The last time we met John & William Richardson, they had admitted their guilt to the York Assizes and were on their way to Millbank prison in London to await transportation for ten years.
Following their stay in Millbank they were moved to the prison hulk York moored off the Portsmouth coast. I found a record of them there on Ancestry.
The register notes they are men of ‘good character’ and also reveals that John was a joiner and William worked as a farmer and was married, which probably accounts for his distress on hearing his sentence. The register also records whether they were literate, but I can’t quite decipher that.
HMS York was launched in 1807 in the middle of the Napoleonic wars and had been involved in the occupation of Madeira and the capture of Martinique. In 1819 she was moored in Gosport harbour, where she was stripped of her masts and guns and converted to a prison ship. Prison ships or hulks were introduced as a response to increasing numbers of criminal convictions in this period and as a ‘holding pen’ for those awaiting transportation.
On arrival William & John would have been shackled in irons, apparently to discourage any ‘swimmers’. They may have been put to work in the dockyards during the day, returning to the York every evening. Conditions on board were dreadful. The York held up to five hundred prisoners in cold, cramped, dark and insanitary conditions. Diseases such as typhoid and cholera were rife and it is thought that as many as one in three prisoners died. In 1848 a serious rebellion broke out, resulting in the ringleaders being sent to land based prisons and the York being taken out of use and broken up in 1854.
However, according to the hulk register, the Richardson brothers had already left the York. On 20th of April 1844, they had sailed for Bermuda on another prison hulk, HMS Thames.
Picture Credit: Creator: Edward William Cooke Date: 1807 Credit line: National Maritime Museum, London
© Caroline Cox and Caroline’s Chronicles. 2011 – current year