Convict Histories

The Great Cornhill Jewellery Robbery

By Irma Walter, 2021.

In 1865 several burglaries took place in London which excited the interest of the general public and the press, due to their brazen nature and the value of the goods stolen. Two of the robberies were from the premises of prominent jewellers in the heart of London’s commercial district.

The largest robbery took place in the heart of the city at the premises of Mr John Walker, of 68 Cornhill Street, where his safe was forced open and watches and jewellery to the value of £6,000 were stolen. Police were baffled by the audacity of the thieves, as the place was lit with gas lighting and the police made regular patrols of the neighbourhood. It was decided by investigating detectives that entry had been made via the ceiling of the premises below and up through the floor of the jeweller’s shop.

On the advice of senior police, Walker had taken every precaution to protect his property. The shop was lined with iron, the gas was lit all night, and holes had been made in the shutters so that police could look inside every fourteen minutes as they did their rounds. The safe, believed to be impregnable, was painted white and mirrors were so placed as to allow the police to see every aspect of the interior of the premises. During the robbery it had been wrenched open by means of a screw jack, which must have taken some time and would have created a great deal of noise in the process.[1] The burglars had retreated back into the shop below several times when a signal was received, warning of the approach of the patrolling policeman.

The Cornhill Street robbery had obviously been well-planned, with a number of people involved. Other jewellers had taken similar measures to ensure their security, but their faith in the ability of the police to guard their premises had been diminished by the spate of burglaries which had occurred.[2] Detectives circulated descriptions of the stolen jewellery and a large reward of £1,000 was offered by Walker for information leading to detection of the thieves. It wasn’t until a silk weaver named David Roberts tried to sell two of the watches that suspicions were aroused. The police were called and watchmaker’s tools were found at his home.

With information provided by Roberts, they next arrested William Henry Jeffries (alias Jeffreys, Barrett, or Parker), who shared a house in Whitechapel Road with well-known burglar Thomas Brewerton (‘Velvet Ned’) and his wife Louisa. There police found a box containing money, watches, gold chains and jewels, identified as Mr Walker’s property. They also found some silk, identified as part of the missing stock from a recent warehouse robbery in Cheapside, where 11,000 yards of silk fabric had been stolen.

At the premises of Thomas Caseley (known as ‘Counsellor Kelly’) and his wife Ann in Bow Road, they found a box containing money and 52 gold watches, as well as a jemmy which matched the marks on Mr Walker’s door.

The following day William Henry Jeffries, Thomas Brewerton (alias Bruton), Frederick William Wilkinson, (‘Carrotty Fred’, alias Erskine), and William Brown, (‘Scotty’, alias Price, real name Thomas Miller or Millar), were indicted for breaking into a warehouse in November and stealing silk to the value of £500. Three of the prisoners pleaded not guilty; but Jeffries, while denying having taken part in the burglary, pleaded guilty to having received a portion of the stolen silk. He said that the robbers had gained entry to the warehouse by Wilkinson hiding there during the day and letting the others in at night. They paid another man to bring a horse and cart to the premises to carry the bolts of silk cloth away.

Another burglary which involved the same group took place on the Strand at a jewellery shop owned by a Mr Abraham, where £1,000 worth of stock was found to be missing. One of the robbers later told how they had booked into a nearby hotel for the night and bored a hole in the ceiling, giving them access to the roof. They then crossed over several rooftops and came down through the roof of the jeweller’s premises.

Court proceedings were lively and widely reported. A woman named Susan Price, who had been living with Brown, gave evidence against him. She declared that he was violent towards her, at one stage breaking her rib and arm. She told the Court that he had stolen jewellery from Johnson’s premises in Threadneedle Street and gave her earrings from the proceeds. In retaliation, Brown accused her of having been a prostitute for ten years, a charge she denied.[3]

Robberies to the value of between £11,000 and £12,000 had been carried out by the prisoners within a period extending a little over six months. Seven men and three wives were arrested and taken to Newgate Prison awaiting trial. James Hurley and his wife Ellen, William Henry Jeffries (or Jeffreys) and his wife Martha, Ann Caseley, Louisa Brewerton and William Brown were charged with breaking and entering the business premises of Mr Johnson, stealing 6 gold watches, 300 lockets, 100 rings, 300 brooches, 150 bracelets, 120 earrings, 40 pencil cases and 50 chains, totalling £4,000 in value.[4] Some gold watches, identified as Mr Walker’s, were retrieved by divers from the Thames River near Blackfriars Bridge.[5]

The trials began in March 1865 at the Central Criminal Court, and public interest was such that not everybody could be accommodated in the Court Room. Onlookers congregated in the street outside, hoping to catch sight of the prisoners as they were taken past the Court House in the prison van. Their interest had been fuelled by the publicity surrounding the case and the colourful reputations of some of the characters involved.

Police gave evidence that some of the prisoners had the proceeds of at least five other burglaries in their possession.[6] The Recorder, when summing up, said that it was obvious that all of the men had for years been living off the proceeds of crime and had shown skills which could only be acquired by great experience.[7] Most of them had past criminal records which contributed to the length of sentences handed down in April 1865.

For their various crimes Brown and Jeffries were each sentenced to 20 years’ penal servitude; Caseley and Brewerton to 14 years; Wilkinson and Hurley to 10 years each; and Roberts, who had no previous record, was charged with receiving stolen goods and received seven years. The case against the three women was dismissed, due to exemptions on the grounds of undue influence exerted upon them by their husbands. Ellen Hurley wasn’t able to appear in the court because she had given birth while held in Newgate Prison.[8]

William Brown was said by some to have been the mastermind of the plot, older than the others, aged 46. He was a Scotsman, real name Thomas Millar, with a record of previous crimes. He was convicted in 1851 along with two others, of breaking into Ormiston House, not far from his home in the Scottish border town of Hawick. For that crime he received a sentence of 10 years’ transportation (probably served in Scotland). After the 1865 London robberies, it was found that he had visited his sister and brother-in-law in Hawick, leaving bank-books with her, along with two expensive shawls and some jewellery.[9]

Where William Brown and David Roberts served their time is not known. The other five were sent together on the Corona to Western Australia to serve out their sentencesarriving in December 1866. They were:

Thomas Brewerton – (9087)

Frederick Wilkinson – (9350)

Thomas Caseley – (9116)

William Henry Jeffries (Jeffreys) – (9208)

James Hurley – (9203).[10]

There is no record of them maintaining a close association once they landed in Western Australia, although it was inevitable that their paths would cross when in prison or in work parties. They each served their terms in different ways, several of them hardened recidivists, with two making determined efforts to escape from the Colony. These are the stories of those who came as convicts to Western Australia.


Thomas Brewerton (1837- ?)  (Reg. No. 9087)

Thomas Brewerton, a skilled lock-breaker, was one of the main instigators of the London robberies. He was arrested with his wife Louisa at their premises, which were being fitted up as a pie-shop and a grog shop. Police reported that their furniture appeared to be new.

