The convict James Freeman was found guilty in the Criminal Court on 29 February 1788 of stealing flour. The fledgling Colony was barely a month old, and supplies of food were limited. Theft of such items was therefore viewed with the utmost seriousness, hence the draconian death sentence that was handed down. However, there was a need to find someone to undertake the task of dispatching condemned felons via the hangman’s noose, and who better than a convict who could hardly refuse the job offer, given the alternative?
This case study has been developed to show what types of records can be found in our collection. References to John Knatchbull, alias John Fitch, turn up in a number of convict records, such as the convict indents, Tickets of Leave and Ticket of Leave Passports. What makes Knatchbull more intriguing is that he continued to get into trouble for the rest of his life, thereby leaving a steady stream of records about him.
These photos of prisoners were accompanied by the following details: name, aliases, date when portrait was taken, native place, year of birth, arrived in colony - ship and year, trade or occupation, religion, degree of education, height, weight (on committal, on discharge), colour of hair, colour of eyes, marks or special features, where and when tried, offence, sentence, remarks, previous convictions - where and when, offence, sentence.