Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

John Standfield - Tolpuddle Martyr

Journey from Maitland to Sydney

In 1834 in Dorchester six men were convicted of making unlawful oaths and sentenced to 7 years transportation.

Five of the men James Brine, James Hammett, James Loveless, Thomas Standfield and John Standfield were sent to New South Wales on the convict ship Surry and the sixth, George Loveless was sent to Van Diemen's Land on the William Metcalfe. They became known as the Tolpuddle Martyrs.

Tolpuddle Martyrs - The Canberra Times 11 Aug 1984. The Original is in possession of the British Trades Union Congress
In New South Wales Thomas Standfield and his son John Standfield were assigned to Hunter Valley Settlers Timothy Nowlan and Richard Jones.

Following is an extract from A Narrative of the sufferings of J. Loveless, J. Brine, and T. and J. Standfield, four of the Dorchester Labourers; displaying the horrors of transportation, written by themselves, by John Standfield, describing their appalling journey in 1836 from Maitland to Sydney on the Steamer; their subsequent release and voyage home to England........

On the 25th of January, 1836, as I was sitting in my hut trying to devise some plan by which I might be enabled to see my father, a constable came and inquired for me. He informed me that he had received orders from the Patterson's Bench to forward me to the Maitland Bench. I inquired about my father, and was told a constable had also gone for him, and that he would join me at Maitland.

The next day I was guarded there, where I arrived early in the morning. Orders were given that I should be sent to the lock-up, where I laid that day and the following night. Next morning I requested the chief lock-up keeper that he would let me go to the court-house, to know what was going to be done with me, and I also asked him for some food. He said that I was not due for any food until I had been there two days. I was then guarded to the court-house by two constables; whilst standing there my father came in under charge of a constable.

The magistrates would not give us any more information than that we were to be put in the lock-up. My father and myself then laid in the lock-up two more nights, with a little bread and water, but neither bed nor blanket. Early in the morning orders were seven to get ready for the steam-boat bound for
Newcastle, and ten of us that were in the lock-up were called out, and chained together, two a-breast. Before starting I asked for some victuals, but was told that I should get some where I was going. We marched thus chained together to Morpeth, where we were put on board the steam-boat. I asked the constable if he would unlock my father from the chain, but he said he would not. We remained in that state until we reached Newcastle, and were then taken out of the steam-boat and marched to Newcastle gaol, where we were examined in the usual form. I then asked for some provision, but was told that I ought to have got it where I came from, for we were not due there until the next day. I was now almost exhausted. We remained in gaol three days and three nights, and on the fourth morning orders were given that five men - John and Thomas Standfield, with three others - should get ready for the steam-boat bound for Sydney.

We had some mamony meal (Indian corn) for breakfast, and were to get dinner at the end of our journey. About eleven o'clock we were called out to the gaoler's office, and there was a constable ready to guard us on our journey. The constable coming up to me to put the handcuffs on, I told him to stop, for I wanted to speak to the authorities; upon which a clerk stepped up to know what I wanted... I said that I wished to know the reason why my father and myself were to be locked in irons, not being aware that we had committed any crime; and that we could conduct ourselves properly without being handcuffed. The gaoler then acknowledged that he did not see the necessity of putting us in irons, but he must act in accordance with his directions. I was then handcuffed between two others - my father and a stranger.

When on board the steam-boat I again asked the constable to unlock our hands, but he refused, saying we might be bushrangers for aught he knew. The distance from Newcastle to Sydney is about 100 miles. After being at sea a few hours we were very sick, but not one of our hands were loosened to help ourselves. In that miserable condition we arrived at Sydney about nine o'clock in the evening, and were conducted from the steamboat to the common goal in George Street. After going through the form of examination, we were placed in a ward, after a week's starvation with cold and hunger, without bed or blanket, where we remained one day and two nights, laying on the cold flagstone. There were about 100 convicted criminals in the same dungeon, waiting to receive judgment from the Criminal Court.

On the second morning all hands were let out into the yard and arranged in uniform order; and twenty men were picked out to attend court that day, my father and myself making two of the number. We were guarded into a dark room until called for. About ten o'clock a number of constables came with a long chain, and we were all handcuffed to it, and marched through the streets of Sydney like a lot of wild beasts. I now began to think that some evil-disposed person had lodged a false complaint against us. When we arrived at the court-house, however, my father and myself were released from the chain and conducted to Hyde Park Barracks, and examined by some of the barrack-officers, and then put into the watch-house. I asked the watch-house keeper for some provision, as we were nearly starved, but he said that we were not due until the following morning, so for that day we fasted.

