Lucraft and Luckraft One-name Study

Sunday, October 16, 2005

William Lucraft - convict

We’ve known for a while that a William Lucraft was transported from Exeter in the 1840,s as there was a newspaper clipping of the time giving very spare details of a William Lucraft transported from Exeter.

But now we know a bit more about him, thanks to the internet and access to Tasmanian Records. The Tasmanian Archives Office have been very helpful, and here’s the story.


William Lucraft was tried at Exeter on 30th January 1842. The writing in the Convict Record kept in Tasmania is not easy to read, but the offences include stealing a mackintosh, and two counts of drunkenness, (once perhaps at the White House; was that once a pub in Exeter?) and another unreadable offence. He got 14 days for one drunkenness count, 4 weeks for another and 2 months for the third. But for the mackintosh he was transported for seven years.

His records show that he was convict number 8515, aged 24 years, and 5 feet 3 and a quarter inches tall. He was a protestant, who could both read and write, and was single. He was a slater and plasterer, from Exeter, and the Serjeant’s (sic) report was that he was a good teacher. (What was he teaching?) The remarks column appears to read “m Elizabeth. 1d Mary”, which can be read as saying that his mother was called Elizabeth, and he had a daughter Mary, but the children column has no entry. It could equally be that he was married to Elizabeth and had one daughter Mary.

Who was he? I can’t be sure. The candidate I have had for many years is William Lucraft, baptised 22nd Nov 1818 at Heavitree, which was a small village on the outskirts of Exeter, now a suburb of the city. (Though this William born 1818 is also a candidate for the William Lucraft who went to America and founded the Locraft line there.) His family were carpenters, as he was, and I think his mother was Mary. This convict could well be married to an Elizabeth and have named a daughter after his mother. The children column I think relates to whether there were any children with the convict, and clearly here there were not as he sailed alone. So it is not certain, but after the 1841 census, when William is listed as a carpenter in Heavitree, we find no more about him in the English records I have seen so far. (There is another William of the same age in Bermondsey, with a family, and he too came from Heavitree, so it could be that the Heavitree William is not the one transported. We just don’t know.)

You can find this William on the Heavitree and Lympstone Tree if you have it. The next son, Joseph, emigrated to America and settled in Illinois marrying a woman from Hooe in Sussex before going, and her sister later after she died.

If this Heavitree family is William’s, they had spent the last 20 years on and off Poor support. The father’s generation had all been apprenticed when they were six, seven and eight years of age, and the family had Poor money from the village vestry to buy potatoes, packs of bran, for a daughter’s coffin etc.. They weren’t always in trouble. In 1853 John Lucraft a carpenter of Oakfield Street Heavitree, William’s brother, I believe, was a witness in a case against Elizabeth Stone, who stole a part of a side of bacon weighing 37 lbs from a shop in George’s Street, Exeter.


William embarked on 26th September 1842, and sailed from Plymouth on 5th October 1842, on board the ship Earl Grey, and arrived in Hobart, Tasmania, then called Van Diemens Land, on 14th January 1843; a sailing of 14 weeks. He’s recorded as being of fair complexion, with a small head and oval visage, brown eyebrows and eyes. On his left arm he had tattooed a man and a woman, the letters “V.R.” (for the new queen), and an anchor. On his right arm he had the letters “W.L.E.L.” and anchor and a sea anchor or a sun and anchor. Do the letters WLEL mean a William Lucraft and Elizabeth Lucraft. I suspect they do and that Elizabeth was his wife. Their marriage I have not yet found.

Life as a felon

He was put to work in the labour camps, including Buckland, and was soon in trouble. He got 10 days solitary for being drunk and being suspected of making a grindstone for a private individual. He got a four month extension for absenting himself and making a grindstone clandestinely, and having nails and mason’s tools in his bag without a record of permission. He was released from the first stage of his punishment in November 1844, and the next May went AWOL again and was drunk, getting four days solitary. In September he got six months hard labour for striking his master with his fist. Until May 1849 the records show further spells in solitary for drunkenness, resisting arrest, assaulting a landlord, and on one occasion stealing a watch. Tough life in the penal colonies.

