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Thomas Holden

Thomas Holden, one of 200 convicts transported on the Fortune, November 1812

Name, Aliases & Gender

Name: Thomas Holden
Aliases: none
Gender: m

Birth, Occupation & Death

Date of Birth: 1792
Occupation: Weaver
Date of Death: -
Age: -

Life Span

Life span

Male median life span was 51 years*

* Median life span based on contributions

Conviction & Transportation

Sentence Severity

Sentence Severity

Sentenced to 7 years

Crime: Rioting/unlawful oaths
Convicted at: Lancaster Sessions of Pleas
Sentence term: 7 years
Ship: Fortune
Departure date: November, 1812
Arrival date: 11th June, 1813
Place of arrival New South Wales
Passenger manifest Travelled with 199 other convicts


Primary source: Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 87, Class and Piece Number HO11/2, Page Number 84
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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Community Contributions

D Wong on 17th January, 2015 wrote:

Thomas Holden was sentenced to 7 years transportation for ‘Administering An Illegal Oath’ to Isaac Crompton in Bolton.

Holden, who was a weaver, was tried at the Special Assize held in Lancaster Castle (May 1812) which was convened to try people who had been involved primarily with riots at Westhoughton and Manchester.

Thomas was 20 years old, married and had 1 son.  His parents were John and Ellen Holden at Hag End near Bolton.

The initial unrest had come about due to the desperation of handloom weavers, who were being forced out of their trade by the growth of the factory system, and the consequent hardship inflicted upon their families due to lost earnings. During this whole period sporadic attempts were made by gangs of weavers to destroy the machines that were taking the food from their mouths.

Holden was one of a number of men accused of administering an illegal oath.
It is possible that Holden was a Luddite. There was certainly an accusation of this during his trial. This would have made Holden doubly dangerous in the eyes of the court, and explains why he was convicted on such flimsy evidence, and why he received so harsh a sentence.

At the end of the Assize eight people were executed, one a boy of sixteen who had been involved with the riot at Westhoughton, another a woman of fifty-four, who had stolen bread and potatoes in Manchester. Many more were imprisoned, or like Holden sentenced to Transportation to Australia…virtual exile on the other side of the world.

After he had been sentenced Thomas Holden wrote this letter to his wife:
“Its with sorrow that I acquaint you that I this day receiv’d my Tryal and has receiv’d the hard sentence of Seven Years Transportation beyond the seas…If it was for any Time in prison I would try and content myself but to be sent from my Native Country perhaps never to see it again distresses me beyond comprehension and will Terminate with my life…To part with my dear Wife and Child, Parents and Friends, to be no more, cut off in the Bloom of my Youth without doing the least wrong to any person on earth. Oh my hard fate, may God have mercy on me…Your affec. Husband until Death.”

Mary Holden
to be Left at the
Golden Lion Church
Gate Bolton Lee
Moars Lancshire

25/2/1817: Absolute Pardon.

Thomas Holden, went home with Macquarie’s permission when his eloquent letters could not persuade his wife to follow him.

Stuart Rodgers on 20th July, 2015 wrote:

Link to short biography of Thomas Holden by Lancaster museums at Lancaster castle. UK.


Maureen Withey on 21st November, 2019 wrote:

The following convicts have been removed from our Castle, this week, to be severally transported, agreeably to their sentences, viz Charles Sefton, James Robinson, John Fisher, James Knowles, Thomas Holden, Samuel Crossley, John Hope, John Hurst, Christopher Medcalf, James Brierley, Henry Thwait, Joseph Greenhalgh, Thos. Pickup, and John Burney. 
Lancaster Gazette, 20 June 1812.

