Journal Article

April 2009

Maria Jarman and Hard Times

David Guiver (Member 157)

On the 15th January 1848 Maria Rosindale married Ellis Jarman at All Saints parish church, Melbourn, Cambridgeshire. Maria was the only child of George and Sarah (nee Star) Rosindale but George, aged only 22, had died before Maria was born. Sarah probably could not look to support from her Rosindale in-laws because George’s father, another George, had been convicted in 1819 and transported to Tasmania, leaving his wife Charlotte to bring up their six children. However, in 1832, a year after Maria’s birth, Sarah married John Dodkin Everett whose own first wife had died in 1830.

John and Sarah soon had a little brother for Maria followed by three more children up to the time of the 1841 census in which Maria was recorded as Maria Everett. When Maria married the family had grown to six half-brothers and –sisters. However, in 1852 the Everetts emigrated to Australia. They may have decided that conditions in Melbourn had become too bad to raise a family. The Morning Chronicle in 1850 described one house containing 13 families: families with more than two rooms were counted fortunate, and indoor sanitation was non-existent. So, on the 20th October 1852 they sailed from London on board the “Duke of Richmond”. The voyage took four months and during that time Sarah gave birth to another son but she developed puerperal fever, died and was buried at sea on 27th February 1853, four days before landfall at Portland, Victoria.

In the meantime, Maria and Ellis were raising their first child, Ann, born in 1850. Ellis, like his father Joseph, was a bricklayer. Joseph may have had his own business for a time because he is listed in Pigot’s 1930 directory for Cambridgeshire as a builder and bricklayer. However, in 1843 he was forced to sell many of his possessions under execution of a Court order. The sale notes indicate that a Mr Coulson bought a large number of the items; probably Joseph Coulson, father of Naomi Coulson who married Henry Jarman, Ellis’s younger brother, in the same year. Mr Coulson appears to have returned several items to Joseph Jarman because they feature again in another sale of property five years later.

By the 1850s it seems likely that both Joseph and Ellis were working for William French, a local builder. William’s mother, Sarah, was Joseph’s sister, so Joseph was his uncle and Ellis his cousin. Mr French was an important member of the Melbourn vestry and its chairman from time to time. In 1850 Ellis’s youngest sister married and, like Henry, moved to Cambridge. The following year, Joseph died of pneumonia and his widow Mary was left with George, the youngest son, aged 22. 

Maria and Ellis had four more children in the period up to Mary’s death in August 1864 (certified as “softening of brain”), Maria being present. Perhaps the increase in their family prevented them from supporting Mary who was described in the 1861 census as a “relieved pauper”. Ellis continued to work as a bricklayer but on 2nd July 1869, at the Cambridge Quarter Sessions, he was charged with stealing a quantity of maize and oats and sentenced to 7 years penal servitude. On the 29th November in the same year, his son Samuel aged 10 was convicted at the Melbourn Petty Sessions of stealing 3 shillings. He was imprisoned for ten days followed by five years detention in a reformatory.

At first sight Ellis seems to have been treated very severely but the record sheet for Pentonville prison indicates that he had 5 previous convictions. He seems to have spent two months in Cambridge gaol before going to Pentonville where he was held for a further ten months and then sent on to Chatham where he stayed from 28th June 1870 to 11th January 1875. He completed his sentence at Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight. Penal Servitude was a term of imprisonment, ranging from 3 years to life, that usually included hard labour and was served in this country.

 It appears that Ellis could not have chosen a worse time to serve his sentence.The convict prison generally between 1865 and 1895, has been described by Dr Alyson Brown as ‘the most deterrent period in the history of the modern prison’. Under the Chairman of Convict Prison Directors (and subsequently the first Chairman of the English Prison Commission) Edmund Du Cane, the prison system was stripped of all remaining vestiges of early Victorian zeal for the reform of the individual prisoner, and opted for a bleak, pessimistic, purposefully inflicted severity with a very poor diet, severe hard labour and all amelioration of regime won under a system of marks awarded for conformity, with intensive and rigid enforcement of the rules. Indeed labour had become so severe that at Chatham 33 surgical amputations of limbs were necessary after prisoners had thrown themselves under locomotives at their workplace in order to render themselves unfit for labour.

In contrast, Samuel seems to have been fortunate. He served his detention at the Reformatory, Thorndon All Saints, Suffolk, founded by Sir Edward Kerrison in 1856. He believed that disciplined and kindly training would be more beneficial to young offenders than the harsh punishment the State then thought appropriate. Sir Edward undertook sole responsibility for the management of the school until 1886. Samuel was admitted on the 8th December 1869 and discharged on licence 3rd August 1874 when he “returned to friends at Melbourn, Cambs”. The school appears to have had some system for checking on its alumni because the discharge book notes that Samuel “obtained employment as an Ag Labr and continued at that work for some years very steady and respectable”.

Meanwhile, Maria was left with the two youngest children to earn her keep as a laundress assisted by Jane, the second eldest. The eldest daughter, Ann, was at this time a nursemaid in the household of William Henry Bateson, the Master of St John’s College, Cambridge. It is not known if Mr Bateson was aware of Ann’s criminal relations but elsewhere he was described as having habits of ”independent thought matched with a headstrong and disputatious nature” so perhaps he did know but accepted Ann on her own merits.

Jane married John Guiver in December 1871 and Ann then married John Bullen, the blacksmith, in the following July. Ellis seems to have completed his sentence and then returned to Melbourn where he was again employed in the building trade. However, on the 26th November 1878 he was killed following a fall from a roof. The Herts & Cambs Reporter of the 29th November 1878, drawing on the inquest held at the Red Lion, stated: “It appeared that on Tuesday the deceased was at work at Mr Allwood’s farm, putting slates on the roof of a house. He was warned by Stockbridge Wing, the carpenter, not to get on to the ridge of the roof, but he did so and fell off. He died the same evening. Verdict, Accidental death.” Maria was described as a charwoman in the 1881 census when her sons, Sam and Harry, both labourers, were living with her. She eventually died in 1890 of “heart disease”.

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