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James Somerville

James Somerville, one of 94 convicts transported on the Surprize, February 1794

Name, Aliases & Gender

Name: James Somerville
Aliases: none
Gender: m

Birth, Occupation & Death

Date of Birth: 25th September, 1766
Occupation: Carpenter
Date of Death: 28th January, 1846
Age: 79 years

Life Span

Life span

Male median life span was 56 years*

* Median life span based on contributions

Conviction & Transportation

Sentence Severity

Sentence Severity

Sentenced to Life

Crime: Burglary
Convicted at: Middlesex Gaol Delivery
Sentence term: Life
Ship: Surprize
Departure date: February, 1794
Arrival date: 17th October, 1794
Place of arrival New South Wales
Passenger manifest Travelled with 94 other convicts


Primary source: Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 87, Class and Piece Number HO11/1, Page Number 197 (99) For Birth - TNA: RG4/4175
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

Denis Pember on 25th September, 2015 wrote:

WILLIAM TURNBULL and JAMES SOMERVILLE were indicted for burglariously breaking and entering the dwelling house of William Brooks , about the hour of eight in the night, of the 29th of January , and burglariously stealing therein, four linen towels, value 4 s. a linen table cloth, 3 s. a pair of linen pillow cases, value 4 s. a pair of silver tea tongs, value 10 s. a tea caddy, value 3 s. a silver spoon, value 3 s. a leather pocket book, with silver clasps, value 10 s. a metal cream pot, value 5 s. a pair of silver shoe buckles, value 15 s. a powderhorn, value 2 s. a knife value 3 d. a dimity waistcoat, value 10 s. a pair of plated buckles, value 6 d. the goods of the said William Brooks , and five linen shirts, value 15 s. two pair of cotton stockings, value 2 s. and two pair of nankeen breeches, value 1 l. the goods of James Upstone.
I had chambers in St. Clement’s-Inn , the ground floor, No. 16. On the 29th of January I left my chambers about eleven or twelve o’clock in the day, and James Upstone , my clerk , went with me, I had another clerk but he was in Oxford-shire, I left nobody in my chambers; I left them secure, the window shutters were not shut, but the windows were and the door was locked; I did not return myself till about nine or a half past nine in the evening; my clerk was returned before me; when I came home I found some Bow-street people and the porter there and two or three gentlemen that live in the stair case, and I found the chambers had been robbed, and I missed every thing in the indictment, and one of the window shutters had been forced off the hinges by means, I believe, of a chissel; they also forced several drawers of a book case; I never saw either of the prisoners till now.
I am clerk to Mr. Brooks. On the 29th of January I went down to Westminster Hall with him and returned about eight o’clock in the evening; when I came home the gentlemen up stairs, Messrs. Hayman and Cobb, and one of their clerks, were in the chambers looking about; we sent directly to Bow-street; the chambers were broke open by the window, the window was listed up and the shutter was wrenched off the hinges. I lost five shirts, a waistcoat, a pair of nankeen breeches, and a pair of cotton stockings, my property; when I went in every thing was all in confusion, my trunk was broke open, the lock was wrenched off and all the things thrown out, and besides that, the bureau and drawers were broke open; here is a paper which I had wrote upon, and I left it on the desk, and it was tumbled down just at the window, and it appears to have a wet foot mark on it, it was a wet night.
I am clerk to Messrs. Hayman and Cobb, their chambers are directly over Mr. Brooks’s. On the 29th of January as near as I can recollect about seven o’clock in the evening I was going up stairs and passing Mr. Brooks’s chambers a man immediately opened the door and looked me very hard in the face, he was within the chambers, I took him for a clerk belonging to Mr. Brooks, it was quite dark at that time; I had occasion to go out about eight o’clock, and coming past the door of Mr. Brooks, the watchman was there calling out Mr. Brooks, I asked him what was the matter? he said, that on coming to his box he observed a man come out of Mr. Brooks’s chambers, and in passing his box the man seemed to be in a hurry to get off, he wanted to know if Mr. Brooks was at home; I said, you had better go in; he went in, and I went in with him; we found two candles laying on the floor, they were both in candlesticks upright, and one was alight; all was in a great heap of confusion; the the door was wide open.
Q. Did you observe the lock of the door? - I cannot say I did.
Q. Did you observe the windows? - I cannot say I did; I was there but a very short time.
Q. Did you make any observations how the persons might have got in? - I did not; I observed all the drawers that had been locked were forced open; going out I met the clerk of Mr. Brooks, Mr.Upstone, and I told him his chambers had been broke open.
I am an officer belonging to Bow-street; in consequence of an information I apprehended the prisoner Turnbull, on the 27th of February, I apprehended him at a place called the World’s End; I believe it was the house where Turnbull was quartered at, he belonged to the Middlesex militia, and was quartered there at that time; I searched him, and I found on him a powder flask, which I have here; there was another man present with him; I searched him, and I brought him along with me to Tunbridge Wells; he told me that he had a trembling on him for two or three hours before, and that he had a dream the night before that his mother was dead, and he expected what had happened; he knew what I came for as soon as he saw me; I asked him if he had any box, or any thing else? he said he had not; he was giving some things out of his pocket to a comrade, the comrade said, that is my powder horn, I then took the powder horn from him, and brought him to London. (The powder horn produced.) As I was coming along in the coach with this Turnbull, I did not tie his hands; while I was in the coach I was taken very bad and sick, I had occasion to put out my head, I wanted to cast up, while my head was out of the coach, I felt something at my pocket, and afterwards when I felt, I found I had lost the horn; we were then out of the coach, I told him he had used me very ill, he had picked my pocket; he said, he dare say I had let it fall at the bottom of the coach; accordingly I went back to the coach, and the coachman found it at the bottom of the coach. (Deposed to.) On the 26th I had notice of a box being left at Mr. Cook’s the furrier’s, that was the property of Turnbull. I went to Mr. Cook’s and I saw Mr. Cook’s servant girl, and the instant she saw me, she was ready to faint away, she said, she knew very well what I came about; of Mr. Cook, who is now in court, I requested to see that box, and therein I found a great quantity of things which I now produce. Mr. Brooks’s man has seen them, but Mr. Brooks has not. (The articles produced and deposed to.) I apprehended Somerville on the 22d of February, at the Bull’s Head in Crown-street, St. Giles’s; Miller and I were together, he denied his name at first, he was playing at knock up halfpenny in the tap room; I looked very hard at him, and said pray, is not your name Somerville, he said, no, I pulled off his hat, and I saw his hair was dressed up in a soldier’s form, I said to him your name is Somerville.
Q. Is he in the militia? - No, but he wanted to feign their dress. I said I am certain your name is Somerville, and whether it is or no I will take you, I apprehended him. Treadway had searched Somerville’s lodgings before.
I am a constable. In consequence of an information I went to Somerville’s lodgings, on Monday the 4th of February; I know they were Somerville’s lodgings, by Stone, who was tried here last sessions, and the landlord is here to prove it. I went to a house, No. 5, in Shaw’s-Gardens, I found a deal of property there; some belonging to Mr. Brooke’s, and some belonging to other gentlemen in the chambers, here is a pocket book, and two silver spoons, a pair of boot buckles, and two pair of stockings, and a chissel, which has the top broke off, and which piece was found in the Chambersof Mr. Brooke’s, in one of the drawers, and they correspond.
Mrs. PULLEIN sworn.
I live at No. 5, Shaw’s-Garden, St. Giles’s; I know the prisoner Somerville, he lodged with me three weeks, he had the the pair of stairs back room, he lodged with me at the time that Treadway came.
Treadway. That was the room I searched (The articles deposed to.
Prisoner Somerville. There was a gentleman of the name of Smith that boarded in my house and my wife washed for him, and he brought these things in my absence, and my wife took them in, he had boarded with me very near a twelve month.
The prisoner Somerville called two witnesses, who gave him a good character.
The prisoner Turnbull called one witness, who gave him a very good character.
William Turnbull . GUILTY . Death . (Aged 22.)
James Somerville . GUILTY . Death . (Aged 25.)
Tried by the first Middlesex Jury before Lord KENYON.

