Convict Histories

Strange Happenings at Manchester – An unusual burglary attempt at Moss Side, 1854

By Irma Walter, 2023.

 A 19th century view of Manchester.[1]

The city of Manchester is remembered today as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. In the 18th century it was a small market town, but by the beginning of the 19th century it had rapidly become the centre of the cotton industry, attracting workers from rural areas to its cotton mills in search of employment and better wages. By the mid-1850s Manchester’s population had grown ten-fold, with few regulations over work conditions and building construction. Factory owners made their fortunes and built fine houses outside the city, while most of the population lived in squalid over-crowded accommodation with polluted waterways and poor sanitation. Those employed in the cotton mills worked long hours, with women and children employed for fourteen hours per day.

Crime rates were high, with drunkenness blamed for much of the trouble. A Manchester crime report in 1856 showed that of the 2,114 people committed to prison that year, more than half were described as ‘idle and drunken’, followed by the claim that it was ‘in the beer-house the sottish thief concocted his plot, and to the beer-house he returned to celebrate his achievement’. Of the 2,114 jailed, 1,139 could not read, and 522 could only read imperfectly.[2]

It was in this environment that an unusual crime was plotted –

Canterbury Journal, 17 November 1854.

Wolverhampton Chronicle, 15 November 1854.

Evidence was given in the Court that Robert Goodier had been the chief instigator of the robbery, but for some reason had then proceeded to warn the target Mrs Taylor and the police that the robbery was about to take place, with himself as a participant. In Court the other three prisoners were astonished to learn that Robert Goodier was to be released, while they faced the prospect of lengthy prison terms. The jury, too, was perplexed by the decision. They felt sympathy for Goodier’s younger brother Joseph, believing his account that he had been led into the crime by Robert, and recommended that mercy should be shown towards him –

Liverpool Albion, 18 December 1854.

Some reporting of this case was inaccurate. It was reported that Joseph Goodier had been acquitted.[3] He was, however, sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment.[4] William Gregan (22) and Robert Catterall (17), both with previous convictions, were sentenced to 15 years’ transportation.

Robert Goodier, the man who had planned the burglary and plotted against the others with the police, was acquitted and set free.[5]  However, he was later convicted of another burglary in 1856, and due to his previous bad record, he was sentenced to transportation for life.


(1) ROBERT GOODIER (c1826 – ?) (Reg. No. 4730)

At the time of the 1841 Census, 15-year-old Robert Goodier was living with his parents in Boad Street, near London Road in Manchester. His brother Joseph was just 10 years old –

Joseph Goodier (35), carter

Ann Goodier (35)

Robert Goodier (15), blocker [Cut designs into wooden blocks for printing fabrics.]

John (13)

Thomas (13), piecer [Employed in a spinning mill to join ends of broken threads.]

Joseph (10)

Sarah (4 days)

In 1845 Robert Goodier, baker, aged around 18 years, married Sarah Barratt, spinner, daughter of James Barratt, spinner.

By the time of the 1851 census, Sarah Goodier and her three-year-old daughter Sarah Ann were back living with her parents James and Sarah Barrett. Her husband Robert was in gaol.

In 1854 Robert made the foolish decision to collude with a householder and the police for him to be arrested along with three companions, in the act of committing a burglary at Moss Side. At the trial of the gang members in December 1854, the informant Robert Goodier was set free.

However, Goodier’s bad record finally caught up with him. On 22 March 1856 he was convicted at the Liverpool Assizes of another burglary in Manchester, and due to previous convictions, was sentenced to transportation for life.[6] His accomplice William Turner was acquitted.

Newspaper reports in 1856 show that Robert Goodier had attempted a similar stunt to the one that had taken place two years earlier. His motivation was never explained. This time he approached a policeman and stated that he had been drinking with three men, who told him that they intended breaking into two premises that night, and that he had agreed to meet them afterwards. He advised the policeman to get around to the premises. Goodier was arrested in the yard along with one of the men, William Turner, but the other two burglars made their escape –

Manchester Courier, 16 February 1856.

