John Britliff

Black Sheep Sunday – John Britliff (The Killing Field) – Part 3

John Britliff is my wife’s 3x great grandfather. I have written about him twice before here and here.

In a nutshell John killed his wife on 27 November 1842. He was convicted of manslaughter at Lincoln assizes on 8 March 1843 and sentenced to 10 years transportation.

In fact John never left the country and he served his sentence aboard a prison ship the Warrior hulk at Woolwich.

In the 1851 census John was back living in Lincolnshire. So he must have been released early from his prison sentence.

In the last few weeks I found the evidence of his early release – a free pardon granted by Queen Victoria.

Below are the document images from Find My Past.

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Victoria R

John Williams et al

Free Pardon

Whereas the following persons are under sentence of transportation on board the Warrior Hulk at Woolwich they having been convicted of felony at the times and places hereafter mentioned. Viz

John Williams at Welchpool in March 1843, Hy Biggs Horn Gardener at Hereford in March 1843, Wm Martin, Geo Jarvis, Chas Martin and Hezekial Folkes at Chelmford in March 1843, Morris Thomas at Haverford West, Edward Lilburn and John Britcliffe at Lincoln in March 1843, Edward Shenton, Jas White and Thomas Johnson at Stafford in March 1843, Neil Mc Gilvary at Glasgow in September 1842 and Jas Whistow at Chester in April 1843.

We in consideration of same circumstances humbly represented (?) unto us are Graciously pleased to extend our Grace and Mercy unto them and to Grant them our free pardon for the crimes of which they stand convicted.

12 April 1848

To be honest I could hardly believe it when I first found details of the pardon. Despite Internet searches I haven’t been able to find any other information about what seems to have been a whole raft of pardons granted by Queen Victoria around that time. Perhaps there was a need to create space for new prisoners – who knows. I would appreciate any information anyone might have to help me understand what was going on here.

I had wondered what became of the ten children of John and Sarah and believe I have been able to trace them all.

Thomas (born 1822 – my wife’s 2x great grandfather) – married Jane Johnson on 29 January 1848 at Waddingham, Lincolnshire They had eight children. Thomas died on1 July 1870 and is buried at All Saints, Wrawby, Lincolnshire.

John (born c1826) – married Sarah Lancaster in 1849. They had ten children. John died in 1901 in Wrawby.

Elizabeth (born 1828) – married William Greenwood on 23 June 1849 in Waddingham. As far as I can tell they didn’t have any children. Elizabeth died in January 1912 and is buried at Ulceby, Lincolnshire.

George (born c1828) – died at the age of 18 in November 1846 and is buried at St Mary & St Peter in Waddingham.

Robert (born c1831) – married Elizabeth Rhodes in 1856. They emigrated to Australia on 26 September 1859. They went on to have at least eight children. Robert died on 8 May 1907 in St Leonards, New South Wales, Australia.

Ann (born c1834) – married Gilbert Tyson on 23 October 1852 in Waddingham. They had ten children. Ann’s death is registered in Knaresborough, Yorkshire in the September quarter of 1914.

Mary (born c1836) – married John Risen on Christmas Day 1860 in Pocklington, Yorkshire. They had seven children before emigrating to Australia on 3 December 1880. Mary died in 1907 in Toora, Victoria, Australia.

William (born 1839) – married Hannah Girdam on 3 May 1866. They had two children before Hannah sadly died at the age of 24 in 1868. William remarried to Eliza Brader in 1883 and they had one son. William died in Waddingham in 1913.

Jane (born 1839) – married Thomas Hardy (no, not that one!!) at the age of 50 on 9 February 1890 at Holy Trinity & St Mary, Old Clee, Lincolnshire. Jane died at the age of 91 – her death is registered in the March quarter of 1930 in Glanford Brigg, Lincolnshire.

Joseph (born c1840) – married Charlotte Lacey in 1871. They had two children before emigrating to New Zealand on 18 September 1874. They had four more children in New Zealand. Jospeh died on 30 June 1906 at Southbridge, Canterbury, New Zealand.

So despite the terrible events of 1842 the children for the most part went on to have families of their own. Three moved to the Southern hemisphere and built lives far away. 

Given the wonders of the Internet and my blog I have been contacted by descendants of Robert Britliff who live in New Zealand and the family continues to thrive.

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Sunday’s Obituary – Edward Dixon (1910-1939)

Edward Dixon is my wife’s 2nd cousin 2x removed. His parents are William Rylatt Dixon and Sarah Ann Britliff. Their common ancestors are John Britliff and Sarah Rack, my wife’s 3x great grandparents. See previous posts about John Britliff here and here.

Edward was born on 18 May 1910 in Kendal, Westmorland.

At some point between 1910 and 1939 Edward, together with his parents and sister, moved from Kendal to Grantham in Lincolnshire. Edward’s father was employed as a “railway carter drayman” so perhaps he moved with his job.

I have no more information about Edward until the following report in the Grantham Journal on 15 December 1939 about his death.

Grantham Journal 15 Dec 1939.png

RAILWAY GUARD AT HELLIFIELD

Young Grantham Man’s Death

After an illness lasting some six months the death occurred last week of Mr Edward Dixon, son of Mr and Mrs W R Dixon, of 29 Swinegate, Grantham, at the comparatively young age of 29 years.

Deceased was employed as a guard on the LMS Railway at Hellifield, Yorks.

The funeral took place on Monday, a service at the parish church, conducted by the Vicar, Canon C H Leake, preceding the interment in the cemetery, where the last rites were conducted by the Rev C L G Hutchings.

The mourners were:- Father and mother; Miss A Dixon, sister; Miss Shepherd, fiancee; Mr and Mrs s Dixon, Sibsey, Miss Maplethorpe, Lincoln, cousins; Mr J Shepherd, Burnley; and Mr L Huff, representing the LMS Railway at Hellifield.

