The Bednall Archive
Last updated 13/06/2012

Samuel Bednall of Hanbury 1804-1881:  A Brief Biography

 Samuel Bednall was the grandson of William Bednall of Hanbury, Staffordshire and his wife Martha, nee Hawkesworth. He was thus one of the great, great, great, grandchildren of William (1627-1700) and Sarah ( -1710) Badnall of Hanbury and Uttoxeter, the common ancestors many of the Bednalls of Staffordshire, Derbyshire and elsewhere, including Australia.  The first 30 to 40 years of his life were characterised by poverty, the break up of the family home and the crimes that lead to him being transported to the other side of the world. He eventually returned to England a reformed character and from thereon until his death, he lived a quiet life in the village of his birth. Samuel Bednall never married and (as far as is known) never had any children. The following article is a brief account of his life.

Early Family Life

 Samuel Bednall was born in Hanbury, Staffordshire, "a small but pleasant village, upon a lofty eminence, overlooking the vale of the Dove, seven miles NW by W of Burton-upon-Trent, and the same distance SE by E of Uttoxeter and was baptised there on 18th June 1804[i]. He was the 5th child and 4th son of John Bednall and his wife Sarah, nee Godwin and during the next 6 years, John & Sarah's family increased further with the addition another daughter and two more sons. [ii], [iii] Sam’s father was an agricultural labourer, working for neighbouring farmers and tending his own small plot to support his growing family. He may also have earned a little extra to tide them over bad times and improve their standard of living in good, by making and repairing shoes or some other by-employment.  Occasionally, John was able to earn a few extra shillings by killing birds, “urchins” (hedgehogs) and other animals local farmers considered to be pests. [iv] Like other villagers, John & Sarah, made use of the commons and wastes of Hanbury to provide food for their cow and/or a pig, fuel for the fire,  and in due season, wild fruits, nuts, herbs etc. In 1811, however, 9640 acres of wastes and commons of Hanbury and adjacent townships were enclosed and although the effect of this on the family is uncertain, it is likely that life became more difficult for them and many of their neighbours. [v]


Life had been far from easy for the Bednall family for many years before the wastes were enclosed. For example, when Samuel’s grandmother Martha fell ill, Hanbury's Overseer of the Poor paid a local woman to nurse Martha during her illness. [vi]  After Martha's death in 1785, her husband, William Badnall, had difficulty paying his £1-15s annual rent and so every Lady Day, for three of four years, the Overseer of the Poor paid this for him. After a while, things seem to have improved a little for Samuel’s grandfather William who made no further demands upon the Overseer until he was in his 70s and again needed and received assistance from the Overseer to support his family.  Initially, he only needed this “support“ (2s 6d to 3s a week) for between 11 and 24 weeks a year  but gradually, he and his family became more and more dependent on these payments and in 1810 the Overseer recorded 50 weekly payments of 2s 6d to him. The following year was no better for William and as winter drew near, the Overseer made additional payments  towards the cost of the coals the family needed to heat their home and cook their food [vii] 

By November 1811, the situation in Hanbury was so bad that William’s son John and his family had to apply for parish relief. Their situation did not improve with the New Year and the fact that the Hanbury constable increased payments to the family from 7s 6d to 10s a week suggests it may have worsened.  In January 1812, the constable paid George Hanson 10 shillings to take John and Sarah’s 11-year-old son, Thomas, as an apprentice, in order to reduce some of the cost to the parish of supporting the family.  Given the business Thomas later established, Hanson was probably to a shoemaker. [viii]  By this time, John Bednall himself was seriously ill and to help him recover, the parish constable agreed to pay for a “bottle of spirits to rub him with” and a little later bought a bottle of brandy for him. Sadly neither the rub nor the brandy had the desired effect and on the 27th January, John died leaving his widow with 7 children, aged between 2 and 16 years, to look after. [ix], [x] A £1 from the Overseer was sufficient to cover John Bednall’s funeral expences.  

