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ASPECTS OF COUNTY LIFE


CRIME AND PUNISHMENT


With crime rife in the late 18th century transportation to the colonies was the solution.


Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire provided their share of 136,000 men and 25,000 women transported to Australia since the first fleet arrived in 1788. Steal £1 and you could hang; but convicts were often reprieved and banished, seven years the usual term, women becoming assigned servants, men sent farming.


by John Wright


T


he counties of Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire provided their share of 136,000 men and 25,000 women transported to Australia since the first fleet arrived in 1788. Steal £1 and you could hang; but convicts were often reprieved and banished, seven years the usual term, women becoming assigned servants, men sent farming.


It took Cambridge University four years to discover that burglaries were an inside job. Waterbeach-born apprentice gardener Richard Kidman was lucky. Unlike his college chimney sweep accomplice who hanged, being a clock repairer, plumber and glazier gave Kidman complete access, silver stolen from Caius College alone weighing 4-500 pounds. Transported for life in 1800, he was pardoned in 1909 for disclosing a plot to murder the Governor and returned to Cambridge, setting up as a clock repairer.


But misfortune befell shoemaker Alexander Aspland. In 1787, an Ely Gaol official wrote to the Home Office requesting his and another’s removal as “persons of the most abandoned Principles, corrupting the morals of the other prisoners and have several times attempted to make their escape.” Baptised in Ely in 1753, at the age of 20 years, he married Ann Foreman and had six children when sentenced to death at Wisbech for stealing twenty pairs of shoes from an Ely shop.


24 County Life


Transported instead, in 1789 he joined the Neptune in the Second Fleet run by unscrupulous contractors. Dubbed ‘the Death Fleet’, convicts were so cramped below decks with bad food and hygiene that 278 died, including Aspland. “As they came ashore,” Sydney Cove Chronicle wrote in June 1790, “such as could not carry themselves crawled upon all fours. Those unable to move were thrown over the side, as sacks of flour, into the small boats.” Shepherd William Bozeat was married with six


children when, in 1840 at the age of 51 years, Huntingdon Assizes sent him to New South Wales for receiving stolen property. Quite organised, he served his term quietly working as a shepherd in Bathurst, two sons emigrating in 1851, and was free in 1855 when he sailed back to his native Hail Weston where he lived to the grand age of 79 years old. Now to Dolly. Born on Flinders Island in Bass Strait, she was the daughter of George Briggs, a sealer from Bedfordshire, and Woretemoeteyenner, “one of two aboriginal women abducted by Briggs,” Ian McFarlane wrote in the Australian Dictionary of Biography. “She bore him three children before he sold her to another sealer, John Thomas, for one guinea. Three of her daughters were adopted by European couples. Dolly’s foster parents Jacob Mountgarrett, surgeon at Port Dalrymple (George Town, NE Tasmania), and his wife Bridget, had her baptised Dalrymple.” In 1825, at the age of 17, she left them to live with Cambridgeshire-born


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