The Bednall Archive 
Last updated 16/06/2012

John Bednall of Hobart, 1809 to 1859: A Brief Biography

John Bednall was a grandson of William Bednall of Hanbury, Staffordshire (1734-1823) and his wife Martha, nee Hawkesworth. He was thus one of the great, great, great, grandchildren of William (1627-1700) and Sarah Badnall of Hanbury and Uttoxeter, the common ancestors of many Bednalls in Staffordshire, Derbyshire and elsewhere, including Australia.  Discharged from the Royal Marines for mutiny, much of his life was characterised by the effects of a chronic drink problem and crimes that lead to him being transported, first to Bermuda and then to Tasmania. As far as is known, he never returned to England, never married and never had any children. The following article is a brief account of his life up to the date of the last record of him so far found: the actual date and place of his death are still unknown.

The Early Years

In 1809, Eleanor, wife of Thomas Bednall, a labourer cum gardener of Thornton Street, St Martin’s Parish, Leicester, gave birth to their fifth child and fourth son, who they named John. Apart from the birth of John’s sister, Sarah Ann in 1815 and the deaths of 3 of their children in early childhood, little more is heard of the family or their lives until the 1840s.  However, at this period, children from poorer families were apprenticed or sent out to work as young as 6 or 7 years of age and this may have happened to John. The local hosiery industry provided a great deal of employment in and around Leicester so that it is not surprising that by the time he was 18, John was working as a “trimmer and dyer”.[i]  As a young man he was physically small, just 5ft 6¼ inches tall, with a fresh complexion, hazel eyes and brown hair.  He enjoyed good health and according to a surgeon who examined him in January 1828, was “free from ruptures, fits, diseased legs, or the marks of old sores, fistula, scrofula in glands, bones or joints, fractured skull, defective sight or hearing and in all other respects from mental or bodily defects”. He could write and probably learnt to read and write and do basic mathematics by attending a local charity school, such as St. Martin’s in Friars Lane, Leicester.[ii] 

In January 1828, John met a Royal Marine recruiting sergeant and this fateful meeting was to have unexpected outcomes, though whether it can be blamed for all the events that affected the next 22 years of John’s life, is doubtful.

 The New Recruit

When men were needed, Royal Marine recruiting sergeants combed towns and villages throughout Britain, trying to persuade young men, like John, to join-up.  To do so, potential recruits were offered a bounty of £4, told exciting tales of adventure in far off lands and offered the benefits of free accommodation and food and a regular wage. No doubt the fact that marines were recruited for life and signed on for unlimited service, was played down.  Pubs were favourite recruiting places and it was, perhaps, in a Leicester pub that John met the man who recruited him. It was also possible that John was following the example of his older brother, Eli Joseph Bednall, who joined the 12th Royal Lancers some years before.[iii]   

John’s enlistment as a Private in the Portsmouth Division of the Royal Marines, took place on the 18th January 1828 and the following day he appeared before a local magistrate for his formal attestation as required by law.  Before John was required to swear the necessary oaths, the magistrate read relevant sections of the “Articles of War, against mutiny and desertion”. John then swore on oath as to his identity, age and occupation and that he had “no rupture nor never was affected by fits” and was “in no ways disabled by lameness, or otherwise” but had the “perfect use of my limbs”. He also had to state that he was not an apprentice and did not belong “to the militia, or to any Regiment in His Majesty’s Service, or to His Majesty’s Navy, or Royal Marines”.[iv] 

Then followed his “Oath of Fidelity” to be “True to our Sovereign Lord King George, His Heirs and Successors, and to serve him and them honestly and faithfully, in defence of his Person, Crown and Dignity, against all his Enemies or Opposers whatsoever; and to observe and obey His Majesty’s Orders, or the Orders of the Officers set over me by His Majesty.”  John signed his attestation in a good, firm, if slightly large, hand and the document was duly signed and witnessed by the magistrate and others. The reason for the inclusion of a hand-written note by the magistrate, stating that John was told “that he would not be entitled to increased pay at the end of seven years”, is unclear and requires further research. 

On the back of his attestation document, John acknowledged receiving 10 shillings on being attested and a further 7s 6d for necessaries, from a certain Captain R. B. Galloway. A Royal Marine Sergeant Willitt certified before the magistrate that John had acknowledged that he had been recruited a full 24 hours before his attestation and that the person who enlisted him had asked him whether he belonged to the Militia or any other of His Majesty’s Services, before he received “the enlisting money”.  At some time during that day, possibly immediately after his attestation, John was given a superficial medical examination by a surgeon, Thomas Higton, to confirm that he had no obvious physical disabilities and was in a fit state to cope with the rigours of service life.

