68 responses to “The Convict Hulks of Bermuda”

  1. Prof Bernard de Neumann

    Do you have any evidence of penal colonies, and in particular, prison hulks, in the Cape Colony?

  2. jason

    A good friend is an expert on convict hulks in Bermuda…

    One of this articles.

    Google “Chris Addams”


  3. Peter Selley

    Thanks for the interesting article.

    The medical records of the patients in the Bermuda Royal Naval Hospital 1824-1848 from National Archives have been scanned and are available and searchable on Ancestry (by name and year only). Almost all the records concern ill convicts. (Paradoxically the records are under Tax Criminal Land and Wills / UK Royal Naval Medical Journals, 1817-1857. Search under ‘B’ and Bermuda Royal Naval Hospital rather than the name of the hulk). For instance there was a nasty epidemic of Yellow Fever in October 1837 with a very high mortality rate. For each patient there is his name, age, hulk (if appropriate), diagnosis and outcome as well as extensive clinical information.

    1. Brady Robbins

      Thank you for this post, Peter. After several years of knowing that two of my distant uncles were transported for 14 years I am finally finding information about them in Bermuda. I was able to find their medical records thanks to your suggestion. I appreciate it very much!

  4. Phil Barber

    Thanks for your article and guidance into Bermuda research by your contributors.

    The convict ship Merchantman called to Bermuda 10 Oct 1862 to pick up 192 convicts to be transferred to Swan River Colony Western Australia.

    Names of convicts, sentence place and date including a number of court martial’s from Bermuda can be found on Ancestry under Australian Convict Transfer Registers 1791 – 1868, slides 240 to 251.

    More information on the voyage can be found on the perthdps website Convicts to Australia and search for the ship Merchantman.

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  8. Barb

    Hello I am researching a female who was transported to Van Diemen’s Land in 1846. She said her husband was transported to Bermuda on the “Scotia” where can I find more details of this please?

    Thank you for your very interesting article as the above was the first time I’ve come across Bermuda as a place for transportation.

  9. Barb

    Thank you Clare, indeed they are on Find My Past. I’ve long had an interest in crime and punishment and find it fascinating to look at records. I have an appointment in a few weeks with a doctor at the archives at Lancaster Castle.

    Thank you for the information on the Scotia. So the ships would sail from England then lay in the harbour with the men living on board, just going off to do their labours. How and when did they make it back to England? Transportation really is an interesting subject which I’ve only been researching a short while but my eyes have sure been opened!

  10. Max Double

    Thank you for the most useful background to help fill in my understanding of my great grandfather’s time 1840-1850 incarcerated on Bermuda.

    Max Double

  11. Jim Phillips

    Thank you for an excellent site. I am an historian of criminal justice history in Canada. Transportation plays only a small role in that history, but it was used in the 1820s and 1830s for people sentenced to death and pardoned, as a condition of pardon, and the convict destination was Bermuda. The British government stopped the practice in 1835. Is there a set of records devoted specifically to transportation from British North America to Bermuda? From what I’ve been able to gather so far the convicts were shipped from Halifax, Nova Scotia, in naval vessels (Halifax was the principal naval base on the North American east coast). Convicts convicted in Nova Scotia went to Bermuda, and so did a few convicted in Lower Canada (now Quebec). I haven’t found any evidence yet of convicts from Upper Canada or New Brunswick going to Bermuda.

    Jim Phillips

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  13. joy munns

    Hi Clare, my gr gr grandfather was convicted in Ireland in January 1847 and sentenced to 10 years transportation. He was sent to Bermuda on board the “Bangalore”. In April 1849 he was put on board the “Neptune” ( along with hundreds of other Irish convicts) and sent to Cape of Good Hope to finish his sentence. The Cape, however, would not accept the convicts, and after many months at anchor in the harbour there, the “Neptune” was sent to Tasmania, where all the convicts were given a Conditional Pardon. The arrived in Hobart April 1850. They spent 12 months on board the “Neptune”. The Home Office in London decided they did not have to complete their original sentences.
    Great site for info on Bermuda.

  14. Jeannette Edgar

    Hi my ancestor Manuel Jacinto apparently from the Azores then a prisoner a Trinidad was a convict on the Coriomandel ship transporterd to Hobart Australia in 1838. I notice you mentioned limestone blindness. Interestingly a discription from the ships Records of him said he had something wrong with his eyes. He married my great great great grandmother but sadly drowned in Sydney NSW Australia maybe his poor eyes contributed to him drowning.

  15. Julie Webb

    Hi Clare

    My ancestor Henry Harris was convicted and sent to Bermuda on the Hulks. He was a second offender years later and then sent to Australia where I come in. Can you advise how I can find out which hulk he was on or what records to search, thank you

  16. Christine Yeats

    Dear Clare

    Has there been a study of convicts sent to NSW who had been previously transported to Bermuda?


