A Notorious Gang Member

On 4 June 1870, The Manchester Times summarised a court case that had reached a verdict on the previous Monday. The detail of the article is here. It details the chequered criminal history of my 3rd great grandfather, Thomas Butterworth, and his half brother, Edward Lavery!

That was to be my blog post – a description of this one point in Thomas and Edward’s history which had landed them in gaol. A few clicks later and I’m yelling across the room (to uninterested family members), “I’ve found another convict!!”

I thought that the major crime in Thomas’s life was in 1870, the year the article was written. The year he was sent to Portland Gaol. Not so. Thomas’s life of crime was so prolific I can’t imagine how he ever found the time to paint.

Thomas, the son of Robert Butterworth and Ellen Lavery, a painter by trade, was born in c1837. According to the newspaper article, he began his life of crime in 1854 and was arrested almost annually up to 1860 when he was convicted, along with his brother, at Preston for 6 years. This led me to comment to my husband, “Lucky they had ended transportation, otherwise I wouldn’t exist!” But they hadn’t – they were still sending England’s finest to Western Australia and that’s where we find Thomas in 1862. Bound for the Swan River aboard the convict ship, The Norwood.


1862, The Inquirer and Commercial News (Perth, WA : 1855 – 1901), 25 June, p.4

The records state his name is Thomas Lavery, alias Butterworth. He is 22 years old; can read but not write; he is married with one child; he is a painter; his behaviour since conviction is described as “V Good”, “Good” and “Indifferent” on the voyage.

There is a record stating that he was discharged on the 7 August 1863 and he was sent to Perth. He received his ticket of leave 24 Aug 1863 from Fremantle. In 1864, he was transferred from Perth to the Swan River Settlement. He received his conditional pardon on 28 April 1865. He was employed as a labourer, woodcutter, shoemaker and general servant. A list of his masters is below (as best I can make out):

  • E Perusa w 3/- 07.04.64 Left 29.04.64
  • Entered service of A Taylor at 20/- Left 28.06.64
  • Entered service of W Liddelow 29.06.64 at 20/- ?? (sick?) 28.07.64
  • Entered service of C Pereina 03.08.64
  • Discharged 07.09.64 and sent out (with?) depot
  • There is a note stating that he was sent to York in 1865

How Thomas returned to the UK, I don’t know. With a conditional pardon, I doubt he was allowed. In any case, what I do know is that he is appearing in front of a magistrate again in 1870 (having hooked up with his brother and mates) and is sent to Portland Gaol where he is listed in the 1871 census.

What happened after Thomas was sent to Portland Gaol? I used to think that he had died in prison however, a discharge document for a man named “John Jones” grabbed my attention. John Jones is being released from Parkhurst Gaol in 1889 (he had been sentenced in 1880) and hailed from Birmingham. The side note states that his alias is Thomas Butterworth and sometimes Lavery. His occupation is a painter.

I still need to work out the rest of his chequered life – I doubt that it will be an easy task. He was a man who spent the majority of his life in gaol.

A man who unlikely knew his son nor saw his wife again.

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