The Boys from Parkhurst Prison

Anthony G. Flude ©2003

Just a few miles across the sea from Portsmouth on the south coast of England, lies a small island which is called the Isle of Wight.
A Military Hospital and Children's asylum, called 'Parkhurst' was built on land in the centre of the island in 1778, a large and stately looking house surrounded by its own grounds. By 1838, the British Home Office had decided to convert the property into a prison for young boy offenders up to the age of 15 years, soon to be occupied by some 102 convicted boys transferred from other prisons.

Many of these boys, some as young as twelve, had committed offences which could only be described today as misdemeanours. Theft and shoplifting, picking pockets or stealing food, were the main offences which had been dealt with harshly by the Police Magistrate's Court in those days, sentences of imprisonment and deportation to Australia for seven to ten years being quite common.
Most of these lads had come from underprivileged homes where the act of theft and stealing had been generated by their need for food or adequate clothing to keep out the cold winter winds, frost and snow. Poor families did not have the means to pay for their children to be educated and much of the time they were left to associate with older boys, many of whom had a bad influence on them and led them into petty crime.
Parkhurst Prison 1820In 1843, under a new Governor named Captain George Hall, the boys were employed moulding and baking house bricks with which they were to build two new wings for the prison, known as C and M blocks.
On completion of this work in 1845, Queen Victoria carried out an inspection of the prison and while there granted pardons to two of the boys who were inmates there.
By 1853 the transporation of convicts to Australia had ceased and ten years later Parkhurst Prison was to become a women's place of detention with newly appointed warders and a lady Governor.

In the year 1841, after lobbying by the Quakers, the British Home Office decided to grant a conditional pardon from the Crown to boys between 13 and 16 years old who were detained in Parkhurst Prison. The boys were to be carefully chosen as deserving a pardon by the then prison governor, Captain Woolcombe. The 'condition' was that the boys were to serve a two-year apprenticeship on arrival in New Zealand before being given their independence, the authorities in England mistakingly believing that there was an acute shortage of labour in Auckland.
The boys who accepted this 'pardon' were to be called 'immigrant boys,' however, the authorities both in England and later New Zealand, still recognised them as criminals just the same.

Eighteen young boys who were ordered to be deported by the Court and who were now granted a Crown pardon, were selected to be sent to Freemantle, Australia.  The Simon Taylor left England on the 29th April, 1842 with 245 passengers aboard, eighteen of them Parkhurst Boys, arriving after 111 days, on the 20th August. The Captain presented the Governor of the Colony with their documents of 'conditional pardon'. The names of the boys were:
Boulton H
Dixon C
Doughty G.
Harwood J
Hasler B
Hogan S.
Lane J.
Mortimer J.
Murphy J.
Murrel J.
Neale J.
Nimmo J.
Norton K.
Strickland R.
Tayor S.
Towton H.
Tyne J.
Wilson H.

By the end of 1842, it was reported to the Governor of the Colony that nine of these boys were in a trade, six of them had obtained work on  farms and the other three had obtained employment as domestic servants.

In Auckland, New Zealand, the first two immigrant ships from England had arrived in the Waitemata Harbour on the 8th & 9th October, 1842. The Dutchess of Argyle and the Jane Gifford brought over 750 immigrants to Auckland, the new Capital of the fledgling Colony.
It was a great surprise to the early government in Auckland, when the barque St.George, under Captain Sughrue, sailed into the harbour on the 25th October, 1842, just two weeks later, with ninety-two 'Parkhurst boys" aboard.

The then Acting Governor, Shortland, who had many other matters to deal with at the time, following the untimely death of Governor Hobson a few months before, decided to place the boys under the care  and guardianship of Captain David Rough, the Government appointed Immigration Agent and Harbourmaster.

It was later considered in Government circles of the time, that the sudden arrival of these boys had breached an undertaking by the authorities in England, who, in setting up New Zealand as a separate Colony from Australia, had agreed that NO convicts were to be shipped. This action by the British Government was seen by the Auckland people as a total betrayal.

