John Howard

John Howard
Born 1815 in St Ives, John was described as 'bad in every respect' when he appeared at Huntingdon County Assizes with James Dennis on 4 January 1842. The charge was that in November 1841 they had robbed Thomas Ashpole, aged 16yrs, of his wages totalling five shillings and assaulted him with a bludgeon near Paxton Wood.

The pair were found guilty of robbery with violence and transported for life. This was John's fifth conviction and fourth time imprisoned. Details were reported in Cambridge Chronicle & Journal of 8 January 1842.

John spent a week in Huntingdon gaol before being removed to the prison hulk Justitia, moored off Woolwich, as reported in the Cambridge Chronicle & Journal of 15 Jan 1842. The Justitia was an ex-convict transport ship and the first prison hulk, holding some 400 prisoners. Life aboard was tough. Chained in irons, inmates slept and ate in cramped conditions below deck. During daytime they were put to hard labour working at the dockside. Diseases such as typhus or tuberculosis meant death rates were high.

Prisoners aboard the prison hulk Justitia.
Transported aboard the Eden in March 1842, one of 280 male convicts, John arrived in Hobart, Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) on 5 July 1842. He could read and write, was 5ft 2ins tall with a fresh complexion and light brown hair. His face was very slightly pockmarked, with a mole on the right side of his neck. He had a scar on his left thumb and his left leg had been broken in the past.

On arrival John was sent for three years probation to Rocky Hills Station, a remote posting 75 miles northeast of Hobart. In July 1845 he was released from the first stage of his probation, giving him the right to be paid for his labour.

There followed a string of minor offences resulting in imprisonment with hard labour, most resulting from being drunk and disorderly. John married Susan Smith in January 1848 at Hobart, at 18yrs of age some 15yrs John's junior. The partnership failed to curb John's drinking. Another six convictions of drunk and disorderly conduct followed, plus one for larceny for which he was given eighteen months imprisonment and hard labour.

John died in hospital at Port Arthur on 9 July 1858, aged 43yrs.

In 1874 the authorities received a letter enquiring about John from a Mr & Mrs Burton of Mill Street, Houghton, possibly a relative seeking information about his fate.

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