Martha Virco – trial record

This story has been created by Wendy Westgate as part of the University of Tasmania’s HAA007 Convict Ancestors unit

The Trial of Martha VICO at the Old Bailey

457. MARTHA VICO was indicted for stealing, on the 12th of December, 1 watch,. value 1l. 5s.; 1 purse, value 6d.; and 2 shillings; the goods and monies of William Leighton, from his person.

WILLIAM LEIGHTON . I am a private in the 45th regiment of foot. I was out on furlough, and was at Edgware, on the 12th of December—I was going to Watford, to my friends—I got to Edgware about eight or nine o’clock at night—I went into the White Lion public-house, and found the prisoner there, in company with another woman—I got into conversation with them, and treated them—I paid about 2s. for what I had—I took out my purse to pay—I had 5s. or 7s. in it—I was rather under the influence of drink, but I knew what I was about—about eleven o’clock the prisoner and I went out together, and the other woman left us—I went into the fields with the prisoner, and laid down and went to sleep—I do not know whether I paid her any thing—I had a watch, fastened to a guard round my neck—the purse was in my right-hand pocket—I awoke between four and five o’clock in the morning, and she was gone—I missed my watch directly I awoke—the guard-chain was broken—I went into a public-house immediately, and then missed my purse—the prisoner was taken next evening—this is my watch—(looking at it)—I did not give either the watch or purse to her.

JOHN BLEUMAN . I am shopman to Mr. Marchant, a pawnbroker in Edgware-road. I took this watch in pawn between ten and eleven o’clock, on the morning of the 13th of December, for 12s., from a woman—I cannot positively swear to the prisoner, but I believe she is the person—I did not see her face, but I can swear to the bonnet she had on—I saw her before the Magistrate on the 19th, and believed her to be the person.

THOMAS BUTLER . I am a policeman. On the 13th of December I apprehended the prisoner, from the prosecutor’s description—she denied having the watch—I took her to the Magistrate, who remanded her for a week—on our road to Clerkenwell she became lame, and we got on a coach, with Susan Burr—she told Burr, in my presence, on the coach, that the was sorry to see her in trouble, for she had nothing to do with it, that she had taken the watch herself, and pawned it at Paddington—Burr was discharged at the next examination.

SUSAN BURR . I was in company with the prisoner and prosecutor at the public-house—I left them—I was taken up on this charge—the prisoner told me what the officer has stated, on the roof of the coach.

GUILTY .+ Aged 22.— Transported for Ten Years.


Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 7.2, 13 June 2016), December 1838, trial of MARTHA VICO (t18381231-457).

Martha Virco – breakouts

This story has been created by Wendy Westgate as part of the University of Tasmania’s HAA007 Convict Ancestors unit


Martha was transported to Van Diemen’s Land on the Hindostan; the ship was carrying 179 female convicts. The ship’s Master was George LAMBE, and the Ship surgeon was Thomas W. MCDONALD.[1]

This journey was the second the Hindostan had made as a Convict ship; in July 1821, the ship sailed to New South Wales with 152 male convicts, arriving in Port Macquarie on 24th November of that year.

The Hindostan subsequently made one more trip as a Convict ship; it left London on 7th October 1840 with 209 male convicts on board, arriving in Hobart on 19th January 1841.[2]



John Boyd

When Martha married John BOYD, he is described as a Free Man[1]. I have tried to find out more information about John, but there are at least three men of that name who arrive in Van Diemen’s Land in the 1830s; with more research, I’m sure the correct one could be identified.

John was a carpenter, a valuable trade to have in those times. The children of Martha and John were born in a number of places, which suggests John moved his family around in stay in employment; many of the places are in the north of Tasmania, south of Launceston.

John died on 9th October 1862:[2]


JB, death

Entry for death of John BOYD; TAHO, RGD35/1/31, Morven, 1862/309

[1] Australia, Marriage Index, 1788-1950 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Original data: Compiled from publicly available sources; John BOYD and Martha VICO

[2] TAHO, RGD35/1/31, Morven, 1862/309, John BOYD


Martha Virco – main story

This story has been created by Wendy Westgate as part of the University of Tasmania’s HAA007 Convict Ancestors unit

Martha VICO was a housemaid; she was 5 feet 1 inch tall, and had a broad head and oval ‘visage’ with a high forehead and long chin. Her hair was brown, her eyes hazel and she had a ruddy complexion. [1]


Description, Martha VICO; TAHO, CON19-1-13, pg. 318


On 8th December 1833, Martha, nee HEARNE, married William VERCOE at the Parish church of Little Stanmore, Harrow[2];  she would have been 16 or 17 years of age.

