A fraudster Down Under: Robert Atcherley Taylor – Part 4

< Back to Part 3

Quote Robert Taylor was placed at the bar, charged with obtaining money under false pretences … The Honourable the Judge Advocate remarked, with much energy, upon the extraordinary effrontery with which the fraud had been effected, under circumstances from which it was impossible the prisoner could have escaped justice; and upon a very short consultation of the Members, the prisoner was pronounced guilty; and sentenced to be transported—for seven years to Newcastle. Unquote — The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 19 September 1818.

You may be forgiven if you are experiencing a sense of déjà vu on reading the above extract from the Sydney Gazette. Robert Atcherley Taylor had been given a seven year sentence of transportation at Middlesex, for a fraud, in September 1811. Now, in September 1818, with less than a week of his sentence left to run, a second fraud had condemned him to an identical sentence within the colony which he had hoped to leave.

It was for the purpose of securing help with his plans to return to England that Robert had been given permission to travel from Van Diemen’s Land to Sydney. He would have been eligible to apply for his Certificate of Freedom once his original sentence had expired, but that chance of liberty was now gone.

The victims of Robert’s latest swindle were “Mr. C. Hadley, of the Nepean” (Charles Hadley, a pardoned convict from the Third Fleet who had settled at the Nepean River) and his agent Thomas Rose, of Castlereagh Street in Sydney. The Sydney Gazette gives the details (quoted here with a few minor amendments):

Quote The prisoner had arrived lately from Hobart Town, in the Henrietta Packet; and, with a counterfeit letter pretended to be sent to Mr. Hadley from a relative at Hobart Town, imposed on him an account of property arriving by the Jupiter, the freight whereof, stated to be £8 10s. the prisoner at the bar was to receive from Hadley on his arrival.

No suspicion was entertained of the fraud, and Hadley gave the prisoner a letter requesting Mr. Rose, as his Agent, to make such advances as he the prisoner might want during his stay in Sydney, not at all doubting the truth of his representations. Mr. Rose advanced him altogether the sum of £8; but there stopped, owing to some incidents which had rendered the prisoner suspected; whereupon a development ensued, and all was found to be a fabrication; the letter a cheat, and not a single article for Hadley by the Jupiter. Unquote

The Lady Nelson

And so it was that a “List of Prisoners to be Sent to Newcastle Per the Lady Nelson” on 19 October 1818 included Robert Taylor of the Indefatigable, convicted at the Criminal Court on 15 September that year.

Newcastle penal colony has been described as “a nasty place” where “military rule was harsh, often barbarous”. Prisoners were forced to work in the coal mines, but the “there was no more notorious place of punishment in the whole of Australia than Limeburners’ Bay … where incorrigibles were sent to burn oyster shells for making lime.” Fortunately for Robert, conditions had improved somewhat in the three years up to 1818 under the settlement’s Commandant during that period, Captain James Wallis. But even with those improvements, life for the convicts at Newcastle was no picnic.

There appears to be little on record in respect of Robert’s time at Newcastle – but what there is shows that he was still capable of mischief, and that the punishment for such behaviour was brutal. A “List of Prisoners punished at Newcastle with Nature of Offence” for the month of March 1821 includes Robert Taylor of “1st Indefatigable”. For “Disobedience of orders in going to the Settlers, repeatedly leaving his Gang & forging a Pass to deceive the Constable at Patterson’s Plains” he received 50 lashes. The same punishment had been inflicted upon many of the other men on the same list, while others had received either 25 or 75 lashes. All must have suffered terribly.

Fortunately for Robert, by 1821 Newcastle’s days as a penal colony were numbered: Governor Macquarie felt that it was situated too close to Sydney for comfort, and the land was ripe for development by settlers. Military rule at Newcastle ended In 1823, by which time only 100 convicts remained. Robert Taylor of the Indefatigable was one of the 900 prisoners who were transferred to the penal colony at Port Macquarie, where he appears on a convict muster taken in 1822.

Robert had in fact been moved to Port Macquarie in 1821. The evidence for this takes the form of a testimonial written by another man who arrived at that penal colony in the same year. Captain Francis Allman of the 48th Regiment was Commandant at Port Macquarie from 1 March 1821. From Allman’s testimonial it can be seen that Robert’s fortunes changed for the better after his transfer. No longer compelled to undertake hard manual labour, Robert was instead given the job of schoolmaster, a duty he performed in a manner which impressed:

Quote This is to Certify that the Bearer Robert Taylor was appointed by me Master of the Government School at Port Macquarie at its first formation in the year 1821, and continued in that station up to the period of my leaving the Settlement in April 1824, and from the circumstance of my having minutely examined the School on the first Friday in every Month I Consider it a Point of Justice to Represent that the progress made by the Children far exceeded my most sanguine expectations together with the Discipline : and which did not pass unnoticed by the Colonial Secretary, and I further Certify that my Instructions relative to their being Brought up In Bells System of Education in Strict Uniformity to the Principles and Tenets of the Church of England were faithfully discharged by him. Unquote

In 1824 Robert evidently decided that his sustained and widely recognised period of good conduct provided grounds for the mitigation of his sentence. In April that year he petitioned the Captain General Governor of New South Wales, Sir Thomas Brisbane (pictured below). His petition was backed up by short testimonials from William Clayton (a Sergeant in the 48th Regiment), William Hudson (a Colour Sergeant in that regiment), George Muir (wharfinger), William Wilson (overseer), John Hillis (position unspecified), John Hawkins (overseer of stock), and Stephen Partridge (Superintendent at Port Macquarie). Robert’s petition took the following form:

Quote The Humble Petition of
Robert A. Taylor a
Prisoner to the Crown,
and Government School
Master at Port Macquarie
Most Humbly and Respectfully Sheweth
That your Excellencys Petitioner with many other deluded votaries in the Colony hath hitherto sought for happiness in following the deceitful paths of Sin, which of course brought on him the sentence of seven Years Transportation at the Criminal Court held at Sydney in the year 1818.
That your Petitioner being with humble submission to the Offended Laws of his Country, presumes to hope that your Excellency will be pleased to blend the rigour of Justice with the feelings of humanity, by remitting the remainder of the Unexpired term of the said Colonial sentence, for which Indulgence Petitioner as in duty bound will ever Pray
Robert A Taylor Unquote

Uncertain whether his petition had been “deemed worthy of notice“, on 4 May 1824 Robert followed it up with a letter to Colonial Secretary Frederick Goulburn, in which he made the following plea:

Quote Pardon me Honl. Sir in further stating That if you will in this instance extend your clemency So far As to allow me to Return to Head Quarters, and pass the Remainder of my Term independent of Govt, it will enable me to procure myself a little wearing apparel (of which I am now completely destitute), and ultimately forward in Views in proceeding to England, not to return to my evil propensities, but to make with an ancient patriarch this solemn enquiry, “Is my father still alive”, and If So to claim with the prodigal, in the Gospel His forgiveness, and that of the family, I have so mortally disgraced. Unquote

Robert’s hopes of early release were given a huge boost when he received a reply from the Colonial Secretary, dated 22 June 1824, which stated that: “Your Memorial of the 5th of April having been submitted to the Governor, I have been honored with this instruction, that the remainder of your Sentence may be remitted, if such remission accord with Colonial regulations.”

Encouraged, in fact “deeply impressed with Gratitude”, Robert wrote a further ‘Memorial’ in which he again requested his “removal to Head Quarters” (Sydney). But for some reason, progress then stalled and Robert did not, in the end, secure any remission of his sentence. A general muster taken in 1825 shows that Robert was still at Port Macquarie. The transcript of Francis Allman’s testimonial which appears above, although relating to the period from 1821 to 1824, was not in fact written until 13 September 1825. This was almost at the very end of Robert’s full – and unremitted – seven year sentence of transportation.

Finally, on 6 October 1825, Robert Taylor, schoolmaster, of the Indefatigable (1), originally convicted on 23 September 1811, and a native of Shropshire, was issued with his Certificate of Freedom. After 14 long years Robert Atcherley Taylor was at last a free man. But for how long would this remain the case?

> On to Part 5

Picture credits: The Lady Nelson: Adapted from a public domain image at Wikimedia Commons. Sir Thomas Brisbane: Public domain image at Wikimedia Commons.