Exactly what happened to him then is not known but presumably he, and others recruited by Captain Galloway’s men, subsequently travelled to the marines’ barracks in Portsmouth to be kitted out and undergo basic training. [v]  Marine uniforms then broadly matched those of the contemporary British Army and in 1828 they wore tight, red, tail-coats with dark blue collars and cuffs, white cloth waistcoat and breeches, a shirt, a black stock and either round top-hats or shakos (a tall hat with a small peak and a tapered form). On board ship, however, many marines fought in their undress checked shirts and blue trousers. [vi], [vii] 

As regards training, marines were primarily ship-based infantry whose duties included harassing the enemy from the upper decks and rigging with effective musket fire and repelling boarding attacks. John would, therefore, have undergone chiefly land based training in the use of weapons and tactics, similar to that of an infantryman but this would have followed more basic training aimed at instilling discipline, e.g. training in the care of equipment, military drill and formations. [viii]  Once this was completed, John would have been allocated to a ship. [ix], [x]

All at Sea?

All that is known of John Bednall’s service in the Royal Marines is that his was not an illustrious career, for his name was entered in the Defaulters Book 17 times and he was “discharged with disgrace” from the marines, for mutinous conduct while serving aboard HMS Tyne. HMS Tyne was a Woolwich built, 125ft long, 33ft wide, 28-gun, sixth rate ship of the line, displacing 600 tons that was launched less than 2 years before John joined the marines.  Its armament is likely to have been similar to that of HMS Challenger, another 28 gun 6th rater, with twenty 32-pounders on the upper deck, six 18-pounders on the quarterdeck and two 9-pounders in the forecastle. [xi], [xii]  Her compliment would have been between 125 and 175.[xiii] NB Appendix 1 summarises the ship’s movements during the years that John Bednall served in  the Royal Marines.

 John probably also served aboard other ships and may have occasionally carried out land-based duties but the only the only part of his service that can be identified, is that immediately leading up to and following the offence that led to his dismissal. The mutinous conduct for which John was court martialled must have occurred in the period between May 1834 when HMS Tyne sailed for Malta and April 1837 when she returned to Spithead again at the end of her service on the Mediterranean station. [xiv] 

A sixth rate ship similar to HMS Tyne

Except for a statement that John received 4 dozen lashes for drunkenness while serving on HMS Tyne, details of the other offences committed by John are lacking.  This is also true of the conduct for which John was court martialled but the wording of the relevant Articles of War and the fact that he was simply discharged from the Royal Marines (63 Company), suggest that he had committed some act of negligence. His flogging for drunkenness suggests that this may have been the underlying cause of the 17 disciplinary matters listed in the Defaulters Book, his Court Martial and the Court’s assessment of his character as “Bad”. However, although there is a no doubt that he had a serious drink problem that continued to affect him all his life, the charge of mutiny may have been brought because he had lead or incited others to join in a “mutinous assembly”, spoken “traitorous or mutinous Words” against the King or said or done things “tending to the Hindrance of the Service”. [xv]  As a civilian John was later charged with refusing to work according to workhouse regulations, suggesting that he was willing to stick up for himself and may have had a rebellious nature.  It is also clear that, when drunk, he could be violent. If so, these traits might explain why he committed the offence for which he was discharged from the Marines. [xvi]

 Although not stated in surviving records, his punishment may also have included imprisonment in solitary confinement for a period, with or without corporal punishment and hard labour. He would certainly have been arrested and held, in solitary confinement, under guard when the offence occurred and kept in the cells until HMS Tyne returned to England. There he would have been imprisoned on shore to await trial.  When the court martial had delivered its “Guilty” verdict, John would have been returned to the cells to await the completion of any period of imprisonment to which he might have been sentenced prior to his release. The fact that he was in Plymouth and not the Portsmouth divisional barracks, when the Divisional Board reviewed his “service, conduct, character and cause of discharge”, in December 1839, may indicate that he was then serving a sentence of imprisonment but there is no indication of this in the Divisional Board’s notes.. The Divisional Board’s notes do, however, contain a reference to John’s “Ledger Account” being balanced up to 6th April 1836 and this might indicate the date at or about which he committed the offence that brought about his discharge. [xvii]  His dismissal with disgrace, meant that he lost not only his regular pay of 19/6 a month [approximately equivalent to £655 today [xviii]] but also any entitlement he might have had to “Pay, Head Money, Bounty, Salvage, Prize Money, and Allowances that have been earned by, and of all Annuities, Pensions, Gratuities, Medals, and Decorations” awarded during his service. [xix]  

