Convict Histories

George Benbow (c.1836 -1924) (Reg. No. 7625 & 10071)

George Benbow was charged at Staffordshire on 13 October 1862 with larceny at Handsworth, a small town which is now part of Birmingham.

STAFFORDSHIRE SESSIONS – George Benbow was ordered to be kept in penal servitude for six years, for stealing ducks and fowls, the property of George Baker, of Handsworth.[1]

This offence, compounded by three other relatively petty crimes, earned him a severe penalty – a sentence of six years’ transportation. George’s earlier convictions were also for rural based crimes:

Sept. 1855 – At Stafford Assizes – stealing, 3 calendar months.[2]

Sept. 1856 – Stealing a truss of hay, Birmingham Assizes – 4 years.[3]

March 1861 – Warwick Assizes – stealing fowls – 12 calendar months.[4]

At the age of 25 George was received onboard the Clara on 13 April 1864 at Portsmouth. His conduct was described as good. He had dark brown hair, hazel eyes, a long face, dark complexion, was middling stout, with a large hole on his right hip and a cut under his right ear. He was a boot-closer by trade, single, with no children, and height 5’4½”. His next of kin was his father, John Benbow, of Birmingham.[5]

In WA George earned marks from April 1864 and was discharged from Fremantle Prison to a work gang on the Blackwood Road on 30 September 1864.[6] He was deemed eligible for his Ticket of Leave on 28 June 1865.[7] He employed three ticket-of-leave men between 1871 and 1876, one of them a boot closer, indicating that he was self-employed.[8]

Along with Jeremiah Prior, (Convict No.7514), George was re-convicted in the WA Supreme Court on 5 September 1872, guilty of larceny from the Twilight, which had become wrecked during a gale at Bunbury and drifted onto the beach. Stolen goods, including 20 lbs. tobacco, 911 lbs. soap, 20 lbs. maizena, a pair of trowsers and a sock, were found in Benbow’s house. As Colonial Prisoner No. 10071, (formerly 7625), he was sentenced to six years.[9]

By this time George was aged 34 years. His description was the same as at his arrival in the colony, apart from being described as ‘stout’, with a large mole on his right hip, a cut on right side under lip and a scar on the left side of abdomen. He was still working as a boot-closer, single, with no children, and was able to read and write.[10]

Back in custody a change was evident in his behaviour:

19/9/72 – At Fremantle Prison – insubordination.

10/6/73 – Destroying his sheets – 3 days bread & water.

10/6/73 – Using threatening language – 2 days B & W.

25/10/73 – Remission 3 days. [Remission for general labour on the Georgette, a steamship stranded at Warnborough Bay on 19 October. By the time the men arrived at the site they were no longer required.[11]]

21/11/73 – Remission 34 days, working on the Emilienne. (Shipwrecked at Fremantle during a storm.)

20/1/74 – Remission 7 days. [This was for fighting a fire which broke out in a haystack near the stables at the Convict Establishment.[12]]

1/12/74 – Appointed Chaplain’s Orderly, Hiberian.[13]

2/10/76 – Discharged to T/L. Fremantle to York.

7/10/76 – York to Fremantle (out of work).

16/10/76 – Not reporting his engagement, Perth, fined 5/-.

 5/9/78 – Certificate of Freedom to RM Perth.

 1/11/76 – (Unreadable, T/L?) to PM Perth.

Employment Record

12/10/76 – Bootmaker, 40/- per month, M. McKile (?), Perth.

15/10/77 – Shoemaker, piece-work, Perth, Treanor and Smeddles. [Metropolitan Boot Mart was in Howick Street, next door to the John Bull Inn.[14]]

30/6/78 – Ditto (?)

5/9/78 – Certificate of Freedom to PM Perth.[15]

In 1885 at the Perth Police Court, George Benbow admitted he had been drunk in Murray-street the previous afternoon, and was discharged with a caution. Sarah Jane Clarke, who had been in Benbow’s company and was arrested upon a similar charge, was sent to prison for twenty-one days.[16]

George was self-employed in 1887-1889 when advertising as a bootmaker in Perth.[17] In 1897 he was advertising as a shoemaker, of 63 King Street, Perth.[18]

In his latter years, he was keeping bad company. In 1898 he was involved in an altercation on a Perth street –

A King-Street Row. — George Benbow was presented by Constable Mann on a charge of having been disorderly in King-street on the previous evening. There was a woman concerned in the matter, and according to Benbow she was urging two of her male friends to fight him. Constable Mann stated that he had taken Benbow in charge to end the dispute. The P.M. discharged him with a caution.[19]

The following year George was called as a witness to an assault in Perth between a Cingalese man and two Chinese, over a gambling matter.[20] In 1900 he was again in trouble –

After several warnings, George Benbow was charged with having allowed well-known thieves and prostitutes to frequent his premises, No. 63 King-street. Mr. Vyner appeared for the accused. Constable Douglas said that his attention was drawn to the premises on the 1st inst. by the obscene language which was being used there. He visited the house and found a number of the lowest prostitutes on the premises. Constables Whyte and M’Anley gave corroborative evidence. They stated that they had warned the accused several times. The accused was sentenced to seven days’ imprisonment.[21]

On 20 February 1901, as ‘George Benbo’, he was convicted once again as an idle and disorderly person, and although he denied being the tenant of the King Street house frequented by prostitutes, this was confirmed by the property’s agent, and George was given another three months in gaol.[22]

In 1892 he was fined 20s. and costs, or 14 days, for using insulting language to Stephen Chipper.[23]

George Benbow, aged 88 years, died on 23 August 1924 at Claremont, probably at the Old Men’s Home. He was buried at Karrakatta Cemetery.[24]

[Note: A copy of a photograph of George Benbow, (Convict No. 7625) – taken as a Colonial Prisoner in WA and dating sometime between the 1880s and 1912 – has been reproduced in Australia’s Last Convicts reprobates, rogues and recidivists, by Lorraine Clarke and Sherie Strickland, Swan Genealogy, iPrintPlus, Perth, Western Australia, p.3.]


[1] Birmingham Daily Post, 16 October 1862.

[2] England & Wales Criminal Registers, Staffordshire 1855,

[3] Birmingham Journal, 19 April 1856.

[4] Convict Department Registers, Distribution Books for Nos. 7608 – 8107.

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

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

[7] Convict Department Registers, Distribution Books for Nos. 7608 – 8107.

[8] Rica Erickson, Bicentennial Dictionary of Western Australians, p.194.

[9] Herald, 7 September 1872.

[10] Convict Dept. Registers 128/40-43.

[11] Herald, 25 October 1873.

[12] Herald, 24 January 1874.

[13] Convict Establishment Miscellaneous., Superintendent’s Register of Prisoners 1867-1877 (V10)

[14] WA Times, 13 August 1878.

[15] Convict Dept. Reg., Gen. Reg. for Nos. 9599 – 10128 contd. (R16)

[16] West Australian, 3 June 1885.

[17] WA Almanack, Carnamah Historical Society,

[18] Witton’s Directory, Carnamah Historical Society,

[19] Inquirer 28 Oct 1898.

[20] Daily News, 21 Aug 1899.

[21] Inquirer, 11 May 1900.

[22] Daily News, 20 February 1901.

[23] Inquirer, 15 January 1892.

[24] Metropolitan Cemeteries Board, at