George Popjoy of Bath and Western Australia (1816-93):
Highway robbery
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George was 17 when he was acquitted of a charge of housebreaking at the Somerset County Sessions in Jan 1836. He is described as well educated, probably meaning that he could read and write. He appears in the 1841 census returns as a quarryman living on Combe Down above Bath with his parents and brother William, just up the hill from Harriett Vennell. In November 1841 she bore his infant daughter Mary Ann: perhaps he was also the father of her son George, born in 1840.

Harriet had been imprisoned in 1840 for a piece of daring reported in the Bath Journal for 19th Oct:

Michaelmas Quarter Sessions
...Harriet Vennel, 18, was indicted for stealing on 12th Oct., a shawl, value 30s., the property of Elizabeth Townsend. She was also charged with stealing a coral necklace from Sarah Wilcox. The prosecutrix was coming down the Wells road, with another female, carrying a bundle, where they were met by the prisoner, and being strangers to Bath, prosecutrix asked her to direct them to the Royal Sailor, where her uncle lived, where they left the bundles. The prisoner afterwards went to the house in the absence of the witness and her companion, and asked the landlady to let her go up stairs to her bundle, which, she stated, she had left there. The landlady did not know of her having been there before, but trusting to the plausibility of her story, she allowed her to go up, and saw her afterwards come down with something in her hand, part of which afterwards proved to be the property of the prosecutrix, traced to a pawn shop. Guilty. Three months' imp.

On 21st Oct 1850 George was found guilty, with William Bidgood, of stealing a bridle rein, the property of Samuel Spence. He had evidently been convicted of another felony in the meantime, and on the "two strikes and you're down under" principle George and William were sentenced to 7 years' transportation. William is perhaps a relation of Anne Pobjoy, who married Nicholas Bedgood in 1793 and who was sharing a house on Combe Down with Susan Pobjoy, George's mother, at the 1851 census.

I have not found a record of George being transported nor held in a county prison. At any rate, he was back in Bath on parole by 1856, but not for long. The Times for 1st May 1856 carried the following report:

Highway Robbery by a Ticket-of-Leave Man
- A man who had only been at liberty a few days on ticket of leave named George Popjoy, and a woman named Harriet Trueman, with whom he cohabits, were on Tuesday charged before the Bath magistrates with having on the previous night assaulted Mr. William Harding, a medical gentleman, residing on Combe-down, near that city, and robbing him of a gold watch and chain, a knife, bunch of keys, a lobster, and some lozenges. It appeared that Mr. Harding, who had been spending the evening in Bath, was returning home about 12 o'clock on Monday night, and when in a lonely part of the carriage-road leading from Bath to Combe-down, by the Prior-park estate, he was overtaken by the prisoners, who must have followed him from the city. The female prisoner, a powerful woman, pushed him against the wall, and then held him forcibly by the throat, saying that she had two men behind her, and that if he "squeaked" it would be the worse for him. Mr. Harding was rendered almost insensible by the pressure on his throat, and begged the woman not to kill him, if she meant to rob him. She then wrested his gold watch and chain from him, and his pockets were rifled of their contents, after which both prisoners went away together. As soon as he had recovered, Mr. Harding returned to Bath, and gave information to the police, and upon three officers going to the spot where the robbery took place, about 2 o'clock in the morning, they found the two prisoners searching the road with a lighted candle which they extinguished as soon as they saw the police approaching. They were both apprehended, and in the woman's pocket was found Mr. Harding's knife and some lozenges which had been taken from him. On a search being made at their house, to which they must have gone after the robbery for a candle, some more of the lozenges were discovered, and also part of a lobster which Mr. Harding had lost, together with a key, and some other small articles. The watch and chain, however, had not been found, and the prisoners were remanded till Saturday.

Perhaps Harriet Trueman is Harriet Vennel under a different name: the unfortunate physician seems to have encountered the same bravado that had characterised the theft of the shawl and necklace in 1850.

George Popjoy, Harriet Trueman and Thomas Hodges were remanded to the assizes. George and Harriet were convicted: he was sentenced to 10 years' penal servitude, she to 8, while Hodges, who pleaded Not Guilty, was acquitted. This time George did make the long voyage south, embarking for Western Australia on 18th Sept 1857 on the Nile with 269 other male convicts. The Nile arrived in Australia on 1st Jan 1858. He is described as a mason, 42 years old, single and 5ft 6 1/2in tall, with black hair, hazel eyes and swarthy complexion. He was of stout build, with a burn on his left thigh and two teeth out at the back of his mouth.

Olga Utting has kindly provided information about what became of him subsequently. George was given his ticket of leave (parole) on 28 Feb 1861 and worked on his own account as a woodsman until 1863. In 1864 he took on a ticket-of-leave man himself in Fremantle. He also worked as a cook and groom in Fortescue and Roebourne 600 miles to the north, and was committed several times for vagrancy. In 1884 he was admitted to Mt Eliza Invalid Depot. On 19th June 1893 he was drowned in the Swan River in Perth.


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