MV, marriage cert_0

Entry of marriage of William VERCOE and Martha HEARNE; London, England,

Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921  

According to her Indent record, she had two brothers, Thomas and Henry, and a sister, Elizabeth, who lived in St Albans, Hertfordshire; the record also states that William was a blacksmith.[3] In addition, it notes that William is in Newgate Prison, and that Martha had spent ‘12 months on the Town’. This would suggest that, due to William’s imprisonment, Martha had nowhere to live and was finding it difficult to survive without his income… which was perhaps what led to her offence.


Entry for Martha VICO; TAHO, CON15-1-9, pg. 10, Hindostan 12 Sep 1839

Martha was found guilty of her crime at the Old Bailey on 31st December 1838; her sentence was transportation for ten years.[4]

MV, verdict

Entry for Martha VICO;; England & Wales, Crime, Prisons and Punishment, 1770-1935, Institutions & organisations, Prison registers

After sentencing, due to overcrowding in Newgate Prison, Martha was moved to Millbank[5], and then to the Hindostan; this ship left London on 6th May 1839.

MV, newspaper

Morning Advertiser, London, England, 05 February 1839

On 12th September 1839, the ship arrived at Van Diemen’s Land; the Surgeon reported that during the voyage Martha had been ‘extremely insolent’. On arrival, Martha was sent into the employ of Mr W Learmouth of Ross[6].

However, the first years that Martha was in Van Diemen’s Land did not run smoothly for her; just two weeks after her arrival, Martha was found guilty of Gross Misconduct after going into the men’s’ berths on the Government brig Tamar whilst on her way to Launceston, for which she received the sentence of 14 days Solitary Confinement on bread and water at Launceston Female Factory. [7]

In 26 December 1839, now in the employment of Mr Atkinson, Martha sentenced to two months’ hard labour in the Launceston Female Factory (having been found guilty of being ‘drunk and disorderly and in the company of a man in the back of a house in York Street’), and was back in the Female Factory again in April 1840 after being Absent without leave from her master – this time for 14 days, on bread and water.

December 1840 saw Martha with another ‘Master’ – Mr Rodgers. On the 31st, she was found guilty of Gross insolence to the Chief District Constable, and sentenced to a year’s Hard labour, again in Launceston Female Factory.

Perhaps this term of Hard labour was her ‘turning point’ which finally made Martha settle down and ‘toe the line’, as there are no further records of misdemeanours. In fact, the 1842, she applied for permission to marry John BOYD[8], with the clergyman being satisfied with the evidence:



Entry for John BOYD and Martha VICO; TAHO, CON52/1/2 Page 016; NAME_INDEXES:1267689; June 1842, RGD37/2: 1842/1739

They were married on 8th September of that year, in Ross, Avoca[9]. Obviously the fact that Martha had been married in England was ‘overlooked’, as to Martha it would have been obvious that she was never going to see William, or return to England, ever again, and she would have had to have made the best she could of her new life.

John and Martha went on to have at least seven children, born between 1842 and 1858:

Anne, born on 19th October 1842 in Evandale[10]

Susan, born on 29th May 1844 in Launceston[11]

Catherine, born on 13th September 1846 in Rogan Falls[12]

Robert, born 1st July 1848 in Mary Vale, Morven[13]

Martha, born on 18th November 1850 in Mary Vale, Morven [14]

Frederick, born on 16th December 1855 in Evandale[15]

Harriet, born on 21st June 1858 in Evandale[16]

During this time, Martha’s Ticket of Leave was granted in November 1845, and her Certificate of Freedom was issued in February 1849.[17]

John died on 9th October 1862 in the Morven district[18]; Martha died on 25th January 1880[19], again, in the Morven district.

Martha Virco references

[1] TAHO, CON19-1-13, pg. 318, Martha VICO. Retrieved on 4 June 2016

[2] London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.

