Reginald Godfrey Crockett

Reginald Godfrey Crockett was born in Abenhall near Mitcheldean in the Forest of Dean in 1896. He was the eldest son of Ernest and Elizabeth Crockett and had eleven younger sisters and two younger brothers. His father worked as a general labourer in local quarries and at Mitcheldean cement works. This essay provides an outline of his criminal career including details of events in his early history that may have impacted on his relationship with authority and the life choices he made.

Reginald Crockett started getting into trouble with the authorities at a young age. In July 1908, he was up before Littledean magistrates for the theft, committed jointly with a friend, of 2 shillings(s) worth of peas from a farmer’s field. He was bound over to the sum of £5 plus 10s costs.[1] In October 1908, he was bound over by Littledean magistrates and fined 8s costs for letting off fireworks on a public highway.[2] These sums were equivalent to about two days of wages and probably had to be paid for by his father. On 25 August 1911, Crockett appeared before Littledean magistrates accused of entering “enclosed premises” and was bound over.

In 1911, Reginald Crockett was working as a labourer at Mitcheldean cement works where his father also worked and by 1912, at the age of 17, he was living in lodgings. In November 1912, he was charged with stealing a watch that had been left attached to a motorbike in Mitcheldean. He pleaded guilty at Littledean magistrate’s court and was sentenced to one month in prison as “his record was a bad one”.[3]

World War One

In 1914, Crockett was living in Tredegar and working at Graham’s Navigation Colliery. On 26 October 1914, he joined the 5th (Reserve) Battalion Manchester Regiment and then transferred to the 3rd Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment. He was posted to France on 13 February 1915 where the 3rd Battalion of Monmouthshire suffered heavy casualties at the Second Battle of Ypres when British troops were subjected to German chlorine-gas attacks. Private W. Hay of the Royal Scots arrived in Ypres just after the chlorine-gas attack on 22 April 1915 and described what he saw:

“We knew there was something was wrong. We started to march towards Ypres but we couldn’t get past on the road with refugees coming down the road. We went along the railway line to Ypres and there were people, civilians and soldiers, lying along the roadside in a terrible state. We heard them say it was gas. We didn’t know what the hell gas was. When we got to Ypres, we found a lot of Canadians lying there dead from gas the day before, poor devils, and it was quite a horrible sight for us young men. I was only twenty so it was quite traumatic and I’ve never forgotten nor ever will forget it.”[4]

Lance Sergeant Elmer Cotton described the effects of chlorine gas:

“It produces a flooding of the lungs – it is an equivalent death to drowning only on dry land. The effects are these – a splitting headache and terrific thirst (to drink water is instant death), a knife edge of pain in the lungs and the coughing up of a greenish froth off the stomach and the lungs, ending finally in insensibility and death. The colour of the skin from white turns a greenish black and yellow, the tongue protrudes and the eyes assume a glassy stare. It is a fiendish death to die.” [5]

On 8th May 1915 during the 2nd Battle of Ypres, the 3rd Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment made one of the most gallant stands in military history when in obeying the order to stand to the last man, the battalion was practically annihilated, without giving an inch of ground to the enemy, the battalion lost 703 in killed and wounded; all but a handful of officers and men remained. The survivors were merged with those of the 2nd Battalion Monmouthshire Regiment which had suffered a similar fate.[6] Around this time Crockett was shot in the head and was returned to Britain wounded on 12 May 1915.

On 3 September 1915, Crockett was brought before a court-martial in Abergavenny and sentenced to 42 days in a military prison for theft and a miscellaneous range of other offences.[7] On 12 October 1915, in Abergavenny, Crockett married 26-year-old Winifred Finch originally from Dudley who had moved with her family to Gloucester where her father worked as a foundry manager.[8]

At some same stage over the winter, Crockett deserted and went on the run. He later claimed that he was encouraged to desert by his wife. However, by April he had been captured and on 17 April 1916, Crockett was court-martialled at Oswestry. He was found guilty on three accounts of going absent without leave and two accounts of theft and sentenced to 12 weeks in a military prison.[9] Military prison discipline at this time was particularly harsh.

He was discharged from the army on 1 February 1917 either because of his health or because the army felt he was unfit to be a soldier. Crockett is listed as receiving the 1914 – 1915 Star Medal, British War Medal and the Victory Medal.[10]

Horse Theft

Crockett returned to the Forest of Dean and began a career as a horse thief. Stealing horses had a long history in Gloucestershire mainly because it was an attractive crime for the destitute rural poor and enabled them to make a quick profit for little effort. Horses were left out in fields overnight and could easily be taken and sold for a good price at nearby markets. In 1915 a horse could be sold for about £50 which is equivalent to about £6000 in today’s money. It was a very risky undertaking as it involved heavy penalties. However, it was probably far more widespread than the conviction figures suggest as most offenders were probably not caught.