Elizabeth Ashworth on 22nd November, 2021 wrote:

Biography of Thomas Holden

Thomas Holden was born in 1792 in Haulgh, Bolton. His parents were John and Ellen Holden. He had a younger brother named William born in 1795. Thomas and his family were handloom weavers, probably weaving the local ‘caddow’ quilts or counterpanes.
Thomas was married to Mary (Molly). Their marriage may have been the one recorded at St Peter’s parish church, Bolton in January 1811, between Thomas Holding and Mary Wood. Even in the letters, Thomas’s name varies between Holden and Holding.
In 14th April 1812, Thomas attended a secret weaver’s meeting at the Rope Walk, near Bolton. He was arrested and committed to the Special Assize at Lancaster Castle in May 1812. He was tried on the last day of the Assize and found guilty of swearing an illegal oath. On 1st June 1812 he was sentenced to be transported to New South Wales for seven years.
Thomas Holden wrote a series of letters to his wife and family, many of which have survived, that reveal his story.
Thomas was taken from Lancaster on the 19th June 1812 to the prison hulks at Langstone Harbour. He was held for one night at the New Bailey in Salford along the way and for four nights in London from Sunday 21st June until the night of Thursday 25th June. Thomas writes home on Sunday, 28th June to say that he arrived at Langstone Harbour about twelve o’ clock that day. Thomas was taken aboard the prison hulk HMS Portland from where he complains about not having clean shirts and needing money to pay for extra rations which are short of their full weight. He also continues to ask if his family can plead for a reprieve for him and if not, asks his wife Molly if she can raise the money to go with him. The wives from Bolton did petition for a free passage, but were turned down.
By the 22nd November, Thomas has been transferred to The Fortune. On the 29th November, he writes home to say he is very ill with yellow jaundice and fears he will not recover. He says he is being nursed by another convict from Bolton, John Fisher. He is still hoping for a reprieve or news that his wife can sail with him.
On the 12th December, Thomas writes that he expects to sail any day. According to what Thomas wrote, the Fortune seems to have set sail on Christmas Day. The voyage took six months, calling at Rio de Janeiro along the way and arrived at Sydney Cove in June 1813.
On arrival in New South Wales, Thomas was assigned to work for Commissary David Allen, who had also sailed on the Fortune to take up his post. In the convict lists Thomas Holden is said to be a Government Labourer. In 1814 he writes home to say that he is working for Commissary Allen as a footman which he finds unpleasant as he has to work late and get up early. He tells his wife that he is ‘uncomfortable… being out so late at nights with my master at the Balls’.
It appears from entries in Thomas’s diary, which has since been lost, that he was assigned to the Allens for at least three years and rose to be the steward of the household. But as the end of the three years came close, Thomas writes in his diary that an accusation of stealing rum was made against him, although he was acquitted at the trial. He also admits that he was in trouble for having an affair with the cook. She became pregnant and was sent to the Parramatta Factory and Thomas spent a month in prison. When Thomas writes home on 19th March 1816, asking for his family to send a box filled with counterpanes, cloth, ribbons, stockings and other items that he can sell on for a profit, he asks for the box to be well-nailed down and sent with the Allen things. So, it seems he was still in the employment of Commissary Allen although now being paid a wage of twenty pounds a year, which he thinks is equivalent to twelve English pounds.
Thomas writes home on the 30th May 1816 that he has been promised an ‘emancipation’ and will be able to leave the Allens and find more lucrative employment which he hopes will give him the money he needs to pay his fare home at the end of his sentence.
Thomas Holden was granted an absolute pardon on 25th February 1817. On 9th April 1817 he left New South Wales aboard the government brig Kangaroo. He writes in his diary on 16th February, 1818 ‘we made the land of ould England’.
The 1841 census shows Thomas Holden living back at his home in Hag End Fold, near Bolton with his wife Mary, and four more children Ellen born 1820, John born 1822, Thomas born 1827 and Margaret born 1833. The last trace of him is in the census of 1861. He is 70 years old and still working as a handloom weaver, making counterpanes. Thomas Holden died before the next census in 1871 where his wife is a widow living with their son, Thomas.

Convict Changes History

D Wong on 17th January, 2015 made the following changes:

date of birth: 1792 (prev. 0000), gender: m, occupation, crime

This record was discovered and printed on ConvictRecords.com.au