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William Dearman  Son John 1808-1859

John was the baby of the family - born 1808 and he was the one who had the most severe sentence - initially death, though this was subsequently commuted to transportation for life, which apparently happened a great deal - they needed the free labour in Australia.  So what heinous crime did he commit to deserve this?  Well he stole a whole pickled pig from a lady called Hester or Esther Roberts.  The crime was committed during the snowy night of 26th/27th January, 1829.  There are actually three different trial transcripts involved - that of John, his girlfriend Sarah Lawrence and also of his friend? John James.  This makes the whole thing more interesting in a way as we sort of have three different (and no doubt false) versions of events - not to mention those of Hester Roberts and the local policeman, John Wilson who keeps popping up in all of these trials.  The portrait at left shows a relatively prosperous man I think, and this is because, of all the Dearman brothers, John seems to be the only one who made anything of himself, albeit in unlikely circumstances on the far side of the world.

We learn from the plea for mercy that John had been fending for himself from the age of 12 when his parents died.  Why didn’t his older siblings look after him one wonders?  In the words of the petition:  “since he was only 12 years old he has maintained himself by hard labour, and honesty in consequence of his losing his Father and Mother, and left without an individual to protect him.”  The petitioners, the first of whom is Esther Roberts, his accuser, also say that “when he committed the offence he was in the greatest distress.”  And, as an aside, one of the petitioners also says he “knew the father and mother of prisoner to be an honest, sober and industrious couple.”

The basic story seems to be that in the middle of the night, John left Sarah Lawrence’s house (he lived with her) with John James (or maybe it was James Dearman), possibly met with someone else, broke into Hester Roberts’ house and stole the pork, which they cut up and hid in a chest in Sarah’s house.  Some was possibly sold at the Rose and Crown pub, some was buried in the garden by Sarah (not what you would do if it had been legitimately bought as was claimed).  In none of the trials is any reason given as to why they would have suspected John Dearman.  Indeed the policeman had gone to the house for another reason - it was implied he was looking for something else.  So was John a known suspicious person?  Was it a Dearman family stigma?  Guilt all rests on the identification of one particular piece of pork, cut in a ‘particular’ way.  Anyway, here are the transcripts in chronological order with a few extra notes and comments.

Sarah Lawrence was tried on 19th February for receiving stolen goods and sentenced to fourteen days imprisonment.  She was 20 years old.

673. SARAH LAWRENCE was indicted for feloniously receiving, on the 27th of January, 6lbs. weight of pork, the goods of Esther Roberts, widow, she well knowing the same to have been stolen .

                                                                                                                                                          ESTHER ROBERTS. I am a widow, and live at Enfield. On the 27th of January my house was broken open at night, and I lost about two stones of pork; the constable found part of it on the Tuesday - I saw it, and can swear to one piece; there was a notch on one part of it, where I had cut it, because it would not go into my pan.                                                                           

Cross-examined by MR. PHILLIPS. Q. Was it not pickled pork? A. Yes, and well salted.             JOHN WILSON . I am a constable of Enfield. A man named John Dearman lived with the prisoner, about a mile or a mile and a half from the prosecutrix’s; I went to the prisoner’s house about nine o’clock in the morning, and found about 16lbs. or 18lbs. of pork, in a box; it was not locked - I asked how she got it; she said it was bought at Waltham-market: I was not looking for that, and left it - the prosecutrix afterwards came to me, and said there was some pork, but I did not know it was her’s; we then went to the house again, and found three pieces of pork in a box - the prosecutrix said she could swear to one of them - I heard the prisoner examined before the Magistrate - she put her mark upon this deposition. (Deposition read.)       The Prisoner, being cautioned not to say any thing to her disadvantage, says, “On Monday night James and John Dearman left the room which John Dearman and I live in, about eleven o’clock; they returned next morning, about five, and brought home the pork in question, cut it into smaller pieces, put it into a pan, and then into the chest where it was first found; I took the greated part of it soon after the constable first saw it, cooked some, and buried the rest in Edward Ballard ‘s garden - the pork now produced is part of that brought in by Dearman.”         Cross-examined. Q. Was not this woman ill in bed? A. She was sitting on the bed, and was not up; she afterwards complained of having the head-ache - I cannot say she knew whether Dearman had got the pork in the market or not; the pork has not been eat.                                 COURT. Q. Did you find any in Ballard’s garden? A. Yes, one small piece.                                       The prisoner put in a written Defence, stating that she was confined to her bed, and did not know how the pork had got into the box.