[1] The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, Sat 19 Sep 1818, page 3. Copy viewed at Trove.
[2] Descendants of Charles Hadley (website, accessed 27 Sep 2015).
[3] Colonial Secretary, Out-letter books (State Records Authority of New South Wales NRS937, reel 6006, item 4/3499, page 107 – List of Prisoners to be Sent to Newcastle Per the Lady Nelson dated 19 Oct 1818). Copy viewed at Ancestry – New South Wales, Australia, Colonial Secretary’s Papers, 1788-1856. Indexed at Colonial Secretary Index, 1788-1825.
[4] Discovery & Founding of Newcastle. At: The City of Newcastle website (accessed 27 Sep 2015).
[5] Colonial Secretary’s Correspondence, Special Bundles, 1794-1825, Monthly returns of Punishments, Newcastle, Dec 1810-Oct 1825 (State Records Authority of New South Wales, reel 6023, item 4/1718, page 125 – List of Prisoners punished at Newcastle with Nature of Offence for Mar 1821). Copy viewed at Ancestry – New South Wales, Australia, Colonial Secretary’s Papers, 1788-1856. Indexed at Colonial Secretary Index, 1788-1825.
[6] Home Office: Settlers and Convicts, New South Wales and Tasmania including convict censuses (The National Archives, Kew, series HO10, piece 36, folio 303 dorso – general muster, 1822). Copy viewed at Ancestry – New South Wales and Tasmania, Australia Convict Musters, 1806-1849.
[7] Colonial Secretary’s Correspondence, Letters Received 1788-1826 (State Records Authority of New South Wales, reel 6064, item 4/6665.7, page 9 – testimonial of Francis Allman). Copy viewed at Ancestry – New South Wales, Australia, Colonial Secretary’s Papers, 1788-1856. Indexed at Colonial Secretary Index, 1788-1825.
[8] Colonial Secretary’s Correspondence, Petitions to the Governor from convicts for mitigations of sentences, 1810-26 (State Records Authority of New South Wales NRS 900, Fiche 3243; 4/1872, pages 107 to 107i – petition of Robert A Taylor dated 5 Apr 1824; testimonials of William Clayton, William Hudson, George Muir, William Wilson, John Hillis, John Hawkins and Stephen Partridge (various dates); memorial of Robert A Taylor dated 4 May 1824; memorial of Robert A Taylor dated 28 Jun 1824). Indexed at Colonial Secretary Index, 1788-1825.
[9] Colonial Secretary’s Correspondence, Out-letter books (State Records Authority of New South Wales NRS937, reel 6013, item 4/3511, page 107 – Letter from F Goulburn to Robert A Taylor dated 22 Jun 1824). Copy viewed at Ancestry – New South Wales, Australia, Colonial Secretary’s Papers, 1788-1856. Indexed at Colonial Secretary Index, 1788-1825.
[10] Registers of certificates of freedom 1810 to 1833 (State Records Authority of New South Wales, Series 12208, volume 4/4424, certificate 22/4374 dated 6 Oct 1825 for Robert Taylor). Copy viewed at Ancestry – New South Wales, Australia, Certificates of Freedom, 1810-1814, 1827-1867.

A fraudster Down Under: Robert Atcherley Taylor – Part 3

< Back to Part 2.

Quote The post office department was in an exceedingly primitive condition in those days. Mr. James Mitchell was postmaster at Hobart Town. A weekly messenger carried letters to Coal River and Pittwater, but no further. In October, 1816, a vast stride was made in this branch of the public service by the appointment of Robert A. Taylor as ‘Government messenger’ between Hobart Town and Port Dalrymple, the name by which Launceston was then known. Unquote — A History of Tasmania.

Robert Atcherley Taylor spent about six years of his seven year sentence of transportation in the colony of New South Wales, which at that time included the island known as Van Diemen’s Land (where Robert arrived, on the Indefatigable, in October 1812). For most of that period I have, unfortunately, found no records which would confirm Robert’s whereabouts and activities (although I suspect that he did not leave Van Diemen’s Land until the very end of his sentence).

Governor Lachlan MacquarieA despatch dated 28 January 1813, sent by Governor Macquarie (pictured right) to Major Andrew Geils, then administrator of Van Diemen’s Land, provides some information regarding the fate of the consignment of convicts of which Robert was a part:

Quote I approve of your having sent Eighty of the Male Convicts, arrived in the Indefatigable Transport, for the use of the Settlement of Port Dalrymple; but you omitted to send me a Return of those you retained at the Derwent, which you ought to have done, specifying to whom they were assigned. I hope most of them were given to the Settlers, and that you retained very few of them for Government excepting the real mechanics. Unquote

Whether Major Geils eventually sent the return desired by Governor Macquarie I do not know. If he did, and a copy survives, it would give an indication as to where Robert Atcherley Taylor was sent after his arrival at Hobart Town. The Australian Government website notes that “From 1810, convicts were seen as a source of labour to advance and develop the British colony. Convict labour was used to develop the public facilities of the colonies – roads, causeways, bridges, courthouses and hospitals. Convicts also worked for free settlers and small land holders.” Who did Robert work for?

Thankfully, Robert’s years on Van Diemen’s Land are not a complete blank, as you will have gathered from the above extract from A History of Tasmania. As an educated man, Robert may well have been assigned to Government administrative duties. His good conduct in such a position might then have marked him as a suitable person for the position of Government Messenger, to which he was appointed  on 23 October 1816. The following notice was published on the front page of The Hobart Town Gazette and Southern Reporter on 26 October 1816:

Robert Atcherley Taylor - Govt Notice 1817

James Fenton, the author of A History of Tasmania, stated that Robert “was to leave each place on alternate Sunday mornings”, a statement which does not tally with the above notice, clearly stating that Robert was “to leave either Hobart Town or Launceston every Tuesday morning alternately.” I suspect that Fenton’s source was not the original notice, but James Bonwick’s Curious Facts of Old Colonial Days published in 1870. Bonwick got Sunday confused with Tuesday in his otherwise accurate transcript of the Government notice, and went on to say:

Quote The two places were above one hundred and twenty miles apart. No road existed. The country was very mountainous and scrubby. Bushrangers and hostile natives beset the traveller in the bush. But the postman was required to take only a week to convey letters from one place to the other. Unquote

Undertaking the role of Government Messenger was clearly a significant challenge, though by no means a unique one. There are parallels here between Robert’s job and that of Paul Hollywood’s ancestor, Donald McKenzie, a ‘post-runner’ in the Scottish highlands who featured in Paul’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? (shown August 2015 on BBC TV). However, although both Taylor and McKenzie  had to complete weekly round trips of 120 miles over rugged country, it is unlikely that the latter was faced with “bushrangers and hostile natives”!

The establishment of this messenger service was a big deal for the residents of Port Dalrymple (a.k.a. Launceston – the two names appear to have been interchangeable at that time). To return to Fenton’s account:

Quote The arrival of a mail only one week from Hobart Town was an occasion of great joy at Launceston, whose inhabitants now felt that they were living in an age of progress. Hitherto the settlement on the Tamar had been more isolated than either Sydney or Hobart Town, as but few vessels entered Port Dalrymple. Now there was a chance of a fortnightly mail, if it did not miscarry on the way. Unquote

If it did not miscarry on the way? The Government Messenger was a convicted fraudster, what could possibly go wrong?!?

As you might guess, Robert did not stay on the straight and narrow (though a 120 mile weekly round trip across the mountains is probably not best described as ‘straight and narrow’). To his credit, he appears to have stuck to his task for nine whole months before ‘straying from the path.’ Then, on 26 July 1817, the following notice appeared in The Hobart Town Gazette and Southern Reporter:

14th July, 1817.
ROBT. Taylor, crown servant (commonly called Parson Taylor), having absented himself from Public Works, all Constables and others are hereby strictly required to use their utmost Exertions in apprehending and lodging him in safe Custody.
The said Robert Taylor was seen at Herdsman’s Cove on Thursday Morning, and exhibited certain Papers, which he said he was authorized by Government to take to Port Dalrymple; but the said Robert Taylor having no Pass or other Authority to Absent himself from Public Works at Hobart Town, any Person or Persons harbouring, concealing, or maintaining the said Absence will be prosecuted for the Offence.