We were kept in this place two days and nights, and I then spoke to the keeper, requesting him to allow me to see Mr. Foster, the barrack superintendent. Mr. Foster accordingly came, and I thus addressed him: 'Sir, do you know the reason of our being confined in this miserable place, as we are not criminals? I am determined to go out, and if we are not released I shall seek for further redress.' Accordingly, the next morning we were let out into the barrack-yard. We had thus been ten or eleven days and nights without having our clothes off, and without bed or blanket, dragged from place to place and suffering under every species of indignity, associated with, and handcuffed to, the most depraved and reckless portion of the wretched convicts, without the slightest charge having been preferred against us, or any explanation offered for such extraordinary conduct.

The authorities, it is true, informed us that the reason of our being called in from our masters, was in pursuance of orders received from the home government, to the effect that we were to be employed on government work only, but they did not inform us why we had been treated in so severe a manner on our way to Sydney: I have, however, every reason to believe that orders were sent out by the home government to treat us with the utmost severity. After we had been in the barracks a few days, we were sent to work with one of their gangs, and while so engaged one of our brethren, James Brine, came and joined us, and in a few days more my uncle, James Loveless, came also. We then ceased going to work.

After having been in the barracks about a month, we were all called in to the principal superintendent's office, and informed that the home government had granted us a conditional pardon at the expiration of three years from our arrival in the colony, but that an order had been received from the governor that we were to proceed to the penal settlement at Port Macquarie for twelve months, until his Majesty's further pleasure should be made known. The authorities wanted James Loveless to have his wife and children brought out, and promised to place him in such circumstances as would enable him to receive them on their arrival; notwithstanding their threats, promises, and entreaties, however, he would not consent.

As I did not like the idea of going to Port Macquarie, on the 10th of March, 1836, I drew up a memorial and sent it to the governor by
Mr. Nowlan, my father's former master, praying that instead of sending us to Port Macquarie he would allow us to return to our former masters, or that he would let me go with my father. The petition was granted on the 15th, and on the 16th we left the barracks and our two companions. James Hammett had not then arrived. We were sent on board the Ceres steam-boat in charge of Mr. Kealy, and next day arrived at the farm, and from thence proceeded to a sheep station on the Williams River, about thirty miles from Maitland.

We had the charge of the flocks at that station, and to watch them night and day; and after getting the sheep in at sunset I had to go six miles for our rations. During the time we were there my father had a severe illness, owing to his being exposed in the bush on a very boisterous, rainy day, and was confined to his bed for two months. We had been living nine months with
Mr. Nowlan, when I was informed by a friend that my uncle, George Loveless, was in Van Diemen's Land. I instantly wrote him a letter dated Nov. 27, 1836, and received an answer, dated January 21, 1837, in the following February, informing us that he was going to sail for England, and giving us directions in what manner we could obtain a passage for ourselves.

I immediately sent a letter to my uncle, James Loveless, informing him of the good news, and requesting him to make application for our passage and send up for us accordingly. Great delay took place in consequence of Mr. Brennen, the principal superintendent, wishing to keep us in the colony; but by my uncle's perseverance a passage was at last obtained. Not the slightest communication was ever made to me or my companions by any government officer of our free pardon having been received.

We left Sydney on the 11th of September, 1837, in the ship John Barry, bound for Plymouth, and touching at New Zealand to take in timber for her Majesty's dock-yard at Plymouth. We lay at New Zealand about nine weeks, during which time we were fully occupied in loading the vessel with timber, having engaged with the captain to make ourselves generally serviceable on the voyage home, in order that we might earn a little money to provide ourselves with clothing and other necessaries on our arrival in England. After a rough and boisterous voyage we arrived in Plymouth Sound on Saturday, March 17, 1838, and landed in that town on the same day, having been absent just four years.

We were very kindly received by Mr. Morgan, of the Dolphin Inn, Barbican Quay, and as soon as it was known in the town who we were, many of the inhabitants came to visit us. On the 18th Mr. James Keast, of the Friendly Society of Operative Bricklayers, very kindly invited us to his house, where we remained during our stay in the town. Several members of the above society waited upon us, and expressed a wish that we should remain a few days in the town, as they intended calling a public meeting of the working men to congratulate us on our return. Though anxious to see our families we could not but comply with their request, after having received so much kindness from them, and on the following day a public meeting was advertised to be held at the Mechanics Institute. The meeting was very numerously attended, and we received their hearty congratulations on our return.

The next day we left Plymouth and proceeded through Exeter, where we were also welcomed by a public meeting, to our native village, Tolpuddle, Dorsetshire, arriving in safety to the great joy of our relatives and friends. - John Standfield