The judiciary was obviously tired of Robert Goodier’s pranks. This time he was sentenced to transportation for life –

Bolton Chronicle, 29 March 1856.

It was recorded that Robert Goodier was aged 29, married with one child, his religion C. of E., convicted of burglary with a previous conviction, having once been admitted as evidence, and once summarily convicted. His next-of-kin was named as his wife Sarah, of 46 Ainsworth Street, Chancery Lane, Ardwick, Manchester. He had been issued an Invalid Certificate.[7]

Following Robert Goodier’s sentencing to a term of transportation for life, he spent time in Millbank Prison before being transferred to Pentonville on 31 July 1856.[8] A prison hulk record shows that his conduct while there was good and that he was in good health.[9]

On 8 May 1857 he was sent to Chatham Prison, where his description was as follows – ‘shoemaker, aged 29, slender, with auburn hair, a fair complexion, blue eyes, a sharp nose, an oval face, with three upper teeth missing. He had a blue mark on the outside of his right wrist, and a mole outside his left fore-arm’.[10] From Chatham Prison he was taken onboard the convict ship Nile, bound for Western Australia.[11]

Robert Goodier’s Record in WA

On 1 June 1858 Robert Goodier arrived at Fremantle, described as a shoemaker and an equestrian performer, aged 31, married with one child, 5’3½”, with light red hair, grey eyes, a thin face and a fair complexion, of slight build. He had a figure of a woman and a tombstone tattooed on his left arm.[12] (One can only wonder at the response from his former companions Catterall and Gregan, by then serving time in WA, when they learned that the law had finally caught up with their former associate.)

Goodier was in poor health. Soon after his arrival he was admitted to the Fremantle Prison Hospital from 4th Division on 10 February 1858, suffering from acute dysentery. Robert was described as a circus rider, having served nine months in Pentonville, and four days at Chatham.[13] On 7 April 1858 he was discharged from hospital to the North Fremantle Invalid Depot, still suffering from diarrhoea, perspiring and vomiting after meals. There was some blood in his faecal matter and his voice was hoarse. He was fed on rice milk.[14]

On 7 May 1859 he was recorded as being employed in the Prison School when he requested a new boot.[15] On 8 November 1859 his petition to the Governor, presumably for an early release, was refused.[16] Little more is known about Robert Goodier’s record in WA. In 1861 he was acting as a Constable, most likely in charge of a small group of prisoners, when he received treatment for a cough.[17] On 28 April 1862 he was transferred to the Police.[18] He received his Ticket of Leave on 28 April 1862 and his Conditional Pardon on 27 Apr 1868.[19] From 1863 until December 1867 he was self-employed as a shoe-maker.[20]

He was keeping bad company in 1862 when he was arrested along with well-known offender William Essex – ASSAULTING THE POLICE.— Robert Goodier, t.l., W. Essex, t.l., and J. Callaghan, charged with having assaulted the police and attempted to rescue Brown from their custody; as there was some doubt as to their identity, His Worship gave them the benefit of it, and accordingly dismissed them.[21]

It appears that Robert Goodier had on-going health problems. In 1868 a decision was made that if this man became a liability, needing to be maintained by the Governor as a pauper or invalid, the costs would be chargeable to Imperial Funds – (Item 5338/5, signed by J.S.H., on 24 March 1868.)[22]

Robert Goodier’s death record has not been found.


 (2) ROBERT CATTERALL, (c1836 – ?) (Reg. No. 4131)

At the time of the 1841 Census, Robert Catterall (aged 3) was living at Watson Street, Manchester, with his mother Mary Catterall (aged 35, Ind., married, his sisters Sarah (6) and Ellen (7 weeks), and Thomas Beard, aged 40, a sadler (sic).

