The Berkeley Castle Poaching Affray of 1816 - Thornbury

This account was prepared by Rosemary Lockie © 2005
with the assistance of information from Jo Watson, Lauris Crampton and Linda Forbes.

“For 'tis my delight on a shiny night...”
(Refrain from ‘The Lincolnshire Poacher’)

Featuring biographies of William Adams BRODRIBB, Daniel LONG, and John REEVES.

On the night of 18 January 1816, one John ALLEN, and a group of other young men from the Thornbury district gathered at his house to prepare to mount a ‘poaching’ expedition on the estate of Colonel Berkeley, at Berkeley Castle.

Pursuit of game was the least of their concerns; they were ‘up in arms’ - payback for the slights they'd received as a result of actions of the landed gentry was long overdue. The previous year, a man named Thomas TILL had been killed by the discharge of a ‘spring gun’[1] on the estate of Lord DUCIE, one of the chief landholders of the district, and he, and his fellow landowners were greatly resented. Colonel Berkeley was no exception, and his estate was considered a viable target of their concern.

Such is the price to be paid by political activists, whether intentionally so or otherwise! The setting of such a gun was not made illegal by statute until 1827, more than 10 years later.

With hindsight it is difficult to imagine how they expected to emerge from the expedition unscathed, when they went armed with guns, and when they'd prepared for the fact that they may have got ‘caught’. John ALLEN had a friend, William Adams BRODRIBB, who was an attorney living nearby in Lower Moreton, and he invited him to join them ‘on business’ that evening. BRODRIBB arrived about 10 p.m. with two other men, a Dr KEENE and Mr HASELL, another attorney - both men were relatives of BRODRIBB. BRODRIBB was requested to swear each of the men present to an oath of secrecy, and that they would not ‘peach’ should they be apprehended during the expedition. He produced a book, upon which all the men swore - such oaths were taken very seriously at the time, and all the men believed they were swearing upon a Bible.

The scene was therefore set - these men ‘blackened up’, and about eleven o'clock, set out into the proverbial “bright and shiny” - a frosty moonlit night. Unfortunately, it would appear that they had been “set up” - Colonel Berkeley's park keeper, Thomas CLARKE, with nine other keepers, were waiting for them. Inevitably, a clash occurred. When the poachers realised their dilemma, they decided attack was the best form of defence, and formed a double line, advancing on the keepers. When some fifteen yards apart someone fired a gun, allegedly the poacher John PENNY. One of the keepers, William INGRAM, was hit and killed instantly.[2] The gamekeepers had been armed only with sticks, but other guns were then fired, and six or seven of the gamekeepers were wounded in the confusion that followed.

The outcome was that most of those involved in the affray were apprehended during the following weeks; however four of the men fled the country that night, one escaping to Ireland (William COLLINS), one to the United States of America (Anthony BARTON) and two to the West Indies. Two were subsequently released after capture, and nine others were tried and transported to Australia for life; the remaining two poachers, John ALLEN and John PENNY were hung for their respective parts in the crime.

BRODRIBB was also convicted for administering an unlawful oath to the participants, although he hadn't been on the poaching trip himself.

In his defence he said that the book he produced for the poachers to swear upon was in fact a ‘young man's companion’, not a Bible. Therefore it was not a true oath. This defence was not accepted, since the belief of the young men was that they were swearing on a Bible.

The poachers who were apprehended and the dates of their admittance to Gloucester Jail were as follows:

John ALLEN28Thornbury22 Jan 1816
John BURLEY19Moreton28 Jan 1816
Benjamin COLLINS33Littleton27 Jan 1816
Thomas COLLINS30Littleton27 Jan 1816
William GREENAWAY27Moreton1 Feb 1816
Robert GROVES19Thornbury8 Feb 1816
James JENKINS21Thornbury27 Jan 1816
Daniel LONG23Hill27 Jan 1816
Thomas MORGAN19Thornbury27 Jan 1816
John PENNY25Littleton29 Jan 1816
William PENNY30Littleton27 Jan 1816
John REEVES28Thornbury27 Jan 1816
James ROACH24Thornbury27 Jan 1816

All were tried at the Lent Assizes on 3rd April 1816 for the murder, and for aiding and abetting in the murder of William INGRAM, a gamekeeper of Colonel Berkeley, the sentence for which was death. John ALLEN and John PENNY were to be executed; for the rest sentencing was held over until 20 May when it was commuted to transportation for life. All except William GREENAWAY and Benjamin COLLINS were transferred during May and June 1816 to the Prison Hulk Justitia moored at Woolwich in the Thames Estuary, and transported subsequently to Sydney, on the Sir William Bensley, and thence to Hobart, Tasmania (then known as Van Diemen's Land - VDL).

