Thetford – Joseph Emms

There might be quite a lot of posts about Thetford over the next few days, which is primarily linked to my walk in the town in a few months…..

This man, Joseph Emms, attracted my attention as the court record says that he is “dissolute and depraved”, being sent to prison in January 1842 for the crime of larceny. He was sent immediately to Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight and he was sentenced to seven years.

This in itself is of some interest, because Parkhurst then wasn’t a prison, it was a children’s asylum. Which means that Joseph Emms, this “dissolute and depraved” man was actually a child. And indeed, he was, he was 15 and he had stolen a decanter. The officials at Parkhurst decided that he was “indifferent” and so they tried something else. They sent him to what was then known as Van Diemen’s Land, but is now known as Tasmania.

History doesn’t tell us what his parents Joseph and Mary thought of this decision. But he set off on a ship called Barossa on 17 May 1844 and arrived in Tasmania on 6 September 1844. And the record of his arrival in Tasmania has survived and as can be seen above, he was 5’5″ tall, he had an oval head, brown eyebrows, brown eyes and no beard. It even details the scars on his fingers.

Emms became a blacksmith and he later married in Tasmania in 1861, with their first child John William being born in 1864. He had a second child, also named Joseph, in 1867 which sadly died of pneumonia before he reached six months old.

Joseph Emms died in 1893 at the age of 65 and I imagine that he never returned to Thetford or England again after being transported. His father, Joseph Emms in Thetford, died on 17 July 1885 and is buried at London Road Cemetery in Thetford. I’m intrigued to know whether he ever heard from his son, whose relatives are incidentally still living in Australia today.