Richard Austin Stronnell – A Convict Story

Richard Austin Stronnell stood in the Aylesbury court on 10th March 1845, convicted of housebreaking and facing transportation for 10 years to one of the most brutal penal settlements at Van Diemen’s Land.[1]  What was to become of him?  Would he survive his sentence?  Perhaps it is optimistic to imagine that, despite the apparent deprivations of his early life, my subject navigated his way through the penal system and found his place in society, perhaps even made a good living as a gold miner in Castlemaine, Victoria and raised a well-adjusted family.  However, there is some evidence to support this theory.

Richard Austin Stronnell was born the eldest child of William and Matilda Stronnell in Amersham, Buckinghamshire in about 1826[2].  The 1841 Census has Richard living in Amersham with his parents and three younger siblings, Isaac aged 14, Eliza aged 10 and Catherine aged 7.[3]

Amersham, at that time, was a small market town.  The Industrial Revolution was beginning and people were gravitating towards the major cities for work in new industries, leaving smaller towns without work for the unskilled underclass[4].  Richard Stronnell who is listed in the census as an agricultural labourer[5] would have been one of this unskilled underclass and he and his family probably often went hungry.

Figure 1 An artist impression of Church St Amersham around 1820 https://amershammuseum.org/history/old-town/church-street/

Perhaps this led to his first offence when he was convicted of larceny on 7th April 1840 after he, along with two other youths stole 4lbs of bread.  He was sentenced to 2 days in prison and was whipped.[6]  However, this experience did not seem to deter him as he offended at least twice more before being transported to Van Diemen’s land in 1845.

Figure 2 ‘Criminal Notice’

On 2nd January 1844 he was convicted of stealing an amount of fabric – nankeen jean, again with a group which included Charles King who was also convicted of the earlier offence, and also George Lee who would later be a partner in crime again and was also transported to Van Diemen’s land.  This time Richard was imprisoned for 6 months[7].

Then on 10th March 1845 he and George Lee were convicted of Larceny before being convicted of felony at the County Assizes, Aylesbury.  They broke into a house in nearby Beaconsfield and according to Richards own account recorded on his conduct record, ‘stated this offence stealing a gun from Mr George Monk’.  The sentence was 10 years transportation[8]

 

Unlike other convicted criminals of the time, they spent very little time in English prisons and there is no record of them ever being imprisoned on a hulk.  On Wednesday 2nd April 1845, he, and George Lee were transferred from Aylesbury to Millbank prison[9], and on 7th June, only three months after they were convicted, they, together with 298 other male convicts embarked on the Marion, bound for Van Diemen’s Land[10].

Richard was 5 ft 5 ¾ inches tall with brown hair and hazel eyes[11] and could read and write but “imperfectly”[12].  He arrived in Van Diemen’s Land on 16th September 1845[13] during the time when the Probation system was in operation.

Figure 5 Map of Maria Island, Maria Island – Darlington Settlement, Conservation Management Plan for Parks and Wildlife Service 2007.  p. 20

Richard was sent to Long Point Probation Station on Maria Island to serve his 18 months as a Probation Pass Holder 3rd Class[14].  Maria Island was an agricultural establishment which was reopened in 1842 as a probation station.  The two probation stations on the island were Darlington and Long Point (today known as Point Lesueur).  Convicts were put to work in agricultural pursuits[15] ‘land clearing, cultivating wheat, hay, potatoes, turnips, barley, flax and vegetables and raising sheep and pigs’[16].  On the face of it this sounds like reasonable work, however the initial period of the probation was intended to be extremely harsh; ‘a stage from which all will be anxious to emerge and to which the incorrigible and refractory may be sent back’[17].  The convicts probably worked in chains, with punishments such as solitary confinement and lashes used liberally in some cases.  Conditions were gradually relaxed if the convict was well behaved.  There were attempts made to rehabilitate the convicts.  They attended school and religious services.

Figure 6 Map of Point Lesueur (Long Point) Maria Island – Darlinghurst Conservation Management Plan for Parks and Wildlife Service 2007 p. 22.

