David Peach - our Tasmanian Convict Ancestor

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.  Not actually the Justitia, but the Discovery Prison Hulk also at Woolwich around about the same period.

It's time that I updated what I know about my 3rd great grandfather, David Peach.  What I have discovered about his life, since I last posted My transported great great great grandfather, some three years ago.

My Transported Ancestor, David Peach

David was baptised on the 11th February 1807, at the church of St Peter at Maxey, near to Peterborough, along the western edge of the East English Fens.


He was the son of John Peach, a shepherd and probable drover - himself baptised at St Peters, some 37 years earlier, and Ann Peach (née Sandall), originally from Thurlby, Lincolnshire.  It was a shepherd and droving family.  The Stamford area of the East Midlands was ideally suited for drovers to pick up livestock from the hills of Wales and Northern Britain, then to take them to the pastures of East Anglia, and perhaps later, to drive them down to the meat markets of London.  There were still few railways.  The traditional method of moving livestock across Britain was to employ some of Britain's "cowboys" - the drovers.  Shepherds and cattlemen, that with nothing more than their feet, and a few dogs, would walk the livestock across Britain.


David had at least three younger siblings born at Maxey between 1807 and 1812, including Mary Ann, Robert, and Hannah.  Hannah died age 12 months.

David followed his father's footsteps.  He became a shepherd and a drover.  I know that his family were sometimes driving livestock into the East Anglian County of Norfolk.  Here, much later, in the 1851 census are some of his relatives, captured staying in a mid-Norfolk inn:


It's not making too much of an assumption to suggest that on one such drove into East Anglia, around 1834, David met a Norfolk girl by the name of Sarah Riches - my 3rd great grandmother.  Sarah was from the Brecks village of Great Hockham, in South West Norfolk, not too far from the market town of Attleborough.  She was four years younger than David.  Her father was Benjamin Riches, a farm labourer that was born in Old Buckenham, Norfolk in 1779, and Elizabeth Riches (née Snelling), originally from the Norfolk village of Tibenham.  Elizabeth had eight siblings, a fairly large agricultural family.

Maybe Sarah was swept off of her feet by the stranger from across the Fens.  I'm guessing that she ran away with him, perhaps walking all the way back to the Maxey and Stamford area of the East Midlands.

On 31st March 1835, a pregnant Sarah, married David, at the little church of St Wilfrid at Holywell in Lincolnshire.


In late July that year, my 2nd great grandmother, Ann Peach was born to Sarah and David.  She was baptised at St Stephen, in the village of Etton to the north of modern Peterborough.  David now had a young family to support.

Then, in 1837, it all went very wrong.  Disaster struck the young family.

The thing about drovers, was that they were often trusted with driving livestock, worth far more than they could dream of earning.  These were very tough times for the poor to live in.  Land had been enclosed.  Many farm labourers had been replaced by the thresher machines during the Agricultural Revolution.  Indeed, riots had taken place across the South East countryside during 1830, as rural paupers took inspiration from revolutionary France.  Workhouses had replaced outdoor parish relief to paupers.  As the British Empire grew richer, even the English poor became poorer.

So perhaps, David felt some desperation on the 13th March 1837, when he apparently stole two oxen from a farmer named Thomas Congreve at Deeping Fen.  He was caught with the two bullocks 24 miles away, between Wisbech and Kings Lynn, following a tip off from someone that drank with him at an inn at Crowland.


David was in deep trouble.  He was tried at Lincoln Assizes.  He was found guilty on the 27th September 1837, and sentenced to transportation for Life.

David was moved to a prison hulk ship named The Justitia, that was moored in the Thames at Woolwich Warren:  These Thames Prison Hulks were notorious for their unsavoury living conditions.  The Justitia had been originally launched many years earlier as an East Indiaman named the Admiral Rainier.  It had been converted into a gun ship, an gun store ship, then finally, the old hulk was moored at the Woolwich Warren, and used to hold convicts in preparation for their transportation.


