Transported from Tatham


A story spanning two continents and two centuries

by Ross Miller


This article is based on a family saga. Parts of the author's antipodean family history began in the under-privileged city back streets or little country villages of the United Kingdom and Ireland, from where many unfortunates, who stole to stay alive but were caught, were transported, on terms that today we would say are totally out of proportion to the 'crime'.

Others of his ancestors arrived in the southern hemisphere after having taken up the British Government's offer of assisted passage to begin a new life away from the cramped and generally unhealthy 'old country'.

Geographically, the saga encompasses England, the Isle of Man and four distinct areas of south-eastern Australia: a 130 x 100 km rectangle including Wagga Wagga, Tumbarumba, Tumut and Albury/Wodonga; the Newcastle/Wallsend mining district, the southern Bendigo goldfields, and the New South Wales coal town, Wallsend.

This article deals only with the part of the saga which relates to Tatham, but includes a link, for those who would like to read more, to other parts of the story.



Two almost empty continents became England's dumping ground for its lower classes as the governments of the day sought to rid themselves of the burden of caring for people disadvantaged by the class system and those later cast aside after the first flush of the Industrial Revolution.

The Transportation Act was introduced into the House of Commons in 1717, legitimising transportation as a direct sentence. Non-capital convicts (felons usually destined for branding on the thumb, and petty larceny convicts who usually received public whipping) were directly sentenced to transportation to the American colonies for seven years. A sentence of 14 years was imposed on prisoners guilty of capital offences pardoned by the king. Returning from the colonies before the stated period was a capital offence.

Transportation was financially costly and the former system of sponsorship by merchants (who received indentured servants for the tobacco fields, Caribbean sugar fields, etc) needed to be improved. A proposal to pay merchants to transport convicts was eventually accepted and the Treasury contracted London merchant Jonathon Forward in 1718, £3 (later £5) for each prisoner transported overseas. The Treasury also paid for the transportation of prisoners from the Home Counties.

The Transportation Act (known as The Felons Act) gave the legal system breathing room in the fields of petty and grand larceny. Previously the judges were very limited in their choice and the death penalty was applied for quite minor charges. Because merchants preferred young and able-bodied men for whom there was a demand in the colonies, most women and children had simply been left in jail.

From the early 1600s until the American Revolution of 1776, it is thought that America received at least 50,000 transported British. The American Revolution brought transportation to an end, British gaols became overcrowded, and dilapidated ships moored in various ports were pressed into service as floating gaols. As a result, the British Government looked elsewhere.

In 1787, the 'First Fleet' departed from England to establish the first British settlement in Australia as a penal colony. The fleet arrived at Port Jackson (Sydney) on 26th January, 1788. Having a First Fleet ancestor is a perverse point of pride to Australians - it makes your family a 'founding father' of the country, or 'Australian royalty'. In 1803, Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) was settled as a penal colony, followed by the Moreton Bay Settlement in Queensland in 1824.

The other Australian colonies were 'free settlements' of non-convicts looking for a better life. Until the massive influx of immigrants during the Australian gold rushes of the 1850s, the settler population had been dominated by English and Irish convicts and their descendants. Transportation from Britain and Ireland officially ended in 1868, although it had become less common several years earlier.


The Tatham Transports

Ellen Storrs

Ellen Storrs (Eleanor Stores and variations) was born in Tatham on 12th November 1769.

It appears that she later lived in the Hornby township of Melling parish, from where she was subject in 1784 to a notice of removal under the Poor Law1.

19th June 1784
Ellen Storrs is ordered to be removed from the township of Hornby with Roberindale in the parish of Melling as she is a poor person earlier residing in the township of Tatham with Grosby, and having gained no legal settlement, is likely to become a charge on Hornby. She was ordered to be placed back in Tatham.

There is some evidence (but nothing we can nail down) of her possible marriage on 4th February 1786 to Melling gardener Luke Redshaw, but if it took place it can't have lasted long, as there is a later marriage record for Luke.