Brewerton, a baker, aged 27, was convicted on 10 April 1865 at the Central Criminal Court in London with shop-breaking and larceny. His prior convictions were taken into account when he was sentenced to 14 years’ transportation. These included a robbery at Portsmouth in December 1858, which resulted in a four-year sentence and another in 1863, which earned him nine months in gaol.[11]

His wife Louisa also faced court, charged with aiding and abetting her husband during the 1865 robberies. Along with the other wives in the case, despite having actively assisted in the hiding and disposal of stolen goods, the charges against them were dismissed, due to a recognition by the Court that they acted under the influence of their husbands.[12]

Brewerton, who claimed to have been born ‘At Sea’, was described as a confectioner, and Protestant by religion. His wife Louisa Brewerton, of 44 Tothill Street in Westminster, was named as his next-of-kin. Along with his accomplices, he was taken from Newgate Prison, where he served 1.5 months in Separate Confinement, to Pentonville, then on 16 March 1866 he was transferred to Portland Prison.[13]  He was taken onboard the convict ship Corona for transportation to Western Australia, arriving on 22 December 1866. His description was as follows – aged 29, height 5’5¼”, hair light brown, eyes hazel, a round face, sallow complexion, medium stout, and a half-moon tattoo on his left arm. His reading and writing skills were imperfect.

Brewerton’s record in WA was troublesome. Soon after arriving, he spent a lengthy period in hospital between March and May 1867, suffering from a persistent ulcerated throat.[14] In 1869 he was charged with stealing tools which were Government property, but the case was not proven. In 1872 he obtained his Ticket of Leave certificate and worked briefly in Fremantle as a baker in the employ of Thomas Russell. A month later he was working as a labourer for C Baxter, paid £4 per month, and in 1873 he worked as a warehouse man for the same employer.[15]

In 1874 he escaped from the Perth District and absconded via Albany to Melbourne, most likely onboard the mail steamer Bangalore.[16] After an absence of almost 16 months living under the pseudonym ‘Charles Dyson’, he was identified in the Melbourne Court by a former Perth prison warden as Thomas Brewerton, one of the infamous Cornhill robbers. Described by a journalist as ‘a man with repellent features’, Brewerton pleaded to be allowed to get on any ship in order to leave the country, saying that he had enough money to pay his fare.[17]

His recapture drew the attention of the local newspapers, which back in 1865 had dedicated lengthy columns to accounts of ‘The Great Cornhill Robbery’ in London, and now regaled their readers with descriptions of Brewerton’s escape from Western Australia. He was held in gaol in Melbourne awaiting transmission back to Fremantle. On January 28, 1875 he was shipped aboard the RMS Pera from Melbourne to King George’s Sound, under the supervision of Detective Rourke.[18]  He was then transported from Albany to Fremantle on the Georgette on 1 February 1875.[19] When he faced court in Perth he was found guilty of absconding while on ticket-of-leave, and was sentenced to undergo two years’ imprisonment, the first twelve months in irons.[20]

The editor of the Fremantle Herald published a somewhat flippant account of the Court proceedings, concluding as follows:

While in prison at Melbourne, his photograph was taken, and a copy was forwarded to the police authorities here, who at once identified the likeness as that of “Velvet Ned.” Detective Rowe swore an affidavit that the original of that ‘ere photograph was that of our friend with the euphonious pseudonym, that he was an escaped convict from Perth, and, upon that affidavit, ‘Velvet Ned’ on the expiration of his term of imprisonment, was re-arrested. In due course, he was charged at the Melbourne Police Court with being illegally at large in the colony of which that city is the capital. Whereupon ‘Velvet Ned’ waxed wroth, and intimated to the Bench that if he were sent to Western Australia, his passage would have to be paid back again. The Bench, notwithstanding his assertion however, remanded him back to this colony, where he arrived, in charge of Detective Rourke (formerly on the constabulary force here) by the last mail-steamer. This morning he was brought up at the City Police Court, and charged before Mr. Landor, with absconding while on his ticket-of-leave. He was defended by Mr. Howell. –‘Velvet Ned’ as he appeared in the dock today was very respectably, if not swellishly attired, in a long, loose, light-colored dust-coat and fashionably cut tight-fitting unmentionables. He is by no means of a truculent aspect, on the contrary, at a distance he has a rather pleasant look.[21]

In June 1875 he entered the prison hospital again, this time suffering from sciatica and lumbago.[22] Finally released from prison, Brewerton was employed as a baker in Fremantle by N Brown in 1877, but from June 1877 he was self-employed, appearing in the WA Almanac as a storekeeper in Fremantle from 1880 to 1883.[23] At this time he was employing a T/L labourer.[24]

While in Fremantle, Brewerton was associated with a woman named Nora Kent (née Doyle).  Norah partnered at least four different men, the first being Thomas Kent, then George Mellett, Thomas Brewerton and later another ex-convict, Hartley Bowen (alias William Brown.[25]) It has been difficult to pin down these relationships to definite periods.

It seems that Norah (or Nora, Honorah, or Honoria?) Doyle was of Irish descent, born to John Doyle and Hannah McMullen, place unknown. Her sister Mary Catherine was born at Tilbury in England.[26] Norah may have been briefly married to (or co-habited with) Thomas Kent, but no record has been found in the WA Marriage Index. Evidence of a relationship between them is the registration of the birth of a child named Lewis Albert Kent, born on 19 May 1880 and registered to Nora and Thomas Kent at Fremantle.[27] However the child appears to be registered twice under the same registration number, the second time as Lewis Albert Brewerton, born to Norah Kent and Thomas Brewerton.[28]

Norah had married George Mellett in Geraldton on 4 January 1876, as Norah Kent.[29] They had a daughter Elizabeth Mellett, born in Geraldton that year.[30] Their son Walter Thomas Mallett [sic][31], was registered in 1878 as the son of Norah Doyle and Edward Mallett [sic], but was christened as Gualterius Thomas Mellet, at Fremantle on 6 August 1878. Their son Lewis Albert Kent was christened at Fremantle on 23 June 1880 as Ludovicus Albertus Mellet, to parents Honoria Kent Doyle and Georgii Mellet.[32]

She later co-habited with convict Thomas Brewerton before his escape from WA. It has been difficult to sort out whether any of Norah’s children were fathered by Brewerton. Three of them – Elizabeth (later known as Rose Theresa), Lewis Albert, and Walter Thomas, all took his surname.

Home life must have been difficult for these children. From an early age one of her sons, Walter Mellitt, [sic] freely roamed the bush around Fremantle, at times staying out all night from the age of six. On one occasion he was charged with vagrancy and it was recommended that he be sent to a reformatory school.[33] When nine years old, he was brought before the court, charged again with vagrancy:

The boy stated that his father (a carpenter) had run away some time ago, and that his mother died last week, Mr. Leake: No! I know better than that. The mother, Nora Doyle, is a prostitute at Fremantle and the father, ‘Velvet Ned,’ once an Imperial prisoner, is now doing ‘time’ in Victoria.

