Primitive portrait of Sarah Newman - sentenced to death for robbery at The Old Bailey later transported to Tasmania
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A story that so very perhaps could have been miscarriage of justice, or perhaps it even was....
To the back a newspaper extract from 1832 showing the results of trials of the 7th Session of the Old Bailey including Sarah Newman being found guilty of robbery. Appearing at the Old Bailey, London on 6th September 1832 Sarah Newman stood trial for robbery.
The trial evidence against her was contested by an eye witness who gave her an alibi.
On Monday 20th August 1832 was on patrol near Haggerstone Bridge, Hackney, London. He heard a disturbance and when dealing with it was set up by three girls and four men. He was kicked and punched to the ground and had his handkerchief stolen. Police Constable N92 Henry PETTY stated that one of the assailants was Sarah NEWMAN a local girl. He later identified her at an address and she was arrested and charged with robbery. A pawnbroker's ticket was found at her address and a handkerchief simialr to this was found to the stolen one was found the pawnbrokers. She claimed to have been given it by her co-accused Samuel AUSTIN.
Joseph HOOKER, a local cabinet maker, gave evidence that NEWMAN was not involved.
The jury didn't believe them and she was sentenced to death. She was just 17. Her co-defendant was also sentenced to death.
Sarah was clearly from a poor family. Her mother was described at the trial at being nearby to the attack and being heavily in drink.
Sarah would have spent time in Newgate prison and would have been due to be hanged for her alleged crime. Research of the Old Bailey records shows her sentenced was respited to transportation on 18th October 1832 - probably due to her tender years. Young Sarah was sent to Van Diemens Land, now known as Tasmania. Her transportation was for 99 years. She left Torbay on the convict ship 'Jane', along with another 114 convicts, on 22nd February 1833 and arrived in 30th June 1833 in Hobart.
The level of detail recorded on her arrival is fascinating. She was described as 4'11" in height, Protestant and couldn't read or write. Her complexion was fresh and freckled with dark grey eyes. She had tattoos, five dots between finger and thumb right hand and a heart on her left arm, with 5 dots, between the finger and thumb of her left hand.
We then know that she applied to be married on 16th March 1836 to Thomas BAYS, a fellow convict, who had arrived on the convict ship YORK. BAYS had been convicted for 7 years on at the Surrey Quarter Session on 9th July 1832, was transported on 11th August 1832 with another 200 convicts arriving in Van Diemens Land on 29th December 1832. The application was approved. They were married on 9th May 1836 (there is an alternative spelling of BAYES on the marriage records - not unusual at the time). Sarah couldn’t read or write, as her records sow, and the marriage certificate is marked with a cross
next to her name - ‘the mark of Sarah Newman’. Sarah would likely have worked in one of the five female factories on the island, or as a servant in the houses of one of the settlers.
It appears that her husband, Thomas BAYS, was pardoned in 1842. An extract from a Hobart newspaper, The Hobart Town Courier and Van Diemens Land Gazette shows:
"Colonial Secretary's Office, 16th June, 1842.
Memoranda of Conditional Pardon have been ordered for the
following persons until Her Majesty's pleasure be known: Thomas Bays"
Interestingly, whilst BAYS in not a particularly commone name, a Robert BAYS sat on the jury which convicted young Sarah. Perhaps unknown to them all, she was convicted by a relative of the man she would later marry at the other side of the world. We like to think he may have brought them together.
The records show that Sarah did not have a long life dying in 1856 during childbirth. She had nine children, seven girls and two boys. Thomas died just a month later from dropsy.
The portrait dates to around the mid 19th century, probably not that long before her death. It has been painted on canvas later laid onto panel which has the 1832 newpaper detailing her fate stuck on the back at some long distant point in the past. Sarah holds her bible in her hand. There is an area of paint loss to Sarah's forehead. The painting would benefit from a clean. We offer it in untouched condition as we found it. The frame has been repaired in the past.
This is a rare surving portrait of someone who was sentenced to death and then transported to the other side of the world. A rare survivor, and rare to find the name of the sitter on a primitive portrait.
The portrait would have very likely been painted in Van Diemens Land as it was extremely unlikely she would have risked returning to London. The portrait appears to have made the journey home to the country that Sarah left in 1832 and would never see again. Was PC PETTY'S account accurate and was she guilty of robbery? We will never know.