On 13th January 1801, aged 32, she was convicted (together with Edward and Mary Storrs) at Lancaster Quarter Sessions for stealing milk, and all three were sentenced to seven years' transportation.

Michaelmas Quarter Session 1800

The King v Mary Storrs, Ellen Storrs and Edward Storrs of Melling parish , Lancashire

The Sentences

Whereas Ellen Storrs, late of the parish of Melling in the said county, singlewoman, hath at this session been convicted of felony, this court doth therefore order and adjudge that the said Ellen Storrs shall be sent and transported to some part beyond the shore for the space of seven years next, pursuant to the statute in such case made and provided.

Whereas Mary Storrs, late of the parish of Melling in the said county, singlewoman, hath at this session been convicted of felony, this court doth therefore order and adjudge that the said Mary Storrs shall be sent and transported to some part beyond the shore for the space of seven years next, pursuant to the statute in such case made and provided.

Whereas Edward Storrs, late of the parish of Melling in the said county, labourer, hath at this session been convicted of felony, this court doth therefore order and adjudge that the said Edward Storrs shall be sent and transported to some part beyond the shore for the space of seven years next, pursuant to the statute in such case made and provided.

The Costs

On the prosecution of Richard Bains
Drawing indictment for stealing milk - three shillings & sixpence
Paid counsel for persuing and settling same - ten shillings & sixpence
Attending time - three shillings & fourpence
Paid Clerk of the Peace signing indictment - two shilings
Paid swearing witnesses - two shillings & sixpence
Paid grand jury and bailiff - five shillings
Attending court and also attending grand jury with indictments - six shillings
Paid expenses of two witnesses - ten shillings

On the prosecution of Thomas Parker
The like charges as above, save as to Counsel's fee and attendance and sixpence less to grand jury - nine shillings and twopence

On the prosecution of James Hodgson
Similar to above

On the prosecution of Michael Cooper
Similar to above

Total cost = £8 16s 10d


Midsummer Quarter Session, 27th May 1801

To clothing Elizabeth Thompson, Mary Peach and Ellen Storrs, as per order: £2 13/-

To conveying the above female convicts from Lancaster Castle to Spithead where they were put on board the Nile transport ship: £47 5/-

This Court doth order the Treasurer of the County stock forthwith to pay unto Messrs Baldwin and Dowbeggin the sum of twenty-three pounds seven shillings and ten pence , the costs they have been put unto in the prosecution of Mary Storrs, Ellen Storrs and Edward Storrs at this session for felony for doing which this shall be the said receivers' warrant.


Ellen was held at Lancaster Castle until it was time to be transported to Spithead to sail to Australia. She probably spent time on one of the hulks in port until her ship arrived. The fleet, comprising the ships Nile, Canada and Minerva, weighed anchor at Spithead on 21st June. Eleanor arrived at Sydney Cove on 14th December, 1801, on the Nile2 - a voyage of 176 days via Rio de Janiero - along with 92 other female convicts and 40 passengers.

Governor King was able to report in February that the passengers all arrived in good health, and the convicts were the healthiest and best conditioned that ever arrived, being all fit for immediate labour.

In Eleanor's time, the convicts usually either worked for private 'employers' and lived in the community, or were put to work on government projects. Prior to the building of the first Female Factory in 1804, women convicts lived as did the men, in tents or barracks.

Convict women were regarded as whores by the soldiers and free men of the new colony. The fact that none of them had been transported for prostitution didn't matter - it was a generic attitude. It would be a rare woman who started and ended the voyage a virgin. In the early boats, the male convicts and the crew made free with the women who were in no position to fight back. In some cases, crew and women paired off early in the voyage.

In the early days of transportation, the attitude towards women was completely unforgivable by modern standards. There are tales of riots and orgies when a ship with convict women docked. Senior officers, of course, had first pick of the young and pretty, then down the line of privilege. In today's parlance women had to 'put up and shut up.'

