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Isaac Gowlett

Isaac Gowlett, one of 206 convicts transported on the Ganges, August 1796

Name, Aliases & Gender

Name: Isaac Gowlett
Aliases: none
Gender: m

Birth, Occupation & Death

Date of Birth: 1774
Occupation: -
Date of Death: 1827
Age: 53 years

Life Span

Life span

Male median life span was 61 years*

* Median life span based on contributions

Conviction & Transportation

Sentence Severity

Sentence Severity

Sentenced to Life

Crime: Stealing a sheep
Convicted at: Old Bailey
Sentence term: Life
Ship: Ganges
Departure date: August, 1796
Arrival date: 2nd June, 1797
Place of arrival New South Wales
Passenger manifest Travelled with 208 other convicts


Primary source: Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 87, Class and Piece Number HO11/1, Page Number 215 (108)
Source description: This record is one of the entries in the British convict transportation registers 1787-1867 database compiled by State Library of Queensland from British Home Office (HO) records which are available on microfilm as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project.

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Anonymous on 21st June, 2011 wrote:

Crime date February 12, 1796, trial date April 6, 1796 at the Old Bailey, aged 20 years.

Charged with stealing a ewe sheep value 20s, property of Henry Weatherby. Death commuted to life.

Phil Hands on 24th August, 2017 wrote:

Isaac Gowlett was baptised on the 13th May 1774, 20 miles West of London, at St. Margaret’s Uxbridge, Middlesex, the son of Richard Gowlett & Mary his wife.
Isaac had two elder siblings, Richard born in 1769 and a sister Elizabeth born in 1771 and three younger full sisters born; Sarah in baptised in 1776 who died at the age of 16 months, Mary Ann baptised 1779 and Fanny baptised October 1781. His mother died, not long following Fanny’s birth and his father remarried, two months after the child’s Baptism, in December 1781. At this time Isaac was aged seven, brother Richard twelve and sisters Elizabeth aged nine, Mary Ann four and Fanny an infant. Isaac and his siblings were raised between the Township of Uxbridge and adjacent Hillingdon, his father a labourer as was his father before him. Uxbridge itself was situated on the main Western Arterial Road to London alongside the River Colne.

At the age of 21 Isaac Gowlett married 19 year-old Mary Osborne at St. John’s Hillingdon 30th August 1795. The ill fated couple were only married a few months when a series of events transpired that were to change their lives forever.

In November that year Isaac, was with his brother-in-law James Bryant by the old milestone on Hillingdon Hill where they met a man selling a sheep. Witnessed by James, Isaac bought the ewe for 3½ Crowns and upon returning home he turned it out at Uxbridge Moor. About ten weeks later found the sheep was found to be heavy with lamb and set out to sell it to the local butcher, William Read whose shop lay near Hillingdon Village. On the 12th February 1796 Isaac was coming from Uxbridge Moor as they arranged to meet a half-way point at Cowley Hill just left of Hillingdon Village. Leading the sheep over the Moor, the pregnant ewe may have been slow, he then placed the ewe upon his shoulders and continued the journey when he was seen from about 40 or 50 feet by Stephen Ody, the bailiff for Squire Higginson, the Squire owning a farm near Iver about 2.4 miles from Uxbridge. Isaac decided to divert to another route, through a shallow lake and over a bridge, cutting through the fields. After meeting William Read at Cowley’s Hill the two negotiated for some time and eventually a price of 16s.6d. was settled. Isaac then carried the sheep to William’s shop, William being an elderly man. Several hours later it was discovered that Stephen Ody had raised an alarm and swore that he had seen on the shoulder of the sheep that Isaac was carrying, markings familiar to that of a farmer who lived at nearby Iver. It was found that the farmer, Henry Weatherby was indeed missing ‘two’ sheep from his flock. Subsequently Isaac was arrested and accused of the theft of one of the sheep and William Read for receiving goods. Isaac and William were taken to Newgate Prison, adjoining the Old Bailey in London to await Trial.