 The break-up of the family 
 Samuel was just 8 years old when his father died, and John's death brought many changes to the family and no improvement in their circumstances, which having been fairly desperate for a number of years grew worse. Fortunately the Hanbury Overseers continued to support the family not only by weekly payments to “Widow Bednall” and to some of her older children but also by buying clothes for two of them.  Samuel and his brother John benefited from this with the Overseers spending almost £3 (between £171 and £386 in present day terms) on clothing for Sam, in October 1814.

 On 26 January 1813, almost exactly a year after John’s death, Sarah took the obvious step (possibly encouraged by the parish officers) and married 24-year-old Rupert Wardle of Foston, Derbyshire. [xi]  She and her new husband continued to live in Hanbury for a while and their family grew, in August 1813, with birth of a daughter, Maria. [xii]  What happened then is uncertain because that year the Overseer only recorded payments to “William Bednall and 4 children -47 weeks at 10s 0d” and later “Bednall’s 3 children 4 at 7s 6d - £1- 10s”. [xiii] 

How happy the family were with their step-father is unclear but it may have been an unhappy one for he appears to have been a violent man. His violence wasn’t confined to the home and in March 1816, he was committed to the Staffordshire Assizes charged with assaulting and abusing one Robert Pearce at Burton-on-Trent. The outcome of this case is unknown, as is the effect it may have had on the family. [xiv]   Sam was not exposed long to not his step-father’s influence, for in October 1813, the Constable, who was no doubt keen to reduce the cost of keeping the family further, paid one John Wilks £5.50 to take Sam on as an apprentice. [xv]  Nothing is yet known about Sam’s apprenticeship or that of his brother Thomas and it is possible that both left Hanbury to live with or near the person they were apprenticed to.  All that’s certain is that, by 1824, Thomas was living at 45 Golden Street, Manchester and was then a shoemaker. [xvi]

A few years later, those of Samuel’s siblings who remained at home began to marry and/or leave home. Sarah was the first, marrying Richard Large in 1816.[xvii] Three years later, her brother John married Mary Woolley[xviii] and in 1821 her 18-year brother Joseph created something of a local sensation by marrying 60-year-old Mary Coltman in Hanbury and setting off immediately to the Tutbury Statutes (annual fair) “where they kept their wedding and spent the evening with the greatest conviviality". [xix]  Mary outlasted her young husband who died just under than 8 years later and a second “Widow Bednall” began receiving assistance from the Overseer and local charities. [xx]  Precisely what happened to Sam’s brother Charles is not clear. He was less than 3 years old when his father died and presumably he, like his brothers, was put out as a parish apprentice when he was 11 or 12 years old, i.e. about 1816, for by 1831 he was a brass founder in Wolverhampton and (or so he claimed) no longer an apprentice. [xxi]  Sam’s younger sister Jane, was not able to marry a man of her choice, until April 1826 when she married a Macclesfield born, former soldier from Chatham in Kent, Peter Swindells, by license. [xxii] As for James, there is as yet no indication of exactly when he left Hanbury but in 1829 he married Susannah Scott, in Stockport and so must have moved there previously, perhaps with his mother.  Sometime before 1841, James and his family moved to Liverpool and only many years later moved to Manchester, where he may have worked for his brother Thomas, for James was also a shoemaker. [xxiii]  The details of what happened to their mother and her husband Rupert Wardle, between 1816 and 1861 are unclear.   

A Life of Crime

 When his mother remarried, Samuel Bednall was 11 years old and from October that year until at least 1820, probably, completing his apprenticeship with John Wilks but where?  In 1821, a man called Samuel Bednall was sentenced to 2 months imprisonment in Nottingham but this could equally well have been Sam’s Norbury (Derbyshire) born cousin Samuel, although, given his later criminal record, it seems more likely that it was the Hanbury born Sam. Furthermore, Sam's prison record, which is listed in his later application for a pardon, notes only two offences, that for which he was transported and an earlier one of two months imprisonment for gambling. 