After consulting with his colleague — Mr. Leake said: Well, my boy, we must go through the farce of sentencing you to three months’ imprisonment, with hard labour, as a rogue and a vagabond. Mr. Dale will no doubt take care of you until we hear from the Governor, to whom your case will be reported, as to what is to be done with you. No doubt you will be sent to Rottnest, where you will be kindly treated and taught a trade. The Court then rose.[34]

Young Walter Brewerton spent some years at the Rottnest Reformatory. In 1914, while employed at Moora, he faced a charge of rape, which was dismissed in Court.[35] Many years earlier in 1899 Walter had been a witness at the trial of his mother’s former partner, Hartley Bowen, who was accused of setting fire to their house at Mt Magnet, killing Walter’s aunt Catherine and her two children. Despite compelling evidence to the contrary, Hartley Bowen was found not guilty of the crime.[36]

Norah’s younger son, Lewis A Brewerton, was probably taken into the New Norcia Mission, where he later held a responsible position as farm manager at New Norcia Mission farm, and married Norah Murphy in 1913, before settling as a farmer in Goomalling. Norah’s daughter Elizabeth, born in 1872, was baptised as Rose Theresa Brewerton in Perth in 1883.[37] [Rose was raised in a Catholic orphanage and later married Mathias Holst at New Norcia in 1897 and raised seven children. She died in 1927 in Perth, aged 50 years.[38] Her husband Andrew Mathias Holst died in 1947, aged 81 years.[39]]

In March 1881 several items of furniture were stolen from Thomas Brewerton’s Fremantle premises.[40] On 1 June 1881 he reported to the police that 28 £1 notes had been stolen from his store. This was recorded in the Police Gazette, along with the proviso that the report was considered doubtful.[41]

Determined to flee the colony once again, at the age of 45 Brewerton travelled to South Australia on board the Macedon on 30 September 1881, leaving his family behind.[42]

Shopkeepers of Victoria were soon given notice of Brewerton’s arrival in that Colony:

It may be of interest (the ‘World’ states) to the mercantile community to learn that the perpetrator of the Cornhill robbery in London, which was committed 20 years ago, when a jeweller’s premises were broken into, and diamonds to the value of £20,000 stolen, is at present in Melbourne. He is a Western Australian expiree, and is stated to be one of the best burglars in the world, a character not enviable, but one which makes the presence of such a man in a city like Melbourne anything but pleasant.[43]

It wasn’t long before Brewerton was in trouble once again, involved in a jewellery store robbery in Collingwood, Victoria. Once again he hit the headlines, arrested this time along with another expiree from Western Australia, James Morrison.[44] Both men had numerous aliases, and were suspected of conducting several robberies in Melbourne. An article published at the time of their arrest gives some background information about these two miscreants:

1882 ARREST OF TWO BURGLARS AT MELBOURNE. The detective police have succeeded in arresting at Collingwood, near Melbourne, two Western Australian expirees, who are suspected of having been concerned in the numerous extensive burglaries which were committed recently at Degraves’s, Bonds, the Mutual Store, the National Mutual Insurance Company’s office, and other places of business in the city and suburbs. On the night of the 26th April, the shop of Samson Tartakover, pawnbroker, Smith street, Collingwood, was entered by burglars by means of skeleton keys, and a large quantity of watches, jewellery, clothing, and miscellaneous property, valued at about £265, stolen. The property consisted of 28 watches of almost every kind, several chains and scarf-pins, nearly 200 rings of various descriptions, gold necklets, brooches, &c.; coats, hats, trousers, over coats, boots, and underclothing, a port manteau, several books, and a great variety of miscellaneous articles only to be found at a pawnbroker’s.

On the occurrence being reported to the police Detectives O’Callaghan and Nixon were told to investigate the case, and in the course of their inquiries they learnt that two notorious burglars who had served long sentences in Western Australia, named Charles Williams, alias Brewerton, alias Dyson, alias ‘Velvet Ned,’ and James Morrison, alias ‘Pompey’, were moving suspiciously about the city, and they immediately placed them under surveillance. The movements of the two men were very extraordinary, and it was only by means of the greatest possible exertion that the detectives were enabled to successfully carry on their operations without alarming them. The two detectives saw the men together in the street on Friday, when they wore genuine whiskers, beards, and moustache, and were most respectably attired, but on the following morning they appeared with clean shaven faces, and so altered in their dress and disguised in their manner, that had they not been well-known they could not possibly have been recognised. Detectives O’Callaghan and Nixon accosted Williams in Wellington-street, Collingwood, on Saturday morning, and charged him with being concerned in the robbery at Tartakover’s, but he denied it, and was arrested and removed to the city lock-up.

Subsequently the same officers visited a small empty house in Station-street. Carlton, and found a carpet bag concealed in the oven in the kitchen fire-place where was also found a large quantity of spurious jewellery; skeleton keys, and housebreaking implements were also found in a portmanteau concealed in one of the other rooms. The detectives concealed themselves in the house, and at half-past 6 o’clock on Sunday morning the back door was quietly opened from the outside by Morrison, who entered and was arrested, after a somewhat exciting struggle, and removed to the city lock-up.

The detectives succeeded in recovering the whole of the property stolen from Tartakover, as well as some other articles which are supposed to be the proceeds of previous robberies. The prisoner Williams was the principal in the great Cornhill jewellery robbery, and on conviction he received a sentence of 10 [sic, 14] years, and was transported to Western Australia. During his imprisonment in that colony he effected his escape and came to Melbourne, where shortly after his arrival he received a sentence of 12 months’ imprisonment for larceny. He was identified in Pentridge as the notorious ‘Velvet Ned,’ and was sent back to Fremantle, where he was discharged from custody in 1874, after serving his full term.

He almost immediately returned to Melbourne in company with Morrison, who is described by the detective as a Western Australian expiree, who was discharged some time ago after serving 10 years for burglary. Shortly after their arrival, a number of extensive burglaries were committed, terminating with the robberies at Degraves’s, the Mutual Store, and the National Insurance Company’s office. They are supposed to have been concerned in these robberies, but as they disappeared for a while at the time, and as the property stolen consisted principally of money, no positive evidence could be obtained against them. The house where Tartakover’s property was discovered was occupied by the prisoners as a retreat, but was totally unfinished. The prisoners were brought up at the Police Court, Collingwood, on the 1st inst., and were further remanded.[45]

Thomas Brewerton, (alias ‘Charles Williams’), and James Morrison (‘Pompey’) both pleaded guilty to the charge of burglary of pawnbroker Tartakover’s premises, and were each sentenced to two years’ hard labour.[46] In its account of the careers of this pair of trouble-makers, it was reported in the Argus newspaper that Brenerton [sic, Brewerton] had in 1873 headed off from Albany for Melbourne on the ss Bangalore, using forged certificates, but was apprehended and sent back to WA. Its editor concluded that since the ‘cracksmen of the great Cornhill robbery’ had completed their terms in WA, it should be expected that they would soon cause more trouble for the police in the other colonies.[47] [The statement that both men were involved in the Cornhill robbery in London was incorrect. James Morrison was probably WA convict No. 6676, convicted in Glasgow of house-breaking in 1861 and sentenced to 10 years, arriving in WA on board the York in December 1862.[48]]

This wasn’t the last time that Brewerton was arrested in Victoria. In 1885, as ‘Velvet Ned’, it was reported that he had been arrested along with ‘Dapper Davis’, for stealing from pockets in a crowded Bendigo auction house. When their room was searched a bag containing burglarious implements was found, so they were gaoled for two years.

Shortly after Brewerton was released from prison, in 1887 the headlines once again announced – ‘VELVET NED IN THE DOCK.’[49] This time, using the name ‘Charles Kent’, he was arrested once again for stealing a woman’s purse while walking down Hargreaves Street in Bendigo.[50] Said to be embarrassed at being caught out committing a crime which was beneath his status as a professional thief, he told his old adversary Detective Thomas O’Callaghan that when he had served his term he would set about stealing from every house in the policeman’s district.[51]

Newspaper editors and the general public were fascinated with Brewerton and his many exploits. Endless stories covering his life of crime were written over the years, some with scant regard to details. Superintendent Thomas O’Callaghan, Brewerton’s nemesis in the Victorian police force, was interviewed in 1910 and spoke of his most memorable cases, particularly the Collingwood robbery in 1882:

“A still more wonderful case was that of a Smith-street, Collingwood robbery, which was ably planned and well carried out; £700 worth of valuables was stolen. The hero of this robbery was Velvet Ned, “the most remarkable criminal I have ever known,” says the Superintendent. Ned had served ten years in irons in Western Australia for his part in the great Cornhill, London, robberies. He was the ablest man with keys in the world. Even with common implements he could unfasten the most complicated lock in remarkably quick time.

