Convict Histories

Theodore Pennington (c1837 – ?) (Reg. No. 4864)

By Irma Walter, 2021.

On 15 December 1856 at the Liverpool Boro’ Sessions, Theodore Pennington, a painter, aged 20, was convicted of stealing in a dwelling house, to the value of £5. With four previous convictions, he was sentenced to 14 years’ transportation.


‘Three well-known thieves, named Theodore Pennington, (alias Williams), Thomas Smith and George Holme, were brought up on a charge of committing a robbery in the house of Mr. Thomas Pugh, beer-house keeper, 41, Copperas Hill.’

Pennington was staying at the house, stating that he had just come from Manchester and was a perfect stranger in Liverpool, paying 6d each night for his lodging. Mr Pugh went down in the morning and found that the till in the bar had been broken open, and £5 10s., a silver watch, a quantity of silver plate, and rings, brooches, etc., stolen. Pennington was taken to the … and the police apprehended his two associates, finding evidence at Holme’s place. Holme said that Pennington was in the habit of doing this kind of thing: he had done it before in London. A policeman gave evidence that he had seen Pennington come out of co-accused Smith’s house at about 3 o’clock in the morning. All prisoners were committed for trial.[1]

His suspected co-offender George Holme was found not guilty and was acquitted. Thomas Smith was found guilty of receiving stolen goods and was sentenced to eight months’ penal servitude.[2]

Pennington’s convictions prior to his 1856 sentence were of a minor nature –

9 October 1850 – At Liverpool, a suspected person – sentence 21 days.

26 January 1853 – Damage – sentence six weeks.

8 November 1853 – Begging – sentence one month.

1 November 1854 – A suspected person – sentence three months.

Pennington’s records from December 1856 in various British prisons, prior to his transportation to Western Australia in 1858, provide evidence of bad conduct and possible mental health issues.

He spent four months in Liverpool Prison. Prior to his trial he was transferred to a Lunatic Ward for observation and was discharged from there on 30 June 1856.[3]

He was then sent to Millbank Prison on 20 March 1857, where he spent seven months and twelve days in Separate Confinement. He was reported for making preparations to hang himself.[4] On 2 October 1857 he received 12 lashes with a cat o’ nine tails.[5]

From Millbank he was removed to Portsmouth Prison on 2 November 1857 for ten days.

His conduct there was ‘Bad’, classified as 3rd Class, and he was issued with a Special Medical Certificate. There were many references to bad conduct in the Portsmouth Misconduct Book and the Governor’s Journals. It was recorded that he several times feigned insanity and was suspected of being a malingerer. His next-of-kin was listed as his mother, Sarah Collins, of Sandon Street, Manchester.

He was transferred from Portsmouth Prison to Portland Prison, on 11 November 1857, due to him – ‘Having served in the Guard Ship of this Port and being acquainted with many persons in this vicinity.[6] He was possibly suspected of planning an escape. At Portland he was reported for Misconduct on 18 January 1858.[7]

Theodore Pennington arrived at Fremantle in Western Australia on 1 June 1858, onboard the Lord Raglan. The ship’s surgeon reported that he was a good scholar who had previously attended both Sunday and Day Schools and could read and write.[8] He was described as a civil engineer, single, aged 21, height 5’10½”, with dark brown hair, blue eyes, a long face, fresh complexion, stout, freckled, with an anchor on his right arm and a ship on his left arm.[9]

The following summary at the time of Pennington’s arrival in Western Australia indicates an unusual background –

Aged 21 years, convicted at Liverpool 12/12/1856, of stealing from a dwelling, previous convictions. Held at Portland. Conduct at Millbank violent and irregular. Twice made preparations to hang himself. Has several times feigned insanity. Was a 1st class boy on board the Victory.[10] Moved to Haslar Hospital (Royal Naval Hospital at Gosport, Plymouth) when discharged. Arrived on Lord Raglan, 1/6/1858 – Character Indifferent. Painter.[11]

[Note: Lord Nelson’s famous ship the Victory by the 1830s was lying at a mooring in Portsmouth Harbour, open to visitors. In April 1854, the old ship sprang a leak and sank. All on board were rescued.[12] [The Victory is now at the National Museum of the Royal Navy in the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, where it is currently undergoing restoration.[13]]

Pennington’s Record in WA

Like many other convicts in Fremantle prison, Theodore Pennington’s name appeared frequently on the Casual Sick Register, seeking treatment for minor complaints such as dyspepsia, headache, constipation or a cough. Considering their poor living conditions and the unavailability of effective medications, such visits may have been more a means of avoiding a day’s work, or simply an attention-seeking measure.

11/11/57 – Received at Fremantle from Portsmouth Prison.[14].

