Mooching round the car-boot sale on the Walkington Playing Field the other Sunday I came across a stall selling second hand books. Flicking through one of the overflowing boxes I found a slim volume published in 1984 by the East Yorkshire Family History Society. The book headed “Transportation from Hull and the East Riding to America and Australia’ taken from Quarter session records turned out to be 50 pence well spent. Listed amongst those transported for seven years was one Thomas Ash from Walkington.
To an amateur local historian this knowledge was irresistible.
According to Parish records Thomas Ash was born in March 1785, to George Ash and Hannah Watson. On 30 September 1810 he married Elizabeth Sargason of this Parish, Elizabeth’s parents were John and Elizabeth Sargason nee Hayton.
Both Thomas and Elizabeth signed the register with an X suggesting that they were both illiterate. The marriage was witnessed by Thomas Bennison and Elizabeth Spencer and they were married by the Reverend Daniel Ferguson. ( All of these names are familiar ‘Walkington’ surnames).
According to a report featured in the newspaper the ‘Hull Packet’ in May 1812 Thomas Ash a labourer from Walkington was convicted on 7 April 1812 at the East Riding Quarter Sessions in Beverley of stealing 8 ducks belonging to Mr Thomas Speck, farmer.
He was sentenced by the court to be transported for a term of seven years. The newspaper went on to report “that the magistrate hoped this sentence will operate as a salutary lesson to other offenders of this description, and produce the intended effect of putting a stop to the daring outrages and depredations which have of late have been so frequently committed at Walkington, by a gang of villains, of which the prisoner has been generally suspected to be the ring leader: as one of the prisoner’s confederates is already in the house of correction, and another has absconded, it is expected that the rest of the miscreants will take warning at the fate of their associates, and allow their neighbours for the future to enjoy the undisturbed possession of their property.
The report went on to say that it was at one time in contemplation to have committed the prisoner to York Castle, and to have prosecuted him for a capital offence; but it being doubtful whether the evidence on that charge would have been sufficiently clear to have convicted him, it was considered that the ends of justice might be better answered by pursuing the more lenient course of an indictment for this felony at the quarter sessions. A short time previous to the session the prisoner had voluntarily confessed that he had been concerned with some other persons at Walkington in the commission of various crimes; and this self-accusation it was, that originally led to his conviction. It is supposed that the prisoner’s object in making this confession was to incriminate and bring into disgrace some of his partners in iniquity with whom he had recently had a quarrel: but whether the prisoner’s acknowledgment of his crimes proceeded from this motive, or was extorted by the stings of a guilty conscience, is of little moment to the public. The prisoner’s character was so bad that the inhabitants of Walkington express general satisfaction at the result of this prosecution.
Further reports show that he was sent to York Castle to be taken to the Hulks housing prisoners awaiting transportation to Australia. Despite extensive research Thomas Ash could not be found on any of the transportation ships in 1812 or 1813. Nor could anymore information be found.
How-ever facts are facts and in parish records I found that in June 1813 a daughter called Jane was born to Thomas and Elizabeth Ash. By my calculation this would have meant that Thomas must have been home in October 1812.
Was he reprieved? Did he abscond ? Was the evidence against him fabricated?
All we know is that despite been convicted to be transported for 7 years he did not go to Australia.
Thomas and Elizabeth went on to have three more children, William born in 1815, James born in 1823 and Mary born in 1826.
James probably went to America in 1841 and may have served in the American Civil War but that is another story still to be researched.
A bit more mooching may help to add more to this fascinating story.
Apologies to Ash family members if this story comes as a shock, I am sure it does not reflect on your current standards!
Christine Elston July 2019
Editor’s Note: Thanks Christine for sending this story to the blog and for all your research efforts to produce such a fascinating read. It’s a reminder of what life was like, for some, in Walkington in the early years of the !9th Century.