Whether or not Sam Bednall of Hanbury actually completed his apprenticeship, he nevertheless moved, sometime after completing his term of imprisonment in Nottingham, to Stockport in Cheshire, possibly with his mother, sometime prior to April 1826.  By this time he was definitely leading a life of crime (sometimes using the alias Pye) for on the 3rd of that month, 18 year old Samuel and 19 year old William Mace were charged at, Chester Assizes, with breaking into the house of John Kay in Stockport and stealing a silver watch, a pair of shoes and some clothing. Both were found guilty and sentenced to death.  Fortunately for Sam, his sentence was shortly afterwards commuted to transportation to Van Dieman’s Land (Tasmania) for 14 years. [xxiv]

 On being sentenced to transportation he was returned to prison where he remained for about 6 weeks before being taken, on or about the 21st May, from Chester goal to a prison hulk in Portsmouth, by coach. [xxv]  However, on the long journey to their new and temporary prison, Sam and a group of fellow prisoners decided to try and escape and shortly afterwards a Cheshire newspaper reported that “Three out of seven convicts who left this city [Chester] on Monday week, on their way to the hulks, contrived to make their escape off the coach, in passing through some part of Hampshire. One of them, Samuel Bednall, was retaken about 20 miles from Portsmouth: the other two, George Lounds and William Jones, have, as yet, contrived to remain undiscovered.” [xxvi]  

The hulk Sam was taken to was the former HMS York, a 74-gun warship, built in 1807 at Rotherhithe, which had fought in the Battle of Trafalgar.  The ship was converted in to a prison hulk in 1819 and served as such, at Gosport and London, from 1820 to 1848.[xxvii]  According to some sources, on arrival, Samuel would have been immediately stripped and washed, clothed in a coarse grey jacket and trousers and had irons clamped on one of his legs. While in the hulks, Sam had to work from sunrise to sunset, in chains, in or near the docks and did so without causing any trouble. As a result his behaviour in the hulk got him a good report but any effect  that it might have had on his convict status and treatment was nullified by his Gaol report, which stated that he was a “bad character”.  So it was that, on the 5th August 1826, he set sail from London in The Woodford, bound for Van Dieman’s Land or Tasmania as it is now known. Tasmania, lies 150 miles south of Australia and was first settled by the British in 1803 and 1804 and most of its early settlers were convicts and their guards. [xxviii], [xxix]

The Woodford was a new ship, built in Bristol in 1819 for her owner-captain, Alfred (Edward?) Woodward and although she was, at 554 tons, relatively large for a convict ship the journey would not have been pleasant for the convicts on board. Although details of the Woodford’s construction are lacking, normally, convicts were housed below decks, in cramped conditions and in many cases restrained in chains. They slept on hammocks and were only allowed on deck for fresh air and exercise. There was a surgeon, James Dickson, on the Woodford, and it would have been his task to keep the prisoners healthy and avoid bringing disease into the colony. He seems to have performed his task well for only one prisoner died during the voyage.   A painting in the National Maritime Museum shows the Woodford on passage from Madras to England and vividly illustrates some of the sea conditions the convicts would have experienced during their 109-day journey to Tasmania. Sam, and the other 98 male prisoners who survived the 15000-mile voyage landed in Hobart, Tasmania on 22nd November 1826. [xxx], [xxxi]

As already mentioned, the reports Sam Bednall brought with him to his new country, contradicted one another.  His goal report gave him a bad character whereas his behaviour was reported to have been good in the hulks. During his first few years in the convict colony, Sam's behaviour seemed to confirm his "bad character". On the 5 June 1828 (Barry) he was sentenced to the chain gang for eight months and removed to Government works, on suspicion of robbery. A month later he was sentenced to 25 lashes for losing or making away with a pair of shoes, that was Government property, while working on a chain gang.   Six months later he tried to abscond from a chain gang and for this was subsequently sentenced (28 January 1829) to a further six calendar months on the chain gang. [xxxii]  Samuel appears to have learnt his lesson, however and his behaviour had improved sufficiently by 1834 to enable him to apply for  a "Ticket of Leave".  Sam's application to the magistrates had to be made through his master and he was only able to do so after serving a given number of years of his sentence.  His application was successful  and  his “Ticket of Leave” (TOL)  gave him the freedom to work and live within a given district of the colony for the period leading up to either the expiry of his sentence or to his being pardoned. He was thus free to hire himself out or become self-employed and if he wished, could acquire property. However, there were certain conditions attached to his TOL including compulsory attendance at church and appearances before a magistrate as and when required. If Sam wished to move to another district, he had to seek permission and if his work required regular travel between districts, he had to apply for a “passport”.     Details of his life after he received his TOL are not known but at the time of his application he was working as a carter, in Hamilton.  