Ancoats today is a fashionable part of Manchester. At the time Mary Beard and her son Robert lived there, it was an over-populated slum area of Manchester –

…Ancoats grew rapidly to become an important industrial centre and as a result it also became a densely populated area. By 1815 Ancoats was the most populous district in Manchester. Streets of back-to-back houses and court dwellings were rapidly built. For the poorest members of the community, houses were split and cellars let separately. Public health was a concern; a survey motivated by the fear of a cholera outbreak showed that over half of homes in Ancoats had no private plumbing, and over half of streets were not cleaned.[23]

As a teenager, Robert Catterall had a checkered history. On the 26 September 1851 as a reputed thief, he spent a month in Salford gaol. In 1852 he was convicted of stealing a shirt, resulting in a whipping and a prison term of four months. A few months later, on 11 December 1851, using the name Albert Williams, he was sentenced under the Juvenile Offenders’ Act to another whipping and seven days in gaol. On 10 January 1852, under his own name, he was again whipped and gaoled for seven days. Convicted again on 18 March 1852, he received the same treatment, this time with a term of three months.[24]

Arrested along with the Goodier brothers and William Gregan, Robert Catterall, labourer, was convicted of the Moss Side burglary at the Liverpool Assizes on 11 December 1854. He was held in Solitary Confinement at Kirkdale for one month and twenty days before being transferred to Millbank Prison, where he spent a further nine months and twenty-one days. While there, he was described as single, his religion C of E, able to read and write imperfectly, his behaviour good. His next-of-kin was named as his mother, Mary Beard, of Union Street, Ancoats Lane, Manchester.[25]

On 22 November 1855 he was transferred to Portsmouth Prison, where he spent six months and a day.[26] On 22 May 1856, Robert Catterall, along with another of the Salford burglars, William Gregan, was taken onboard the convict ship Runnymede, bound for Western Australia.[27]

On arrival at Fremantle he was described as a servant, single, aged 18, 5’3”, with dark brown hair, hazel eyes, an oval face, fresh complexion, a cut on his left foot and a scar on his right elbow.[28] He was listed as having been received from Portsmouth Prison, after being convicted of burglary on 15 December 1854, with a previous conviction. While in Solitary Confinement his conduct had been Good, but at Public Works it was V. Bad. His previous record was listed as ‘Once 4 months and 4 times Summarily Convicted and twice whipped with 3 months for Misdemeanor’.[29]

Catterall’s Record in WA

27/1/57 – Complained of having a swollen testicle – not visible.[30]

21/2/57 – Suffering from Neuralgia.[31]

11/3/57 – To Mt. Eliza.[32]

14/9/57 – Class suspended, one month.[33]

30/11/57 – To Mt. Eliza.[34]

17/2/58 – Admitted to Prison Hospital with bowel problems.[35]

2/3/58 – Discharged from Hospital, re-joined Division.[36]

18/5/58 – To York, Green Mount.

17/6/58 – Three months Hard Labour. Remitted.[37]

22/6/58 – From York to Green Mount.[38]

22/6/58 – To Convict Establishment.[39]

24/12/58 – Transferred to Bunbury.[40]

26/9/59 – Ticket of Leave at Bunbury.[41]

8/9/60 – Convicted of receiving stolen property.[42]

17/11/60 – Re-convicted prisoner, transferred to Mt. Eliza.[43]

8/9/61 – Received at Fremantle Prison.[44]

22/1/61 – To Ticket of Leave.[45]

5/2/61 – T/L holder. Discharged from …… (Indecipherable)[46]

8/9/61 – Received back at Fremantle Prison.[47]

18/11/62 – Conditional Pardon suspended for six months.[48]

20/6/63 – Conditional Pardon at Champion Bay.[49]

No more is known about Robert Catterall. Perhaps he left the Colony.


(3) WILLIAM GREGAN (1833 – ?) (Reg. No. 4022)

William Gregan was one of the prisoners sent out to Western Australia as a result of the bungled burglary attempt at Moss Side in November 1854. He was arrested along with the Goodier brothers and Robert Catterall, and due to his previous bad record, was sentenced to 15 years’ transportation.

