At midnight on 21 October 1877, three police officers went to a house in Court No. 2, Rivett St and found a woman, Sarah Sharratt, bleeding from about ten wounds on the head and arm. She had been attacked by our dear Hannah ROLLETT [alias LAMB]. “[The woman] stated that because she interfered when her daughter and the prisoner were quarrelling, the latter attacked her with a drinking glass, which she broke by the violence of her blows” (Nottinghamshire Guardian 26 October 1877, p2 col3).
Hannah had been quarrelling with Sharratt’s daughter all day and threatened to throw the mother and daughter out of the house which they all lodged at together. The middle-aged woman “said she could not do so, and as alleged, [Hannah] then ran upstairs, and, after throwing the contents of a slop-pail upon her, struck her repeatedly on the head with a drinking glass, which broke with her violence… [Hannah] was arrested at an adjoining house the same evening. She was under the influence of drink, and had her hand cut so badly that a doctor had to be sent for” (Sheffield Daily Telegraph 08 November 1877, p7 col6). “Previous convictions being proved against the prisoner, she was sentenced to six months’ hard labour” (Sheffield Independent 09 November 1877, p2 col2).
Of course I wanted to know more about these previous convictions but despite the Calendars of Prisoners being available online for the period 1761 to 1888, I have been unable to find Hannah or Alexander’s prison records. My visit to the record office in Derby proved fruitless too – perhaps the office in Matlock has more as there is no mention of records being destroyed.
Note: the newspaper reports record the street as being River, Rivet and Rivett St. Rivett St was located off Siddals Road. Since River Street is closest to her other addresses and Alexander is reported as being picked up drunk & disorderly on Rivers St in 1881- I am making the presumption that River Street is where the attack occurred.
Locate prison/quarter session records for Hannah & Alexander
Hannah was born Hannah Bates in 1856. Her father was James Bates, a general labourer, and her mother was most likely, Ann Tilbury, a millhand. Little is known so far about her childhood, but it seems her father died when she was around 2 years of age. In 1872, she became Hannah ROLLETT when when she, an 18 year old Silk mill hand married Alexander ROLLETT, a 19 year old ‘Labourer at [the] Colour Works’. This seemed to begin a lifelong association for Hannah with the West End area of Derby, also known as the slums.
Searching the newspapers for Alexander brought up an assault on a police constable he had been involved in 1876, as well as an assault on his wife (Hannah) the previous year, and a charge of drunkenness. “Poor Hannah,” I thought. “Another woeful tale of an abusive alcoholic husband – this must be what made her leave Rollett and take up with William”. But I thought too soon; my next search for ‘Hannah Rollett’ brought up many more mentions than there had been for Alexander and she certainly seemed to be quite the character! With the help of the newspaper articles and some maps, I started piecing Hannah’s story together.
After a couple years of marriage, Hannah and Alexander had their first child, William in 1874. The very next year, Alexander was charged with assaulting Hannah, but because it happened ‘at Rose Hill’, she was directed to ‘apply’ to the County Bench. This was recorded in Friday’s edition of the Derby Mercury, 25 August, 1875.
2 days later, Hannah was convicted of assaulting Alexander’s sister, Sarah Ann. The article notes this occurred on the Saturday; apparently the day after Hannah appeared in the Derby Borough Police Court.
ASSAULT CASE.-Hannah Rollett was summoned for assaulting her sister-in-law, Sarah Ann Rollett, at about three o’clock on the Saturday afternoon previous. -The evidence was of a disgraceful character, and defendant was fined 5s, and costs; in default, seven days’ imprisonment. -On leaving the dock defendant threatened what she would do to the complainant when she came out of gaol; whereupon the Bench ordered her back into the dock and called upon her to find sureties for her good behaviour for three months – herself in the sum of 20l., and two sureties in 5l. each, or one at 10l. – Prisoner said that she might as well be in gaol as anywhere else, and they would have to keep her there.
There was clearly no love lost between the two and although it is not stated what the argument was about, I presume Hannah’s recent charges against Alexander must have had something to do with it.
Their second son, John William was born the next year in September 1876, which means Hannah was heavily pregnant when Alexander assaulted a police constable on the night of August 13, 1876.
MURDEROUS ASSAULT ON A POLICEMAN. -Three men, named Alexander Rollett, William Gell, and William Murphy, were charged with violently assaulting Police-constable Simeon Webster when in the execution of his duty. -The policeman was unable to attend the Court in consequence of the injuries he had sustained. -It appeared that at midnight on Sunday he went to a disturbance in Willow-row, and had no sooner arrived on the scene than he was hit on the back with a brick. He took hold of the man he believed to have thrown it, and was then felled to the ground bleeding and senseless by a brick which was thrown from another quarter, and which struck him on the temple. While on the ground a mob gathered round him and pelted him with bricks and stones, besides kicking him brutally on the body, and they left him apparently dead. He was shortly afterwards taken home, and medical assistance obtained, but he now lies in a precarious state. The three prisoners, when arrested on the charge, emphatically denied it, but a hat found near the scene of the assault is supposed to belong to Gill [sic]. -The men were remanded for a week.
