Sort file:- Woolwich, March, 2021.

Page Updated:- Sunday, 07 March, 2021.


Earliest 1841-

Salvation Tavern"

Latest 1841+

Arsenal Gates



I also have reference to a "Salutation" which is addresses as 2 Beresford Square, and may well be the same as this. Whether the name changed, or the South Eastern Gazette made an error, is yet unknown.


South Eastern Gazette, Tuesday 1 June 1841.

The Woolwich Convicts. Four more deaths.

On Thursday evening an inquest was held at the "Salvation Tavern," Arsenal Gates," Woolwich, before Mr. C. J. Carttar, and a respectable jury, on the bodies of the following convicts, viz. William Brown, aged 32, convicted at Peterborough, and sentenced to 7 years' transportation; John Braddock, age 31, convicted at Knutsford, Cheshire, and sentenced to 7 years' transportation; Nathaniel Welton, age 42, convicted at Ipswich, and sentenced to 7 years' transportation; and Beujah Blaun, aged 35, convicted at Stafford, and sentenced to 7 years' transportation.

Doctors Hope and Bossey stated that every attention have been paid to deceased while under their care. Brown was ill 6 months and died on the 18th inst, of pulmonary consumption. Braddock have been ill a fortnight, and died of influenza on the 18th. Welton ill 3 weeks, and died of diabetes, 19th inst.; and Brown, ill 8 days, and died of erysipelas and inflammation, on the 19th inst. The jury Returned verdicts in accordance with the medical testimony.


The rest of this page is dedicated to other information regarding the convicts.


Leicester Journal, Friday 14 February 1834.

Melancholy and Fatal Occurrence.

Death of four convicts at Woolwich, by eating hemlock in mistake for celery.

On Tuesday afternoon last, 16 of the convicts from aboard the hulk's at Woolwich, were employed in cleaning the shore adjoining the arsenal of the vast accumulation of mud deposited there by the late high tides, when they discovered growing on the banks a large quantity of the full-grown hemlock plant, which they mistaking for wild celery, ate a considerable quantity of it. In a short time its baneful effects became apparent, the men being seized with nausea, stupor, and vomiting, and they were eventually obliged to be removed in a state of extreme suffering to the Infirmary of the Arsenal, were the proper antidotes were applied, which, fortunately, in 12 cases had the desired effect, but the remaining four expired in a few hours in great agony. An Inquest was held on the bodies on Wednesday evening, when the Jury returned a verdict accordingly.


Morning Advertiser, Friday 7 May 1841.

Convicts Woolwich.

Lord Mahon said he had seen an account in the public papers of the continued and increased mortality among the convicts in the hulks at Woolwich, and that it was stated that the Governor attributed this to the accumulation together of the convicts under the direction of the Noble Lord. - (Here.) He wished to know if the Government had received any official information of this. He also wish to know what had occasioned the delay in the returns on this subject 2 months ago.

Mr Fox Maule said that it was true that the mortality had increased among the convicts at Woolwich; but he was given to understand that this was not the case with them only, but also with the military stationed there. He could assure the Noble Lord that no attention would be spared to the subject. With respect to the returns, the Noble Lord was perhaps aware that a Judge could not be compelled to disclose his private notes, neither could a Coroner; but he had no doubt if the House expressed a wish to that effect, the Coroner would furnish them with such parts of it as he should think necessary.


Hertford Mercury and Reformer, Saturday 7 December 1850.

Escape of three convicts from Woolwich.

Between 6 and 7 o'clock on Tuesday morning, shortly after they had taken their breakfast, three convex managed to let themselves down over the side of the Warrior convict ship at Woolwich dockyard, and proceeding along the mud and on the banks of the river without being perceived by the sentry or any of the guards on board the Warrior, succeeded in seizing a boat at some distance from the ship belong to a waterman name Spurling, and crossing the river in it, effecting their escape to the North Woolwich Marshes. The names of the convicts are, John Rain, aged 26 years, convicted at the Central Criminal Court, on the 9th of April, 1849, for housebreaking and larceny, and, having been previously convicted, sentenced to 10 years' transportation; Charles Fletcher, aged 23 years, convicted at the Central Criminal Court of larceny to the value of 5, and, having been previously convicted, sentenced to 10 years' transportation, on September 20th, 1847: and William Smith, age 23 years, convicted of felony at Salford, on February 26th, 1848, and sentenced to 10 years' transportation.


Cheltenham Chronicle, Thursday 8 January 1852.

