Convict Histories

George Stone (c1828 – ?) (Reg. No. 677)

By Irma Walter, 2021.

[Not to be confused with convicts George Stone (No. 251) or (No. 4123).]

It has been difficult to trace the origins of George Stone (Convict No. 677). He was sentenced to seven years’ transportation and arrived in WA onboard Pyrenees (1st Voyage) on 28 June 1851.[1] His crime and place of origin are not listed. However a Western Australian newspaper article described George Stone as a Colonial Convict who had previously escaped from Van Diemen’s Land.[2] This avenue has not been explored.

George Stone was described as a carpenter, single, aged 24, 5’3” tall, with light brown hair, hazel eyes, round face, a swarthy complexion, stout build, with three marks on his back due to corporal punishment, three cupping marks on left breast and one bleeding mark on each arm.[3]

His prison record in Western Australia reads as follows –

Conduct recorded in 1851 as Good, in 1852 Indifferent and from 1853 – 1855 Excellent.[4]

2 October 1851 – Received at Fremantle Prison from Perth Prison. George Stone (Reg. No. 677), carpenter, aged 24, single, can read and write well, his religion RC. Charged with larceny on 1 October 1851.

1 January 1852 – Bread & Water two days.

9 June 1852 – Three men escaped from Establishment – Geo. Stone (677), W Godolphin (983) and G. Turner (984).[5]

27 July 1852 – Received 2 convicts from Augusta – G. Stone (677) and W. Godolphin (983).[6]

6 August 1852 – Returned to Establishment and sentenced to a further three years of Hard Labour in irons, to be served in addition to what remained of their previous sentences.[7]

21 October 1854 – Correspondence to Comptroller General as to when Stone & Turner would be released on Ticket of Leave.[8]

2 February 1855 – Admonished.[9]

10 October 1855 – One of seven Colonial Prisoners received into Fremantle Prison.[10]

29 March 1855 – Discharged.[11]

30 March 1855 – Discharge authorised by His Excellency (G907 25/10/54).[12]

March 1855 – Colonial Prisoner 677 given permission to leave the Colony.[13]

23 August 1861 – Colonial Prisoner transferred to Toodyay Green Mount.[14]

30 October 1861 – Received from Guildford [15]

31 October 1861 – Colonial Prisoner George Stone (677) discharged to Ticket of Leave.[16]

21 November 1861 – May leave the Colony if he likes.[17]

Stealing in Fremantle, 1851

George Stone was released on Ticket of Leave soon after arrival. However in October that year he was charged with stealing a quantity of carpentry tools from the Convict Establishment at Fremantle, having entered the premises via a window. The tools were later found in a basket in an unoccupied house that was being erected for a Mrs Pace. Several witnesses gave evidence that Stone had been seen with the tools, with a Mrs Trott referring to him as ‘Little Joe’ because of his small stature. Stone was sentenced to seven years’ transportation.[18]

A Foolhardy Plot, 1852

While in Fremantle Prison George Stone met up with two colonial prisoners, George Turner and William Godolphin, who on 7 January 1852 had both been sentenced separately to terms of ten years for larceny.

[Note 1: William Godolphin (Colonial Prisoner 983), is said to have been an Italian by birth and was described as ‘a Colonial Prisoner, within the Colony of WA since 1850’.[19] He was indicted at the Quarter Sessions on 7 January 1852 for stealing from the ship Water Witch, where he was employed as a steward. At the time the ship was anchored in Princess Royal Harbour at Albany and the items stolen were listed as ten dozen pocket-knives, six dozen metal spectacles, three dozen red bowled pipes, thirty-six dozen watches, and various other articles of merchandize, the property of Captain John Loudon (Lowden), who was asleep at the time of the robbery. Godolphin was found guilty and was sentenced to ten years’ transportation.[20]

