Children of the Poor House: Transportation

This week we are taking a thematic approach to our Children of the Poor House series by looking at one of the more unusual reasons that led to some of the children being admitted to the Poor House.

Transportation was a common form of punishment in the past, particularly for the crime of theft. The first ships to ‘transport’ convicted criminals to Australia from Britain occurred in 1787. By 1868 it is estimated that some 162,000 people had been transported.

The Poor House records illustrate the impact that having a parent transported could have on a family, with many seeing the Poor House as the only safety net they had left. Interestingly, as demonstrated by the table below, the majority of children who entered our institution in this particular circumstances were female.

Child’s Name Date Information 
William Daly Sept 1822 His mother, Sarah Crampsee [sic], was transported after a conviction for theft
Susanna Hill Nov 1834 Discharged to her mother who was recorded as a ‘transport’
Leta Mattear Sept 1835 Her father George was a Whitesmith and their mother Margaret was transported
Isabella Mattear Aug 1836 Sister of Isabella, admitted a year after Leta
Matilda Hanagan Apr 1837 Mother was ‘transported’, most likely to Australia. Prior to transportation she had worked  in Lepper’s Cotton Mill
Margaret Bloomfield June 1855 Removed from the Poor House by her mother to emigrate to Australia

 

From our research we know that William Daly’s mother wrote home to request that he be sent to Australia once she completed her sentence. Sadly, it is not known whether or not William was able to re-join his mother, who had remarried by this time. In the case of Leta Mattear we know that she secured an apprenticeship with John Foreman of Clogher, Lisburn and her sister Isabella left the Poor House a few years later in 1841. Then there is the case of Margaret Bloomfield, who was removed from the Poor House by her mother to emigrate to Australia, not as a transportee, but as an economic migrant looking for a better life for her and her child.

As part of our ongoing research we will be trying to unearth more about these individuals and their families. If you can help please email archive@cliftonbelfast.org.uk

Belfast Charitable Society Belfast Poor House Clifton House Management News