Saturday, 2 July 2016

Jane Castings - 'On Her Way' Millbank Prison and the ship 'Sea Queen' (NON FICTION)

'On Her Way': Part 1 Millbank Prison

When Jane leaves Leicester Gaol she is sent to Millbank Prison where she is incarcerated until she is moved onto the Sea Queen ship for transportation for seven years to VDL.

In 'Wikipedia' 'Millbank Prison' at:  the prison is described as overlooking the River Thames, situated in Pimlico, London, and originally constructed as the National Penitentiary. It was set out in a hexagonal shape with six petal shaped wings, each three stories high and each containing five courtyards and with a single chapel in the centre of the complex. 
Long term incarceration, hard labour and transportation to Australia were increasingly popular punishments during the 19th Century (as opposed to more traditional forms such as the stocks and public beatings).   In the latter part of Millbank's history it served as a holding facility for convicted prisoners before they were shipped to Australia.

It is hard to imagine now that where the Tate Gallery stands in a pleasant and tranquil location,  it was once the site of a place of dread and great suffering known as the 'Millbank Penitentiary'.

Picture of Millbank Prison

You can find in the post 'The Long Lost Dread - The Millbank Penitentiary comments about a damning report of conditions in 'The Morning Chronicle' in 1823:

“The two chief sources of disease, incident to man, are marsh-miasmata and human effluvia. In the Penitentiary these sources are not only combined but concentrated. 
It is seated in a marsh,beneath the bed of the river, through which the vapours from stagnant water are constantly exhaling. The effluvia from the mass of human beings confined within its walls cannot dissipate from deficient ventilation. 
These causes operating upon a crown of persons, whose minds are depressed by the
prospect of lingering confinement, cannot fail to produce all the disease which take place in the Lazarhouse; scrophula, scurvy, prostration of strength, and fever of the worse description.
To these sources of disease must be added the malaria from the muddy banks of the river, which renders the whole vicinity unhealthy…
           There is but one remedy - to place as much gun powder under the foundation as may suffice to blow the whole fabric into the air. Whether it would be an act of humanity, previously to the removal of the prisoners, may be a fit subject for discussion by those sapient persons who first sanctioned the erection of such a structure on such a site.”

“As well as disease, stench and hunger, prisoners were expected to remain silent at all times, and those breaking the rules could expect solitary confinement, shackling or whipping- although this fierce reprimand was reserved for those committing offences of “exceptional violence and brutality.”

By May 1843 the prison had sunk into such degradation that Parliament decided the facility was no longer fit for holding inmates long-term.
The ‘model prison’ role was taken over by Pentonville which had opened on Caledonian Road in 1842, leaving the Millbank Penitentiary to be demoted to a “general depot for all convicts”; a holding facility in which those sentenced to transportation were held (usually for three months) until a place became available on one of the dreaded prison ships bound for the Australian penal colony.”
Ref: 'View from the Mirror': A Cabbies London>Long Lost Dread: The Millbank Penitentiary, March 26, 2015; at:


'On Her Way': Part 2 The Sea Queen.

I imagine in one way it would be a relief to be discharged from Millbank with all its horrors and yet Jane is still to face a long sea voyage as a prisoner on a convict ship taking her to an unknown land far away.

Information from: The Ships List, Vessels Carrying Convicts From Great Britain, 1839-1846; Sea Queen 1846. at:
The voyage of the Sea Queen in 1846 was successful in that it transported 170 women convicts all the way to Van Diemen's Land with no deaths on board. The average sentence for these women was nine years, with one being convicted for Life. 

The journey took 114 days which was longer than the mean travel time of 102 days. 
The ‘Sea Queen’ was a smaller convict ship than many of the sailing vessels, being of 404 tons and classed as an A1 ship. She was owned by W L Pope and the broker/agent was Sir J Pirie & Co. 

Searches so far have not produced a picture of her. 

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