Original data: Church of England Parish Registers, 1754-1921. London Metropolitan Archives, London. Retrieved on 11 June 2016

[3] TAHO, CON15-1-9, pg. 10, Hindostan 12 Sep 1839, Martha VICO

[4]; England & Wales, Crime, Prisons and Punishment, 1770-1935, Institutions & organisations, Prison registers. Retrieved on 4 June 2016

[5]; British Newspapers; Morning Advertiser, London, England, 05 February 1839. Retrieved on 4 June 2016

[6] New South Wales and Tasmania, Australia Convict Musters, 1806-1849 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007.

Original data: Home Office: Settlers and Convicts, New South Wales and Tasmania; (The National Archives Microfilm Publication HO10, Pieces 5, 19-20, 32-51); The National Archives of the UK (TNA), Kew, Surrey, England. Retrieved on 4 June 2016

[7] TAHO, CON40-1-10, pg. 149, Martha VICO

[8] TAHO, CON52/1/2 Page 016; NAME_INDEXES:1267689; June 1842, RGD37/2: 1842/1739, John BOYD and Martha VICO

[9] Australia, Marriage Index, 1788-1950 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Original data: Compiled from publicly available sources; John BOYD and Martha VICO

[10]  TAHO, RGD32/1/3/ Evandale 1852/1954 Anne BOYD

[11] TAHO, RGD 33/1/23 Launceston 1844/242 Susan BOYD

[12] TAHO, RGD32/1/3/ Evandale 1846/2986 Catherine BOYD

[13] TAHO, RGD33/1/27/ Morven 1848/1203 Robert Boyd

[14] TAHO, RGD33/1/27/ Morven 1850/1330 Martha BOYD

[15] TAHO, RGD33/1/33 Morven 1855/1152 Frederick BOYD

[16] TAHO, RGD33/1/36 Morven 1858/1505 Harriet BOYD

[17] TAHO, CON40-1-10, pg. 149, Martha VICO

[18] Australia, Death Index, 1787-1985 [database on-line] Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Original data: Compiled from publicly available sources; John BOYD

[19] Australia, Death Index, 1787-1985 [database on-line] Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Original data: Compiled from publicly available sources; Martha BOYD

Martha Virco – intro

This story has been created by Wendy Westgate as part of the University of Tasmania’s HAA007 Convict Ancestors unit

Martha VICO was 22 years old when she was arrested for pickpocketing. She had gone to the pub – the White Lion in Edgeware, Middlesex – with her friend Susan BURR when they had met up with a soldier who was on furlough. The soldier, William LEIGHTON, got chatting to the two women and bought them drinks; at about 11o’clock, he left the pub and spent the night with Martha, sleeping in a field. When he woke up the next morning, Martha, his purse and his watch were all gone…[1]

This act of pickpocketing changed Martha’s life completely – here is the story of what happened to her.

Martha VICO – a Convict’s Story

[1] Old Bailey Proceedings Online (, version 7.2, 13 June 2016), December 1838, trial of MARTHA VICO (t18381231-457).

John Boyd – breakout 2

This story has been created by Peter Gray as part of the University of Tasmania’s HAA007 Convict Ancestors unit




While researching john I found out that when he died he was living and working in the Evandale area which he seems to have settled in once he became free. So i went looking for his grave, but because of the distance problem manly me in Sydney, NSW him in Tasmania I contacted the Evandale history society who are very help ful people, they have given me some great information .The area cemetery  have plenty of boyds to research and I am sure that a lot of them would be some of john’s and matha decendants. Please see above

John Boyd – breakout 1

This story has been created by Peter Gray as part of the University of Tasmania’s HAA007 Convict Ancestors unit

prison hulk_0
This is the scene John would have faced when he was sent to the hulks.

Not the hulk John was on but shows the new life ahead of him.

The Prison hulks were mostly old war ships or ships that were no longer sea worthy, but could still float so were a very good way of housing the prisoners. They were often towed or moved up and down the harbour to where there was work.  A convict would get paid a small sum for doing work while waiting to be transported.

