Convict Histories

Joseph Cole (c1831 – 1896) (Reg. No. 4912)

By Irma Walter, 2021.

Joseph Cole arrived in WA on board the Lord Raglan on 1 June 1858. He was described as a single labourer with no children, 5’11” tall, with dark brown hair, light hazel eyes, a long face, and of slight build with no distinctive markings.[1] Another record states that he was a 28-year-old farm labourer, married with no children.[2] His reading and writing skills were imperfect. He served time in Chatham Prison after being convicted at Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire on 8 March 1852 of burglary. With four previous convictions (two of which were offences under the Game Laws[3]), Cole was sentenced to ten years’ transportation.[4] He was received at Millbank Prison from Chatham Prison on 9 September 1857.[5]

Cole was an associate of John Hall, notorious leader of a gang of thieves which terrorised the Huntingdon and Petersborough residents for two years prior to Hall’s arrest. With a likely sentence of death hanging over him, John Hall decided to give the names of his associates and details of their crimes to the authorities. [See story of the Huntingdon Burglars on this website.]

While in Fremantle Prison Joseph Cole had ongoing health problems, spending time in hospital. He was given his Ticket of Leave on 4 August 1858, and a Conditional Pardon on 27 June 1860.[6]

In July 1867 a woman named Joanna Foley appeared in court on a charge of bigamy. A man named Joseph Cole was involved:

Johanna Foley was charged with bigamy. The information stated that the prisoner was lawfully married to Jeremiah Foley, on the 29th April, 1865, and that on the 18th April, 1867, Foley being still alive, she married another named Joseph Cole, at the Wesleyan Chapel, Perth, under false representations. The prisoner pleaded guilty, urging that she had received her first husband (Foley’s) consent to again marry; and that she thought there was no harm in it, since she and Foley had lived apart for two years before.

Sentence – 12 months imprisonment.[7]

[Earlier that same year Joanna Foley’s husband Jeremiah Foley[8] was attacked and almost garrotted by a man named Larwood.[9] In her testimony Joanna stated that Larwood had been living at her house for eleven years, and shared her bed after she separated from Foley two years earlier. In his summing up of the case, Joanna Foley’s morals were called into question by the Judge, who found Larwood guilty and sentenced him to three years’ imprisonment.][10]

Joseph Cole was discharged from prison on 5 October 1876 (crime unknown).[11] Then on 11 October that year he was charged over a savage attack with an axe on CS Monger at Newcastle (now Toodyay). The sudden attack was considered inexplicable, and mercy was recommended, due to Cole having suffered an epileptic seizure just prior to the event. He was sentenced to six months’ hard labour in prison.[12] At the time he was described as a labourer, aged 46, with his hair turning grey, light hazel eyes, a long face, fresh complexion and of thin stature, with a scar below his right knee. He earned a remission of 11 days and was discharged on 23 October 1877.[13]

In 1877, (as Convict No. 10214, formerly 4912), he was back in Court, sentenced to six years’ penal servitude for larceny of certain moneys and goods belonging to the Reverend Canon Martelli at Newcastle. He was arrested at York when he attempted to cash a cheque at Chipper’s Hotel.[14]

As a Colonial Prisoner, Cole was back in prison on 11 December 1882, sentenced to one months’ hard labour for not reporting his place of lodging.[15]

Cole’s health continued to deteriorate. In 1883, at the age of 54, he was in the Invalid Department, following an attack of epilepsy, admitted to the hospital on 28 June 1883 and was not discharged until 13 August 1883.[16] On 3 April 1884 he was again released from hospital with the recommendation that he should go to the Invalid Depot.[17] In October 1887 he was re-admitted to the Invalid Depot, on the recommendation of the surgeon.[18]

The death of Joseph Cole (Reg. Nos 6044 and 10214) was recorded on 16 August 1896.[19] He had died of senile decay at the Mt Eliza Depot.[20] He was buried in the East Perth Cemetery.[21]


[1] WA Convict Shipping Lists, at

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

[3] Convict Establishment, Character Book (R8)

[4] Convict Department Registers, General Register for Nos. 4679 – 5166 (R1)

[5] Convict Department Registers, Convicts Transported per Dudbrook, William, and Lord Raglan (R33/ 1-3)

[6]. Convict Department Registers, General Register for nos. 4679 – 5166 (R1)

[7] Perth Gazette and West Australian Times, 5 July 1867.

[8] Convict Jeremiah Foley (Reg. No. 2432)

[9] Convict Alfred Larwood (Reg. No. 2782, reconvicted as Reg. No. 9373)

[10] Ibid., 5 April 1867.

[11] Fremantle Prison Receipts and Discharges (RD9 – RD9A)

[12] Inquirer, 11 October 1876.

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

[14] Inquirer, 10 October 1877.

[15] Fremantle Prison Register (F2B)

[16] Convict Establishment, Medical, Register of Admissions and Discharges from Hospital, 1837 – 1886 (M32)

[17] Convict Establishment, Medical, Daily Medical Journals (M21A – M22)

[18] Ibid.

[19] Convict Department Registers, General Register 1850 – 1868 (R21B)

[20] Inquirer, 28 August 1896.

[21] East Perth Cemeteries website at