Black Sheep Sunday – Yorkshire Sheep Rustlers part IV

(For Part I click here)
(For Part II click here)
(For Part III click here)

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.

Part V

Picture Credit: Creator: Edward William Cooke  Date: 1807  Credit line: National Maritime Museum, London

Black Sheep Sunday – Yorkshire Sheep Rustling Part III

(For Part I click here)
(For Part II click here)

So John and William found themselves in York Castle prison, charged with two counts of sheep theft.  On 23rd of December 1843, the York Herald reported that they had pleaded guilty to both counts and William also admitted to having stolen a bay gelding from Robert Williamson the previous September.

Since 1742 theft of sheep and cattle had been a capital offence, but fortunately for the Richardson brothers by the 1840s capital punishment was reserved for only the most serious crimes of treason and murder.

At the York Winter Assizes, on 30th of December 1843, both brothers were sentenced to transportation for ten years.  The Herald noted that William was very distressed by this; and who could blame him?  It must have been a terrifying prospect.


At the end of January, William and John were taken to Millbank Prison, on the banks of the Thames in London, to await transportation.

Millbank Prison was the largest of the London prisons, and was frequently used as a ‘holding pen’ for those awaiting transportation.  Henry Mayhew, the social researcher, visited the prison in 1856 , and later published a vivid description of it:

Ahead is Vauxhall bridge, with its open iron work at the sides of the arches, and at its foot, at the back of the dismal Horseferry Road, lies the Milbank prison.
This immense yellow-brown mass of brick-work is surrounded by a low wall of the same material, above which is seen a multitude of small squarish windows, and a series of diminutive roofs of slate, like low retreating foreheads. There is a systematic irregularity about the in-and-out aspect of the building, which gives it the appearance of a gigantic puzzle; and altogether the Millbank prison may be said to be one of the most successful realizations, on a large scale, of the ugly in architecture, being an ungainly combination of the mad-house with the fortress style of building, for it has a series of martello-like towers, one at each of its many angles, and was originally surrounded by a moat, whilst its long lines of embrasure-like windows are barred, after the fashion of Bedlam and St. Luke’s.
At night the prison is nothing but a dark, shapeless structure, the hugeness of which is made more apparent by the bright yellow specks which shine from the casements. The Thames then rolls by like a flood of ink, spangled with the reflections from the lights of Vauxhall bridge, and the deep red lamps from those of the Millbank pier, which dart downwards into the stream, like the luminous trails of a rocket reversed.

Mayhew was given a tour of the prison and the procedure for admitting new prisoners was explained to him.  this must be fairly close to what William and John were faced with when they arrived:

The governor, on learning the object of our visit, directed one of the principal warders to conduct us through the several wards, and explain to us the various details of the prison.
“Millbank,” he said, in answer to a question we put to him, “is the receptacle for all the convicts of England, Wales, and Scotland, but not for those of Ireland, which has a convict establishment of its own.”
Males and females of all ages are received here, the prison being the depot for “convicts” of every description. When a man is convicted, and sentenced either to transportation or penal servitude, he remains in the prison in which he was confined previous to his trial, until such time as the order of the Secretary of State is forwarded for his removal; and he is then transferred to us, his “caption papers” (in which are stated the nature of his offence, the date of his conviction, and the length of his sentence) being sent with him. From this prison he is, after a time, removed to some “probationary” prison (to undergo a certain term of separate confinement) such as that at Pentonville, or to some such establishment in the country; and thence he goes to the public works either at Portland, Portsmouth, or the Hulks, or else he is transported to Gibraltar, Bermuda, or Western Australia, where he remains till the completion of his sentence.
On the arrival of the prisoners at Millbank, the governor informed us, they are examined by the surgeon, when, if pronounced free from contagious disease, they are placed in the reception ward, and afterwards distributed throughout the prison according to circumstances, having been previously bathed and examined, naked, as at Pentonville.
“If a prisoner be ordered to be placed in association on medical grounds,” added the governor, “the order is entered in the book in red ink, otherwise he is located in one of the various pentagons for six months, to undergo confinement in separate cell.”
On entering his cell, each prisoner’s hair is cut, and the rules of the prison are read over to him, the latter process being repeated every week, and the hair cut as often as required.

