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Transport me like a man

The Bedford Gaol database helped one of our visitors to the Archives Service searchroom discover the extraordinary story behind the transportation of one of her ancestors. It showed George Sherrington, a tramp from Stockport, arrested in Bedford and charged with theft.

We looked up the report of his trial in the Bedfordshire Times of 7 November 1846. George had strenuously denied the charge of stealing half a sovereign, and made a speech to the Court, which the paper reported as follows: He stated ‘The law was not properly administered according to the Mosaic law as it should be. For in Deuteronomy it said a man should not be convicted except by the testimony of two or more witnesses; and in this case there was not direct evidence from that number. He was sure that, if the case had been brought before the Old Bailey, it would have been thrown out. He urged the jury not just to lay their heads together and smile, as some juries did, and then say guilty; the word came out smoothly for them but was bitter as gall to the prisoner, who had to suffer in a silent cell for days , and weeks, and months. They ought not to judge of the outward appearance of a man, but act as conscientious men, and return a verdict only upon real evidence given.’

The jury appeared unmoved by this and returned a verdict of Guilty, and he was sentenced to six months imprisonment. 

He responded, ‘Transport me like a man, for, if you don’t, I’ll murder the first man that comes across me in the gaol. You have convicted me unlawfully, and I’d sooner be led to the gallows, or have my brains blown out, than serve such a time as that in such a gaol. —— your blood and hearts, all of you.’ He then left the dock, ‘swearing awfully’.

He was recalled to the bar, where the Recorder said, for the benefit of the public, he had re-considered the sentence, and the Court thought it would be better to transport him for seven years, and the sentence would stand so accordingly. Prisoner: ‘Thank you, sir, that’s behaving like a man.’