John Boyd – Main story

This story has been created by Peter Gray as part of the University of Tasmania’s HAA007 Convict Ancestors unit

When John left his place of residence on the 5th September 1835, looking for work as he later stated in court I am sure he was not expecting to be arrested by police-constable Thomas Middleton for the theft of 1 plane, value 8s, the goods of William Heiron and 1 saw, value 3s, the goods of James Virtue. From 22 Woburn Pl, London. [1]

So on the 21st September 1835 he found himself in the central criminal court or the Old Bailey as it is more commonly known as, where he was found guilty of simple larceny (theft) and was sentenced to transportation for 7 years. [1] According to the records of prison hulk registers he arrived on the prison hulk the Hardy on the 12 Oct 1835 some 23 days after he was found guilty, where he was for that 23 days is unclear so far.  For the next 11 months John was on held on the hulk moored in Portsmouth waiting for his transportation. [2]

The Ship the Henry Porcher set sail for Van Diemens Land on the 1st August 1836 leaving from Plymouth with John Boyd and 260 other convicts on board. The ship master was John Hart with the ship surgeon John Smith looking after the crew and the convicts. They arrived at the port of Hobart Town on the 15th November 1836. The journey took a total of 108 days.[3]  According to the surgeon, whose duty it was to monitor the behaviour and welfare of the convicts on board, reported that John was of very good behaviour. [4]

It is once the convicts arrived in Van Diemens Land (VDL) that we really learn a great deal about their lives as convicts from the wonderful records keep by the government agents. I found John’s records to be very interesting and insightful and I have transcribed them and I will now will tell you the rest of his story.

According to his description record, he was born in Plymouth, Devon. His description says he had a swarthy complexion with a long head and visage, his hair was brown, eyebrows light brown and dark hazel eyes. His forehead was high and he had a long nose, medium width mouth and narrow chin. He was only 5 feet 5 inches tall. His trade was a carpenter and joiner, including doors and windows. [5]

He was aged around 22/25 when sentenced. Whilst serving his sentence he committed two offences, the first on the 15 December 1838. While under his master Dumaresque, he was charged with being drunk and making use of obscene language with wine and rum in his possession. For this his punishment was 24 lashes, not a light sentence by any means. The second offence took place on the 4th of June 1839 under control of a new master, Russell. He was convicted of misconduct. Luckily he received only a warning for this. [4] He managed to keep out of trouble and turn his life around. On the 1st February 1841 having served 5 years and 5 months of his sentence he received the first step to being free, his ticket of leave. Then just a year later on the 12th February 1842 he received his conditional pardon No.192. His final step to being free, his free certificate No. 700, came on 26th September 1842 having served the full length of his sentence.[4] C In June 1842 John and Martha Vico (who was also a convict, Police No. 18) applied for permission to marry, which was a requirement if convicts were not free. Permission was granted sometime in August 1842.

John and Martha married on the 6th September 1842 at St John’s Church in Ross (district of Avoca) Tasmania by the rites of the united Church of England. The minister was William Bedford Junior. John was aged 28 and Martha stated that she was 24.  The witnesses to the marriage were William Stolley and Mary-Ann Brown. [7]

After his marriage John worked as a carpenter in the Launceston area for 3-4years.  He then worked in Evandale, Tasmania until his death in October, 1862 from pneumonia.

Evandale History Society’s records indicate that John Henry Boyd, Occupation-Carpenter, was buried at Evandale Cemetery (Anglican) on 11th October, 1862.

Their records also indicate that Martha Boyd, Widow of Carpenter, was buried at Evandale Cemetery on 28th January. 1880.

Upon studying these records I discovered some discrepancy in John’s reported name and age at the time of his death. [8]

BOYD: References

[1] www.oldbailey reference Number t18350921-2048

[2] UK, prison hulk registers and letter books, 1802-1849

Source citation, Home office: convict prison hulk registers and letter books, class: HO9; Piece: 9

[3] TAHO CON27-1-2, 197, Image 154, L, 80  APPROPRIATION LISTS OF CONVICTS.

[4] TAHO CON31-1-3,400, Image 122, F, 60 CONDUCT RECORD OF CONVICTS

[5] TAHO CON18-1-9, Image 8, 7, F, 60 DESCRIPTION LIST

[6] TAHO CON 52/1/2

[7] STORS.TAS.GOV.AU/RGD37-1-2, Image394 Marriage John Boyd and Martha Varco

[8] Evandale History Society Inc. <>

John Boyd intro

This story has been created by Peter Gray as part of the University of Tasmania’s HAA007 Convict Ancestors unit

john boyd comfit
Comfit of John Boyd

The Picture of John Boyd  I created using his description in

John was a carpenter looking for work and ended up on the other side of the wold in a place called VAN DIEMANS LAND “VDL”. Although he is not a member of my family tree I have tried to do a fair research of him and his time as a convict, I feel there is still much to do on him and hope that one of his descendants will complete his story. I hope you enjoy reading about  his story so far.

