Convict Histories

Thomas Stubbs (c1829 – ?) (Reg. No. 21 & 5372)

By Irma Walter, 2021.

Thomas Stubbs was one of those convicts who was transported to Western Australia on two different occasions, the first time in 1850 for breaking into a warehouse, for which he was sentenced to 14 years. His second term was for leaving the Colony before completing his first sentence and returning to England, for which crime he was sentenced to transportation for life.

Thomas Stubbs was the son of Thomas and Maria Stubbs. The family lived at Crewe in Staffordshire at the time of his offence. The 1841 Census has a record of a Thomas Stubbs, aged 37, a silk weaver, his wife Maria, also 37, Thomas, aged 9, S.P. (a silk piecer), James, (10), ditto, and three daughters, Maria (6), Anne (3), and Meariy (1). Their address was Richmond Hill, Prestbury, East Macclesfield, Cheshire. All were born in Cheshire, apart from an elderly woman, Ann Simpson, who lived with them.

[Silk was woven in Cheshire by independent weavers who had hand looms in their own homes. They worked as outworkers for merchants, who supplied them with silk and bought the cloth. This was a common rural practice.[1] Children were employed in the industry from an early age.]

By the time of the 1851 census this family was living in Bank Street, Macclesfield, and Thomas, the head of the household, was employed as a labourer. Their two sons no longer lived with them.

Thomas Stubbs (Jnr) had a number of convictions in his teenage years. In 1845, 18-year-old Thomas Stubbs was convicted of burglary in Cheshire and was given one month’s gaol. That year his name appeared again, alongside a Samuel Stubbs, same age – probably related. Thomas was given another six months for larceny, and Samuel one month.[2] On 28 March 1846 a youth named Thomas Stubbs (16), was convicted of burglary at Cheshire, and was sentenced to six months’ gaol.[3] By 1848, aged 17, he had graduated to a more serious crime, of breaking into a warehouse.[4] With his previous convictions taken into account, Thomas Stubbs was sentenced to 14 years’ penal servitude, resulting in being sent to Western Australia. He spent 15 months in Separate Confinement in Pentonville Prison,[5] before being taken onboard the Scindian, the first convict ship sent to Western Australia. It left Portsmouth on 4 March 1850 and arrived at Fremantle on 1 June that year.[6]

Thomas’s initial convict record was quite detailed. His age was recorded as 20 years on 22 July 1851. His trade was listed as a coal miner, he could read a little and his religion was Church of England. He rarely attended Divine Service and had never received the sacrament. He had little secular knowledge and his religious knowledge was limited, but was correct on the doctrines of Salvation. His intellect was sound, his habits were sober and hard-working, and his intention was to do well. He hoped to prosper by conduct and steadiness. He considered that the cause of his crime was keeping bad company. He gave the names of two character referees from Kid Crewe in Staffordshire, one a coal dealer. His parents were Thomas and Maria Stubbs, of Golden Hill, near Crewe in Staffordshire. Even the titles of books delivered to him in prison were listed – ‘The Life of Napoleon Bonaparte’ and ‘Penny Magazines’.[7]

Thomas Stubbs, miner, aged 21, was released for good behaviour on his Ticket of Leave on 14 May 1851.[8] He was in Bunbury in 1852.[9] He was discharged from prison on 21 August 1852 to Guildford Station and was received back at Fremantle on 10 September that year.[10]

In March 1854 he was sent to Champion Bay.[11] That month he took the opportunity to board a ship in that port and escape from Western Australia.[12]

Second Term of Transportation for Thomas Stubbs (Reg. No. 5372)

Thomas Stubbs, aged 30, arrived back in WA for the second time on 19 August 1859, onboard the Sultana. He had fled the colony of WA without completing his 1848 sentence of fourteen years and found his way back to England. He was arrested on a canal boat at Macclesfield and faced another charge of burglary. He was further charged with having returned to England before his term was up. In the Court on 1 December,1855 he told of how he was self-employed in Western Australia and managed to save £73, before sailing on the Isabelle, for the Isle of France, where she intended taking water. (The vessel was probably the Isabella Blythe, sailing via Champion Bay for Mauritius in March 1854, carrying wool to England.[13] Stubbs boarded the vessel at Champion Bay.[14]) Stubbs stated that he regretted leaving WA and wished he were back there. Perhaps the Magistrate was sympathetic to his plea, as Stubbs was found guilty of burglary and was gaoled for six months with hard labour, followed by transportation for life back to WA.[15]

Thomas did not accept this severe sentence lightly. On 25 October 1856 he attempted an escape from Portland Prison, then he broke his chain when on removal to Dartmoor on 22 January 1858. He spent an extra six months in Separate Confinement, plus one month.

It wasn’t until May 1859 that Thomas Stubbs (now Reg. No. 5372), aged 25, sawyer, was received from Dartmoor Prison onboard the Sultana, following his sentence on 1 December 1855 at Chester, to life imprisonment for feloniously returning from transportation.[16] He was described at this time as a sawyer, married with no children, 5’5 ½” tall, with brown hair, hazel eyes, thin build, a fresh complexion and middling stout. His marks were an anchor, a slight scar and a bird on his right arm, and an anchor and scar on his left arm. [There is no record of a marriage in Western Australia.]

