A True Convict Story from Australia

James Barrett
13 min readMay 21, 2022


George Hall in later life

My great great great grandfather on my mother’s side was George Hall (1808–1881). He was transported to the colony of New South Wales for life when he was 19 years old for stealing a chronometer watch (a clock ensconced in a vacuum chamber), and a waistcoat from his employer. He was born 11 Apr 1808 in Isleworth, London, England, United Kingdom, the son of James Hall and Elizabeth (Unknown) Hall.

George Hall signature 1827

At age 18, George was convicted for stealing goods valued at over £7 and was sentenced to death at the Old Bailey on 7 December 1826. He was transferred to nearby Newgate Prison to await his sentence.[3] In spite of both jury and the prosecutor recommending mercy and a petition attesting his good character and deep remorse,[4] he was not reprieved, although the sentence was commuted to transportation for life. After 15 years in Australia, he was granted a conditional pardon in 1842.

George married Mary Ann Greenham in 1836 and raised a family in the Willoughby district of Sydney. Whilst visiting Melbourne in 1881 with his grandson, George is understood to have slipped and fallen into the Yarra river, where he unfortunately drowned, aged 75.

Mary Ann Greenham in later life

The timeline of George Hall’s life (the number after the years in brackets is his age at the time):

1808 : Born at Isleworth nr. Richmond, Surrey, England (11 Apr).

1808 : Baptised at All Saints, Isleworth (17 Apr).

1818 (10): Attended Latymer’s Charity School in Hammersmith (2 Sep).

1821 (13) : Departed Latymer’s School (Mar-Apr).

1826 (18) : Stole and pawned a chronometer and waistcoat (30 Oct).

1826 (18) : Convicted at the Old Bailey and imprisoned at Newgate (7 Dec).

1827 (19) : Sentence commuted to transportation for life (14 Mar).

1827 (19) : Transfer to prison hulk “Retribution” (18 Apr).

1827 (19) : Transfer to convict ship “Prince Regent” (1 Jun).

1827 (19) : “Prince Regent” sets sail for Sydney from Deal (8 Jun).

1827 (19) : George arrives in Port Jackson on Prince Regent (4) (27 Sep).

1836 (28) : Granted a Ticket of Leave (26 July), reissued 4 Nov 1839.

1836 (28) : Granted permission to marry Mary Ann GREENHAM (15 Jul)

1837 (29) : Birth of son George R.J. HALL (date?).

1839 (31) : Birth of daughter Maria J. HALL (? Mar).

1841 (33) : Birth of daughter Elizabeth M.A. HALL.

1841 (33) : Granted Conditional Pardon (1 Oct).

1843 (35) : Birth of daughter Mary Ann HALL (3 May).

1845 (37) : Birth of son James H. HALL (? Aug).

1847 (39) : Birth of son Henry J. HALL (date?).

1881 (75) : Drowned in Yarra river, Melbourne (4 Apr).

1881 (75) : Buried St. Kilda cemetery (Apr).

In almost all his convict records that note a place of origin, George is described as coming from “Hammersmith”. The record of his court proceedings notes that his mother lived in Brook Green, a hamlet just north of Hammersmith. However, one convict record explicitly records his native place as “Isleworth”, which is a few kilometres upstream of Hammersmith.[5] Fittingly, there is also a matching birth for a George Hall in 1808 in Isleworth, whereas none could be identified in Hammersmith or adjoining parishes.

George Hall was born on 11 April 1808 to James and Elizabeth Hall and baptised on 17 April at All Saints church in Isleworth, West London.[6] Unfortunately, there are no other births to parents James and Elizabeth in the area, so that it is unclear how extensive the family was and where they lived either before or immediately after George’s birth.

By 1818, George’s family had moved to Hammersmith and George enrolled at Latymer’s Charity School for Boys on 2 Sep 1818, aged 10. He remained at the school until leaving age (13).[7] The family must have had a tough life. George’s father had already died by the time George was 18 years of age and his mother worked for many years as a market gardener in the business of a Mr John Hitchcock in Brook Green. Growing up, with only three years of formal schooling, George worked where he could as a labourer, house servant, stable boy and groom in order to support his widowed mother.[8]

In 1826, George was occasionally employed at the home of Captain Astley in Green Street near Grosvenor Square to work in the house and stables. On the 30th of October, George stole one of Captain Astley’s waistcoats and his maritime chronometer from a drawer in the bedroom. George pawned the chronometer at John Well’s pawnbrokers in High Street Kensington and took the waistcoat home to his mother’s in Brook Green. The theft was noticed on 6th of November and George was brought before the local Constable where he readily confessed to having pawned the watch and taken the waistcoat, which were both recovered by Constable Joseph Collins the next day.[9]

