Nearly all the following information in this article was kindly provided to me by Caroline Prosser-Lodge who is a decedent of Thomas Prosser-Lodge (2 x great grandfather). Some of the information has already appeared in an article by Caroline called The Search for Thomas Prosser, Convict published by the Gloucestershire Family History Society. The rest of the information has been discovered as a result of more recent research by Caroline.
Thomas Prosser was born in 1797 in Alvington, the son of James and Elizabeth. He worked as an agricultural labourer. He married Ann Powell in 1817 and had four children, James, William, John and George. Ann died in 1834.
There are several references to Prosser appearing in court on various charges in the period after the death of Ann. On 30 January 1837, he faced a charge of stealing a hay knife in Woolaston the property of J Davis but was found not guilty. However, just months later Prosser faced two charges of assault, both times in Alvington.
In April 1837, he was found guilty of assaulting William Ellway on 26 March 1837. He was fined 5 shillings, with 10 shillings costs, or a 14-day stint in Littledean House of Correction. He was judged on this occasion by Charles Bathurst and Rev. C.H. Morgan.
In September 1837, Prosser was once again found guilty of assault, this time against Joseph Evans. The magistrates G. Ormerod and Rev C.H. Morgan set his fine at 20 shillings plus 7 shillings and 6 pence costs. The alternative was a full month in Littledean prison. On neither occasion do the available records clarify if Prosser paid the fine, or went to Littledean, although given his circumstances the latter is perhaps the more likely outcome.
On 17 October 1838, at the age of 41 and 27 months after the death of his wife, he was sentenced to be transported for ten years for stealing two sheep belonging to Mr Willetts of High Wollaston.
The court report reveals that two sheep had gone missing on 19 September 1838. Their owner, William Willetts, identified them, despite their bearing different/altered marks, amongst a number of sheep brought for sale at the tack room in Lydney. In his defence at his trial in November 1838, one of the sons of Prosser, a boy of twelve or thirteen years of age, stated that he had seen his father purchase the sheep some days earlier in Chepstow. The lad claimed to have seen his father pay 25s each for them and had assisted him in driving them home. Neither father nor son’s testimony was believed and so Prosser was found guilty and subsequently being sentenced to transportation.
After a spell on a Ganymede Hulk at Woolwich, Prosser was transferred to the Layton which set sail for Van Diemen’s Land on 13 July 1839 arriving 7 December 1839.
The records show that Prosser went absent without leave in 1840 and consequently served 3 months of hard labour in a road gang at Brown’s River. In 1840 he was found in possession of alcohol and in 1842 he was sentenced to hard labour in chains for disobedience of orders and insolence. Other offences include misconduct and obtaining goods under false pretences. He received a ticket of leave on 1 January 1845 and a certificate of freedom on 4 November 1848.
After Prosser’s arrest and transportation his twelve-year-old son George went to live with his grandmother, Elizabeth (his grandfather James had died in 1834). George married Ann Williams in 1846 and went on to have five children.
Prosser’s sixteen-year-old son John went to live with the Peters family in Lydney and then the James family who ran a pub and a butcher’s business in Wollaston. John married Ellen Winston in 1856 and went on to have four children. It is unknown what happened to the other two children James and William.
It appears that after receiving his certificate of freedom Prosser moved from Tasmania to Victoria perhaps hoping to seek his fortune as part of the gold rush.
On 5 June 1858, The Argus (Melbourne, Victoria), cited the death of Thomas Prosser, a hawker /general dealer of Wabdullah. He was 61 years old. A subsequent entry in the same publication, dated 10 Feb 1859, summarises the decision of the Supreme Court of Victoria, regarding the disposition of the ‘goods, chattels, credits and effects of the above-named gentleman’ to solicitors acting on behalf of his sons, in England. These are detailed as John Prosser, of Woollastone in the county of Gloucester and George Prosser gamekeeper, the sons and next of kin of the deceased. It would also appear from the second newspaper entry that there may have been some degree of contact between father and sons over the intervening years.
Thomas Prosser was buried in an unmarked grave in the Eastern Cemetery in Geelong.