However, thankfully our 30 year old ancestor wasn't held in that hulk too long.  He was moved down river to the Neptune moored at Kent.  On the 4th October 1837, he boarded the Neptune for transportation to Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania).  This was a 644 ton merchant ship built in 1815.  According to her Wikipedia entry"On her first convict voyage, under the command of William Ferris and surgeon Joseph Steret, she departed Sheerness on the 7 October 1837 and arrived in Hobart on 18 January 1838.[3] She transported 200 male convicts, three of whom died en route.

Hobart town in 1841.  From the Tasmanian Archive on Flickr.  No known copyright restrictions.

A number of Australian convict records record David as arriving at Hobart in Tasmania, on the Neptune in January 1838.


A few years later, David - now a convict in Tasmania, ran into further trouble.  He stole a sheep.  Perhaps in desperation, he shared his slaughtered sheep with other convicts.  I guess, a shepherd, it came natural.  But he was caught.  And he was made an example of:


On the 9th April 1840, David was sentenced to a harsh seven years of hard labour, in chains, in the notorious penal colony of Port Arthur.  This was a horrible place.  A hard labour punishment colony on a Tasmanian peninsular, demarcated by rows of chained guard dogs.  Even in later existence, Port Arthur retained it's reputation as a prison.  David really had earned the next best punishment that the British Empire could offer to hanging.  Stealing two cattle in the East English Fens.  Now, whilst a convict in Tasmania, stealing a sheep and slaughtering it.  Seven years of hell:


But what was happening back in England to his Wife Sarah, and young daughter Ann?  There was little sympathy for the families of convicted and transported men.  It was hard times as it was.  The wife of such a man, could not legally marry again, nor divorce.  She was sentenced to Life of shame.  The awful irony, was that the transported convicts themselves, were allowed to remarry.

I think that Sarah and Ann somehow made it back home to Norfolk.  They would have had nothing but shame and disgrace in the Stamford area.  Did they walk all the way back?

Sarah and Ann were certainly back by 1839.  Sarah had a second son that she named "David Wilson Peach", apparently at Attleborough, Norfolk. She appears to have returned to her parent's household at Great Hockham, Norfolk on the 1841 census.  For some reason, her infant son is not recorded there, although her five year old daughter Ann is.  Her parents, although no doubt a struggling agricultural working class family, had taken them in.

You can only imagine Sarah's grief.  She'd most likely never hear of her husband again.  The sentence was harsher on his family.

Back in Tasmania, did David survive the chains of Port Arthur?

Yes, he did.  We have two solid evidences.

He appears to have moved north, to the Tasmanian district of Cornwall, to a place south of Launceston, called Longford.  I think that he survived as a shepherd and sheep shearer.

In 1846, David won the almighty prize sum of two Australian pounds in a sheep shearing competition in Launceston, Northern Tasmania.  It was first prize.  He'd come out of Port Arthur as a survivor, and as a highly skilled sheep shearer.  From a young drover in Eastern England.

Then in 1851, unfortunately, we lose our very last glimpse of our convict ancestor.  He was granted a conditional ticket of leave - freedom to roam Australia, but not to return to England.


He then disappears...

Maybe the Australian Gold Rush of New South Wales, where another David Peach starts to enter records in the 1880s, perhaps a son or grandson?  I'd love one day to find out where he wandered.  He was a drover.  drovers wander and walk, and walk.  I don't believe that his story ended in Longford, Tasmania, in 1851.  If anyone that can help ever reads this story - please contact me.

Meanwhile ... his wife and daughter back in Norfolk, England ...

Sarah couldn't remarry, as a widow would.  She was back in Attleborough, Norfolk.  Never to hear from David.  Or did she?  The Prison Hulk records, if they could be trusted, suggested that David was literate.  That would seem unlikely with regards to his class and the period, and at his marriage, he didn't sign - but neither with an X as did Sarah.  And there were family connections to be made.  Perhaps, when he swept Sarah off her feet, he didn't meet many or any of her family.  But how much of him did they know?  The Family gave sanctuary to Sarah and Ann.  They cared, or felt a responsibility.

