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Robert West

Robert West, one of 178 convicts transported on the Portland, 19 November 1831

Name, Aliases & Gender

Name: Robert West
Aliases: none
Gender: m

Birth, Occupation & Death

Date of Birth: 1782
Occupation: Gardener
Date of Death: 1837
Age: 55 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: Machine breaking
Convicted at: Norfolk Assizes
Sentence term: Life
Ship: Portland
Departure date: 19th November, 1831
Arrival date: 26th March, 1832
Place of arrival New South Wales
Passenger manifest Travelled with 177 other convicts

References

Primary source: Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 89, Class and Piece Number HO11/8, Page Number 227 (116) https://joemasonspage.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/robert-west-the-captain-swing-riots/
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

greg petersen on 19th February, 2017 wrote:

Robert West was recognized as a ringleader, one of about 475 Swing Rioters, convicted for ARSON, MACHINE BREAKING, RECEIVING, or RIOTING, transported to Van Diemen’s Land (VDL, now Tasmania) or New South Wales from 18 Counties of south east England 1831-33
On 27th of November 1830 a group of 200 rioters had gathered round the paper-mills at Taverham and earlier at Lyng, two villages near Norwich in Norfolk. The rioters of Taverham were also involved in the destruction of threshing machines belonging to Squire Michlethwait at Taverham and to farmer Joby at Weston Longeville, but in this instance the paper-mills which both used the Fourdrinier machines were the main objective.

The visit to Lyng mill by the mob of rioters was not entirely unexpected. The proprietor William Johnson had taken some precautions, taking on extra manpower to guard the machinery against attack. This was to no avail against a large mob armed with hatchets and pick-axes. None of the workers at the mill was hurt or even threatened, but the paper machine was destroyed when the breast-board was broken with an axe. The breast-board supported the canvas apron which carried the pulp onto the wire belt at the beginning of the paper-making machine.

The ring leader was one Robert West, who was 48 years old at the time of the attack. He had spent his early years as a soldier in the Napoleonic wars. Married, with three children he was now a gardener by occupation. Brief details of West indicate that he came from the Kings Lynn area. Although he denied being a leader of the riot, he did admit that once inside the mill he had “worked like a good ‘un”; and witnesses were convinced that he was indeed the leader of the mob.
He managed to evade capture until he was arrested on 6th June 1831 and although he was spared the noose he was transported to New South Wales and never saw his wife and family again. Before any pardons were handed out to lifers he died in December 1837.

greg petersen on 6th May, 2017 wrote:

He was committed for trial in June 1831 and tried at the Summer Assizes held at Norwich Castle on 23 July where he was found guilty of ‘riotously assembling with others and with force demolishing machinery prepared for the manufacture of paper’. West was sentenced to be hanged but this was commuted to transportation for life. He was taken to the prison hulk Leviathan in Portsmouth and from there transferred to the ship Portland on 14 November 1831. The Portland sailed from Portsmouth later that month and arrived in Sydney in March 1832. Robert West was only one of 481 Swing rioters transported. In general the rioters were dealt with harshly by the British judiciary. The government was concerned by the lenient treatment of the first of the Swing rioters to be tried and the apparent sympathy of judges in some counties. At five foot ten inches (177 cm), 50 years of age West was taller and older than most. His dark brown hair was greying and several of his front teeth were missing. On 15th August 1832 West was assigned to James Webber at Tocal, and in 1834 his assignment was transferred to Caleb and Felix Wilson when they purchased the estate from Webber. There is some indication that Robert was put to work at Tocal in his previous occupation as a gardener and that a cottage was built especially for him. By 1836 West was in his mid 50s and not in good health, and his own accommodation would have provided respite from the frequent drinking, arguing and fighting that occurred in the men’s huts. Sometime in 1836 or 1837 West spent time in Newcastle Hospital, and was then transferred to Port Macquarie where he died in hospital on 4th December 1837 while still under sentence. Had he lived another 12 months he might have received a pardon. By November 1838 all the Swing rioters who arrived in NSW on the Eleanor were pardoned except for six with numerous colonial convictions and 18 recommended for pardon whose warrants had gone astray.

Convict Changes History

greg petersen on 19th February, 2017 made the following changes:

source: Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 89, Class and Piece Number HO11/8, Page Number 227 (116) https://joemasonspage.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/robert-west-the-captain-swing-riots/ (prev. Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 8

greg petersen on 19th February, 2017 made the following changes:

date of death: 1837 (prev. 1832)

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