Henry Staveley of Newark

Ship William Miles built 1808
Henry Staveley was born in Newark, Nottinghamshire in 1809 the son of William Twigg Staveley and Sarah BLADES. Henry was raised in Newark, and learning the same trade as his father, he became an apprentice butcher as a young man.  However, at the young age of 19 years, Henry's life took a dramatic turn.  An article was located in the Times newspaper, dated August 6, 1827 that paints Henry in a rather different light. The article is a recounting of the events of the Assizes held in Nottingham a few days before, on August 2nd. Henry, and his accomplices, stood accused of the assault and robbery of Samuel Wass just outside of Newark on the 18th of April, 1827. 

The Times article reads as follows:

The Times - August 6, 1827


Lord Tenterden opened the commission here last night, the Assizes for the county of Nottingham commenced this morning. The Crown calendar contained the names of 23 prisoners' and in the cause-list there were 17 cases entered for trial.

Henry Stavely, George Hopkinson, and Catherine Foster were indicted for robbing Samuel Wass, on the King's highway.

The prosecutor stated, that he was at Newark on the 18th of April, and was about returning to Southwell at nine o'clock in the evening, when Catherine Foster came up to him, near the Ram inn, and asked him how he did? He had never seen her before to his knowledge, but told her he was very well. She next inquired if he wanted a sweetheart? He told her to pass on, he had his business to attend to, and was going to Southwell; she went on about 30 yards, and then joined him again. They entered into conversation, and talked as they walked along, about the badness of the times. She said she was in great distress, and the offered to give her a glass of gin, or other liquor, to refresh her. She replied, that her circumstances would not admit of her drinking such things, upon which he gave her a sixpence. Whilst they were then talking together, near the Trent-bridge, the two male prisoners came up, and Stavely told prosecutor they wanted money, a shilling, or a half crown, or something. The prosecutor replied, that he would give them no money, unless he was obliged; upon which Stavely collared him, saying, "Now, George, d--n your eyes, if you are good for any thing, do your best." The prosecutor seized Stavely by the collar, and while they struggled together, Hopkinson struck at the prosecutor. The latter, however, threw Stavely down, and fell upon him, and while down the other two prisoners were on his back. Feeling a pull at his breeches pocket, in which he had two sovereigns, some silver, and two keys, he let go Stavely and seized the woman by the wrist. She let fall whatever she had in her hand, but whether it was money or keys he could not say. His pocket was turned inside out. When trying to retain the woman in his custody, Stavely again seized him, and the prosecutor, saying he was determined to secure one of them, let the woman go, and held Stavely. The woman and Hopkinson then picked up what had fallen on the ground, and Stavely calling out to them to get away, they did so, carrying off the prosecutor's hat which had fallen from his head. The prosecutor, with some difficulty, conducted Stavely through the town of Newark, in search of a constable, but when passing through the beast-market where a mob was collected, his prisoner was rescued from him. He pursued him, however, until he was stopped by the constable's son, when he again seized him. They afterwards met the constable himself, who said there was no occasion to take the prisoner into custody, as he knew him, and he would be forthcoming in the morning. The prosecutor, however, would not let him go, but he was ultimately again rescued from his hold, and escaped. He and the woman were apprehended next day, and logged in gaol; and it appeared from the evidence of the gaoler that while there they told him that it was Hopkinson who had got all the prosecutor's money.

The witnesses for the prosecution underwent a rigid cross-examination, but nothing was elicited from them to make their examination in chief.

Wass denied most positively that he had in any respect attempted to avail himself of the woman's offer of her. he admitted the possibility of the money having dropped out of his pocket, when struggling with the prisoners, but added that he did not see how his pocket could have been accidentally turned inside out.

For the defence two witnesses were called who swore that Wass had said that Stavely had not come up until after he lost his money. Some witnesses also gave Stavely, who is a butcher, good character. Nobody appeared on behalf of the other two.

The three prisoners were found GUILTY, and judgment of death was recorded against them.


Locally, a similar article appeared in the Nottingham and Newark Mercury, and helped to fill in some additional information regarding the accused:

Nottingham and Newark Mercury - 1827

Henry Staveley, aged 19, George Hopkinson, aged 16, and Catherine Foster, aged 24, stood indicted for having on the 18th April 1827, feloniously assaulted Samuel Wass, on the Kings highway, in the parish of Kelham, near Newark, and taken from his person two sovereigns, two half crowns, and a hat, his property.

Samuel Wass was standing at the end of the Ram Inn yard, in Newark, about eight o’clock on the evening in question, when Catherine Foster came up to him and made overtures, which he rejected. She then went towards Kirk Gate, and he crossed over the road to pursue his way home to Southwell.
Foster met him again, when about one hundred yards from the bridge, and walked by his side; she complained of the hardness of the times; that she had no money, and was very badly off. Prosecutor replied, if she wanted refreshment, he had no objection to treat her with a little gin or other liquor, but this she refused, on which he gave her a sixpence. They went over the bridge together.