William GREENAWAY made a full confession and was admitted evidence for the Crown in return for his life and the life of his step-son John BURLEY. This was conditional on John BURLEY also making a full confession which he refused to do; his conviction was therefore sustained and he was sent to Hobart with the other men. Benjamin COLLINS was locked up initially, but later released,

Amongst others known to have been involved, and who escaped were brothers John and Thomas HAYWARD, sons of a Moreton farmer, believed to have sailed for America, William COLLINS (a brother of Benjamin and Thomas) and Anthony BARTON (who had lived with John REEVES's family) who also went to America.

William COLLINS had escaped to Ireland, but returned to the area as an old man, to tell of the terrible grief he caused his parents, and his deep regret of the whole incident. He said: “how my father and mother suspected I was there, and the painful scene that followed my admission of the truth. But that same night my father drove me to Bristol, and from thence I took my passage on board a vessel bound to Ireland, where I remained for many years.”

More about William BRODRIBB...

I can find no record of William BRODRIBB's admittance to Gloucester Jail, but records show that he was sentenced at the Assizes on 3rd April 1816 to seven years transportation for administering an illegal oath.

He was also sent to the hulks; pleading by his parents and friends to avoid his sentence fell on deaf ears.[3] He was received at the hulk Justitia at Woolwich on 22 May, and transferred to the Sir William Bensley on 5 September 1816, along with all those involved in the crime, but thereafter his fortunes were to take a rather different direction.

The ship sailed for Australia on 11 October 1816, arriving in Sydney on March 10, 1817. There were 200 male convicts on ship; the Captain was Lewis Evans WILLIAMS, and there were 32 non commissioned officers and privates commanded by Lieutenant ROSS.

In addition, a new Lieutenant-Governor, Colonel William SORELL had come aboard with his family and their official party. They were also travelling to VDL so SORELL could take over from the previous Lieutenant-Governer, Thomas DAVEY. As it so happened, SORELL was the most sympathetic of the early Governors of VDL towards the emancipates.

It appears from the log of the Sir William Bensley that William BRODRIBB was called upon to assist during the journey with the issue of rations, when the steward became ill, so it provided an opportunity for him to meet and get to know Colonel SORELL on the trip.

On arrival in Sydney, William SORELL's commission was read at noon at Government House and the usual oaths of office administered to him. (Ref: Sydney Gazette March 14, 1817) BRODRIBB was then chosen to accompany SORELL to VDL with his party to Hobart on the ship Cochin, arriving there on Tuesday 8 April 1817. The other prisoners were sent to Hobart from Sydney on the Elizabeth Henrietta, which had left Sydney on 23 March 1817 with a total of 70 male prisoners on board.

On 1 May 1817 it was announced from Government House that Mr W. A. BRODRIBB was appointed to act as a Clerk to the Bench of Magistrates as from that date. Then the following year, BRODRIBB's wife and 4 children joined him in Hobart Town, arriving on 15 February 1818 on the Friendship to Sydney, and thence to Hobart on the Duke of Wellington.[4] The family included his eldest son, also William Adams BRODRIBB and daughter Lavinia. In December that year, BRODRIBB was granted a Conditional Pardon; then in January 1819 was re-admitted to practice as a Solicitor of the King's Bench Westminster, and permitted to practice as an attorney in the Register of the Lieutenant-Governor's Court, Hobart Town. For several years he also held the post of Deputy Provost Marshal for Van Diemen's Land. These roles were later removed from him unfortunately, by Lieutenant-Governor George ARTHUR, who did not believe that former convicts should hold positions of power.

