John Kingshott (1792 – 1896) and Mary – Machine Breaker John & Brave Mary

During the time of transportation from Britain to Van Dieman’s Land, around seventy three thousand men, women and children were sent just short of eleven thousand miles by ship to the other side of the world.

Our English ancestor John Kingshott was one of them.

There exists a baptism record for John Kingshott in the parish of Greatham for the son of Francis Kingshott and Lydia Morford on the 1st January 1792. Reports of John’s age vary widely across different records so pinning down the exact date is a bit of a stab in the dark.  We can safely assume that John was born sometime between 1791 and 1794.

John’s siblings were Anne Kingshott, Dinah Kingshott, Dorothy Kingshott, Francis Kingshott, Lydia Kinghott, Sarah Kingshott, William Kingshott.

On the 1st January 1821 John married his bride Mary in Bramshott in Hampshire, England. Her last name is not Small. This has been a frequent error and brick wall for researchers looking for the elusive Mary.   The same year the widely unpopular George IV is crowned King of England, Ireland and Britain.

Between 1820 and 1837 John and Mary have seven children. William Kingshott b.1820, Mary Ann Kingshott b.1823, Hannah Kingshott b.1825, John Kingshott b.1827, James Kingshott who is born and dies in 1829, Francis Kingshott b.1821 and then Ellen Kingshott b.1837.

John Kingshott or as I have nicknamed him “machine breaker John”, a married man of thirty-five with a family of five young children in the village of Greatham, became noticeably involved on the 23rd November 1830 in what became known as the Selbourne and Headley Workhouse Riots.  The riots included a mob of reportedly several hundred men and women. On the first day a mob of disenchanted and angry people attacked the workhouse in Selbourne.  Property was broken or damaged with deliberacy. The following day a further riot took place in nearby Headley which included the same damage and attack on the Headley workhouse and on nearby farm machinery at Wyck.  The clergy were also mobbed with a promise that tithes be halved extracted from them.  The question has been posed several times before my meagre scratchings as to why the people of these villages attacked the houses which were in essence providers of support for the poor and destitute.  The answer is not a clear one.  The workhouses were hated symbols of poverty. They were deliberately made to be uncomfortable and undesirable to discourage those entering their portals for relief.  Their Masters equally hated and despised often for their poor treatment of those reputedly in their care.

Headley Work House

Headley Work House

One of the main issues of great contention was with the introduction of the unpopular and abused poor laws.   Taxes changed and were levied more widely with the idea of each parish providing support to its own poor and needy to ensure a degree of welfare was available to those who needed it as a subsidy beyond their wages. Which would have been fine except that the farmers and landholders now did not match wages to a reasonable level instead relying on the parish to pay the difference out of the poor-law taxes. Wages remained low and unemployment drove skyward. Farmers and landholders resented bearing the burdens of the poor and the disparity that this created. Real starvation was a reality across Britain in these lower classes.  To be poor was considered to be one’s own fault rather than as a result of circumstances that one could not escape.

On top of this the churches kept collecting their hated tithes from their parishioners who as well as the new poor tax and other taxes were finding it difficult to make all the payments.  Particularly when the parish taxes did not necessarily get turned back into the parish.

These riots also came at a time where subsistence farmers or agricultural labourers in the south-east of England rose up against the factory owners and landholders who were making changes to the land with enclosure of land and the conditions that the families were drawing their incomes from.

The work in the fields that had traditionally been completed manually by the labourers was now being completed with much less labour and more reliance on the new threshing machines that separated the grain from the sheaves of harvested cereal crops. This equipment was largely powered by steam or horse power.

Regency Fashions for the everyday woman

Regency Fashions for the everyday woman

The Napoleonic wars that had all but crippled England financially were now over following Waterloo and the ranks of the labour workforce swelled with the influx of soldiers who could no longer be subsidised on army wages. Wages and conditions fell and prices of resources increased. In many areas whole townships of families who had lived out a basic living were now either at risk of or indeed living in abject poverty within their class.

Three years of poor harvests and by 1830 the mood amongst the lower classes was decidedly hostile. The same year George IV had been crowned and the common people felt completely disassociated from the wealthier upper classes.

“In the year 1830, a mob several hundred strong attacked the workhouse in Selbourne, Hampshire, turned out the occupants, burned or broke the fittings and furniture, and pulled down the roof.

The next day an even larger mob, containing most of the Selbourne rioters, did the same to the workhouse at Headley, some seven miles away. The parsons in both villages were coerced into promising to reduce by half the income they took from tithes.