GUILTY . Aged 20.  Confined Fourteen Days

So what should be noted from this?  She refers to James and John Dearman.  At first I assumed that this was our James, but on later discovering the trial of John James, I now realise she is referring to him.  They seem to refer to people by their surnames.  She cannot write - she has made her mark on her deposition.  At this stage she says the were out all night from 11.00 pm.  And it should also be noted that in the first instance the policeman saw the pork but he was not suspicious.  Sarah told him afterwards that she didn't know whose it was.  So it sounds a little as she betrayed John.

Not really reliable evidence.  The butcher is not game to identify it.  And John is saying it was Sarah.  Not a very loyal couple obviously.  Note the robbery happened at 4.00 am.  He was only 20 too.  And Death - poor guy.  Hester Roberts seems to have regretted her vehemence in accusing him as hers is one of the more prominent names on the plea for mercy.  Here she certainly seems to be saying that more than one person was involved.

Next, on 11th June John is tried.  This is several months after Sarah’s trial, so presumably he had been held in prison for some time before the trial.  Here is the transcript.

Before Lord Chief Justice Tenterden. (Charles Abbott - pictured at left)

713. JOHN DEARMAN was indicted for feloniously breaking and entering the dwelling-house of Hester Roberts , on the 27th of January, at Enfield, and stealing therein 16lbs. of pork, value 10s., her property .

HESTER ROBERTS . I live in Turkey-street, in the parish of Enfield, and am a widow. On the morning of the 27th of January I was called up - I had left my house all safe the night before, and went to bed between eight and nine o’clock; I was the only person in the house that night, and slept up stairs - I heard a noise at four o’clock in the morning, it appeared to be below; I struck a light, looked at my watch, and saw it was four o’clock - I opened the window and hallooed, supposing it was somebody stealing the flowers from the garden in the front of the house; I then bolted my bed-room door, and went to bed again, leaving the light burning till I came down at six o’clock - I had the light then; I found my lattice window broken down, and the sash inside the lattice broken, and open - it was a sliding sash; it was broken a man could get in there - my door, which leads to the back kitchen, was wrenched open; the back kitchen-door, which leads into the garden, was broken from within; the iron bar was taken down -16lbs. of pickled pork was taken from the house, out of the pickling pan, which was in the wash-house, where they first broke into - the lattice-window is in the wash-house - the pork had been killed before Christmas - the pig weighed twelve stone, it was for my own use, and worth about 9d. per 1b., such pork as that; I saw some pork again on the Tuesday night, at the Rose and Crown public-house, Enfield-highway - Wilson, the constable, had got it; I have brought a little bit of it here now, the bit that I swore to - Wilson took charge of it; I swore to it before the Magistrate - the constable delivered it to me after the last Session; here is a piece where the leg was cut off - I pickled it myself, and was going to cut this particular notch off, but did not; it is a particular notch which I cut, and I can swear to it by that.                                       Prisoner. Q. That is not the pork she swore to before Mr. Hardy? A. Yes, it is the same piece.          JOHN WILSON . I am a constable of Enfield. I searched the prisoner’s house on the 27th of January, between nine and ten o’clock in the morning; I knew he lived there - he was at home; I found about 16lbs. of pickled pork there, in a clothes chest - I did not examine it then, as I was not looking for pork; it was in a covered pan in the chest - it seemed to be dry; after hearing Mrs. Roberts’ house was broken open, I went to the house again with her, about three o’clock in the afternoon, and found only part of the pork in the same chest, rolled up in some clothes - there were only four pieces then; there were several pieces before - they were taken out of the pan and wrapped in some clothes in the same chest; the prisoner was not there then - I took it away; the piece produced is part of what I found there and produced before the Magistrate - I delivered it to the prosecutrix after the last Session; I kept it till then: before I went to the house with her, she said she should know it by a mark, and I found the mark she had described - it was a notch; Castle saw the four pieces before the Justice.                                                                                      

GEORGE CASTLE . I am a butcher. I saw the pork before the Justice, in Wilson’s presence; I had killed a pig for Mrs. Roberts, and cut it up - I had no particular reason to know the pork again; it was such sort of pork as this - I had no mark on it.                                                                           Prisoner’s Defence. I know nothing about the pork - it was not found in my possession; it was found in the woman’s house - she took the room: no one could say they saw me take it - the woman took the room and paid for it.                                                                                               

HESTER ROBERTS . I had a garden in front of my house; I did not observe any footsteps in the garden - it was a very snowy morning; there were the footmarks of two or three men in my house; the snow had come into the house, and I could see the print of the nails - there was more than one man’s footmarks.