 Life Aboard Ship 
What would John’s life have been like aboard ship? As an embarked marine, he and his fellow marines were divided into two watches, which they performed alternately, Each party has four having four hours on duty, and four hours rest below, excepting the four hours between four and eight o'clock at night, which were divided into two dog-watches.  For mess and sleeping purposes, marines berthed on the lower deck of the ship, in quarters that were separate from those of the sailors. Hammocks were slung so close together that when occupied all the bodies were virtually in contact. Whether they had much time to rest when not on duty might be doubted since “personal cleanliness is strictly enforced in the Royal Navy. The shirts, frocks, and duck trousers, are washed, or scrubbed, and changed, at least, twice in the week. Besides frequent bathing, in favourable weather, regular ablution of the body, shaving, combing, &c. are required. The cooking apparatus is kept in the highest order; and the mess places, and utensils, are clean, and well arranged. The hammocks are scrubbed clean at regular, sufficiently frequent periods; and in fine weather, though generally stowed in the bulwark nettings during the day, they are opened, and the beds and bedding, exposed to the full influence of the air on deck”. [xx] Physical exercise and drill would also have been a regular part of John’s life. 

As a Royal Marine, his duties included guarding key areas of the ship e.g. the powder rooms, magazines and other storerooms, the entrances to the officers’ quarters and the ships’ cells. He and his fellow marines were also employed in maintaining crew discipline and enforcing regulations aboard ship, i.e. enforcing the Captain’s orders, preventing mutiny and ensuring sailors did not desert the ship.  These duties would also involve standing guard when punishments, including floggings with the cat-o'-nine-tails, were carried out. on the upper deck, in front of the assembled crew. Such duties applied whether at sea or berthed in friendly ports. When the ship was in action, however, John and his fellow marines acted as sharpshooters and gunners and where necessary, formed boarding parties to seize ships and assist in sailing them to friendly ports. Occasionally, they might be required to fight on land or to garrison, temporarily, captured fortresses but whether John was ever called upon to do so is unknown. [xxi], [xxii] 

Did John see much of the world?  Perhaps, but all that can be said with some certainty is that the ship’s duties in the Mediterranean took it from Malta to Vourla, a town on the Island of Lesbos in the northern Aegean, from there to Scalanova, a Turkish city on a bay in the Aegean and on to Nauplia, a Greek seaport in the north-eastern Peloponnese.  Shortly afterwards HMS Tyne sailed to Smryna, on the Aegean coast of Anatolia returning from there to Malta at the beginning of October 1835. After refitting, the ship sailed for Corfu, reportedly, to relieve HMS Volage.  Subsequently English newspaper reports indicate that in May 1836 she spent sometime in the vicinity of Minorca and while there, went into the Port of Mahon to be smoked to drive out the ship’s rats. Afterwards she sailed to Malaga on the Spanish coast and later to the Fleet’s Mediterranean station, Gibraltar. After almost 3 years in the Mediterranean, HMS Tyne (and John Bednall) returned to Portsmouth in early April 1837. How much John would have seen of the ports and countries the ship visited is unknown and the only certainty is that, when HMS Tyne docked in England at the end of this voyage, he was in chains and being held solitary confinement.

Leicester Again: A Life of Crime

When John was finally discharged from the marines, sometime between Christmas 1839 and June 1840, he returned to Leicester to live with his parents whose home was then in Arnold's Yard, High Cross Street in the parish of St. Martins. [xxiii]  Despite his bad character or perhaps it was concealed from his employers, he soon found work as a labourer. However, he now had a serious drink problem (possibly a habit picked up in the Marines) and this soon led him into petty crime and the first of a number of appearances in Leicester courts. [xxiv]  His first reported appearances was on Friday 12th June 1840, when he was charged on suspicion of entering the warehouse of Messrs T & J Nunneley, grocers, the previous Wednesday and stealing a parcel of 12 lbs of tea, a packet of starch and a piece of lump sugar: the warehouse was in fact adjacent to John’s home.  According to the owners, the parcel was missed the following day and nobody in the shop knew where it had gone. However, on looking around they found that someone had broken in through the roof by removing two slates and tea similar to that in the packet was scattered along the roof. When John Bednall’s shoes were examined, sugar was found sticking to the soles, which were also damp as if from treacle.  John’s father said that he had been disturbed in his sleep on the night in question by the entrance of his son, who was fresh.  John’s habits were said to be irregular and he “was generally a bad character”. John was then remanded until the following Monday, June 15th , when he appeared before the Mayor, J. Whetstone Esq., T. Paget senior and J Hodgson Esqrs, and Alderman T. Paget and R. Harris. 
During this hearing, a Mr Howgate Greaves reported that he had examined the substance found on the bottom of John’s shoes and found that it “consisted of sugar and ground alum, portions of which were lying about the warehouse floor.” Mr J. Nunneley gave evidence that that there were no ladders lying around the premises, long enough to enable someone to reach the roof, which could only be done by that means of by “getting out of the bedroom window of the prisoner (John) or a similar one belonging to the next house”.  The magistrates committed John for trial at the next Leicester Borough Sessions but although it appeared an open and shut case, the jury deemed the evidence insufficient and acquitted him. [xxv],[xxvi] [xxvii] 