3/9/58 – Bread & Water – one day.

16/8/59 – Received from the Lunatic Asylum.[15]

16/9/59 – B & W – one day.[16]

23/12/59 – Provisional Prisoner, sent back to Lunatic Asylum.

10/10/60 – Sent to Lunatic Asylum.

11/10/60 – Received from Lunatic Asylum back to Fremantle.

29/1/61 – Discharged on T/L.

7/3/61 – Discharged from North Fremantle.

17/5/61 – As invalid, released to North Fremantle.

24/6/61 – To North Fremantle.

29/11/61 – As T/L holder, received at North Fremantle.[17]

13/12/61 – Received back at Fremantle Prison.

7/1/62 – Employed as a tailor in prison.[18]

9/1/62 – Wanted a change of direction.

1862 – Entered the service of (….), Shenton & Gallagher as Cook £2/0/0 per month.[19]

12/3/62 – THEODORE PENNINGTON, t.l., announces to the public of Western Australia that he is about to submit a memorial to His Excellency the Governor, in consequence rescuing a man from drowning, while on the passage from Bunbury to Fremantle, on the 24th November, 1861, in a whale boat. This case has already been sent to the Hon. Comptroller General; although he admits the conduct to be meritorious, yet he does not see sufficient ground for representing this case to higher authority.[20]

22/3/62 – Detained in hospital for the day.

28/3/62 – Transferred to Swan District.

3/4/62 – Ticket of Leave to RM Swan.

14/4/62 – Transferred to Perth by the Hon. Comp. General to enter the services of AC Carey, 30/- per month.

19/8/62 – Employed along with fourteen others by former convict Joseph Buswell for the whaling season off Bunbury and Minninup.[21]

10/1/63 – Recorded as a tailor, R.C., aged 25.[22]

4/2/63 – Discharged on T/L.[23]

25/4/63 – Conditional Pardon signed 25 April 1863 and forwarded to RM at Albany District.[24]

2/6/63 – Awarded his Conditional Pardon.[25]

Erickson states that Theodore Pennington was employed in the Albany, Bunbury, Fremantle, Guildford and Perth Districts.[26]

From 1863 no more is known about Theodore Pennington. It is possible that he left the colony.


[1] Liverpool Mercury, 8 November 1856.

[2] England & Wales, Crimes, Prisons, etc., Liverpool Gaol: Calendars of Trials at Liverpool Borough Sessions, Series PCOM2, Piece No. 332.

[3] Liverpool Board of Guardians Workhouse, Lancashire, Archive Reference: 353SEL/19/9, Admissions & Discharges 1856-1857.

[4] England & Wales, Crimes, Prisons, etc., Portsmouth Prison Hampshire: Register of Prisoners, PCOM2, Piece No. 107.

[5] England & Wales, Crimes, Prisons, etc., Prison Registers, Series PCOM2, Piece No. 38.

[6] England & Wales, Crimes, Prisons, etc., Portsmouth Prison Hampshire: Register of Prisoners, PCOM2, Piece No. 107.

[7] England & Wales, Crimes, Prisons, etc., Portland Prison Dorset: Governor’s Journals, Series PCOM2, Piece No. 358.

[8] UK Surgeon Superintendent’s Journals of Convict Ships, 1858-1867, Lord Raglan, 1858.

[9] Convict Department Estimates & Convict Lists (128/1-32)

[10] Note: Lord Nelson’s famous ship the Victory by this time was lying at a mooring in Portsmouth Harbour,

open to visitors. In April 1854, the old ship sprang a leak and sank. All onboard were rescued. (Wikipedia,

[11] Convict Department Registers, Character Book for 4508 – 5585 (R8)

[12] Wikipedia,

[13] National Museum of the Royal Navy,

[14] Convict Department Registers, (R31, 1-3)

[15] Convict Establishment, Receipts & Discharges, (RD3 – RD4)

[16] Ibid.

[17] Convict Establishment, Receipts & Discharges, (RD3 – RD4)

[18] Casual Sick Register (CS6-CS8)

[19] Miscellaneous, Ticket of Leave Swan District, 1859 – 1866.

[20] Inquirer, 12 March 1862.

[21] WA Government Gazette, 19 August 1862.

[22] Convict Establishment, Fremantle Casual Sick Registers (CS8 – CS10)

[23] Convict Est., Receipts & Discharges, (RD3 – RD4)

[24] WA Government Gazette, 20 April 1863, p.80.

[25] Government Gazette, 28 April 1863.

[26] Rica Erickson, Dictionary of Western Australians, 1829 – 1914, Vol. 2, Bond 1850-1868, UWA Press,

    Nedlands, WA, 1979, p.425.