This was followed by another notice in the same publication on 2 August 1817:

Government & General Orders.
Saturday, 25th July, 1817.
IT appearing that Robert Taylor (commonly called Parson Taylor), who is Advertised as having absented himself from Government Employment without leave, was allowed to pass the River and through the Country without any pass, merely showing an Old Letter, which he called a Dispatch for Port Dalrymple; It is hereby ordered that no Letters, Proclamations, or Dispatches, even though marked outside with the LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR’s NAME, be admitted as a Pass, but that in all Cases a Regular Pass signed by the Lieutenant Governor be required. And all Ferrymen and others are warned, that they will be called to severe account for neglecting and disobeying this Order.
By Command of His Honor the Lieutenant Governor,
W. A. ROSS, Secretary.

So, Robert had absented himself from his duties and was using paperwork in the name of the Lieutenant Governor as a ‘pass’ to roam freely across Van Diemen’s Land. He was also going by the name of Parson Taylor, despite the fact that it was because of his actions as a ‘pretended vicar’ that he was sent Down Under in the first place!

Simon Barnard, author of A-Z Of Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land, has noted that “after absconding and using an appropriated letter with the lieutenant-governor’s signature as a pass to roam the colony, [Robert Taylor] was sent to the goal gang for three months.” This was indeed the case. Entries in the Conduct Register for Robert A Taylor of the Indefatigable (1) of 1812 include the following, dated 11 August 1817: “Going to Port Dalrymple witht. a pass – 3 mos. g. Gang”. This was a severe punishment. Southerly (the Magazine of the Australian English Association) defined ‘a gaol gang as “a gang confined to the gaol, working a twelve-hour day, often in irons, and allowed no time (as others were) to work for themselves”.

Lieut.-Governor William SorellDespite this misadventure, for Robert Atcherley Taylor the end of his seven year sentence – and a return England – were both in sight. On 11 August 1818 Lieut.-Governor William Sorell (pictured right) at Hobart Town sent a despatch to Colonial Secretary Campbell, which began as follows:

Quote Sir,
Robert Taylor, who arrived at this Settlement in the Indefatigable, Cross Master, and whose sentence will expire in September ensuing, having had my permission to proceed from Port Dalrymple to Sydney, I beg to state, for the Information of His  Excellency, that my motive for allowing him to do so has been in consideration of his having had a decent education, and his representation of a prospect, from the Rev. Mr. Cartwright’s former knowledge of him, in obtaining from that gentleman some assistance with his Endeavours to get back to England. He is furnished with an Extract from the Indent of the Indefatigable at this office (copy of which I enclose) and he will apply for his certificate on the Expiration of his sentence next month. … Unquote

The news contained within Colonial Secretary Campbell’s reply of 23 September 1818 was not good however. He stated that Robert Taylor would have received his Certificate, “but previous to the regular time of applying for it, He Committed a fresh Offence which has Subjected him to a fresh Sentence from the Criminal Court for a further Period of Seven years.”

> On to Part 4

Picture credits. Governor Lachlan Macquarie: Adapted from a public domain image at Wikimedia Commons. Government notice in The Hobart Town Gazette and Southern Reporter: Published before 1954 and therefore out of copyright; taken from Trove (National Library of Australia) (see Trove’s Using digitised newspapers FAQ). Lieut.-Governor William Sorell: adapted from a public domain image at Wikimedia Commons.


[1] James Fenton (1884), A History of Tasmania, page 59. Copy viewed at the Internet Archive.
[2] Frederick Watson (ed.) (1921), Historical Records of Australia, Series III, Despatches and papers relating to the settlement of the states, volume II, pages 4-5. Copy viewed at La Trobe University website (15Mb PDF file).
[3] Convicts and the British colonies in Australia. At: Australia.gov.au website (accessed 23 Sep 2015).
[4] Frederick Watson (ed.) (1921), (see [2] above) page 25.
[5] The Hobart Town Gazette and Southern Reporter, 26 Oct 1816, page 1. Copy viewed at Trove.
[6] James Bonwick (1870), Curious Facts of Old Colonial Days. Page 293. Copy viewed at the Internet Archive.
[7] Jon Bauckham (2015), Paul Hollywood episode summary. At: Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine website (accessed 27 Sep 2015).
[8] The Hobart Town Gazette and Southern Reporter, 26 Jul 1817, page 1. Copy viewed at Trove.
[9] The Hobart Town Gazette and Southern Reporter, 2 Aug 1817, page 1. Copy viewed at Trove.
[10] Extra Information. At: A-Z of Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land (website, accessed 22 Sep 2015).
[11] Conduct Registers of Male Convicts Arriving in the Period of the Assignment System, Convict surnames beginning with T (1810 – Jan 1830), U ( 1810 – Jan 1830) and V (1810 – Jan 1830) (Tasmanian Archives and Heritage, ref. CON31/1/42, entry for Robert A Taylor). Copy viewed at Linc Tasmania.
[12] Australian English Association (1973), Southerly. Page 205. Snippet viewed at Google Books.
[13] Frederick Watson (ed.) (1921), (see [2] above) pages 347-8.
[14] Colonial Secretary, Letters sent, 1808-25 (New South Wales Government, Series 897, letter dated 23 Sep 1818 regarding Robt. Taylor and others). Copy viewed at Ancestry – New South Wales, Australia, Colonial Secretary’s Papers, 1788-1856.

A fraudster Down Under: Robert Atcherley Taylor – Part 2

< Back to Part 1.

As a result of his conviction for fraud, Robert Atcherley Taylor was sentenced to seven years transportation or, as one commentator gleefully expressed it, “ordered to Botany Bay!” What a shock this must have been for Robert’s family, and what shame they must have felt when the story of his misdeeds hit the press. Robert was after all the son of a clergyman – a clergyman for whom, it seems, Robert’s transportation could not come soon enough.

However much his father may have wanted it, Robert’s voyage ‘Down Under’ did not begin immediately after his conviction. The first place to which he was delivered from the Middlesex Session of the Peace was Newgate Prison, a gaol which according to one author “remained constantly, from the first and almost to the last, one of the worst-kept prisons in the kingdom”.

According to a House of Commons Select Committee report published in 1813, “When a prisoner is first committed [to Newgate] … he is usually put into the Common side, from whence he is removed into either of the other two [sides], which he may think proper, upon paying the settled fee.” Payment of a fee of two guineas gained the prisoner admission to the State or Superior Master Felons side; an additional seven shillings a week secured the use of a bed (or, if the number of inmates was high, half a bed). For a fee of 13s. 6d. a prisoner could occupy the Master Felons side, where a bed (or half of one) cost 2s. 6d. per week.

Having previously been a prisoner for debt, Robert Atcherley Taylor was not in a position to pay for his ‘removal’ from the Common side of Newgate. There, he slept – uncomfortably – on a barrack bed, which was “merely a part of the floor of the room raised in a sloping direction, about six inches above the remainder, with a ledge a few inches higher for the head to rest upon”. Prisoners were issued a single rug to lie on, but were allowed to take in their own bedding if they had any, so long as it was not of straw.

London, Newgate Prison circa 1810West view of Newgate (about 1810)

Robert remained at Newgate for several months, during which time at least two letters were sent to officials at the Home Office regarding his fate, one by an Archdeacon Corbett, and the second by Robert’s father, the Rev Robert Taylor. When I finally managed to decipher the handwritten replies which were sent (and it appears that it is only the replies which have survived) I was, to say the very least, surprised. The letters from the Archdeacon and the Reverend Taylor were not appeals for clemency. On the contrary, if my reading of the responses to their missives is correct, both men wanted assurances that Robert Atcherley Taylor would be transported!

Both of the Home Office letters were sent from Whitehall by a Mr Beckett, on behalf of “Mr Secretary Ryder” (Richard Ryder, the Home Secretary). I believe the first, sent to Archdeacon Corbett on 13 November 1811, ended with an assurance that the Archdeacon’s wishes would be complied with, by sending “the Convict in question” (already referred to as Robert Atcherley Taylor) to the Colony of New South Wales, “pursuant to his sentence.”

The second reply, dated 27 January 1812 and addressed to Rev Robert Taylor, I found rather more legible and I will quote it in full (with the warning that my transcription may not be 100% accurate):

Quote I am directed by Mr Secretary Ryder to acknowledge the receipt of your letter relative to Robert A Taylor a Convict under Sentence of Transportation in the Gaol of Newgate and to acquaint you in reply thereto that Mr. Ryder enters very sensibly into the feelings which you have expressed respecting the Prisoner, and will not fail to direct his removal to the Hulks from Newgate in the coming few days, and furthermore he will be sent to New South Wales by the first opportunity. Unquote

One interpretation of this correspondence is that Robert’s father, and the Church, took the view that seven years in the Colonies would be good for Robert’s soul: he would have plenty of time to contemplate the error of his ways and repent his sins. A less generous reading of the situation is that Robert Atcherley Taylor was regarded as an embarrassment by both his father and the Church, an embarrassment which was best removed as far away from the public’s attention as possible.

