Convict Connections

Local Connections

Chapter 6


Our East Riding convicts can be linked to many places around Hull and the East Riding through the local villages in which they lived, the courtrooms in which they were tried and the gaols in which they were imprisoned.

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House of Correction

Courtrooms in the East Riding, Hull and York

Most of the courtrooms in which crimes committed in the East Riding were tried can still be visited today.

Beverley Guildhall
The East Riding quarter sessions were held in the county town, Beverley, across the period of transportation. From about 1703 until 1810, quarter sessions were held in the Beverley Guildhall. The Guildhall is today owned by the East Riding Council and is opened as a museum. The beautiful 18th century courtroom has been restored to its appearance when the justices of the peace sentenced criminals to transportation in this room in the 18th and early 19th centuries. A small selection of convicts who were sentenced in the Guildhall to transportation to Australia include: John Best of Beverley, a labourer, sentenced in January 1788 and transported on the Third Fleet in 1790-91; John Raper of Beverley, at the Christmas Quarter Sessions in 1796; John Smith, sentenced to transportation at the Michaelmas Quarter Sessions 1790.
Sessions House
From 1810, the East Riding quarter sessions were held in Sessions House, New Walk, Beverley. This was a purpose-built courthouse, designed by Watson and Pritchett of York, and stood adjacent to a new East Riding house of correction built at the same time. Prisoners sentenced to transportation in the courtroom here included: Luke Dales, sentenced to transportation at the East Riding quarter sessions on 31 December 1844; Sarah Ann Sharpe, sentenced to seven years' transportation at the midsummer East Riding quarter sessions on 27 June 1837; Maria Fay, convicted of theft at the East Riding quarter sessions on 8 April 1851.
Hull court houses
In the 18th century the Hull quarter sessions were held in one of two Guildhall buildings in the town, one medieval and one 17th century, both situated close together at the southern end of the Market Place. These buildings can be seen in an 18th century paintings by Benjamin Gale c. 1780 in Wilberforce House, Hull, and in T. T. Wildridge Old and New Hull. Both buildings were demolished in c.1805. From this time, the Sessions were held in the Mayor Jarratt's house on Lowgate, which he rented out for this purpose. The house was purchased and altered to provide purpose-built accommodation for the town corporation and the quarter sessions in the 1820s. This building was eventually demolished in the early 20th century to make way for the present Guildhall, built on the same site.
York Assizes
Justices of the peace sitting in the quarter sessions could not pass down a sentence of death, and people accused of more serious crimes in the East Riding and Hull were tried at the York assizes, presided over by professional judges. The York assizes were held in a courtroom built in the early 1770s on the York Castle site. This courtroom today houses the York Crown Court.


Parts of the local gaols which held East Riding prisoners awaiting transportation survive today.

Guildhall gaol
Image: Plan of the Guildhall gaol in 1853, reproduced in Victoria County History volume 6
Plan of house of correction
Image: Plan of the East Riding House of Correction, showing the male and female cells and the treadmill, 1870s. East Riding Archives and Local Studies Service, DDBD/5/79.
Central building
Image: The central octagonal building from the East Riding house of correction, originally the turnkey's house, can still be seen.
House of Correction
Image: The New Gaol, Castle Street Hull, 1789. Image from the Gott Collection, A1.91 9/46.1..
Image: The rules and regulations of Hull New Gaol in the early 19th century. From the collections of the Hull History Centre, C CAG/1/2.
York Gaol
Image: Part of the old York Gaol, now incorporated in the Castle Museum]

Beverley gaols and the East Riding House of Correction

There was a Borough Gaol in Toll Gavel, Beverley until 1810, and it is likely that Beverley prisoners awaiting trial in the East Riding quarter sessions would have been held here.

Until 1810, prisoners from the wider East Riding awaiting trial at the quarter sessions would have been held in the East Riding house of correction adjacent to the Beverley Guildhall.

A new East Riding house of correction was built next to the new Sessions House on New Walk in 1810. From 1810, prisoners awaiting trial in the quarter sessions, or transportation after being sentenced, would have been held here. Although much of the 1810 house of correction has now been demolished, the turnkey's hexagonal house which sat in the centre of the prison yards can still be seen today.

