George in the Gaol

Herberte, Edward Benjamin; Stagecoach Outside 'The George in the Tree', Kenilworth Road, Berkswell, West Midlands; Berkswell Village Museum;
Stagecoach Outside ‘The George in the Tree’, Kenilworth Road, Berkswell, West Midlands – by Edward Benjamin Herberte  1885


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.

Warwickshire Assizes entry for a George WHITE, 1837

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:

Leamington Spa Courier, 18 March 1837, p3 – NISI PRIUS COURT

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.

Leamington Spa Courier, 18 March 1837, p3

The George-in-the-tree public house marked on map c1890

I managed to find an interesting mention of the George-in-the-Tree pub in the Dictionary of Pub Names:

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.

The George in the Tree pub in more recent times

The Incredible Hulk

Success – hulk similar to where George was imprisoned.    (No photographs of the Ganymede appear to exist)

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.

UK, Prison Hulk Registers and Letter Books, 1802-1849 for Geo White – Ganymede – 1818-1836

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.

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 –

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.

Black Sheep Sunday

Hobart Town from the New Town Road by J.S. Prout (1844)
Carrying on from last week’s Black Sheep Sunday post. I have managed to have find some more snippets of information of my Black Sheep duo – George WHITE and Elizabeth ALLEN.
World Vital Records offered free records until the 18th (tomorrow) so I took them up on their offer. I must say, I do find the site a bit of confusing. Searches for records of specific places (such as UK, Australia and New Zealand) tend to also include the American records in the results. This may be something an experienced user can combat but for me, time is of the essence!
Tucked away in the Hobart Town Gazette of 1844 were 2 references for each of my beloved convicts.

Hobart Town Gazette – 8 March 1844
Elizabeth Allen, Margaret, to Zachary Pocock, Hobart

Hobart Town Gazette – 16 August 1844
George White, George III., from J. & R. Meikle, Murray-street,
to Thomas Allcock, Hobart Town.

Hobart Town Gazette – 12 November 1844
George White, George the Third, by Thomas Allcock, Liverpool-street,
2 months, 21st ditto [October]

Hobart Town Gazette – 8 October 1844
Elizabeth Allen, Margaret, by George Lewis, Restdown, 1 month, from 10th ditto [September].

These snippets refer to whose private service they entered as a passholder.

From 1840 convicts usually served an initial period of “probation” in government work gangs, before becoming “passholders” who competed in the labour market. In the context of high unemployment, this meant that thousands of serving convicts joined ticket-of-leave holders and emancipists to roam the island in search of work. The sight of these workers, who by necessity or choice often lived rough in the bush, horrified and frightened the free settlers… (Source: Van Diemen’s Land by James Boyce – found via Google Books).

Next steps:

  • Search for other issues of the Hobart Town Gazette
  • Research the employers listed for some background information

Black Sheep Sunday

Some more details of two of my family’s black sheep:

I first mentioned George White and Elizabeth Allen in my post, Woman of my Conviction. Both were transported to Tasmania, Australia (then known as Van Diemen’s Land) for their respective crimes in the early 19th century.

Convicts in Tasmania were not allowed to marry each other or a ‘free’ person without approval. I discovered that the Archives Office of Tasmania has a free record service for records not available online and requested a copy of the original page with George and Elizabeth’s Convict Application to Marry.

George White & Elizabeth Allen – Convict Application to Marry

The entry gives their names, and the ships they arrived on – George the 3rd and Margaret. It tells me the application was sent on the 22 March 1845 and was approved.

George White & Elizabeth Allen – Marriage Record

The pair were subsequently married the next month on the 28th of April. Nothing is mentioned about their convict status and I wonder how long they had to answer to the authorities.