Millbank Prison

This must have been daunting to the brothers who probably hadn’t been out of Yorkshire before, but more was to follow….

Part IV
Part V

Newspaper Credit: The York Herald, and General Advertiser (York, England), Saturday, December 23, 1843; pg. 6; Issue 3717. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II

Newspaper Credit: The York Herald, and General Advertiser (York, England), Saturday, January 06, 1844; pg. 3; Issue 3719. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II.

Newspaper Credit: The York Herald, and General Advertiser (York, England), Saturday, February 03, 1844; pg. 6; Issue 3723. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II.

Griffin, Bohn and Co. London 1862

Black Sheep Sunday – Yorkshire Sheep Rustling. Part I

I’m fortunate that my place of employment has access to the British Library’s online newspaper archive.  One quiet lunchtime I decided to put ‘Liverton’ and ‘Richardson’ in as search terms and see if there was any mention of this family and place in the papers.

To my surprise the search returned a series of news reports on two Richardson brothers who had been caught stealing sheep in October 1843 from Moorsholm.

William (b. 1813) and John (b. 1816) Richardson were the sons of John Richardson and Hannah Shaw of Liverton.  I haven’t been able to find them in the 1841 census – there are too many of the same name to be sure of the right ones.  The later newspaper reports mention their father being from Liverton, so I am sure I have the right family.

On the 28th October 1843, the two brothers were brought up before the York magistrates on a charge of stealing sheep from a Mr W.L. Lewis of Castleton.  The sheep had been missed from their grazing on the moors and were later spotted by a servant of Mr Lewis, being sold by John Richardson in the market at York.  Once before the magistrates, John claimed he had purchased the sheep in Stockton-on-Tees from an unknown person the previous Wednesday.

The magistrate recommended that Mr Lewis be informed of the matter, and to investigate further.  As the case stood at the present time nothing could be proven against the brothers and so they were discharged, with the condition that they did not attempt to sell the sheep until notified.

To be continued…..
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V

photo credit: Jason Gillyon via photopin cc

newspaper credit: YORK POLICE.—GUILDHALL. The York Herald, and General Advertiser (York, England), Saturday, October 21, 1843; pg. 5; Issue 3708. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II

On This Day……

On this day  – 10th February – in 1857, my 3xgreat grandmother, Hannah Richardson died aged just 33.

She was born in Liverton, North Yorkshire in early 1824, the daughter of John Richardson and  Hannah Shaw.

Hannah worked as an agricultural labourer at Sandpit House in Milton during the 1840s and in 1846 she gave birth to her first child, a son, James, who was baptised at St. Michael’s church in Liverton. James is recorded in the Parish records as illegitimate – a family story suggests that his father was the son of a local landowner and if he had been legitimate would have inherited the land.

In 1848, Hannah gave birth to a daughter, Mary Jane.  By this time she is living in Staithes, North Yorkshire and working as a housekeeper for John Harrison, an ostler. In 1851 her third child is born, John Thomas. Her fourth child, my 2xgreat grandfather, Robert is born in 1855.

It can’t be proven that John Harrison was the father of Mary, John and Robert, but she was living in his house throughout this time.  In the records for St. Hilda’s in Hindewell, there are baptisms recorded for Mary and John; their parents are John and Hannah Harrison and the dates of baptism tie up nicely with their dates of birth.

Hannah died in Staithes – from consumption, her father, John, was present at her death.

Of Hannah’s children, James found work as a servant to the Hudson family in Loftus.  The three youngest children were in Guisborough workhouse for a time.  John and Robert became joinery apprentices which worked out well for both of them in their adult lives.  Mary married her first cousin once removed, William Garbutt Shaw and eventually settled in Derbyshire.

Tombstone Tuesday – Ancestors & Butterflies

Some time ago I visited Liverton in North Yorkshire, where my Richardson, Shaw and Dale ancestors hail from.

Looking around the churchyard for family gravestones, I spotted this one which belongs to my 4x great uncle James Richardson and his wife Margaret (nee Hudson).  He was born in Liverton in 1800 & died there on the 17th April 1887.