Denis Pember on 25th September, 2015 wrote:

James was married in England, sometime before 1788, to Ann ??.
When he was transported, Ann came to New South Wales too. Details regarding their three children are not available. They had further children in the colony. Ann died in 1802.

Denis Pember on 25th September, 2015 wrote:

Sainty & Johnson; 1828 Census of New South Wales: [Ref S2910] Summerville, James, ?, CP, Surprise, 1794, Life, Carpenter at Richmond. 16 acres all cleared and cultivated. No other family members recorded. One daughter, Elizabeth, is recorded as a widow with three young children, also at Richmond.

Phil Hands on 20th August, 2017 wrote:

On 22nd February 1793 James was arrested aged 26 in the tap room of the Bull’s Head public house in Crown Street, St Giles’s, London as he played at ‘knock up hanfpenny’. Two Bow Street constables approached him; one of them, John De La Fontaine, recalled in court, ‘I looked very hard at him, and said pray, is not your name Somerville, he said no, I pulled off his hat, and I say his hair was dressed up in a soldier’s form, I said to him your name is Somerville. [question from the court] Is he in the militia? [answer] No, but he wanted to feign their dress [as well as being a disguise this was an effective way of avoiding conscription by a press gang as war with France was imminent]. ‘I said I am certain your name is Somerville, and whether it is or no I will take you, I apprehended him’.
Several weeks earlier Constable Edward Treadway, acting on a tip off, had searched Somerville’s lodgings and found property identified as stolen in a burglary. Somerville and his wife were then living in Mrs Pullein’s lodging house at No 5 Shorts Gardens, nearly opposite St Giles’s Workhouse in a poor, overcrowded, crime-ridden neighbourhood. Hearing of the search, Somerville had evidently gone into hiding but was unwise or unlucky enough to be seen in a pub by constables who knew him by sight. He was held initially in the Tothill Fields Bridewell, whence he was transferred on 4th April to Newgate Gaol, described as age 25, a carpenter by trade, born in Surrey, 5’5” tall, with sandy hair, blue eyes and a fair ‘pox-marked’ complexion.