George was tried on 7 December 1826 at the Old Bailey, where the prosecutor (Capt. Astley), the pawnbroker (Robert Williams) and the constable (Joseph Collins) provided evidence.[10] George offered no defence, save to declare his deep remorse and explaining that he had fully intended to redeem the chronometer and return it in the course of a few days. This notion was supported by evidence from the broker who had offered him a much larger sum for the watch, but which George had refused, instead only borrowing 20d/- on the item.[11] At the trial, four witnesses attested George’s good character and both Capt. Astley and the jury recommended mercy. However, judge Sir John Hullock (3 April 1767–31 July 1829) was unmoved and sentenced George to Death.[12]

Sir John Hullock sentenced my ancestor to death by hanging

George was imprisoned at nearby Newgate prison to await the next “hanging day” when executioner James Foxen would lead convicted felons out to the public gallows just outside the gaol. George would have been held in one of the appalling ‘condemned holds’, which were little more than a dark, fetid dungeons. In the meanwhile, his family struggled to assemble support for a renewed plea for mercy. They petition, lodged in January 1827 and finally considered on 14th March, included signatures of 14 prominent individuals from Brook Green and Hammersmith, three of whom offered to take George into service if mercy was shown and the boy was “restored to his aged mother who relies in a great measure upon him for support, [and who is reduced] to such a degree of misery as to endanger her life”.[13]

The execution of William Corder by John Foxton in 1828 outside Bury St Edmunds prison, designed in 1805, based on a panopticon design with an octagonal governor’s house (The Fort)

Whilst his life was spared, his sentence was commuted to transportation for life. George’s ties to family, home and country were to be permanently severed. On April 18, he was transferred from Newgate prison to the aptly-named prison hulk Retribution moored off Woolwich in the Thames estuary. After a month and a half on the hulk, George was then ‘disposed of’ (i.e. transferred) on 1 June to the convict ship Prince Regent for the journey to New South Wales.[14] On embarkation, George was described as: 5ft 5in tall, with a ruddy complexion, brown hair and hazel eyes. He was of the Protestant faith and could both read and write. His trade was described as Groom & Labourer.[15] Overall, the ship embarked 180 male convicts for Sydney.

The Prince Regent was was built in Shields in 1810. She was an established convict transport, having sailed to New South Wales twice before in 1820 and 1824.

The Prince Regent departed from Deal near London on 11th June 1827, captained by master William Richards. She passed nearby Cape Finestere on 20th June and Madeira on 25th June. The Prince Regent then called at Tenerife (2nd July) and passed the Canary Islands on 5th July.

The Guard comprised a detachment of 29 men 57th regiment under orders of Lieut. Campbell. Other passengers included Ensign Charles Henry Darling of the 57th regiment, nephew to His Excellency, Governor Darling and later Governor of Victoria; Major Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell with his wife and family; Lieut. Hughes, Royal Staff Corps; P Elliott, assistant surveyor; and William Rice.

Surgeon Superintendent William Rae kept a Medical Journal from 1 May to 15 October 1827. There were no deaths on the voyage. At the end of the voyage he wrote in the General Remarks:

The prisoners generally conducted themselves well and by due enforcement of the rules and regulations laid down for their governance at the commencement of the voyage, little trouble occurred to me during the remaining part of it. The provisions were all of the best quality. The Master of the ship was kind and humane and whilst in his power supplied me with milk, daily for one of my worst patients. From him and his Officers I received every support and assistance in the execution of my duty.[16]

The Prince Regent arrived in Port Jackson, New South Wales on 27 September 1827 after a journey of 108 days. A muster of convicts was held on board by Colonial Secretary Alexander McLeay on 3rd October 1827 before the convicts were finally disembarked on 15 October.[17]

As a convict, George was assigned to work duties in the colony. At the time of the November Census in 1828, he was working as a wood cutter and living at the premises of ship owner Thomas Street in Sussex Street [18] Incidentally, a mariner called Richard HALL was also resident at the same premises. He arrived in the colony as an Able Seaman in May 1823 on the schooner Samuel from London.[19] Later, Richard was Master of the Waterloo until she ran aground in New Zealand and was lost in 1834.[20] It is unclear if there was a family relationship between George and Richard.

