Convict Histories

Thomas Ellerton (c1828 – 1899) (Reg. Nos. 277 & 1438)

By Irma Walter, 2021.

On 21 July 1849, Thomas Ellerton (20), Joseph Brindley (21), Richard Sylvester (21) and Daniel Vickers (20), were indicted at Stafford for assaulting Richard Rhodes at Wolstanton, on 19 July, putting him in bodily fear and stealing from his person a sovereign, a half-sovereign and other monies. The victim had left a beer-shop with two friends and they were followed and attacked by the other four men. Brindley knocked Rhodes down with a bludgeon, while his companions were attacked by Ellerton using a hedge-stake. Brindley and Ellerton were both found guilty of highway robbery and were sentenced to 15 years’ transportation. The other two were acquitted. An altercation broke out in the court when Brindley burst into tears, protesting his innocence. Ellerton told him to take responsibility for his part in the crime.[1]

Thomas Ellerton spent three months in Separate Confinement at Stafford Prison before he was transferred to Pentonville Prison on 22 October 1849. He was described as a 20-year-old factory and general labourer, weight 10 stone 2ozs, able to read and write imperfectly, and his conduct very good. His brother Richard Ellerton of Lower Green, Newcastle, was named as his next-of-kin. Thomas was then transferred to Portland Prison.[2] He and Joseph Brindley (Reg. No. 319) were taken onboard Her Majesty’s convict ship Mermaid, sailing from Portsmouth on 9 January 1851 and arriving at Fremantle on 7 May 1851.

On arrival Thomas Ellerton was described as a quarryman, Protestant, aged 22, single, 5’8”, light hair, grey eyes, long face, a fresh complexion, a cut on his upper lip and a tattooed woman on his right arm. He could read and write. A record exists of the books that were delivered to him in Fremantle Prison, including titles such as ‘Manners of Jews’, ‘Duke of Wellington’, ‘Cottage Visitors’, ‘Descriptive Geography’, and ‘Saturday Magazines’.[3]

He was granted his Ticket of Leave on 12 January 1853 and his Conditional Pardon on 7 February 1857.

In April 1866 several former convicts were arrested at Busselton. Thomas Ellerton and George Froam (sic Frome, Reg. No. 5531), were charged on 10 April with stealing eight bottles of brandy and received sentences of three months each. (Ellerton’s new number as a local prisoner was 1438 and Frome’s was 1439). On 18 April 1866, expirees Ellerton and Frome were received at Fremantle Prison from Busselton.[4] Along with them went former convict Walter Sunter[5] of Busselton, aged 36, who was charged on the same day with receiving and making away with sundry bottles of spirits and received a sentence of six months, which was petitioned against and reduced to three months. Convicted the day before, on 9 April 1866, of assaulting Thomas Ellerton, was another ex-convict Robert Craig (Reg. No. 3917, new number 1437), a sawyer. He received a sentence of 21 days, 1 month, being released on 30 May 1866.[6] Ellerton received his Ticket of Leave again on 24 September 1869.[7]

Rica Erickson gives a brief summary of Ellerton’s life in WA, stating that he employed seven ticket-of-leave men at Blackwood, was a boarding-house keeper at Bunbury in 1877, worked at sawmills in Collie between 1879 and 1884, then as a storeman at Busselton in 1886-87. He had a de-facto relationship with Caroline LIPSCHITZ by 1870. She committed suicide 28. 9. 1887.[8]

[Caroline Lipschitz, (née Hall), was the wife of another former convict, Jewish shopkeeper and trader Hyam Lipschitz, having married him in 1859 at Bunbury and bearing him a son Alfred in 1860. Their marriage was an unhappy one, with Hyam advertising in 1861 and again in 1866 that he was no longer responsible for his wife’s debts. It is said that by 1870 she entered into a long-term de facto relationship with Thomas Ellerton, living in various parts of the South-West, up until the time of her death by suicide in 1887 at Prinsep Park, the residence of Alexander Pateson Turnbull, where she was employed as a cook before taking her own life by drinking whisky laced with strychnine. She was said to have been addicted to alcohol.[9]]

In 1885 Thomas Ellerton’s name was mentioned in a case in the Supreme Court of Western Australia, when HW Venn, an electoral candidate in the Wellington District, successfully petitioned against respondent David A Hay for having committed several acts of bribery by conveying several voters to the polling place. It was also found that Thomas Ellerton’s vote, taken in Augusta and forwarded to Bunbury, had been illegally rejected by the returning officer, due to his name being misspelt as ‘Allerton’. The election of David Alexander Hay was declared void, and Henry Whittal Venn was found to be the duly elected member for Wellington.[10]

Thomas Ellerton was in the employ of Mr Venn for many years up until his death in 1899.