The inscription is difficult to read; this is a transcription:

Sacred to the memory of Margaret Elizabeth the beloved wife of James Richardson who died April 12th 1873 aged 67 years. Also the above James Richardson who died April 17th 1887 in the 87th year of his age

Soon after arriving at the church we were joined by a red admiral butterfly, which landed on the gravestone as I was photographing it and then followed us around the rest of the churchyard, only flying off when we left.  It felt freakily like the ancestors were watching!

Last October, for my birthday, my Aunt painted a picture of the butterfly and gravestone which I was delighted with!

Madness Monday – The Workhouse Blues

Missing records which could help in piecing together an ancestor’s life can be particularly maddening.

In my case it is the workhouse records for Guisborough Workhouse in North Yorkshire.

I found my Great-Great Grandfather Robert Richardson was a resident of the workhouse in the 1861 census.

Here he is with his older brother John:

I contacted Middlesbrough Archives and they very kindly sent me copies of the entries in the workhouse register that mention Robert, John and their sister Mary Jane:

John Thomas & Robert Richardson are admitted to Guisborough Workhouse on July 8th 1858.  They are admitted by order of the Board of Guardians and charged to Liverton Parish.
On August 24th 1858 they are discharged from the Workhouse – taken out by their father.
John Thomas, Robert & Mary Jane are admitted to the Workhouse again on October 21st 1858, all charged to Liverton they are described as ‘very dirty.’
Mary Jane is taken out of the Workhouse by her father on 20th November 1858.
On March 27th 1859, John Thomas is discharged under his own charges, then appears to go straight back in again ‘transferred from Liverton’ on the same day!
On June 21st 1859, John Thomas & Robert are again taken out of the Workhouse by their father.  John is under his own charges & Robert is charged to Liverton Parish.
But July 5th 1859 sees both boys readmitted to the Guisborough Workhouse by the Relieving Officer.  As above, John is under his own charges & Robert is charged to Liverton.

Robert next appears in the 1871 census, as an apprentice joiner to Thomas Armstrong in West Gate, Guisborough;

Unfortunately the workhouse registers for 1859 to 1866 are missing, so I have no idea of what happened to Robert and his siblings between 1861 and 1871 and the terms or circumstances of his apprenticeship. There are no apprenticeship papers either!
But I do know he was very successful in his trade a a joiner; eventually owning his own business in Nottingham & looking very well-to-do!

The Man Who Came Out of the Sea

I recently had a (very short) article published in the Loftus Town Crier  about a North Yorkshire based brick wall in my family tree.

Here’s the article: 
A distant cousin and I have been researching our family tree for quite some time, but our mutual ancestor, John Richardson, is proving to be a mystery, so I’d like to appeal for some help.

John, who died in 1846, lived in Liverton.  He married Hannah Dale in St. Michael’s church on the 24th April 1787 and by 1800 they had six children.  John is the first Richardson mentioned in the Liverton Parish registers and his name first appears written sideways across the page of the 1751 Baptisms.

John was aged 97 when he died, an impressive age for the time.  His widow Hannah lived with their youngest son James and his family in Skinningrove and was 89 when she died there in 1848.

John and Hannah appeared in the 1841 Census, aged 90 and 75 respectively, they are described as paupers.  This Census reveals that John was born in Scotland circa 1749.

We have heard, from two different branches of the family, two similar stories regarding John’s arrival in North Yorkshire.  Both stories state that he was press-ganged in Dundee whilst out celebrating the end of his joinery apprenticeship.  Where the stories differ is that one claims he was ship-wrecked off Skinningrove and swam ashore and the other suggests he jumped ship as it came in close to shore at Sandsend.

Some background reading suggests that the stories are feasible; there was press-ganging around this time in Dundee as well as many shipwrecks off the Skinningrove coastline.

A search at Scotland’s People hasn’t found a matching birth for John Richardson; it’s possible he may have changed his name if he had absconded from the Navy, in which case it would be very difficult to trace him any further back.

I‘d love to hear from anyone who has any information or advice they can offer, perhaps you’ve heard this story in your own family?  It would also be lovely to hear from anyone with family connections to the Liverton Richardson and Shaw families.

Since the article was published I’ve received four emails, all from distant relatives & one with further information on John Richardson.

So watch this space!