The year 1836 was a turning point for George. After serving 10 years of his life sentence, he was awarded his Ticket of Leave. This meant that he was now responsible for supporting himself and permitted to seek employment within a specified district. Ticket-of-leave holders were also permitted to marry and to acquire property, but they were not permitted to carry firearms or board a ship, nor were they permitted to leave their assigned district without the permission of the government or the local magistrate. Tickets of Leave had to be renewed annually and even the slightest infraction of the rules of conduct could result in forfeiture of the Ticket and confiscation of all acquired property.

George wasted no time and on 27 June applied for permission to marry his partner, Mary Ann Greenham (abt. 1813–1879).[21] The application was transmitted for decision on 9 July and permission was granted on 15 July 1836.[22] The exact date of their marriage remains to be confirmed, but would have been on that date or soon thereafter. They were married by Presbyterian Rev. John McGarvie at St. Andrew’s Scots Church in Sydney.[23] The newly-built church in Kent Street near Bathurst Street had only been open for divine service since 13 September 1835.[24]

Their first child, George Reginald John was born in 1837 (date?), followed by another five children, all of which reached adulthood:

• Maria Jane HALL — March 1839 (day?)

• Elizabeth Mary Ann HALL — 1841 (date?)

• Mary Ann HALL — 3 May 1843

• James Henry HALL — Aug 1845 (day?)

• Henry Joseph HALL — 1847 (date?).

The 1841 Census records George living with his family on the North Shore in the Parish of Willoughby. George and Mary Ann lived in a wooden house, together with their two children George (4) and Maria Jane (2) and an unknown man aged 60 years or over. George is recorded as holding a Ticket of Leave, the older man as ‘Other Free Person’ (i.e. neither ‘born in the colony’, nor ‘arrived free’) and Mary was noted as ‘arrived free’. All five followed the Church of England faith. Mary Ann was pregnant with their daughter Elizabeth when the census was compiled.[25]

In 1841, George was recommended for a Conditional Pardon, which removed all restrictions except a ban on leaving the colony. This was granted on 1 Oct 1842. At that time, George was described as 5ft 6in tall, with a sallow complexion, light brown hair and grey eyes. It was also noted that he was deficient of two lower front teeth.[26]

In February 1881, George visited Melbourne with his grandson Benjamin Carter. They stayed in Prahran with a Mr. Denman, a carrier by trade. On Monday 4th April, George left to visit someone on board a ship, but did not return. His body was found three days later (Thursday 7 April) in the Yarra river at Falls Bridge.[28]

The inquest into his death noted that George had fallen into the Yarra and drowned on 4th April. He was near-sighted and the jury recorded an open verdict, as there was no evidence to show how the deceased got into the water.[29] Curiously, the death notices in the Sydney newspapers only reference his son George (June) and daughter (Mrs J. Carter). George was buried in the St. Kilda Cemetery, Pres C, Section 216 [30]. George’s youngest son, Master Mariner Henry Joseph Hall had just died on 24 Sep 1890 at about age 43 in Commodore Hotel, Blue’s Point Road, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

The Family Continues

Mary Ann Hall, the daughter of George Hall and Mary Ann Greenham married my Great Great Grandfather Joseph Carter (1833–1891)on 29 Aug 1861 at St. Andrew’s Scots Church, Sydney, NSW (aged 27). Joseph’s profession is given as ‘Gold Miner’, resident in ‘Braidwood, NSW now at St. Leonards, North Sydney’. He was a bachelor and gave his age as 24 (not 27!). Because Mary Ann was only 18, the consent of her father to the marriage was also noted.

Soon after getting married, probably sometime during 1862, Joseph and Mary headed out to the goldfields of the Braidwood area with nothing more than a cart to transport their few possessions which they pushed by hand whilst walking. Joseph sought his fortune mining for gold. Their first two sons George Joseph (1863) and Benjamin James (1865) are born in the Braidwood goldfields. However, the family did not stay for long. By 1867, they had already returned to Sydney. Joseph must have had success in his mining endeavours…with it he took the lease on The Old Commodore.

The Old Commodore 1901

Joseph Carter leased the Old Commodore Inn at Blues Point Road, North Sydney in June 1869 from owner John Blue, who first opened a hotel there in 1848. John was a son of the Jamaican-born convict Billy Blue who styled himself as ‘the Commodore’ and after whom the hotel was named. Joseph, now aged 36, also acquired the publican’s licence and purchased all of the hotel’s furniture, fittings, fixtures and stock from the retiring publican and previous lease holder, Mr. Arthur Carr. Joseph ran the hotel until his death in 1891. Mary Ann Hall took over the publican’s licence, but soon remarried. In 1892, she married Angus McKay at St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney, NSW and soon after, Angus took over the running of the Old Commodore Hotel until his death eight years later in 1906. The Carter Family continued to manage the Old Commodore, with Thomas Sydney Carter (1878–1919), son of Joseph and Mary Ann and brother to Angus (1886–1970) recorded as dying in the hotel in 1919 at the age of 40. My maternal grandfather Angus Richard (Dick) Carter was born on 12 April 1913 to Angus and Alice (Thomson) Carter in an upstairs room of The Old Commodore Hotel, McMahon’s Point, North Sydney. My mother was born on 1 June 1944 to Angus and Muriel Carter (nee. Gordon) in Brisbane, Australia.