Less than a month later, at a special court hearing in Winchester attended by no less a person than the Duke of Wellington, nine local men were sentenced to transportation, and all but one sailed for Australia in the Spring of 1831 never to return.”

John was arrested by the Vicar of Empshott on the 28th November 1830, Charles Alcock (the said Vicar) stated in a letter that ‘almost all Greatham labourers are in custody’ and says that John Kingshott in particular ‘made a great resistance and attempted the life of young Debenham’. He was taken into custody where he would later appear at the Winchester Assizes Court.

The official charge was ‘having on the 23rd day of November last, at the Parish of Kingsley, feloniously robbed Mary King of certain loaves of bread, some cheese and beer.’ This was a trumped charge as John had actually been involved in machine breaking and engaging in riotous behaviour with other disenchanted parties in Greatham. However the gastronome in me rather appreciates the idea of stopping for a pleasant meal mid-riot.   If anything the whole matter had begun as disgruntled rumblings in an alehouse which had then spilled over in the streets with planned insurgence by the angry labourers.

As a result of the days of rioting across the townships, the local gaols were overflowing. The government in response to this appointed special commissions to manage the excessively high number of cases.  During his trial and subsequent conviction at Southampton Special Gaol Delivery, John was asked to state the crime he was accused of.  He stated ‘machine breaker’.  At this time in an effort to reduce public sympathy, the authorities would arrest with a charge that was often recorded as stealing rather than a politically motivated crime.  John was convicted of the crime ‘robbery with violence’. John was subsequently tried and sentenced to death . This was commuted to transportation to the colonies for life.

John must have been a well-respected and liked man in his local community as a petition from the members of the Petersfield Friendly Society dated 31st January 1831 on behalf of John stated that he had always been considered ‘ a sober and industrious individual, having a wife and five small children, and that he would have been forced to join the mob’. The petition did not appear to have had the desired result and John was still transported. Following his conviction John was taken to the prison hulk, ‘The York’ on the 9th February.

I have found some information from statements John reportedly made about his family connections that confirmed his wife was Mary he had five children. That his mother was Lydia, his father a shopkeeper in Greatham – Francis. He could read and his religion was given as protestant.  His trade was given as farm-labourer.

It is probable, given that John was the income earner and that his father had what would appear to be a reasonable income, that the family may have assisted in supporting Mary and the children once John was taken away.

John spent three months aboard the York in what was certain to be disagreeable conditions before being transferred to the ship the Proteus.

On the 14th April 1831, the Proteus sailed from Portsmouth bound for Van Diemen’s Land (which would of course become Tasmania).

The Proteus had taken on 112 male convicts. The majority had been tried and convicted of machine breaking or similar politically based crimes. Van Diemen’s Land was the destination for most political prisoners. To be sent to Van Diemen’s Land was to have been considered amongst the most heinous of criminals.

In his Journal of the voyage, Surgeon Superintendant Thomas Logan remarks of the prisoners. ‘Most of them are from the country, farm labourers, a few of them were artisans. Generally speaking they had the sturdy build of labouring men. Their awkwardness and stiffness were such that I became desirous of removing the embarrassment which their irons too evidently occasioned – not to speak of the danger of accidents to which they exposed them. They were accordingly all removed before leaving Portsmouth; nor did subsequent experience teach me that this act of consideration and beneficence had exceeded the limits of prudence.’

John aaboard the York

John aaboard the York

The Australian  Convict Transportation Register records John as having been convicted at Southampton and to be transported to Van Dieman’s land for life.



The Proteus arrived in Hobart town on the 4th August 1831. On his convict records John’s appearance is recorded thus:

Head – round

Visage – oval

Forehead – perpendicular

Hair – brown

Whiskers – black

Face –round

Visage – perpendicular

Whiskers – black

Eyes – grey

Eyebrows – brown

Nose – medium length

Mouth – wide thick lips

Chin – medium length fleshy underneath

Arms – hairy

Height – 5 foot 4 inches

Convict appearance

Convict appearance

When John came to Van Diemen’s Land there were others from his nearby villages whom had also been involved in the riots and who were also sent out (over three ships).  I imagine that these people where possible must have maintained some friendship and knowledge of each other over the years.  None of the men sent out ever returned to England.

Matthew Triggs, Aaron Harding, Thomas Heighes, John Heath, Robert Holdaway, Thomas Harding. I can only assume that to some degree they would have remained in contact with each other if only for the familiarity of home.

To really appreciate and understand the full story of what happened with this failed rebellion in Hampshire;

I heartily recommend

John is also recorded as having been the second wealthiest man on the Proteus having ten pound, ten shillings in his possession. This could have paid his passage back to England had that been possible. Maybe that was John’s intention to serve his sentence and then return to his family in England?

