Anyone who has researched ancestors in Staffordshire in the early 19th century knows they were doing it tough. Particularly the poor. It was bad enough for those with an income – the nail makers, the miners and colliers, the chainmakers – if they had a home to live in, it took three or four incomes to keep it and little left for food. The industry in Staffordshire was iron, in its various stages, and the employers of the district were falling into greater and greater debt. Wages reduced, men were laid off and dissatisfaction was great.
Some districts became very densely populated as families shared their homes, as adult children married and brought their spouse into the family home rather than move out, and as families sublet their rooms to boarders to gain that little bit of extra income. Violence was increasing and there were areas to which the police simply would not go, for fear of their lives.
The plight of those who had lost their job or their home was dire. They shifted from relatives to friends, slept out of doors in summer and wherever they could in winter. They stole, begged and swindled, doing what was necessary to keep themselves alive. Some found work on the canals but the canals were unofficially ‘owned’ by several families. Smuggling was common from Worcester into Leicestershire and the goods run was always worth a few shillings.
This was the world of the Lockley boys, born in the 1810’s to John and Eliza Lockley of Tamworth. The children were baptised in Kingsbury in Warwickshire but they called Tamworth their home. John Lockley’s occupation was given on different records as a labourer, a gamekeeper or a gardener. We know of five boys and one girl born to this couple, and John died fairly young. Eliza can be found in the 1841 and 1851 census as a widow. The boys scattered far and wide, finding and selling pig lead, and taking jobs with carters. This much can be deduced from court records.
Beyond this, their lives are not known but the boys started getting into trouble young, and John Junior was transported to Van Diemen’s Land in 1842. By all accounts John was rough, but we don’t know much about him.
Robert was either the third or fourth boy, and he found himself transported for a first offence in 1844, aged 17 or 18. He and a group of boys his own age had stolen from a house and were caught with the stolen property. He provided a character witness but to no avail. By that year, matters were dire in Staffordshire and Warwickshire and a civil uprising was feared. Robert was a chainmaker,a useful occupation for a colony with a shipping industry, and the idea was to send all that could be sent, for their own repatriation, for the good of the colony and for the good of the county that could not support them. Robert was brown haired and brown eyed and blind in one eye, and 5 feet 4 1/2 inches tall. He had scars on his fingers and arms.
On arrival in Van Diemen’s Land, Robert was not compliant. His convict record shows several misdemeanors and one escape. He refused to work and eventually ended up back on hard labour. Then something happened – what it was is not clear, the record is in poor condition, but by 1848 he was in hospital. Upon his release from hospital he seems to have settled and received his ticket of leave in 1850.
A ticket of leave is not freedom. It meant that Robert would receive wages for his work, and with a good report from his employer he might be recommended for a conditional pardon. But he was restricted to a district, he had to comply with a curfew and he was required to disclose that he held a ticket of leave whenever he conducted a transaction, be it purchasing goods, finding accommodation for the night, seeking employment or opening an account with a bank or shop.
Robert did not do this. His next few misdemeanors are being out after hours, misrepresenting himself as a free man and being drunk. It’s a common theme over his next ten years. He lied about who he was quite often. However, eventually he served out his sentence and became free by servitude in 1854 at the age of about 28, when he clearly made his way to Oyster Cove where his brother John was living.
Catherine Hingley arrived in Tasmania in 1852 as a child of 7, travelling with her mother and her three young brothers. Ann Orton, Catherine’s mother, was a widow and the mother of six children. Like Robert, she was from the Staffordshire/Warwickshire area and the few scant references we have suggest she was struggling to make a home. My impression of Ann is a big hearted lady, not too bright, who continually made poor choices and experienced some very bad luck. She cared for her children but was not able to keep them. She would have done well, probably, with a husband to earn money and keep her in a home. She would undoubtedly have thrown herself into a small world of kitchen, babies and housework and been very happy in it.
We don’t know much about her life but a steady home and a husband were just a dream she constantly chased. She was already a widow in the first records we have, so we don’t know her maiden name. She stated she was born in Northampton but one court record calls her an Irishwoman and the most likely census reference gives a birthplace of Ireland too. She was a big woman with flaxen hair and a florid complexion. In 1852, Ann was transported to Van Diemen’s Land for stealing. It was at least her third offence.
Ann’s eldest two children were left behind in England and I believe I have located them in an orphanage in Dudley, Staffordshire in 1851 – but no certainty yet. The youngest four came with her. On board ship they were given the surname Orton. Once in Hobart Town, Catherine and two of her brothers were placed in the orphanage under the surname Hingley, and the orphanage records give their father as Samuel Hingley. The youngest, John, remained with his mother for the next year. When he was eventually admitted to the orphanage, he came with the name John Orton.
My best guess is that Denis, Catherine and James’ father was Samuel Hingley of Dudley who was a collier, killed in an explosion in 1845. If so, James was born after he died. I have failed to locate a marriage for Ann Hingley with an Orton and I suspect no ceremony took place. John had a father somewhere, and maybe it was a Mr Orton.
Catherine did not see her eldest siblings again, that we know of, and she probably did not see her mother again for years. Denis left the orphanage to an apprenticeship but absconded. In 1858, Ann served out her sentence. Within weeks of receiving her freedom she finally married a man who lived as long as she did, and removed her children from the orphanage.
At what point Catherine met Robert Lockley is not known. He was about twenty years her senior and just might have known her mother back in Staffordshire. Catherine was about thirteen, maybe fourteen when her mother reclaimed her. In 1861, at the age of about 16, she married Robert Lockley in Kingston, south of Hobart. She was six months pregnant. On the marriage certificate, Robert gave his age as 29 and stated that he was a free man. He was actually closer to 35 and should have stated free by servitude. Catherine gave her age as 20 when she was really 16.
They settled at Gordon in the woody wilds of Tasmania’s southeast coast where young Honor was born (might be Hannah). Robert was working as a sawyer and his brother John lived nearby. Twelve weeks later, Catherine was gone. Why, we can only guess, but Robert had the usual notice inserted in the paper that he would not be covering any debts she might accrue. Honor died in Gordon in October, aged 3 and a half months, so Catherine seems to have returned by then, assuming she took the baby when she went.
Robert and Catherine went on to have nine more children, and in later years Catherine seems to have been fairly happy. Their third child, Elizabeth, was my great great grandmother. Their seventh child, James, was my newly found cousin Sarah’s great great grandfather. I note with interest that they had no child named either Ann or Samuel.