He completed his sentence in 1836 without any further trouble and in May 1837 applied for a pardon, supported by recommendations from a Mr A. Macpherson, Esq., and Mr. J. Lane.  Commenting that it was more than eight years since Samuel's last offence was recorded, the superintendent recommend that Sam be pardoned on the King’s birthday (celebrated on June 4th) and this was approved by the Governor General. [xxxiii] It seems that he may not, subsequently, have remained in Tasmania all the time until his return to England, for eleven years later, Sam visited Sydney, Australia, sailing from Launceston, aboard the steamer Shamrock on 15th June 1848 and arriving in Sydney on the 24th of that month. So far no reason for this trip has been found nor any evidence of a return trip but Sam must have returned to Tasmania later, for on or about 15th January 1850, he set sail for England from Hobart aboard the 484 ton barque, Wellington, which was London bound with a general cargo and a few passengers. [xxxiv]  

Home Again 

Sam, who was then 46 years old, arrived in to England at the beginning of June 1850 but what he did between than and March 1851, when he was lodging with his sister, Mrs Harriet Jepson and her family, at 16 Wellington Road, Stockport, is unknown.  He may have travelled directly to Harriet’s home not only to see his sister but also to hear news of his mother and his other siblings. [xxxv]  Perhaps because of a shortage of work or the pressures on his sister's growing household, Sam returned to the place of his birth, Hanbury in Staffordshire, sometime between 1851 and 1861.  There he lodged with William Withnall and his wife, who may have been a childhood friends and continued to live with them until he died, unmarried, on 21st November 1882. [xxxvi], [xxxvii]

For the last 10 years of his life, one-time convict, Samuel Bednall received bi-annual payments of 1s 6d from the Hanbury Charity. [xxxviii] He doesn't, however, seem to have received any poor law payments and was not put into the workhouse, so must have been able to survive on what he earned - possibly with the help of friends. He seems to have maintained contact with at least one of his brothers again (Charles who lived in Failsworth, Lancashire) and may have had some contact with other members of his family including his sister Sarah, who lived just 9 miles away from Hanbury, at Coton-in-the-Elms, Derbyshire, until her death in 1868. [xxxix]  Samuel never married and (as far as I know) never had any children but his brothers did and it is from their offspring that many Bednals (and some Bednalls) trace their ancestry. [xl]


 [i] History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire, William White, Sheffield, 1851. “The parish of Hanbury is a very extensive district, being upwards of five miles square, and including the north end of Needwood Forest, and ten villages and hamlets, divided into five townships, viz, Hanbury, Newborough, Marchington, Marchington-Woodlands, and Draycott-in-the-Clay. The whole parish comprises 2483 inhabitants, and about 13,600 acres of land”. 

[ii] Staffordshire Record Office (SRO) D1528/1/7 Hanbury, Staffordshire: Parish Registers: Marriages 1770-1803 

[iii] Staffordshire Record Office (SRO) D1528/1/4 Hanbury Staffordshire. Parish Registers: Register of Baptisms & Burials 1777 to 1812. 

[iv] SRO: D/1528/5/3 Hanbury Overseers of the Poor Accounts 1805-1827:  30th November 1811. 