This clash with the law did nothing to improve John's behaviour and 3 months later (2 October 1840) be was back before the magistrates on a charge of being drunk and incapable. At the time he committed this offence, John, was a pauper living in the Union Workhouse and one afternoon had left the poor-house with a funeral and not returned because he'd gone drinking. He was eventually found by policeman Kellett, at about midnight, lying in the street and was taken to the Station House “where he behaved very disorderly”. The magistrate found him guilty of being drunk and incapable of taking care of himself and fined 10s with the option of one month’s imprisonment. [xxviii]  Subsequently John continued to live in the workhouse for a while but at Christmas 1840 he was allowed to go home to his father. Unfortunately life in the workhouse had not cured his drink problem and sometime just prior to the 15th January 1841 he began beating his aged father violently and to break up the furniture. When Sergeant Midwinter arrived he assaulted him too and was arrested and charged. To his credit he confessed his guilt, blamed his actions on his drunkenness and was fined 10s or, failing payment, "to be jailed for a month". [xxix]  Having paid the penalty for his crime, John, who was by then, if not before, a pauper was confined to the Union workhouse and for nearly 8 months managed to stay out of trouble, but at last things got too much for him -he left the workhouse without permission and returned drunk. For this he was sentenced to 3 weeks hard labour in the House of  Correction. [xxx] 

Riot in the Union Workhouse   
John had barely been out of the House of Correction a month when he was in trouble again, this time for "refusing to work in accordance with the regulations of the Union Workhouse corn mill". This time the case was more serious and the Leicester Mercury described it as a “Riot in the Union Workhouse”. The case was heard, on 8th March 1841, at an extraordinary meeting of the magistrates and John Bednall was only one of ten paupers so charged.  The Master of the Workhouse, Mr Clarke, said that on the previous Saturday the defendants were required to work on the corn mill but had refused because, he believed, they thought the bread was bad. Although the bread had a “slight taste” he, he said “had tasted much worse”. He tried twice again that day to get them to do the work but had no success. William Carr, the workhouse miller, confirmed Clarke’s account. Not one of them, he said, would come out. They said they would not come out until they had had their breakfasts but were dissatisfied with the breakfast and sent it back. The miller called again after dinner but got the same response as before. The following Monday night, Sergeant Wright and three or four other policemen went to the workhouse to “execute warrants on the defendants”. When they got to the 5th name on their list, all the paupers turned round upon them, put the lights out, and swore that if one went they all would go and if he tried to take the defendants, they would have “blood before supper.” After getting reinforcements from the station, the Sergeant returned and found the door barricaded against him. He broke it down and was wounded slightly when the end of an iron bar was thrust in his face. The police saw “men standing about armed with cudgels, which had been broken form benches and tables and some with iron rods from the fireguard”. The Sergeant judged it not safe to enter the room until police numbers had been increased to 40. When the paupers saw how many police there were they sat down and allowed the defendants to be taken.

In their defence, one or two prisoners said when asked, they had never refused to work and others that “it was no use saying anything”. Several refused to make any statement in their defence.  The Master of the Workhouse said the peculiar taste of the bread was “on account of a bag containing the flour, standing too near the flue, and so becoming heated; and on being baked giving the bread a slightly bitter taste”. A loaf of bread was passed to the bench for examination and the consensus of opinion was that though it had a slight taste, it was not such as to justify the pauper’s behaviour.  In convicting the defendants, the Mayor rejected the bad bread defence saying the same could happen in any family and that their refusal to work must be punished. He didn’t wish them to eat bad bread but any complaints should be directed to the guardians. He pointed out that their were between 500 and 600 hundred people in the workhouse and regulations must be enforced. Their offence was made worse, he continued, “considering the times in which it was committed, many poor families having to live harder and with less comforts than they had”.  
The bench were unanimous in sentencing all the defendants to 21 days imprisonment with hard labour. [xxxi],[xxxii] For almost 2 years, Leicestershire newspapers had nothing to report of John Bednall but on the 10th of February1844, they reported that on Friday 5th of February he had again appeared in court, charged with stealing a shawl from Harriet Enfield's shop the previous Saturday night and with assaulting a policeman. His sentence was a £1 fine but since he was a pauper it seems likely he took the option of a month in prison. [xxxiii]  John’s life of petty crime continued in June that year when he was caught poaching and sentenced to 3 months in the House of Correction. [xxxiv]