  17. Christine Yeats

    Dear Clare

    Thank you very much for your response and for your Blog ‘The Convict Hulks of Bermuda’. It is most informative. My interest is in the handful of convicts transported to NSW who, having returned to the UK following transportation to Bermuda, re-offended and were transported to NSW. I was wondering if anyone has looked at this group in more detail.

    Many thanks for the figures on the convicts transferred to VDL (Tasmania) and WA from Bermuda. I had located the list of the 191 convicts transported to WA on the ‘Merchantman’ in 1863 but I don’t have anything about the 136 sent to WA around the same time. Do you know more about them?

    Best wishes


  18. Christine Yeats

    Hi Clare thank you for letting me know that the second group of convicts sent from Bermuda in 1863 were sent to England and not WA. Christine

  19. Jim Gale

    What a wonderful post. Do yo have any information on which ships were used as the hulks?

  20. Emily

    Hi Clare,

    I was wondering if you have idea where I could find records for where a convict went once his sentence was up? He was transported for life on the Medway, and would have arrived in Bermuda in 1848, but I have no idea where to find details on his sentence from there (whether it was commuted etc).


  21. Caroline Ryan

    Hi Clare,
    I am trying to find out what happened to a Patrick Costello sentenced to Transportation for life and went aboard the Bride ship May 1851
    From Ireland to Bermuda. There are no records of him in Australia so I wonder where I would find convicts who died in Bermuda?
    Would appreciate any help.

  22. Angela Linnell

    I am very interested in this as I am researching a RICHARD DOWELL b 1816 in Ratcliffe Culey, Leics. I knew he was transported and spent years trying to find him in Australia. One day I Googled just “Richard Dowell convict” and immediately found his medical record at Bermuda Royal Naval Hospital in 1845.

    I have just found the entry for his release: From Dec 1849 Quarterly Return “Disch’d by pardon for passage to to Sullivan US [I take it this is the port on the East Coast] 13 Nov 1849. I can see that others on the same page were discharged to Halifax. I would love to know why he was going to Sullivan – was he en route to England? I cannot identify him in England after 1849.

    He is not a direct ancestor but my ancestors lived very close in Barwell, Leics, in the 1800s and I think I can see a connection with his grandfather, JOSEPH DOWELL.

  23. Sam Millard

    Hi Clare. There is a folk song entitled Rufford Park Poachers which tells the story of a confrontation between poachers and gamekeepers in Sherwood Forest in 1851. Three of the four prosecuted for this affray were transported to Bermuda in 1853. John Moaks, George Dunlop and George Bowskill were put on board the Dromedary and Medway hulks. In the case of George Bowskill this was a miscarriage of justice and he was later given a reprieve. No compensation in those days! All of the group returned home in 1857 and were released on licence having completed less than half of their 14 year sentence. All went back to their previous homes and families, though how Mrs Dunlop explained the two new infants is anyone’s guess. John Moaks broke his licence and was sent to Australia to complete his 14 years. Thanks for your research which provided the leads to the story of these three.

  24. Sam Millard

    Hi Clare. As with all research you’re sometimes left with as many questions as when you started. Would there have been a reason that these three were released after serving only 6 years of their 14 year sentence? As I understand it the work in Bermuda hadn’t finished. Maybe there were too many prisoners occupying the 7 hulks for the work that was left. Could the 1857 reform bill ending the use of hulks in Britain have had something to do with it. Or maybe they were perfect prisoners and followed the rules. This adds up for Bowskill and Dunlop. They were never in trouble again (or they didn’t get caught). The youngest, Moaks, only managed two and a half years before he was caught poaching near Tibshelf. He was sent to Australia where he completed the rest of his sentence and was, as far as I can find out, never to return.
    Any insight into this mystery of the early release gratefully received.

  25. Ray Charlton

    Good day Clare,

    I have found your post to be very interesting.
    My name is Ray Charlton, and when you came to the Dockyard, I was the Chairman of the Westend Development Corporation WEDCo, owners and managers of the Dockyard. I wish that I would have know that you were here.
    My interest surrounds the Prison Hulk the Thames. My Maternal great great (great) Grandfather was James Anderson Thompson and I have been told by my family elders that he was the chemist onboard the Thames.
    Do you know where I should start looking for addional information on both the Thames and James Thompson?

    Ray Charlton

  26. Caroline Haigh

    Hello Clare,
    I found your fascinating article a few years ago about young Irish male prisoners being sent to Bermuda during the famine years and finally had some hope that I had found a possible lead for my young Irish convict Thomas Ford! He was sentenced to transportation with his mother in 1848 – she came to Van Diemen’s Land and he didn’t. Oral history has it that he ended up in America (no idea if this is true or not). I am assuming that if he did go to the US that his pathway was Bermuda, but I have not yet found him in the records.

    I note that in your comment in Feb 2018 above that you mention that some prisoners did make it to America after their time in Bermuda. Other than Ancestry and FindMyPast are there any other records you can recommend for tracing a potential pathway to the US after a sentence was served? Do I need an excuse to visit Kew?! I live in Tasmania.

