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George Iden of Woodchurch: convict and coachman to the Colonial Secretary

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Early years

George Iden was baptised in Woodchurch, Kent on 16 August 1801, the son of William Iden and his wife Sally Gregory Holyer. (George’s brother Walter was the step father of Robert Caleb Jarvis who was transported for 10 years in 1845, the subject of another blog).


Arrest and trial

On 2 September 1824 George was taken into custody at Newgate Prison, charged with stealing a gelding valued £15. At the time he was described as 5’ 8”, fair skinned, with brown hair and grey eyes and stoutish, born at Woodchurch, Kent, a servant [1].

At his trial at the Old Bailey on 22 September he was found guilty and sentenced to death [2]. A full report of the trial and the evidence against George can be found at the end of this blog [3]. (Some records say the trial was held on the 16 September but the Old Bailey report says 22nd the earlier date being the first day of the session in which the case was heard).

On 20 November 1824 George’s death sentence was commuted to transportation for life and on 15 December 1824 he was being held on the prison hulk Leviathan at Portsmouth [4].


The following year on 15 August 1825 George was transferred to the Marquis of Hastings [4] which sailed from Portsmouth on the 24th August, a year after his offence. The Marquis of Hastings sailed to Australia via Rio de Janeiro, arriving in Sydney on 3rd January 1826. On board were 152 convicts (none having died en route), guards comprising soldiers from 57th Regiment and also the new Colonial Secretary Alexander McLeay (who George would end up working for) accompanied by his wife and six daughters [5].


The Sydney Gazette Thursday 5 January 1826
The Sydney Gazette Thursday 5 January 1826

On arrival the prisoners were taken to the barracks in Hyde Park before ‘being distributed throughout the country’ [6].

Sydney Gazette Thursday 12 January 1826

Coachman to the Colonial Secretary

Two years after arrival George gave evidence in a trial where he had helped to apprehend a thief in which he described himself as ‘coachman to Mr McLeay’ [7]. In the census, taken in November that year he was listed as a coachman in the Sydney District at the residence of  Alexander McLeay Esq [8] so it appears that he was actually working for the Colonial Secretary, which would probably indicate him being basically of a good character.

Tickets of leave and conditional pardon

In May 1834, eight years after arriving in Australia George was granted a ticket of leave. A good explanation of these tickets is given on Find My Past which I quote below: [9]

The ticket of leave system was a form of bail or licence which allowed a prisoner to start to build a new life in Australia before the official end of his or her sentence. The system was introduced informally in 1801 to reward convicts who had performed some service or been of particularly good conduct. From 1811 convicts had to serve a minimum sentence before a ticket of leave would be granted. Once a convict had his or her ticket of leave they were allowed to work for themselves, marry, or to bring their families to Australia. However, tickets of leave did have conditions attached. They had to be renewed yearly, carried at all times and Ticket-of-Leave men, as they were known, were also expected to regularly attend religious services. They were not allowed to carry firearms or leave the colony. Once the sentence was completed, or in the case of a life sentence when a sufficient length had been served, the convict would be granted a pardon, either conditional or absolute. 

The ticket, originally signed in November 1833, gave George permission to reside in the District of Liverpool an area to the south west of Sydney [10]. His occupation had changed from coachman to miller. In May 1835 residence was altered to Brisbane Water, NSW further up the coast from Sydney and he was still living there under a ticket of leave in 1839 [11]. An interesting map of the various districts of Cumberland County which covers Sydney in 1840, with different plots and and owner's names can be found by following the link in note 12 below.

On 1 Oct 1840 George was granted a conditional pardon with the proviso he "continues to reside within the limits of this Government for and during the space of his original sentence."  [13]

Later life

George seems to have left few further traces of his life except for a newspaper report of a trial in 1851 where he was a witness to an assault, by which time he was a cab driver, presumably having reverted back to his former occupation of coachman [14].

Maitland Mercury Wednesday 15 January 1851

George does not appear to have married.

There is a record for the death of a George Iden in Newcastle, NSW in 1868 which I have not yet obtained a copy of but which most probably is him [15]. There seem to be no family trees for him on Ancestry.



GEORGE IDEN, Theft, animal theft, 16th September 1824.


Middlesex Cases, Second Jury, Before Mr. Sergeant Arabin .

1470. GEORGE IDEN was indicted for stealing, on on the 24th of August , at St. Andrew, Holborn , a gelding, price 15 l. , the property of John Green .

JOHN GREEN . I live at Elsham, in Kent, and am a farmer. My gelding was turned out into my field; I saw it on my farm on Monday, the 23d of August, about eighto'clock in the morning - next morning, about six my son gave me information, and I missed it. I came to town in search of it, and saw it that evening at the Ram inn Smithfield. The witness Hunter brought it to Hatton-garden; it is the horse I lost. I never saw the prisoner about my premises.

