Prison Hulks

Black Sheep Sunday – John Britliff (The Killing Field) – Part 2

Just over a year ago I posted about my wife’s 3x great grandfather, John Britliff, who was convicted of manslaughter for killing his wife. Here’s a link to the original post – Black Sheep Sunday – John Britliff (The Killing Field) http://mikeydawson.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/black-sheep-sunday-john-britliff-the-killing-field/

Since then I have been contacted by Karen who lives in Australia – John Britliff is also her 3x great grandfather.

You will see from the original post that John was sentenced to 10 years transportation in 1843 but he was back in Lincolnshire by the time of the 1851 census. So this raised a number of questions for me:-

  • Did he really get transported?
  • If he did get transported for 10 years how come he is back in England after 8 years?
  • Did he get a “certificate of freedom” for good behaviour after serving part of his sentence?
  • How did he afford the fare back to England?

I have to admit I hadn’t made any progress answering these questions before now.

Karen alerted me to the use of Prison Ships (Hulks). Because of overcrowding in the prisons in Australia many convicts served their sentences on prison hulks moored on The Thames. Here’s a bit of background but there is lots more on the Internet – http://vcp.e2bn.org/justice/page11382-sentencing-to-departure-prison-hulks-convict-gaols.html

Anyway thanks to Karen I found some prison hulk records on Ancestry.co.uk. Fortunately these included the details for John Britliff or Britcliffe as he was described.

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So there we have it – John served his sentence on the hulk Warrior. He must have been given an early release for good behaviour and returned to Lincolnshire.