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{$text['mgr_red1']} Research 2

THE MYSTERY OF FRANCIS COCKERILL CRAXFORD

Researches by Reg Moore, Alan D. Craxford and Phillipa A. Andrew

Introduction

It is a corroborated fact that one Francis Cockerill Craxford was transported as a convict to the Australasian island of Van Dieman's Land (which is now called Tasmania) in 1835. Where he came from is a matter of conjecture; what became of him after he had arrived there has become lost in the passage of time.

The evidence

Recent documents have become available which confirm that Francis Craxford was tried for theft in 1834. The indictment was for stealing a sovereign (a one pound coin) from one James Mann. The depositions of the witnesses were dated September 24th 1834.

Huntingdon Borough Records FILE - Box 3 Bundle 5 (1)

Receipts from the same archive show that the costs of the case totalled £ 3.19.8d. There are also the costs of what appears to have been a further case against Francis Craxford (theft from a William Bryant) cost £ 4.4.10d

Huntingdon Borough Records FILE - Box 11 Bundle 13 (1)

He was found guilty at Huntingdon Quarter Session on October 17th 1834 and was sentenced to transportation for a period of seven years.

The trial was reported in the local newspaper (2). "The only prisoner for trial was Francis Cockerill Craxford, on two charges - one for stealing a pair of shoes belonging to William Bryant, from the premises of Mr Robert Mann, and the other for stealing a sovereign, belonging to James Mann, from the same premises. The prisoner, in the capacity of a bricklayer's labourer, was at work at the house, and took the opportunity to abstract the sovereign from a box in the sleeping room, and the shoes from the shoe place. The evidence was of the clearest character - the jury found the prisoner guilty - and the chairman, in a feeling and appropriate address, sentenced him to be transported for seven years. Craxford was on Wednesday removed from the town gaol to be put on board the Justitia hulk at Woolwich."

He was assigned to the ship "Norfolk 4" (John Gatenby, Master) which sailed from Sheerness on May 14th 1835 for Tasmania with a complement of 280 male convicts. The ship arrived at Hobart Town on August 28th 1835, a voyage of 106 days. (3)

By September 1835 he was in the service of a farmer, Paul Minnett. In October of the same year his new employer was charged with "having feloniously stolen one heifer, the property of William Field". Francis Craxford was called to give evidence on his behalf at the trial which took place on August 18th 1836. Paul Minnett was found not guilty.

R. v. Minnett: Supreme Court of Van Diemen's Land: Montagu J. (4)

We have found no further references to Francis Cockerill Craxford in the archives

The propositions

What of his origins? No birth record for Francis Cockerill Craxford have so far been discovered. Given the nature of his crimes and the subsequent punishment we have assumed that he would have been a young man (twenties, early thirties) at the time of his transportation.

In 1785, Robert Craxford married a Mary Cockerill at the Church of All Saints and St John, Huntingdon (5). They subsequently had six daughters (Mary, Elizabeth, Sarah, Eleanor, Charlotte, Anne) born between 1785 and 1800. There are no discovered marriage records or further descendents from any of these girls. My proposition (ADC) is that Mary - the daughter - bore a son, Francis, around 1805. As well as his family name she also gave him the name Cockerill after her own mother.

The marriage certificate of Robert Craxford and Mary Cockerill,

The marriage certificate (Pallot Marriage Index)

As noted above, there is no trace of Francis in Australia or New Zealand after the date of the Minnett trial. His sentence was for a period of seven years. Searches of a number of trade directories (RM) have shown a Francis Craxford & Sons, Fruiterer in London in the 1880s. Again we have not found a family in the various census returns that would comfortably accommodate this fact. There were two or three Craxford families in the Islington and Clarkenwell areas who were Greengrocers. What if our Francis had returned to England upon completion of his sentence and lived out his life in fruitful toil and gainful employment?

If you have any alternative theories or ideas, do let us know.

Updates

The Tasmania Records Office (6) has recently made some new databases available. The departure logs show that Francis Craxford left Launceston on the vessel "Yarra Yarra" on October 8th 1852 bound for Melbourne. He was travelling steerage class and was certifed "Free by servitude". So far we have not found any reference to his whereabouts or activities on the mainland of Australia.

Reg Moore - January 10th 2006

Recently released parish records for Huntingdon have confirmed that Francis was the son of Charlotte Craxford. He was baptised in the church of All Saints and St John in the town on February 9th 1814.

Further records from the Archives Office of Tasmania provide a description of the 22 year old Francis at the time of his transportation. Of modest stature, he had dark hair, grey eyes and a fresh but slightly pock marked complexion. Also noted were two tattoos. On his right arm was the figure of a woman with the letters F.C., M.C., and E.C. (a reference to his aunts perhaps?). On his left arm was a sailor holding a flag and a flower. His trade was stated to be a bricklayer's labourer.

Phillipa A. Andrew - January 5th 2011


References

1. Access to Archives: The National Archives
2. The Town Sessions: Huntingdon, Oct 24th: in Northampton Mercury. Saturday October 25th 1834, The British Newspaper Archive; © The British Library Board.
3. Male Convicts: Norfolk 4: Indexed by Jackie Browne 1999. Discussions on Rootsweb
4. Decisions of the Nineteenth Century Tasmanian Superior Courts: Division of Law: Macquarie University and the School of History and Classics, University of Tasmania.
5. Mary Cockerill to Robert Craxford: Pallot's Marriage Index for England. 1780 - 1837. The Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies, Canterbury, England
6. Archives Office Of Tasmania; POL220/2 p194: Tasmania On Line
7. Archives Office Of Tasmania; CON18-1-18: Tasmania On Line

Added: April 11th 2005
Last updated: December 1st 2011

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