The insufferably holy Reverend Samuel Marsden categorised the women convicts into married or prostitutes. If a woman was to have a relationship out of wedlock, Marsden considered this whoredom. Many couples cohabited monogamously without being officially married, yet the women were recorded as prostitutes. It wasn't enough that the women were scarred from being convicted and transported for petty crime often forced on them by circumstance, they could not redeem their status as it differed so much from the higher-class British ideal of a woman, who was virtuous, polite and a woman of the family. The double-standard of the British male establishment was on clear display in early colonial Australia.

Convicts were encouraged into de facto or actual marriage, as the authorities considered it made them more settled. It also sheltered the women somewhat from sexual predators, there being a four-to-one ratio of women to men in the early days.

As a 32-year-old, Eleanor would not have been at the head of the queue. However, within weeks of arrival she was in a relationship with John Gost and became pregnant, possibly encouraged by the fact that mothers of babies were excused harsher duties. John Gost died in the autumn of 1802, before the birth, on 10th December 1802, of his son Edward, who was christened on Christmas Day 1803(?)

John Gost had been convicted in 1790, with Miles Peatman, for a burglary in the dwelling house of Edward Forster and for stealing his goods, value £7 17s 0d; goods belonging to Jane Ingram, value 3 shillings; and the goods of Councellatta Hughes, value 6/6d. The original sentence was death, but it was commuted to transportation for 14 years, and the pair left Britain in January 1791 on the William and Ann, part of the Third Fleet. Two thousand prisoners were on the eleven ships and one report has it that 18 convicts died in transit. They arrived in Sydney on 28th August 1791.

John was pardoned on 22nd August 1801, just prior to his taking up the King's Shilling and thus knocking four years off his sentence. He joined the NSW Corps (1/102nd Regiment) as a private on 9th October 1801, and was later stationed on Norfolk Island, the site of a brutal prison. He is presumed to have fallen ill there, and was buried in the Old Burial Ground, Sydney (now under Sydney Town Hall).

Ellen's Certificate of Freedom (No. 238/757) is dated 8th February, 1811, meaning either that her sentence had been extended for three years, or that she did not have the funds to buy the certificate immediately her term was up.

She remarried in about 1805, her second husband being a former convict, carpenter John Holmes.

John Holmes arrived on the Gorgon in 1791. He had been convicted in the York Assizes on 21st July 1787 and finally left for Australia in February 1791. Like so many others, he did his seven years' servitude and was eventually a free man.

In 1822 the Holmes family was one of four living on the north side of Campbell St., Sydney, between George St. and Pitt St.

  • the family of John Holmes (including his wife Eleanor Storr and step-son Edward);
  • the family of John Parkes (including his wife Margaret Suthers/Southern and daughter Sarah);
  • the Marshalls with the two 'currency' children and their assigned convicts;
  • Thomas Bates and his wife and two children.

The 1825 muster lists John Holmes (self-employed carpenter) and Ellen Storr (washerwoman) still living with Edward in Campbell St.

Ellen died in 1826, aged 58. Her son Edward married his neighbour, Sarah Parks (Sparks) in 1827. He is listed as a publican in later life.


Edward Stores (the elder)

An Edward Stores is on one convict list as travelling on the Nile, together with his sister Ellen, but nothing is known of what happened to him afterwards.


Mary Storrs

Like Ellen Storrs, she had lived at different times in Tatham and in the Hornby township of Melling parish, and had been subject to a notice of removal under the Poor Law1, though in this case from Tatham to Hornby.

23 August 1780
Mary Storrs, singlewoman and poor person of the township of Tatham with Grosby, to be removed to the township of Hornby with Roberindale.

It is assumed she is Ellen's sister as she was convicted on the same charges on the same day. She was a single woman and also sentenced to seven years. For whatever reason, she did not sail with Ellen but departed England's shores on the Glatton3 on 23rd September 1802, and arrived in Sydney on 11th March 1803 via Madeira and Rio de Janeiro. No doubt her term did not begin until she reached Australia, or at least left England, but nonetheless she had spent nine months in Lancaster Castle dungeons, or on one of the prison hulks, before the countdown began. Her certificate of freedom (No 237/796) is dated the same as Ellen's, 8th February 1811. She married fellow convict George Gambling and lived with him on their Petersham Hill farm.