In the years 1735-1799, the Gloucester Assizes passed 615 death sentences which led to 121 hangings, including 21 for horse theft and 13 for sheep theft. At this time horses were usually owned by the local gentry and it was they who sat at the Assizes as judge and jury. They were determined to prevent the loss of their property and believed hanging would be an effective deterrent.

Not all cases of animal theft during this period resulted in execution and by the 1830s, in most cases, the death sentences were commuted to transportation for life. However, in some cases executions for animal theft continued with 12 hangings for horse theft, 6 for sheep theft and one for cattle theft in Gloucester between 1800 and 1826. The last hanging in Britain for sheep theft was in 1831 and for horse theft in 1829.[11]

After 1832, those convicted of animal theft were usually transported.  There were 1,680 men and women transported from Gloucestershire (including Bristol) to Australia between the years 1783-1842, many of these for animal theft.[12] There were about 60 men and women transported from the Forest of Dean area between 1783-1842 and about one-third of these were for animal theft.[13] Transportation continued up to the 1860s, after which offenders were subjected to a punishment of hard labour in a prison.


In July 1917, Crockett was arrested for the theft of some harnesses from several local premises in the Forest of Dean. He was identified after being spotted on one of the premises and also for taking a harness to be altered at a local shop.  Harnesses were essential items for horse theft and it was likely he planned to use them for this purpose.

Crockett was easily identifiable as he was 5ft 7in high with war wounds which left a large scar on the side of his neck and the top part of one finger missing. He appeared before the Littledean magistrate, Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel Kerr, and pleaded that he had spent two years in the trenches and had been wounded and gassed four times and as a result didn’t even know what he was doing sometimes.[14] He said he knew he was entitled to no mercy but asked to be fined rather than sent to prison. Kerr, who owned a number of horses and enjoyed hunting, sentenced him to two months in prison.[15]

On his release, Crockett spent the next few years in South Wales around Ebbw Vale and was involved in more petty crime appearing before the courts on three separate occasions, resulting in three separate spells in prison of six months. In one case, on 12 September 1918, he was sentenced to six months in prison for stealing a harness implying he was still planning to steal horses.


On Crockett’s release from prison, Winifred refused to have anything to do with him. On 26 February 1919, he approached her in the street near her house on Landsdown Road in Gloucester resulting in an alternation. Winifred accused Crockett of grabbing her by the arm. On the other hand, he accused her of attacking him with a hatpin and poker when he returned later to collect his belongings. Gloucestershire Echo 22 March 1919 reported that they both issued summons against each other for assault but withdrew them during the hearing before a magistrate when it was revealed that they had agreed to get a divorce.

At the hearing, Crockett gave his address as High Street, Mitcheldean but it can be assumed his family also did not want to help him because he was now homeless, A week later was arrested for horse theft.[16] On 9 April 1919, he was brought before the Gloucester Quarter Sessions where he was charged with stealing a horse valued at £55 from a field in Longlevens near Gloucester on 25 March. Witnesses confirmed he travelled with the horse by train to Newport where he sold it for £47. Crockett was found guilty and, after admitting to another charge of horse theft on 6 March, was sentenced to twelve months with hard labour in Gloucester prison.[17]

Crockett was released on 2 February 1920 and told the authorities that he planned to live in Gloucester and work as a labourer. However, in March 1920, he was arrested again for theft of a horse valued at £89 and was committed for trial before the Herefordshire Quarter Sessions.[18] The actual theft could not be proved and so, on 5 April 1920, he was sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to receiving a stolen horse.[19] The Dean Forest Mercury reported:

“Reginald Godfrey Crockett, a Forest of Dean and Gloucester man, before he was sentenced to fifteen months imprisonment with hard labour at Hereford Quarter Sessions on Monday, said he had been twice wounded in the war and had been gas poisoned and suffered from shell shock. He pleaded guilty to the second of two charges – receiving a horse knowing it was stolen. He sold it to a Gloucester farmer for £50 and represented he had bought it from Dick Smith a Ruardean gipsy. The gipsy could not however be traced. The horse disappeared from Holmer, near Hereford and after the Gloucester farmer sold it to a Rodd farmer for £62 at Gloucester market it was reclaimed and the later lost his money. A detective said the prisoner who wore the 1914-1915 ribbon had spent some of his army life in prison and when convicted at Gloucester, 13 months or more ago, for horse stealing, and sentenced to 12 months imprisonment he admitted to having been convicted at Ebbw Vale and sentenced to three terms of six months each.”[20] 

However, it was not long after being released from prison he was again being sought by police for horse theft. This from the Police Gazette:


In 1922, Crockett was living in London and in trouble with the law. On 26 April 1922, he was up before the Central Criminal Court in London accused of stealing 120 bags of onions worth £130, using a forged delivery order. He was sent to Wandsworth prison for nine months of hard labour after two cases of stealing horses were taken into consideration. On his release on 11 December 1922, he claimed he was planning to return to Mitcheldean to work as a greengrocer.

