December 2007

On the Subject of John Green, Croydon-cum-Clopton Convict

Avril Emery

I was most interested to read Helen Waller's account of her hunt for John Green's whereabouts after he was sentenced to deportation to Australia for his part in the "Machine Breaking Riot" in Croydon. As those of you that have been members of our Society for a while are only to well aware, (and you can all stop yawning!), all my father's ancestors were in Croydon and I can lay claim, to a greater or lesser degree, to almost all of those involved in the machine breaking.

My grandmother's sister Lilian Green, born Lilian Sadler, Croydon 1886, married Charles Phillip Green in 1922 and they were the last members of our family to live there. We were always very fond of Uncle Charlie, a dear old man who was seriously damaged by a shrapnel blast while in the Somme trenches but never complained about the pain which he must have been in fairly constantly.

I came upon Speculum Gregis at Cambridge Record Office about 20 years ago when, unlike today's cyberspace, there was a copy with Croydon Parish Council, one lodged at Cambridge and one at Royston Library. As I turned up more and more Croydon surnames I had to keep returning to the book to see what the Reverend Fulford had to say about them. I, too, got very excited when I saw the entry about John Green who I suspected of being Uncle Charlie's Granddad.

I met Jill Chambers, author of Rebels of the Fields, at a Family History Fair some years ago and button holed her about John Green. She dug about a bit for me with the result that, as far as we can tell, John Green and Anderson Storey were sent to a prison hulk off the south coast while awaiting transportation but for some reason they never went. I haven't been able to find out when they got back to Croydon either. He seems to have been gone for sometime judging by the 9 year gap between the baptism of his son John, 1830 and daughter Ann, 1839. It beggars belief that he could have survived for so long on a damp, germ ridden prison hulk, if he did he must have had the constitution of an ox.

Any way after spending so much time and energy on finding out as much as I could about him, in memory of Uncle Charlie, it would appear that John's son disappeared from Croydon after he and his wife, Mary Ann, had had three children and Mary Ann continued to have a string of 9 children all entered in the Register as being baseborn son/daughter of Mary Ann Green, married woman. This, sadly, includes Uncle Charlie who was baptised Charles Phillip.

At the time of the 1891 census, when he was 2, Mary Ann had 2 lodgers living at her address and one was called Phillip Lee, do I smell a rat? Auntie Lil always did turn up her nose at her in-laws. We thought she was being very snobbish but she may have had good reasons. With that many children over nearly 20 years, one can't help wondering if there may have been a red light hanging on Mary Ann's door

Anyway, however she came by her children, poor Mary Ann watched several of them march off to France in 1914-18 and as well as the one I knew, with his metal bottom jaw, his own had been blown off, there are 2 of her sons and a son-in-law on the Croydon War Memorial.

Helen, my shelves are awash with "stuff" about Croydon so if I can help with anything just let me know.


Royston and District Family History Society


From our Journal