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John Pearse

John Pearse, one of 272 convicts transported on the Perseus and Coromandel, January 1802

Name, Aliases & Gender

Name: John Pearse
Aliases: Pearce
Gender: m

Birth, Occupation & Death

Date of Birth: 1775
Occupation: Farmer
Date of Death: 1849
Age: 74 years

Life Span

Life span

Male median life span was 60 years*

* Median life span based on contributions

Conviction & Transportation

Sentence Severity

Sentence Severity

Sentenced to Life

Crime: Attempted murder
Convicted at: Southampton Assizes
Sentence term: Life
Ship: Perseus and Coromandel
Departure date: January, 1802
Arrival date: 14th August, 1802
Place of arrival New South Wales
Passenger manifest Travelled with 251 other convicts


Primary source: Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 87, Class and Piece Number HO11/1, Page Number 310
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 13th October, 2013 wrote:

Amanda on 3rd March, 2012 wrote:

With regards to the Coromandel and the Perseus, the cocnivt ships which sailed together from Spithead in 1802.  I have the sailing date of both ships, what happened on the voyage of the Perseus. I also have the break up of the cocnivts who sailed on each ship and also what happened to most of the cocnivts on the Perseus, after they arrived in Sydney Cove.  I have notes from the Log of the Perseus, especially the two days before they arrived in Port Jackson, which is very intersting indeed.  My husband’s ggg grandfather was John Pearce/Pearse, a 26 year old farmer from Eling near the New Forest in Hampshire, tried for poaching the Kings Deer in the New Forest, in the Great Hall in Winchester.  He was sentenced to death, which was commuted to transportation for Life. He was assigned to Lt, Nicholas Paget Bayley as his Hut Keeper and later he was assigned to Baron August Alt, the first Surveyor Gerneral of Lands in the Colony, who arrived on the First Fleet.  John became a Police officer, after his received his Conditional Pardon, he married another cocnivt Mary Lees (Friendship 1806), they had two sons Robert and Richard. After John received his Conditional Pardon, he became a Police Officer and served in the force for over 20 years, while his wife Mary ran the Freemason’s Hotel in Castlereagh Street in Brickfield Hill, which was built on his Land Grant.

John Pearse was literate, 5’4” tall dark sallow complexion, brown hair, hazel eyes.

Indented to Nicholas Paget Bayly, as a hut keeper on arrival.

Phil Hands on 12th June, 2017 wrote:

Tried and convicted at the Southampton Assizes in Hampshire on 2nd March 1801 of Poaching the Kings deer and also discharging a gun at a Game Keeper, he sentenced to death, this was later commuted to transportation for life.
Left England on 12th February 1802.
Ship:- the ‘Perseus’ sailed with 113 male convicts on board of which 1 died during the voyage.
Arrived on 14th August 1802.

Hampshire Chronicle, Monday, November 10th 1800. p. 4
Late on Saturday night 1st November, as three of the King’s keepers were traversing the New Forest, in the neighbourhood of Lyndhurst, as is customary, they discovered two dogs pursuing deer, both of which they shot; when immediately five men, armed with fire-arms, came up within a short distance, and after discharging their pieces, ran away. They were perused and one of the miscreants taken, John Pearse. Mr.Francis Allen, one of the keepers, received two slugs in the middle part of his thigh. Mr. Westcott, surgeon of that place, attended on Sunday, and extracted one of the slugs only: he hoped to be able to extract the other. It is thought that the prisoner will impeach his accomplices.

Hampshire Chronicle, Monday November 17th 1800,
This week were committed to the county goal, Moses Hurl, for horse-stealing: John Pearce, for firing a gun at T. Broomfield, and abetting C. Avery and other prisoners in firing at and wounding Francis Allen; John Cousins ...

John Pearce was held at the Hampshire County Gaol, while awaiting news of where he would be sent next. At the end of March the Supervisor of the Gaol received orders, that all convicts being held for transportation at the County Gaol, were to be taken by prison cart to Portsmouth and there to be received on board the prison Hulk ‘Le Fortunee’ and the Hospital Hulk in Langston Harbour.

This journey was made and at Portsmouth the prisoners where taken from the cart and led down the stone steps to the wharf, where two long boats were ready to transport them from the shore to the Hulk ‘La Fortunee’. She was at anchor in Langston Harbour, in a muddy estuary just off the main route into Portsmouth. Langston Harbour is directly opposite Spithead, which is the body of water between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight and is a protected waterway and has been used over the centuries as safe anchorage.

