John and William Richardson sailed for Bermuda on 23rd April 1844 on the prison hulk Thames. The voyage would have taken about a month and they would be joining other prison hulks already moored there.
Transportation to Bermuda began in 1824 with the arrival of the Antelope, followed by the Dromedary, Coromandel and Weymouth. US independence in 1776-1783 meant that Britain had lost its maritime bases there and gave Bermuda strategic importance. The first Royal Navy base was at St George’s, but the building of another base at Ireland Island was begun to replace the Royal Navy Dockyard at Halifax, Nova Scotia. Transported convicts were an ideal source of cheap labour.
The Thames was moored off St.George’s Island and held around three hundred prisoners. William and John would have worn a uniform with their name, number and origin printed on it along with the broad arrow usually associated with prison uniform. Their day would have consisted of hard labour in chains, hacking out limestone, the glare of which caused eye problems, and hauling heavy wagons. The hot, humid conditions were hard during the day, but worse at night aboard the hulks where the convicts were sometimes left gasping for air. This must have been a shock to the brothers who were used to the climate of North Yorkshire.
In total, around 9,000 convicts were transported to Bermuda, of which around 2,000 died. This was mostly due to the dire conditions which encouraged the spread of disease. There were several outbreaks of yellow fever during this time.
Unlike convicts sent to Australia there was no opportunity for parole for those in Bermuda; only in very exceptional circumstances was their sentence reduced. Most convicts returned home at the end of their term as they were not allowed to settle in Bermuda.
Unfortunately, this is where William’s and John’s story ends. I have yet to find their deaths, although there is a burial for a John Richardson of the right age at St Michael’s in Liverton, North Yorkshire on the 31st March 1869.
To find out more means a trip to the National Archives in Kew. They hold records relating to convicts in Bermuda such as:
Home Office: Convict Hulks, Convict Prisons and Criminal Lunatic Asylums: Quarterly Returns of Prisoners 1824-1876 HO 8
Convict Ship Medical Journals (c.1816-1856) ADM 101
Petitions For Mercy From Convicts & Their Relatives HO 17
Burials (1826-1848) ADM 6/434
For more information on Bermuda and its history of transportation try these links:
Picture Credit: http://www.bermuda-online.org/rnd.htm