William Gregan was born in Manchester in 1833, the son of Patrick Gregan, his mother unknown. At the time of William’s conviction on 11 December 1854 of the burglary charge, he had a record of two convictions and eight summary arrests. His father Patrick Gregan, of Cubitts Alley, Deane Gate, Manchester, was listed as his next-of-kin.[50]

William was committing crimes from an early age. As a 16-year-old, he had been convicted of larceny at the County Salford Sessions on 21 May 1849, resulting in a three-month prison term and a whipping.[51] On 17 June 1850, at the age of 17, he was convicted of stealing some silver spoons, resulting in a seven-year sentence. He was not transported at this stage. He spent time in Millbank Prison, where his conduct was ‘Good’, before being sent on 10 February 1851 to Parkhurst, a prison for young offenders on the Isle of Wight. He was described as a piecer[52], aged 17, his height just 5’0½”, with brown hair, grey eyes, a fresh complexion and an oval face. His distinguishing marks were a cut to his eyebrow, a blue mark on his left fore-arm and back of hand and a large burn mark on the back of his head, devoid of hair. William’s religion was listed as Roman Catholic and he was able to read. His next-of-kin on this occasion was his brother Michael, of 9 George Street, Hulme, in Manchester. He was released on Licence (Ticket of Leave) on 21 June 1854.[53]

Following his release, it wasn’t long before William was arrested with the Goodier brothers and Robert Catterall for the attempted burglary at Moss Side, this time earning a sentence of 15 years’ transportation. He spent two months and twenty-one days in Separate Confinement in Kirkdale Prison before being sent to Millbank.[54] While there his name appeared three times in the Governor’s Register for misconduct, including one attempted escape from his cell.[55] From Millbank he was sent to Portland Prison on 30 November 1855.[56] He also served time on a convict hulk, where his conduct was good.[57]

William Gregan was taken onboard the convict ship Runnymede on 24 May 1856. The Portland Prison Governor recorded the event as follows –

At 20 minutes past eleven I marched off the 119 convicts for embarkation on the Runnymede for Western Australia – at 12 o’clock they embarked in the steamer for the ship and were alongside in 10 minutes – the (……?) accompanied them on board – the men were most orderly.’[58]

The ship sailed from Plymouth on 15 June and arrived at Fremantle on 7 September 1856. William’s record shows good conduct while in Solitary Confinement, on Public Works and during the voyage.[59] He was described as a brickmaker, single, aged 25, 5’3½”, with dark brown hair, hazel eyes, an oval face, a fresh complexion and middling stout in build. He had various tattoos – ‘W.R.’ on his right arm, ‘W’ and an anchor on his left arm, and an anchor and a ring on his left hand.[60] [At times William Gregan used the name Regan.]

William Gregan’s Record in WA

14/10/56 – Bread & Water seven days.[61]

3/2/57 – Well-sinker, tooth-ache, extraction.[62]

4/3/57 – From Convict Establishment to Mt Eliza.[63]

4/3/57 – Transferred to M.E. (Medical Establishment).[64]

27/6/58 – Admonished.[65]

13/11/58 – Received from Mt Eliza.[66]

17/11/58 – Ticket of Leave.[67]

10/8/59 – Stealing a coat from Thomas Neil at Perth, value 18/-. Three months’ hard labour.[68] [At this stage he was living with a prostitute named Ann Ship, or Gregory.[69]]

11/8/59 – Re-convicted prisoner received back at Fremantle.[70]

16/11/59 – Re-convicted prisoner transferred to Sutherland Bay.

27/1/60 – Received at Prison from Sutherland Bay.[71]

7/1/60 – Forfeited dinner.[72]

28/1/1860 – Discharged from Prison on T/L.[73]

1860 – William Ragan [Gregan] married Ann Ship [Gregory] in York, WA.[74]

17/3/63 – In liquor and creating disturbance in Murray Street. Fined 10/- or seven days.[75]

1864 – The birth of a son, James Richard Regan, was registered to Ann Ship and William Regan (Gregan) at Perth, but he died two days later.[76]

27/2/64 – Transferred to Swan District. Entered service of H. Hudson (?) – Bricks at 50/- per month. Left this employment and entered service of W. Cruze (or Cruse?). Left and returned to Perth.[77]

1864 – Self-employed.