Scarcely had this matter quietened down, when, just over a year later, on the 14th November, 1843,  a second vessel named the Mandarin, under Captain T. Smith, arrived in the harbour with another thirty-one Parkhurst 'immigrant boys" aboard. She had sailed from Gravesend on the 18th June 1843 via Hobart, Australia.

The news of the arrival of more 'Parkhurst Boys' aboard the Mandarin  spread rapidly around the growing township.  The populace of Auckland were outraged!

Letters of protest appeared in the Southern Cross and Auckland Chronicle newspapers voicing their strong disapproval of the British Government's actions. 
It was found, meanwhile, that there were few openings for the boys in the Auckland workforce. The two trades they had been taught in Parkhurst Prison, tailoring and shoemaking were in little demand. Those in the second shipment who had skills in carpentery and building were given work on construction sites, while those boys who had nothing to offer were consequently put out to tasks that gave them no trade experience at all; some were sent to the copper mines on Great Barrier, where they were treated no better than slaves and the others employed working on the roads, often without boots or any protection on their feet.

The Acting Governor Shortland, voiced the public concern in a diplomatic note to London. On September 30th 1844 the New Zealand Journal reported that:
"A notice was brought before the House of Lords of the evils likely to accrue to New Zealand from the transmission of convict boys to the Colony..... that New Zealand was colonised on the faith that it should never be inunduated with a convict population".
The note continued:
"These reformed convicts are a nuisance and a disgrace to the community; the inhabitants of Auckland are now in constant dread of thefts and robberies from the 'reformed convicts'.

An extract from the Southern Cross in the February 1844, also had this to say about the Parkhurst boys:

"The transportation of Parkhurst apprentices to this Colony appears by late accounts from England to be regarded by the friends of New Zealand as an evil and an act of injustice which should not be tolerated. In the Parliamentary intelligence of the Times on July 7th, we find that "The Archbishop of Dublin presented petitions from persons connected with the colony of New Zealand, praying that in future no emancipated convicts should be conveyed there as settlers. The persons who established that colony had a positive promise from the Government that no convicts should be sent to their settlement, yet recently two shiploads of convicts who had served their time had arrived from Parkhurst prison. It was a mere evasion to say that they were not convicts because they had served their period of imprisonment. To him it appeared that a convict and an emancipated one were much the same as a wild beast, loose and a wild beast chained. The petitioners were very anxious that they should have no more such imports."
"The Earl of Devon said that the petition was well entitled to the careful consideration of the house. He did not think that the petitioners [ New Zealand] had been fairly treated." "From the above we have every reason to hope that no more of the unfortunate Parkhurst Boys will be inflicted on this Colony."

These publications and submissions to the British authorities in the Home Government seemed to have the desired effect and the transportation of boys from Parkhurst ceased.

The harsh treatment of child offenders continued in the same way in the New Zealand Court system. The New Zealand Herald reported on the Police Magistrate's Courts in December, 1872, deploring the treatment of young offenders in a lengthy article.
A small section appears below:

Two children, one aged six and the other aged eight years of age were charged with stealing a cash box containing sixteen shillings. Both were found guilty, when the younger child was sentenced to seven and the elder to fourteen days imprisonment. In addition to their sentence, both were ordered to be privately whipped. The Court reporter found that not a week passed by when children are charged with petty robberies and ordered to be whipped. At the expiration of these short sentences and after receiving their whippings, they are sent out of the prison with no home to go to and no-one to care for them........then they get hungry and they steal and get caught again.....

Twenty years later in 1892, the imprisonment of children had not ceased and NZ Prison Inspectors were still complaining in their reports of the 'pernicious custom of sending infants to Mount Eden Prison.'