George Gambling
Born about 1761, George was convicted at the Hampshire Assizes on 6th July 1796 (crime unknown) and sentenced to 14 years' transportation. He sailed on the
Barwell arriving in Sydney on 18th May 1798. He petitioned for a conditional pardon in 1803. He married Mary Storrs in 1818 in Sydney and was given a grant of 40 acres at Petersham Hill. It appears he was deceased by 1849.



It appears, from the brief information available, that at least two members of the Storrs family of northern Lancashire came out of their transportation ordeal on the right side. They had escaped from the abject poverty that had forced them to steal, were able to contribute to the new society that was beginning to gain momentum and a character of its own, whilst also benefitting from a healthier climate.



Tatham History Society is grateful to Ross Miller for allowing us to publish his story on our website. If you would like to get in touch with Ross, click here.

We would be interested to hear from others with similar links to the Tatham area.


Read more of the Saga

Click here to follow the story from Ellen Storrs to its author.


  1. Poor Law

    The allocation of money to the poor from the local rate was restricted in 1662 to individuals who were 'settled' in the parish: there were various qualifications that an individual needed to fulfil in order to be settled, such as being born in a parish or having been apprenticed to, or legally assigned to work for, another member of the parish. To determine settlement, individuals requesting money (or 'relief') from the overseers of the poor were examined. Successful candidates would be issued with a certificate and receive relief; if not, they would receive a removal order and be forced to return to the last parish where they were settled, and to request relief from there.

  2. HMS Nile

    The Nile was built at Newcastle upon Tyne in 1799 and sheathed with copper. She weighed 322 tons, was manned by a crew of 24 men and carried 10 guns. She arrived at Portsmouth on 20th May 1801 and departed Spithead on 21st June 1801, in convoy with the Minorca and Canada. They sailed via Rio de Janeiro and arrived in Port Jackson on 14th December 1801, a voyage of 176 days.

    The surgeons and masters of the Nile, Minorca and Canada transports were issued with strict guidelines for the health and good order of the ships. The vessels were to be completely fitted and supplied with every necessary requirement for the purpose of health and comfort for all persons embarked including a comprehensive diet suited to such changes as the constitution might undergo during the voyage and climate; as also with a proper selection of medicines; and to be supplied with the means of cleanliness of their persons - soap, combs, razors, and also those for fumigation, ventilation, scrubbing, cleansing; the perfect purification of and the convenient supply of water, together with every necessary item for the hospital, including changes of bedding, sheeting, hospital clothing, proper diet and drinks for the diseased and convalescent. A diary was also expected to be kept and presented to the Governor on arrival.

    The Nile departed Port Jackson bound for China on 6th February 1802. On return to England, she took up trade on the West Indies, Canada and Mediterranean routes.

  3. HMS Glatton

    The Glatton was one of the glamour ships of the Royal Navy in its time. Before being drafted into use as a convict transport, under the command of Captain Trollope, the 54-gun ship took on a 50-gun French ship, five frigates a brig and a cutter and drove them into Flushing harbour during the action of 16th July 1796. During the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801, Captain William Bly (of Bounty fame) noticed a Dutch frigate manoeuvring to attack Nelson's flagship - he got the Glatton between the two ships and took the full broadside. Damaged, but afloat, she was fitted out as a transport.

    She picked up her convict cargo of 270 men and 135 women at Spithead and sailed on 23rd September 1802 via Madeira and Rio de Janeiro, anchoring in Sydney Cove on 11th March 1803. For the return journey, the captain and crew had been commissioned to bring home a supply of masts. However, they could not find trees tall enough or straight enough to serve the Navy's purpose. She returned to England on 17th May 1802. Later at Leith she hoisted the pennant of Vice-Admiral R. R. Bligh, and became responsible for the defence of Leith.

RM 2018
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