Arrival of the Proteus

Arrival of the Proteus

John appears to have been a trouble-free convict upon arrival. He was first assigned to a Mr. John Kingstall but by the 1833 convict muster, John  is apprenticed to a Hotelier in New Norfolk, Mrs. Ann Bridger.

Ann Bridger was a widowed entrepreneur who was recorded as having ‘just now completed a very commodious two-story house of public entertainment, which is deservedly well frequented’. I am pretty sure that the hotel that is being mentioned here is the Bush Inn which goes on to enjoy some notoriety as a watering hole for future Kingshott’s and kin.

The Bush Inn is still open in New Norfolk to today and remains the oldest continuing publican licence in Australia.

The Bush Inn Hotel

The Bush Inn Hotel

Before long, John is working for Mrs Bridger as a farm labourer and learning the trade of blacksmithing. Interestingly enough two of his sons go onto be blacksmiths in New Norfolk and on the mainland in Victoria after him.

Eventually an application is made by John for his wife and children in England to be able to join him in New Norfolk. In a twist of bad luck, John’s letter is received in England by the Reverend G. Gobold of Greatham who recommends that John’s wife and children be sent to join him. However he sends his letter in April of 1833 to Norfolk Island, the largely abandoned settlement 1,498 miles away in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Like some sort of Shakespearean comedy it takes a year and a day before the letter makes it’s way to the appropriate authorities.

The request is sanctioned on the 13th June 1834 and by the following June the Mary and the children board the Hector and set sail for Hobart. They arrive on the 20th October of 1835.

The Hobart Town Courier reports on the 23rd October 1835; The bark Hector, Capt. Smith, arrived on Tuesday, from Woolwich, 13th June, with 134 female prisoners, under the superintendence of Morgan Price, Esq. R.N.-Passengers,
Assistant-Surgeon Smith, of the 21st regiment, Mrs. Grishand and 6 children, Mrs McDonald and 6 children, Mrs. Taylor and 2 children, Mrs Lyall and 2 children, Mrs. Bond and 2 children, Mrs. Kingshott and 5 children, Mrs. Spark and child,
Mrs. Poole and child, Mrs. Crouch.

The 1835 convict muster continues to show John as apprenticed to Mrs. Bridger, she must have had some sympathies towards his plight and been in support of his family joining him in New Norfolk.  Had he been a troublesome man she certainly would have had some sway in defeating his application.

John’s prison conduct report records the following.

Transport for robbery, gaol report. Orderly in prison. Aboard the prison hulk. Report good. Married 5 children. Stated this offence machine breaking. Married 5 children. Wife Mary at Greatham Hampshire.  Conditional pardon 6th April 1838.

The remainder of the page is blank and without remarks.  I wonder in the clarity of the days that followed the riots did John struck with the stark reality of his circumstances curse the hot headedness of his actions?  He certainly didn’t appear to be the violent man who was reported at his trial.

John and Mary have a sixth child, Ellen Kingshott, born in New Norfolk on 21 January 1837. Her baptism is recorded also on the civil registration as the 21st January 1837.  Her parents recorded as John and Mary Kingshott of New Norfolk.  Her fathers occupation is given as an assigned servant.  The clergyman officiating being W. Garrard.

Eight years since his troubles began and on the 6th August 1838 a full pardon was granted on the proviso that John was to never return to England.

pardon of John Kingshott

pardon of John Kingshott

The Hobart Town Courier reports on the 6th April 1838; GOVERNMENT NOTICE, No. 61, Colonial Secretary’s office, April 4.  The Lieutenant Governor has received a dispatch from the Right Honorable the Secretary of State, transmitting her Majesty’s warrant,  granting pardons to the following convicts, per Eliza and Proteus, of the offences for which they were respectively transported to this Colony, on condition that they shall during the whole of such residue of their sentences as re- mains yet to be undergone and performed con- tinue to reside within the Island of Van Die men’s Land, viz – John Seaman, Thos. Browne, John Newman, James Lush, Thomas Legg, Peter Withers, John Slade, Joseph Chubb alias Harvey, Richard Weedon, Jeremiah Farmer, John Nash, Nicholas Freemantle, George Webb,  Charles Shepherd, John Weeks, Charles Burge, Charles Pizzie, James Baker, John Legg, Thomas Blizzard, Thomas Goodman, James Martin, Thomas Green. John Kingshott, Richard Keens, Francis Norris. By His Excellency’s Command, JOHN MONTAGU.

One would think at this time that John and Mary’s fortunes have indeed turned to the better however fate was not yet finished with John and tragically whilst baby Ellen is still a toddler Mary dies and is buried on 1st March 1839.