In his own particular line Ned was an absolute genius. Suspicions fastened on this clever man, and Ned was carefully watched. As a rule he wore long whiskers and a moustache, he was a bit of a dandy. For some days he could not be seen. A few detectives decided to wait and watch in the morning at Collingwood, in which vicinity one of his Western Australian pals was supposed to be living. The Superintendent relates: “I was waiting at a hotel door and some of my men were stationed at different corners. A man passed and walked along for about a quarter of a mile, then stopped, and crossing the street, returned on the opposite side; he appeared to be an aimless walker. When he came within thirty yards of me my attention was aroused. He was dressed in broken moleskins, and in a wide-awake hat. He had a short moustache and no whiskers. I noticed, however, a drag in his legs, the result of ten years of heavy irons in Western Australia.

I beckoned one of the men and asked him his opinion. ‘That’s not Velvet Ned,’ he said. However, I followed him and touched him on the shoulder. ‘What is your name?’ I asked him. ‘What are you talking about? My name is Smith,’ he answered, ‘A common name; but I believe you are Velvet Ned. Where do you live?’ ‘Really, you have so flurried me that I cannot remember the name of the street.’ ‘Well, keep calm, and try to remember your grocer, or baker, or butcher!’ ‘I’m too excited to remember anything,’ he said.

‘Come along my friend,’ I remarked, and brought him along to the men. ‘What do you think of this?’ I asked them, ‘It’s Velvet Ned all right,’ replied the man who had not detected him before. Velvet’s house was in Carlton and contained some of the jewellery. Some was found near the Royal Park. Velvet Ned was also concerned in other crimes, and the last time I heard of him was that he was serving ten years in Dubbo, New South Wales. He was undoubtedly the cleverest criminal with whom I ever came into contact.”[52]

Thomas O’Callaghan, fifth Chief Commissioner, Victorian Police.[53]

At the time of his retirement O’Callaghan spoke again of how he had arrested Dyson (Brewerton) and Morrison (‘Pompey’) after the Collingwood robbery. He said that the men had eventually admitted to the crime and told the police where most of the loot had been buried under a boulder in a cutting in Parkville, where it was eventually found.[54]

Brewerton’s many aliases have made it difficult to track down the time and place of his death. In 1898 an elderly man named Thomas Avery was charged with pick-pocketing soon after being released from Albury Gaol in New South Wales, and was said to have been identical to the notorious criminal known as ‘Velvet Ned’.[55]


Thomas Caseley (c1842–1917) (Reg. No. 9116)

BRITTNAL’S COTTAGES, WELLINGTON ST., PERTH. Although only aged 23 at the time of his arrest in 1865, Thomas Caseley (alias ‘George Hill’, ‘Casey’ or ‘Casley’), already had a reputation as a professional thief. Among his fellow criminals he was known as ‘Tom the Madman’ or, for some reason, ‘Counsellor Kelly’. Prior to his arrest in 1865 for the Cornhill robbery, he had already served three previous terms for felonies committed in 1856 and 1857, and then in June 1860 he was convicted at the Newington Sessions in the name of ‘George Hill’.[56] This was a case where three 20-year-olds, ‘George Hill’ and two others, were found guilty of breaking into a house at Camberwell and stealing 14 silver spoons, and sentenced to four years’ penal servitude.[57]

When arrested in 1865, sign-writer Thomas Caseley and his wife Ann were living in a four-roomed house in Ely Terrace in London, set up with furniture purchased after the robbery. Ann was said by neighbours to have lately been wearing jewellery. Caseley denied having anything to do with the earlier shawl and silk robbery, as he was in Liverpool when that took place, and said that he was in the lock-up when the Johnson crime occurred. He was, however, willing to co-operate with the police over the details of the Cornhill robbery and in the process gave evidence against his co-conspirators.

During their trial on 10 April 1865 Caseley denied that he had confessed to his involvement in the Cornhill robbery at the time of his arrest. He claimed that he had been going straight since completing his prison term six months earlier. His father Thomas Caseley (snr), a decorator and sign-writer, gave evidence that he had employed his son since his release from prison and that he had been going straight since his marriage. He confirmed that his son had been acting as the compère of a concert at the Prince Albert Tavern on the night of the 6th of February, thus exonerating him from the robbery. In spite of his protests, Thomas Caseley (jnr) was found guilty and was sentenced to 14 years’ transportation.[58]

Newspapers reported every detail of the Cornhill robbery trials, crediting Thomas Caseley as the top safe-breaker of his day. He entertained his audience at the Court of the Queen’s Bench with quick-witted responses to questioning, drawing peals of laughter from those present. Even Punch Magazine in a February 1886 article acknowledged that his quick repartee outdid any attempts at humour by the Chief Justice.[59]

Lawyer Montagu Williams, Q.C., who defended Caseley’s wife Ann, later reminisced about the men involved in the Cornhill robbery, acknowledging Caseley’s skills as a burglar:

In April, 1865, I was engaged as counsel in a rather remarkable case, which was known as the Cornhill burglary. There were several persons charged – a man named Brewerton and his wife, a man named Caseley and his wife, and three others. 

Thomas Caseley (with whom I propose principally to deal) was described as twenty-three years of age, and his wife as twenty-six. The former defended himself and I appeared for the latter. Caseley was known to be one of the most expert burglars in the metropolis, and he had already undergone one sentence of penal servitude, which proves that he must have entered upon a criminal career at an early age. He had two nicknames, one being “Counsellor Kelly,” and the other “Tom the Madman.”

The establishment broken into was that of Mr. Walker, a large jewellers on Cornhill. It appeared that on Saturday, the fourth of February, the assistant, after placing the whole of the stock in one of Milner’s iron safes, left the premises at half-past seven in the evening. As usual, the gas was left burning in the shop, which was open to inspection by the police and other passers-­by through apertures in the shutters. The safe was so placed as to be distinctly seen by anyone looking through these apertures, and by an ingenious arrangement of mirrors a person standing in any part of the shop would also be visible from the outside.

When the assistant returned to the premises on Monday morning at half-past eight o’clock, he found that the shop had been entered through a hole in the floor, and that the safe had been opened and ransacked. It appeared that the thieves had forced an entry into the rooms of Mr. Mitchell, a tailor, in the lower part of the building, and had cut their way through the ceiling. The value of Mr. Walker’s stock was about six thousand pounds, and nearly the whole of it had been stolen. The booty included four hundred and sixty-five watches and one hundred and sixty gold chains. It was manifest that some considerable time had been occupied in the operations of the culprits. In all probability they had remained on the premises during Saturday night and the greater part of Sunday. The safe had been forced very cleverly, there being no external marks of violence upon it. During the trial the police declared that the tools used must have been “beautiful instruments.”[60]

It is of interest that in 1866, before being sent to Western Australia, Caseley was called back into court as an expert witness, to give evidence during an action for false advertising, brought by jeweller Mr Walker against the safe manufacturer Milner. Dressed in prison garb and brought under guard from Millbank Prison, Caseley enjoyed the attention and once again entertained the court with his description of how the robbery at Cornhill had been conducted. His audience listened attentively to his account of the meticulous preparations that were made in advance of the robbery, which included keeping a record for weeks of the movements of the police who patrolled that part of London. He described how they had entered the premises via the ceiling and Caseley described the tools he used, each of them given a special name. He boasted that he had managed to open the so-called impregnable safe with wedges in about 40 minutes, revealing that the gang had earlier purchased two Milner safes in order to practise breaking them open.[61]