Click on the blue name to read about him


My other convicts

During the convict ancestors course, I offered some of my other convicts for people to research. Two students took up the offer and they have agreed to have their research published on my blog.

Peter Gray researched John Boyd and Wendy Westgate researched his wife Martha Virco. Here are their stories.

John Boyd – intro, main story, breakout 1, breakout 2

Martha Virco – intro, main story, breakoutstrial record

Houses of Correction

In London, prisoners were put in a detentional prison after they had been committed by a magistrate. Some of these were: Middlesex House of Detention at Clerkenwell, Newgate and Horsemonger Lane Jail

Once you had been convicted you were sent to a different prison depending upon the length of your sentence. If you had a short term of punishment, you went to City House of Correction, Middlesex Houses of Correction or Surrey House of Correction.

But if you were convicted to some form of penal servitude or transportation you could be sent to Pentonville or Millbank prisons, Female Convict Prison at Brixton or the Hulks at Woolwich.[1]

The Brixton or Surrey House of Correction is probably where Isabella was sent after conviction. According to Henry Mayhew, writing in 1862,

“… that, despite its standing in the healthiest situation, the old Surrey House of Correction was one of the unhealthiest of all the London prisons”.[2]

Like many prisons it was overcrowded, often 3 to a cell which was not well ventilated, thus causing lots of sickness and fever. It was at the Brixton where the treadmill was first setup as a form of punishment.[3]

The exercise yard though was not gravel; instead prisoners were surrounded by grass and flower beds.[4]

Brixton Wash house - unknown source

Brixton Wash house – unknown source

Let us now compare this to Isabella’s incarceration at the Launceston House of Correction.

The factory opened in 1834 and was built as an octagonal plan. Between 80 and 100 women were able to live and work there comfortably but by 1842 when Isabella was there, over 250 women and their children were living in crowded conditions.[5]

With such crowding, behaviour of the women could change as happened on 22nd October 1842, a few months after Isabella had left.[6]

Extract from Launceston Examiner , 22 October 1842, p. 4

Extract from Launceston Examiner , 22 October 1842, p. 4

In a report written by La Trobe at the end of 1846 he mentions the female factory has two mess rooms and three wards each able to accommodate 30 women. Separate apartments were being built but they could not be made into solitary ones. There was also a hospital which had room for 7 women. There were three sheds used for washing and spinning which I assume would be used as punishment for those women sent in by local magistrates.[7]

At the time of his visit to the Launceston Female Factory the personnel running it were a medical officer, a schoolmistress, a superintendent, two matrons, one clerk and one gatekeeper. They were looking after 75 needlewomen, 17 women nursing children, 10 servants, 4 sick, 8 washing and 9 using wool.[8]

Maybe after spending time in the various female houses of correction both in London and Launceston, Isabella decided that marriage and a chance to have her own family would be a better way of leading her life.


[1] Mayhew, Henry, and John Binny. The Criminal Prisons of London, and Scenes of Prison Life. London, England: Griffen, Bohn and Company, 1862, p 82 viewed 12 June 2016.

[2] ibid, p 174 viewed 12 June 2016

[3] ibid, p 174 viewed 12 June 2016

[4] ibid, p 185 viewed 12 June 2016


[6] Launceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 – 1899), 22 October 1842, p. 4. (EVENING), viewed 12 Jun 2016,

[7] Brand, Ian, Charles Joseph Latrobe, Michael Sprod, and James Boyd. The Convict Probation System, Van Diemen’s Land 1839-1854: A Study of the Probation System of Convict Discipline, Together with C.J. La Trobe’s 1847 Report on Its Operation and the 1845 Report of James Boyd on the Probation Station at Darlington, Maria Island. Hobart: Blubber Head Press, 1990. p 200

[8] ibid, p 134

Readers: Did you have any female convicts stay in a house of correction either in London or Australia? Why were they there?