The Coat & Block 
On 13th October 1845, John Bednall, then aged 36, appeared at the Leicester Borough Michaelmas Sessions charged with stealing a coat, the property of Mr Thomas Angrave, draper and Mr Thomas Woodcock, from a shop in Cheapside, on the 27th September. One witness, P.C. No. 33 Hawkesworth or Hicks (?) who was on duty in front of the shop, said he saw both the accused walk “backwards and forwards before the shop for several minutes prior to the coat being taken”. Bednell  eventually walked into Angrave’s shop, took the coat and walked out to join his companion, a man called Munton. Bednall, who pleaded not guilty, said he and Munton were walking in Cheapside when a man put a dummy on its back. He then said to Munton, and said, “Hey Jack, take this and let us have lark with it” and they walked away with it but had not intend to take it. PC Church said that he saw Bednall walk away with the coat and block, Munton following close after him: for some reason they “walked backwards”.  He (Church)  followed them towards Silver Street where he took the property from Bednall and assisted in taking Bednall to the station house. They didn’t go quietly and Munton, “who was much tbe stouter man”, beat Church so much that one witness thought Munton would “get the mastery”. The court found both defendants guilty and in view of his past record, John was sentenced to transportation for 7 years. His companion Munton, who had been imprisoned fifteen times, was only sentenced to six months hard labour and it is not clear why the court distinguished between the two in this way. [xxxv], [xxxvi]


The details of what happened to John Bednall immediately after sentencing are not yet known but he would, initially, have been sent to one of the hulks moored in Chatham, Portsmouth, and many other places around the English coast. As a new arrival, he would have been immediately stripped and washed, clothed in a coarse grey jacket and trousers with broad arrow markings and had irons clamped on one of his legs. While in the hulks he would have had to work from sunrise to sunset, in chains.  However, sometime before October 1846, he was transported to Bermuda and there imprisoned on board the hulk, Dromedary. She was a 20 gun, 150 x 30ft, former East Indiaman of 1048 tons, purchased by the Royal Navy in 1805 and converted into a prison hulk in 1826, after transporting convicts to Bermuda. Her conversion involved stripping away her sailing gear, roofing over the upper decks and converting the lower decks into cells and storerooms. As a hulk, she could accommodate 418 of the convicts employed in the quarries and on military construction sites a short distance from were her Ireland Island moorings. [xxxvii] 

For the following 2½ years, John lived aboard the hulk “Dromedary” and if the reports of one convict, John Morgan, who returned to England on completing his sentence, life might have been better in Bermuda for convicts than in England.  According what Morgan reportedly said “he was a great deal better off abroad than any Tradesman at home - he had more money to spend and was never without 3 or 4 dollars in his pocket, that on Xmas day he spent 15/- of his own money extra on Eating and Drinking - that he worked 8 hours a day for Government, & over that for himself - that's how he used to get his money - that he would not have come back only he was brought back, & that sooner than he would know distress he would go a thieving and be transported again. What time you are in England is the worst of it, you are kept more closer - when you get abroad you don't care a d ---“.  Morgan’s claims were substantiated to some extent by an army officer’s comment that “convicts had an easy life, and enjoyed more privileges and comforts than British soldiers or honest labourers back home in England”. [xxxviii], [xxxix] Nominally, a convict was paid 3d a day by the government but the government retained 2d of this for bed and board and put the other 1d into a “fund” to be returned to the convict when he had completed his sentence. Consequently the convicts had, theoretically, no money but there is evidence that at least some convicts traded with local inhabitants and with their guards, exchanging articles they’d made for such things as fresh fruit, tobacco and rum.  Furthermore, if Morgan can be believed, their spare time activities could also be used to earn money.

Life in Bermuda wasn’t quiet as easy, perhaps, as Morgan suggests, for conditions could be hot and humid aboard ship and diseases were rife amongst the convicts, with periodic outbreaks of Yellow Fever and dysentery, which killed over 20% of prisoners. John Bednall experienced several bouts of dysentery that required treatment in the Bermuda Royal Naval hospital. His worst bout occurred in December 1847 and on admission the doctor noted “A pretty severe case of dysentery”. Due to the severity of his illness, John remained under treatment until the 29th March 1848, the doctor noting that “the usual remedies were employed with benefits but he has been a long time in a convalescent state”.  John also suffered from catarrh and more seriously from a sexual disease, probably syphilis, for which he received “mercurial treatment”. [xl]

A New Life in the Colonies

In May 1848, the Foreign Office decided to dispatch convicts to the Cape of Good Hope to build a breakwater in Table Bay. Earl Grey, however, proposed that these convicts be exiled to the Cape and gave instructions that 300 political offenders in Bermuda should be sent there.[xli]  In a letter to the Administrator of the penal colony at Bermuda, Grey refused to accede to a request that these prisoners be sent to the Cape at no charge to them and instead ordered that each should pay ten pounds for his passage to the Cape.  Thus it was that, sometime between the 18th and the 24th April 1849, John Bednall and 299 other convicts, set sail from Bermuda for South Africa, in NEPTUNE 2", a 35-year-old, "square rigged," sailing ship of 644 tons, under the command of a Captain Henderson.