Caseley conceded however that Milner’s safes were better than other types available at that time, but claimed that he could break open any safe on the market. He drew laughter when he claimed that even though he was a sign-writer he could make a better safe than any available at that time. The case against the safe manufacturer was dismissed as there was no warranty. Afterwards it was the opinion of those present in the court that day that Thomas Caseley had shown a remarkable quickness of perception and an extraordinary shrewdness during the questioning. The sentiment universally expressed was that ‘it was a pity that such a man should have been a thief. He could have attained success in any walk of life.’[62]

In spite of his moment of glory in the Court as an expert safe-breaker, Caseley wouldn’t have had an easy time with his former co-conspirators at Newgate, Millbank and Pentonville Prisons, or later in close quarters aboard the convict ship Corona, considering how he had named them in the hope of reducing his own prison term. It would be of interest to know at what stage he acquired the scar of a knife wound on his throat, mentioned in the following description which accompanied him to Western Australia – aged 24, height 5’6½”, with dark brown hair, grey eyes, round face, a fair complexion and stout in build. He had a tattoo of a ship half-finished on his breast and a stab mark on his throat. He was a painter, married with one child.[63]

Regardless of leaving a wife behind in England, Thomas Talbot Caseley married Julia Comer in Western Australia in 1874.[64] They had four children – Thomas Charles, born in Perth in 1875, Albert Patrick, born in Geraldton in 1877, Edith Ann born in Geraldton in 1880 and John, born at Perth in 1882.[65]

By 1875 Caseley (or Casley) was back in the painting and decorating trade that he’d learnt under his father, advertising as follows:


Cheapest House in W. A.,





SASHES Glazed and Packed, and forwarded to all parts of the country.

N.B.- Country orders most punctually

attended to. “None but the best Workmen employed.”


February 22nd, 1875.[66]

His working life, however, was frequently interrupted by terms in prison, at times for drunken and disorderly behaviour, but also for more serious crimes. In 1878 he was arrested for stopping a man in the street to ask him the time, then snatching his watch. This crime earned him a three-year term.[67]

Caseley always had a plausible excuse for his actions. In December 1880 he was up before the Bench in Perth, pleading that he was forced to steal money from a drunken man in order that his wife could travel to face a charge in the court.[68] [Julia had made a false statement about the name of her child’s father when registering the birth in Geraldton in 1880.[69] This was possibly because her husband was in gaol at the time of conception.]

Caseley travelled about the colony in his job as a painter. At one stage he and his family, while on a visit from Newcastle [Toodyay], were camped on a block of land in Perth known as ‘Ticket-of-Leave Square’, a disreputable place where the dregs of Perth were accommodated. One night a troublesome neighbour Nora Waylen threw sand in his face while he was sleeping outside. He had her charged with assault and once again was in his element before an attentive audience, stating his case as follows:

‘I know the defendant, she is the ‘terror’ of the square. Upon Monday last she was abusing me incessantly from half-past four in the afternoon until eleven o’clock at night. She had been doing the same for two or three days before that. She called me a ‘convict’ and a ‘lifer’, said that I lived upon ‘blood money’ and that I had got seven years for stealing a watch and chain.’

Mr. Leake: ‘No, no! I gave you the time myself; it was only two years, wasn’t it?’

Witness: ‘Three years, your Honour! The woman also said that I had had a bastard child by a Chinaman, which was of course quite untrue. In fact she made use of the most abominable language towards me. At about ten o’clock I took my bedding out on the verandah and laid down to sleep. Afterwards a woman came up to me, pulled the rug from off my face, and dashed a quantity of sand in my eyes.’ To the defendant: ‘I was not beating my wife on the Monday, nor did she call upon you to help her for the honour of God. On Sunday I threw a shoulder of mutton at her; It hit her on the head, and cut it open. I have never given you any provocation at all.’

Caseley then proceeded to call his witnesses, the first of whom was his son, a little boy about a foot and a half in height, but Mr. Leake at once very properly refused to hear the child’s evidence and ordered that he should be removed from the Court. Two men, named Moore and Davis corroborated Caseley’s case so far as the insulting language was concerned, but they had not witnessed the assault.

His Worship: ‘There is no doubt, Mrs. Waylen, that you have abused this man and also that you have assaulted him most grievously. You are a fearful virago, the terror of the whole yard in which you live. I have received several complaints from Justice Stone and other respectable persons who live in your neighbourhood, of the disgraceful manner in which some of the denizens of ‘Ticket-of-Leave Square’ behave, so I will make an example of you by sending you to gaol for one month.’

The Defendant: ‘Please fine me, Sir, instead.’

His Worship: ‘No, I won’t.’ The prisoner, who had behaved throughout the proceedings in the most defiant manner, was then removed to the cells, thereupon her bravado completely gave way and she wept most bitterly.[70]

In May 1883 a man named Thomas Allison broke into Caseley’s house and punched him in the eye before hauling him out onto the street, calling him an informer and a ‘nose’ to the police and threatening to throttle him. Luckily a policeman who lived next-door heard the commotion and came to Caseley’s rescue. In court, Mr. Leake told the man – ‘You have been guilty of a most gross and unprovoked assault. It was no business of yours what Caseley’s faults may be, and no doubt they are many, but you are not his judge. I shall send you to gaol for two months with hard labour.’[71]

During 1883 Caseley made several appearances in the court. His exploits were sometimes reported in the press with a touch of humour, such as the following case:

At the Police Court yesterday, Mr. Thos. Casley — a gentleman not unknown to fame, not only in your northern capital but also in another great city known as “smoky Lunnon” — received a sentence of seven days’ imprisonment under rather peculiar circumstances. It appears that on Saturday last, he had occasion to remove to another habitation, and after undergoing the fatigues of the day, repaired to one of the hotels to refresh the inward man. Having imbibed too freely he returned to his old domicile and quickly fell “into the arms of Morpheus”.  However, Constable Carahar had been watching him, and disturbing Casley’s slumbers marched him off to the watch-house. On his arrival under the clock, the prisoner asked upon what charge he had been arrested. The officer replied he would know all directly. Then, said the prisoner, while you are entering the charge, I will just amuse you with a favorite little ditty, and proceeded with — “Are you there, Moriarity?” He was “accommodated” for the remainder of that evening and on Monday the Beak, in one of his blandest of smiles, gave him a “go in for a week”.[72]

That year he was sent to gaol for a week for failing to report his place of abode.[73] He was also fined 10/- for using insulting language towards a woman.[74] However Caseley’s improved behaviour was noted by the Bench in 1887, when he was charged with being on pass to Perth and failing to report himself in accordance with the ticket-of-leave regulations. At this time his record showed that he had not appeared before a court for some years, and under these circumstances he was only fined 10/-, with the alternative of 11 days.[75]

In 1888 Caseley was gaoled for six months for supplying fermented liquor to natives.[76] In 1889 it was reported in Albany that Caseley was found drunk and neglecting his work, so was fined 10/-.[77] Later that year he was involved in a more serious case of assault and robbery, when he stole £25 from his former employer Edward Salt, after drinking with him at a hotel and then following him home and attacking him, a crime which earned him two years’ hard labour.[78]

From around 1890 it was his son, Thomas Caseley (jnr), who was more often in trouble with the law, involved with others in committing violent robberies.