On 9 January 1819, BRODRIBB ran an advertisement in the Hobart Town Gazette, stating that he had: opened an office at the Veranda House, Elizabeth Street for the practice of conveyancing. “Assignments, Leases Wills etc. will be prepared with accuracy and dispatch.”

He thus became the first practising solicitor in VDL.

BRODRIBB had his portrait painted by the infamous convict artist, Thomas G. WAINEWRIGHT, who was befriended by the BRODRIBB family. WAINEWRIGHT was appointed to work as wardsman for the BRODRIBB's young doctor son, Frederick BRODRIBB, at the Colonial Hospital. WAINEWRIGHT also painted portraits of Frederick himself, his sister Frances Maria, and their mother, Prudence. [5]

Of the other convicted prisoners, the 1821 Convict Muster reports their fortunes as follows:

John BURLEY aged 19 on arrival in VDL, died in 1818.

Thomas COLLIN(G)S aged 30 on arrival in VDL, had a Ticket of Leave. The Historical Records of Australia then tell us a Mr. Thomas COLLINS was given a grant of land on 30 July 1822.

Robert GROVES aged 19 on arrival in VDL, appears to be still a convict.

James JENKINS aged 21 on arrival in VDL, had stolen a boat and was caught attempting to escape in it. He was sentenced to 100 lashes and sent to Newcastle for 3 years.

Daniel LONG - aged 25 on arrival in VDL, was conditionally emancipated.

Thomas MORGAN - aged 20 on arrival in VDL, had forfeited his Ticket of Leave. He was married to a convict girl, and had left his lodgings at night and was found on a ship in port which was readying to leave Hobart.

William PENNY aged 26 on arrival in VDL, also from Thornbury appears to be still a convict.

John REEVES aged 27 on arrival in VDL, from Thornbury, and had a Ticket of Leave.

James ROACH aged 27 on arrival in VDL, was also from Thornbury and had a Ticket of Leave.

Some of the 9 men, if not all, were on the 1823 Convict List. However the only one on the 1826 Convict List was Thomas MORGAN who has a Ticket of Leave. His original Ticket of Leave had been revoked. On the 1834/37 List of Conditional Pardons, Tasmania, only Thomas MORGAN of the Sir William Bensley and Elizabeth Henrietta is mentioned. He was finally granted a Conditional Pardon after being 21 years in the colony.

Of the above, we also know a little more about Daniel LONG.

More about Daniel LONG...

The register of prisoners committed to the County Gaol says Daniel had dark brown hair, light grey eyes, brown complexion, long thin face, long nose, wide mouth, 2 moles on right side of neck, several scars between his shoulders, the first finger of his right hand had been broken and ‘is contracted’' he was a farmer and could read and write.[6]

  1. In 28 Feb 1818 he was constable for New Town (Ref: Hobart Town Gazette)
  2. On 31 Jan 1820 he was conditionally pardoned (Ref: fiche register of NSW Conditional Pardons)
  3. On 25 May 1820 he told the Bigge Commission he had been Overseer of the Government Farm at New Town for nearly 4 years.
  4. Before 1823 he had a land grant of 50 acres at Ormaig (near Colebrook)
  5. On 27 Feb 1824 he married Mary Ann FETTERS at St Davids in Hobart. Both stated they were ‘free’. Daniel had asked the Governor's permission to marry without banns and signed that letter. Mary Ann's mother Jane FOREMAN had given her consent. A notice in the Mercury for the golden wedding anniversary of their son says Mary Ann was ‘late of India’.
  6. On 8 Oct 1824 he became licensee of the Plough and Harrow in Main Street, Sorell; and was still there at the end of 1829.
  7. On 26 May 1832 he was resident at Pittwater and described as having killed no less that 16 fine whales. Earlier in the year he'd killed two. (Ref: Hobart Town Courier)
  8. He died of dropsy on 17 Dec 1853 whilst still a farmer at Sorell. Mary Ann had died earlier in August 1847 of apoplexy aged 41; they had only one son, “Daniel-2”.
  9. Last, but by no means least, on 20 Nov 1870 Rev. H Unett Coates of Rockhampton Rectory, Berkeley, wrote to the Registrar of BDM in Hobart asking for information about Daniel... The Archives no longer have the letter, but who else was wanting to trace him!?
    (Information on Daniel LONG supplied by Linda Forbes)

More about John REEVES...