After making a brief stop on July 18th, at Pernambuco on the east coast of Brazil, to replenish water and supplies, "NEPTUNE 2" dropped anchor in Simon's Bay at the Cape on 19th September 1849. They were not welcome! The people of the Cape colony were violently opposed to the arrangements proposed by Grey and in June 1849 had formed an anti-convict association to lobby the Colonial Office against the move. By the time the ship arrived, opposition to the landing of convict colonists in the Cape colony was such that they couldn’t disembark. Furthermore, the colony refused to supply provisions, medical supplies and water to "NEPTUNE 2," and the Captain therefore had to obtain them from Mauritius. [xlii] ,[xliii]

Grey came under increasing pressure to abandon his plans and eventually bowed to the wishes of his opponents, both in England and the colonies. On February 13th 1850, five months after the ship had arrived of Simon’s Town, he ordered Captain Henderson to set sail in "NEPTUNE 2" for Van Dieman's Land.  She sailed on the 21st of February 1850 carrying 282 convicts (18 had died since leaving Bermuda), 43 troopers as guards, 6 paying passengers and an unknown number of crew. Incidentally, the surgeon entrusted (in Bermuda) with the formidable task of keeping "passengers" and crew alive and as healthy as possible, died before the ship reached the Cape and had to be replaced.

From the diary of one of the prisoners, we learn that, immediately after clearing False Bay, "NEPTUNE 2" sailed South at such a speed that she often covered 200 miles in a day and thus reached the mountainous southern coast of Van Dieman's Land in early April. The waters were placid as they rounded the many promontories all of which were wooded to the waters edge. After one night becalmed, the ship made way to the head of the D'Entrecasteaux Channel where she took a pilot aboard to guide them to anchor in the River Derwent, a quarter of a mile from the quays and Custom house of Hobart Town, where she docked on 5th April 1850.  Sadly, the surgeon, who had joined the ship at the Cape and had kept all but seven on board alive to this point, died just ten days later, in Newtown [xliv],[xlv],[xlvi].

Hobart, Tasmania

 On his arrival, John Bednall, like most of the other convicts, received a conditional pardon -the question is, however, what happened to him after that is unclear. Gold was discovered in Australia in 1851, starting the goldrush as hoards of ticket-of-leave men, escaped convicts and others, from Van Diemens Land and elsewhere, flocked to the goldfields - perhaps John was one of these?  However, records for admissions to the Royal Derwent Hospital, New Norfolk, used predominantly for the treatment of mental diseases, show that a John Bedenall, born circa 1807, was admitted on 1st February 1859. This may well be the man we seek and it is possible that he died in this institution due to the effects of more than 25 years of hard drinking and the repeated bouts of ill health he suffered in Bermuda. [xlvii] However, in 1861, the name J. Badnell appears in the list of steerage passengers aboard the 341 ton barque Kate, when it arrived in Sydney, New South Wales from Auckland on 20th April 1861 –could this have been John? [xlviii] 

By one of those strange quirks of fate, John's cousin, Hanbury, Staffordshire born , another former convict but by 1850 a free man, sailed from Hobart for England, just two months before John's arrival. 



Appendix 1: HMS Tyne 1828 to 1838 

During John Bednall’s 10-year period of service in the Royal Marines, HMS Tyne had at least 3 different Captains including. Captain Richard Grant (1828-1830); Captain Charles Hope (1830-1834) and Captain John Townshend (1837-1841).  From Hampshire newspapers from the period, it is clear that early in 1828, she sailed from Portsmouth to St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador and before subsequently sailing to Halifax, Nova Scotia. While in Canadian waters, the ship surveyed and charted part of the coast of Newfoundland.[xlix] On 19 Oct 1829, HMS Tyne sailed to Bermuda for the winter months and after refitting, was deployed in those waters before sailing for Portsmouth on 7th May 1830.  She arrived off Spithead just 20 days later and moved into Portsmouth harbour prior to being paid off on the 29th. [l], [li]