Robert’s transfer to the prison hulk Zealand, at Sheerness, took place on 27 February 1812. A Select Committee report dated 27 June 1812 shows that prisoners aboard the Zealand were confined to three decks of the ship. During the hours of darkness the prisoners were locked down within their decks and left to their own devices, with no officers or guards to control them. Over the winter months this period of lockdown could account for as much as two thirds of each day. For Robert, those nights must have been very long indeed.

After the hatches were unlocked in the mornings, a proportion of the prisoners were, after breakfast, sent ashore to labour in the dockyard. The above-mentioned Select Committee report stated:

Quote … the number sent on shore from the Zealand necessarily depends upon the demand made from day to day by the officers of the Dock-yard at Sheerness, there not being regular employment at present in that yard for more than about 200 out of about 500, which that Hulk generally contains; but there does not appear to be any precise rule by which the Captain determines which individuals shall go on shore, or settles who shall do the ship’s duty.

The convicts all dine on board the Hulk, and those who have worked on shore before dinner are replaced afterwards by those who remained on board during the former part of the day, unless more are wanted than can be supplied from the latter description, in which case some of those who have been employed at the easiest work on shore are sent again to make up the number required.

The Captain says, that he takes those for work on shore in the morning who come forward, and that they in general prefer going to labour in the morning, that they may stay on board in the afternoon. The convicts in the ship, with the exception of a few shoemakers and tailors, employed in keeping the shoes and clothes of the others in repair, and of those engaged in the ship’s duty, are allowed to be idle, or to work for themselves at their pleasure … Unquote

Chaplains were also employed to “to read Prayers and preach a Sermon every Sunday throughout the year, and On Christmas-day and Good Friday, in the Chapel on board”. The Zealand’s Chaplain would spend a fortnight at a time on board the hulk, during which time he would attempt “to reclaim the convicts, by conversing with them, and giving them good advice”. I wonder whether he got to talk to Robert Atcherley Taylor? I also wonder whether Robert was one of the prisoners who “occasionally taught others to read and write.”

The Zealand’s Quarterly Book shows that Robert received 23 days of victuals (covering the period from 27 February to 31 March) and was provided with the following items of “cloathing”: one jacket, one waistcoat, one pair of breeches, one pair of stockings, two shirts, one handkerchief, one pair of shoes and one hat. Another 21 days of victuals were allocated from 1 April, along with an additional pair of breeches and also of stockings. After 21 April, it is likely that Robert was on the move – and heading for his next ship.

Robert Taylor, convicted on 23 September 1811 at Middlesex Sessions of the Peace, appeared in an “Account of Convicts delivered on board the Indefatigable”, “on or about the 9 Day of May 1812”. This was the vessel which would take him on the long voyage to the colony of New South Wales.

The Indefatigable sailed from England on 4 June 1812 carrying 200 male prisoners, and was accompanied by the Minstrel, with 126 female prisoners on board. Nearly five months later The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser reported:

Quote These two vessels arrived at Rio Janeiro the 29th of July, and found there the Archduke Charles, from Ireland, with 150 male, and 50 female prisoners for Port Jackson.

The three vessels sailed in company from Rio the 11th of August last, but the Archduke Charles separated the day following, and may shortly be expected.

The Minstrel and Indefatigable kept company till the 7th of August, and then separated in a gale of wind. Unquote

While the Minstrel was bound for Port Jackson (now Sydney Harbour), the Indefatigable was headed for Hobart Town. She reached that destination on 19 October, having lost just one of her cargo of convicts en route (who was “killed by the accidental explosion of a musket”).

Mount Wellington and Hobart Town from Kangaroo PointMount Wellington and Hobart Town from Kangaroo Point

Robert Atcherley Taylor had finally arrived in Van Diemen’s Land. Back in England, his father was perhaps praying that a few years spent on the other side of the world would change Robert for the better, and return him to the path of righteousness. If so, his prayers were to go unanswered.

> On to Part 3.

Picture credits. West view of Newgate (about 1810): Enhanced version of public domain image at Wikimedia Commons (19th century print of a painting by George Shepherd). Mount Wellington and Hobart Town from Kangaroo Point: Adapted from a public domain image at Wikimedia Commons (1834 painting by John Glover).


[1] Criminal Registers, England and Wales (The National Archives, Kew, Class HO 26, Piece 17, page 98). Copy viewed at Ancestry – England & Wales, Criminal Registers, 1791-1892.
[2] Church and State, Swindling and Botany Bay! In: The Reformists’ Register, no. 3, 12 Oct 1811, pages 45-6. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[3] Newgate Prison, London: lists of felons on the Common Side (Series PCOM 2, piece 187. Several entries for Robert Atcherley Taylor. Copies of selected pages viewed at Findmypast – England & Wales, Crime, Prisons & Punishment, 1770-1935.
[4] Arthur Griffiths (1884), The Chronicles of Newgate, volume I, page vii. Copy viewed at the Internet Archive.
[5] Report from the Select Committee on Mr. Thomas Croggon’s imprisonment at Newgate. In: Reports from Committees (Fist Part), volume III (Session 1812-13). Copy viewed at Google Books.
[6] Home Office, Criminal Entry Books 1782-1871 (The National Archives, Kew, Series HO 13, piece 22, pages 244 and 306). Copies viewed at Findmypast – England & Wales, Crime, Prisons & Punishment, 1770-1935.
[7] Treasury, Departmental Accounts, Convict Hulks: Zealand’s Quarterly Book to 31st March 1812 entry 505 (The National Archives, Kew, Series T 38, Piece 337). Copy viewed at Findmypast – England & Wales, Crime, Prisons & Punishment, 1770-1935.
[8] Third Report from the Committee on the Laws relating to Penitentiary Houses. In: Reports from Committees &c. (Second Part), volume IV (Session 1813-14). Copy viewed at Google Books.
[9] Home Office, Convict transportation registers (The National Archives, Kew, Series HO 11, Piece 2, folio 30, page 57). Copy viewed at Ancestry – Australian Convict Transportation Registers – Other Fleets & Ships, 1791-1868. Indexed at One Search Family History Indexes.
[10] The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 24 Oct 1812, page 3. Copy viewed at Trove.
[11] The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, 12 Dec 1812, 2. Copy viewed at Trove.

A fraudster Down Under: Robert Atcherley Taylor – Part 1

Robert Atcherley Taylor, a tall man nearly six feet in height with brown hair and hazel eyes, made his way towards Major Cartwright. He introduced himself and proffered his letter of introduction from Sir Francis Burdett. Robert desired a private audience with the Major, a request which was granted. The outcome of the meeting was just what Robert wanted: his story was believed and he had been given some money. In time however the small amount that he gained from this deception would cost him dearly.

Robert was the first-born son of Dorothy Taylor, née Atcherley [Family Tree page], and her husband the Reverend Robert Taylor. Robert senior was Rector of More in Shropshire, and he baptised his son in the parish church, St Peter’s, on 18 January 1784. Until very recently, that was where the story of Robert Atcherley Taylor began and ended: all my attempts to find out more about him came to nothing.

Shropshire, More St PeterSt Peter’s church, More

That all changed this week following a chance discovery in the records held by Findmypast, which led to a series of further finds. It turns out that Robert and his life story are in fact very well documented – but documented in pieces, across innumerable official records and newspaper reports, and mostly without the appearance of his Atcherley middle name. As a genealogist I am used to tracking down and linking the various clues and bits of evidence required to assemble family units from long ago. A similar approach was needed to reconstruct the remarkable tale of Robert Atcherley Taylor’s life.

Despite my best efforts though, there is a big gap in Robert’s life story – his early years, of which I know nothing. It is clear that he received a good education, and in later life he would claim that he had been a chaplain in the Navy. However records relating to Robert’s education and any employment that followed his schooling remain elusive.