The Parkhurst Boys of 1842 & 1843

Astle, William 12 tailor
Axford, John 18 tailor
Axford, William 16 shoemaker
Baker, George 16 shoemaker
Baldwin, William 14 tailor
Beasley, William 14 tailor
Bellamy, David 15 tailor
Biggs, Arthur 16
Blackwell, William G 14 tailor
Bottomley, George 15
Briggs, James 17 tailor
Brown, James 16 shoemaker
Bryant, James 15 shoemaker
Burford, William 18 tailor
Burgess, James 12 tailor
Burke, Michael 12 tailor
Burnard, Isaac 15 tailor
Burnard, Thomas 17 shoemaker
Carter, Edward 14 tailor
Coley, James 15 tailor
Coley, Joseph 17
Chapman, Charles 15
Cook, Samuel 18
Copping, John 16 tailor
Cotey, Joseph 17
Crawford, William 15
Critchley, Thomas 17 tailor
Davis, James 14
Dawes, Frederick 16
Dillion, Thomas 14
Dobby, Michael 15 tailor
Dowie, Henry Buller 19
Edge, George 19 shoemaker
Elder, Alexander 18
Fawian, Thomas 16
Floyd, John 18
Fox, Robert Waylett 15
Garn, William 18
Hardy, Thomas 17
Harvey, Thomas 18
Hitchcock, Benjamin 17
Hollis, William 16 tailor
Holloway, Charles 17 shoemaker
Hopkins, Gabriel 13 shoemaker
Horne, Frederick 15 tailor
Jones, John 17
King, George 18
King, Thomas 15 shoemaker
Lee, John 14 tailor
Liddle, Adam 17
Lloyd, John 15 tailor
Mahoney, John 14
MacKay, William 14 tailor
Malcolm, John 19
Marsh, David 15
Marsh, James 16 shoemaker
Matthews, William 17 tailor
Mellom, Walter 18
Miller, John 15 shoemaker
Minhinnick, John 15 shoemaker
Moody, John 14 tailor
Murguard, Charles 16
Myler, Richard 14 tailor
McGuiness, James 17 shoemaker
McQuarrie, Andrew 17
Nicholson, John 18
Nicholson, William 18
Ogan, John 14 tailor
Parsons, James 16
Phillips, Joseph 14
Piney, James 14
Pool, James 17
Proctor, Thomas 15 tailor
Rampling, James 16
Richmond, Peter 14 tailor
Rook, Thomas 19
Ryan, John 18
Saunders, John 14
Sayles, James 18
Seamell, Henry 20
Shears, John 17 shoemaker
Sheriff, Charles 17 tailor
Sheriff, Charles 17 shoemaker
Smith, William 18
Stokes, James 18
Strong, Henry Stephen 18
Thorn, William 18
Tuft, John 17 shoemaker
Toppeny, William 13
Topping, William 13 tailor
Tuck, William 11 tailor
Tugget, John 17
Warnutt, William 16 tailor
Whitehead, John 18
Willey, John 15 tailor
Wines, Henry 15 tailor
Woodgate, William 16
MANDARIN -- 1843
Adams, Thomas 17 carpenter
Allen, George 16 tailor/cooper
Bassan, Henry 16 bricklayer /tailor
Beales, William 18 carpenter
Binnie, Alexander 19 tailor
Cotterill, John 17 tailor
Day, Thomas 18 tailor
Denman, William 15 tailor
Eggerton, Isaac 17 cooper/shoemaker
Farrell, John 16 cooper/shoemaker
Goulburn, Thomas 18 carpenter
Griffiths, James 17 carpenter/shoemaker
Hermitage, John 16 carpenter
Inchie, James 19 cooper
Lamb, Michael 16 bricklayer/shoemaker
Lay, George 20 carpenter
Lynch, John 17 carpenter
Neil, Charles 16 shoemaker
Organ, Richard 16 plumber/glazer
Parker, William 12 tailor
Paton, William 19 bricklayer
Rose, Edwin 17 farmer
Shaw, John 17 shoemaker
Smith, Joseph 18 plasterer/bricklayer
Smith, William 16 farmer
Waller, Alfred 15 carpenter
West, William 16 bricklayer/tailor
Williams, Joseph 17 cooper
Wilson, George 16 shoemaker
[2 names are missing]

By the year 1849 there was little to remind the public of Auckland of the scandal surrounding the arrival of the two ships of 'Parkhurst Boys.' They had quickly integrated into the everchanging Auckland society with the arrival of more and more immigrants families settling into the infant Colony.
Fortunately, they were the first and last 'ex-convicts' ever sent by the British authorities to the shores of New Zealand.