GUILTY - DEATH . Aged 20.

Then on 9th April John James is brought to trial - and he gets off altogether after quite a lengthy to do!  Too long after the event again - indeed James Dearman got off at his second trial because it was too long after the event?  The crime was committed in January remember and we are now in April.  Hester’s story is unchanged, but Sarah Lawrence has filled out hers.  Here is the transcript:

1363. JOHN JAMES was indicted for breaking and entering the dwelling-house of Hester Roberts , on the 27th of January, and stealing 15lbs. of pork, value 10s. her property.

HESTER ROBERTS . I am single, and rent a house in Enfield parish. On the 26th of January, I went to bed between eight and nine o’clock, and fastened the house; about four in the morning I heard a noise - I struck a light, looked at my watch, and it was four o’clock; I opened my bed-room window, and hallooed, Halloo! thinking if there were any thieves, it would send them away - the noise was at the back part of the house, which is only one story high - I then got into bed again, not hearing any more, and left my light burning - I got up at six o’clock; I found my doors open, and about 16lbs. of pork was gone from a pickling pan in the washhouse, the door of which had been locked the night before - I found all the back doors open, and the windows - the lock wrenched off the middle door between the kitchen and wash-house; the catch of the lock had been forced out - it must have been done with an instrument - I came to look about, and missed a basket and a few trifling things; I saw the pork again the same day; it was cut into pieces, and one bit where the leg was cut out there is a hook - I know my own cut well.             Cross-examined by MR. PHILLIPS. Q.  Was not the prisoner taken up, and set at liberty? A. That was about a hat; he was taken within half a mile of my house - I had seen him about once after the robbery, two or three months before he was taken, but I was not certain about him.          SARAH LAWRENCE . I live at Enfield-highway - I have known the prisoner almost all my life; he came on the Saturday night before the robbery into the room of the house I lived in then; John Dearman was in the room - Dearman lived at the house; he called John Dearman out; it was between seven and eight o’clock on Saturday night, and he went out; and on the Monday night I saw him - he came and called John Dearman out again - he called him out twice on the Monday night - the last time was between twelve and one o’clock; I was in bed then - I was sleeping in the same room; he said he knew where the old woman’s watch and her money lay - he did not say what old woman - Dearman went out with him, and a little before five o’clock they both came in together, and [I ? - a typo surely?] brought the pork with them, which Mrs. Roberts afterwards claimed: it was tied up in a blue handkerchief - I have seen the prisoner about afterwards, but not so much as before the pork was put away; Mrs. Roberts saw some of it in a box in the room in which I sleep, the day after it was brought in, and said it was the pork she had lost - I did not at that time tell her what I knew about it; I was examined before the Magistrate on the Wednesday after, and there I gave an account of it - James at that time lodged about a quarter of a mile off; he and Dearman told me, if any thing happened, to take the pork out - I did not take it all out - I took out part of it, and buried it under ground.                                                                        