However, in 1923 he was living in St Pancreas in London. On 23 September 1924, at the Central Criminal Court, he was sentenced to eighteen months in Wandsworth prison for obtaining wireless accessories, 100 headphones and credit by fraud. He was released on 24 December 1925 and told the authorities he planned to work as a painter in Euston.[21]

In July 1926, he was arrested under the alias Reginald Charles Turner with two accomplices and charged at the Winslow Petty Sessions with several burglaries in the Buckinghamshire area. He was arrested  after the car was seen driving fast and crashing into a lamp post outside the Royal Buckingham Hospital. The car was subsequently stopped at a police roadblock. Crockett’s records state that:

“With confederates, one of whom was a woman, he drove in a motor car to various provincial towns and called at garages where he made a small purchase and at the same time observed where the petrol and oil stores were situated then, later, called and broke into the garages and stole petrol and oil, etc.  In some cases, left the car in a field some distance from the scene of the crime. He often approached the premises from the rear, and in one case cut through bolts, holding swing doors, with a hack saw whilst in others forced doors with a screwdriver.”[22]

The gang were also accused of breaking into a counting house and stealing a number of tins of petrol, postage stamps and other articles. Crockett was now aged 30 and his accomplices were Edith Mann, aged 25, who said she had lived with Crockett for some time and Walter Jack Watson, aged 27. The Buckingham Advertiser and Free Press 16 October 1926 described the trial at the Buckingham Quarter Sessions:

“The jury returned verdicts of guilty on each count against all the prisoners and recommended leniency for the girl. No evidence was called in respect of the charge of entering a garage at Watford. Turner admitted a conviction at Hereford under the name of Crockett. Supt. Callaway said that Turner’s real name was Reginald George Crockett. He read out a list of previous convictions against him dating from 1908. He was a married man living apart from his wife. He had been co-habiting with Mann. They had no fixed address and left their last address on the date of the Winslow offence. He was the cause of the girl’s downfall. She had never been previously convicted, neither had Watson, who had lived a respectable life until he became acquainted with Crockett. The Chairman remarked that Crockett was the one who appeared to have led the others astray. Crockett was sentenced to three years penal servitude in Dartmoor prison. Watson and Mann were bound over for 12 months.” [23]

Crockett was released on licence on 16 January 1929 and moved to Gloucester where he planned to get a job as a driver. He was back in the Forest by March 1929, when he was charged with stealing a cycle and Exide battery in Cinderford.[24] He was arrested and brought before Gloucester Quarter Sessions in early April and found not guilty and released. However, he was now homeless and set out towards Oxfordshire sleeping rough, living a life on the roads as a tramp and surviving by theft. He no longer was able to keep up with the supervision order as directed by the courts. It wasn’t long before he was arrested and charged with a series of offences linked to sheep thefts in the area.

Sheep Theft

Sheep were commonly kept by farmers in Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire and were easy targets for thieves. However, each owner marked his sheep with an easily identifiable signature and so they were difficult to sell and easy to trace. In June 1929, Crockett was arrested for stealing 42 sheep while tramping in Oxfordshire. He stole the sheep and lambs from four separate fields owned by different farmers near Deddington and then drove the sheep to Banbury and sold them under an assumed name. He was arrested before he could cash in the cheque.[25] He appeared before the Oxford Quarter sessions on 2 July 1929 charged with stealing 42 sheep. He was sentenced to three years in prison and four months for failing to report to the police under the supervising order from his previous conviction.[26]

In addition, on 1 August 1929, Crocket was committed to appear before Gloucester Quarter Sessions for stealing 22 sheep from a farmer in Forthampton and sold them at Upton-on- Severn market.[27] The sheep were easily identifiable by their markings and Crockett was identified as the man who sold the sheep. The Tewkesbury Register reported the case:

