’t drink with her or give her any money. He did give her a shilling after she was committed. He never said that he would not have prosecuted her “if it was not for her own tongue”. (Presumably meaning he couldn’t trust her to keep her mouth shut.)

Henry Aldguard, a constable, stated that he apprehended Elizabeth Parker at her mother’s house, on 24 March, and sent for Mr Cole. Cole came and said Parker had got his money, and he was going to take her before a magistrate. The prisoner then said to Cole, “Come with me into a private room only for two minutes.” They went into another room, and before long Cole called the constable. When he went in, he saw Parker with her arms around Cole’s waist. When Cole insisted that he would take her before a magistrate, she cried, “Oh, don’t take me, and I’ll send for my mother, and she will sell everything she has to give you back your money.” She was subsequently taken before a magistrate and committed to Horsley gaol, before being transferred to Gloucester for her trial.

In her defence, Elizabeth Parker said that Cole had given her the money, and on the next day told her he did not care about the money, but was “apprehensive that he would lose his character as parish clerk.”

Parker was found guilty, and in addressing her, the judge said, “he was sorry to perceive that she had made such a bad return for the royal clemency which she had so recently experienced.” He sentenced her to be transported for life. The judge showed his disapproval of Daniel Cole’s conduct by not allowing his expenses as prosecutor to be waived.

Although Daniel Cole had not been the only witness to give evidence against Elizabeth Parker at her first trial, it might be expected that he would have kept out of her way after she was pardoned and returned to Tetbury. Perhaps the parish officer was one of Elizabeth’s regular customers. Certainly he seems to have found her hard to resist when he was inebriated (despite her being missing two front teeth). Did she know this, and get him to “accompany her down the yard” with a view to stealing from him to get her revenge? It seems more likely that she knew that Daniel Cole had a great deal of money on him that night, and took her chances when she found him the worse for drink, hoping that if she was found out, he would not prosecute her, because of the damage it would do to his reputation. Perhaps she also thought that she could use her feminine wiles to persuade Cole not to prosecute her. If so, she was wrong, and was sent to start a new life, in Tasmania.

Sources: Gloucestershire Archives, Gaol Calendars (Q/Gc 5/4); Gloucester Journal, 8 Jan and 15 Jan, 1831 at Gloucestershire Archives; Morning Post, 6 April 1832, from the British Newspaper Archive website.