Marriage to Sarah Briden

Then a month later, on 25th June 1849 he applies for permission to marry, as he had to do as a convict. It must have been granted because on 6th August 1849 he marries Sarah Briden, and there are no more records of bad behaviour! Sarah is herself a convict. On 3rd March 1845, Sarah, from Enfield in Middlesex, had been tried at the Central Criminal Court in London on the charge of attempting to drown her child; a charge to which she pleaded not guilty. The record notes that she states that Henry Hickson and James ?aw are the fathers of her children. A curious note is also that she is recorded as having an alias, Ann Wilson, and there is a later addition which says “proper name Sarah Briden”. Sarah is a “plain cook”, and she was sentenced to 15 years, which would take her to 1860. She’s single, can read and write, has two children and is a Protestant.

Sarah was transported from London on board the sailing ship Lloyds, sailing on 29th July 1845, and arriving at Hobart on 7th November. Her convict number was 753, and when she got there she was listed as 5 feet tall, 30 years of age, dark complexion, dark brown hair and an oval head. Her visage was narrow, her forehead low, eyebrows light, eyes hazel, with a long nose, wide mouth and round chin. Her face is slightly pockmarked, and she started a six month probation when she got there. The report, I think from the transport, was that she was well-behaved and industrious and had made 25 shirts.

There are very few entries on her record in Tasmania. The only offence she is recorded as committing is in 1848, for cruelty to an orphan child, for which she was reprimanded. In March 1853, eight years after her marriage, she is recommended for a conditional pardon, which is granted on 7th February 1854. In the margin of the record she is recorded as being at Campbelltown, one of the camps, until 1853.

I believe that her two children born in England, were transported with her, but have no further information about them. There is a number 2 in the children column of the transport ship record, whereas for William there was no entry.

And in the Tasman records, William and Sarah have four children together.

1. Mary Anne Lucroft, born 21 Jan 1850, Fingal, and died 15th May 1856 Campbelltown, aged 6.
2. Sarah Lucroft, born circa 1852, and died 23rd March 1852, Campbelltown a baby.
3. Elizabeth Lewcraft, born 3 April 1853, baptised at Campbelltown Methodist Church 24th April 1853.
4. Louisa Lucraft, born 23rd Jan 1855, Campbelltown.

There are no further certain details of the last two girls. If they died we might have seen the record. If they survived they probably married and took another name.

A tantalising possibility arose from an e-mail a couple of years ago, from John Davey in Australia. His grandmother was Lucy Louise Lucraft, who married George William Bushby, and they had a daughter, Olive, in 1887. Olive is John Davey’s mother. If this Lucy Louise was the same as the Louise, born 1885 above, she would have been about 32 when Olive was born. I don’t know anything else about Lucy Louise, and can’t find her in the records, so it remains a possibility.

William died in 1865 aged 46, and Sarah in 1860, aged 46, both in Campbelltown.

There is still work to be done on Exeter and London court records and newspapers, so one day we may know more.

The first voyage of the Earl Grey

Paul A. Murnane, as part of his family history, which included some of his Irish family being transported on the first voyage of the Earl Grey, has written this in his much longer family history, which can be seen at where there is a great wealth of interesting material, including the log of the ship’s surgeon. I have extracted this section which tells the story of the voyage of those men.

“Finally, on Tuesday August 23rd, 1836, they were issued with transportee clothes, one blanket and utensils (marked with each brother's berth number to prevent theft) and rowed out to the convict ship "Earl Grey". Fortunately for the Murnanes, the weather was not cold, for their blue cloth (or jersey) jackets and waistcoats (two each), duck trousers (two), linen shirts (three), stockings, woollen cap and, possibly for the Murnanes, the novelty of a pair of shoes, were light weather clothing.

After nearly forty years experience of transporting convicts to New South Wales, the English Government had at last arrived at a fairly humane set of rules and regulations for delivering human cargoes in good order and condition. By 1836 when the Murnanes travelled, convict ships were no longer "floating hells, festering with disease, vice and cruelty", as described in the earlier voyages when ten percent or more of convicts died en route. Convict transport was now a Transport Board and Royal Navy matter, done in strict accordance with rules and regulations, and the Murnanes' ship was under the charge of a Royal Navy surgeon, William Evans, with over thirty years medical experience.