 Just under a year later (February 1831) she sailed for South America arriving in Rio Janeiro, headquarters of the Royal Navy South American squadron, from Bahia on 10th July 1831, She remained in South American waters until early 1832 when she sailed for her home port. HMS Tyne arrived in Portsmouth on 18th June but 3 days later set sail again, this time to Chatham. Just over a month later she was off again, sailing for Cork where, amongst other things, she carried out sailing trials in the Cove of Cork prior to refitting. The ship then sailed first to Torbay and then to Plymouth where she arrived on 30th August 1832.  In September that year, Tyne set sail for the Canaries and South America breaking the voyage for 3 days at Falmouth. This period in South American waters was a notable one for late in November 1832, HMS Tyne, accompanied HMS Clio, sailed from Rio to take possession of the Falkland Islands. Arriving there, on 20 December, the ships entered Port Louis harbour on 5 January 1833 and expelled the Argentinean military garrison and so called “Governor" Don Juan Esteban Mestivier. [lii]  The ship’s tour of duty in Southern Atlantic and Pacific waters, ended in Portsmouth on 25th January 1834 when she “paid off into ordinary” i.e. partially or fully decommissioned and placed in the reserve fleet. [liii] Shortly afterwards, however, HMS Tyne was taken into dock and fitted out for service in the Mediterranean. Recommissioned, the ship moved from Portsmouth Harbour to Spithead on or about 16th May and the following day set sail for Malta. Newspaper notes of her time in the Mediterranean show she saw service off Corfu (where she relieved HMS Volage), in the Ionian Sea and elsewhere, visiting amongst other places, Gibralter, Smyrna, Mahon, Malaga and Minorca.[liv] This part of the Tyne’s Mediterranean service ended with the ship’s return to Spithead on 8 April 1837. 


[i] National Archives (UK) ADM 157/355/47 Folios 47-50. Admiralty: Royal Marines: Attestation Forms: Portsmouth Division - Attestations and Discharges 1837-1883, John Bednall 1828-1833 

[ii] 'The City of Leicester: Primary and secondary education', A History of the County of Leicester: volume 4: The City of Leicester (1958), pp. 328-335. URL: Date accessed: 03 June 2012 

[iii] A painting in the Royal Collection of Private Joseph Bednal (1802-33) of the 12th (The Prince of Wales's) Royal Lancers, 1832. Painting commissioned by William IV. RCIN 407088

[iv] National Archives (UK) ADM 157/355/47 Folios 47-50. Admiralty: Royal Marines: Attestation Forms: Portsmouth Division - Attestations and Discharges 1837-1883, John Bednall 1828-1833 

[v] John Bednall was on Captain Galloway’s pay books until 8th February 1828 and was, presumably, when he entered the Portsmouth Division’s barracks. Ibidem 

[vi] Regulations & Instructions – 1808, Relating to His majesty's service at sea.  Section XIII - Chapter I For Royal Marines serving on Board His Majesty’s Ships. Page 425, Article XV and  Page 425, Article XVI.

For Royal Marines serving on Board His Majesty’s Ships.


[viii] Gloucestershire Genealogy: Royal Marines in the 19th Century. 

[ix] When a new Navy vessel was about to put to sea, the Captain of the ship would apply to the Marines and a number would be sent to serve. The exact number was based on the size of the ship. Marines only served on vessels with a crew above fifty, and normally made up about one sixth or seventh of the total crew. : Royal Marines: In the Napoleonic Wars | 

[x] Regulations & Instructions – 1808, Relating to His majesty's service at sea.  Section XIII - Chapter I For Royal Marines serving on Board His Majesty’s Ships. 

[xi] Britain's Navy Fighting Ships - Operations – History 


[xiii] Re-organisation of Rating of Ships, of Ships' Complements, of Naval Pay, of Ratings - 1817

[xiv] Hampshire Advertiser Saturday 17 May 1834 page 3, col. 3. and Hampshire Advertiser Saturday 15th April 1837 page 3, col. 7/8  

[xv] The Naval Discipline Act Amendment Act, 1860.  23° & 24° Victoriae, C.123. Cap. CXXIII. Part 1:Articles of War, Mutiny Articles X to XVI and  Part III. Regulations As To Punishments: 

[xvi] Leicester Mercury Saturday 13 November 1841 p.3 col. 4

[xvii] National Archives (UK) ADM 157/355/47 Folios 47-50. Admiralty: Royal Marines: Attestation Forms: Portsmouth Division - Attestations and Discharges 1837-1883, John Bednall 1828-1833 

[xviii] Lawrence H. Officer and Samuel H. Williamson, "Purchasing Power of British Pounds from 1245 to Present," MeasuringWorth, 2011.

[xix] A Royal Marine private’s pay on a 2 rate ship was about 19s 5d per month in 1835.   Navy List - March 1835  Rates of Ships and Rates of Pay.  

[xx] Index to Late 18th, 19th and Early 20th century Naval and Naval Social History: Admiralty Circulars and Memoranda etc. and extracted from the Navy Lists &c. published during the 1820s-1830s. Victualling - 1825. 