John was the son of Henry REEVES and Hester née JENKINS, born 26 May 1786, and baptised at Thornbury on 16 Jul 1786. He was married to Hester MORGAN[8] at Rockhampton on 9 Aug 1810, and they had three sons, Charles (1810), Henry (1813) and John (1815). All three sons did well for themselves as adults; Charles was a Wheelwright in Rangeworthy ( Charles Reeves' Will, 1900); Henry became a Publican in Stone ( Henry Reeves' Will, 1882); and son John joined the Police Force, being recorded as a policeman on the 1851 Census for North Nibley - somewhat ironic, given the fate of his father! It is not known what happened to John after that.

This much I have researched personally - this families were of great interest to me even before I found out John senior was transported, as he may have been a cousin of my gt*2 grandfather Henry REEVES who was born about 1778/9. Naming patterns suggest it may be so - Henry, John's father, was the son of Henry REEVES and Anne née MACHIN born in 1750; Henry and Anne also had an older son John, born in 1738/9. This latter John was married twice, and known to have had several children, and though none are recorded as named Henry, it seems likely he could, or should have named one of his own sons after his father, and the baptism have gone unrecorded.

Also, if the physical description of the erstwhile convict is anything to go by, it does seem very likely there was a relationship, as my mother's brothers were also relatively short men with brown hair and hazel eyes, and my mother, and one of her sisters had a twisted big toe on their respective left feet. John's big toe is described as contracted on the register of prisoners committed to Gloucester Jail:-

He was 5 ft 5¾ inches tall, of brown complexion, with dark brown hair and light hazel eyes; a long nose, wide mouth and nostrils and a small mole under his right ear; first toe on the left foot contracted and a small scar on the small of his left arm. His occupation was recorded as labourer, and he is said to have been able to read a little.[7]

He was discharged from the Jail on 2 Jun 1816, presumably to the Justitia. On board ship he was No. 11 on the Police Office Register.

In comparison to John the others were “big strapping country boys”; for example, BRODRIBB was 5 ft 10 in, which was about average for the group.

The following details relating to John's time in Tasmania is a summary of information kindly supplied to me by Lauris Crampton.

  1. In the 1818 Musters John REEVES was in Government Employ in Hobart and his future partner, Elizabeth BURRELL was in The Government Factory[9]. On 19 Apr 1819 Elizabeth had a son named Thomas BURRELL, and this child later became known as Thomas REEVES.
  2. On 17 Jul 1819 he gained a Ticket of Leave, and had Elizabeth BURRELL “assigned” to him.
  3. In the 1821 Muster (18 Sep) he was renting a farm at Browns River and had not re-offended. Brown's River is about 9 to 11 miles out of Hobart - there was no road to it in the early days, and it was accessible only by boat.
  4. In the 1823 (Oct/Nov) Convict Muster, he is listed as being unmarried.
  5. Around 1824 he was renting land at (Crayfish/Crawfish Point) Sandy Bay from George CARTWRIGHT (a Solicitor). Sandy Bay is 7-9 miles out of Hobart.
  6. He is not listed in the 1826 Convict Muster - presumably pardoned by then.
  7. In 1828 he gave up the Farm at Sandy Bay, and on 20 Jul 1830 was renting 300 acres of land in Kingsboro' Parish.
  8. From 1834 to 1844 he held the license for the hotel Stag and Hounds in Harrington Street, Hobart. He had a house in Patrick Street near the corner of Lansdowne Street between 1848 and 1859. This house was constructed of brick and wood. His son, Thomas was living with him in 1848.
  9. He died at his residence in Patrick Street, aged 68 years on 22 Sep 1859 from a long standing disease of the prostate gland. Friends were “respectfully invited to attend his funeral which will move from his Late Residence, on Monday, 26th at 2 o'clock”. (Ref: Hobart Town Daily Mercury, Saturday 24 Sep 1859)
  10. John and Elizabeth had two more known children, Jane REEVES born c.1822 and Andrew REEVES born c.1825. In the 1823 Muster Elizabeth is recorded as being with John REEVES. Elizabeth was granted her Free Certificate on 6 Feb 1824. It does not appear that John ever married Elizabeth, but they remained together.
  11. Elizabeth REEVES died in 1835 aged 52 years, a publicans wife and was buried 16 Feb 1835 at St. Davids.
    (Information on John REEVES in Tasmania supplied by Lauris Crampton)

It was a cause of some concern for Lauris when she discovered John had left a wife and three young children in England. I have yet to discover what happened to John's first wife Hester.