Richard’s conduct record indicates that he was “well behaved” and whilst on probation it appears that he did not have many additions to his sentence. There is a very faint inscription that may indicate that he was charged with “absenting himself” on 25th August 1846.  From 1847, he was assigned to a number of different masters in and around Fingal[18].

He was granted a ticket of leave on 11th June 1850[19] and then he was recommended for a Conditional Pardon on 6th May 1851.  However, this was not officially approved until 16th November 1852[20].  At this point we find him onboard the Clarence bound for Melbourne[21].  It appears that from here he proceeded to the gold fields.  Perhaps he made a small fortune.  It is not possible to tell.  But then in February 1857 he returned to London aboard the Medway[22].  How he was able to do that is uncertain considering he only had a conditional pardon which should have meant that he was unable to ever leave Australia.  But he was not away for long.  Whilst there he married Mary Ann/Ann Carter on 13th October 1857[23].  This raises another question as to how he knew her.    Was there some family relationship, perhaps a type of arranged marriage?  They both returned to Australia aboard the Oceanica which arrived in Melbourne 11th March 1858[24].  From there they proceeded to Castlemaine and had nine children together[25].

Figure 7 ‘State School Prizes’ Mount Alexander Mail, 20 December, 1884

The younger children at least attended school and apparently did well as the three youngest, Rosa, Albert and Lily all won prizes at Moonlight Flat school in 1884[26].

Whilst it is unclear whether he made his fortune on the gold fields, Richard did apply for a mining license in 1873.  In this application it was stated that the amount of money proposed to be invested was £2000[27], a substantial amount of money for the time.

Richard Austin Stonnell did not live to a grand old age but died aged 65, according to his death certificate, on 12th August 1887[28].  However, it can be said that he survived the harsh penal system of Van Diemen’s Land and possibly even prospered.

 

Bibliography

19th Century England, Society, Social Classes and Culture https://study.com/academy/lesson/19th-century-england-society-social-classes-culture.html Accessed 3 May 2018.

1841 England Census Civil Parish: Amersham; County Buckinghamshire. Census Returns of England and Wales, 1841. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK Accessed 12 May 2018.

Australian Convict Transportation Registers – Other Fleets & Ships, 1791-1868, Home Office: Convict Transportation Registers; (The National Archives Microfilm Publication HO11); The National Archives of the UK (TNA), Kew, Surrey, England.

Brand, Ian, The Convict Probation System: Van Diemen’s Land 1839 – 1854, Hobart,  Blubberhead Press, 1990, p. 229

Bucks Herald

Conduct Registers of Male Convicts Arriving in The Period of The Probation System, Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office, Hobart

England & Wales, Criminal Registers, 1791-1892 Home Office: Criminal Registers, Middlesex and Home Office: Criminal Registers, England and Wales; Records created or inherited by the Home Office, Ministry of Home Security, and related bodies, Series HO 26 and HO 27; The National Archives of the UK (TNA), Kew, Surrey, England. Accessed 19 May 2018.

England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975 FHL Film Number 1966849 Original data: England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.

Linctas, Departures https://linctas.ent.sirsidynix.net.au/client/en_AU/all/search/results?qu=Stronnell Accessed 27 May 2018

Mount Alexander Mail

New South Wales and Tasmania, Australia, Convict Pardons and Tickets of Leave, 1834-1859,Home Office: Settlers and Convicts, New South Wales and Tasmania; (The National Archives Microfilm Publication HO10, The National Archives of the UK (TNA), Kew, Surrey, England.

Register of Births Deaths and Marriages, Victoria,

Small, Patricia. ‘Journey of a lifetime’. Descent, Vol. 35, No. 3, Sept 2005, pp. 110-118.

University of Tasmania, The Companion to Tasmanian History. Maria Island.  http://www.utas.edu.au/library/companion_to_tasmanian_history/M/Maria%20Island.htm Accessed 27 May 2018.

 

 

[1] Ancestry, Criminal Record for Richard Stronnell.  England & Wales, Criminal Registers, 1791-1892 Home Office: Criminal Registers, Middlesex and Home Office: Criminal Registers, England and Wales; Records created or inherited by the Home Office, Ministry of Home Security, and related bodies, Series HO 26 and HO 27; The National Archives of the UK (TNA), Kew, Surrey, England. Accessed 19 May 2018.