“Inspector R. J. Hedges said the prisoner was a native of Mitcheldean and had led a life of crime. Whilst in the army he was three times convicted of theft, and since had been convicted in 1918 (six months), 1919 (12 months), 1920 (15 months), 1922 (9 months), 1924 (18 months), 1926 (three years’ penal servitude and 6 months’ imprisonment). It was explained that the last sentence was passed at Oxford Sessions when various cases were taken into consideration. For certain reasons that case was not included. The Recorder said that prisoner wrote an excellent letter and produced a statement by him. The handwriting was excellent, and it contained at least one Latin quotation which was perfectly correct. Instead of taking advantage of his education, he had apparently drifted into a life of crime. He would be sentenced to three years’ penal servitude to run concurrently with the present sentence, which meant his punishment would not be increased.  An order for the restitution of the sheep was made.”[28]

Subsequently, Crockett was transferred from Gloucester prison to Dartmoor prison. Crockett was released on 6 June 1932 and told the authorities he planned to live in Gloucester and work as a stud groom. However, he ended up living in Shepherds Bush in London and was unemployed for some time until he obtained the role of a detective at a film studio at Shepherds Bush. He was sacked after a week because his services were not deemed satisfactory. He then set himself up as a general dealer in Shepherds Bush where he appeared to live with a variety of women listed on the electoral register as living at Crockett’s various addresses in Shepherds Bush and Hammersmith: Nancy Crockett in 1934, Annie Crockett in 1935 and 1936, Nancy Crockett in 1937, Alice Crockett in 1938 and Edith Crockett in 1939.

Shepherds Bush

In October 1934, Crockett was arrested and charged with sheep theft with his brother Clarence as an accomplice. He was brought before the magistrates at Northleach where it was alleged that on 27-28 July, he stole six lambs from the Stowell Park Estate in Yarworth near Cheltenham. A description of the lambs was circulated and in August they were found in the possession of Clarence Crockett who lived in Mitcheldean and was an animal dealer. Clarence claimed he had bought them from his brother. Witnesses provided a statement that they saw the two men together with lambs in Mitcheldean.  The police went to Shepherds Bush and examined Crockett’s van and found sheep manure and wool inside. Reginald Crockett was committed for trial at Gloucester Quarter Sessions and the case against Clarence was dismissed.[29] At his trial, Crockett claimed he had bought the lambs from a man named Young but the Jury did not believe him and the judge said:

“You have a very long list of convictions. There are three sentences of penal servitude, and the last two are for sheep stealing. Three years of penal servitude does not seem to stop you, and the decision of the court is that you will receive four years of penal servitude.” [30]

However, he was released by early 1936 and moved back to London where he was now part of a network of criminals stealing and fencing stolen goods. In March 1936 he was up before Uxbridge Police Court with two other men for breaking in and stealing a large number of shoes and hosiery from Freeman, Hardy and Willis in Kingsbury near London valued at £117 on 24 February. They were also charged with breaking and entering and stealing shoes and other items to the value of £186 from the True Form shop in Eastcote near London on 11 March. Crockett and two associates, all hardened criminals with a long history of convictions, were known to the police who searched their flats and discovered the stolen goods. The three men were committed to appear before the Middlesex Assizes in June where they claimed they had bought the goods from an unknown person. The court was unable to prove burglary and theft and so Crockett was found guilty of receiving and sentenced to 18 months in prison while the other two received lesser sentences of 12 months and 9 months.[31]

In February 1939 Crockett, now living in Hammersmith, was implicated in the theft of a large number of gloves, valued at £432, from a glove factory in Yeovil.  The gloves were found in a glove shop owned by Lewis Rutter in Hammersmith market and he was arrested. Rutter claimed he bought the gloves for £43 from a man called Reg Crockett. Rutter was committed for trial at Somerset Quarter Assizes charged with receiving stolen goods. [32]

At Rutter’s trial at the end of February, his defence asked Detective Bradford, the investigating officer from the Flying Squad if Crockett had twelve previous convictions for receiving stolen goods. Bradford agreed Crockett had a number of previous convictions. The defence then asked Bradford if Crockett was known in the vernacular as a copper’s nark (a police informer). Bradford refused to answer.

In October 1942, Crockett married Edith Emily Bull, the daughter of a labourer from Dilton Marsh in Wiltshire and was living in a large house in Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey.[33] It is possible this was the Edith with whom he shared a flat in 1939. Reginald Godfrey Crockett died in Richmond-upon-Thames in May 1974 leaving a sum of £18,725 (£230,000 in today’s money).

It is hard to say if Crockett’s experiences as a soldier during world war one and the injuries he received impacted on his relationship with authority and his choices to commit crimes. However, there is no evidence that he received any help to overcome the trauma he had experienced or any attempt at rehabilitation. He spent approximately 18 years in prison. His career as a serial offender highlights the failure of a criminal justice system at the time which was based purely on retribution and prison.