Cross-examined. Q. You have told us all you know about it? A. No; while James was in prison he wished to see me - I went, and he said he would write to his sister, and I should have a sovereign if I would say he only came in to inquire about Tom Bedford, and that I only knew him by his dress; I was tried here myself for this offence - I did not at first know the pork was stolen; I told several people about it before I was taken up - I saw the prisoner two or three times after of an evening, but I did not know where he was to be found.                                                                    Q. Is not your motive for coming forward now, because the prisoner would not come, and swear falsely for you and Dearman?                            A. No; I was never in custody before; Dearman sent the prisoner a letter to come and see him, but I never asked him to come forward - I saw him once at the Cock public-house at Hounslow, and at the King’s Arms public-house, about three o’clock in the afternoon - I never saw him at any other place, except of an evening; there was no officer to give him in charge - if they had come for me, when Dearman was here, I should have come and spoken the truth; I know nothing of his having been asked to come forward to swear an alibi.                                                          JOHN WILSON . I am a constable of Enfield. On Tuesday, the 27th of January, I went to this woman’s house; Dearman lived there too - I found about 15 lbs. or 16 lbs. of pork: Lawrence was at home - the pork was in a chest among some clothes in a pan, and about two o’clock I heard Roberts had been robbed of pork; she went there with me, and there were only three pieces left - the pan was gone; she identified one piece in particular - when I first saw the pork it was in three or four pieces; I apprehended Dearman; and through the information of Lawrence I found one small piece of pork buried in the garden - I never could see the prisoner till six weeks or two months afterwards; we took him before the Magistrate about a hat, and then Lawrence was not to be found - he was taken upon this charge on the 12th of May; I found him in the house of a Mrs. Roberts, where he lived.                                                                                                          

Cross-examined. Q. Perhaps you were not very active in looking for him? A. I knew he had been to several public-houses in our parish - I have been sent for, but he got away before I came - Lawrence cohabited with Dearman, who has been convicted; I never knew of her being with any body else.                                                                                                                                                       

GEORGE CASTLE . I killed a pig for Mrs. Roberts. I saw the pork before the Justice, and believe it to be hers.                                                                 EDWARD SANDERS. I am a constable. I apprehended the prisoner on the 12th of May; he denied the charge.


He arrived in New South Wales 100 days after his departure on the 7th December.  One convict died on his voyage.  

I know a little more about John after his arrival in Australia.  Like his brother James he seems to have been assigned to a landowner - Charles Boydell. a free settler, who had a couple of properties near Paterson in the Hunter Valley.  He was assigned to him on arrival and may have continued to work for him after he got his Ticket of Leave.  He was said to be able to plough, milk and reap - a general agricultural labourer like his brother James.  The picture at right is of Trevallyn, another being Camyr Allyn (Boydell came from Wales), one of his properties and since another document refers to John as formerly of the Allyn River one has to assume that John worked here for some time.

In 1838 John received a Ticket of leave which meant that he was ‘free’ although not allowed to return to England.  But this was revoked in 1841 “for imposition in fabricating a letter purporting to announce the death of his wife in England with a view to get re married in this colony”.  All seems to have been forgiven though because in 1847 he received a Conditional Pardon, which really meant he was free - although still not allowed to return to England.

Now why should he have got off and John Dearman not, one wonders?  He seems to be a suspected criminal after all, maybe even previously convicted.  

We learn that John Dearman could write - he wrote to John James, and that John had been Sarah’s only lover, so I wonder if he gave her a thought when he left London on the Sarah on 29th August, 1829.  (I think the boat at left is the Sarah.)  Later evidence I have come across (his indenture record) tells me that John was actually married, although I cannot find this or any other marriage. 

Maybe he did then marry - though I have yet to find the marriage. Whether officially married or not, he set up house with Mary Cameron and produced at least 6 children - Johanna, Jessie, Sarah, Peter and Mary between the years of 1848 and 1860.  He died in 1859, so Mary must have been pregnant when he died.  He would only have been about 51 at the time.  They lived in Patrick’s Plains, (seen at left) which is now Singleton, on the edge of the Hunter Valley region.  His property is said to be in Scott's Flat part of which is shown at left in a Google street view. Two of the children moved to Maitland and to Scone also in the Hunter Valley.  I have found a couple of advertisements in local papers advertising his horse for stud services, (see left) so maybe this is the business he set up.  His wife carried on the business as I also found her advertising for workers.  The death notice reads: “On 18th April instant, at his residence, Section, near Singleton, Mr John Dearman, formerly of the Allen River, much respected by a large circle of friends, after a short illness aged 56 years, leaving a widow and six children to lament their loss.”

There are not many Dearmans left in New South Wales, but I will try to ascertain whether they are descendants.  John seems to have had only two sons, although the girls seem to have had children with the surname Dearman.  One was called Leivena Australia - how’s that for a name?  There are lots of Dearmans in South Australia though.  I will investigate.

So, one of the convicts who made good, though he died young.

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