16/5/65 – Seven days in prison. Released 22 May ’65.[78]

31/5/65 – Discharged to Ticket of Leave.[79]

29/7/67 – Conditional Pardon.[80]

William Gregan’s choice of a marriage partner was an unfortunate one. Ann Gregory, alias ‘Ann Ship’, was a well-known prostitute around Perth and Fremantle. Her name regularly appeared in the Police Court columns of newspapers, due to drunken and dissolute conduct, which resulted in her being barred from licensed premises. Due to different spellings and interpretations of their names, it had been difficult to trace the activities of William Gregan and his wife Ann through various publications –

Ann Gregory, also rejoicing in the pseudonym of Ann Ship, under which latter name she has acquired no inconsiderable degree of notoriety, not only in Perth but in Fremantle, as the records of the police courts will testify, had to-day an interview with our worthy police Magistrate, being introduced to His Worship by p.c. Hogan. The good lady, whose taste for strong drinks is so insatiable that a paternal Government, in the interest of morality and as conducive to the frail one’s health, has publicly prohibited her being supplied with intoxicating liquors.

Notwithstanding this sumptuary regulation, and in the face of repeated warnings, Ann still hankering after “a drop of the cratur,” was observed to pay a visit to a public house in the town, but as it did not appear that she had been supplied with liquor of any description, she was once more discharged with a severe caution and a stern admonition.[81]


Before J. G. Slade, Esq., R.M. Thursday, Feb, 24, 1870.

Ann Gregan alias Ship was charged with being drunk and exposing her person in the tap-room of Harwood’s hotel. Sergeant Regan said he was passing the Crown and Thistle Hotel and was called by Mr Harwood who gave the prisoner in charge —she was drunk and in a most indecent condition—she was removed from the taproom to the stables. Mr Harwood was called and said he had before had occasion to check the prisoner for the same disgraceful conduct—on this occasion, she pretended to have a fit and behaved in a shamefully indecent manner— some men took her to the stables—she immediately got up when she found the police were sent for—having repeatedly cautioned the prisoner about the same thing, he was determined to give her in charge of the police. His Worship asked Mr Harwood how this women obtained drink, as her name was proclaimed in all the public houses as a person to whom drink was not to be supplied. Mr Harwood could form no idea of how she got it. His Worship said the woman was a public nuisance, and committed her to prison for three months as a rogue and vagabond.[82]

Less frequently, William’s name appeared in police reports. He was arrested for stealing a coat in 1859, a crime which also involved Ann Ship, who intended pawning the item. In April 1863, both were arrested for drunkenness the same day –

William Gregan, t.l. — In liquor and creating a disturbance in Murray Street on the 17th instant ; fined 10s or 7 days imprisonment with hard labour. 

Ann Gregan —  Drunk and using bad language in Hay Street; fined 5s or 3 days’ imprisonment with hard labour.[83]

An extensive search of records under various names has failed to result in details of the deaths of William and Ann Gregan. It seems unlikely that they left the colony.


[1] Friends of Rosehill website, 

[2] Teesdale Mercury, 5 November 1856.

[3] Liverpool Mail, 16 December 1854.

[4] Home Office, Criminal Registers, England and Wales, 1805-1892, Series HO27, Piece No. 108.

[5] England and Wales Criminal Registers, 1791-1892,

[6] Ibid.

[7] Liverpool Assizes, PCOM2, Piece No. 38.

[8] Millbank Prison Registers, Vol. 7, HO24, Piece No.7.

[9] Convict Hulks Quarterly Returns, Series HO8, Piece No. 132.

[10] Chatham Prison Register of Prisoners, Series PCOM2, Piece No. 1.