Julia Caseley (née Comer) of East Perth died in 1911, aged 61. On 23 November 1917, her husband Thomas Caseley passed away.  A man of recognised talent and quick wit, he took the wrong path in life, spending much of his time in prison.[79] He was buried at Karrakatta Cemetery, listed as aged 80.[80]


William Henry Jeffries (Jeffreys) (c1837 – 1903) (Reg. No. 9208)

William Henry Jeffries was one of those convicts who decided to take advantage of the opportunity to start a new life in Western Australia. Once released from Fremantle Prison he settled down, worked hard, and kept out of trouble.

He arrived in WA on the Corona in 1866, after being convicted, along with others, of breaking and entering the premises of a prominent London jeweller. He was convicted in the Central Criminal Court on 10 April 1865 and sentenced to 20 years’ transportation. Jeffries, a professional thief, known to his friends as ‘Billy’, at times used the aliases ‘Barrett’ and ‘Erskine’. His prior convictions in England had resulted in twelve months’ imprisonment in 1857 for burglary and four years’ penal servitude for robbery.[81]

Arriving in Western Australia at the age of 29, his description was – brown hair, with dark hazel eyes, a round face, fresh complexion, middling stout, and one upper tooth missing on the right side. By trade he was a rough carpenter, literate, married, with no children.[82] Along with two other wives, his wife Martha had been acquitted for her part in the robbery. Her address was – ‘Martha Jeffrey, Bethnal Green Road, London’. There is no record of her coming to WA, nor of another marriage for William.

Jeffries’ record as a prisoner in WA reveals some misdemeanours. In 1867 he disobeyed orders and spent three days on bread and water. The following year he stole some bedding belonging to Henry Chartres and served eight months. In 1869 he was one of seven prisoners who attempted an escape at York, but they were ‘recaptured after suffering much privation’. As a consequence Jeffries served six months’ imprisonment and had to pay £1/10/- for the cost of his recapture. He served as a school monitor in the gaol over several months and earned four months’ remission. In April 1875 he was discharged on Ticket of Leave to Champion Bay, where he was employed by six different masters as a labourer or carpenter before setting up on his own account in 1877.

Most of his years in WA were spent in the Geraldton area. He set up his own business as a wheelwright in Marine Terrace. A close eye was kept on high-profile ex-convicts such as Jeffreys and in May 1878, he was suspected of stealing bank notes from the house of a shoemaker, Charles Bird.[83] The May 1880 edition of the WA Police Gazette informed local police that a Conditional Release had been issued to ‘Reg. No. 9208 William H. Jeffery, at Geraldton, on 10th inst.; convicted at the Central Criminal Court, Middlesex, on the 10th April, 1865, of shop-breaking and larceny, and sentenced to 20 years’ p.s. Intends to reside in Geraldton’.[84] Another entry in the same edition tells us that he was suspected of stealing a bank cheque to the value of £1/13/4 from a man called Hong Chang.[85]

In 1887 Jeffries moved from Marine Terrace in Geraldton to new premises on a parcel of land that he purchased at the corner of Charles Street and Fitzgerald Street, next to the Shamrock Hotel.[86]

1887 Notice of Removal

W. H. JEFFRIES, WHEELWRIGHT, CARRIAGE BUILDER AND UNDERTAKER, BEGS to notify to his clients and the public generally that he has removed from Marine Terrace to his new and commodious premises in FITZGERALD STREET, next to Hanlon’s Shamrock Hotel, where he is now prepared to carry on his business in the above lines, and to continue to give satisfaction to his patrons. All work done with despatch, and at moderate charges. Aug. 20.[87]

He lived in a room attached to his workshop and sought company among the regular hotel patrons next door. In 1889 he was called upon to give evidence when James Hanlon of the Shamrock Hotel was charged with allowing gambling to take place at his premises. The case was dismissed.[88] On another occasion he bore witness in the case of Henry Spalding, publican, licensee of the Exchange Hotel, charged with a breach of the Licensing Act by serving alcohol with food to people other than boarders.[89]

His Geraldton business as a wheelwright and coachbuilder prospered over the years, and contracts with the Geraldton Town Council and the WA Government provided added income. In 1891 a Government contract was awarded to him for the burial of paupers.[90] He made regular trips to Fremantle on coastal ships, probably to conduct business or to catch up with old companions.

In 1896 Jeffries announced his retirement from business:


Blacksmith, Wheelwright, Coach-builder and Undertaker.



BEGS to announce to his customers and the general public that he has disposed of his business to MR. B. MURPHY who will in future conduct the business.

W.H.J. in thanking his numerous customers for their liberal support for the past sixteen years & begs to recommend his successor, MR. MURPHY, to their notice for the same liberal measure of support, and has no hesitation in saying that all work entrusted to MR. MURPHY will be done in a satisfactory and workman-like manner. MR. MURPHY takes OVER ALL MY WORKMEN AND LARGE STOCK OF SEASONED MATERIAL.[91]

However in 1897 Jeffries advised that he was taking up his business again at the same premises:

MR W. H. JEFFRIES, as his advertisement elsewhere announces, has re-commenced business in Geraldton as carriage-builder, blacksmith, wheelwright, and undertaker, in the premises formerly occupied by him in Fitzgerald-street. Mr Jeffries’ efficiency in this particular trade is so well known in the district that it requires no commendation at our hands. He has engaged a capital staff of workmen, who will be under his supervision, and we feel sure that the large measure of patronage which he before enjoyed will be again accorded him.[92]

In 1903, then in his mid-sixties, after suffering from poor health for a number of years, William Henry Jeffries passed away. He was remembered by the people of the Victoria District as a good worker:

The death of W H Jeffries removes yet another of the fast diminishing band of old identities of this province. The deceased has been known in this town for more than a quarter of a century, and was generally appraised as a good tradesman. The work in the wheelwright and general carpentering line, carried out by him and his partner McCarthy, was very generally admitted to be excellent. Death, however, must have been a surcease of suffering for poor Jeffries, who for the last few years was almost crippled by rheumatism.[93]

Following William Jeffries’ death, £765 was left in his will to Edward Hughes.[94]


James Hurley (c1833 – ?) (Reg. No. 9203)

[Note: Not to be confused with another convict, James Hurley (Reg. No. 8014), who arrived in WA on the Merchantman in 1864, having been sentenced in the Central Criminal Court to ten years’ transportation for robbery with violence. This man died in Jarrahdale in 1884 when hit by a train while lying drunk on a railway track.[95]]

James Hurley was another prisoner of Cornhill robbery fame who was sent to the penal colony of Western Australia, arriving here in 1866 on the convict ship Corona, after being held at Portland Prison. On 18 April 1865 he had been convicted at the Central Criminal Court in London with shop-breaking and larceny, and having been before convicted of felony, received a sentence of ten years. His previous conviction which was taken into account had occurred at Middlesex in 1859, with a sentence of three years. From Newgate Prison he was taken to Pentonville, then to Millbank. James’s conduct was good while in prison.