They were tried at the Old Bailey on 11th May 1796, Isaac for stealing a ewe sheep and William for receiving, value 20s. the property of Henry Weatherby. Because the previous owner could not be identified, Isaac’s ownership of the ewe could not be proven. Both the accused were convicted, Isaac was sentenced to death and William to transportation for 14 years, on 20th May 1796 Isaac’s sentence was commuted to transportation for life.
Left England late 1796.
Ship:- the ‘Ganges’ sailed with 203 male convicts on board of which 13 died during the voyage.
Arrived on 2nd June 1797.
Ships indent note:- he was 5 feet 8 and three quarter inches tall, sallow complexion, brown hair and blue eyes.

By 1800 Isaac in the employment of a Mr. Neil at Parramatta. By this time Isaac had already been granted a ‘Ticket of Leave’* for good behavior. It is considered that it was here that he learnt the trade of ‘Shingle Maker’ working in the dense bush land in the area, cutting down trees for the purpose of making roof shingles, a trade in which he became very respected.

Around 1802-3 Isaac met a young Convict girl by the name of Mary Miller. Mary was a 19 year old girl who arrived in the Colony in April 1800 on the ‘Speedy’, she had been convicted at the Old Bailey at the age of 16, accused of stealing a piece of paper that she had picked up in a London Street. In 1804, although ten years her senior and both still serving their sentences, Isaac lived with Mary at Kissing Point, NSW where she bore him a son baptised Isaac Gowlett 16th March 1804, Isaac jnr drowned in the Parramatta River in 1814.
Following the death of his son, Isaac had moved to Clunes on the far North Coast of NSW near Lismore. He was by then working in the area as an Overseer of the shingle splitters.

2 years after his son Isaac jnr died, Isaac entered into another defacto relationship with another convict, Mary Stephens (‘Francis and Eliza’ 1815) this union produced 3 children between 1819-1823.
In 1823 Mary took her infant daughter Maria, still suckling, leaving Fanny and Sarah with Isaac, and went to the home of Thomas Gilberthorpe at Windsor taking employment as his servant and housekeeper. Thomas Gilberthorpe was forty years her senior and although previously a convict himself, was by now a prosperous farmer. Meanwhile Isaac was ill and struggling to care for his little daughters. The 1823 muster records him not working and that he had assumed home duties.
On 30th September 1824 Isaac received a Conditional Pardon.

By mid 1826 Isaac was resumed work although concerned finding it difficult to juggle work and the duties of a single parent, his daughters attended school in the daytime. His health continuing to fail Isaac reluctantly begins arrangements for his two daughter’s admission to the Orphanage at Parramatta.
On the 4th September 1826 Isaac wrote a letter to the Female Orphanage at Parramatta

Applications For Admission to the Orphanage 1826
Field of Mars
4 Sep 1826
Revd Sir
I most humbly beg leave to solicit your favor of taking my two female children into the Orphan School, the eldest is seven years old, the younger five, being a labouring man and earning my living by splitting timber in the woods, when they leave school there is no one to take care of them, until my return in the evening; the mother of them left me when they were very young, and I have hitherto discharged by duty towards them as well as lay in my power and have kept them constant at school, but—- my state of health am prevented from doing as well by them as I could wish.
I am
Revd. Sir…
Isaac Gowlett

Isaac’s Petition was granted and the records show that Fanny and Sarah were admitted into the Orphanage 3 weeks later on the 23rd September 1826.

Isaac died ten months later. He was buried at the Field of Mars Cemetery in Sydney’s Northern Suburbs on the 13th July 1827 aged 53 yrs.

Phil Hands on 24th August, 2017 wrote:

Old Bailey Trial Transcription.
Reference Number: t17960406-34

260. ISAAC GOWLETT and WILLIAM READ were indicted, the first for feloniously stealing, on the 12th of February, a ewe sheep, value 20s. the property of Henry Weatherby and the other for receiving the same, knowing it to have been stolen .(The case was opened by Mr. Knowlys.)
I am a poor man; I live at Iver , about two miles from Uxbridge: I had fifteen sheep, and lost two.
Q. Had you any information from Ody, about your having lost a sheep? - A. Yes; and I went directly to Iver Moor, on the 12th of February, about three o’clock, to see whether I had lost one or not, and missed a ewe sheep.
Examined by Mr. Knowlys. I am bailiff to Squire Higginson; I live within half-a-mile of Weatherby’s
Q. Do you know Gowlett? - A. Yes; I have known him about a twelvemonth: On the 12th of February, I was going from Uxbridge towards Iver; I met him at the distance of forty or fifty yards from me, with a sheep, with a small cord tied round the horns, driving and dragging it along; the sheep had a very fine turned horn, with an old riddle mark across the shoulder; I helped to shear Weatherby’s sheep, and I believe I have helped to mark them; I have been at the marking however.
Q. You were well acquainted with the appearance of his sheep? - A. Yes; and to avoid me, he took over the Moor, through a lake of water, I suppose, knee deep, up to a bridge that goes over the New Cut; and that was the last I saw of him.
Q. It was a singular thing, driving sheep through water? - A. Yes.
Q. That made you observe him the more? - A. Yes.
Q. Had you any doubt whose sheep it was? - A. I had a thought it was Mr. Weatherby’s; but I did not see his name upon it.
Q. Is there any thing particular about the horns of Weatherby’s sheep? - A. Nothing more than that it is a fine turned horn.
Q. In consequence of that, did you give any information to any body? - A. Yes; as soon as I got home, I told my master, and he sent another servant to let Mr. Weatherby know.
Cross-examined by Mr. Ally. Q. You are servant to Mr. Higginson? - A. Yes.
Q. Not to the prosecutor? - A. No.
Q. Therefore it was not likely that a man should be afraid of meeting you on the road, with a sheep not belonging to your own master? - A. No.
Q. At about forty or fifty yards distance you first saw this sheep? - A. More than that when I saw him first; but the nearest I was to him was forty or fifty yards.
Q. You had been at the shearing of these sheep; were you at the last shearing? - A. No.
Q. When they are sheared, are the marks cut out? - A. Yes.
Q. And yet you mean to swear to that mark, at the distance of forty or fifty yards? - A. I swear to the mark I saw; it is a usual mark.
Q. Many other farmers use the same mark? - A. Yes.
Q. Do you mean to swear to the crooked horn of the sheep? - A. I could swear to it, if I saw it.
Q. Then you swear to the crooked horn of this sheep at that distance? - A. I took that notice, that what I saw I will swear to.
Q. Do you know Norman, the constable? - A. Yes.
Q. Have you and Norman had any conversation about this sheep? - A. Yes, to be sure; that the sheep was gone so and so.
Q. Have you not asked Norman, before he went to the Grand Jury, what he said before the Magistrate? - A. I cannot say.
Q. Upon your oath. did not you ask Norman some questions, as to the manner in which he swore to this sheep? - A. I don’t think I did.
Q. Upon your oath, do you believe you did not? - A. I cannot tell that I have had any conversation in that respect.
Q. Upon your oath, did you not ask Norman what he said before the Magistrate in the country? - A. No.
Q. I will ask you again, and remind you of the language, did you not ask him by what mark he had sworn to the sheep? - A. To the best of my knowledge, I did not.
Q. Did you not ask him, what kind of description he had given him, by the prosecutor, of this sheep? - A. No.
Q. Have you not said, that unless Norman would tell you what he had swore before the Magistrate, you would not undertake again to swear to the sheep? - A. No.
Q. Was this sheep dirty or clean when you saw it? - A. Very dirty.
Q. Have you not said it was so dirty you could not tell whether it was black or white? - A. I said, it had more the appearance of a black one than a white one.
Q. And yet you will swear to the marks? - A. No; you try me too hard there; I said, it had more the appearance of a black one than a white one.