[Note 2: George Turner, another Colonial Prisoner (No. 984), was born around 1824, single, described as a sawyer.[21] He was transferred from Perth Prison to Fremantle Prison on 13 January 1852 after being convicted of burglary and sentenced to ten years. Six months later he absconded and was given a further three years’ penal servitude. He was discharged on Ticket of Leave on 14 August 1855. On six occasions he was placed on a Bread & Water diet – on 20 August 1852 for twenty-eight days, and two terms of seven days in 1855, although his behaviour in prison in 1854 and 1855 was recorded as Good, Very Good and Excellent.[22]

His record shows that at the time of his arrest in 1852 he was a sailor, aged 28, the son of James Turner, lawyer, of Molyneux Street, London, Middlesex.[23] George had a private school education and could read & write and blamed his crime on drink. When asked, he gave no names as referees.[24] On 5 January 1852 he was charged with burglary in the house of George Watkins in Fremantle and stealing two knives. He was said to have threatened Watkins with a knife and stood over his victim while he cooked him supper. Turner admitted to being drunk at the time of the offence. Verdict — Guilty. Sentence —Ten years’ transportation.[25]

It is easy to imagine the resentment felt by all three prisoners over the lengthy gaol terms they had received for relatively minor crimes. This led to them conspiring to escape from the prison and head south, probably with the intent of escaping from the colony by ship. The plan was put into action sometime during the night of 9 July 1852. Two of the men were wearing irons so it is remarkable that they managed to evade recapture for a number of months. The break-out was described as follows –

On Wednesday night three colonial convicts, Stone, Turner and Godolphin, made their escape from the Convict Establishment at Fremantle. It appears that they proceeded to a limekiln in the neighborhood, where, under a threat of murder, they obliged a ticket-of-leave holder in charge to conduct them to a hut upon the North Lake, which they broke into and obtained possession of two guns. Two of the convicts were heavily ironed, yet they managed to break open the door of their cell and escape without the knowledge of the sentinel on duty in the ward, and we understand the first intimation of the escape was from either the tenant of the hut they broke into or from the limeburner. They are expected to have gone to the southward, and Police Sergeant Patterson with two constables and three natives have gone in pursuit. Stone was convicted at the last October Sessions of stealing a quantity of carpenters’ tools from the workshop of the Convict Establishment and sentenced to 7 years transportation; it was then said he was an escaped convict from Van Diemen’s Land; Turner and Godolphin were both convicted at the January Sessions and sentenced to 10 years transportation, the former for a burglary at Fremantle, and the latter for a robbery on board the Water Witch, of which he was steward, at King George’s Sound.[26]

A search was immediately put into action by red-faced authorities, once again called upon by a nervous population to explain how such an escape of possibly dangerous individuals could have taken place under the noses of prison guards. A reward was offered for information about their whereabouts –

£5 Reward.

Colonial Secretary’s Office, Perth,

June 12, 1852.

THE-undermentioned Prisoners having effected their escape from the Convict Establishment on the night of the 9th Inst., His Excellency directs it to be notified, that a Reward of £5 will be paid for their apprehension respectively.

By His Excellency’s command,

W. A. SANFORD,

Colonial Secretary.

Description.

GEORGE STONE – Age, 24 years; height, 5 feet 3 inches. Marks – Three marks on back from corporal punishment; three marks on left breast from cupping; bleeding marks on each arm. He is a short man, by trade a carpenter.

GEORGE TURNER – Age, 28 years; height, 5 feet 6 inches; eyes, grey; hair, light brown; visage, long and fresh. Anchor on left arm. By trade a sailor.

WILLIAM GODOLPHIN – Age, 31 years; height, 5 feet 7 inches; eyes, hazel; hair, dark brown; complexion, long and dark. Marks – Scar on left side of face. An Italian by birth; by trade a carpenter.[27]

Settlers kept an eye out for signs of the escapees. On 23 June Marshall Waller Clifton of Australind recorded that he had been informed of ‘Bush Rangers’ on the loose and on 17 July he wrote that he had ridden up from Bunbury with John Sillifant who was on his way with the surrendered bushranger. Clifton heard of the capture of the remaining two on 20 July.[28]

