Exiled Joseph made his fortune in Oz

Hobart, Van Diemen's Land ' later Tasmania ' in 1823, where Joseph Clayton settled after being convicted for handling forged bank notes in Halifax and sentenced to transportation to the colonies for life

Hobart, Van Diemen's Land ' later Tasmania ' in 1823, where Joseph Clayton settled after being convicted for handling forged bank notes in Halifax and sentenced to transportation to the colonies for life

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After my piece on the Rawdon Briggs family (“Wool merchant who became leading Halifax banker”, Nostalgia, January 21) I have been asked if I knew what became of Joseph Clayton, transported to the colonies after been convicted of handling forged Briggs bank notes.

The Clayton family seems to have come to Halifax from Wakefield in the very early 19th century. They are mentioned in passing in histories of Halifax but little seems known here as to the fate of Joseph.

As mentioned last time, his father, Joshua Clayton, aged 58, was convicted at the York Assizes of March 1820, being hanged in public at York Castle in April. Joseph’s punishment was less severe than that of his father but transportation for life was harsh indeed.

Joseph, a groom and ostler, was born in 1799 and he was transported on board the convict ship Maria, which left England in July 1820 for Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania).

Over the following years Joseph’s name and his convict number, 329, crop up in several records. In March 1822 he married Mary Gray in Hobart. Herself a convict, sentenced to seven years’ transportation for theft of some ribbon, Mary had been the wife of Peter Gray, shoemaker, of Hull. She had arrived in New South Wales on the ship Providence and been moved on to Hobart just two months before her wedding. Joseph and Mary were to have eight children.

Joseph worked hard. In about 1827 the family moved north from Hobart, before the Port Arthur penal settlement was built; and they became original settlers of Perth, Tasmania.

By 1835 Joseph had been granted a conditional pardon, which was followed by a full pardon five years later. The pardon specifically took into account that Joseph and Mary had assisted the poor.

Joseph became a fellmonger, quarry owner, shop owner and land owner. Having made money he became an entrepreneur, financing a number of business ventures of relatives and friends.

One of the friends Joseph assisted was Michael Lyons, of Stanley, Tasmania, father of Australian Prime Minister, Joseph Lyons.

By the time Mary Clayton died in 1878 aged 85, her husband was referred to as a “gentleman”. Remarkably, Joseph lived to the age of 92, dying on November 25 1891, more than 71 years after his conviction at York. Both were buried in Perth St Andrew’s Cemetery and many of their descendants were interred nearby.

Joseph made a return visit to Halifax after he made his fortune and was said to be a reformed man. His brothers, Jack and Harry, were later transported for “robbing Mr James Knight’s warehouse in the field at South Parade and two persons with them were also transported for the same offence.

“This Clayton family had nothing of the forbidding appearance or manner of robbers about them, but were rather courteous.”

John and Henry were convicted in 1821 at York Assizes and sentenced to transportation for seven years, being two of 171 men travelling on the Malabar to Tasmania in June that year.

Their names appear on subsequent Tasmanian convict lists, as assigned to “public works”. A younger Henry Clayton, who was later taken under Joseph’s wing as a convict in Tasmania, was a relative, perhaps the son of one of his brothers, and he married Joseph’s daughter, Sarah.

David Glover