After 1810, the old house of correction adjacent to Beverley Guildhall was turned into a borough gaol, and used mainly as a temporary lock-up for prisoners for awaiting magistrates court trials in the Guildhall.

Hull Gaol

In 1785, New Gaol on Castle Street replaced an older medieval gaol, and those prisoners accused of transportable crimes due to be tried in the Kingston-Upon-Hull Quarter Sessions would have been held here.

In 1829, New Gaol was replaced with a new combined Hull Gaol and House of Correction on Kingston Street.

Both buildings have long since been demolished. However, an old wall standing in what is now the Trinity burial ground is thought to be the wall of New Gaol exercise yard.

York Gaol

Parts of the gaol used for holding prisoners awaiting trial at York Assizes survive today as the York Castle Museum.

Image: Harpham, a village in the East Riding of Yorkshire. Photo by Stephen Horncastle. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Image: Bentley village, East Riding of Yorkshire.
Image: Detail from 18th century map of the East Riding showing Bentley village.
South Cave
Image: South Cave Town Hall was built as a market hall in 1796. Photo by Patrick Mateer
South Cave
Image: Detail from 18th century map of the East Riding showing South Cave.
Leconfield church
Image: Parts of St Catherine's Church, Leconfield, date back to the twelfth century.
Image: Detail from 18th century map of the East Riding showing Leconfield (here spelt Leckenfield).
Image: Detail from 18th century map of the East Riding showing Bainton.
Image: Hedon today. Photo by Andy Beecroft. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Image: Section from an 18th century map of the East Riding showing Hedon (here spelt Heydon).
River Foulness
Image: The river Foulness runs through the flat lands around Spaldington. Photo by Roger Gilbertson. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Black Swan
Image: The Black Swan, Brandesburton, by Steve Brown. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Image: Map of the East Riding from the 18th century showing Brandesburton (here spelt Bransburton).
Image: Eighteenth century map of the East Riding showing Preston.
Image: Eighteenth century map of the East Riding showing Winestead (here written as 'Wystead').
Image: Eighteenth century map of the East Riding showing Kirkella (here written 'Kirkelly').
Image: Beverley on market day. Photo by Paul Allison. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Image:Eighteenth century map of the East Riding showing Beverley.
Image: East Riding villages usually have a medieval church.

East Riding villages

Although East Riding villages have been inhabited since before the Norman Conquest, most of the buildings surviving in these villages are no more than 200 years old. A medieval church and a few 18th and early 19th century farmhouses and cottages represent the main tangible links with the period of penal transportation.

Almost all of the villages of the East Riding of Yorkshire date back at least to the Anglo-Saxon and Viking period, and are mentioned in the Domesday book of 1086.

East Riding villages developed as 'nucleated settlements', in which houses were grouped together at the centre of their farmland. This land was divided into a few large 'open fields' and areas of common pasture. During the period of transportation, however, the landscape changed as landowners divided the large open fields into the smaller square fields we see today. Farmers moved out from the villages to live on their newly enclosed land plots.

During the 19th century, most residents of East Riding villages would have earned a living directly or indirectly from arable farming - as farmers, labourers, tradesmen (blacksmiths, wheelwrights) serving the agricultural industry, or publicans or retailers selling to farmers and labourers.

Most villages had a stone medieval church, but in this period Methodism became very popular in the East Riding; by 1850 many villages had both a Wesleyan and a Primitive Methodist chapel.

Because there is little stone available for building in the East Riding, most houses were built of timber and mud before the 18th century, and do not survive today. However, during the late 18th and early 19th century brick became a very popular building material in the county, and houses from this period survive in most villages - if our convicts were to return to their villages today it is likely that they would remember some of houses.

