Of good convict stock

John Edward (Jack) Payne was of pure convict stock.  He was not a kind or a gentle man.

John Edward Payne

John Edward (Jack) Payne (1866 – 1956)

Perhaps that wasn’t surprising, given who his forebears were.  They must surely have been scarred by their experiences in prison, on convict ships and in a harsh, unfamiliar new country.

Who were these people and what did they do to get themselves transported?

Jack’s father, Big John Payne, was the son of a convict father and a mother whose parents were convicts.

John Payne 001

“Big” John Payne      (1843-1910)

John’s father, Edward Payne, was born about 1802 and baptised in the town of Stockbury

Edward Payne

Edward Payne         (c1802-1880)

in Kent, England.  He was tried for sheep stealing at the Lent Assizes in Kent in 1824, was convicted and sentenced to death.  At some point his sentence was commuted to life and he arrived in the colony of New South Wales on 1 July 1824 on the ship Minerva.  He received a conditional pardon in 1841 at which time he was described as 5 feet 4 ¾ inches in height, of a sallow complexion, with light hair and blue eyes.


There would have been some familiar faces in New South Wales when Edward arrived.  His father John Payne (c1774-probably 1820), brothers Thomas Payne (c1797-?) and Richard Payne (1800-1868) had arrived on the convict ship Malabar in 1819 and brother Stephen Payne (c1798-1870) on the Eliza in 1822.  Edward’s father most likely died before Edward’s arrival.  I don’t know how often or even whether Edward saw Thomas in Australia but Stephen and Richard were living in the same area as Edward in their later years once they had all served their sentences.  John Payne Snr, having served six months in prison in 1817, was then tried along with Thomas and Richard Payne in Kent in 1819.  All were sentenced to 7 years. From a newspaper of the time:

Committed to St. Augustine’s Gaol….John Payne (sic), Thomas Payne, and John Payne, the elder, charged on the oath of William White, (an accomplice, admitted an evidence for the Crown,) and others, with having on the night of the 3d instant, broken open the poultry-house of William Twopeny, esq. at Tunstal, and stealing a quantity of poultry there from.

Stephen Payne had been tried for larceny in 1818.

William Safleet and Stephen Payne charged with stealing, at Stockbury, divers hogs, property of Richard and James Hudson.

Why did this family keep stealing livestock?  To eat or to sell?

In 1853 John Payne Snr’s nephew, Robert Roberts and his wife Maria arrived in New South Wales as free settlers aboard the Malvina Vidal.  Robert’s brother, William J Roberts, also came to Australia as a free settler.  Were they encouraged to emigrate by letters from their now free, landowning cousins?

Ann Payne (nee Hanratty) 001

Ann Hanratty (1823-1913)

Edward was the only one of the brothers to marry. He married the fourteen-year-old Ann Hanratty in 1837.  Ann’s parents, Patrick Hanratty and Sarah Primer (nee Stephen(s)) in 1821. Patrick was born around 1778 in Drogheda, County Louth in Ireland. He was tried in 1800 in Louth, convicted of stealing flax worth 3 or 4 shillings and received a 7 year sentence.  A petition was raised on his behalf, offering that he could join the military instead but to no avail. He arrived in New South Wales on the Atlas in 1802.  The poor man lost a leg as a result of another convict attempting medical treatment which he was not qualified to perform.  Patrick settled with his family in Parramatta once he had his pardon.

Sarah Stephen(s) was from the greater Manchester area and was convicted in January 1816 in Lancaster.  She arrived on the Lord Melville in February 1817.  She had been tried along with a number of others, her part in the crime was receiving stolen goods. Sarah seems to have been one of the poor, driven to crime to survive.  In 1813, she and two of her children were removed from the parish in which they were living to their home parish, a practice which relieved the non-native parish of having to provide poor relief.  At that time, Sarah’s husband John was absent from the family. He seems to have returned because Sarah brought her infant daughter, Matilda, with her on the voyage to Australia.

1813 removal Primer

Removal order 1813

So, Ann Hanratty and Edward Payne’s son, John Payne, married Mary Ann Sophia Merrick. Mary Ann’s mother, Maria Wood, was the daughter of convicts Charles Wood and Ann Walford.  Mary Ann’s father, Edward Merrick, was the son of convicts Joseph Merrick and Mary Elizabeth Russell.