[v] Staffordshire Record Office (SRO): Q/RDc/58c part 2 Plans under the Act for Dividing, Allotting and Inclosing the Forest or Chase of Needwood, County of Stafford 1811: Second (final) award: allocation of lands in the townships to commoners in Coton in the Clay, Draycott in the Clay, Fauld, Marchington, Marchington Woodlands, Moreton and Stubby Lane, Newborough, Woodend.  See also Terriers re allotments under the awards 482/1-2 and copy M  D3453/7/34 

[vi] SRO.  D1528/5/2 Hanbury Overseers’ Accounts 1780-1805: 2nd & 14th February 3rd March and 15th April 1782-83. 

[vii] SRO. D/1528/5/3 Hanbury Overseers of the Poor Accounts 1805-1827: particularly 1808-1813. 

[viii] Samuel Bednall's eldest brother -Thomas- was the most successful member of the family for he set himself up in business as a shoemaker and by 1851 was employing 2 men, one of whom was his brother James.  Thomas's sons (Thomas and Samuel) were even more successful than their father, establishing a printing and stationery business with, in 1871, substantial premises at 128 Market Street, Manchester and a factory nearby at 54 Tib Street.  Local trade directories describe the brothers as "Printers, Stationers & Pattern Card Makers" and the firm was still occupying these premises in 1905. However, by 1910 they had moved to Piccadilly and subsequently to 2 Moseley Street, Manchester though the works remained in Tib Street. Sometime in the 1920s they moved to 30 Dale Street, Oldham Street, Miles Platting and appear to have still been in business there in 1945.  What finally became of the firm after this date is not known but one of its owners -Arthur Bednal died in 1945 and this event may have led to the company being wound up. Incidentally the first mention of Bednal Street, Miles Platting that I have so far found occurs in directories of the 1890s: how it got its name I don't know but it probably relates to this firm. 

[ix] SRO. D/1528/5/3 Hanbury Overseers of the Poor Accounts 1805-1827: In particular (but not only) 25th January, 5th March and 25 April 1812-13. 

[x] SRO. D1528/1/4 Hanbury Staffordshire: Parish Registers, Baptisms & Burials 1777-1812. 

[xi] SRO: D1528/1/8 Hanbury Staffordshire: Parish Registers: Register of Marriages 1803- 18 Rupert Wardle of Foston, Derbyshire and Sarah Bednal widow of Hanbury, married by licence 16 January 1813. 

[xii] SRO: D1528/1/5 Hanbury Staffordshire: Parish Registers, Register of Baptisms 1813-1864. 

[xiii] SRO. D1528/5/3 Hanbury Overseers of the Poor Accounts 1805-1827:  25th April 1812-13; 24th May, 15th October and 1st April  1813-14;  1814-15. 

[xiv] Transcript of the Staffordshire Assize Rolls 1816. Author unknown 

[xv] SRO: D/1528/5/3: Hanbury, Staffordshire: Overseers Accounts, 1805-1827   

[xvi] Pigot & Dean's Directory of Manchester and Salford 1824/25  re 45 Golden Street, Manchester 

[xvii] SRO D1528/1/8 Hanbury Staffordshire: Parish Registers: Register of Marriages 1803- Richard Large and Sarah Badnall of Hanbury married by banns 25 November 1816. 

[xviii] SRO D6383/1/7 Barton under Needwood, Staffordshire: Register of Marriages 1813-1837 

[xix] Morning Chronicle: 1st November 1821 Page 4, Col. 2 Births, Deaths, Marriages & Obituaries: See also Staffordshire Advertiser 27 October 1821, which reported that the happy couple "set off immediately to the Tutbury Statutes where they kept their wedding and spent the evening with the greatest conviviality". 

[xx] SRO D1528/5/4 Hanbury Overseers of the Poor Accounts 1829-1831.See also SRO D1528/9/5 Hanbury Charities Account Book 1841-1925.  

[xxi] National Archives (UK)  WO 97/510/41: Royal Hospital Chelsea: Soldiers Service Documents - 1760-1913:  re Charles Bednell, Born Hanbury, Staffordshire Served in 33rd Foot Regiment; 61st Foot Regiment Discharged aged 35, 1831 – 1846. 

