Transportation to Van Dieman’s Land

The theme of the Local History Fair last October was “Changing Places” and I interpreted it as Migration for the purposes of our family history stand.  The display boards covered both migration into and out of Leamington and I researched the story of 2 Leamington convicts whose families had appealed in vain against their conviction.  This is the story of John Webb who was transported to Tasmania in 1832 for robbery.

Hadley's(click on the image to go to a history of the hotel)

John Webb – bad boy made good

John Webb, the son of William and Mary Webb of 95 Tachbrook Road, Leamington Priors was convicted at the Warwick Assizes in August 1831 and sentenced to death. This was subsequently reduced to transportation for Life.

His distraught parents appealed to the Home Secretary for mercy and this is a transcription of their letter (Document source reference TNA HO 17/41 date 1831)

To His Majesty’s Secretary of State for the Home Department
The Petition of William and Mary Webb of Leamington Priors in the County of Warwick
Humbly sheweth
That your Petitioners have been so truly unfortunate to have their Son John Webb convicted at the last Assizes at the Borough of Warwick of a Robbery in the aforesaid Borough and Death recorded against him, his final sentence has been received at Warwick to be transported for the term of his Life and he has in consequence thereof been removed from the County Gaol to Chatham in order to leaving his native Country. In consideration of their unhappy circumstances your distressed Petitioners humbly implore that you will in your humane goodness be pleased to extend your kind intercession in behalf of their unfortunate Son, they are fully aware of the excellent Laws of the Country for the well being and protection of Property and of the great evil their Son has committed against the peace of Society which they greatly deplore, yet in consideration of his Youth (being only seventeen years of Age) and it being the first offence for which he has been arraigned at the Bar, they humbly petition that his sentence may be mitigated to imprisonment in the Millbank Penitentiary or the term of his transportation commuted to seven years. Your Petitioners are suffering greatly in mental distress and fervently implore your kind compassion in respect of this poor and unfortunate Child, and as in lasting Gratitude and duty bound, your distressed Petitioners will ever pray.

William Webb
Mary Webb
Tachbrook Road
Leamington Priors
September 20th 1831

but he nevertheless set sail on the “Katherine Stewart Forbes” on 21 February 1832 bound for Van Dieman’s Land (Tasmania).

 After 13 years as a convict in Tasmania he received a conditional pardon in 1845. He died aged 67 on 8 January 1881 according to “The Mercury” newspaper at Webbs Hotel, Murray Street, Hobart, Tasmania. According to the online article about this hotel (see above photo) which has since been renamed Hadleys Hotel, it was built by convict labour and John Webb bought it in the 1850s. According to the article he installed a ballroom and an ice rink.

It remains today as the Hadley’s Orient HotelIt seems that being transported was not the death sentence his parents had feared.

We have no way of knowing whether his parents ever found out how successful he turned out to be. Unless maybe their descendants are still in Leamington?

Jacqui Kirk

Happy New Year!