Mutiny amongst the convicts at Woolwich.

On Saturday se'nnight, the convicts at Woolwich, who had been at work during the day in the dockyard, on their return to the Warrior convict-ship, where they sleep during the night, showed symptoms of insubordination and defiance of the guards, by several of the gangs rushing into one of the compartments set apart for one game, and refusing to go to their proper places until their grievances were redressed. The mutinous convicts, about 130 in number, complain that the authorities have broken faith with whom, as certain periods had been fixed when, if they conducted themselves well in the interval, they would be sent out of this country, and obtain tickets of leave on their arrival at their destination. The time at which several of a convicts expected they would have been sent out of the country having been exceeded, owing to the difficulties experienced by the authorities in finding localities where that class would be received, has been the cause of the present insubordination. The whole of the convicts guards were kept on board the ship during the night in case of any outbreak, as threats were used; and, on Captain Montagu Stopford, acting superintendent of the dockyard, been made acquainted with the mutiny, he ordered the crew of the Fisguard, flag-ship, to remain under arms during the night. The dockyard police of the R division are also under arms, in case any violence should have been attempted. On Monday, Captain Whitty, and several of the authorities from London, visited the Warrior, and examined several of the ringleaders, but the result of what took place has not been made known. In order however, to prevent being taken by surprise, the whole of the convict guard who did duty during the day in the dockyard, or kept under arms all night.


Kentish Gazette, Tuesday 10 June 1856.

The convicts at Woolwich.

The subjoined extracts are from Mayhews "Great world of London" - a work which we are glad to find is very popular. It certainly contains details of great interest.

The turning out of the convicts.

On reaching the top deck we found it divided, by strong iron rails (very like those in the zoological gardens, which protect visitors from the fury of the wild beasts) from one end to the other, into two long cages as it were, with a passage between them. In this passage a warder was pacing to and fro, commanding a few of the men, who was slung up in hammocks, fastened in two rows, in each cage or compartment of the ship. There was also a little traverse passage at the end of each ward, that allowed the officers on duty to take a side view of the sleepers, and to cast the light of his bull's-eye under the hammocks, to assure himself that the men were quite in their beds.

The deep-toned bell against the forecastle now sounded three bells. The men had been expecting the unwelcome sound; for, a few minutes before, as we traverse the lower deck to examine the air passages and ventilators, we saw heads popping up here and there from the dingy hammocks to have a peep at us as we pass. The usual hour for rising was evidently at hand. The effect of the bell, however, was astonishing. In a minute scores and scores of men tumbled out of their beds, and were wriggling and stretching themselves in their blue shirts. "All up! Turn out, men!" cries the officer; and the convicts are in their trousers in an inconceivably short time.

Presently the gates are opened, and the men turned out one after another, carrying their bolster like beds on their shoulders. Long lines of men with their hammocks upon their shoulders, wind along the decks. The sides of the black hammock houses are open, discovering lettered compartments, as A1, A2, B1, &c; and the warders on duty go into the houses, and see the hammocks stowed, and the prisoners deliver them, under their proper letters, verying the work by directions, "Show that a bit further there. Now then, stow away there, my lads - stoy away! Do you belong here? How come you so late? Any more C1? Is that the last of C1? Now then, come on, lads! Move up!"

The prisoners continue to pour out as we descend again between the decks, and finds that many have got the tables shipped against the bars, and the benches arranged beside them. Now some of the men are washing in buckets, placed ready overnight; and others arranging their hair by the reflection of the window pane; and others, again, scrubbing the tables ready for breakfast. Everything and everybody seemed to be undergoing a cleansing process more or less searching.

We next proceeded once more to the deck below, following our guide. The scene was a busy one. Some of the prisoners were still combing their hair; others were washing the deck boards, which were shining under the plentiful supply of water; others, again, were covering the white deal tables (which are scrubbed also every morning) with painted-canvas table-cloths; then there were groups of men, down on one knee, brushing their boots, all the messmen were busy at the preparations for breakfast. The tables, ranged in a row along the wards, accommodate eight prisoners each. Each man takes his turn as messmen, while the service of the ward is divided.
All the breakfast things are in block tin, and they glisten as though they had never been used. Some of the men have polished theirs over night, and tied them up in handkerchiefs, to give themselves a little extra time in the morning. "Where's your plates? Where's your plates?" cry the messman. For water, one prisoner at a time is left out of each ward, and as soon as he Returns another is allowed to go on deck.