It is possible that during his formative years Robert heard tales about his maternal uncle Thomas Atcherley and if so, perhaps they influenced the path he chose. After a spell in a debtor’s prison, Thomas Atcherley had committed a series of frauds to obtain money. He was punished for his crimes by imprisonment and on one occasion also received 40 lashes (see The life and crimes and Thomas Atcherley). Whether influenced by Thomas or not, Robert Atcherley Taylor certainly managed to emulate his uncle’s misdeeds – and then some!

The discoveries at Findmypast which alerted me to the fact that Robert had not just disappeared into the ether were in the England & Wales, Crime, Prisons & Punishment records. I wasn’t looking for Robert, I just happened to try a search using Atcherley as a Keyword rather than as a Last Name. This provided me with several new records for Atcherleys who had been victims (rather than perpetrators) of crime. It also produced about a dozen results for Robert Atcherley Taylor, who was most definitely a perpetrator!

The Newgate Prison Calendars showed that Robert had been “Convicted Sept. Session, 1811, of a certain fraud and ordered to be transported beyond the seas for the term of seven years.” Googling “Robert Atcherley Taylor” to see what else might be out  there in cyberspace added little to my scanty knowledge. A search for “Taylor, Robert Atcherley” on the other hand led me to a copy of the inquest into his death. This occurred in the place we know today as Tasmania, but which was then called Van Diemen’s Land.

All that remained for me to do was to fill in the gap between the first offence leading to his conviction, and the death of a man who usually appeared in records as plain Robert Taylor, occasionally as Robert A Taylor. Right at the beginning of his documented criminal career, he was even named as Robert Ackerly Taylor! The following report (reproduced here with some omissions and minor amendments) is taken from the Kentish Chronicle of 27 September 1811:


Robert Ackerly Taylor, the pretended Vicar of Hertford, stood indicted for fraudulently obtaining from Major John Cartwright the sum of two pounds, on the 12th of February last, under fraudulent pretences.

Middlesex Session House, ClerkenwellMiddlesex Session House, Clerkenwell

It appeared from the evidence of Major Cartwright, that the prisoner came to him on the day stated, and presented him with a letter of introduction from Sir Francis Burdett (who, it appears, was equally imposed on), stating the bearer to be the Rev. Mr. Taylor, Vicar of Hertford, who wished to be introduced to him on particular business. The prisoner was shewn into the room where the Major was sitting, in conversation with a gentleman; but the prisoner desired a private audience of the Major, which being granted, the prisoner signified the object of his visit was to solicit aid for an unfortunate Gentlewoman at Hertford, whose husband had lately died, leaving his widow and children in very indigent circumstances; the house and furniture of this poor Gentlewoman were stated to have been seized for a debt of £100 and must be sold, and she and her orphans turned into the street, unless the amount of her debt could be paid.

The prisoner said, that he, commiserating her hard case, had undertaken to solicit a subscription for her relief; that Mr. Plumer, of Hertfordshire, had humanely contributed £20 and Mr. Brand the like sum; that Sir Francis Burdett had also contributed very liberally, but had desired the sum he gave and his name might be kept secret. Major Cartwright, not doubting the truth of this plausible story, presented the prisoner with a two pound Bank note towards the subscription.

On returning to the first room, the prisoner joined in conversation with the Major and his friend upon a variety of topics; and amongst others, upon Parliamentary Reform and clerical affairs, upon which latter he took occasion to mention his own labours in the vine-yard of the Gospel. He then took his leave.

Some time afterwards, Major Cartwright learned from various quarters that Taylor was a common impostor, who had levied similar contributions upon several of his acquaintances; that he was a prisoner in the King’s Bench, and had actually come out of that place upon a day rule on the very morning when he had practised this notable manoeuvre. The Major, upon discovery of this fact, was determined to punish the impostor; and, as a first step, lodged a detainer against him at the prison-gate for forty shillings.

On the 25th of July following, the major received a letter from the prisoner, expressing his contrition for having improperly obtained from him the sum in question; but earnestly entreating that he would not follow up the step which he had taken with any severity towards an unfortunate gentleman, to whom any such severity would be totally ruinous; that he was thoroughly sensible of his error,—felt the greatest contrition,—was determined for the future to persevere in the paths of rectitude, and to maintain most strictly the mens sibi conscia recti.

But as he was about to take the benefit of the Insolvent Debtors’ Act, and had settled with his creditors by post-obit securities upon the property of his reverend father, who was rector of Bishop’s Castle, he entreated the Major to send him by the bearer a discharge for the debt of two pounds, which he solemnly promised to repay. Major Cartwright, however, not thinking it proper to comply, he a short time afterwards received a second letter, much to the same effect. A person who was in the Bench at the same time with the prisoner, proved his hand-writing in these two letters.

The prisoner, after apologizing that his embarrassed circumstances debarred him of the means of retaining counsel, undertook to cross-examine Major Cartwright; which he did, in a style of insolence rarely paralleled at any bar even towards the vilest witness. He interrogated Major Cartwright whether he had not tampered about Parliamentary Reform, and endeavoured to lure him by pecuniary offers to exert his influence at Hertford in the cause? To which the major answered decidedly in the negative.

The prisoner being now called on for his defence, had no witnesses either to facts or character, but addressed the court and jury in a short speech. He again lamented his incapacity to employ a Counsel; but he felt that he was standing before a British Court and Jury, where the accused, as well as the accuser, was sure of a fair and impartial hearing. The charge this day brought against him, false and unfounded as it was, proceeded from a man who had offered him eight hundred pounds if he would exert his influence in his native county in the cause of Parliamentary Reform; and he might have had thousands from him and his party, if he would only have consented to lend himself to their purposes; but he rejected their overtures with scorn, because he was convinced that their true object was to overturn church and state!!

Hence it was, that, instead of being this day extolled, caressed, and largely recommended by Major Cartwright, Sir Francis Burdett, and their partisans, as an advocate of their wicked purposes, he was now a persecuted prisoner at that bar. He had nothing more to offer, but to cast himself upon the commiseration of the Court and Jury. The Jury, without a minute’s hesitation, found the prisoner guilty.

The Chairman then addressed the prisoner, saying that to remonstrate with a person obviously so hardened in his iniquity would be only a waste of words. However, the Bench feeling it indispensably necessary to put a stop to the career of such an impostor, and to relieve the public from his farther depredations, had judged it right to send him out of the country.

He was sentenced to transportation for seven years. Unquote

> On to Part 2.

Picture credits. More St Peter: Photo © Copyright Jonathan Billinger, taken from Geograph and adapted, used, and made available for re-use under a Creative Commons licence. Middlesex Session House (at Clerkenwell): Image from The History of Clerkenwell, page 144, taken from the British Library Flickr Photostream; no known copyright restrictions.


[1] Kentish Chronicle, 27 Sep 1811, page 3. Very similar reports appeared in the Caledonian Mercury, 28 Sep 1811, page 4 and The Examiner, 29 Sep 1811, pages 13-14. Copies viewed at Findmypast (search for name Robert Taylor, keywords pretended vicar). An abbreviated version was published in The Edinburgh Annual Register for 1811 (published 1813), pages 167-8; copies viewed at Google Books and Mocavo.
[2] New South Wales Government, Certificates of Freedom. Volume 4/4424, Year 1825-7, certificate number 22/4374. Copy viewed at Ancestry – New South Wales, Australia, Certificates of Freedom, 1810-1814, 1827-1867.
[3] More, Shropshire, parish register covering 1784. Entry for baptism of “Robert Atcherley, son of Robert Taylor, Clerk and Dorothy his wife”. Robert Taylor signs at the end of that year’s entries as Rector. Abstract in Parish Register Society (1900), The Registers of More, Shropshire, page 79; copies viewed at Internet Archive, Mocavo and at Mel Lockie’s website. Indexed at FamilySearch, Batch P00685-1, Film 95252.
[4] Truth (Sydney), 19 Feb 1922, page 12. Copy viewed at Trove.
[5] The National Archives, Kew. Series HO77, piece 19 (Newgate Prison Calendar). Copy viewed at Findmypast – England & Wales, Crime, Prisons & Punishment, 1770-1935.

Faith, hope and charity – Fanny Rose, nee Atcherley

The Rev. Dr. Brown said they had come on a solemn errand, and were assembled to render the last office of respect and affection to the sacred dust of one who had passed from their midst, and gone home to be with God. … Speaking for himself, he could remember when the parents of Mrs. Rose belonged to the congregation of a Manchester church of which he was then minister; and well could he recall how Sunday after Sunday in those far off days she was one of the children who sat in the congregation before him.  – Bedfordshire Times and Independent, 10 Apr 1908.

