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William Garratt A Transported Man


Colin Davison, one of our regular researchers, explored the fate of a man who was transported.

William Garratt was baptised at Roxton on 3rd July 1803. He was the illegitimate son of Mary Garratt, the widow of John Garratt, who died in 1797. The childhood of young William and his elder siblings was hard. His mother received financial relief from the overseers of the poor at Roxton on a regular basis from 1797 until 1812 when she married Samuel Kitchiner [ref.P28/12/6&7]. The sums of money paid to her varied but they were usually between four to six shillings, which would have been barely sufficient to feed and clothe the family.

On 21st April 1821 William married Mary Jarvis at Roxton Church and they had nine children who were baptised in the same parish between 1821 and 1838. William was a farm labourer. It was only after his marriage, as his family grew, that William was in frequent trouble with the law. He was charged with theft on five occasions between 1827 and 1839. His crimes included stealing wool, a wooden post and wheat! Following his conviction he was confined for short periods in Bedford County Gaol and Bedford Old House of Correction. The Bedford Gaol registers provide a physical description of William. He was of above average height for the period—5ft 7½ins, had light brown hair, blue or grey eyes, and a pale complexion. 


In 1839 the Court, perhaps frustrated with his repeated offending, sentenced him to 14 years transportation to Van Dieman’s Land [Tasmania] in Australia. He was transferred from Bedford Gaol to the prison hulk Warrior in January 1840 and in mid-April 1840 was received on board the convict ship ‘Asia’ at Woolwich along with 79 other prisoners. In total the Asia held 279 convicts from various prison hulks. The ship, with a guard of 42 soldiers, left London for Australia in late April. During the voyage James Wingate Johnson, the ship’s surgeon, kept a medical journal which is available at the National Archives [ref.ADM101/5/9]. The convicts were exercised daily and were presumably reasonably well fed because only 49 men were placed on the sick list during the three month journey. They were largely prisoners but four were soldiers. Most of the men recovered from their illnesses but five died. William is not included on the sick list so it would seem that he completed the journey in reasonable health.

The Asia arrived at Hobart, Tasmania, in early August 1840. William’s convict records in Australia indicate that he was not confined to prison. Instead he was required to work in a government labour gang for a period ‘on probation’. In September 1846 he was granted a ticket of leave by the Lieutenant Governor of Tasmania, which entitled him to work for wages. He was still required, however, to report for regular musters to ensure he had not absconded. In January 1849 William was granted a conditional pardon by the Crown, which provided him with greater freedom but prevented him from returning to England. At the end of their sentence, a transported convict was entitled to receive a Certificate of Freedom to confirm he was a free man. William collected his in person on 12th May 1854.The convict records also reveal that William made an application to the

Tasmanian authorities to bring his wife and children out to Australia from England [TNA ref.CO386/154]. This is undated but it is likely to be after he received his conditional pardon.

In 1852 the Bedford Poor Law Union minute book [ref.PUBM9] records that Mary Garratt, wife of William Garratt of Roxton, had received a letter from her husband wishing her to emigrate with her family to Tasmania. Samuel Wing, the clerk of the Union was instructed to write to the Colonial Office in London asking for

permission for Mary to do so, provided that funds could be found for the voyage. A transcript of this letter can be found in the out-letter book of the Poor Law Union [ref. PUBC1/4]. The responses Samuel Wing received from the Colonial Office are recorded in the in-letter book [ref.PUBC2/6/1. The State agreed to pay half the cost of the passage for William’s family provided the parish authorities paid the balance in addition to the required clothing and expenses for the journey. The cost was £7.10s for each person over 14 years old and £3.15s for each person between the ages of one and 14. The outfit list consisted of the following:

  • Clothing required for the voyage to Australia:
  • The emigrants must bring their own clothing which will be inspected at the port by an officer of the Commissioners and all parties are particularly to observe that they will not be allowed to embark unless they provide themselves with sufficient supply for their health during the voyage. The lowest quantity that can be admitted for each person is as follows; 
  • For Males: 6 shirts, 6 pairs stockings, 2 pairs shoes*, 2 complete suits of exterior clothing, 1 pair of sheets, 3 towels.
  • For Females: 6 shifts, 2 flannel petticoats, 6 pair stockings, 2 pairs shoes*, 2 gowns, 1 pair of sheets, 3 towels.
  • *shoes or slippers are more convenient for use on board (rather ) than boots.

It is not known if the required funds were provided allowing Mary Garratt and some of her children to emigrate. However, it seems unlikely because the form that should have been completed is blank. Some of her older children certainly remained in England but Mary is absent from the 1861 and 1871 Census returns for Roxton. There is, however, a burial entry for William Garratt, at Roxton in 1879, aged about 79, so perhaps William returned to be reunited with his family?