Report on John Martin who was convicted of two stealing offences in 1839 and 1840 and sentenced to 15 year's transportation.
John Martin was born in Spratton, and baptised on the 20th February 1819 by Thos. Jones, curate of St. Andrews Church. His parents were Robert and (Ann) Maria Martin (nee Crane) and both were born in Spratton, Robert c. 1787 and Maria 1794.
John was the second eldest in the family, having an older sister Elizabeth and younger brothers and sisters Mary, Robert, Harriet, William, Anna Maria, Martin and Peter Samuel.
John's occupation was ploughman, farm labourer and kitchen gardener.
John first came to the attention of the powers that be in January 1839 when he was indicted for stealing a mare and a grey horse (the property of T Wills), a bay gelding (the property of Wm Meacock), and a brown pony (the property of Wm. Robinson) The four horses were in a close in Weedon under the care of a David Wills. Another man, Mr Pinfold, was arrested too, and Mr Miller, for the defence, contended that Pinfold was the guilty party and that Martin was merely trying to assist Pinfold in selling them at a fair. Miller argued that Martin was "one of those poor illiterate fellows who were to be found in fairs and markets ready to pick up a few pence by assisting in the care and sale of cattle. It often happened that such persons got into trouble by unconsciously assisting in the sale of stolen property". Despite this and although there was not the slightest evidence that he was one of the men who stole the horses, the jury returned a verdict of guilt - twelve month's imprisonment.
Just one year later, January 1840, John was in court again. (Mercury article 28 December 1839 refers to an earlier court appearance for this matter, when he was committed to the county gaol). This time it was for entering the home of William Lantsbery at Spratton, and stealing a caddy and spoon.
This time Mr Miller appeared for the prosecution. Mercy Healy stated that on Sunday evening, December 22 1839, she fastened the windows and doors of her master's house. Shortly after midnight she was disturbed by a noise, and having called out to a man named Pearson, she got up and went down into the parlour. The window sash was broken and a panel of the shutter had been taken out. The front door was wide open. Another servant, Andrew Pearson, came down afterwards, and called up Mr Bunting. Footsteps 'of a remarkable character' were observed under the window, and Pearson and Bunting tracked them across the home close into the turnpike road. They went as far as the prisoner's house, and observed that there was a light in it, even at that hour. "Having heard that the caddy had been found he went to the spot, and observed the same footsteps which he had seen under the window." (The quote is as reported in the Northampton Mercury on Saturday January 11th 1840. Other wording is extracted, as it is in the next paragraph.). Martin came to him that day, and said he understood he was suspected of breaking into the witness's house, but he assured him that he had been at Towcester all Sunday and Sunday night. It all turned on the impression made by the boots. A pair was found at Martin's house, these had three large nails in the heels, peculiarly placed, and corresponded exactly with the impressions of the footsteps.
He was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years transportation.
The convict records of John give us a good description of him. He was 5' 6", aged 22, of sallow complexion, with a round head, dark brown hair, no whiskers, round visage, high forehead, black eyebrows, grey eyes, large nose, small mouth and medium chin. He had a scar on the corner of his left eye, and a bird inside left arm (which we presume to be a tattoo).
His convict records also advise that once he was charged with highway robbery but discharged. His general conduct on the hulk (the ship used as a prison until the convicts were transported) was 'good'.
John was transported on the 'Lord Lynoch' which arrived at Hobart on the 21st Febr