Q. Upon your oath, will you, not with standing that, venture to swear to the mark, at that distance? - A. I swear to what I see; I said, I saw an old ruddle mark upon the shoulder, and a fine turned horn.
Q. But you don’t mean to swear it was the prosecutor’s sheep? - A. No.
Mr. Knowlys. Q. My learned friend has asked you, whether it was likely Gowlett should get out of the way; likely or not, is of no consequence; did he in fact avoid you? - A. Yes.
Mr. Ally. Q. Have you never heard of a reward for prosecuting a sheep-stealer? - A. No.
Q. You never heard it from the constable? - A. No.
Q. Did you never hear it in your life? - A. Who can tell what one has heard in one’s life.
Q. Did you never hear of such a reward? - A. I simply heard something of it to-day.
Jury. Q. Do you mean to say that it was black on account of the dirt? - A. Yes; being dragged over the Moor.
Mr. Knowlys. Q. Are farmers used to change their marks? - A. No; he has stuck to that mark these ten years, to my knowledge.
Q. You immediately gave an account of this to your master; that he had got Mr. Weatherby’s sheep? - A. He had some sheep which I thought to be his.
Mr. Knowlys. (To Weatherby.) Q. What marks had your sheep? - A. A mark of a W on the near side; a black pitch mark, and a ruddle mark, along the neck and across the shoulder.
Q. In consequence of the information you had had from Ody, where did you go to? - A. I went to Uxbridge to make enquirles what to do; I was a poor man, and did not know.
Q. After receiving any information, where did you go to? - A. I went to Mr. Bishop’s, the Magistrate.
Q. Do you know Read, the prisoner? - A. Yes; he is a little butcher, at Hillingdon end of Uxbridge town; I went to his house before I went to Mr. Bishop’s; I asked him whether he had not got a sheep brought to him; I did not mention Gowlett’s name; then it was about four o’clock; he said, he had not bought any such thing for a fortnight; I said to him, sir, you have had one brought to you within about these two hours, or thereabouts; and I told him, Gowlett had brought it; says he, now Mr. Weatherby, I will tell you the truth of it; I met him in Cowley fields, and I bought it of him, and gave him 16s. 6d. for it.
Q. What is the value of that sheep? - A. About a guinea; she was big with lamb; it was not fit for marketing; we kept them, at that time, to breed.
Court. Q. Then no butcher would have bought
A. I should have thought so. Then I asked him to let me see it; then he humm’d and haw’d and said, he did not know where it was.
Q. Did he shew it you? - A. No; I never saw it at last; I asked him several times, and told him, if it was not mine I would not own it; but he would not shew it me, and I left him.
Cross-examined by Mr. Ally. Q. How long was it from the time you had seen the sheep, till you understood you had lost it? - A. The Thursday night, about five o’clock, I saw them there; and I lost it on Friday, between one and two.
Q. This man told you he did buy the sheep, and had given 16s. 6d. for it? - A. Yes.
Q. He is a butcher, in Uxbridge? - A. Yes.
Q. He has lived there these forty years, and been a butcher? - A. He has lived about Uxbridge several years.
Q. And has a wife and several children? - A. I am a stranger to that.
Q. This sheep was not, to yourself, worth more than a guinea? - A. No.
Q. Therefore, since it was in such bad condition, unfit for sale, it was a fair price, if he bought it to cut up among the poor people? - A. It was, but I did not intend to sell this to the butchers.
Q. To a butcher then, for the purposes of his trade, it was not worth any thing? - A. No.
Examined by Mr. Knowlys. I am a constable, at Uxbridge; I was applied to, to execute a search-warrant at Read’s house, he was not at home; I searched his house, and could find nothing in the house; he came down to my house at night, I had him into a little room, and Flack, the other constable, asked him what he had done with the skin of Weatherby’s sheep, of Iver? he told me he had carried it to Rislip, and sold it to Mr. Newman’s man, a fellmonger, which is about six miles from Uxbridge. On Wednesday morning he came down to me, and told me. he had not told the skin; he told me, it was in a little shop he had under the market-house, he told me to go and take it; I went with him to look at it, and it resembled the marks of the skin that I had had a description of; I took the skin, and kept it till I went before the Magistrate, but they would not swear to it; it is here, I put a particular mark upon it.
