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Robert Caleb Jarvis: criminal or victim of circumstance?

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Robert Caleb Jarvis (1816-1845)

Early years

Robert was baptised Robert Clary Jarvis in Woodchurch, Kent on 19 May 1816 the baseborn son of Frances Jarvis. [1] I have been unable to find anyone with either the first or surname Clary who could be the potential father and therefore presume this was a misspelling of Caleb, the name which was used in the future.


In December 1815 a few months before Robert was born, his mother Frances Jarvis was removed from Tenterden back to Woodchurch under a settlement order and is most probably the Fanny Jarvis baptised in Woodchurch in 1795. [2]

In 1819 Frances married Walter Iden, also from Woodchurch but it’s not clear if he was Robert’s father. Between 1813 and 1817 Walter was serving in the 23rd Dragoon’s having enlisted on 19 Oct 1813. [3] He appears to have  served in Canada [4] and in June 1817 he was attested to the Royal Staff Corps at Radipole Barracks near Weymouth in Dorset. [5]
It seems more likely from the research carried out by the Woodchurch Local and Family History Group that Robert’s father was Charles Allen a gentleman of Tenterden who made three different payments to the Overseer in the Woodchurch Poor Register - Receipts totalling £3 6s. 0d. towards the costs of the pregnancy and birth in 1815/6:

Received of Mr Allen for the laying in of Frances Jarvis

Received of Mr Allen for the child up to 22 Mar 1816

Received of Mr Allen for the expenses attending the journey on 22 Mar 1816

In 1833 Walter Iden, (Robert) Caleb Jarvis and Frances’s brother Stephen Jarvis all appeared on the Pauper List for Woodchurch. [6]
Robert Caleb Jarvis married Rebecca Motte from Great Chart in the parish church at Woodchurch on 2 August 1840. He gave his father’s name as Walter Iden and the witnesses were his (step) siblings William and Julia (Judith) Iden. [7]



In the 1841 census Robert and Rebecca with their baby daughter Elizabeth were living in Woodchurch listed under the surname Iden in the same household as Walter & Frances, two of their children and an illegitimate child of Julia.

Between 1841 and 1844 Robert and Rebecca had 3 children:

Elizabeth Rebecca b 1841

Eliza Feanills / Frances b 1843

Robert George Calip b 1844.

The children don’t appear to have been baptised until 1858, when all three were baptised in Woodchurch: Elizabeth and Eliza on 29 January and Robert on 21 March.



On 21 November 1844 Robert and his brother-in-law Hughes Mott were arrested for breaking into a house in Great Chart and stealing food and articles of clothing. According to the newspaper report they were both natives of Great Chart: Robert's wife Rebecca had been baptised there in 1822 and the Mott family certainly had a connection with the village.

West Kent Guardian 30 Nov 1844

They appear to have at first been in Rochester Gaol before being moved to Maidstone to await their trial.

Maidstone Journal and Kentish Advertiser 3 Dec 1844



At the Lent Assizes on 10 March 1845 Robert and Hughes were found guilty of the burglary: stealing two hams, two loaves of bread, three apple pies, a quantity of cakes, a gallon of mead and a velvet coat the property of Mary Beeching of Great Chart and sentenced to 10 years transportation. [8] A more detailed account of their trial can be found at the end of this blog.


Whilst awaiting transportation Robert appeared in court again: in April he was brought from Maidstone Gaol to Rochester Quarter Sessions to give evidence in an appeal about the settlement status of his family. [9]



In June 1845 Hughes Mott left for Van Diemans Land. Robert remained in prison in England for a further three months, embarking on the Mayda on 19th August. The ship finally sailed on 27 August. Robert died at sea on 2 November. 


General Extracts from the Journal of the Ship’s Surgeon of the Mayda [10]

The highlighting of words below is mine because although they are contained in the Surgeon's general comments, they relate to Robert, case no 30. 

The convicts were embarked on the 19th of August apparently in good health and the ship sailed on the 27th. Whilst the ship remained at Woolwich some cases of sickness occured generally slight ones of diarrhoea obstipation and one of fever.

The convicts guards etc remained totally healthy during the month of September. Only four or five cases of fever occurring, with other slight cases the fever was generally of an inflammatory nature attended with considerable vascular excitement headache etc and was generally relieved by bleeding purging. 

Early in the month of October, soon after we got the S E Trade Winds the convicts became very sickly a great number of fever cases occuring which were generally preceded by constipation . In most of the cases there was violent headache with pain [...] which in all was a prominent symptom. 

Four cases terminated fatally two of whom were apparently getting well when the symptons took an unfavourable turn which soon carried them off, in one of them, no 30, there was great oppr[...] of breathing with apparent debility from the beginning and [...] did not relieve him to any extent, he was a man of a very broken constitution* and apparently had led a very irregular life.


[*Robert was 29 years old at the time]


Robert’s medical entry in the journal

Oct 18th: He says he has felt unwell for some days, he now complains of debility with pain in the back and [...] He trembles very much and his breathing is opp.... Tongue darkly furred, bowels costive, pulse weak. He is a very unhealthy looking subject and I believe was a long time under medical treatment when in prison. 

Oct 19th:  in the morning he is much the same, bowels not free. Skin became hot with intense thirst.

Oct 20th: No improvement, bowels costive

Oct 21st:  No alteration, constant thirst 

Oct 22nd: Breathing very much opp... constant thirst. 

Oct 23rd: Constant thirst, tongue covered with a thick fur, pulse quick and weak. Skin hot and dry

Oct 24th: Has a slight cough but his breathing is more free

Oct 25th: Constant thirst, cough more troublesome 

Oct 26th: Is dry weak and at times delirious.

Oct 27th: Is delirious but at times sensible when spoken to

Oct 28th: No improvement constant cough

Oct 29th: Breathing very difficult, constant delirium 

Oct 30th: Much the same

Oct 31st: Is gradually sinking - is nearly insensible and only takes a little fluid by spoonfuls 

 Nov 2nd: he gradually sank and died at 1.15 am this morning


In the 1851 census Rebecca was a widowed dressmaker living in St Margaret’s, Rochester with her two youngest children Eliza and George aged 7 and 6. The eldest daughter Elizabeth, 10, was living with her widowed grandmother Elizabeth Mott in Stroud, Kent. Rebecca appears to have remarried several times.

When Eliza married she gave her father’s name as Caleb and said he was a farmer.

Robert’s accomplice Hughes Mott died in Bendigo in 1857 in a fight with another miner.


Report of trial in the South Eastern Gazette, 18 March 1845

[1] Kent Baptisms, 1831-1851, P400/1B/2 page 16
[3] The National Archives; Kew, Surrey, England; Class Number: WO 25; Class Title: 23 Dragoons; Piece Number: 299; Piece Title: 23 Dragoons
[4] Canada, British Regimental Registers of  Service 1756-1900]
[5] UK British Army Muster Books and Pay Lists
[7] Kent Marriages and Banns, 1837-1901, P400/1/D/3 page 15
[8] England & Wales Criminal Registers 1791-1892 Source Citation Class HO27, Piece 76, Page 10
[9] Canterbury Journal, Kentish Times and Farmers' Gazette 12 April 1845
[10] Ancestry:  Royal Navy Medical Journals - Mayda
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