It was on 1st April 1801, when John Pearce first stepped foot on the deck of the Hulk ‘La Fortunee’. Immediately John was stripped of his clothing and washed down in a large tub on the deck of the Hulk. John was then issued with a new suit of coarse slop clothes and his old prison clothes he had been wearing, were taken from him and thrown overboard. What John Pearce had been wearing, was filthy and infected with vermin. John and the other prisoners were then placed in irons and sent below. John was to remain on this Hulk for 10 gruelling and unbearable months.

Every morning at seven o’clock all the convicts capable of work or, in fact, all who were capable of getting into the long boats, were taken on shore to work on the construction of the new docks, and fortifications, to protect Portsmouth harbour from the invasion threat by the French. While working in groups of sixteen to twenty they were watched over by men given the title of guards. These guards were commonly of the lowest class of human beings; retches devoid of all felling; ignorant in the extreme, brutal by nature and rendered tyrannical and cruel by the consciousness of the power they possessed. They carried with them a large stick, with which, without the smallest provocation they would beat a convict to the ground and frequently repeat their blows long after the man was unconscious.

John Pearce endured this treatment for the ten months he was on the Hulk. The conditions below deck at night were intolerable. Men, most of them double-ironed in two sets of chains, and the effects arising from the continual rattling of chains, the filth and vermin, naturally produced by such a crowd of miserable inhabitants, oaths and execrations constantly were heard all through the night. This drove prisoners almost mad, actually many did go mad or died in these disease infested Hulks, while awaiting transportation. Some on board these hell holes, were as young as twelve years of age. The conditions had become so intolerable, that at the beginning of 1802, at the very time that John was imprisoned on the La Fortunee
, the British Government appointed Aaron Graham to manage the hulks. He was a magistrate and had humanely investigate the naval mutinies at Spithead in 1797. Once appointed he did set out to try and improve the lot of the poor unfortunates that were forced to call these floating stick holes home.

John Pearce kept to himself, as he wanted no trouble, after suffering the knowledge he was to be hanged, he now clung to life as best he could and he wanted more than most, to survive his time on the Hulk. He felt deep within his heart he had been given a second chance. While working on the fortification at Portsmouth, he heard rumours that the ships to take them to the Penal Colony in Port Jackson would soon be arriving in the harbour. Each day they would keep an eye out for ships dropping anchor and wondering if this was the ship that would at last take them away from this hell. However, it was now mid winter and the convicts began to agree that this would not be the best time to sail. Their hopes however, were soon up when a new rumour began to circulate that it maybe sometime in February or March of 1802 when they would leave these shores.

Little did the convicts realise that their idle gossip was not far from the truth. There were two ship making reading for this voyage and they were the ‘Coromandel’ and the ‘Perseus’. Near the end of 1801, both of these ships were tied up at Bell’s Wharf on the Thames River, when the captains of these ships received a commission. They were to take 251 male convicts to New South Wales and once these orders were received, both ships were moved to Kings Mooring at Deptford to be fitted out for the long journey ahead and to take on adequate provisions and fresh water for the welfare of their charges.

John married convict Mary Lees (nee Hughes, ‘William Pitt’ 1806) in 1811 at Sydney, they had 2 children, Robert in 1810 and Richard in 1812.
After John received his Conditional Pardon, he became a Police Officer and served in the force for over 20 years, while his wife Mary ran the Freemason’s Hotel in Castlereagh Street in Brickfield Hill, which was built on his Land Grant.

November 1828 Census
Pearce, John, 53, conditional pardon, Perseus, 1804, life, Protestant, constable, Castlereagh Street Sydney
Pearce alias Lees, Mary, 69, free by servitude, William Pitt, 1806, 7 years
Pearce, Robert, 18, born in the colony, Protestant, apprentice to Wm. Pawley, Castlereagh Street Sydney
Peace, Richard, 16, born in the colony, Protestant, apprentice to B. Smith, Castlereagh Street Sydney

Convict Changes History

D Wong on 13th October, 2013 made the following changes:

date of birth 1773, gender, occupation, crime

Phil Hands on 12th June, 2017 made the following changes:

alias1: Pearce, date of birth: 1775 (prev. 1773), date of death: 1849 (prev. 0000)

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