Sunday, 30 May 2021

Christina Collins

If you have not heard the story of Christina Collins, find a copy of my Bloody British Histories: Stafford and read the story of the woman who never made it to the rendezvous with her husband, but was murdered on the canal en route.

Four were on that boat - two were hanged, the cabin boy was never charged, but one, William Ellis, was found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. However, he was saved by a last-minute reprieve which saw his death sentence commuted to transportation. What happened to him?

We know he departed our shores on 6th April 1841 - sentenced to be transported for 10 years. He travelled aboard the Layton. This was Layton's last voyage of the five it made when transporting convicts to Australia, all but one to Van Diemen's Land. Departing on 13th June 1827, 17th June 1829 (to New South Wales), 26th August 1835, 9th July 1839, and 6th April 1841, the vessel took 1,131 prisoners halfway around the world, 235 of whom were sentenced to life.

Layton arrived in Australia on 1st September 1841 at Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) with 249 other convicts. What happened to him then is unknown, which is revealing in itself as we would expect to find some record had he died in Australia or been released.

If well behaved, the convict could be given a ticket of leave, granting some freedom. At the end of the convict's sentence, seven years in most cases, the convict was issued with a Certificate of Freedom. He was then free to become a settler or to return to England. Convicts who misbehaved, however, were often sent to a place of secondary punishment like Port Arthur, Tasmania or Norfolk Island, where they would suffer additional punishment and solitary confinement.

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