Saturday, 13 February 2016

Robert Carver (1793-1884)

Two Hundred years ago today (14th February 1816) our ancestor Robert Carver was tried at the Old Bailey for "burgariously breaking and entering the dwelling-house of Michael Stephinte, with intent to steal, and stealing three gold seals, one snuffbox, one letter-case, nine pieces of foreign gold coin, three 10 pound bank notes, and thirteen promissory notes for the payment of 10 pounds each, the property of the Rev. John Helyar."

So was Robert a master criminal, was this how he made his living?

No - life in London at this time was particularly hard for poor families - Robert was married with two infant children and whilst he was a shoe maker by trade he was forced to apply to his local parish for relief. In order to prove your parish for them to accept responsibility to provide assistance, you had to be either born in the parish applied to, served as an apprentice there or worked for the same employer for more than 1 year.

We know from Robert's evidence at his trial that he had unsuccessfully applied to two parishes for help, but both declined, which ended up with him committing a crime as an act of last resort.

Whilst I have not been able to find evidence of him applying to any parish - the parishes were most likely St James,  (he was living at 99 York Street, Westminster) and perhaps Portsmouth (this place is stated on his Ticket of Leave and death certificate as his place of birth). So it seems that the Rev. John Helyar who he had burgled was his local vicar who had declined his application for assistance.

Robert was sentenced to death but due to his "good character" this was changed to transportation for life. Elizabeth, Robert's wife and their two children left London and returned to her home parish of Finchingfield in Essex.

Robert was transported to Australia on the convict ship The Fame, arriving in 1817.

To read the full trial at

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