The Penal Servitude Act (1853) substituted imprisonment with hard labour on UK shores for what had been transportation to a distant British colony when the sentence was for less than for fourteen years.
Had it not been for that Act of Parliament, my 2x great grandfather Joseph Noad [8 May, 1834 (Leeds, Yorkshire) – June, 1895 (Leeds, Yorkshire)] could very well have found himself even more of an outcast than he was to become – the theme of this week’s #52ancestors post. That was when he was sentenced six years after the law was changed. Ultimately, I might never have been born, had he been shipped off to one of the Empire’s penal colonies, and a decade later, he would never have got to meet his future wife, Bridget Ann.
Sentenced to three years penal servitude
Joseph Noad was my Dad’s Mum’s Mum’s Dad and was part of a pretty ‘murky’ line on my family tree, although his criminal footprint was arguably the worst. On 5th March, 1859 at the age of 24 years, he was convicted of ‘Stabbing with intent to do grievous bodily harm’, and sentenced at York to three years penal servitude. (Source: Criminal Registers). A previous summary offence is also recorded.
Noad began his sentence in York Castle Prison, before being transferred to the notorious Millbank Prison (29 June, 1859) on the bank of the River Thames in the area between what are now Vauxhall Bridge and Lambeth Bridge some 200 miles away in central London. He was next transferred to Pentonville Prison (25 July, 1859) also in London, before ending his sentence in Chatham (from 5 June, 1860). (Source: Prison Commission Records)
In genealogical terms, finding the man had proved difficult. There was more than one Joseph Noad alive in Leeds at the same time (possibly three), and another of them of a similar age was also before the courts many times for petty crimes. Our Joseph is also missing from many of the early family census records, although it is clear that it is his family unit.
Those prison records give more of a flavour of the man, and confirm his identity. His occupation is given as shoemaker. We know from subsequent census returns that at least two of his children also went on to become bootmakers. It also confirms the identity of his father as James Noad, from Newtown, Leeds.
We learn that Joseph had a ‘sallow complexion’, with brown hair and grey eyes. He was 5ft 6 inches tall, slender, pockmarked with the odd scar.
Joseph had been baptised at St. Peter’s, Leeds (pictured above) on 6th December, 1835. He was the son of James (1802-1877) and Mary (1807-1866). The story of his father and one of his sisters (Charlotte) will follow in future weeks. James was a cloth dresser – a skilled worker who cut the woollen cloth with large shears as it was ready to leave the mill.
Joseph was one of six siblings, but there is no sign of him on any of the official records in his early years. He is missing from the family unit in the 1841 Census. No return has been found for the family unit at all in the 1851 Census. By the 1861 Census, Joseph is in prison. He may have signed up for the army by the age of 22 in 1856, but there is no confirmation of the identity of the Joseph Noad on the record.
It didn’t take long for Joseph to get his life back on track though after the incarceration. On 20 February, 1869, he married Bridget Ann Dudley Corcran (1841-1922) at Leeds St John Church (pictured above)– I will return to Bridget Ann in future weeks. Bridget’s parents were both Irish. She was recently widowed, and had not been married long before her first husband died. Quite why Joseph represented a ‘catch’ in her eyes remains a mystery – perhaps it was that ‘sallow complexion!’
Joseph was not alone in being an outcast in this corner of the family.
It was Bridget’s eldest brother William Dudley (born in Dublin) who first contributed to his family line’s ‘murky’ reputation. He was first convicted for larceny in 1847 at the age of a mere 13 years, but was sentenced to just 2 days. (Source: Criminal Registers). However, it didn’t serve as enough of a lesson, and by 14 January, 1850, he was caught stealing 14 pounds in weight of cheese (!) estimated to be worth seven shillings. He was convicted on 5 March 1850, given a sentence of seven months, and for what seems a relatively minor offence, sent to Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight, hundreds of miles away. It would appear that the sentence was more severe due to other convictions for petty crime in the previous year or so (Source: Quarter Session and Prison Commission Records).
A career criminal for a son
Joseph and Bridget’s own children provide an outcast story in themselves. The couple had six children, including my great grandmother, Harriet Ann Noad (1880-1957) who I will return to in future weeks. Their second born, Arthur Noad turned petty crime into an art form. I will return to his story too in future weeks, but his relentless criminal record, often for very minor offences plagued his family from the age of 15 years, when he was placed in reformatory ‘school’ – effectively a juvenile crime institution, as well as working in a mill at the same time. These interventions didn’t appear to work as a deterrent because by the age of 35 years old, he had clocked up quite a prison record, including birchings, and he was effectively a career criminal. When his career did take off, it went no further than becoming a rag and bone collector by the age of fifty in the 1921 Census.
Returning to our original timeline, by the 1871 Census, Joseph Noad is now a cloth dresser, just as his father was. He and his new wife are living at an address listed as 46 Green Street, Leeds with their first born children, both very young – Henry (1 year) and Arthur (a few months). Joseph’s father James was living in the same street at no. 23, with two daughters, and two granddaughters.
By the 1881 Census, Joseph’s family have moved to 16 Cromwell Street, Burmantofts, which goes on to become a longstanding family address over the generations. While Joseph remains a cloth dresser, his wife is now a flax ruler, working in one of the local mills. They have been joined by a son (James) from her first marriage who is a mechanic, plus their own children – Henry (11), Arthur (10), Elizabeth (8), Walter (3), Clara (2) and Harriet Ann (5 months).
By the 1891 Census, they remain at the same address, and Joseph is still a cloth dresser. His wife is now a charwoman. Their eldest son Henry (21) is a boot riveter, Arthur (19) is a boot maker/roughcutter, Elizabeth (18) is a perambulator maker, Walter (14) is a Wherry Boy on the barges, plus Clara (12) and Harriet Ann (10).
By 1895, Joseph is dead, aged 61. He is buried on 27 June in the family plot at Beckett Street Cemetery. It is recorded on the nonconformist register. There is a record for an admission of a Joseph Noad into a West Yorkshire lunacy hospital for just over two months in the late summer of 1894, but I have yet to be able to confirm whether they are one and the same.
His wife Bridget Ann appears a pretty resilient character. After his death, she appears on three further sets of Census Records (1901, 1911 and 1921), was still working into her 70s as a ‘knocker-up’ (made famous in the photos of John Topham) – and was still providing a home to her wayward son Arthur, who, while an outcast, she couldn’t quite cast him out. As mentioned, we shall return to their stories in future weeks.
While Joseph Noad was definitely an outcast and cuts a far from sympathetic character, his story demonstrates the impact of changes in legislation which, if not passed, would have resulted in him being transported for hard labour to a far flung colony such as what is now parts of the USA, islands in the West Indies, or Australia. The implication is that he would most likely never have met his wife Bridget Ann Dudley Corcran. She was of exclusively Irish descent. Analysis of my DNA revealed that over half of the DNA passed down to me from my father was of Irish origin, which I can really only trace to her so far.
I can only conclude that if Joseph Noad had been subject to the law as it stood just six years previously, I would probably not be here today to tell the tale, making me the ultimate outcast of this journey! See you next week for another post, and as ever, if you feel you are able to correct anything I have written, or provide more information, please do not hesitate to get in touch.