Parkhurst apprentices

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The Parkhurst apprentices were juveniles from a reformatory attached to Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight, sentenced to "transportation beyond the seas" and transported to Australia and New Zealand between 1842 and 1852. Either before leaving England[1] or on arrival at their destination,[2] they were pardoned on the conditions that they be "apprenticed" to local employers, and that they not return to England during the term of their sentence. In the ten years between 1842 and 1852 nearly 1500 boys aged from twelve to eighteen were transported to Australia and New Zealand from Parkhurst Prison.

Parkhurst apprentices in Western Australia[edit]

Early in 1839, Governor of Western Australia John Hutt received from the Colonial Office a circular asking if the colony would be prepared to accept juvenile prisoners who had first been reformed in "penitentiaries especially adapted for the purpose of their education and reformation". After seeking comment from the Western Australian Agricultural Society, Hutt responded that "The Majority of the Community would not object to boys not above 15 years of age...." but that the labour market could not support more than 30 boys per year.

Between 1842 and 1849, Western Australia accepted 234 Parkhurst apprentices, all males aged between 10 and 21 years. As Western Australia was not then a penal colony, contemporary documents scrupulously avoided referring to the youths as "convicts", and most historians have maintained the distinction. An opposing view, held for example by Gill (2004), is that the Parkhurst apprentices were convicts, and that their apprenticeship constituted convict assignment.[3]

Parkhurst apprentices were employed by a broad cross-section of Western Australia's businessmen and officials, including many of the colony's ruling class. Among the long list of Parkhurst apprentice employers were Governor Andrew Clarke, Frederick Irwin, George Fletcher Moore, Anthony O'Grady Lefroy, William Locke Brockman, Thomas Brown, George Walpole Leake, Walter Padbury, Stephen Stanley Parker, Rosendo Salvado Thomas Peel JR and George Shenton Sr.

The assimilation of Parkhurst apprentices played an important role in the later acceptance of convicts in Western Australia.

New Zealand[edit]

One hundred and twenty three Parkhurst apprentices were sent to the Colony of New Zealand in 1842 and 1843. These had not been invited to the convict-free colony, and were a great surprise when the first ship arrived. After the second ship, the colony successfully petitioned that no more would be sent.[4]

South Australia[edit]

The Colony of South Australia was also asked to accept Parkhurst Boys, but resisted[5] and none were sent there.[6]

List of ships[edit]

List of ships that brought Parkhurst apprentices to Australia and New Zealand

Ship Arrival Parkhurst
Simon Taylor August 1842 18 Western Australia
St George November 1842 92 New Zealand
Shepherd October 1843 28 Western Australia
Mandarin October 1843 51 Tasmania
Mandarin November 1843 31 New Zealand
Halifax December 1844 18 Western Australia
Strathedin December 1845 74 Tasmania
Cumberland January 1846 16 Western Australia
Maitland October 1846 70 Victoria
Thomas Arbuthnot May 1847 89 Victoria[7]
Joseph Somes September 1847 84 Victoria
Marion January 1848 125 Victoria
Orient March 1848 51 Western Australia
Eden February 1849 62 Victoria
Ameer February 1849 50 Western Australia
Hashemy abt July 1849 29 Tasmania
Randolph August 1849 85 Victoria
Mary October 1849 53 Western Australia
Adelaide November 1849 30 Tasmania
Blenheim July 1850 85 Tasmania
Maria Somes August 1850 30 Tasmania
Nile October 1850 30 Tasmania
Rodney November 1850 40 Tasmania
Mermaid May 1851 43 Western Australia
Lady Kennaway May 1851 Tasmania and Norfolk Island
Pyrenees June 1851 29 Western Australia
Minden October 1851 30 Western Australia
Aboukir December 1851 Tasmania
Fairlie March 1852 30 Tasmania
Equestrian August 1852 Tasmania
Oriental Queen October 1852 Tasmania
Dudbrook February 1853 1 Western Australia
Lincelles January 1862 1 Western Australia


  1. ^ Gill (2004), page 1: "Once in the colony, they were pardoned on two conditions..."
  2. ^ Statham (1981), page 6" "... these boys had received conditional pardons prior to leaving England..."
  3. ^ Robbins, W.M. review of Gill's (2004) Convict Assignment at (vol 88. May 2005) 'In short, Gill argues that convict transportation to WA arrived in a disguised form and at an earlier time than is commonly thought. Between 1842 and 1852 Gill finds that 243 young British juvenile offenders were transported to WA even though officially they were described as 'apprentices' '
  4. ^ Anthony G. Flude (2003). "CONVICTS SENT TO NEW ZEALAND! The Boys from Parkhurst Prison". Retrieved 9 February 2016. 
  5. ^ "Memorial by the Colonists of South Australia against the Introduction of Convicts". South Australian. VIII, (600). South Australia. 14 February 1845. p. 2. Retrieved 15 November 2016 – via National Library of Australia. 
  6. ^ Francesca Ashurst; Couze Venn. Inequality, Poverty, Education: A Political Economy of School Exclusion. pp. 95–96. ISBN 1137347015. Retrieved 9 February 2016. 
  7. ^ "Parkhurst Boys – Thomas Arbuthnot 1847". Convicts to Australia. Perth Dead Persons' Society. 2003. Retrieved 18 December 2006. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Gill, Andrew (1997) Forced labour for the west : Parkhurst convicts 'apprenticed' in Western Australia 1842–1851 Maylands, W.A. : Blatellae Books, ISBN 0-9593472-5-9
  • Gill, Andrew (2004). Convict assignment in Western Australia: The Parkhurst 'Apprentices' 1842–1851. Blatellae Books, Maylands, Western Australia. ISBN 0-9593472-6-7.
  • Gill, A. W. (Andrew W.) (2016), Convict assignment in Western Australia the Parkhurst 'apprentices' 1842-1851, Carlisle, Western Australia Hesperian Press, ISBN 978-0-85905-619-9 (revised edition)
  • Statham, Pamela (1981). Why Convicts I: An economic analysis of colonial attitudes to the introduction of convicts in Stannage, C. T. (ed) (1981), Studies in Western Australian History IV: Convictism in Western Australia, University of Western Australia.
  • "Parkhurst Boys 1842–1862". Convicts to Australia. Perth Dead Persons' Society. 2003. Retrieved 18 December 2006.