It was fitting that the Rev John Brown should give an address at the funeral service for Fanny Rose, nee Atcherley, which was held on Friday 3 April 1908 in Bedford. Not only had he known Fanny and her family during his ministry at Park Chapel in Manchester, from 1855 to 1864, he had also become reacquainted with her when she moved to Bedford after her marriage. In that town, and particularly in the Bunyan Meeting, their paths had crossed many times over the ensuing years. Rev Brown had therefore had “more than usual opportunities of tracing the growth and maturing of [Fanny Rose’s] character” and observing how she became a “refined and intellectual woman”.

Fanny Rose, nee Atcherley

Fanny was the first child born to John Atcherley and his wife Sarah, nee Barkley. Her baptism at the Independent Chapel in Hunter’s Croft, at the lower end of Cannon Street in Manchester, shows that these Atcherleys were non-conformist Christians. Fanny was baptised on 25 May 1851, and the baptism register shows that she was born on 9 December 1850 – so although she was said to be 4 months old when the 1851 census was taken, she had not quite reached that age.

At the time of that census, John, Mary and Fanny Atcherley were living at 23 Stanley Street in Manchester. They were still residing in Stanley Street, but at number 49, ten years later. John, who was working as a draper’s assistant in 1851, was by 1861 a silk weaver earning enough to employ a servant and a nurse. His family was growing. Fanny now had three younger siblings: Lucy, Barkley and Jessy. And, as we have seen, the family was worshipping at the Park Chapel every Sunday, where the Rev John Brown was minister.

Park Chapel – formerly known as Ducie Chapel – was (along with Hunter’s Croft Chapel) an ‘independent’. Part of the growing Congregational Church movement in Manchester, its affairs were managed by its own congregation. John Brown’s work as minister there was evidently respected beyond the confines of the city in which the chapel was located. On 31 March 1864, at a meeting held in Bedford, it was unanimously agreed “That the Rev. John Brown, B.A., of Park Street, Manchester, should be invited to the co-pastorate of Bunyan Meeting.”

The Bunyan Meeting (the Bedford chapel of which is pictured below) took its name from its celebrated 17th century pastor John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress. Brown accepted the invitation to become its co-pastor, leaving Manchester and the Atcherley family behind him. One member of that family would however follow him to Bedford, some six years later. Might the Reverend Brown have played a part in this?

On 16 November 1870, 19-year-old Fanny Atcherley was married to Edward Paine Rose at Park Chapel in Manchester, by John Brown’s successor the Rev John Emmett Jones. Edward was 29 and a widower. He had wed Emma Goode at the Baptist Bloomsbury Chapel in London in 1864, and with her had two children: Thomas Edward Rose and Agnes Emma Rose. Tragedy struck in May 1867, when the death of 3-month-old Agnes on the 17th was followed by that of Emma, aged 26, just two days later. Both passed away at the Rose family home in St Cuthbert Street, Bedford.

How did Fanny Atcherley, in Manchester, meet and become the second wife of Edward Paine Rose of Bedford? One possibility is that religious connections helped to bring the two together. Edward was said to have had a “life-long association with the Bunyan Church”. As fellow non-conformist Christians Edward and Fanny were kindred spirits. Did the Rev John Brown, co-pastor of the Bunyan Meeting and former minister of Park Chapel in Manchester, act as matchmaker? Or were connections of another sort involved?

Edward Rose was a linen and woollen draper – following the death of his father Thomas Rose, he had taken over the family business in Bedford in 1863 and managed it in partnership with his stepmother, Mary. John Atcherley meanwhile was listed as a silk mercer in Slater’s Directory of Manchester and Salford of 1863. Notices published in theLondon Gazette in 1865 and 1867 show that John, in partnership with others, was running John Satterfield and Co., Linen Drapers and Silk Mercers, in St Anne’s Square in Manchester. By 1869 the business was being referred to as “John Satterfield & Co. (Oliver and Atcherley)”. Trade connections may well have brought John Atcherley into contact with Edward Rose, and as a successful draper Edward must have seemed a good match for John’s eldest daughter.

The census of 1871 captured a snapshot of Edward and Fanny’s life together, a little over four months after their wedding. Edward P Rose, 30, a native of Bedford, was a draper employing 42 persons. Wife Fanny, aged 20, and son Thomas, 6, completed the family, which was supported by a cook and a general servant. Although she was not part of the household, Edward’s stepmother and business partner Mary (then living at 22 St Peters Green in Bedford) may also have provided some support to Fanny. She was after all familiar with the situation that Fanny was in. Edward Rose had lost his birth mother Emma (nee Paine) soon after he was born at the end of 1840, and Mary had then married the widowed draper Thomas Rose in 1846.

Edward and Fanny’s first child was already on the way when the 1871 census was taken. The birth of Edward Barkley Rose was registered at Bedford in the last quarter of that year. Three more children followed: Frank Atcherley Rose (born 5 October 1873), John Leonard Rose (birth registered in the last quarter of 1877) and Isobel Gwendoline Rose (known as Gwen, born 15 January 1884 – pictured right). The demands of motherhood no doubt occupied much of Fanny’s life during the 1870s, ‘80s and ‘90s, although she did have help. Both the 1881 and 1891 censuses show that the Rose household included a nurse in addition to other servants.

Edward meanwhile continued to run his drapery business in Bedford’s High Street. Directories listed him as both a “wholesale and retail draper, silk mercer, and woollen merchant” and a “mantle warehouseman, milliner, and dressmaker”. But he also involved himself with the Bunyan Meeting (of which he was a Trustee) and the wider community in Bedford. When a meeting was held in 1872 to discuss the establishment of a local branch of the Young men’s Christian Association, Edward attended on behalf of the Bunyan Meeting, and agreed to be the Treasurer of the branch.

Other bodies on which Edward served included the Town Council and the Harpur Trust, a charity established in 1566 to provide education, recreational facilities and relief to Bedford residents in need of assistance. Edward was, in addition, made a Justice of the Peace for the Borough of Bedford in 1894, and it was said that “as far as his health permitted, he gave assiduous attention to the duties of that office”. Edward provided financial as well as practical support to a number of local causes: after his death it was written that “His philanthropy was shown in the erection of the Cabmen’s Shelter in St. Peter’s and in subscriptions to several charitable institutions, especially those in which the late Mrs. Rose was interested.”

From the quote above it can be seen that Fanny Rose, nee Atcherley, predeceased her husband. She died shortly before midnight on Monday 30 March 1908 at the family home, 45 De Parys Avenue in Bedford (which Edward had built and into which the Roses moved, from St Cuthbert Street, around 1894). She had been “ailing for the past five or six weeks, and succumbed after an operation.” It was following her death, and particularly after her funeral, that Fanny’s devotion to her faith and to charitable causes were published:

During her residence in Bedford this amiable and estimable lady was keenly and practically interested in charitable work, and movements for the amelioration of the sick and suffering. In the social and religious work of Bunyan Meeting she naturally found pleasure and occupation, but her sympathies were by no means confined to congregational limits. Mrs. Rose frequently attended the sewing and general meetings of the Bedford Women’s Liberal Association, and helped gladly in the educational work. … Her interest in intellectual movements was shown by her support for several years of the University Extension lectures in the town, and Mrs. Rose herself was a regular attendant. To the Work of the Charity Organisation Society Mrs. Rose gave her close attention, and she was also a member of the House Committee of the Bedford District Nursing Association, which was established in affiliation with Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Institute for Nurses. Her connexion with these societies brought her in contact with the poor, and her valuable service will be missed by all concerned. Her activities were manifest in useful channels, her advice was very helpful, and her service was always cheerfully given. Many and genuine are the expressions of sorrow and condolence received by her bereaved husband and family, for whom sincere sympathy is very generally felt.

It is not surprising to learn that Fanny’s coffin “was completely hidden by the exceedingly beautiful floral emblems and tokens placed upon it.” It was said that her death was “a blow from which [her husband] never recovered”. Having lost his wife, and also his only daughter, Gwen (on 30 June 1910) Edward Paine Rose passed away at ten o’clock on the morning of 10 June 1911. He departed this life knowing that he had made provision for his surviving children, for the Bunyan Meeting and other local causes, and for the continuation of the family business. He knew too that he had left a fitting tribute to his late beloved wife: “a beautiful stained glass window” in the Bunyan Memorial Hall, built in 1910 at Elstow, the Bedfordshire village in which John Bunyan had been born.

