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Peter Withers

Peter Withers, one of 112 convicts transported on the Proteus, 12 April 1831

Name, Aliases & Gender

Name: Peter Withers
Aliases: none
Gender: m

Birth, Occupation & Death

Date of Birth: 1806
Occupation: Blacksmith
Date of Death: 1871
Age: 65 years

Life Span

Life span

Male median life span was 59 years*

* Median life span based on contributions

Conviction & Transportation

Sentence Severity

Sentence Severity

Sentenced to Life

Crime: Riotous conduct & felony
Convicted at: Wilts. Special Gaol Delivery
Sentence term: Life
Ship: Proteus
Departure date: 12th April, 1831
Arrival date: 3rd August, 1831
Place of arrival Van Diemen's Land
Passenger manifest Travelled with 111 other convicts

References

Primary source: Australian Joint Copying Project. Microfilm Roll 89, Class and Piece Number HO11/8, Page Number 86
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

Anonymous on 7th May, 2012 wrote:

A brief history of the events leading up to the Swing riots of 1830:

In 1824, excessive rain ruined grain in the fields surrounding Ramsbury, Wilts., England; illnesses decimated the sheep. The next years were even worse. Despair brought on by hunger brought to the fore a strong sense of the Ramsbury village dwellers that even their modest customary rights were fast being eroded. Since the middle of the eighteenth century, there had been an inescapable shift in favour of the large landowners and farmers against those whose poverty forced them to till the lands of the landowners and farmers for subsistence. The eighteenth-century Enclosure Acts removed the last vestiges of the ancient rights of free grazing and fuel collecting of the poor. By 1830, Ramsbury and other English villages had become grim places.
On 1 June 1830, the destruction of a farmer?s property at Orpington, Kent, marked the beginning of the so-called Swing Riots. Throughout the summer of 1830 in Kent, numerous rick-burning fires signaled the spread of a spontaneous uprising against social and economic conditions.

Amongst numerous incidents, on 23rd November 1830, a crowd of working people came to blows with the forces of law and order at Rockley.  They were intent on destroying the threshing machines at Temple Farm. During the affray Oliver Codrington, a special constable from Marlborough, was struck and wounded by a hammer thrown by one of the rioters Peter Withers a 23 year old blacksmith from Ogbourne St Andrew.  A county magistrate Thomas Baskerville, who was involved in the disturbance at Rockley, is cited as seconding a resolution to immediately ask for help from Bow Street to investigate the causes of fires.  Requests were also made for troops to be sent to the neighbourhood and rewards offered for information leading to the conviction of fire-raisers.

Of the 339 Wiltshire cases heard at the Salisbury special commission in January 1831, 152 resulted in transportation to the penal colonies in Australia, more than from any other county.  Peter Withers was sentenced to death.  It emerged in court that special constable Codrington had been only slightly injured and the hammer which struck him had been thrown by Withers after a ferocious attack by Codrington with a hunting whip loaded with iron at the end.  Despite facing exile or, in Withers’ case death, the rioters stood up to their accusers in court.  Comparing the bearing of the Wiltshire rioters with the Hampshire rioters at the Special Commission in Winchester, the special correspondent of the “Times” newspaper reported,

“The prisoners here turn to the witnesses against them with a bold and confident air: cross-examine them, and contradict their answers, with a confidence and a want of common courtesy, in terms of which comparatively few instances occurred in the neighbouring county.”

Withers had his death sentence commuted to transportation for life.  Sadly, he never saw his wife and five children again.

Matt Hudson on 7th May, 2012 wrote:

A brief history of the events leading up to the Swing riots of 1830:

In 1824, excessive rain ruined grain in the fields surrounding Ramsbury, Wilts., England; illnesses decimated the sheep. The next years were even worse. Despair brought on by hunger brought to the fore a strong sense of the Ramsbury village dwellers that even their modest customary rights were fast being eroded. Since the middle of the eighteenth century, there had been an inescapable shift in favour of the large landowners and farmers against those whose poverty forced them to till the lands of the landowners and farmers for subsistence. The eighteenth-century Enclosure Acts removed the last vestiges of the ancient rights of free grazing and fuel collecting of the poor. By 1830, Ramsbury and other English villages had become grim places.
On 1 June 1830, the destruction of a farmer?s property at Orpington, Kent, marked the beginning of the so-called Swing Riots. Throughout the summer of 1830 in Kent, numerous rick-burning fires signaled the spread of a spontaneous uprising against social and economic conditions.

Amongst numerous incidents, on 23rd November 1830, a crowd of working people came to blows with the forces of law and order at Rockley.  They were intent on destroying the threshing machines at Temple Farm. During the affray Oliver Codrington, a special constable from Marlborough, was struck and wounded by a hammer thrown by one of the rioters Peter Withers a 23 year old blacksmith from Ogbourne St Andrew.  A county magistrate Thomas Baskerville, who was involved in the disturbance at Rockley, is cited as seconding a resolution to immediately ask for help from Bow Street to investigate the causes of fires.  Requests were also made for troops to be sent to the neighbourhood and rewards offered for information leading to the conviction of fire-raisers.

Of the 339 Wiltshire cases heard at the Salisbury special commission in January 1831, 152 resulted in transportation to the penal colonies in Australia, more than from any other county.  Peter Withers was sentenced to death.  It emerged in court that special constable Codrington had been only slightly injured and the hammer which struck him had been thrown by Withers after a ferocious attack by Codrington with a hunting whip loaded with iron at the end.  Despite facing exile or, in Withers’ case death, the rioters stood up to their accusers in court.  Comparing the bearing of the Wiltshire rioters with the Hampshire rioters at the Special Commission in Winchester, the special correspondent of the “Times” newspaper reported,

“The prisoners here turn to the witnesses against them with a bold and confident air: cross-examine them, and contradict their answers, with a confidence and a want of common courtesy, in terms of which comparatively few instances occurred in the neighbouring county.”

Withers had his death sentence commuted to transportation for life.  Sadly, he never saw his wife and five children again.

Maureen Withey on 10th November, 2019 wrote:

Tasmanian Convict Indent:
https://stors.tas.gov.au/CON14-1-3$init=CON14-1-3p25
https://stors.tas.gov.au/CON14-1-3$init=CON14-1-3p26
Peter Withers, No. 1245, age 24, shoemaker, tried 27 Dec 1830, sentence, life, married, 2 children, native of Chilton, Wilts; Relationships: wife Mary Ann at———near Marlboro.N.P. 2B (brothers) & 2s (sisters). Thos. a shoemaker at ? Devon, W. a button maker at Ramsbury near Marlboro. S. Ann, ux. Jas. Dowling, a shoemaker at same place. Stated offence: Cutting and Maiming.

More about Peter Withers can be read in Bruce Brown’s thesis, 2004., “The Machine Breakers from the Proteus and the Eliza”, including extracts of letters he sent to his wife and other family members, in England.

Convict Changes History

Anonymous on 7th May, 2012 made the following changes:

date of birth 1806-00-00, date of death 1871-00-00, gender m

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