Craig Revel Horwood, one of the judges on the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing, was the subject of an episode of Who Do You Think You Are?, which was broadcast on BBC1 on 13 July 2017. Craig was born in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia, in 1965. In the programme, he soon discovered that he was descended from a convict, Moses Horwood, who had been transported from England to Australia for committing a theft in Cheltenham. During the broadcast, the British Newspaper Archive was quick to find (and share on Twitter) a newspaper article, reporting his trial at the Gloucestershire Assizes in 1841, at which he was found guilty of burglary from the Queen’s Hotel in Cheltenham.
Taking to the internet to research the case of Moses Horwood (often called Harwood in the records) myself, I discovered that the robbery was reported in the Cheltenham Chronicle on Thursday, 15 July 1841, under the headline, ‘DARING BURGLARY’. The report stated that a ‘most daring and extensive burglary’ had been committed at the Queen’s Hotel on the previous Monday night or early on Tuesday morning. The thieves had entered the sitting room occupied by Sir Willoughby Cotton, KCB, and had taken a Grand Cross of the Bath, with Badge and Star, a Grand Cross of the Durannee order, a Commanders order of the Guelph of Hanover, a purse containing fifty-seven sovereigns, a five pound note and two neck pins, and a case containing letters and papers and a bill of exchange from Calcutta. The thieves also had taken a hat belonging to Mr Griffith, the proprietor of the hotel. The miscreants had been disturbed by one of the manservants, who heard them moving around. They decamped when they realised someone was coming, making their exit through the garden. They escaped over the garden wall, but in their hurry left behind a large military cloak and three hats.
The manservant alerted the police and three suspects were quickly identified. James Andrews, a shoemaker, Moses Horwood, formerly a porter at the hotel, and James Dunn, an ostler, all had been drinking in the Queen’s Hotel Tap until a late hour on the night of the burglary. They were detained and on 14 July they were brought before the Cheltenham magistrates, who were told that Mr Griffith’s hat had been found in Andrews’ house, footprints in the hotel garden matched boots belonging to Andrews and Horwood, and one of the hats left behind by the robbers had been identified as belonging to Horwood. Dunn was discharged as there was no evidence against him; the other two were remanded to appear again on the following Monday. At that hearing, it was stated that Andrews had been spending a lot of money on the day after the robbery. He and Horwood were committed to Gloucester Gaol, to await the Assizes.
Moses Horwood and James Andrews were tried at the Gloucestershire Summer Assizes, which commenced on 4 August 1841. They were charged with robbery in the Queen’s Hotel, Cheltenham, on 12 July. Samuel Young Griffith, the proprietor of the hotel, in evidence stated that ‘Harwood was a servant for some time in the house and knew every part of it. He had left the employment about five months prior to the burglary’. Several witnesses testified to seeing the men drinking in the Queen’s Hotel until the early hours of the morning. Both men were found guilty and sentenced to transportation. Andrews had a criminal record, as he had been imprisoned in 1838 for stealing a silver watch and a brace of pistols, but the judge sentenced Horwood to fifteen years and Andrews to ten, commenting that there was ‘a particular aggravation in the case of Harwood, as he had been employed by Mr Griffith, whose house he had robbed’.
Moving on to the criminal records, a search on Ancestry.co.uk of the Gloucestershire Gaol Records found that Moses ‘Harwood’ and James Andrews were both committed to Gloucester Gaol on 17 July 1841. Moses was aged 31 and described as having brown hair, grey eyes, a long visage and a freckled complexion. He was five feet six inches tall. He could read and write imperfectly and his occupation was ‘servant’. He was not a native of Cheltenham, as his parish was given as St Peters Oxford. His crime was listed as ‘burglariously breaking open the house of Samuel Young Griffith and feloniously stealing fifty-seven sovereigns and several orders and badges, the property of Sir Willoughby Cotton KCB’. His behaviour whilst in gaol had been ‘orderly’. James Andrews was 32 and from Cheltenham.
Horwood and Andrews also were listed in the Gloucester Prison Penitentiary Registers in 1841. James Horwood was described here as being from Cheltenham and his occupation was given as ‘Porter’. He and Andrews were removed from Gloucester on 27 August 1841 and sent to the Justitia Hulk at Woolwich, to await transportation. The Prison Hulk Registers (also on Ancestry) stated that Moses Horwood was married, a servant, and of good character and disposition. He and Andrews set sail for Australia on 17 November 1841, bound for Van Diemen’s Land.
A quick check of the 1841 Census revealed that Moses ‘Harwood’ was living in Cheltenham, described as a male servant, who was not born in the county. Living with him were his wife Ann and his children, Ann, aged 6 and Sarah, aged 5. It was not uncommon for married couples who were separated by transportation to be considered as single after a respectable number of years had gone by, and this presumably was the case with Moses Horwood, as he went on to marry again in Australia, and started a new family there.
British Newspaper Archive: Cheltenham Chronicle, 15 July 1841, 12 August 1841
Ancestry.co.uk: Gloucestershire Prison Records: County Gaol Registers, 1838-42, Summer Assizes 1841, no.139; Penitentiary Register, 1841-44, Summer Assizes 1841, no.114
Census Records, 1841 Census, England, Cheltenham, District 30.