Charles Wood was born around 1765 in Kidderminster, Worcestershire.  He was tried on 9 July 1796, (for fracturing the skull of Jane Goodman, demanding money of her and threatening her life in case of refusal), convicted and arrived in May 1798 on the Barwell.

Ann Walford was also from Worcester, born  around 1784. She was tried at the Worcester Quarter Sessions on 11 April 1809 for stealing a pair of sheets (the property of Mr Hardman) and a shift (the property of Samuel Pitt), convicted and sentenced to transportation for 7 years.  Was she a laundress to have access to the linen of two different people? She arrived on 10 September 1810 on the Canada

Edward Merrick was born around 1760 in England. He was perhaps the son of John Merrick and Susannah who was baptised in 1763 at St James Clerkenwell.  Edward was tried on 2 April 1788 at the Old Bailey in London.

EDWARD MERRICK and GEORGE WOODWARD were indicted for stealing, on the 26th of March last, two pounds weight of tea, value 7 s. seven loaves of refined sugar, value 30 s. twenty pounds weight of moist sugar, value 10 s. three pounds weight of rice, value 1 s. a pound of pepper, value 2 s. the property of John Victual. A second Count for stealing the same, the property of John Roys. EDWARD MERRICK, GUILTY. Transported for seven years. GEORGE WOODWARD, NOT GUILTY. Tried by the first Middlesex Jury before Mr. Justice ASHURST.7 years, arrived June 1790

Other records describe how the goods listed above were actually on a wagon.  Edward and George were caught when they “parked” the wagon outside an inn. Edward arrived in New South Wales in 1790 aboard the Surprise, one of the ships of the Second Fleet. He eventually became a landholder and police constable in the Richmond district of New South Wales.

His wife, Mary Elizabeth Russell, came on  one of the Third Fleet ships, the Mary Ann, arriving on 9 July 1791, having been sentenced to 7 years transportation.  She was also tried at the Old Bailey so was perhaps from the London area.  She was born around 1764.

MARY RUSSELL was indicted for feloniously stealing, one hank of silk, value 10 s. the property of John Dye and Edward Harvey , privily in their shop .

JOHN DYE sworn.

I live at No. 38, St. Martin’s Le Grand , I am a man’s mercer and trimming maker , in partnership with E. Hervey; about seven weeks since I first saw the prisoner, she brought a pattern of sewing silk, and said her father used a good deal, and would be a good customer; she came six or eight times a week, a boy served her, and on packing up the paper, we found a considerable decrease in the quantity; this was a fortnight before; from that time we kept our silk weighed and marked, on purpose to detect her if possible, having a strong suspicion; we shewed her a paper containing ten heads, and each head weighing about eight ounces; Thomas Waters served her, who usually did serve her; I went out to see which way she went; when she came out the witness Waters followed her: Mr. Haywood was in the shop, he is not here; he took her back into the shop, I followed her; she sat herself on a stool nigh the counter, and on moving her from thence, we discovered a head of silk dropt on the ground; we sent for a constable immediately, and took her before Sir Sampson Wright’s: she said, dear Sir, how can you say so; she did not desire me to shew her any favour.


The prisoner came into the shop, we shewed her one paper of raven grey silk; about six pounds in ten different heads, and about eight ounces in each; she purchased three hanks out of three different heads; I had examined that paper just before she was in, and I missed one head, which is eight ounces; I followed her out and brought her to the shop; she sat down on a stool; I sent for a constable, when he came, I was going to remove her into the middle of the shop to examine her, and there was a hank of silk on the floor by the stool; I counted the silk and missed a head before I went out; I did not see her take it; I will swear that hank of silk was not on the floor when she was brought back.


I did not meddle with or touch it.

The prisoner called one witness who gave her a good character.


Of stealing, but not privily .

Transported for seven years .

Tried by the first Middlesex Jury before Mr. Baron PERRYN.

Merrick gravestone

The tombstone of Edward Merrick and Mary Elizabeth Merrick (nee Russell)

I often wonder what drove them all to crime.  Sarah Primer seems to have been in pretty desperate circumstances, Edward and John Payne seem to have come from a family of career criminals. None of them were wealthy or were political prisoners.  The Industrial Revolution was in full swing and the cities were full of people who had come from the country seeking work.  There weren’t enough jobs and conditions in the cities were miserable. Those who did have jobs were underpaid and often working in unsafe conditions. This is not to excuse the choices they made but they certainly paid for those choices.  I wonder whether they pined for home and family or decided to make the best of what fate had dealt them.