The floral tributes were sent by father, mother and sister; aunt and cousins at Sibsey; uncle and cousin at Lincoln; Elenor; Mr and Mrs Shepherd, Burnley; Mr and Mrs Felstead; Mr and Mrs Rowland; Mr and Mrs Woods; Mr and Mrs Harrison, Signal Road; Mr and Mrs Bibby, Eliza and Ethel, Skipton; Miss Staniland, and Mrs Golding; fellow members of the LMS Railway at Hellifield; Mr and Mrs Morris; Mr and Mrs Woolmer and family; Mr and Mrs R W Savage; Phyllis; M A and A E Wilson and Miss Odom; Mrs C G Hardy; Mr and Mrs Thomas and Mr and Mrs Williams; Mrs Walters; Mr and Mrs W W Winn; Mrs Raines and family; Miss M E Barkes; Mr and Mrs Dixon, Kirkby Stephen.

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) https://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.

Black Sheep Sunday – John Britliff (The Killing Field)

John Britliff is my wife’s 3x great grandfather. His name appears in records under various spellings – Britliff, Britliffe and Britcliffe. There are also numerous transcription interpretations from the census returns on both Ancestry and Find My Past. This certainly makes finding and following the family a bit tricky sometimes.

John was born about 1800 in or around Bonby, North Lincolnshire. I have his mother as Mary Britliff but have not been able to find a record of who his father might be.

On 26 November 1821 John married Sarah Rack in North Kelsey, Lincolnshire. They had at least ten children between 1824 and 1840.

In the 1841 census the family are living at North Owersby, Lincolnshire and John is working as an agricultural labourer. There are eight children at home.

Lincolnshire Chronicle Dec 1842

About twenty months later tragedy occurred as reported in the Lincolnshire Chronicle on Friday 2 December 1842.

A Wife killed by her Husband – On Sunday last, a tragical event took place at North Gullum farm, in the parish of North Owersby, near Market Rasen. A labourer of the name of John Britcliffe had some angry words with his wife, when in the moment of passion, he first beat her with a leathern belt, and then brutally kicked her on the lower part of the body. The unfortunate woman, who was far advanced in pregnancy, survived this ill-treatment but a few hours. An inquest was held on the deceased on Monday, before Mr. Marris, coroner, and a post mortem examination of the body by Mr. Smith and Mr. Hutchinson, of Caistor, surgeons, and after a long and patient investigation, the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter, and Britcliffe has been committed under the coroner’s warrant for trial at the next assizes. A family of nine children are left to mourn the loss of both parents.

We can never know what happened between John and Sarah to cause this terrible tragedy but certainly the lives of all the family were changed for ever.

In January 1843 a report in the Lincolnshire Chronicle says that “the seven children of John Britliffe, late of North Owersby, at present a prisoner in Lincoln Castle, on a charge of manslaughter, chargeable to the parish of North Owersby, were ordered to be removed to Nettleton, being their last legal settlement”.

The children are likely to have been taken to the Caistor Workhouse.

John next appears in court on Wednesday 8 March 1843. The report of the hearing is in the Lincolnshire Chronicle of Friday 10 March 1843.

Manslaughter at North Owersby

John Britcliffe, 42, pleaded guilty to an indictment charging him with the manslaughter of his wife, Sarah Britcliffe. The prisoner received a good character from Mr. Brooks, a farmer at Croxby. 10 year’s transportation.

He was held in Lincoln Castle until the beginning of April 1843 when he was removed for transportation together with a number of other prisoners as the following report from the Lincoln Chronicle of Friday 7 April 1843 says.

TRANSPORTS – On Friday last, Lieut. Nicholson, governor of Lincoln castle, removed from thence the first portion of convicts sentenced to transportation at the last assizes, viz: to the Warrior hulk, Woolwich, John Nicholson, John Sims, John North, Edwd. Copeland, and John Butting for life; John Britcliffe, Leonard Boyall, and Ambrose Brown for ten years; David Dickenson and James Smith for seven years; to Pentonville model prison, William Potts and Hy. Scott.

There are various sets of records about convicts and transportation on family history and other websites. However I have not yet been able to find John Britcliffe in any of these. So  I don’t know where he was transported to – I am guessing Australia or Tasmania.

I really wanted to try and find out what happened after his transportation because eight years later John appears to be back in Lincolnshire. I have him in the 1851 census living at Hayes Farm in Redbourn and working as a shepherd.

This raises a whole host of questions for me, for example:-

  • 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?

Also in the 1851 census two of his children – Joseph (b 1840) and William (b 1839) are still at the Union Workhouse in Caistor.

The story becomes more interesting when this article about the Lindsey court sessions of 4 & 5 July appears in the Stamford Mercury on Friday 11 July 1851.

Stamford Mercury Jul 1851

John Britliff, 50, who had been three times before in custody, was brought up, having been committed as “an incorrigible rogue and vagabond” for refusing to maintain his children. It appeared that the prisoner had left his family a burthen to the parish, which had spent £250 in their maintenance; but since he had been in prison he had paid  £5, and as he now promised to do his duty to the children, he was liberated upon the promise, being warned that if he neglected to carry it out he would be liable to be committed again.

In 1857 John married Esther Smith at Caistor. And in the 1861 census they are living at Town Street, Waddingham, Lincolnshire. Also living with them is John’s unmarried daughter Jane Britcliffe (b1839) and her daughter Sarah C Britcliffe (b1859).

John died sometime in the September quarter of 1862 – almost twenty years after killing his wife.

There is so much more to this story that I wish I could discover.

You can now read two more posts about this story here and here