Cross-examined by MR. ANDREWS. Q. How long had you had it - A. Five or six years. It was in care of the hostler at the Ram; he is not here. We took it to Hatton-garden - it is now in my possession, and is mine. I had not seen it after the afternoon of the 23d.

GEORGE HUNTER . I live in York-street, Castle-street, Saffron-hill, and am servant to Thomas White , a horse-slaughterer, whose premises are in Sharp's-alley - he lives in Coppice-row. On Tuesday morning, the 24th of August, about two o'clock I was in bed at my own house; the watchman called me up - I came down, and found the prisoner at the door, with a gelding, which was afterwards taken to Hatton-garden, and claimed by Green; I had never seen the prisoner before - he asked me to buy it; I asked what part he brought it from; he said out of Kent, from Tunbridge, and that he had another to bring. I asked his name; he said George Iden : I said I would not buy it at that time of the morning, but if he would take it away, and bring it at a seasonable hour, about nine o'clock, or so, I would buy it - he said he had no place to put it in, being a stranger in the neighbourhood; I said I would put it into my master's premises, and give it some hay - he delivered it to me; I put it into my master's stable. He took a bed at a lodging-house next door to me that night, and between four and five o'clock in the afternoon, as I was going to work, I saw him in the custody of Barnley.

Cross-examined. Q. You saw him taken into custody - A. I saw him in custody. He said nothing about the horse; it was removed to the Ram. I saw nothing more of it till between eleven and twelve o'clock that morning, when it was at Hatton-garden. I swear that is the same horse by the marks upon it; there was a small star on the forehead. I had noticed it in the morning - there was a mark on the side of it, also a saddle mark.

COURT. Q. How long have you been in this business - A. About twenty years. I am a pretty good judge of horses.

RICHARD EYARS . I am a watchman - Hunter lives on my beat. On the morning of the 24th I saw the prisoner on the horse, on Saffron-hill; he asked me where Hunter of York-street, lived - I showed him the house, and heard the conversation between them about the horse - Hunter's account is correct. I went down to Barnley, and gave information - Barnley and I went and took him. I am sure he is the man.

JOHN BARNLEY . I am constable of the Liberty of Saffron-hill. On Tuesday morning, the 24th of August, between four and five o'clock, I apprehended the prisoner next door to Hunter's. I neither threatened, nor made him any promise. I asked if the horse was his; he said it was not; I asked who it belonged to - he said to a man, but he did not know his name, nor where he lived - that he met with him on the Tunbridge-road, and he was bringing it to London, to sell it. I took him to White's place: Hunter gave me the horse at White's stables, in his presence, and Green saw it at Hatton-garden; it was then taken to the Ram inn.

Prisoner's Defence. I was employed by another man to sell it; the first time I saw the man was at the Bricklayers Arms, public-house; he had four horses. A coach passed, and two of them broke from the halter. He asked me to go with him, and I did - I left him at Hyde Park-corner, and on Monday morning I met him; he asked me to go with him to fetch a horse that was coming from Tunbridge - I did so, and met a man; he gave me a direction to sell the horse at Hunter's.

JOHN GREEN re-examined. The gelding is worth 15 l. and more; it was young and sound, only eight years old; it was a very serviceable horse, just in its prime.

Cross-examined. Q. Was it low in condition - A. Yes.

GUILTY - DEATH . Aged 23.




[1] Newgate Prison, London: Register of Prisoners / The National Archives; Kew, London, England; PCOM 2: Metropolitan Police: Criminal Record Office: Habitual Criminals Registers and Miscellaneous Papers


[3] The National Archives; Kew, London, England; HO 77: Newgate Prison Calendar; Piece Number: 31

[4] Home Office: Convict Prison Hulks: Registers and Letter Books; Class: HO9; Piece: 8

[5] Sydney Gazette Thurs 5 Jan 1826 05 Jan 1826 - SHIPPING INTELLIGENCE. - Trove (

[6] Sydney Gazette Thursday 12 Jan 1826  / 12 Jan 1826 - THE POLICE. - Trove (

[7] Sydney Gazeette Friday 23 May 1828 / 23 May 1828 - Supreme Criminal Court. - Trove (

[8] 1828 New South Wales, Australia Census (TNA Copy) [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007.


[10] State Archives NSW; Series: NRS 12202; Item: [4/4093] [11] State Archives NSW; Series: NRS 12202; Item: [4/4131]

[12] Cumberland_County_1840.jpg (6388×10079) (

[13] State Records Authority of New South Wales; Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia; Card Index to Letters Received, Colonial Secretary; Reel Number: 779; Roll Number: 1250

[14] 15 Jan 1851 - MAITLAND MERCURY. - Trove (

[15] Australia, Death Index, 1787-1985 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.



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You seem to have more than your fair share of transportee relatives, Heather! 😀
It is great that there is so much information available about people like George.
@peepso_user_2769(Heather Bradshaw)
@peepso_user_265(JaneChapman) I do think George was rather hard done by but he seems to have done ok in Australia.