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Edward Wager

Edward Wager, one of 280 convicts transported on the Hougoumont, 10 October 1867

Name, Aliases & Gender

Name: Edward Wager
Aliases: none
Gender: m

Birth, Occupation & Death

Date of Birth: 1829
Occupation: Farmer
Date of Death: 24th December, 1885
Age: 56 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: Murder
Convicted at: Derbyshire, Derby Assizes
Sentence term: Life
Ship: Hougoumont
Departure date: 10th October, 1867
Arrival date: 9th January, 1868
Place of arrival Western Australia
Passenger manifest Travelled with 280 other convicts


Primary source: Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 93, Class and Piece Number HO11/19, Page Number 239 (122)
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

Carol Axton-Thompson on 16th July, 2014 wrote:

Edward Wager was convicted at Derby on 06/03/1867 for wilful murder. Life sentence. Transported to Western Australia on the ‘Houghoumont’ arriving 09/01/1868.

D Wong on 17th July, 2014 wrote:

This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District’s local free newspaper on 21st December 1992, reproduced by kind permission of its author, Julie Bunting.

Christmas Eve 1866 was a Monday and it was time for Harriett Wager to go home. She had lived for most of her 40-odd years at Stoney Middleton and had just spent the previous night there with friends. In mid-morning she asked the daughter of the house, Alice Hancock, to go back with her to Bleaklow Farm, her far-from-happy home between Stoney Middleton and Great Longstone.
The two women arrived to find the house empty but around three o’clock Edward Wager, Harriett’s husband of only two months, returned too, and the worse for drink. He had spent the morning in the Newburgh Arms at Hassop. Thirty-six year old Wager was in aggressive mood, demanding to know why his wife had walked out on him. Harriett told him that it was because she dreaded him coming home drunk in the early hours and ill-using her yet again.
Wager continued to pick a quarrel while Harriett was getting tea, swearing at her, cursing her father and alternately trying to grab and kiss first her and then her friend. Suddenly Harriett ran outside where Alice found her hiding in a shed. She persuaded Harriett to go back to Stoney Middleton with her, but Wager came out and let the cattle into the yard to block the gates. He grabbed Alice when she tried to climb over a wall but in the meantime his wife had escaped from the opposite side of the yard and was running away.
Wager set off after her, yelling that he would kill her if she did not come back, but Harriett kept moving. Hampered by her long skirts she scrambled over stone walls and across the fields, literally screaming ‘Murder’. Alice Hancock left her to her fate and fled back to Stoney Middleton.
NO HIDING PLACE A hundred yards from the farm young Benjamin Oliver was working in the Big Beacon turnip field. Harriett’s son from an earlier relationship, he worked on the farm. He had an elder brother, a soldier, but Wager refused to let him come to Bleaklow.
Benjamin watched as his mother was chased in the direction of the Deep Rake then lost sight of her. That was where they had both spent the previous Saturday night in an open-sided coe - a lead-miners’ stone shelter - rather than sleep at the farm. But there was no hiding place there for Harriett now.
Also in the area were two miners, Roger Sellors and his father, Dickie. They would later testify that at about five o’clock they were passing the vein dam on their way home when they saw a couple on the cart road at the far side. They recognised Edward Wager who was pushing a woman backwards and forwards, shouting “Go on you ...... thundering w…, b… you eyes, go on!” He pushed her away from a gate which would have led her back to the farm, propelling her instead towards the head of the dam.
By this time the miners were only ten feet away but although the woman called to them for help they kept out of it, even when Wager threw her to the ground and kicked her repeatedly, shouting at her to get up and go back to Bleaklow. Roger Sellors was barely certain who the woman was, for the top of her head was white, as though she had something on it, and the lower part of her face was covered in blood.
Still intent on minding their own business the Sellors men carried on their way. Roger Sellors turned for one last look just as Harriett appeared to jump off the very brink of the steepest side of the dam. She dropped from sight with a splash and almost immediately the men heard Wager shouting after them to “Come back, her’s in the water”.
The younger man simply called back “Her is in the water” and turned his face towards home. He last saw Wager walking back towards the farm.
THREE FOOTPRINTSNext to arrive on the now deserted scene was miner William Goddard, also walking home. In the dusk he spotted something in the middle of the dam and went to fetch Inspector Cruit from Stoney Middleton. Together they returned to drag Harriett Wager’s lifeless body from the water and carry it back to Bleaklow Farm.
The newly bereaved widower, on being taken into the kitchen where his wife’s body lay on the sofa, told Inspector Cruit that Harriett had drowned herself out of jealousy of Alice Hancock. He declared that she had threatened to do away with herself but even when she was in the water he thought that she was only “larking” with him.
Wager was taken into custody and delivered to Bakewell lock-up in the early hours of Christmas Day. This was also the 12th birthday of Benjamin Oliver, who went to see for himself the three footprints left by his mother on the side of the dam.
THE BLACK CAP At the Derbyshire March Assizes Edward Wager faced trial for “wilfully and of malice aforethought, killing and murdering Harriett Wager”.
After the witnesses had given evidence, Inspector Cruit spoke to the court. He pointed out that the dam was only 5’2” (5 feet 2 inches, about 1.6 meters) at its deepest so unless a person was very exhausted it would be easy to get out again.
When Dr. Wrench of Baslow gave his post-mortem findings a most unflattering picture of Harriett Wager emerged; she was described as very fat, with a very fatty liver ‘caused by habits of drinking’. The court had already heard from Inspector Cruit that Harriett was quite bald when brought out of the dam. In fact she normally wore a wig.
In Dr. Wrench’s opinion one of the injuries found on the deceased, which had resulted in broken bones of the mouth and nose, could have been caused by an upward blow from a heavy boot.
With such facts to bear in mind the jury finally retired. Their verdict was ‘Guilty with a recommendation to mercy’: on the grounds that although Wager’s conduct alone drove his wife to take her own life he did not actually force her into the water.
The Judge donned the black cap and passed sentence of death. Within days the case was taken up by those who objected to capital punishment and a plea for reprieve reached the Home Office. Meanwhile Derbyshire newspapers revealed that Wager had already served four terms of imprisonment and hard labour for unlawful wounding, assaulting a police constable and “an indelicate offence”
Local rumours that Wager’s execution was imminent were ended by news in the Wirksworth and Matlock Advertiser of 30 March 1867 that Mr. Walpole had told the House of Commons that whilst the Wager murder was one of aggravated enormity and barbarity, the last punishment of the law should not be applied where a murder had not been premeditated. Therefore he had recommended Queen Victoria to exercise the royal prerogative of granting a reprieve.
The sentence of death was duly commuted and Edward Wager was sentenced to penal servitude for life.