On arrival in Western Australia Hurley was described as – a groom, aged 33, married with one child, 5’8” tall, with brown hair, grey eyes, a round face, sallow complexion, stout, and a scar on his forehead. He could read and write, and his religion was Church of England. His wife was named Ellen, of 34 Somerford Street, Mile End Rd., Middlesex, and their son James was aged 12.[96]

Hurley’s behaviour during the voyage was reported as good.[97] However, once in WA he proved to be a most uncooperative prisoner, charged while on ticket-of-leave with idleness and mutinous behaviour as well as more serious offences. He absconded from Toodyay in February 1871 and was on the run in the colony for a month before being arrested, earning a sentence in March 1871 of twelve months’ hard labour at Perth.[98] In December 1872 he was arrested in Albany for being illegally at large for six months, for which crime he was sentenced to six months’ hard labour in Perth.[99]

It appears that he mixed with bad company. In May 1873 Hurley was arrested with two others for being illegally on the premises of Ebenezer Saw, but was acquitted due to contradictory evidence being submitted to the Court.[100] In 1874 he was jailed for three years, with hard labour, for being illegally found on the premises of C Trotter.[101]

Desperate to leave the colony, Hurley absconded from a work party at Freshwater Bay on 13 March 1875 and remained on the run until he secured a passage as a stowaway on board the Armistice, which left Rockingham on 26 June for South Australia with a load of timber. After his arrival there he found work with a farmer on the Yorke Peninsula, but suspicions were aroused about his origins and he was arrested and faced court in Adelaide, where he pleaded guilty to the charge of being illegally at large. His reported statement to the Court on his record in WA differed greatly from the official record:

He was sent to Western Australia under a sentence of ten years, six of which he completed without a scratch against his name. He then obtained his liberty, and while at large was under strict police surveillance, as a gentleman, then in the Court, knew well. While at liberty he obtained an honest livelihood, and did his utmost to reclaim his character, but he was soon hunted by the authorities of that colony for committing an offence he knew nothing of. He was captured and sentenced for another three years, and, feeling aggrieved, he effected his escape from the colony, and came to South Australia, where he was obtaining an honest living when arrested. Ordered to be sent back to Western Australia.[102]

Once it became known that Hurley was a former member of the notorious Cornhill robbery gang, the story of his recapture in South Australia was widely reported:

We mentioned on Thursday that a notorious convict had arrived here from Western Australia as a stowaway, on board the barque Armistice which lately reached Wallaroo with a cargo of timber from that colony, and we are now glad to be able to state that he is in the hands of the police, and is in a fair way to be soon returned, free of expense to himself, to the colony which he has lately left, and where no doubt he is anxiously enquired for.

His name is James Hurley, and since his arrival in this colony he has been in the employ of a farmer at Green’s Plains. He was quietly arrested at Kadina the other day by Sergeant Bentley, and sent to Adelaide, which he reached yesterday. Hurley was brought before Mr. Beddome on Friday morning, and admitted being an absconder from Western Australia. He was remanded back to that colony.

We learn from the police that Hurley, who was one of the celebrated Cornhill gang of burglars, was convicted at the Central Criminal Court of London on the 10th of April, 1865, and sentenced to 10 years’ penal servitude. In 1866 he was sent out to Western Australia, and in 1872 he was liberated on ticket of leave. He located himself at Perth and became the ringleader of a gang of burglars and perjurers, and before the year was out he was re-convicted and sentenced to three years’ further servitude.

On the 18th July, 1874, he was again liberated on ticket of leave, but that was shortly revoked on his being found on certain premises with the intention, it was believed, of committing a felony. He was then attached to a road gang between Perth and Fremantle, but managed to effect his escape at Freshwater Bay on the 13th of March, 1875; since which time he has evaded capture, and eventually managed to leave Rockingham on the 26th June on board the Armistice, with, it is supposed, the connivance of the crew.[103]

Back in WA, Hurley was found guilty of absconding and was sentenced to three years’ hard labour at Fremantle Prison, with the first two years to be served in irons. Following his release he worked briefly in Perth before being employed by Peter Vigo in Toodyay in February 1878.[104] [Peter Vigo, (alias John Day, or Henry McVeagh), Convict Reg. No. 6467, had a bad reputation himself, having been charged with violent theft in London in 1862.[105] He frequently appeared in the WA courts.]

On 30 January 1879, James Hurley was arrested for holding communication with a convict at Fremantle with a view to plan an escape. He was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment, with the first three in irons (28lb irons approved). He was given his Ticket of Leave on 30 January 1880.[106]

Still determined to leave the Colony, James Hurley, (Reg. No. 9203), aged 48, escaped from Fremantle on 22 March 1880.[107] The Western Australian Police Gazette continued to advertise his escape up until December ‘82, but there is no record of Hurley being recaptured. It is not known whether he remained somewhere in Australia under a false name or perhaps managed to find his way back to England.


Frederick William Wilkinson (c1839 – ?) (Reg. No. 9350)

Frederick William Wilkinson was part of the gang which successfully carried out a number of high-profile robberies in London in 1864 and 1865. Aged 27 and known to the police as ‘Carrotty Fred’ because of his hair colour, he faced a charge in the Central Criminal Court of stealing 11,000 yards of silk from a warehouse in November 1864, in the company of William Brown, Thomas Brewerton and William Henry Jeffries. The Court was told that Wilkinson had hidden in the warehouse during the day and let the others in that night.[108]

Upon his arrest Wilkinson was found to have in his possession a silver watch and gold chain and a signet ring, identified as belonging to Mr Johnston, whose jewellery premises had been burgled back in July 1864.[109] He also had two bank pass-books under the name of ‘F. H. C. R. Erskine’, as well as some keys which had been filed and altered. He professed to be a self-employed agent and had for the past few months been operating a small cigar shop in Fryer’s Street, Blackfriars Road.[110]

In Court, Wilkinson was also linked to the Cornhill robbery when a policeman identified him as a man seen about four times in one hour, outside Walker’s jewellery shop on the evening before the burglary there in March 1865 and appeared to be closely observing the movements of the police patrols that night. Susan Price, William Brown’s former partner, also gave evidence against the men.[111]

Wilkinson received a lesser sentence of ten years’ transportation, due to him having only minor offences previously recorded against him. One of his prior convictions was back in May 1862, when he was found guilty at the Central Criminal Court of attempted burglary, for which he had served nine months in gaol. Following his latest conviction, Wilkinson spent 1.5 months of Separate Confinement in Newgate, before being transferred to Pentonville. His wife Martha was listed as his next-of-kin, residing at 23 Lernan Street, Whitechapel.[112]

Received on board the vessel Corona on 22 December 1866 from Chatham Prison, in the company of four of his co-conspirators, Wilkinson was described as – aged 28, able to read and write and was an auctioneer and general agent. He was 5’7½” tall, with red hair, hazel eyes, long face, fair complexion, middling stout, and no marks. His religion was Church of England and his wife was recorded this time as Eliza Wilkinson, aged 22, of Vycawne (?) Street, City Road, London. His behaviour on board ship was good.

Conduct in WA

While in Fremantle Prison he served as school monitor between June 1868 to July 1869 and from August to November 1869, earning a remission of 28 days. From 1870 his record was as follows:

18/1/70 – Released to Ticket of Leave.

11/6/1872 – On discharge from hospital not to be released to Fremantle. [Reason not given.]

8/11/1872 – (Indecipherable) Released by R. M., Perth.

After being granted his Ticket of Leave in 1870, Wilkinson appears to have been in steady employment. From 19 January 1870 until 31 December 1871 he was employed as a clerk by Lionel Samson, a businessman of Fremantle, earning from £5 to £9 per month. On 10 April 1872 he briefly moved to a similar position at Fremantle, working as a clerk at £6 per month employed by George Thompson, a merchant and agent in Fremantle, but on 25 April 1872 he was re-employed as a clerk by Samson & Son.

In 1872 Wilkinson was admitted to hospital at Fremantle Prison on 6 June, and was discharged on 1 July 1872, back to prison in Perth. From 5 July 1872 he was employed at Perth as a machinist, doing piece-work for Thomas Stanley, a tailor, possibly using skills taught in an English prison.