The various processes, collectively called getting up, may now be said to be complete, and the prisoners are all fairly padlocked in their wards, under the eye of a single wader. After 6 o'clock in the morning, however, there are two officers upon the lower deck till nine o'clock in the evening, when the men turn in. The costume of the prisoners, as we now see them completely dressed, is the same as that warn at Pentonville, viz., rusty brown, with red stripes up on it.

The first business of the morning being over, the men break into groups or read. Many a one, to our astonishment, took his Bible, and began reading it with no little earnestness. Here and altercation ensued between two prisoners about tins, which one of them was still cleaning. This was proper suppressed by cry of "Halloa! What are you about there, losing your tempers?"

Muster and breakfast, diet &c.

We went down once more between decks. The muster of the prisoners have just commenced. Two officers were occupied in the wards. The prisoners were ranged behind the tables - "Silence! Keep silence there!" shouted an office; and then, when one officer called the names of the prisoners the other marked down the absentees upon a slate. As each name was called, the men owning it responded, "Yessir," accompanying his reply with a military salute. The replies of "Yessir," in every variety of voice, rang along the wards. "Now, then, A ward!" was shouted down the hatchway. "This is A, sir," said our attendant, "coming up for breakfast." Instantly four of the convicts, following one another. "That's for A ward." "B ward!" was next shouted down. "Now, then, B ward here!" And in this way the messmen of the various wards were summoned from the decks, to fetch their breakfast of their comrades, the messmen of each appearing at different hatchways; for it may be here observe that there is a separate hatchway for each floor of the vessel. The messmen were now moving along in file towards a ship's galley, and presently they re-appeared, each man carrying a large beer can full of cocoa, the bread being taken down in baskets, and serve date by the officers at the ward-doors.

Nine bells (seven o'clock) sounded, as we went once more below, and found that the men had just finished cleaning their tin mugs, and were gathering up the bits of chalk into bags, and arranging these same mugs on top of the inverted plates, round their tables ready for dinner. Some, too, were washing the tables again, to get before hand with their work; while others were covering their bright tin plates and mugs with the course tablecloths, to keep dirt from them; and others, the again, were reading their Bibles, or lounging lazily about.

Seven o'clock is the hour for the officers' parade upon the quarterdeck; the object being to see that they are all sober and fit for duty. The parade over, the guard appears on deck. It consists of four men, armed with carbines and with their cartouche boxes slung behind them by broad black belt. This guard stands near the gangway; the men having their carbines loaded, and held ready to fire, while the prisoners pass to the boats.

Declaration of prisoners for work.

Scarcely has one boat landed its felon crew, before another is filled, and making for the arsenal pier and the shore. Nor is it less picturesque to see the prisoners clamber up the parade ground; fall in line there with military precision; separate according to the chief officers' directions into working parties (each working party be in charge of a warden); and move off to the scene of their day's labour, in long brown strings. A third or surplus small cutter puts off with a few remaining prisoners, and more guards. These guards, we observe, wear cutlasses; such cutlasses being carried as a special protection, for the officers wearing them have charge of working parties employed beyond the bounds of the arsenal; as, for instance, upon mortar battery in the marshes. The men are now off to work. Those prisoners who remain in the ship are in the deck cabins, plying their handicraft for the use of the hulk.


It is exceedingly difficult to prevent prevent attempts at escape, especially while there are so many free men in the arsenal. Last year there were no less than 14,000 free labourers employed there, and these men taken on without reference to character. The convicts, we are told, were generally assisted by the free labourers, who deposited clothes for them in some convenient spot. The convicts slipped for a moment from his gang, put the clothes on, and passed out of the arsenal gates with the crowds of free men. Or else he made a dash for it, bolted past sentinels, swam the canal, reached the marshes, and made off to the wood at hand. These attempts sometimes defied the utmost vigilance of the officers. It was the duty of a guard, from whose gang a man escaped, to hasten on board with the rest of his men (unless he can find an officer to undertake his duty while he runs after the lost man), and report the escape. We then signal to the police authorities by telegraph, to Bow Street, Erith, Guildford, Ilford, Bexleyheath, and Shooters' Hills, so as to surround him with a band of vigilant policemen, and prevent his getting clear. It was impossible to guard entirely against these attempts under this mixed system. They could not prevent the men from talking by night. But how much worse was it under the old system, when some 600 or 700 prisoners were crammed into one hulk, and with only one officer all night to watch them.





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