[2] Ancestry Baptism of Richard Stronnell, baptised 10 September 1826. Ancestry, England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975 FHL Film Number 1966849 Original data: England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013, Accessed 19 May 2018.

[3] Ancestry, Census record for Richard Stronnell 1841 England Census Civil Parish: Amersham; County Buckinghamshire. Census Returns of England and Wales, 1841. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK Accessed 12 May 2018.

[4] 19th Century England, Society, Social Classes and Culture https://study.com/academy/lesson/19th-century-england-society-social-classes-culture.html Accessed 3 May 2018.

[5] Ancestry Census record for Richard Stronnell.

[6] Ancestry, Criminal Record for Richard Stronnell; ‘Bucks Easter Session’, Bucks Herald, 11 April 1840 p. 4.

[7] Ancestry, Criminal Record of Richard Stronnell; ‘Aylesbury’ Bucks Herald 10 January 1844 p. 4.

[8] Ancestry, Criminal Record of Richard Stronnell; Richard Stronnell, Conduct Record, Conduct Registers of Male Convicts Arriving in The Period of The Probation System, Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office, Hobart, CON33-1-70, 243.

 

[9] ‘Local Intelligence’ Bucks Herald, 5 April 1845 p.4.

[10] Ancestry, Australian Convict Transportation Registers – Other Fleets & Ships, 1791-1868, Home Office: Convict Transportation Registers; (The National Archives Microfilm Publication HO11); The National Archives of the UK (TNA), Kew, Surrey, England. Piece: 14.

[11] Richard Stronnell, Conduct Record.

[12] Ancestry, Criminal Record for Richard Stronnell.

[13] Richard Stronnell, Conduct Record.

[14] Richard Stronnell, Conduct Record.

[15] University of Tasmania, The Companion to Tasmanian History. Maria Island.  http://www.utas.edu.au/library/companion_to_tasmanian_history/M/Maria%20Island.htm Accessed 27 May 2018.

[16] Small, Patricia. Journey of a lifetime, Descent, Vol. 35, No. 3, Sept 2005, p. 115.

[17] Brand, Ian, The Convict Probation System: Van Diemen’s Land 1839-1854, Hobart, Blubberhead Press, 1990, pp. 229-39.

 

[18] Richard Stronnell, Conduct Record

[19] Richard Stronnell, Conduct Record; ‘Convict Department’ Launceston Examiner, 15 June 1850 p. 8.

[20] Richard Stronnell, Conduct Record; Richard Stronnell, Conditional Pardon, New South Wales and Tasmania, Australia, Convict Pardons and Tickets of Leave, 1834-1859, Home Office: Settlers and Convicts, New South Wales and Tasmania; (The National Archives Microfilm Publication HO10, The National Archives of the UK (TNA), Kew, Surrey, England. Piece No. 62; Richard Stronnell, Convict Register, Tasmanian Colonial Convict, Passenger and Land Records. Various collections (30 series). Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office, Hobart, Tasmania. CON22-1-7

[21] Linctas, Departures https://linctas.ent.sirsidynix.net.au/client/en_AU/all/search/results?qu=Stronnell Accessed 27 May 2018

[22] Outward Passenger list to Interstate, U.K. and Foreign Prots PROV VPRS 948/P0001/12

[23] England Marriages 1837 – 2005 https://search.findmypast.com.au/record?id=R_858916030

[24] Ancestry PROV Series: VPRS 7666; Series Title: Inward Overseas Passenger Lists (British Ports) [Microfiche Copy of VPRS 947]

[25] Death Certificate of Richard Stronnell, died 12 August 1887, Register of Births Deaths and Marriages, Victoria, 9207/9534; Death Certificate of Mary Ann Stronnell, died 8 July 1935, Register of Births Deaths and Marriages, Victoria, 2820/15769.

[26] ‘State School Prizes’ Mount Alexander Mail 20 December 1884, p.2.

[27] ‘Notice of Application for Gold Mining Lease’ Mount Alexander Mail, 18 April 1873, p. 3.

[28] Death Certificate of Richard Austin Stronnell, died 12 August 1887.

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