Crime Sentence Conviction Date
Theft of Peas Bound over July 1908
Letting off Fireworks 8s costs October 1908
Entering an enclosed premise. Bound over 25 August 1911
Stealing a watch One month in prison November 1912,
Theft 42 days in a military prison 3 September 1915
Three accounts of going absent without leave and two accounts of theft 12 weeks in a military prison 17 April 1916
Theft of some harnesses 2 months in prison July 1917
Crime in Ebbw Vale 6 months in prison 1917/18
Crime in Ebbw Vale 6 months in prison 1918
Theft of some harnesses In Ebbw Vale 6 months in prison 12 September 1918
Theft of a horse 12 months with hard labour 9 April 1919
Receiving a stolen horse 18 months in prison 5 April 1920,
Theft of onions and forgery. 9 months of hard labour 26 April 1922
Theft of wireless accessories and fraud. 18 months in prison 23 September 1924.
Burglaries and theft 3 years in prison October 1926
Sheep theft 3 years in prison 2 July 1929
Sheep theft 4 years in prison October 1934,
Receiving stolen goods 18 months in prison June 1936

[1] Gloucester Journal 1 August 1908. [2] Gloucester Journal 24 October 1908. [3] Gloucester Journal 23 November 1912. [4] Wikipedia. [5] Girard, Marion  A Strange and Formidable Weapon: British Responses to World War I Poison Gas (University of Nebraska Press, 2008). [6] [7] Fold 3 via Ancestry. [8] Gloucester Journal 16 October 1915. [9] Fold 3 via Ancestry. [10] Ancestry [11] [12] Iren Wyatt, The transportees from Gloucestershire to Australia 1783-1842 (Bristol: Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, 1988) [13] Ibid and Ancestry. [14] The policy of appointing Honoraries was designed to enlist the interest and sympathy of ‘gentlemen’ of position and wealth by connecting them to the Regiment. They sat on advisory committees and attended social functions. [15] Gloucester Journal 21 July 1917. [16] Gloucester Journal 5 April 1919. [17] Gloucester Journal 12 April 1919. [18] Gloucester Journal 27 March 1920. [19] Gloucester Journal 10 April 1920. [20] Dean Forest Mercury 9 April 1920. [21] Ancestry. [22] Ibid. [23] Buckingham Advertiser and Free Press 16 October 1926. [24] Gloucester Citizen 16 March 1929. [25] Birmingham Daily Gazette 28 June 1929. [26] Banbury Advertiser 4 July 1929. [27] Gloucester Citizen 2 August 1929. [28] The Tewkesbury Register, and Agricultural Gazette 24 August 1929. [29] Cheltenham Chronicle 11 August 1934. [30] Gloucester Journal 13 November 1934. [31] Uxbridge & W. Drayton Gazette 20 March 1936, 3 April 1936 and Friday 12 June 1936. [32] Western Morning News 8 February 1939. [33]Wiltshire Times and Trowbridge Advertiser 2 January 1943.

Transported Convicts (1789-1826)

John Mayo

John Mayo was born in 1799 and lived in Coleford where he worked as a hairdresser. On 2 August 1817, at the age of 17, he was condemned to death for entering a house in St Briavels and stealing an ebony flute valued at 20 shillings the property of James Davies. However, he was reprieved and no other sentence was imposed having spent about six months on remand.

On 31 Aug 1818, he was sentenced to be transported for seven years for breaking into a house in Cheltenham and stealing a silver-plated urn valued at 5 shillings with Daniel Powell, aged 27 from Trelleck, who was also transported for seven years. He was transferred to the hulk, the Justitia and then to the Baring which set sail for New South Wales on 27 January 1819 and arrived on 26 June 1819.

In 1804, following the uprising at Castle Hill, a permanent settlement was established at Newcastle to house convicts who re-offended in the Colony. Until it closed in 1822 the Newcastle settlement functioned principally as a place of secondary punishment for convicts sentenced by the courts for offences while serving their original (primary) sentence in the Colony. In November 1820, Mayo was convicted of theft and sent to Newcastle for 14 years.

John Mayo died on 24 June 1860 aged 64.