Picture credits. Fanny Rose, nee Atcherley: From a photo kindly supplied by Barbara Lang. The Bunyan Chapel, Bedford: Illustration taken from John Bunyan, and his Church at Bedford, published 1864 and therefore out of copyright. Gwen Rose: From a photo kindly supplied by Barbara Lang.

For photographs of more of Fanny’s children, and of her sisters, see Fanny, Jessy, Rose and Lily Atcherley in the Photos section of this website.


[1] Bedfordshire Times and Independent, 10 Apr 1908, page 8. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[2] Archibald Sparke (1913), Bibliographia Boltoniensis. Pages 39-41. Copy viewed at Internet Archive.
[3] Samuel Macauley Jackson (ed.) (1952), The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. II: Basilica – Chambers. Electronic copy viewed at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (website, accessed 19 Jul 2015).
[4] Benjamin Nightingale (1893), Lancashire Non-Conformity. Pages 196-7 (Park Chapel) and 110 (Cannon Street Congregational Church). Copy viewed at Internet Archive (page 196, page 113).
[5] Hunter’s Croft Independent, Manchester, Lancashire, baptism register covering 1851. Entry for Fanny Atcherley. Abstract at Lancashire Online Parish Clerk website.
[6] 1851 Census of England and Wales. Piece 2229, folio 7, page 7.
[7] 1861 Census of England and Wales. Piece 2949, folio 12, page 15.
[8] Congregational church. At: Wikipedia (website, accessed 19 Jul 2015).
[9] Thomas Allen Blyth, Joseph James Insull (1864), John Bunyan, and his Church at Bedford. Appendix. Copy viewed at Google Books.
[10] Marriage of Edward Paine Rose and Fanny Atcherley registered at Manchester, December quarter 1870; volume 8d, page 781.
[11] Cambridge Independent Press, 26 Nov 1870, page 8. Marriages. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[12] Marriage of Edward Paine Rose and Emma Goode registered at St Giles, March quarter 1864; volume 1b, page 594.
[13] Cambridge Independent Press, 19 Mar 1864, page 8. Marriages. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[14] A church with two spires. At: Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church website, accessed 22 Jul 2015.
[15] Birth of Thomas Edward Rose registered at Bedford, March quarter 1865; volume 3b, page 337.
[16] Birth of Agnes Emma Rose registered at Bedford, March quarter 1867; volume 3b, page 336.
[17] Death of Agnes Emma Rose registered at Bedford, June quarter 1867; volume 3b, page 206; age given as 0.
[18] Death of Emma Rose registered at Bedford, June quarter 1867; volume 3b, page 200; age given as 26.
[19] Bedfordshire Times and Independent, 26 May 1867, page 5. Deaths. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[20] Bedfordshire Times and Independent, 14 Jul 1911, page 7. Death of Mr. E. P. Rose, J.P. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[21] Bedfordshire Times and Independent, 16 Oc 1925, page 32. E. P. ROSE & SON, LTD. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[22] London Gazette, issue 23954, 28 Feb 1873, page 1322. (Notice of expiry of Partnership between Mary Rose, Widow, and Edward Paine Rose.)
[23] Slater’s Directory of Manchester and Salford (1863), page 85 (Manchester Directory).
[24] London Gazette, issue 23042, 24 Nov 1865, page 5965.
[25] London Gazette, issue 23311, 15 Oct 1867, page 5515.
[26] Slater’s Directory (1869), page 130 (Manchester).
[27] 1871 census of England and Wales. Piece 1541, folio 6, pages 4 and 5. Head: Edward P Rose, 30, draper employing 42 persons, born Bedford. Wife: Fanny Rose, 20, born Manchester, Lancashire. Son: Thomas E Rose, 6, scholar, born Bedford. Plus 2 servants (cook, domestic servant).
[28] 1871 census of England and Wales. Piece 1541, folio 82, page 24. 22 St Peters Green, Bedford. Head: Mary Rose, widow, 50, draper, born Bedford. Son: Thomas Harry Rose, 23, draper (employed), born Bedford. Son: John H Rose, 15, scholar, born Bedford. Dau: Fanny E Rose, 13, scholar, born Bedford. Plus a visitor and 2 servants (housemaid, kitchenmaid).
[29] Marriage of Thomas Rose and Emma Paine registered at Caxton &c, March quarter 1840; volume 14, page 47.
[30] Birth of Edward Paine Rose registered at Bedford, March quarter 1841; volume 6, page 28.
[31] Death of Emma Rose registered at Bedford, March quarter 1841; volume 6, page 20.
[32] Marriage of Thomas Rose and Mary Green registered at Bedford, June quarter 1846; volume 6, page 91.
[33] Birth of Edward Barkley Rose registered at Bedford, December quarter 1871; volume 3b, page 304.
[34] Birth of Frank Atcherley Rose registered at Bedford, December quarter 1873; volume 3b, page 316.
[35] Douglas Harmer (1935), Frank Atcherley Rose, M.B., B.Chir.(Camb.), F.R.C.S.(Eng.). In: The Journal of Laryngology & Otology, volume 50, issue 7, pages 563-565. Partial copy viewed at Cambridge Journals.
[36] Birth of John Leonard Rose registered at Bedford, December quarter 1877; volume 3b, page 331.
[37] Birth of Isobel Gwendoline Rose registered at Bedford, March quarter 1884; volume 3b, page 318.
[38] Anon (1948), Girton College Register, 1869-1946. Page 163. Snippet viewed at Google Books.
[39] 1881 census of England and Wales. Piece 1618, folio 7, page 7. 16 St Cuthbert Street, Bedford. Head: Edward P Rose, 40, draper, born Bedford. Wife: Fanny Rose, 30, born Manchester, Lancashire. Son: Thomas E Rose, 16, scholar, born Bedford. Son: Edward B Rose, 9, scholar, born Bedford. Son: Frank A Rose, 7, scholar, born Bedford. Son: John L Rose, 3, scholar, born Bedford. Sister-in-law: Lilly Atcherley, 18, born Manchester, Lancashire. Plus 4 servants (cook, housemaid, nurse, servant).
[40] 1891 census of England and Wales. Piece 1248, folio 28, page 5. Bedford. Head: Edward P Rose, 50, draper, born Bedford. Wife: Fanny Rose, 40, born Manchester, Lancashire. Son: Edward B Rose, 19, steam engine maker’s apprentice, born Bedford. Son: Frank A Rose, 17, scholar, born Bedford. Son: John L Rose, 13, scholar, born Bedford. Dau: Isabel G Rose, 7, scholar, born Bedford. Plus 3 servants (nurse, cook, housemaid).
[41] Bedfordshire Times and Independent, 3 Nov 1872, page 4. The London Young Men’s Christian Association. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[42] Who are we? At: Harpur Trust website (accessed 23 Jul 2015).
[43] Royal County Directory of Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, and Oxfordshire, 1876. Page 40. Snippet viewed at Google Books.
[44] Kelly’s Directory of Bedfordshire, Hunts, and Northamptonshire, 1885. Snippet viewed at Google Books.
[45] Birmingham Daily Post, issue 11104, 20 Jan 1894. Gleanings.
[46] Death of Fanny Atcherley Rose registered at Bedford, June quarter 1908; volume 3b, page 175; age given as 57.
[47] Bedfordshire Times and Independent, 21 Dec 1945, page 10. The Late Mr. J. L. Rose. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[48] Death of Isobel G Rose registered at Bedford, September quarter 1910; volume 3b, page 141; age given as 26.
[49] Bedfordshire Times and Independent, 8 Jul 1910, page 9. Funeral of the late Miss Gwendolen Rose. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[50] Death of Edward P Rose registered at Bedford, September quarter 1911; volume 3b, page 345; age given as 70.
[51] Bedfordshire Times and Independent, 13 Oct 1911, page 7. Mr. E. P. Rose’s Will. Copy viewed at Findmypast.
[52] The Bunyan Meeting at Elstow. At: Bedfordshire Archives and Records Service website (accessed 23 Jul 2015).

