Answers to Questions


RUDLAND, Herts Assize Court, 1863

July, 2009




Julie Piggott (juliepiggott @t of Australind, WA, Australia, writes: I am one of the descendents from a Henry Rudland, born in Timworth Suffolk. Arrested November 1863 and then sentenced in the Hertfordshire Court, Convicted December 1863, for firing two hay stacks. He was transported to Western Australia for 10 years.

I have his Convict Record, Death, Marriage and Birth certificates. So I have a bit of information on him. The trouble is - that on his Convict Records he is listed as Henry Rudland aka Walton. All the other information (marriage and birth) have no middle mention of Walton. Our researching over 30 years of him - seems that he is the son of Elizabeth Rudland (born Harry Rudland 1845), she is daughter of John and Mary Rudland from Timworth Suffolk. We do not know who his father was. His marriage lists John as father, but 1861 Census in Suffolk, he is listed as Grandson to Mary Rudland (widow). His birth lists mother Elizabeth Rudland who died a few months after Henry was born, no father listed.

Our thoughts were that perhaps the Walton is his real fathers surname and that it may have been mentioned during the Court Proceedings. We have checked the newspapers out, but there isn't one for that time. We were wondering if it was at all possible to check this out.

The book Transported beyond the Sea records that Henry Rudland, of Timworth, Suffolk, was convicted of arson at the winter session of the Hertfordshire Assize in 1863. The arson involved 2 stacks of clover hay which was the property of Ambrose Tween at Musley Road, Ware. The Assize records will be held at HALS and I would have expected the court case to be at least mentioned in the Hertfordshire Mercury - which was the local paper for the area at the time. HALS also holds microfilm of this paper. (HALS will look up these documents for a fee.) I would not expect the case to be reported more widely in the press.

My first reaction is that arson is not a normal crime in that the criminal (if successful) does not directly benefit from it, unlike larceny, breaking and entering, highway robbery, horse and sheep stealing which are the other crimes on the same page of Transported Beyond the Sea. In addition the prisoner is usually local to the place where the fire occurred - which makes the crime even more unusual. I can only think of three likely reasons for such a crime. The HALS records should make it clear which was the case.

I have come across another case involving arson, and worse, which could be relevant as it also involved "aka" = "also known as".  Thomas Wheeler was employed on Heath Farm, Sandridge, near St Albans, but in 1871 he appears to have lost his job when my great Grandfather took the tenancy of the farm. It is known that Thomas had successfully taken one farmer to court when cattle had entered his cottage garden - and a farm labourer who challenged farmers is unlikely to be popular. He may also have been employed (and fired) by other farmers in the area, but unfortunately relevant information is unlikely to have survived. He left the area but returned in 1880 and over a couple of days burgled my great grandfather, torched a barn on another local farm, and quite deliberately shot yet another farmer with the gun he had stolen after he had torched the barn. Shortly before he was hanged he confessed to the officiating priest. This revealed that shortly before the offences he had been discharged from a prison in Essex where he had been held under an assumed name. (Unfortunately his aka name was not recorded.). For more information about this case see Thomas WHEELER (murderer), St Albans area, 1880 and The Murder of Edward Anstee.

In 1863 there were no finger print or photographic criminal records and punishments were severe. If you were arrested for an offence the last thing you wanted the police and courts to know is that you already had a criminal record. Give a false name and you may only be done for a first offence. If your Henry had a criminal record he may well have been using the name Henry Walton when living in an area away from Timworth, Suffolk, where his true identity would not be known. It may be that there are petty session court cases in Hertfordshire or Suffolk which involve Henry or Harry Rudland or Walton in the year or two before November 1863. In particular it could be worth asking HALS is they have any Petty Session records of Ware for earlier in 1863 which could have involved both Henry and Ambrose Tween.

In my view your Henry probably used the name Walton to disguise his identity and if this is the case he would be unlikely to use his father's name - assuming he ever knew that - as that might help establish his real identity. However the records at HALS mentioned above could well throw some interesting light onto Henry's activities in Hertfordshire. The Assize records may include details of any then known previous convictions and there may even be a clue to why Walton. If you follow this up it I would be interested to know what you find.

In case you have not already done so I decided to see what I could find out about the victim - as it may help you to understand some of the records.  A check of the 1861 census on Ancestry shows that John Ambrose Tween was a master butcher employing two men and living in the High Street Ware. In 1863 most butchers would have slaughtered their own animals and would need facilities and feed (such as hay) to keep them in best condition until they were butchered. (The Ancestry index entry is very interesting as the census return says "John A Tween" but it was wrongly indexed as "John A Sween" and then amended to "John Ambrose Tween". Such an amendment can only have been requested by someone who was actively researching the family - so if you want to know more about the victim of the crime it might be worth following this up.)

In 1855 a Thomas Tween, butcher, is listed in the High Street, Ware, in the Post Office Directory for Hertfordshire. Neither Thomas or John are listed in Ware in the 1866 Post Office Directory. In the 1871 census John Ambrose Tween  was a butcher living in Eastbourne Terrace, Paddington, London. A mortgage in 1884 held at HALS (reference DE/Bw/28162  2nd February 1884) suggests he still occupied property in Musley and Pest House Lane, Ware. This could indicate that he may have moved his shop to London and kept a slaughterhouse in Ware, now that the coming of the train made it easier to move slaughtered meat.


On a completely separate matter. In 1844 one of my relatives, James Dagley Gibbs (1821-1905), nephew of my ancestor John Gibbs, was one of the early colonists of Bunbury, Western Australia. He married twice and had an extremely large family. In about 1980 I was contacted by a relative who said that a very significant number of the people who live in Bunbury are descended from him. As you live in Australind it is possible we are distant cousins!

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