The Launceston Immigration Aid Society 1855 - 1862

A group of congregationalists and anti-transportationists in Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) and Victoria formed this society, with the aim of attracting respectable and hard working new settlers to Van Diemen's Land, through a bounty resettlement scheme.  My father's ancestor David Peach, was a transported convict in Van Diemen's Land at this time, serving a life sentence after being found guilty at the Lincoln Assizes, of stealing two steers.  This new scheme hoped to attract "men and women who would leaven the labouring classes and become part of a stock that would supply the ever-increasing wants of a new and fertile country".  The Society focused on the rural labouring classes of East Anglia.

The Reverend Benjamin Drake sailed from Victoria to Eastern England in order to interview and select suitable migrants for the scheme.  Drake visited South-West Norfolk.  There he encountered members of my ancestral family from father's side.

My father's family board the Whirlwind

The Riches family had moved to Great Hockham, Norfolk, from the nearby parish of Old Buckenham.  Benjamin Riches was an agricultural labourer, born at Old Buckenham in 1779.  His wife Elizabeth Riches (nee Snelling) had given birth to at least nine children at Great Hockham between 1805 and 1825.

Drake must have interviewed some of their offspring at Hockham.  He offered a bounty resettlement package to Benjamin's son, my 4th great uncle, Henry Riches, his wife Harriet Riches (nee Hubbard), and to their three young sons, George, John, and Henry Riches.  They accepted.  Not only that, but an offer was made to Henry's older sister Maria Hudson (nee Riches), and to her family.  The two families, that most likely had never seen a ship, or had travelled more than a few miles, made their way from Norfolk to Plymouth over the 1854 Christmas holidays.  There they were to board a fast clipper ship called the Whirlwind.  The clipper embarked from Plymouth on the 4th January 1855, and made a fast 86 day passsage, and arrived at Launceston, Van Diemen's Land on the 5th April.  It wasn't all plain sailing however.  Read this, it doesn't sound good:

The emigrants have passed through a fearful ordeal. An accident to the rudder compelled the commander to put into Portsmouth, where the necessary repair could have been effected in a few hours, had not the use of the empty government dock been denied by the official personage in charge who eats the salt of that nation whose funds furnished the accommodation.

Scarletina broke out: its victims were removed to an inhospitable hulk, for which the British government charged a high price, forgetful of the first duties of humanity; inclement weather aggravated the disease, which assumed a serious type, and carried off a number of victims. Twenty- three died on the passage, and although the survivors are healthy and robust, the loss of relatives and friends casts a shade of sorrow on the enterprise. We deeply sympathise with the bereaved, and the painful circumstances in which Mr. Drake has been placed must evoke the kindest feelings of his friends. His was no mercenary mission, and though he may not calculate on the gratitude of those he has sought to benefit by a removal from comparative penury to immediate plenty and ultimate affluence, he has earned their respect, and will secure the esteem of the colonists. His position has been one of great responsibility, much risk, incessant anxiety, and no profit. When years have elapsed, he may expect adequate acknowledgment from those he has served, and not till then.

The captain, too, has had his trials: his crew have been in a state of insubordination in consequence of the proper and rigidly enforced rules that excluded the seamen from intercourse with the emigrants, and the sailors have, at the conclusion of the voyage, struck. The misguided men will soon learn that here their misconduct will not be countenanced—that punishment will visit the refractory—that extravagant pay no longer prevails, and that the gold-diggers, on the average, do not make ordinary wages.

We trust the hopes of the emigrants have not been unduly elated, and that they will be prepared to accommodate themselves, as thousands more affluent have done before them, to the exigencies of a new country. The farm labourer and mechanic will not be carried off by force at any wage they may demand: the unmarried females will not be surrounded by sighing lovers, solicitous to make then brides. Australia is a land where privations must be endured, and hard work encountered. At the end of the vista, which is not long, there is settlement and independence to the industrious, the economical, and sober. Every young woman will find a husband in process of time, but before she obtain a good one she must show by her behaviour she deserves him. Everything will be new to the emigrants; they must be surprised at nothing, and become quickly reconciled to the condition of the colony. If they display those qualifications of temper and aptitude which make people uselul they will be appreciated, and experience consideration and kindness from their employers, who will in general promote their welfare to the utmost. We repeat, hard work, frugality, and sobriety for a time will inevitably lead to independence; but those who seek the latter by the shortest line must be prepared to "rough it" for a season.