The other two prisoners then came up, and Staveley said “You are the man – we want some money”, to which prosecutor replied “What money do you want of me”. Staveley rejoined “A shilling, half a crown, or what you have got”. This was resisted, and Staveley caught him by the collar, saying to his companion “Darn it George, come and do your best, now’s your time”. The prisoner then struck at him, and tried to trip his heels. Prosecutor then caught hold of Staveley and threw him down; but the latter still persisted in keeping hold of his collar. Hopkinson came upon his back and struck him several blows on the back and ribs. While down he felt something at his breeches pocket, and when he rose from the ground, the pocket was turned inside out. There had been in it two sovereigns, two half crowns, and 11s and 6d in silver, and two box keys, which were gone.

Samuel Wass made an attempt to take Foster into custody, by catching her right hand; there was something in it, which she dropped, but he could not say by the sound whether it was the keys or money. Staveley again collared the prosecutor, upon which he let Foster go and seized Staveley, who told the other two “to make away”. Mr Wass observed the other two on their knees picking up something from the ground; they then ran away, and Hopkinson took the prosecutors hat.

Prosecutor told Staveley he would lodge him in the hands of an officer, upon which he resisted, and again thrown down. Staveley then begged to get up and promised to go quietly. This was complied with, and they both crossed over the bridge into the town, the prosecutor still holding his man. About fifty yards from the top of Beast Market Hill, a number of people came round and effected a rescue, but prosecutor did not lose sight of him, as he followed in pursuit up Kirk Gate, shouting “Stop Thief”. He was stopped by William Bell, the son of the chief constable, whom prosecutor informed of the robbery. They all three went up Kirk Gate and met Bell’s father, but he did not take Staveley into custody. At the Cross Gun, the prosecutor and prisoner went in, as the former was told that a constable was there. On entering the public house, the prisoner called out to several of his companions “This man says I have been robbing him”. There was no constable, and they were both thrust into the street, where a crowd were assembled, who struck at Samuel Wass, and again Staveley was rescued. Still the prosecutor pursued, but he escaped. Prosecutor went with an officer next morning and took him into custody.

Counsel was retained on the part of Staveley, who cross examined the prosecutor very strictly, but there was nothing elicited to shake his evidence.

William Bell deposed to the part in which he was concerned, and stated that the reason that his father did not take the prisoner into custody to be that he knew where he lived, and could catch him next morning.
William Cropper, keeper of Newark Jail, deposed to the prisoners Staveley and Foster, being consigned to his charge on the 19th April, and that they called out of the window to him that Hopkinson had run away with all the property, as well as Staveley’s hat, and they would find him at the Horse & Jockey.

Witness has known Hopkinson and Staveley from children, and have never heard anything amiss of them before.

The prisoners (Staveley and Foster), in their defence, said that Hopkinson ran away with the things, which the latter denied.

The following witnesses were called on the part of Staveley:
William Cutts, butcher of Newark gave Staveley a good character for honesty, and endeavoured to impeach the testimony of Wass.

George Needham, baker; William Clayworth, butcher; and Stephen Wand, butcher, all of Newark, spoke to Staveley’s honesty; most of them had known him from a child.

His lordship very impartially summed up the evidence; and the jury after a little deliberation, returned a verdict of guilty against all of them.

Sentence of death recorded.


Despite the sentence of death being passed, neither Henry, nor George Hopkinson, were executed.  As yet it is not clear how Henry's sentence changed, but Henry and George ultimately were sentenced to transportation.  On March 24, 1828, Henry Staveley, George Hopkinson, and 190 other convicted men from the country, were deported to Tasmania aboard the ship the William Miles that sailed from Downs.

Ultimately, Henry's sentence was indeed death.  Not yet 20 years old, Henry, along with six other men on the voyage, perished aboard the William Miles.  Henry died on July 17, 1828, a mere 12 days before the ship's arrival in Hobart, Tasmania, after 115 days at sea. Based upon the Daily Sick Book of the Male Convict Ship William Miles, written by the ship's surgeon, E. Johnston, Henry appears to have died of respiratory failure secondary to scurvy, an all too common ailment aboard ship in the early 19th Century.

At the time of his death, Henry is believed to have been unmarried, and died without issue.  Henry's accomplice George Hopkinson however, arrived in Tasmania safe and sound.  It is presently unknown what became of the third accomplice mentioned in the news articles, Catherine  Foster.  Presumably as Henry and George's sentence was reduced, that Catherine also would not have been executed.  Whether she remained in England, or was also transported, is not known.



Text and Images Copyright © 1999-2006