Despite Alexander’s claim he was home by half past 10 that night, he was sentenced (on 29th August) to six months imprisonment for his role in the attack . Less than two weeks later, on the 9th September, Hannah gave birth to their second son and life was certainly not going to get any easier…
My convict ancestors have been mentioned on this blog a few times, but unfortunately I haven’t really been able to find out much about their lives before they were transported to Australia. Since George WHITE is a fairly common name, the possible matches I find are hard to verify as being ‘my guy’, but I still like to cast my net out every now and then and see if I catch anything new.
It was while doing this that I came across another George WHITE of similar age in the Warwickshire criminal records. He is not related to me since the record is dated 1837 whereas my George WHITE was transported in 1834, but I was curious to know more.
21 year old, George WHITE was trialled for larceny at the Warwickshire ‘County Adjourned Session’ on the 14th March, 1837. His ‘degree of instruction’ was recorded as N, which he meant he could neither read nor write [more info]. He was found guilty for this ‘mystery theft’ and imprisoned for 6 months.
I consulted the British Newspaper Archives and found a mention in the Leamington Spa Courier, printed 4 days after his conviction:
George White, for stealing one leg and one shoulder of mutton, at the George in the Tree, in the parish of Balsall, the property of John Hemmings. The prisoner had stolen the property out of the prosecutor’s shop, late one night, and when he was pursued he threw it away and escaped. – Six calendar months, house of correction, hard labour.
The pub was once the Royal Oak, with a signboard showing Charles II hiding in the tree. A licensee with little feeling for history is said to have had the head of Charles replaced by that of George III (then the reigning monarch) when the signboard needed repainting. A different local story is that the pub (and sign) had become the George, but after a gale one night the signboard was found to have disappeared. Only when a large elm tree across the road shed its leaves later in the year was the board discovered in its branches…
Hopefully this other George White eventually managed to find a better life for himself too.
Looks like George may have been trying to raise some money for his emigration to New Zealand:
Wreford v. Manning.-The plaintiff, George Wreford, now of Tiverton, sued Mr. John Manning, high bailiff of this Court, for the recovery of £2 odd, which he alleged to be due for the keep of a horse, &c. – Mr. Shapland for plaintiff. – Mr. Manning said the claim was four years old; it dated Feb., 1861, and plaintiff passed the Insolvent Debtors’ Court on the 23rd April in that year, so that whatever was due to the estate belonged to his creditors. – After repeated and ineffectual attempts to elicit from the plaintiff the dates when Mr. Manning put his horses to pasturage and when they were withdrawn, &c., his Honour determined to adjourn the case, that a bill of particulars might be furnished. If he had to make out the account it might take him a week. -Mr. Shapland: – Not quite so long as that. -His Honour: I will not make out the account for him; the rule requires that he shall furnish a bill of particulars with dates, &c., and not merely: To keep of horse, £2. -Case adjourned.
And a couple columns over…
Wreford v Cummings. – An action for the recovery of £2 8s., alleged to be due from Mrs.Cummings, of Witheridge, for two months keep of a cow and 10s. on some other account. – The latter claim was disallowed, as plaintiff was a bankrupt at the time the debt was said to have been contracted, and the money (if due at all) belonged to his creditors.-Mr. Manning (the high bailiff) said he had put in two executions in virtue of which Wreford had been sold up. He (Mr.M.) took the fields in question of him, and allowed him for the rent in the settlement.-Plaintiff said he never made a bargain with any body.-His Honour:-Then you are not in a position to sue any body. Judgment for the defendant.
North Devon Journal – 17 Nov 1864, p6 [South Molton County Courts]
After a bit of a break I ventured onto the Ancestry site and noticed that they had ‘new’ prison hulk registers and letter books. I found that my ol’ pal, George WHITE was held on the Ganymede while awaiting trial and/or transportation to Van Diemen’s Land in 1834.
The Ganymede was originally the French frigate, Hébé which was captured in 1809. She was converted to a prison hulk in 1819 and broken up in 1838(source: Wikipedia)(AND the Index of 19th Century Naval Vessels). Hulks were not nice places to be and it seems George was ‘lucky’ enough to stay in one for under a year. The Intolerable Hulks by Charles F. Campbell seems like a good read.
UPDATE: In response to a couple of comments below (always welcome) about the fate of the prison hulk Ganymede, I feel I should mention the possibility there are OTHER ships/hulks also named the Ganymede. The ship I refer to was formerly:
The French L’HEBE taken by Capt. SCHOMBERG in LOIRE in the Atlantic on 5 January 1809. Broken up in 1838 (source: Michael Phillips’ Ships of the Old Navy – http://www.ageofnelson.org/MichaelPhillips/info.php?ref=0998)
I have found reference to ANOTHER Ganymede – an iron clipper-barque built in 1868 which was hulked in 1912 (source). Although I don’t claim superior naval knowledge, it is more likely that the Ganymede my commenters refer to as being used as a convict vessel in 1839, is a DIFFERENT ship to either of these as ship names were often REUSED. I feel I should also add here that wikipedia was not my only source. The Index of 19th Century Naval Vessels also contained this information and I have updated my source in the post to include this link. However, if you feel you have evidence that proves these ships are in fact the same vessel I would be really interested to hear about it.