A tiny hamlet near Beverley, Bentley, like most of the settlements in the East Riding, dates back around 1000 years and is recorded in the Domesday book of 1086. When Luke Dales lived here, it is very likely that he worked on a farm.
South Cave
Today South Cave is a large village, but at the time Luke Dales lived here it was an important market centre, a focus of trade and sociability for the surrounding area. The market hall, with a school room above, was built in 1796. A detailed first hand account of the village in the first half of the nineteenth century exists in the published journal of the village's school master (Jan Crowther and Peter Crowther 'The Diary of Robert Sharp of South Cave: Life in a Yorkshire Village, 1812-1837'. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997).
In the first half of the nineteenth century Leconfield was a small village with a population of approximately 300. Leconfield had been enclosed (see East Riding in the 18th and 19th Centuries) by agreement in the later 18th and early nineteenth century, and so it is possible that when Luke Dales lived here he worked on one of the farms in the countryside surrounding the village.
Bainton is some four miles from the market town of Driffield, and is set at the foot of the Wolds, the low range of chalk hills that runs through the centre of the East Riding. Like most East Riding villages, Bainton was heavily reliant on agriculture when Luke Dales was here in the 1840s.
When William Dring lived here in the 1780s, Hedon was a small market town, but in the early medieval period it had been the East Riding's main port. The town had a 'haven' - a harbour - which adjoined the River Humber, but this had largely silted up and was of little use by the 17th century. Although the haven was restored in the later 18th century, the town could not reclaim the competitive advantage which it had ceded to Hull. The town still had some connection with the maritime trade along the Humber however, as we see from William's trade as 'tideswaiter' - boarding passing ships to collect excise - and his father's post as excise man.

Although the town had shrunk in size and importance, it still returned two Members of Parliament until 1832 - it was one of these Members of Parliament, William Chaytor, who sent a letter to the Home Secretary appealing William's sentence of transportation. Despite its shrunken size, Hedon also retained borough status, and had a mayor and corporation until 1974. Some of William's relatives held the position of mayor of Hedon in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Spaldington was and remains a small village on low-lying flat-land near Howden. Snowden Dunhill remembers swimming in the moat of an old Elizabethan house here - this was Spaldington Hall, a seat of the Vavasour family. The hall was demolished in 1838 and Old Hall Farm was built on top of it.
Brandesburton is on the eastern edge of the River Hull valley - a flood-plain area which suffered regular inundation until it was drained in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. When Sarah Ann Sharpe lived in the village in the 1830s, the drainage of Brandesburton's riverside land would only just have been completed (the Holderness Drain was finished in 1832).

Brandesburton was a large village - in 1851 it contained c.4,500 people. Most of the houses here date from the 19th century. Two pubs from Sarah's time are still open - the Black Swan pub has served the village since the 18th century, and the Dacre Arms was opened in 1823, though was called the Cross Keys until 1872.
Maria Fay lived in Preston in 1849 with John Scott, and it was here that she stole a skirt from Elizabeth Carter and bottles and cloths from John Fewson - crimes that earned her twelve months in the East Riding house of correction.
Winestead is a small and remote village in the south-eastern part of the East Riding, in the low-lying Holderness area. Holderness is an area of clay hills deposited after the last ice-age. The village was the manorial seat of the Hildyard family, whose lineage is said to reach back to the Anglo-Saxon period. The family lived in Winestead Hall, demolished in 1936. Shortly after Maria Fay lived here, a railway joined Winestead to Hull and Withernsea.
Like most of the other villages associated with our featured transportees, Kirkella was largely dependant on agriculture when Maria Fay lived here. However, because of its position in attractive countryside on the lower slopes of the Wolds, only a few miles to the west of Hull, Kirkella, wealthy Hull merchants chose to build large country houses here from the 18th century.
Beverley is the county town for the East Riding, and three of our featured convicts were held in gaol and tried in quarter sessions here.

The architectural historian Nicholas Pevsner, who wrote extensively on the historic townscapes of Britain, described Beverley as 'among the finest of England's small country towns'. Much within the town's historic core is relatively unchanged from the period when our convicts were tried in the town. Beverley was an important town in the early middle ages and has two fine churches from this period - the Minster and St Mary's - as well as a medieval town gate. In the 18th century, Beverley was a centre for fashionable life, and had a race-course and assembly rooms; wealthy East Riding residents built town houses here. Many of the buildings which line the streets and two market places are medieval in origin but were given a new façade during these prosperous years.