Edward Wager was 39 years old on arrival in WA

He was 5’8 ¾” tall, brown hair, hazel eyes, fresh complexion, stout, enlargements on the right hand which has been broken, literate, protestant.

23/8/1876: TOL, York

Remarks: General servant,  labourer, fencing, worked for self 1877, 1881-1885.

6/7/1878: Was a servant to Mr Monger and working with timber felling.

26/12/1885 Eastern Districts Chronicle, York WA.
On the body of Edward Wager, who was found dead at his house on the Helena River on the 25th inst. W. Cowan, Esq., Coroner, and Messrs.  Inkpen (foreman), E. Arundel, and J. 1 yke,
Thomas Fisher, being sworn, said—I am a gardener at Mingelon, on the Helena River. On the evening of the 24th deceased was at our place until an hour after sundown. I asked him if he was better. He had been complaining for about three weeks. He said he felt worse—that he had cooked himself a bit of pork and could not keep it down. He then went to his own place which is about half a mile from where I live. The next morning between 7 and 8 o’clock I went to see how he was.  I called twice and did not receive any answer. I went in and found him lying dead on the floor by the side of his bed. He was lying on his left side and his right hand was clenched. There did not appear to have been any struggle. I covered him over
With a rug and went to the 19-mile and got young Giles to go for P C O’Hara at the Lakes.

by Dr. Thomson.—-He complained of tightness in the chest and pain in his back.  He was always coughing and spitting. I thought it was heart disease.  Latterly he has not drunk much;  he has been a great drinker in his time. The last time I saw him alive he complained of pain and tightness in the chest. He had used mustard poultices. He intended to come up to York if he felt no better.  He was never confined to his bed.

George Giles, being sworn; saith—-I am a farmer and live at the 19-mile.Yesterday morning Fisher came to me somewhere between 9 and 10 a.m., and asked me to go to O’Hara at the Lakes and tell him that Edward Wager was dead, I saw deceased at his place on the evening of the 24th, and asked him how he was, and he told me that he felt a little better. I went over to Galpins and Wager came there about dark. He said he had fried a bit of pork which had made him feel worse. He sat about half an hour and then went home.
By Dr. Thomson.—He told me he had not done a stroke for the last three weeks, and complained of a tightness in his chest, and a pain between his shoulders. I think he was suffering from his lungs as he used to throw up some kind of matter.

Dr. Thomson, being sworn, saith—I have examined the body of the deceased. Externally it was much decomposed but there were no marks of violence. Internally the organs were so much decomposed that it was impossible to make out their structure. The lungs were much congested ; the heart seemed fairly healthy ; the other- organs I cannot say much about, except the stomach, which contained partly digested food.  There was no particular odour and no signs of inflammation.  I should say he died from congestion of the lungs, how caused I cannot say.
The jury returned a verdict to the effect “That the deceased died from natural causes, and by the visitation of God.”

Convict Changes History

Carol Axton-Thompson on 16th July, 2014 made the following changes:

date of birth: 1831 (prev. 0000), gender: m, crime

D Wong on 17th July, 2014 made the following changes:

date of birth: 1829 (prev. 1831), date of death: 24th December, 1885 (prev. 0000), occupation

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