James Roger Atcherley’s American Civil War – Part 1

By the end of 1860, tensions between the northern and southern United States regarding the issue of slavery had reached breaking point. On 20 December, South Carolina adopted an ordinance of secession, becoming the first state to secede from the Union. Six more states followed and on 4 February 1861 the Confederate States of America was established. The stage was set for the American Civil War – a conflict in which English-born James Roger Atcherley would take part. Now, over 150 years later, we can relive some of James’s Civil War experiences, thanks to an extraordinary series of letters which he wrote to his local paper back home in Newark, Ohio.

On 12 April 1861, firing by Confederate forces upon Union-held Fort Sumpter in South Carolina marked the opening of hostilities between North and South. In his inaugural address as the 16th President of the United States on just over a month earlier, Abraham Lincoln had declared that his administration would not initiate a civil war. His hand now forced, Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to be provided from the militias of the North, and he declared a naval blockade of the breakaway southern states.

Ohio was one of the states which answered the call to arms, raising regiments of men and sending them south to fight as part of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry. At Newark, in Licking County, John H Putnam started recruiting during the summer of 1861. He based himself at McCune’s Hardware store, and offered a rate of pay starting at $13 per month for men joining up as Privates, up to $45 per month for Second Lieutenants.

Under Putnam’s Captaincy, Company C of the 31st Ohio Volunteers departed Newark for Camp Chase on 13 September. Two weeks later on 27 September, along with the rest of the 31st, Company C received marching orders and reported to Brigadier General O M Mitchell at Cincinnati. From there, the regiment marched to Camp Dick Robinson in Kentucky, arriving on 2 October.

The Newark Advocate of 15 November 1861 carried a letter dated 1 November and signed “J. R. B.”. It opened: ”Mr. Editor:—If there is a Township in Licking County that has turned out more volunteers for the war in proportion to its voters than Union we should be glad to know it.” The author concluded “People of Licking! Shall the army of disunionists  be suffered to triumph? No! no! it must never be! Then up and strike for the perpetuity of the GREAT REPUBLIC!”

Appended was a list of the names of 79 men who had volunteered, and whose names also appeared in the First Muster Roll of the 31st Volunteer Regiment’s Company C. One name not included in the list printed in the Newark Advocate was that of 20-year-old James Roger Atcherley. He had, however, answered the call on 14 September and he too featured in Company C’s First Muster Roll. Furthermore, a letter which he had sent from Camp Dick Robinson, dated 4 November 1861 and signed “Respectfully, J. A.”, was printed on the same page of the Advertiser.

It was evidently not James’s first letter to the paper, but it is the earliest one that I have a copy of. Headed “Army Correspondence, Letter from a Newark Boy”, the letter read as follows. (I have transcribed verbatim – I cannot bring myself to edit James’s wonderful writing – but I have added extra paragraph breaks for ease of reading. Note that Company C – or part of it – had by this time become Company H.)

Mr. Editor:—Since I last wrote, many and various have been the changes here.—Regiments have been pushed along South with a rapidity and energy which, if persevered in, must shortly result in delivering Kentucky from the contaminating influence of those who now pollute her soil.  A battle has been lost and won, the results of which are not limited to the mere fact of our forces driving the enemy before them, but are boundless, in the good they will do to the cause, not only by the encouraging effect it will have upon the Union loving portion, but by totally disheartening the rebels.

The 31st has also moved, not very far to be sure, nor do I know of any very important results that are anticipated from it, but you see they were moving all around us, and so in order to keep up with the times we followed suite and left our encampment on the hill side, and after a heavy march of some five minutes we deposited ourselves and baggage in the camp just vacated by the 2d Kentucky regiment.

The population of Camp Dick has been gradually growing less, and yesterday the last regiment that was left to bear us company, struck their tents and left for parts unknown, leaving us to the pleasant task of guarding all of Uncle Sam’s good things.  But now that we are pretty well assured that we have ‘But a few more days to tote the weary load,’ when we shall press forward to more lively scenes, we console ourselves with the fact that ‘there’s a good time coming.’

Heretofore the health of the regiment has been excellent, not one member of it having died, and but a few, a short time ago had been sick; but now, I am sorry to say, our sick list is very large; few, however, are seriously ill; but the sickness, taken in connection with the fact that a number of our men have been detailed for other duty, reduces the number of men in Company H, who are fit for duty, very much, which makes guard and other duties come rather hard upon the rest of us; and by the by, this is the time for any of the Newark boys who wish to join our company.  Ten or twelve would be very acceptable at this time, and I know there’s plenty of them left yet.  A few of my old friends would look very pretty in a blue suit and brass buttons.

Our officers are anticipating a grand time on to-morrow eve in the shape of a fancy ball, the preparations for which have been in progress for a week or more; and now the platform is built, the money collected, (but where it came from I don’t know, for I haven’t seen a five cent piece for—well, I won’t say how long, for you wouldn’t believe me if I’d tell you,) and last, but not least, the fair beings who, of course, are to form the great attraction, are invited.—Look out, ye fair ones of Newark, that the very susceptible officers of company H do not fall in love with and marry some one of these fair ones (or their plantations.)

We are just beginning to see and feel the first signs of Old Winter.  He comes upon us gradually, as though he were trying to steal a march upon us, but ‘it can’t be did,’ for in point of clothing we are pretty well prepared to meet him.  Still it is cool enough to sleep comfortably with our heads under our blankets, and as we hope soon to turn our faces Southward toward the sunny land where it is said winter never comes, we are not troubled about cold hands and feet.

And now, Mr. Editor, with these few words I will say good bye, hoping that the next time I write to be able to give you some items of more interest. 

Rev L F Drake, chaplain 31st Ohio volunteers, preaching
at camp Dick Robinson, KY, November 10th 1861

James Atcherley would come to change his opinion about conditions in the South, but not yet awhile. In these early days of his involvement on the periphery of the civil war, life was generally good and there was much to amuse and entertain. A further letter from James, also from Camp Dick Robinson and dated 10 November 1861 (the date on which the Rev Drake, chaplain, preached to the 31st Ohio Volunteers, as shown in the picture above), appeared in the Newark Herald of 22 November:

Mr. Editor:—If there is any truth in the old adage, ‘Laugh and grow fat,’ I advise those of my friends who are in a delicate state of health to travel with all speed for Camp Dick, take their stations under one of the trees, and watch our boys as they are engaged in the somewhat hazardous task of breaking mules.

Here is a mule with a long rope tied to his head, his fore feet thrown forward, resisting the persuasive influence of the boys at the other end of the rope.  Yonder is another whose hind feet can be seen for a moment raised horizontally in the air, and then off he goes at a double quick, kicking at any and everything which happens to be in his way.—There again are four mules attached to a wagon, said wagon being full of soldier boys, with a boy riding one of the fore, and another one of the hind mules, dashing through the camp at railroad speed, and only coming to a stand-still when brought up by the fence or a tree.

We have been having some fine times here between the mules and dancing.  Oh yes!  I must tell you about that dance, it was a grand affair I can assure you, and one in which the good of all who were connected with it was shown by the neatness which was visible in all they did. …

To be continued.

Picture credits. Map of United States, 1861, showing affiliation of states and territories regarding the Civil War: Based on a map by Julio Reis, taken from Wikimedia Commons, adapted, used and made available for re-use under a Creative Commons licence. Rev. L.F. Drake, chaplain 31st Ohio volunteers, preaching at camp Dick Robinson, KY, November 10th 1861: Image from Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division (Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-1794), no known restrictions on publication.


[1] American Civil War. At: Wikipedia (website, accessed 12 Jul 2015).
[2] St Alkmund, Whitchurch, Shropshire, baptism register. Entry dated 17 Feb 1841 for James Rodger Atcherley. Copies viewed at Shropshire Archives and at Findmypast – Shropshire Baptisms. Indexed at FamilySearch, Batch C03756-3, Film 501818, 503826, 503827.
[3] Dan Fleming (2011), Early recruiting done in Licking County. In: Licking County 150th Anniversary Civil War Commemoration, pages 10-11.
[4] Newark Advocate, 15 Nov 1861, page 2. Scan of letters provided by Dan Fleming.
[5] N N Hill, Jr. (1881), History of Licking County, O., Its Past and Present. Pages 308-9. Copy viewed at Hathi Trust website.
[6] Newark Advocate, 22 Nov 1861, page 3. Scan of letter provided by Dan Fleming.