WILLIAM WAREHAM - SWING RIOTER


William Wareham married Esther Forbes, a young Irish bounty immigrant, in Melbourne, Port Phillip District on the 23rd September 1844. William was from Basingstoke, Hampshire, England and Esther from County Derry, Ireland.

William died on the 29th January 1866, his name recorded as William David Wareham. He was buried in a common grave at the Boroondara Cemetery, Kew as David Waram. I wondered where the name David came from, as it hadn't appeared before. Usefully, both of William's parents' names were listed as "unknown". His arrival to Victoria was given as 1841.

I finally found that William Wareham was transported for "machine breaking" or "swing rioting" on the Proteus" to Van Diemen's Land, arriving on the 3rd August 1831.

The following is an excerpt from Geoff Sharman's web page which explains very succinctly what the riots were about: "The 1830's breakers, rioters and arsonists (generally collectively referred to as machine breakers) were farm labourers and rural artisans. The majority were ploughmen traditionally employed as threshers during the winter months but that winter work was now increasingly being done by horse or steam powered threshing machines. A number of factors, including a succession of poor harvests followed by severe winters, were responsible for the rural depression of the 1830's but mechanisation was blamed".

The following information about William's trial comes from "Hampshire Machine Breakers - The Story of the 1830's Riots" (second edition) by Jill Chambers:

' . . . Charles Pain, James Cook, John Keens, John Bulpit, Charles Bulpit, John Batten, William Wareham, George Clarke and Richard Rampton were put to the bar. The majority of these men had been capitally convicted earlier that morning. They were charged this time with having, with divers other persons unknown, unlawfully assembled, on the 22nd of November, in the parish of Wooton St. Lawrence, and created a great riot and disturbance, and with having feloniously stolen from the person of Harris Bigg Withers, Esq., one sovereign, his property.

. . . The Jury considered for a few moments and then it returned a verdict of 'guilty' against all the prisoners, but recommended Clarke, Keens, Cook, Rampton, Wareham and Charles Bulpit to mercy. Mr. Bigg Withers intervened here and recommended all the prisoners to mercy. The Judge ordered up Rampton and Wareham for judgement and addressed them saying, "Richard Rampton and William Wareham, your lives will be spared. You have been convicted only once, and the circumstances of your case make it a fit one for recommendation to mercy, but the cases of the other prisoners who have been twice convicted of a capital felony are too serious for me to take upon myself to hold out any hope of them that their lives will be spared; but let me say to you Rampton and Wareham, that your punishment will not be a light one. Public justice requires that you should not be allowed to remain in this country any longer. In your cases I think I may take it on myself, without consultation with my learned brothers, to say that your lives will be spared; but the other cases are of such a nature as to require serious consideration. I cannot hold out any hope to them." The prisoners were then removed from the bar.'

Jill's book also included the following information about William:

'He was 5' 8 3/4"; dark complexion; brown hair; dark blue eyes; stood very upright. He worked as a ploughman; could milk. His native place was Water End, near Basingstoke, Hants.; Protestant; Mother and Father William Wareham, a labourer at NP; 1 brother David, a labourer at NP; sister Sarah ux Thomas Milbourne; sister Betsy ux Thomas Hopkins; and two other sisters at NP.'

My William was indeed a "ploughman who could milk". Little would he have expected when he joined others "riotously assembling" on the 22nd November 1830 that his life would change forever and that he would never plough another sod of his native soil. He would be shipped off to the other side of the world, never to see his friends or family again.

A check of the Nately Scures parish registers, in which Water End lies, unfortunately did not turn up the birth or christening of William, his brother David, or his sisters. It did however turn up the marriages of his two sisters, Sarah and Betsy who both married in 1816, and the possibility of a brother Thomas who was born to William and Mary Wareham in 1809 and died the following year.

So William Wareham, aged 25 years, single, was convicted at Winchester, Hampshire on the 22nd December 1830; a sentence of death was recorded which was commuted to transportation for 7 years. He was detained at Southampton Gaol before proceeding to the hulk "York" on the 12th February 1831. He embarked on the "Proteus" on the 6th April 1831 at Portsmouth and sailed on the 14th, arriving at Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania) on the 3rd August 1831. The voyage lasted sixteen weeks.

William was assigned as a convict servant to James Crear, a retired naval officer and land owner of Campbell Town, VDL. He appears to have stayed with Crear until he got his free pardon that was extended to most seven-year sentence ex-swing rioters on the 3rd February 1836.

Nothing is known of William's whereabouts from the time of his pardon in 1836 until his arrival in Melbourne circa 1841. He met and married Esther Forbes in 1844, an Irish immigrant twenty years his junior. He continued to work as a farm labourer the rest of his life; his eldest son William moved to the Western District of Victoria where his descendants had almost a 113 year association with the property "Woollongoon" near Mortlake; this ended only in the 1970's.

Did he have any news of those he left behind? Did they know how he had fared? Why did he take on the name David at his death? Had he had news that his only brother had died, and took it on in remembrance of him? I'll never know the answers to those questions, but for William Wareham, buried in an unmarked common grave as David Waram, his story was anything but common. I'm proud to be the descendant of William David Wareham, farm labourer and swing rioter.

Contributed by Lynn Haines ( PPPG Member No. 1213 )


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