This account is based on research by Jo Watson, and is made available with her kind permission. William Brodribb was her gt*4 grandfather, and after many years researching him, she became curious what became of the other poachers. She placed an advertisement in the Thornbury/Berkeley newspapers, inviting descendants of the poachers/interested parties to contact her, and as a consequence traced descendants/relations of Reeves, Collins, Long, Allen and a possible Roach descendant, also family of Anthony Barton, who escaped to the United States of America.

A summary of the contributions she received from Lauris Crampton, gt*3 granddaughter of John REEVES and his second wife Elizabeth BURRELL, and Linda Forbes, gt*3 granddaughter of Daniel LONG, is also included.

[1] SPRING-GUN - a device formerly in use against poachers and trespassers. Wires were attached to the trigger of a gun in such a manner that anyone stumbling over or treading on the wires would discharge it and wound himself. In 1827 spring-guns and all man-traps were made illegal in England, except when set inside a house between sunset and sunrise, as a protection against burglars, though since then, this was no doubt made illegal too.
[2] William INGRAM was buried at Stone - [q.v. Alf Beard's list of MIs at All Saints Church, elsewhere on this site]. Added 18 Mar 2008.
[3] The following letter was sent by the visiting magistrate to the Home Office.

Matson House,
Near Gloucester
May 10th 1816

Dear Sir,

I find an order has been received by the Keeper of our County Gaol from my Lord Sidmouth to send up eleven prisoners now under sentence of Transportation to the Hulks at Woolwich.

The names of these intended are not specified in the margin but I conclude the orders refer to those who were so sentenced at the last Assizes and the previous Quarter Sessions. In this number will be included William Adams Broadribb (sic) who was convicted of administering an unlawful oath to the poachers in the neighbourhood of Berkeley.

Strong application was made on his behalf by his parents & friends to the Prosecutor and the Bishop of Gloucester and though his offence might be deemed of such a nature as to preclude all hopes of remission of sentence, yet at all events they earnestly deprecated his being sent to the Hulks.

I am not aware whether it is intended that he and others should be sent thither merely in transitu or for the term of their respective punishments, but as the whole eleven could not be conveyed to town at once, I marked six to be taken up by the first conveyance leaving Broadribb among the five to be sent in the course of the next week, should the hulk be the destined place of his transitory or lasting confinement.

Having been again appointed one of the visiting justices to the gaol for the present year I have taken the liberty of referring this case to your consideration being perfectly satisfied that in doing so I am submitting it to the determination of His Majesty's Government.

I am Dear Sir,
Your most truly and respectfully,
R. Bransby Cooper

There are various items online detailing experiences of convicts, and in particular, an account of one man's “stay” - “On the hulk Justitia at Woolwich”, one of the items on a web page providing information about Royal Arsenal History: Prison Hulks. [Added 10 Oct 2005, amended 12 Jan 2019 - Ed.]

[4] Convicts were permitted to apply to have their family join them. To qualify they had to be deserving of the privilege, and have the means to support them, and not be of any burden/cost to the government.
[5] William Adams BRODRIBB was born in Camely in Somerset in 1789 and had married Prudence KEENE at Horfield, GLS in 1808.
[6] Gloucester Record Office: Extract from the register of prisoners in the county gaol, Gloucester, 1815-1818 (Q/gc5/1)
[7] ibid.
[8] A Henry LONG witnessed John REEVES' marriage to Hester MORGAN in 1810. Was Henry a relation of Daniel? Was Hester related to Thomas MORGAN?
[9] The Government Factory was a euphemism for The Female House of Correction
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