Both Evans, who had previous transportation experience, and the ship’s master Talbot, had serious responsibilities and the Murnane brothers’ survival largely depended on Evans’ supervision. A large bond was paid by the contractor and only repaid when the Governor of New South Wales certified that the ship’s cargo had been properly delivered. Careful daily logs of consumption of rations and water were kept throughout the voyage, and copies of the ship’s logbook, as well as the Surgeon Superintendent’s log, were deposited with the Governor and, on return to England, with the Transport Board. (What we know of the Murnane brothers’ voyage is derived from the surviving copy of Surgeon Superintendent Evans’ log. No trace of the captain’s log has been found).

The "Earl Grey" was a new (1835) ship, built in Newcastle (England) by a well-known shipping merchant Duncan Dunbar and chartered to the British Government as a convict ship. The Murnanes were to be "privileged" to travel on the "Earl Grey's" first of many convict transportation trips to New South Wales over the next decade.

The ship was a 571-ton wooden barque with three masts, square-rigged on all but the aftermost mast, which was fore/aft rigged. It had a crew of forty-five. Below decks there were two rows of sleeping berths or boxes, one above the other, down each side of the ship, around a long central table running the ship’s length. Four convicts in double bunks slept in each six-foot square berth, linked together by the ankle with a chain running through ringbolts on the berths. Two large swinging stoves with metal funnels, stood fore and aft to provide the only warmth in the cold southern Indian Ocean where the "Earl Grey" would soon be sailing.

Air and light came only from small barred scuttles (rectangular openings) cut into the ship's sides – these were usually only able to be opened in calm seas. Armed soldiers from the 41st, 50th and 4th Regiments travelling as onboard guards, guarded trapdoors over the hatchways twenty-four hours. Evans had every two berths of eight men elect a mess captain to draw and divide the daily rations. These rations were a marked improvement over the Murnanes' experiences in the holding hulk -3/4 pound ships biscuits, beef/pork/pudding dinner, pea soup (four times weekly), gruel or "burgoo" for breakfast, 1 oz. lime juice, 1 oz. sugar daily to prevent scurvy, vinegar weekly, 4 gills of Spanish red wine weekly and 3 quarts of water daily.

Certain convicts on the "Earl Grey", usually the older ones, were selected as spokesmen for the convicts’ complaints and acted as "internal police", enforcing cleanup chores, etc.. Various convicts were allocated tasks such as cooks, medical attendants and barbers. Usually the convict cooks were allowed on deck about five a.m. to start breakfast preparations and cooking, and weather permitting, convicts were allowed on deck at sunrise, washing in seawater and exercising under armed supervision. All convicts were required to clean up as best they could prior to a daily inspection by the Surgeon. Haircuts and shaves were given once or twice a week. The sleeping berths were cleaned and each convict’s bedding was usually stored on deck, often getting wet from the sea. The Murnanes participated in the daily prison deck cleaning parties, scrubbing down the decks with pumice stone and seawater. Breakfast was served below decks at the central table running the length of the ship. Religious service muster on the quarterdeck was a regular Sunday event, although it not known how the Irish Catholic convicts celebrated. A typical day ended about sunset when the convicts collected their bedding and were chained below for the night after dinner.”

The Ship’s surgeon listed the daily food ration:
“The allowance of oatmeal for each mans Breakfast is eight ounces this is made into thick Gruel and with it they get half an ounce of sugar. The Breakfast is served out at half past eight o'clock. The allowance of meat for each man is four ounces (Including bone). They get inferior cabbage of which they are allowed four ounces (Including Stalks and waste leaves). There is also a small portion of oatmeal added to thicken it. This is made into Broth or soup, of this each man is allowed a quart. It is served up at five o'clock and with it a pound of Biscuit and no more for the day. On Friday the dinner is nothing but this gruel.”


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