I have been able to find and view the civil registration for Mary (which fortunately for us began in 1839!). There is sparse information.  She is recorded as Mary Kingshot (only one t in the Kingshott), abode given as New Norfolk, she was thirty seven years and the burial ceremony performed by W. Garrard.

The family church was St Matthews Anglican Church, New Norfolk, it was erected in 1823.  This was the church that clergyman W. Garrard was appointed to.

On the 4th August 1843 it is reported in the Courier that some runaway criminals have sought to make a robbery including at the humble home of our John and his daughter Ellen. But they’ve not appeared to have done any good from it;

ROBBERIES.-Last Friday evening, about six o’clock, four runaways from Bridgewater Probation Station robbed a hut, occupied by Charles Gregson, situated at Lachlan Village, the estate of M. Jeffery, Esq. The runaways seemed desirous of possessing themselves of fire-arms, saying to Gregson, that if they had fire-arms they would not rob a poor man like him. They obtained, however, no fire-arms, but took away some eatables and a few articles of wearing apparel. About two hours later, on the same evening, this party visited a tenant of Messrs. Baker and Bridger, at Gumbottom, named Kingshott, where they obtained no plunder, scampering away from the place on the inmates of the hut calling out “constables, constables,” as if policemen were lodged on some part of the premises. Next morning they robbed another hut, situated near the Dry Creek. The occupier of the hut, named James Coleman, was absent when the runaways visited him, but returning shortly after, and finding he had been robbed, went to a neighbour and borrowed an old musket. Thus armed, he pursued alone the track of the runaways, and came up to them a few hundred yards distant from his hut, where he found them sitting down round a fire, in the act of dressing some food. They left the greater part of their booty and marched off, and Coleman recovered most of the things stolen from his hut. The runaways next robbed the hut of the shepherd of Mr. Haines, of Bushy Park. Their career of hut-robbing has, however, been put an end to for the present, as they were apprehended on Sunday morning by a party of New Norfolk constables sent in pursuit of them.

There must have been some laughter and horror around the family kitchen table when in June 1847 John’s son William is called to be on a jury in the case of a William Davies charged with larceny for stealing the watch and bonnet, the property of Alice Hedgers the prosecutrix – a woman of disreputable character who had accompanied the prisoner to her house – where she had got drunk.  And he didn’t just make the jury for that case, around the same time William features in a jury for a case of robbery with violence in another matter.  In 1856 William is again called to jury in the case of rape and battery of a nine year old girl (whose name was published!).

Quite the turnaround for Kingshott’s to be sitting on the right side of the bench.  The fact that he is called to the jury so frequently obviously indicates that the Kingshott family had achieved a degree of respectability in the region.

The 1848 census records John as the proprietor and person in charge of an unfinished wooden house at Brushy Bottom, New Norfolk and employing one ticket of leave farm servant.

A newspaper report in The Courier in 1857 (on a different family) reports the location as being; ‘a somewhat unfashionable locality of a place known as Brushy Bottom.’

One of my personal goals and challenges is to find out more about Mary. She was clearly a woman of exceptional strength and courage.

John was living with his son William when he died on the 8th May 1866. The newspaper reported;  Kingshott – on the 8th May, at his son’s residence, O’Brien’s Bridge after a long and painfujl illness, John Kingshott, in the 76th year of his age. The Mercury Friday 25 May 1866

The following was published in The Mercury on the 11th May 1866; KINGSHOTT. – On the 8th instant, at his son’s residence, O’Brien’s Bridge, after a long and painful illness, John  Kingshott, in the 76th year of his age. His funeral will leave his son’s residence this day, Friday, at half- past 3 p.m. Friends will please accept this as an invitation, as no circulars will be issued. 

It is highly likely that the Kingshott’s were buried at the Rokeby, Clarence Plains Cemetery of St Matthews Anglican Church.  Because of the age of their gravestones it has proven a little difficult to establish this with certainty at this stage.  There is a group of pioneers graves that were relocated into one group.  Whether Mary and John were amongst them?  At this time I have been unable to ascertain.  I’ve not been able to secure records to date as to their actual burial and am only able to go on the inforamtion provided in their death notices in the papers which allude to this.

All of Mary and John’s livinag children went on to enjoy moderate success and all but one son, remained in Hobart.  The Kingshott name and family descendants in Australia from Mary and John are very well represented.

Next time you are feeling begrudged by a political decision that strikes you as unfair you can rest comfortably that you are descended from one of your ancestors who took matters into his hands and let his voice be heard, then and through history.


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