Transported Convicts (1826-1831)

John Harris (alias Poisefoot)

“John Harris (alias Poisefoot) was born in 1771 in Monmouthshire and lived at the Lonk, Joyford where he made a living as a small farmer and as an agricultural labourer. He was married to Ann and had six children. He was convicted twice for offences resulting in prison sentences. On 6 June 1826, he was charged with beating his wife Ann and as a result was discharged on condition of keeping the peace, especially towards Ann for two years. On 10 August 1831, he was convicted of maliciously drawing a trigger of a pistol with intent to murder and sentenced to death commuted to transportation for life. The incident occurred when an attempt was made to arrest him for his involvement in the June 1931 Forest of Dean riots led by Warren James. An account of his arrest was given by a ‘Resident Forester’ in The Life of Warren James:

A warrant was issued for his apprehension; but the known desperation of his character, made this undertaking to be looked upon in no very pleasing point of view. But William Watkins, the same who apprehended Warry, and who had been sworn in a special constable, had hardihood enough in his composition for offices however difficult and perilous; and he proceeded (accompanied by a keeper, of the name of Powell), to Harris’s house. A person, named Smith, also repaired there, to assist in his apprehension.

As they approached the house, Harris was eating his dinner: Watkins said, “Harris, I have a warrant against you, for pulling down the enclosures.” Harris came toward the door, and swore he would stick the knife he held into the first that came inside the house. Watkins, who was a man of a resolute turn of mind, was not to be deterred by threats, and he entered, followed by his assistants. “Harris”, said he, “you had better be quiet, and come along with me: you may easily get out of it by doing a little work, or finding bail at sessions.” Harris replied, “Who the devil will be bail for me? Get out, I tell thee, or it will be worse for all of ye.” Watkins replied, “This is of no use; I am come here to take you, and will not quit without you; so come quietly, it is as well.”

Harris, at that moment, exchanging his knife into his left hand, and thrusting his right under his frock, pulled out a pistol, and swore he would blow out the brains of the first who came near him. He then cocked the pistol. Watkins attempted to get behind, for the purpose of securing him by the arms; but Harris at the moment turned round; exclaiming, “Keep Back!” and snapped the pistol at Watkins’s head: a spark flashed close to his eyes. Watkins immediately caught him in his arms, and threw him on the ground. A violent struggle now ensued: he was thrown down three several times, and in one of them, his face was cut against a chair; but he was busily employed, even when down, in cocking the pistol, which, alter some struggle, Powell succeeded in wresting from him; but so determined was he, that he made a desperate attempt to regain possession of it. He was then properly secured. Powell unloaded the pistol in the presence of the magistrates: there were two balls, and a great deal of powder in the barrel. Harris complained that ill language had been made use of to provoke him; but this charge is without foundation. He was immediately committed to prison.”

After a spell on the hulk, the Justitia, Harris was transferred to the Elizabeth III which set sail for Van Diemen’s Land on 7 October 1931 and arrived on 14 February 1832. He was initially detailed to public works and then assigned to various settlers. He obtained his ticket of leave on 13 July 1840 and conditional pardons on 15 September 1842, 9 May 1844 and 26 July 1845 with the condition that he did not return to Europe. Ralph Anstis picks up the story:

“What the old Welshman did for the next seven years is not known. He must either have saved enough money to pay for his passage back to England, or worked his way back. Back he certainly came, in spite of the terms of his pardon, because at the beginning of September 1852 he turned up in the Forest of Dean. He was now about 80 years old. He went up to the back door of the house where he had lived until his arrest over 20 years before — the very door on which Watkins had knocked when he had come to arrest him in 1831. His reception by his family was less than rapturous. On seeing him, his son, who no doubt had assumed that he had died years before, was at first surprised, then dismayed, and finally annoyed. He had taken over the house and had been living in it with his family for 20 years, and was clearly in no mood to relinquish possession of it. There was a quarrel about who was the rightful owner of the house and, within a week of Harris’s return, father and son were brought before Edward Machen as magistrate. When he was asked what he was doing in England, Harris replied that he had been given a pardon some 12 or 13 years earlier in Van Diemen’s Land but had lost it. Machen, suspicious but fair, wrote to the Home Office and asked whether Harris had, in fact, been pardoned. The Home Office said that he had, in 1845, but that the pardon was only a conditional one. Unfortunately, the remainder of the story cannot be discovered. Though he had broken the terms of his pardon by re-entering Europe, one cannot but marvel at the tenacity, courage and sheer physical strength of the old rascal who, at an advanced age and against all odds, had in seven years made his determined way home to the Forest of Dean from the other side of the earth.”
















Transported Convicts (1833-1835)

Elijah Elton

Elijah Elton was born in 1824 in Littledean and worked as a collier. On 5 Oct 1835, he was up in court for the theft of a chicken with two others. On 28 Jan 1836, he was convicted of stealing coal from Bilson Pit and sentenced to one month in Littledean prison. On 28 Jul 1838, he was convicted of stealing brass from James Bennett of St Briavels and sentenced to 6 months in prison and twice whipped. On 15 October 1839, he was sentenced to eight months in prison with two months in solitude and three times severely whipped for stealing a pair of stockings from Robert Silburn at Littledean.