    Thank you for your help,


  27. Brady Robbins

    Hello Clare,

    Do you know if there are any records available for correspondence between the government and the convicts families after they have died? I have two distant uncles, John and William Robbins, who were transported to Bermuda on the HMS Medway in 1847. They both died in Bermuda, and William left behind a family in County Galway. I have read in other articles that convicts were paid a small amount for their labor which was often claimed by their families after their deaths.Do you know if there are any records that may connect back to their families?
    Thank you for this article and the information about the convict hulks. I appreciate all of your research.

  28. Lyn Hill

    Hi Clare
    Have you come across a William Foulkes who went to Bermuda on the Coromonde Hulk in 1825/1826?

  29. Pamela Pipe

    I have just been reading this website and also “Prisoners in Paradise”, thank you for all this and for the effort you have put in. Really interesting to see what life was like, back in those days.

    I am researching a Thomas Beesley, b 1801, sentenced in Oxford in 1830 to 14 yrs transportation for manslaughter.

    Records *seem* to show he was sent from Oxford to the Hardy on 15 March 1830, and departed to Bermuda on 29 April 1830. He is then received from Bermuda on-board Sovereign to the Leviathan on 25 October 1838 and then released/pardoned on 12 Feb 1839. He then returns to his wife and children in Oxford.

    I wonder if I have read these records correctly??? Trying hard to find more information.

    Do you know whether there are any records in Bermuda for the years 1831 to 1838 which might allow me to confirm his ‘stay’ there? Not sure where else to look. Be grateful for your advice.

  30. Gill Chester

    Greatly interesting blog, thanks.

    My 2xG Grandfather Thomas George White (known as George) was a corporal in the Royal Navy when he was aboard the True Briton in 1858, transporting convicts to Bermuda. We have a copy of a typed letter from the Surgeon Superintendent, M Burton MD, which shows he helped stop a mutiny on board. We don’t know much more about him until he returned to the UK. Although. Thomas stayed on the Bermuda until June 1862, when his regiment the 2nd Battery, Royal Artillery RN left the island. He left with his heavily pregnant wife, whom he had met and married in St George’s, Bermuda.

  31. John Herod

    Hi Clare,

    I have been researching my family tree and have found the naval record of my 3X great grandfather, John Herod. One of the entries on this record has puzzled me for years as it shows that he “served” on HMS Antelope after 29th March 1830 and before 6th December 1831 when he joined the crew of another ship. What seemed strange was that the time aboard the Antelope is not counted towards his total time served in the navy. I have just found out that HMS Antelope was a prison hulk in Bermuda at the time so, presumably, he was a prisoner for at least part of that time. Would this be a reasonable interpretation of this entry in the naval records? Would this indicate that his crime was related to his naval service rather than as a civilian?

    I would value any insights you might have in this regard


  32. Louisa Hills

    Hi Clare
    I am researching my family tree and have learned that my ancestor John King was transported to Bermuda on the ship Numa in 1841, having previously been held on the York. He was sentenced to ten years for “stealing apples from a store.” The Bermuda hospital records show him as being on the Antelope, but Find My Past has no records for the Antelope from the 1840s, and Ancestry does not give the Antelope as a search option at all. I wondered if he appears in your notes at all, and whether you would recommend the National Archives as a next step.
    Many thanks

  33. Rosemary Gall

    Hello Clare,
    What a great blog! I’m currently writing a short essay on one Charles Skinner, convicted in 1843 at the Taunton Assizes and sent to Bermuda on the Tenedon which its seems was converted to one of the hulks. He was transported to VDL in 1848 per “Bangalore” and granted a ticket of leave, as were all the “Bangalore” convicts. His occupation in Devon was Ag Lab but by 1848 is ‘sawyer’. Do I assume this means he was cutting limestone?.
    Another Tenedos convict, Charles Cornelius was convicted for the same sheep stealing crime. However he was not sent on to Van Diemen’s land. Do you have any thoughts on how the selections to re-transport were made?
    Last question..I’m trying to locate a copy of William Sydes article “Account of Life on the Convict Hulks..” in Bermuda Historical Quarterly, Vol 8, 1951, pp 28-19. You referred to it in your ‘Expert Essay’ in convictvoyages.org. I live in Brisbane Australia. Jstore doesn’t have it available. Any suggestions appreciated.

  34. joy munns

    Hi Clare,
    do you have any records of a Francis Philbin sent to Bermuda aboard the Bangalore.
    He was convicted in Ireland in January 1847.
    Great blog – lots of great info etc. Thanks. Joy.

  35. Mr John McQuaid


    I live in Melton Mowbray and have a great interest in Bermuda. My good friend is Dr Edward Harris now retired. I have recently had a book published on Amazon Books, ‘The True Story of Peppermint Billy’ which might be of interest to your correspondents regarding the horrors of convict life in Australia, especially VDL. I have also written a short article on the final days of Transportation to Bermuda.

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