From 6 April 1874, he took up work in the Albany District, employed as a shepherd at 50/- per month, working for Thomas Norrish, a pioneer of the Eticup area. He continued working there as a general servant.[113]

There is no record of Wilkinson committing any offences during this period, apart from being convicted on 21 February 1874 with being illegally onboard the vessel Emily Smith in Albany harbour, for which he was sentenced to one month’s hard labour.[114] On discharge he may have remained in the Albany area, saving his meagre salary with the intention of leaving the Colony as soon as he was able.

Frederick Wilkinson, aged 42, (Reg. No. 9350), departed the colony of WA for Adelaide on board the Otway on 22 November 1879.[115] Whether he stayed in Australia for any length of time or eventually returned to England is not known.


[1] Globe, 8 February 1865.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Reynolds’s Newspaper, 2 April 1865.

[4] Reynolds’s Newspaper, 2 April 1865.

[5] Western Times, 3 March 1865.

[6] Atlas, 15 April 1865.

[7] Norwich Mercury, 19 April 1865.

[8] Ballarat Star, 27 June 1865.

[9] Globe, 2 March 1865.

[10] Old Bailey Proceedings Online at, April 1865, trial of Frederick William Wilkinson, (27) William Brown (46) William Henry Jeffery (27) Thomas Brewerton (27) (t18650410-444).

[11] Convict Department Registers, General Register for Nos 9059 – 9598 (R15)

[12] Note: In the 1861 census Thomas’s wife Louisa Brewerton, aged 24, box maker, born in Shoreditch, and her daughter Louisa, aged 9, also born at Shoreditch, were living at 108 Emma Street, Bethnal Green. At No. 105 Emma Street lived her sister-in-law Emma Brewerton, also a box maker, with her two daughters. Emma was the wife of Samuel Brewerton, Thomas’s brother. Both husbands were missing at the time of the census.

[13] UK Prison Commission Records, 1770-1921, Newgate Prison Registers of Prisoners, 1863.

[14] Convict Establishment, Medical, Admissions & Discharges from Hospital, 1856 – 1886 (M32)

[15] Convict Department Registers, General Register for Nos 9059 – 9598 (R15) and

Convict Establishment, Receipts & Discharges 1865-1868, 1871 – 1879 (RD5-RD7)

[16] Herald, Melbourne, 24 December 1874.

[17] Convict Department Registers, General Register for Nos 9059 – 9598 (R15), &

Convict Establishment, Receipts & Discharges 1865-1868, 1871 – 1879 (RD5-RD7)

[18] Age, 29 January 1875.

[19] Herald, 20 February 1875.

[20] Inquirer, 17 February 1875.

[21] Herald, 13 February 1875.

[22] Convict Establishment, Medical, Admissions & Discharges from Hospital, 1856 – 1886 (M32)

[23] WA Almanack,

[24] Bicentennial Dictionary of Western Australians, p. 305.

[25] Note: This man was not the William Brown involved in the Cornhill robbery in London.

[26] WA Death Index, Reg. No. 1323.

[27] WA Birth Index, Reg. No. 20907.

[28] WA Birth Index, Reg. No. 20907.

[29] WA Marriage Index, Reg. No. 4050.

[30] WA Birth Index, Reg. No. 17577.

[31] WA Birth Index, Reg. No. 19136.

[32] Family search website at

[33] West Australian, 10 February 1885.

[34] Daily News, 6 September 1887.

[35] Moora Herald & Midland Districts Advocate, 17 February 1914.

[36] West Australian, 28 April 1889.

[37] Family Search website,

[38] Metropolitan Cemeteries Board, WA.

[39] West Australian, 16 November 1944.

[40] WA Police Gazette, 27 March 1881.

[41] WA Police Gazette, 10 August 1881.

[42] WA Police Gazette, 26/10/ 1881.

[43] Bairnsdale Advertiser, 11 March 1882.

[44] James Morrison, (Reg. No’s 6676 & 10075), Fremantle Convict Register,

[45] Inquirer and Commercial News, 31 May 1882.

[46] Australasian, 20 May 1882.

[47] Argus, 2 May 1882.

[48] WA convict shipping list, at

[49] Riverine Herald, 13 September 1887.

[50] Bendigo Advertiser, 10 September 1887.

[51] Ibid.

[52] Table Talk, Melbourne, 10 October 1901.

[53] Wikipedia,’Callaghan

[54] Herald, Melbourne, 14 March 1914.

[55] Age, 13 April 1898.

[56] Atlas, 15 April 1865.

[57] Lambeth and Southwark Advertiser, 23 June 1860.

[58] Central Criminal Court proceedings, at

[59] Punch, or the London Charavari, 24 February 1866, at Forgotten Books website at

[60] Victorian London – Publications – Social Investigation/Journalism – Round London : Down East and Up West, by Montagu Williams Q.C., 1894, pp.95-96, at caseley

[61] Atlas, 15 April 1865.

[62] Leeds Times, 17 February 1866.

[63] Convict Department, Exit and Convict Lists (128/1-32)

[64] WA BDM Index, Reg. No. 3819.

[65] WA BDM Index. Reg. No. 22642.

[66] WA Times, 13 April 1875.

[67] Herald, 24 August 1878.

[68] Victorian Express, 22 December 1880.

[69] WA Police Gazette, September 1880, p.153.

[70] Inquirer and Commercial News, 5 December 1883.

[71] Daily News, 29 May 1883.

[72] Victorian Express, 22 August 1883.

[73] Daily News, 14 August 1883.

[74] Daily News, 20 December 1883.

[75] Daily News, 11 February 1887.

[76] Western Mail, 9 June 1888.

[77] Albany Mail, 16 January 1889.

[78] Western Mail, 19 October 1889.

[79] Alphabetical Register of Convicts (R20).

[80] Metropolitan Cemetery Board website.

[81] Atlas, 15 April 1865.

[82] Convict Department Registers, Estimated and Convict Lists (128/1-32)

[83] WA Police Gazette, May 1878, p.79.

[84] Ibid, p.79.

[85] WA Police Gazette, May 1880, p.75.

[86] Victorian Express, 19 March 1887.

[87] Ibid, 20 Aug. 1887.

[88] Ibid, 3 August 1889.

[89] Ibid, 28 July 1893.

[90] Ibid, 6 Dec 1890.

[91] Geraldton Advertiser, 27 May 1896.

[92] Ibid., 30 June 1897.

[93] Ibid., 1 April 1903.

[94] Daily News, 23 April 1903.

[95] Inquirer, 4 June 1884.

[96] Convict Department, General Register for Nos 9059-9598 (R15)

[97] Ibid.

[98] Ibid.

[99] Ibid.

[100] Inquirer, 14 October 1874.

[101] Convict Registers, General Register for Nos 9059-9598 (R15)

[102] South Australian Chronicle and Weekly Mail, 30 July 1875.

[103] Ibid., 31 July 1875.

[104] Convict Registers, General Register for Nos 9059-9598 (R15)


[106] Fremantle Prison Registers, Register of Prisoners (F2B).

[107] WA Police Gazette, 1 December 1880.

[108] London Evening Standard, 4 April 1865.

[109] Gloucestershire Chronicle, 8 April 1865.

[110] Penny Illustrated Paper, 11 March 1865.

[111] Essex Standard, 17 March 1865.

[112] UK Prison Commission Records, 1770-1921, Newgate Prison, Registers of Prisoners, 1863.

[113] Convict Department Registers, General Register for Nos 9059 – 9598 (R15)

[114] Ibid.

[115] WA Police Gazette, January 1880, p.16.