[xxii] National Archives (UK) WO97/503 Peter Swindells Alias Peter Swindels. Born Macclesfield, Cheshire Served in 31st Foot Regiment. Discharged aged 40   Covering dates 1825-1847. 

[xxiii] National Archives (UK) Census Returns for England & Wales 1841:  HO107/559/16 : Fol.39   Page.53. Back Johnson Street, Liverpool.  See also National Archives (UK) Census Returns for England & Wales 1861: RG9 Piece 2961, Fol. 13. Page 16. re 36 Silk Street, St. Michael’s Parish, Manchester. 

[xxiv] Cheshire Ancestor Vol.30, June 2000 Issue 4, page 14. Conviction of Samuel Bednall alias Pye aged 18 for theft from a house in Stockport. Report of the Assizes at Chester. April 1826. 

[xxvi] Chester, Cheshire & North Wales Advertiser:  Friday 2nd June 1826, Page 3. Col.2 

[xxvii] HMS York (1807)  See also Naval Database : 

[xxviii] Convicts and Convict Ships sent to Tasmania  (& Victoria, Norfolk Island & NSW) 1812-1853. The convict ships, 1787-1868, by Charles Bateson. 2nd ed. 1974.  

[xxix] British Parliamentary Papers (BPP) LXV (573): Continuation of Parliamentary Paper, No. 244 Session 1839. A Return of all ships or Vessels hired for the conveyance of Convicts from Great Britain and Ireland, between the 1st January 1839 and the 30th June 1846 stating the Ships' Names, Tonnage, Owner's Name, Broker's or Agent's Name, Class of Ship, Rate of Freight, and when the same commenced, Number of Convicts taken on Board, when Sailed, when Arrived, Amount of Demurrage (if any), and whether engaged by Public Tender or otherwise.  

[xxx] National Archives (UK) H.O. 9/9:  Home Office: Convict Prison Hulks: Registers and Letter Books: Convict hulks moored at Portsmouth: Laurel, York, Hardy: Register of prisoners1802-1836. Page 81  

[xxxi] National Archives (UK) H.O. 10/31 Home Office: Settlers And Convicts, New South Wales And Tasmania: Records: New South Wales. Pardons (Also Tasmania) 1834-1838.  No. 108:  Abstract of Petitions For Conditional Pardons, received in May 1837 (Appendix to communications). 

[xxxii] Ibidem  

[xxxiii] Ibidem 

[xxxiv] Colonial Times and Tasmanian: Tuesday 15 January 1850. Page 2, col. 1: Shipping Intelligence: Departures. 

[xxxv] National Archives (UK) Census Returns for England & Wales 1851. HO107/2156 folio 779 page 3..  Wellington Road, Stockport. 

[xxxvi] National Archives (UK). Census Returns for England & Wales 1861.  RG 9:  Piece: 1958; Folio: 88; Page: 18; Fauld Road, Hanbury, Staffordshire See also National Archives (UK) Census Returns for England & Wales 1881: RG11 Piece 2753, Folio 93, Page 21. Hanbury, Staffordshire. 

[xxxvii] British General Register Office: Registered 24 November 1882 at Burton-on-Trent: ref. 285.   Certificate for the death of Samuel Bedwell [Bednall] of Fauld, Hanbury, Staffordshire. 

[xxxviii]  Staffordshire Record Office D1528/9/5: Hanbury Charities Account Book 1841-1925. The payments were made of Good Friday and St. Thomas's Day every year, under the Hanbury Charity. They show that Samuel Bednall received a payment of 2 shillings on Good Friday (7th April) 1882 but was dead by St. Thomas' Day (3 July 1882). 

[xxxix]  National Archives (UK) WO 97/510/41: Royal Hospital Chelsea: Soldiers Service Documents - 1760-1913:  re Charles Bednell 1831-1846.  

[xl] Family tree for the Anderson-Rae Family, USA. Private correspondence. See “Linda's Anderson Ancestors, Descendants & Cousins at



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