The trial of James Somerville and his co accused, William Turnbull, took place on 10th April 1793 at the Old Bailey sessions. The jury returned a guilty verdict and both men were sentenced to death, this was later commuted to transportation for life.
On 23rd September 1793 James was sent from Newgate Gaol to the prison hulk ‘Stanislaus’ moored on the Thames at Woolwich, age given as 25, until he was embarked aboard the ship ‘Surprize’ on 11th February 1794. His wife Ann travelled with him.
Left England on 2nd May 1794.
Ship:- the ‘Surprise’ sailed with 23 male and 60 female convicts on board, there were no reported deaths during the voyage.
Arrived on 25th October 1794.

Phil Hands on 22nd August, 2017 wrote:

James’ Wife, Ann, who had been tried for theft at the Old Bailey on 20th February 1793 and found not guilty, arrived with her convict husband on the ‘Surprise on 25th October 1794.

Old Bailey Trial Transcription.
Reference Number: t17930220-69

264. ANN SOMERVILLE was indicted for feloniously stealing, on the 1st of January , a woollen cloth great coat called a drab great coat, value 2 s. six pair of silk stockings, value 9 s. two linen shirts, value 3 s. a dark lanthorn, value 1 d. one cotton waistcoat, value 3 s. the goods of Charles Birckbeck Andree . A silver tea spoon, value 3 s. the goods of Charlotte Andree , widow , and a Vanhee cane, value 6 d. the goods of George Andree .
I live in chambers in Staple’s Inn ; I lost a vast quantity of things; those in the indictment are only what we found; I did not see the person take them, I was in the country at the time the chambers were broke open; I came to town the day after, I came to town I think the 3d of January, I do not remember the day of the week; nobody sleeps in these chambers, they were all lost from one room; the great coat was hanging up, and they broke open a great many locks of desks and scrutoires, there was four desks all of them were broke open.
Q. As you had been in the country, had there been any body in them, or were they locked up? - They were chambers for business, there were clerks in them all the time I was out.
I am a watchman to the society of Staple’s Inn; just before nine o’clock the custom of the inn is, for the watchman to go up the stair case; and the outer door of Mr. Andree’s chambers was then shut; I know his chambers he is an attorney; these chambers are No. 8, the first floor on the right hand, the door was shut as usual, I tried it.
Q. Was it broke open at any time, or that night? - It was not broke open as I know of, it was a window; when I went up the stair case, when I went up in the morning at five o’clock, before the chambers were opened, I found the door on a jar, I was in hopes it was left open by some body carelessly, I just peeped in and I saw all the papers scattered on the ground; I then went into every room, and the chambers, which consists of four; and I found every thing as in the first office; I had the key of Mr. Andree’s chambers, my wife was the laundress to it; the desk in the first office stood wide open, then I went for the key, and got the key; and went back and double locked the door, and and did not go in again till my wife went with me.
Q. How do you suppose the persons got into these chambers? - Through the window, the shutters were broke.
Q. Was the shutters usually broke or was it broke in the course of that night? - In the course of that night; the screw that was in the middle I think was broke and a little hole was made at the bottom of the window.
Q. How did you find the window when you first discovered these chambers open? - I did not see it then, I did not discover it was broke till my wife was along with me, about an hour or an hour and a quarter afterwards, I have never found any thing of the things since.
- TREADWAY sworn.
I am a constable; I produce a dark lanthorn, a silver tea spoon, two silver sleeve buttons, &c. and I got them at No. 5, Shaw’s Gardens, the room belongs to the prisoner’s husband, he is now in custody for this robbery, and was examined yesterday at Bow-street.
Tried by the London Jury before Mr. RECORDER.

Clive Smith on 16th February, 2020 wrote:

James married Ann Rogers on 3 February 1788 at St Giles in the Fields, Holborn, London.
Their children born in London were:
James William Somerville, born 19 November 1788
John Somerville, born 1 April 1790
Ann Somerville, born 22 January 1792
All were born at the British Lying-In Hospital Holborn (see TNA: RG8/59)
In 1796, James’ mother Phyllis Somerville sign a Pauper Examination at St Clement Danes in an attempt to have the two boys admitted to the St Clement Danes Workhouse - it is not known if she was successful, or what subsequently ahppened to the boys and their sister.

Convict Changes History

Denis Pember on 25th September, 2015 made the following changes:

date of birth: 1766 (prev. 0000), date of death: 28th January, 1846 (prev. 0000), gender: m, occupation, crime

Clive Smith on 16th February, 2020 made the following changes:

source: Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 87, Class and Piece Number HO11/1, Page Number 197 (99) For Birth - TNA: RG4/4175 (prev. Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 87, Class and Piece Number HO11/1, Page Number 197 (99)), da

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