Following on from the last story about Abraham Bacon who was convicted of theft and sent to Australia, I have turned my attention to one of his daughters, Ann Bacon, who was 5 when her father Abraham was convicted of theft and left her mother, Elizabeth Bacon, alone with 5 children.
Ann had an older step sister, Charlotte Ratcliffe, two older brothers Joseph and James Bacon and a younger sister Sarah Bacon, ranging in age from 13 down to 1 when Abraham left. Ann was born in 1818 in Polstead, Suffolk.
In 1835 when she was only 17, she married James Towns, also from Polstead, and in 1837 their daughter Sarah Anne Towns was born. They had only been married less than three years when James was conviced of theft of theft of wheat, and sentenced to be transported to Australia. He departed on 5th Oct 1838 and arrived in New South Wales on 1st Feb 1839. James Towns settled and in 1845 he married Margaret Millham and had seven children.
Back in Suffolk, Ann Towns turned up in the 1841 census working in Hadleigh, and her infant daughter was living with some Towns relatives in Polstead.
During the 1840’s Ann Towns turned up in Whatfield, Suffolk, this next bit is a mystery at the moment, she had three children, Emily, Mary Ann and Walter Towns, father unknown but definitely not James Towns because he was in New South Wales, none of these three births were registered but the children were baptised in Whatfield.
Meanwhile, in 1843, her brother Joseph Bacon, is convicted of theft of malt, and is guess what? Sentenced to transportation to Australia. Joseph was a carter and had been convicted five times already, he was sent from Portsmouth to Tasmania, where he settled, married, and had four children.
So, Ann’s father, brother and first husband are all convicts, all convicted of petty theft, it’s hard to imagine how heart breaking it must have been for the convicts and loved ones left behind forever.
In 1850, two days before Christmas, when she is 32, Ann marries Henry Couzen’s, a farm labourer, in Whatfield. On the marriage certificate it states about Ann “whose husband has been continually absent from her for the space of 7 years past and whom she has not known to be living within that time”.
They settle and go on to have three children, Henry, Matilda (who sadly dies at the age of 8) and William Couzens, and no before you ask, I don’t think he is the father of Emily, Mary Ann and Walter Towns, he states on the census returns that they are “wife’s children”.
Ann is widowed at the age of 51 and she then lives with three sons, Walter Towns and Henry and William Couzens in Elmsett, Suffolk. I can’t find her on the 1881 census, but she died in 1885 at the age of 67.
A bit about the convict experience:
Tickets of leave were normally granted after four years for those with a seven-year sentence, six years for a fourteen-year sentence and eight-years for life. The principal superintendent looked at the applications and depending on how much extra punishment the prisoner had received he’d make a decision to recommend the ticket or not.
A ticket of leave would exempt convict from public labour and allow them to work for themselves.
After this a prisoner may receive conditional pardon, which meant he was free but had to stay in Australia, or absolute pardon, which meant he was free to return to England.
If a prisoner was uncooperative or committed further crimes there was an equally well defined scale of punishments he would receive: first working on a road gang, then being sent to a penal colony, and finally capital punishment.
There were also a number of incidental punishments a prisoner could receive: flogging, solitary confinement, treadmill, the stocks, food depravation and thumbscrews.