Sunday, January 19, 2014

Bucket List 6 - The Finisher

This is the final post in this series on family history research. However, it is also a post about an ancestor who was a 'finisher'. A finisher of the law. A hangman.

Thomas Hughes, a 22 year old blacksmith. was found guilty at the Warwick Assizes on 23rd March 1801, and transported to the Colony of New South Wales for life. I have yet to determine his heinous crime. He arrived on the "Perseus" in August 1802. July 1804 must have been a particularly torrid time for Thomas, as the Sydney Gazette reports that he was apprehended twice on suspicion of theft. The second time he was sentenced to the gaol-gang. Early in 1805, perhaps to avoid the manacles of the road-gang, he was appointed by Governor King as the "public flogger" for the Newcastle and Hunter areas. Effectively, he sold his soul. But, as with many situations like this, there is what is euphemistically called "co-lateral damage".

In January 1811, Governor Hunter despatched the "Lady Nelson" to return Hughes to Sydney where he was installed as the public executioner.
Thomas was the hangman from 1811 until 1824, when Harry Stain was handed the poisoned chalice. Towards the end of his time, Thomas was earning 25 per annum. But he was "paying" much, much more. For starters, no-one wanted to live next to him,and then he lost his daughter. There is a price to pay when bargaining with the devil.

Hughes was the "finisher of the law" under The NSW Court of Criminal Jurisdiction, the establishment of which was authorised by King George III in 1787. This court was a Court of Record presided over by the Judge Advocate of the Colony, together with six naval or military officers appointed by the Governor, with the authority to try all criminal causes which were offences under the law of England. A majority vote of the Court was sufficient for conviction, except in capital cases, where unless five members of the Court held the accused guilty, the matter was reserved for Royal decision. In composition and procedure, the Court of Criminal Jurisdiction resembled a court martial. The only sentences the Court could inflict were death for capital offences and corporal punishment (ordinarily by flogging, sometimes by close confinement) for all others. Thomas Hughes was kept very busy. The Court of Criminal Jurisdiction was abolished in 1824, and the hangman was changed at the same time.
Not too busy, though, for a dalliance in Parramatta in the middle of 1814, with Susannah Smith who arrived for her 14 year sentence in the January of 1814, upon the transport, "Wanstead". Their daughter, Emily Amelia, was born in March 1815, and Thomas and Susannah were married at St Phillip's ("the ugliest church in all christendom") by the Rev. Samuel Marsden in 1816. In January 1818, when Governor Lachlan Macquarie graned him a Conditional Pardon, Hughes was described as 5'4" tall, with a dark complesion, brown hair, and hazel eyes. However, Susannah died - without further issue - in March 1820, and not long thereafter, Thomas married a Mary Brown.

In the first half of 1824, Hughes was communicating with the governor, Brisbane who succeeded Macquarie, to obtain a parcel of land, as no-one would rent a house to the hangman. Both the Governor and the Chief Secretary hospital-passed this "memorial" to the Surveyor-General who responded in the June that there was no land available. What cheek!
On 14th October 1824, Hughes' 9 year old daughter Amelia, was taken into care at the Female Orphan School, in Parramatta. This is all a very murky episode, as on 24th November, Hughes was pleading with Mr Goulburn, the Colonial Secretary, to have her returned to her father's house where he was well able to look after her. To me that sounds as though he did not have her taken into care. The Admission Register calla the child Amelia Hughes Brown, orphan. I need to look at the Muster records for 1822, and The Constables Notebooks for the 1824 Muster to see where Amelia had been living before being institutionalised. What role did Mary Brown have in all this? In defence of Thomas and Amelia, I am mightily suspicious.
Amelia was released from the Parramatta School in February 1828 into indentured servitude at Percy Simpson's place in Lower Portland. Thomas died in 1835. Amelia married the Pyrmont bricklayer, Richard Puckeridge, at St James church, Macquarie Street in 1836, bore him 9 children (only 5 of whom survived childhood), and died in Granville in 1895. Amelia is my 3*G-GM. Thomas Hughes is my 4*G-GF.

The images:
A photograph of Amelia Hughes Puckeridge taken prior to the death of husband Richard in January 1881. I have a photo of Richard, also.

An early photograph of the Female Orphan School at Parramatta, which now houses the Whitlam Institute. The building served as the Female Orphan School from 1818. In 1850, the Female Orphan School merged with the Male Orphan School to create the Protestant Orphan School, which occupied the building until its closure in 1886.

Amelia's final resting place in the Old Anglican Section of Rookwood Necropolis, AN G 1041. I took photos of all the other markers, and stepped the spaces out. To the left of the reeds there is a marker just poking out. This belongs to two little children with the surname Mangnall in plot 1040. Now run your eye over to the right hand side, and see the marker shaped like a church window that is heavily embossed? This belongs to Florence Sleigh and is plot 1045.

The Admission Book for the Female Orphan School, Parramatta, from the office of Child Care & Protection, State Records (NSR 793[1];Reel 2777; 1477, page 002). Amelia is the 11th name down the LHS.


Joan Elizabeth said...

Oh my goodness. What a colourful history.

Julie said...

Still much to do, Joan, but I am on a roll. Hope I still have a good ten years left in me yet!