LAUNCESTON EXAMINER, Tuesday, April 3, 1855.

What intrigues me is that they had a relative already in Tasmania.  They must have known about him.  He was David Peach, Henry and Maria's brother-in-law.  David was married to their sister Sarah Peach (nee Riches).  He may have been on the other side of the island.  He had been transported to Holbart, then moved to Port Arthur, some 17 years earlier.  Did they ever meet?  He had been pardoned four years before the Riches arrived, but not granted Leave.  It was a Life sentence.  Did he manage to communicate with his wife, and daughter that he had left behind?  Did they get word of him back to their sister Sarah?

Two years after her husband was transported away, my 3rd great grandmother Sarah, now living in Attleborough, Norfolk, gave birth to a son.  She named him David Wilson Peach.  I'd hazard to guess that a Mr Wilson was the biological father.  However, she named him after her husband - David Peach.  She was trapped.  She could not remarry (although ironically the transported convicts could).  She worked hard the remainder of her life as a washer woman in Attleborough.

My mother's family board the Solway

Several years after the Whirlwind sailed from Plymouth, more of my family entered another ship under the same scheme.  My mother's family mainly lived at this time in the area of East Norfolk.  However, somehow, two sisters ended up working in service in South West Norfolk.  A family friend?  A trade fair?  They were both born to Thomas and Mary Ann Jarmy, who were parents-in-law of a fourth uncle of mine.  The Jarmy family lived for a while in Salhouse, Norfolk.  Although located in the Norfolk Broads, to the north east of the City of Norwich, two daughters gained employment in service in households in South West Norfolk.  In 1861, Mary Jarmy was a 25 year old cook at the local vicarage in Hockham.  Her younger sister Emily Jarmy, lived a few miles away, working as a 15 year old house servant in the household a butcher in East Harling, called Fred Jolly.

In 1861, settlers from local labouring families were selected, although Drake himself was not involved this time.  However, Hockham had clearly become known to the Society, as one of their East Anglian recruiting spots.  Mary, working in the vicarage was in the perfect place, at the right time.  My guess is that she messaged her little sister in nearby East Harling.  The recruiters wanted settlers that were "respectable and really useful persons - as far as it is possible to judge".  I believe that the father of the two sisters, Thomas Jarmy, a shepherd born 1812 in Salhouse, Norfolk, may have been imprisoned twice for larcony.  If this was the case, I'd guess that the sisters were careful to hide this past.

The Solway sailed the two sisters into Melbourne harbour on the 7th March 1862, and then they quickly boarded The Black Swan, which arrived at Launceston, Tasmania, a few days later.  En route, it appears that Mary had a friendship with Robert Mickleborough from Old Buckenham, Norfolk.  They were to marry in 1862.

Links / Sources

http://www.ayton.id.au/wiki/doku.php?id=genealogy:tasemigrantsbyship

http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~austashs/immig/title.htm

http://belindacohen.tripod.com/woolnoughfamily/id9.html


Meanwhile in 2019, I, a 3rd great grandson of David peach, walks and walks.

Here are some of my photos from my 2017 walks.  Perhaps some of these landscapes may not have been too dissimilar to the green lanes and landscapes that they knew (albeit without the huge open fields).

So maybe, just maybe, there is a link there.  The guy that just loves to walk through the East Anglian countryside all day, and those drovers of the Nineteenth Century.  The desire to walk and to explore.



16th Century Norfolk Ancestors

William Freeman, bap. Attleborough, Norfolk 1581. 10th great grandfather.


Allen Lampkin, bap. North Creake, Norfolk 1573.  11th great grandfather.


Samuel Sayer.  bap. Pulham St Mary, Norfolk 1581. 10th great grandfather.


Agnes Warde, bap. Ridlington, Norfolk 1581. 11th great grandmother