The three men were tracked down south. George Turner had parted company with the other two and was in a wretched state when he surrendered at Augusta on 9 July 1852. Chief Constable Paterson kept tracking Stone and Godolphin and eventually caught up with them on the Blackwood on 16 July.[29]

George STONE, George TURNER and William GODOLPHIN were charged before a Bench of Magistrates at Fremantle on the 6th April for having broken open their cells and making their escape from the Convict Establishment on the night of the 9th, or morning of the 10th of April last, and sentenced to four years’ imprisonment in the Convict Establishment in irons with hard labour, on some of the roads or public works in the colony. The above sentence will be in addition to their former term of transportation.[30]

In 1853 William Godolphin, released on Ticket of Leave because of good behaviour, redeemed himself in the eyes of the public when he assisted in the rescue of several men whose boat had overturned near Rottnest –

…We must not omit to mention that the small dingy, above alluded to, was enabled to reach the drowning men, entirely through the exertions and courage of a man named “Godolphin,” who was on ticket-of-leave on the island of Rottnest. This man, it may be remembered, was one of the party who made an unsuccessful attempt some fifteen months ago to make their escape from the colony, and received a punishment of three years in irons in the Convict Establishment. Godolphin has behaved himself so well in confinement that he was rewarded with a ticket-of-leave some short time since, and sent for service to Rottnest, where, as we have above stated, he has been mainly instrumental in saving five men from a watery grave. We should imagine this to be a good case to be recommended Home for a Conditional Pardon, and we trust Godolphin may obtain one.[31]

The story of the failed escape was recounted many years later in an obituary dedicated to early settler Stephen Longbottom –

…Shortly after Western Australia became a penal colony three prisoners, named Godolphin, Stone, and Turner, made their escape and visited Mr. Longbottom’s residence and bailed up the occupants. Mr. Longbottom and his servant, Samuel Farmer, were seized and bound, and his eldest son, John, who was then a mere youth, was locked in the room and a strict watch kept over them, as well as over Mrs. Longbottom. The miscreants, after ransacking the place, and securing some firearms and provisions, decamped, and eventually made their way to Flinders Bay (the old Augusta settlement), where they were eventually captured by the police.[32]

……………………………………………………………………………………

[1] Convict Department Registers, (128/1-32)

[2] Perth Gazette and Independent Journal of Politics and News, 11 June 1852.

[3] Convict Department Registers, (128/40-43)

[4] Convict Department Registers, Character Book (R17)

[5] Convict Establishment, Receipts & Discharges (RD1-RD2)

[6] Ibid.

[7] Convict Department Registers, Character Book (R17)

[8] Convict Department Registers (128/38-39)

[9] Convict Department Registers, Character Book (R17)

[10] Convict Department Registers (128/38-39)

[11] Convict Establishment, Receipts & Discharges (RD1-RD2)

[12] Convict Department Registers, Character Book (R17)

[13] Convict Department, General Register (R21B)

[14] Convict Department, Receipts and Discharges (RD3 – RD4)

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Convict Establishment Stamp Books (S1-S3).

[18] Perth Gazette, 3 October 1851.

[19] Convict Department, General Register (R21B)

[20] Perth Gazette and Independent Journal of Politics and News, 9 January 1852.

[21] Fremantle Prison Convict Database, https://fremantleprison.com.au/history-heritage/history/convict-database/

[22] Convict Department Registers, Character Book (R17)

[23] Convict Department Registers, General Register (R1A – R1B)

[24] Ibid.

[25] Perth Gazette and Independent Journal of Politics and News, 9 January 1852.

[26] Perth Gazette and Independent Journal of Politics and News, 11 June 1852.

[27] Ibid. 18 June 1852.

[28] P Barnes, JM Cameron, HA Willis, The Australind Journals of Marshall Waller Clifton 1840-1861, Hesperian Press, Carlyle, WA, 2010, pps.423 & 425.

[29] Ibid, p.425.

[30] Inquirer, 8 August 1852.

[31] Perth Gazette, 25 August 1853.

[32] Newcastle Herald, 2 August 1902.