Soon after his arrival on 19 August 1859, Stubbs was released to work:

26 August 1859 – One of 40 Provisional Prisoners transferred to Mt Eliza.[17]

15 October 1860 – Thomas Stubbs (Reg. No. 5372) – received at Fremantle Prison from Perth.[18]

17 February 1862 – Ticket of Leave at Guildford.

1 July 1862 – Ticket of Leave.

31 July 1866 – Charged with idleness – three days’ bread & water.

20 September 1866 – Burglary and robbery – three years’ hard labour.

16 July 1867 – Thomas Stubbs (Reg. No. 1585, previous Reg. No. 5372), aged 35, was charged with stealing meat, three months’ hard labour, charged by Res. Magistrate Chas. Symmons.[19]

27 April 1868 – Thomas Stubbs, (Reg. Nos. 1758, 5732) – Drunk and assaulting police – Sentenced by C Symmons – one month.[20]

20 September 1871 – At Bunbury, Thomas Stubbs, (Reg. Nos. 3956 & 5372) – charged with assaulting police – sentence one month, W.P. Clifton.[21]

18 September 1873 – (Reg. Nos. 4576 & 5372) – A rogue & vagabond – fourteen days.

4 October 1873 – Thomas Stubbs (Reg. Nos. 4601 & 5372) drunk, 7 days in prison.[22]

26 March 1878 – Thomas Stubbs, (Reg. No. 1672 and 5372), aged 47, sawyer – unlawfully on premises, 21 days.[23]

21 July 1881 – Cook and baker – neglect of duty, three months.[24]

30 November 1885 – Thomas Stubbs, (Reg. No. 5632, formerly Reg. No. 21), sawyer, aged 55, was in prison, convicted of drunkenness – one week.[25]

22 March 1886 – Thomas Stubbs, (Reg. Nos. 5948 & 21), sawyer, aged 55, committed an assault on W. Turner – one month in prison.[26]

23 March 1886 – Thomas Stubbs, (Reg. No. 21), received from Fremantle to Fremantle Prison.[27]

22 April 1886 – Stubbs, (Reg. No. 21) – Discharged.

From the time of his arrival for a second time in Western Australia, Stubbs showed a defiant attitude, general insubordination and erratic behaviour, and served regular terms in gaol for mostly petty crimes, although occasionally he resorted to violence. In 1870 he was admitted to the Lunatic Asylum, but by 20 September 1871 he was in Bunbury, where Thomas Stubbs, (Reg. Nos. 3956 & 5372) was charged with assaulting police and was sentenced to one month in prison by W.P. Clifton.[28] He was in prison again in July 1873 when he was informed that, providing his conduct was satisfactory, he would be released to Ticket of Leave. This was granted on 1 September 1873.[29]

Stubbs worked at various jobs, including as a baker, cook, mason, teamster, wood cutter or general servant. In 1873 he was employed variously in Fremantle and York before transferring to the Wellington District, where he received his Ticket of Leave on 4 December, prior to being briefly employed from 8 December 1873 as a general servant by James Guy Thomson of Brookhampton, for £1 per week. On 22 December he went to work as a cook for MB Smith, also of the Wellington District, for 30/- per week.[30]

In 1876 the unexpired portion of his cumulative sentences was remitted and he was granted his Certificate of Freedom on 13 March (Vide 7938/15).

It is not known when Thomas Stubbs died or where he was buried. He spent some years in the Victoria Plains District, where he employed John Atherton in 1881.[31] He was down in Perth in 1898 when he got involved in a drinking session with another ex-convict, Peter Vigo, whom he had met at the Old Men’s Depot. Vigo stole Stubbs’s purse and in court Stubbs told the magistrate that it held money to get him back to Victoria Plains. In the article they were described as ‘Two Old Fighters.[32]

[For more information about Thomas Stubbs, see Midwest Convict Register, ]


[1] Silk Industry of Cheshire, Wikipedia,

[2] England & Wales Criminal Register, Cheshire, 1848.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid, 1848.

[5] Convict Department Registers, Character Book, 1850-1857 (R17)

[6] Australian Convict Records, at

[7] Convict Department Registers, Register for Nos.1-299 (R21A)

[8] Convict Department Registers, Character Book, 1850-1857 (R17)

[9] Midwest Convict Register,

[10] Convict Establishment, Receipts & Discharges, 1859-1861, 1863-1865 (RD1 – RD2)

[11] Convict Related Letters Acc 488/31 Letter 1684,

[12] Convict Department Registers, General Register 1850-1868 (R21B)

[13] Perth Gazette, 10 March 1854.

[14] Midwest Convict Register,

[15] Chester Chronicle, 8 December 1855.

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

[17] Convict Establishment, Receipts & Discharges, 1859-1861, 1863-1865 (RD3 – RD4)

[18] Ibid.

[19] Convict Establishment Miscellaneous, Local Prisoners Register,1858-1868 (V16)

[20] Ibid.

[21] Fremantle Prison Registers, Register of Local Prisoners for Nos. 3655- 5197, 1870 – 1877 (F2A)

[22] Ibid.

[23] Fremantle Prison Registers, Register of Local Prisoners for Nos. 614 – 4185, 4196 – 6853, 1876-1888 (F3-F4)

[24] Convict Establishment, Receipts & Discharges, 1859-1861, 1863-1865 (RD3 – RD4)

[25] Ibid.

[26] Fremantle Prison Registers, Register of Local Prisoners for Nos. 614 – 4185, 4196 – 6853, 1876-1888 (F3-F4)

[27] Convict Establishment, Receipts & Discharges, 1882 – 1886 (RD9B – RD10)

[28] Fremantle Prison Registers, Register of Local Prisoners for Nos. 3655- 5197, 1870 – 1877 (F2A)

[29] Convict Department, General Register (R14)

[30] Ibid.

[31] Toodyay Convicts database,

[32] Daily News, 28 July 1898.