[11] Convict Department Registers, Convicts per Nile (R32).

[12] Convict Department, Convict Lists (128/33-37)

[13] Convict Establishment, Medical Registers (M4 – M6)

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Convict Department, Convict Lists, etc. (128/33-37)

[17] Convict Establishment, Fremantle Casual Sick Registers (Cs6-Cs8)

[18]  Convict Establishment, Receipts and Discharges (Rd3-Rd4)

[19] Convict Department Registers, General Register (R1)

[20] Ibid.

[21] Perth Gazette, 24 October 1862.

[22] Convict Department Registers, General Register (R1)

[23] Wikipedia,

[24] Portsmouth Prison Register of Prisoners, PCOM2, Piece No. 106

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Convict Department Estimates, Convict Lists (128/1-32)

[29] Convict Department Registers, Character Book (R19)

[30] Convict Department, Daily Medical Journals (M14-M16)

[31] Convict Establishment, Casual Sick Registers (Cs1-Cs3)

[32] Convict Department, Receipts and Discharges (Rd1-Rd2)

[33] Convict Department Registers, Character Book (R19)

[34] Convict Department, Receipts and Discharges (Rd1-Rd2)

[35] Convict Establishment Medical, Patient Registers ((M4-M6)

[36] Convict Establishment Medical, Hospital Occurrences (M2)

[37] Convict Department Registers, Character Book (R19)

[38] Convict Department, Receipts and Discharges (Rd1-Rd3)

[39] Convict Department Registers, Character Book (R19)

 [40]Convict Department, Receipts and Discharges (Rd1-Rd2)

[41] Convict Department Registers, Character Book (R19)

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

[43] Convict Department, Receipts and Discharges (Rd3-Rd4)

[44] Ibid.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Ibid.

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

[49] Midwest Convict Register,

[50] Millbank Prison Register of Prisoners, Series PCOM2, Piece No. 36.

[51] Home Office, Criminal Records, Series HO27, Piece No. 88.

[52] ‘Piecer’ – A person occupied in joining threads together in a spinning mill. Children were often employed in this role.

[53] Parkhurst Prison, Isle of Wight, Register of Prisoners, Series PCOM2, Piece No. 59.

[54] Millbank Prison, Register of Prisoners, Series PCOM2, Piece No. 36.

[55] Millbank Register of Prisoners, Series PCOM2, Piece Nos. 31 & 36.

[56] Millbank Prison Registers, Male Prisoners Volume 5, Series HO24, Piece No. 5.

[57] Convict Hulks, Quarterly Returns, Series HO8, Piece Nos. 126, 127.

[58] Portland Prison Governor’s Journal, Series PCOM2, Piece No. 357.

[59] Convict Department Registers, Character Book (R19)

[60] Convict Department, Convict Lists, etc., (128/33-37)

[61] Convict Department Registers, Character Book (R19)

[62] Convict Establishment, Medical, Daily Journals (M14-M16)

[63] Convict Establishment, Receipts & Discharges (Rd3-Rd4)

[64] Convict Department Registers, Character Book (R19)

[65] Ibid.

[66] Convict Department Registers (Rd1-Rd2)

[67] Ibid.

[68] Convict Department Registers, Reconvicted Prisoners Register (R10)

[69] Perth Gazette, 19 August 1859.

[70] Convict Establishment, Receipts & Discharges (Rd3-Rd4)

[71] Ibid.

[72] Convict Department Registers, Reconvicted Prisoners Register (R10)

[73] Ibid.

[74] WA Department of Justice, Marriage Records, Reg. No. 1520.

[75] Inquirer, 1 April 1863.

[76] WA Department of Justice, Birth Records, Reg. No. 7710.

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

[78] Convict Establishment, Receipts & Discharges (Rd3-Rd4)

[79] Ibid.

[80] Fremantle Prison convict records.

[81] WA Times, 21 August 1874.

[82] Express (Fremantle, WA), 25 February 1870.

[83] Inquirer, 1 April 1863.