St Ives men and women transported to Australia

St Ivians transported
In 1814 three young St Ives women, sisters Ann and Elizabeth Lantaff and Mary Halworth, were found guilty of shop lifting. Today it's unlikely the police would even be called to attend. But justice was much sterner in the early 19th century. The three girls, aged between 17 and 23yrs, were sentenced to death at Huntingdon Assizes.

Not untypically, this was commuted to transportation for life. Read on about the experience of transportation and what happened to Ann, Elizabeth, Mary and the other St Ives men and women who were transported to Australia.

Transportation to Australia
Convicts preparing for transportation
Justice in the 19th century
Sentences were harsh in the 1800s. More than two hundred crimes could result in execution, some by gruesome means. Most death sentences were for non-violent property crimes, over half for a first offence. So it was common to commute to transportation for  between three years and life.

Penal colonies were established in remote locations and there was no procedure for return after the sentence had been served. Thus very few of those transported ever returned home. Transportation was effectively banishment for life.

A brief history of transportation
First legislated in 1597, for almost 200 years convicts sentenced to transportation were sent to North America and the West Indies. From the late 18th century the industrial revolution led to huge urbanisation and mass migration of population from working on the land to cities. Overcrowding and unemployment resulting from a quadrupling of population in just one hundred years created desperate conditions. Many of those most desperate turned to crime.

Convicts arrive at Botany Bay
The first transportation fleet at Botany Bay
After the 1776 American Declaration of Independence transportation stopped. As prison overcrowding worsened alternative transportation destinations were considered. Just seventeen years after Captain James Cook claimed Australia as a British territory and a gap of eight years in transportation, a fleet of eleven ships carrying 778 convicts sailed to Australia.

They arrived to establish a settlement at Sydney Cove, the first British settlement, on 26 January 1788, a date now celebrate as Australia Day. The first penal colonies were in New South Wales and Norfolk Island. Van Diemen's Land followed in 1803.

Transportation officially ended in 1868, although it had become less used before that date. About 165,000 were transported to Australia. Almost 90% were men. Ages ranged from 9 to over 80 years.

Convict transportees to Australia
Convict transportees on their way to Australia
From conviction to colony
After a period in the local gaol, often in solitary confinement, those sentenced to transportation were sent to prison hulks. These were rotting unseaworthy warships used as floating prisons, moored in the Thames and other locations.

With conditions even worse than the overcrowded gaols, standards of hygiene were so poor diseases such as typhoid, dysentery and cholera were common. The death rate even before setting sail was one in three.

Convicts were put to hard labour in chain gangs, working in the docks or dredging the Thames. At night they were chained to their bunks. Rations were  deliberately inadequate and convicts became malnourished.

There was only one hulk used for women prisoners, the Dunkirk moored at Portsmouth. They also underwent hard labour, though less physically demanding, such as beating hemp.

Prison hulks at Portsmouth
Prison hulks moored at Portsmouth
On embarkation to Australia convicts were taken aboard ship wearing chains and shackles. Sometimes these were worn throughout the journey. Locked in iron cages below deck in unsanitary conditions, they came on deck only for fresh air and exercise.

The journey took up to six months. Already weakened by their experience while in custody, on the early journeys many convicts died from dreadful conditions aboard ship. From 1840 onwards conditions improved. Joseph Arnold, surgeon of the Northampton, wrote a transcript of the voyage. One of the St Ives' transportees, Mary Halworth, was aboard the Northampton.

The penal colony
The worst experiences for convicts occurred whilst awaiting and then undergoing transportation. Provided  they were compliant while serving their term, Australia offered them opportunities. Any reluctance to comply was dealt with harshly, such as flogging, leg irons or transportation to a much stricter penal colony.

Convicts were allocated work as soon as they arrived according to their skills. Unskilled men were assigned to work gangs, building roads and similar tasks. Female convicts usually became domestic servants, or were sometimes forced into prostitution, such was the sparsity of women.

Convicts arriving at Australian penal colony
Convicts arriving at an Australian penal colony
Wherever possible convicts were assigned to free settlers, responsible for their keep and discipline in exchange for a grant of land. They were well fed, with twice the daily calories a typical British labourer would receive.

After serving roughly half their sentence or about 12 years if a life sentence, convicts could be issued with a Ticket of Leave. This entitled them to certain freedoms such as the right to marry, bring their families from Britain or acquire property. Those who served out their full sentence or were granted a pardon usually remained in Australia as free settlers.

St Ives men and women transported to Australia
Below is shown the list of St Ivians transported to Australia, periodically added to. Click any of the links below to read their life story.

Henry Armstead
Henry Canham
William Epey
Mary Halworth
Thomas Hand
John Howard
Ann Lantaff
Elizabeth Lantaff
Sarah Lenton

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