Braidwood gold fields [1861]


Much of the information for this article comes from the fantastic Wikitree entry https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Hall-26470

  1. Church of England Parish Registers of All Saints Church, Isleworth at London Metropolitan Archives, accessed via Ancestry.com
  2. Convict Indenture for George Hall on ship Prince Regent (4), State Archives NSW; Series: NRS 12188; Item: [4/4012]
  3. Old Bailey Trial no. t18261207–25 at www.oldbaileyonline.org (as at March 2017)
  4. Petition of George Hall, UK National Archives, HO 17\25\174 CM24
  5. Convict Indentures, Prince Regent 1827, State Archives NSW; Series: NRS 12188; Item: [4/4012]; Microfiche: 666
  6. Church of England Parish Registers of All Saints Church, Isleworth at London Metropolitan Archives, accessed via Ancestry.com
  7. Transcript of List of Students of Edmund Latymer’s charity school, Hammersmith, 1624–1878 at London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham Libraries & Archives — Access No. DD/93/1; research done by K.Shawcross and communicated 5 Sep 2018.
  8. Petition of George Hall for clemency, following his sentencing on 7 Dec 1826, UK National Archives, HO 17/25/174 (copy held by M.Lohmeyer)
  9. GEORGE HALL, Theft from a specified place, 7 December 1826; Old Bailey Trial no. t18261207–25 at www.oldbaileyonline.org (as at March 2017)
  10. Ibid. at www.oldbaileyonline.org
  11. Petition of George Hall for clemency…
  12. Criminal Registers, Middlesex 1791–1849, UK National Archives, HO 26/32/107 (copy held by M.Lohmeyer)
  13. Petition of George Hall for clemency…
  14. Convict Prison Hulks: Registers and Letter Books; Class: HO9/7, UK National Archives, Retribution, 1827
  15. Convict Indentures, Prince Regent 1827, State Archives NSW; Series: NRS 12188; Item: [4/4012]; Microfiche: 666
  16. Medical Journal of the convict ship Prince Regent (1 May to 15 Oct 1827), UK National Archives ADM 101 61/3, accessed via Ancestry
  17. Medical Journal, p.25
  18. NSW Census, Nov 1828, HO 10/23 Census E-H — as viewed online at http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C1905860#imageViewerLink on 16 June 2017 (image 332). Original at The National Archives, Kew, England.
  19. NSW State Records: Port Jackson arrival record & passenger list of the schooner Samuel, 25 May 1823 on which R. Hall arrived in Australia
  20. NSW State Records: Port Jackson arrival record & passenger list of the barque Harriet, 22 Jan 1834 on which Master R. Hall returned to Australia
  21. Registers of Convicts’ Applications to Marry, NSW State Archives; Series: 12212; Item: 4/4509; Page: 94
  22. Registers of Convicts’ Applications to Marry, NSW State Archives; Series: 12212; Item: 4/4512; Page: 214
  23. I have not yet sighted Parish records V1836153 75 and V18362864 74A to establish the exact date of the marriage
  24. Jean F. Arnot, ‘McGarvie, John (1795–1853)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mcgarvie-john-2399, accessed online 17 June 2017.
  25. New South Wales 1841 Census: Abstract of returns, NSW State Archives CGS 1282, Reels 2222–2223.
  26. Register of Conditional Pardons, 1842, NSW State Archives; Series: 1170, Reel 774
  27. Death Notice, Bendigo Advertiser 9 Apr 1881, page 3
  28. Death Notice, Bendigo Advertiser 9 Apr 1881, page 3; Deaths, The Sydney Morning Herald 22 Apr 1881, page 1
  29. Deaths, The Sydney Morning Herald 22 Apr 1881, page 1
  30. Victorian cemetery records and headstone transcriptions. Genealogical Society of Victoria Inc, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia — accessed via Ancestry 16 June 2017



James Barrett

Freelance scholar. Humanist. Interested in language, culture, music, technology, design & philosophy. I like Literature & Critical Theory. Traveler. I am mine.