[xxi] See also  Royal Marines: In the Napoleonic Wars |   

[xxii] NB Some authors claim that, when necessary, John and his fellow marines would be detailed to help the crew in sailing and maintaining the ship, carrying out tasks such as hauling ropes when the ship was manoeuvring, weighing the anchor, and scraping off old paint but I have been unable to confirm this. 

[xxiii] Leicester Chronicle Saturday 13 June 1840 p.3 col. 5 case 12th

[xxiv] Census of England & Wales 1841, PRO HO 107 / 605 / 7 -5 Leicester St. Martins. 

[xxv] Leicester Chronicle Saturday 13 June 1840 p.3 col. 5 

[xxvi] Leicester Mercury Saturday 20 June 1840 p.1 col 5 

[xxvii] Leicester Chronicle Saturday 4 July 1840 p.4 col. 2 

[xxviii] Leicester Mercury Saturday 03 October 1840 p.3 col 6 

[xxix] Leicester Chronicle Saturday 16 January 1841 p.3 col.6 & Leicestershire Mercury 16 January 1841 page 3 

[xxx] Leicester Chronicle Saturday 18 September 1841  p.3 

[xxxi] Leicester Mercury Saturday 13 November 1841 p.3 col. 4 

[xxxii] ] Leicester Chronicle Saturday 12 March 1842  p.1 

[xxxiii] Leicester Mercury Saturday 10 February 1844 p.1 

[xxxiv] Leicester Mercury Saturday 29 June 1844 p. 

[xxxv] See Leicester Mercury Saturday 18 October 1845 page 4, col. 2/3 

[xxxvi] National Archives (UK) HO 11/16 p.4.  Home Office: Convict Transportation Registers 1849/1850. 

[xxxvii] British Prison Hulks:  See also  

[xxxviii]Swing Riots & : Black Sheep Search 1780-1900. Citing National Archives (UK) CO37/138 folios 98-100 : Original Correspondence for 1851 Copy letter from the Home Office enclosing an extract from the Journal of the Chaplain of Lewes Gaol, Sussex, including a statement made by a returned convict named John Morgan.  

[xxxix] Mitchel, John, Jail Journal Dublin, M.H. Gill & Son Ltd. 1854. This describes Mitchel’s life in the Dromedary and subsequently aboard the Neptune as it sailed from Bermuda to Cape Town and subsequently to Van Dieman’s Land. John Bednall was on the both ships when Mitchel was. 

[xl] National Archive (UK): ADM/1101/11/1E Case 90,  ADM/1101/11/1I Case 43, Medical Journals of Bermuda Royal Naval Hospital (convict patients). Bermuda Royal Naval Hospital 1817-1857. 

[xli] Bateson, Charles, The Convict Ships 1787-1868, Brown, Son & Ferguson Ltd 1985. 

[xlii] History of Cape Town 

[xliii] The Argus, 24th April 1850. page. col. Cape of Good Hope. 

[xliv] Mitchell, John., Jail Journal: Or, Five Years In British Prisons, 1815-1875, Haverty, New York 1868 also Jail Journal 1876, Mitchell, John, Woodstock Books, 1997, ISBN:  185477218X.

[xlv] Archives Office of Tasmania, Guide to Convict Records by Ship Reference.

[xlvi] Broxam, Graeme, Shipping Arrivals and Departures, Tasmania, 1843-1850, Roebuck, 1998, p195.

[xlvii]Archives Office of Tasmania: Series: HSD285 Hospital Admission Records 1843-1964. Item No. HSD285/1/132 

[xlviii] Mariners and Ships in Australian Waters April 1861. State Records Authority of New South Wales: Shipping Master's Office; Passengers Arriving 1855 - 1922; NRS 13278, [X104-106] reel 409 

[xlix] National Archives (UK) ADM352/33: Records of the Admiralty, Naval Forces, Royal Marines, Coastguard, and related bodies. 'A Chart of part of the Coast of Newfoundland' by Lieutenant Michael Lane, ordered by Vice Admiral Campbell, Governor of Newfoundland. Shows coastline, hydrography, topography, ships' tracks and remarks. Later survey report (1829), by Mr E Rose, Master HMS Tyne, pasted on. 

[l] William Loney RN - Victorian naval surgeon his life and times illustrated 


[lii] Dickinson, Anthony B., Early Nineteenth-Century Sealing on the Falkland Islands: Attempts to Develop a Regulated Industry, 1820-1834  

[liii] “Paid off into ordinary” means partially or fully decommissioned and placed in a reserve fleet vessels that are fully equipped for service but are not currently needed.

 [liv] The Royal Navy A Social History.  Naval Database: HMS Tyne 1826-1862.

©A.W.Bednall Macclesfield 2000-2008