Q. Was the skin wet or dry? - A. Dry.
Cross-examined by Mr. Ally. Q. The prisoner was not at home when you first went? - A. No.
Q. And he came to you at night? - A. Yes.
Q. And therefore he must have known that this sheep had been lost? - A. Yes.
Q. When you asked to see the skin of the sheep that he had, he offered to give you the keys? - A. Yes.
Q. And shewed you where it was? - A. Yes.
Q. There is nothing particular about this skin? - A. Yes, a mark across the shoulder.
Q. You went away with the skin, and left the prisoner there? - A. He was taken afterwards by a Hillingdon constable.
Q. And he staid at his own house from the time you first made enquiry, till he was taken up? - A. Yes.
Q. Had you ever seen Weatherby’s sheep previous to this time? - A. Yes; but never took any particular notice of them.
Q. Therefore, whether this was the skin of Mr. Weatherby’s sheep you cannot say? - A. No.
Q. Did not Ody, when you were going to the Grand Jury, ask you if you recollected what you said before the Magistrate? - A. Yes; I believe he did.
Q. Have you any doubt of that? - A. No.
Q. Then if Ody has said he did not ask you that, he has told a falsehood? - A. I told him we were bound in a twenty pound bond to prosecute.
Q. Did he not ask you what you said about the marks of the sheep, and that if you would not undertake to swear to it, he was sure he could not? - A. He did say something as to that.
Q. Are you a constable of the town? - A. Yes; and a corn-chandler.(The skin was produced in Court).
Mr. Knowlys. Q. Whether you recollect the particulars of the conversation that passed between you and Ody? - A. He asked me, up at the Grand Jury, what we were sworn before the Bench of Justices, and I told him I was bound in a twenty pound bond to prosecute.
Mr. Knowlys. (To Weatherby.) Q. Is that the skin of your sheep? - A. No, it is not.
Q. Whether you ever kill your own sheep? - A. Sometimes we do.
Q. Whether the skin of a skeep killed on the Friday would be a dry skin so early as the Wednesday following? - A. No; it would not.
I am servant to Mr. Newman, a fellmonger, at Watford; I know Read very well; I never bought a sheep-skin of him in my life.
Gowlett’s defence. Here is a man here that saw me buy the sheep; I have had it nine or ten weeks, I turned it upon the Moor.
For Gowlett.
I am a stone-sawyer; I saw Gowlett buy the sheep that they have brought the skin of, upon Hillingdon-hill, about the middle of the hill, against the mile-stone; he gave three half-crown-pieces for it; it is about two miles and an half from Iver.
Cross-examined by Mr. Knowlys. Q. What kind of a sheep was it? - A. A little kind of a sheep.
Q. Whom did he buy it of? - A. I cannot say.
Q. Was it a wether sheep? - A. I don’t know.
Q. Don’t you know whether it was with lamb or not? - A. No.
Q. Had it horns? - A. Yes.
Q. Where does Gowlett live? - A. In Uxbridge.
Q. How did he get this sheep home? - A. He carried it upon his shoulder.
Q. It was a clean sheep I suppose? - A. Yes; as travelling sheep be.
Q. He had no occasion to go over Iver-moor to get it home? - A. No.
Q. If he did, he must have gone out of the way? - A. Yes.
Q. Two miles, perhaps? - A. No; nor half a mile.
Q. You don’t know what day this was bought? - A. No; I believe it was somewhere about November.
Read’s defence. Weatherby came to my house, and asked it I had not bought a sheep of Gowlett; yes, says I; I happened to light of this man; says he, I have bought a little sheep on the Moor, I will sell it to you; I told him he asked too much for it, I could not get any thing by it; however, he brought it down to the market-house, and I killed it; when Weatherby came, I told him I had; he went down and looked at it, and had two pints of beer with me, and he took a horse, and away he went.(The prisoner Read called Edward Spicer , who had known him twenty-seven years; and George Cribb , who had known him ever since be could remember, who deposed, that he has a wife and seven children, and gave him a good character).
Gowlett, GUILTY . Death . (Aged 20.)
Read, GUILTY . (Aged 54.)
Transported for fourteen years .
Tried by the first Middlesex Jury, before Mr. RECORDER.

Convict Changes History

Phil Hands on 24th August, 2017 made the following changes:

convicted at, date of birth: 1774 (prev. 0000), date of death: 1827 (prev. 0000), gender: m, crime

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