The following article reveals the kindness shown him by his long-term employer:

SUDDEN DEATH. (near Dardanup Railway Station)

On Tuesday morning last an old man named Thomas Ellerton, aged about 76 years of age, who for many years has been working for the Hon H W Venn of Dardanup, died close to Dardanup Park.

It appears that for a long time now Mr Venn has retained the services of the old man more to provide him with a home than for the services which he rendered. His duties were very light as he was too old to do much work. After doing some light work on Tuesday morning he started to carry Mr Venn’s portmanteau to the station as Mr Venn was leaving by the early train for Perth. He was asked by one of the servants not to do this as one of the other men would carry the portmanteau to the station, but insisted upon doing it himself as he was accustomed to perform this service for Mr Venn.

Mr Venn shortly afterwards left his house to proceed to the station and saw some object lying on the road about 100 yards from the gate. On reaching this he discovered it to be the body of Thomas Ellerton. He immediately examined it and found that life was extinct although the body was still warm. He lifted the body on to the side of the road and immediately returned to his house and had the body conveyed home. Mr Venn telegraphed the information to the police as soon possible.

Ellerton had been drinking rather heavily prior to his death and the opinion has been formed that he died simply from stoppage of the heart and that death was quite painless.

He had a few pounds at the time of his death which had been deposited with Mr Venn for safe keeping. His few possessions will be forwarded to his relatives in England.[11]

A post mortem was deemed unnecessary and Thomas Ellerton was buried in the Bunbury Church of England Cemetery on 12 July 1899.[12]

The correct procedures were followed with regard to his estate:



WHEREAS on the 2lst day of March, 1900, an order to administer the Estate and effects of THOMAS ELLERTON, late of Dardanup, in the Colony of Western Australia, labourer, deceased, who died on or about the 11th day of July, 1899, was granted by the Supreme Court of the said Colony, under the provisions of “The Deceased Persons Estate Act, 1883”, (47 Victoria, No. 20), to the undersigned, the Curator of Intestates’ Estates, Perth.

Now notice is hereby given, pursuant to the Ordinance 22nd. and 23rd Victoria, No. 35 (adopted by 31st Victoria, No. 8), that all Creditors and other persons having CLAIMS or DEMANDS against the estate of the said deceased, are hereby required to send particulars of such claims, or demands, to the undersigned, on or before the 30th day of April now next.

And FURTHER, that the undersigned will immediately after such date, proceed to distribute the assets of the said deceased, among the Creditors, and persons entitled thereto, having regard only to those Claims of which he shall then have had notice. And the said Curator will not be liable for the assets or any part thereof so distributed, or dealt with, to any person of whose claim or demand he shall not then have received notice.

Dated at Perth, this 30th day of March, 1900.


Curator of Intestates’ Estates.[13]


[1] Morning Post, 25 July 1849.

[2] National Archives, Pentonville Prison Register of Prisoners, Series PCOM 2, Piece No. 63.

[3] Convict Department, General Registers for Nos. 1-299 (R21A)

[4] Convict Establishment, Receipts & Discharges (RD5 – RD7)

[5] Walter Sunter, convict, (Reg. No. 650)

[6] Convict Establishment Miscellaneous, Local Prisoners Registers, 1858 – 1868 (V16)

[7] Convict Est. Stamp Books, (S4 – S6)

[8] Rica Erickson, The Bicentennial Dictionary of Western Australians. University of Western Australia Press, Nedlands, 1987, p.967.

[9] Inquirer, 5 October 1887.

[10] West Australian, 11 June 1885.

[11] Southern Times, 13 July 1899.

[12] Bunbury Herald, 13 July 1899.

[13] Southern Times, 3 April 1900.