On 5 January 1841, at the age of 17, he was convicted of picking the pockets of George Lucas and stealing 12s 9d. He was sentenced to be transported for ten years. On 21 January 1841, he was transferred to the hulk, Justitia and then after several months transferred to the Layton which set sail for Van Diemen’s Land on 9 April 1841 and arrived on 1 September 1841.

There is some confusion in the records from this point onwards as one of the records lists Elton as dying on the journey. However other records list him as obtaining his ticket of leave on 10 Aug 1847 and certificate of freedom 5 Apr 1852. More confusion is created by the fact that another convict called Elijah Elton arrived a year later.



Transported Convicts (1833-1835)

John Ambury

John Ambury (alias John Harwood, alias Docky) from Joyford was born in 1808. He first appears in court on 1821, when at the age of 13 he was sentenced to one month in prison for running away from his service as an apprentice. On 30 August 1827, he was sentenced to 12 months in prison for an assault with an attempt to commit a rape on Henrietta Pewter. In October 1828, he was sentenced to three years in prison for assault with the intent to commit rape on Rebecca Bennett from Milkwall.

On 16 April 1835, he was arrested for stealing a cock and held on remand until 30 June 1935 when he was acquitted. On 28 June 1836, he was sentenced to two years of hard labour in prison with the last month in solitude for assaulting a police officer, William Watkins, in Coleford.

On 21 Dec 1840, he arrested, along with William Harris and Samuel Jones, for burglary of the turnpike gate house of Thomas Davies of Newland and stealing a silver watch, a coat, a sovereign and cash. Davies worked for the Commissioner of Roads at the turnpike gate at Trow Green and the cash was the toll takings. Ambury was brought before Gloucester Assizes on 31 March 1841. The Cheltenham Chronicle 8 April 1841 reported:

“John Ambury, alias Harwood, 30, charged with burglariously breaking open entering the dwelling house of Thomas Davis, on the ICth Sept. 1839, Newland, and stealing a watch, sovereign, and other monies, his property. In this case, the prosecutor, who is a poor old man with only one arm, kept a turnpike gate near Newland, and on the night in question, he was awoken by a knocking at the door, and someone asked for a light for his pipe; he refused to give it, and soon afterwards his windows were broken, and four men entered his house; one of them took him by the neck, forced him down on the bed, and put a towel over his eyes. Having lighted a candle, they begin to ransack his pockets and box and took all his money and clothes. Two of the men have already been tried and convicted, and the prosecutor swore positively as to the prisoner being another, as he had the opportunity of seeing them all, the towel not wholly covering one of bis eyes. The prisoner was found guilty, and, after a suitable address from the Judge, was sentenced to transportation for life.”

On 4 May 1841, he was moved to the hulk, the Leviathan and was later transferred to the Tortoise which set sail from Plymouth on 28 September 1841 which arrived in Van Diemen’s Land on 19 Feb 1842. He told the authorities there that he was an engineer and that:

“I have been six years in prison altogether; once for 2 years for assaulting a constable; similar offence 2 years; 3 years for snowballing a young woman; flogged for abusing a chairman 372 lashes; it was for contempt at court that I was flogged”

He added that had also been in prison for:

“housebreaking and stealing 360 pounds from the commissioner of roads; I took the money from a box”

In March 1849, he absconded from Launceston and somehow made his way back to the Forest of Dean where the police eventually received a warrant for his arrest. The Gloucestershire Chronicle 8 May 1852 reported:

“William Matthews, of West Dean, and John Morgan, of Cinderford, the former a labourer and the latter a collier, were brought before P. Ducarel Esq., Coleford, charged with receiving the 26th ult a most notorious character, and an escaped convict, named John Ambury. alias Harwood, alias Docky, from the custody of P.C. Green, of Coleford. It appeared that Docky was tried at our spring assize, 1841, for a burglary committed at a tollgate in the parish of Newland, in 1839, and was sentenced to transportation for life, but he escaped and returned to his home at Joyford, in the Forest of Dean, a few months ago. It was generally thought had got leave, until a few days ago, when a warrant for his apprehension was put into the hands of the police and on Monday, the 26th ult., P.C. Green found that ho was at a beerhouse a short distance from Coleford, where he found him drinking. The constable told him his business, and took him by the collar to get him out the house, and tried to handcuff him. but Docky resisted, and Matthews, who has but one arm. swore he should not be taken, and took hold of the constable, who released himself from Matthews and got Docky the door, opened it, and got him outside, when he with his knife tried to force the policeman’s eye out—happily the knife struck above the left eye and cut him very badly. He then threw Docky to the ground, knelt upon him. and drew his staff. The two prisoners, Matthews and Morgan, then came up and rescued Docky by taking hold of the constable’s staff, which he held in his right hand while holding with his left; and Docky cut the policeman’s left thumb, by which he still held Docky by the collar. This obliged the constable to loose his hold, the men dragging his staff from him. The policeman did not wait for his staff, but ran after him, but could not afterwards find him, neither has yet been retaken, although a 20/- reward is offered for his apprehension. The prisoners, Matthews and Morgan, were committed for trial at the next assize.”

However not long after he was caught and was back in Gloucester prison on 28 May 1852. The Gloucestershire Chronicle 5 June 1852 reported:

“A man named John Ambury, who is known also by the names of Harwood and Docky, was on the 28th ult. brought before J. P. Brickdak. Esq, Coleford, charged with being an escaped convict. It appeared that at the Spring Assizes of 1841the prisoner was tried for committing a burglary Trow Green tollgate and being found guilty, was sentenced to be transported for life. In pursuance of that sentence, he was sent to one of the penal settlements, from which, however, he subsequently contrived to escape, and returned to this country about twelve months ago since when he is believed to have committed several robberies. On the 26th of April last information of his escape was received from the authorities; a search for him was therefore instituted and he was arrested by P.C. Green at a beerhouse near Coleford. The convict then drew his knife and tried to “gouge” out the officer’s eye, and succeeded in cutting his hand very badly; other persons came to the brutal fellow’s rescue and he escaped, and though the most diligent search was made for him, he contrived to elude detection up to the 23rd ult., when he was arrested by the police at Wrexham, Denbighshire, from a description of him published in the Police Gazette. He was fully committed for trial at the ensuing assizes the charges of being an escaped convict and of having maliciously cut and wounded P.C. Green.”

On 5 August 1852, he was brought before Gloucester Assizes and sentenced to be transported for life for “being at large before the expiration of a term for which he had been transported” and maliciously wounding Mark Green on 26 April 1852 when attempting to make an arrest. He was held on a hulk but eventually transported on 16 April 1855 on the Adelaide which arrived in Western Australia in 1855. He is recorded as absconding on 22 September 1857.

He was given a ticket of leave on 21 December 1859 and a conditional pardon on 11 February 1861.



Transported Convicts (1789-1826) Uncategorized

Richard Aston

There is some confusion over which Richard Aston was transported and where he was born. The first piece of research below was done by Jennings and Evelyn Fish and Gill Webb and posted on Ancestry. However, the second piece of research below carried out by Huw Blake and posted on Ancestry highlights some inconsistencies and challenges their conclusions.


Transported Convicts (1826-1831)

Warren James


Transported Convicts (1833-1835)

John Hewlett

John Hewlett was born in 1822 Newnham and worked as a farm labourer. On 24 July 1934, he was sentenced to two weeks in prison for absconding from his service for 6 weeks. On 10 March, he was sentenced to one month in prison for absconding from his service again. On 20 July 1840, he was sentenced to six months in prison for robbing potatoes from a garden. On 3 March 1841, he was sentenced to be transported for 10 years for burglary and stealing 3 loaves of bread and a watch from John Harris in St Briavels.  After a spell on a hulk, he was transferred to the Tortoise which set sail for Van Diemen’s Land on 28 Sept 1841 and arrived on 19 February 1842.

He obtained his ticket of leave on 25 August 1847 and his certificate of freedom on 8 March 1852. On 12 September 1852, he caught a ship to Melbourne. John Hewlett died on 7 February 1871.


Transported Convicts (1826-1831)

Thomas Harris

Thomas Harris (Alias Thomas Nelmes) was born in 1815 and lived in St Briavels. On 28 March 1832, at the age of 16, he was sentenced to death commuted to life for the theft of two sheep with his brothers William and James the property of Jeremiah Smith. Thomas Harris had one previous conviction for the theft of a handkerchief resulting in whippings with 12 months in prison. On 1 May 1832, he was transferred to the hulk the Cumberland at Chatham and then he was transferred to the Surrey which set sail for Van Diemen’s Land on 5 November 1832 arriving 7 April 1933.


Transported Convicts (1789-1826)

Amos Meek

Amos Meek was born in 1787 and lived in Ruardean. He then moved to Monmouthshire where he worked as a shoemaker. On 17 Aug 1816, at the age of 29, he was sentenced to death commuted to transportation for life for the theft of a horse, the property of John Getten in the parish of Newland. After a spell on the Justitia at Woolwich, he was transferred to the Lord Eldon which set sail for New South Wales on 9 April 1917 and arrived on 30 September 1817.