Our Convict Connection
David Ottolangui 1812 – 1882
Chapter I – A Convict’s Story
SOURCES Merle Langley, Wendy Bloomfield and independent research
David Ottolangui was born on the 27th October 1812 in Aldgate, London, England. His father Israel Ottolenghi was born in Livorno, Italy in 1774 and married Miriam (a.k.a. Amelia or Mary) (H)Alevy on the 31st October 1792 at the Bevis Marks Synagogue. David was one of the youngest of nine sons. His godparents were Isaac and Sarah Nathan.
By 1818 Israel and his family were living at Wood Street, Tabernacle-Walk, London and Israel states his occupation as “Confectioner”. As a small trader and given the harsh conditions in London at this time, Israel must have struggled to provide for such a large family.
As mentioned in the above Law Report of the King’s Bench, Israel Ottolangui, who was also known as Israel Langley, and then living at Catherine Street near the Tower of London, had been held in custody from December 1822 until his trial in February 1823, and then given a further sentence of 3 months imprisonment at Coldbath-Fields. He was also required to put up £40 security for good behaviour and a further two sureties of £20 each for three years. This would have placed immense strain on the already fragile family finances. Five years later, in September 1828 Amelia was dealt another blow when Israel died and she was left to provide for her 4 youngest sons who were still living at home.
Eight months after the death of his father, young David now 17 years old was indicted on 1st May 1829 for stealing a brass screw cap and confined for three months. After his release, in December of that same year David was in trouble with the law again and apprehended for theft of a cheese worth 12 shillings. This time he was sentenced to 14 years and transported to Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) Australia, for life.
Prior to his second trial, David had been held at Newgate Prison to where he was returned afterwards, then as Convict number 45181 he was transferred to the prison hulk “Retribution” on the Thames at Sheerness to await transportation on a convict ship.
The “Retribution” had formerly been a Royal Navy ship named HMS Edgar, ordered in 1774, launched at Woolwich Shipyard, London and commissioned into service in 1779. She was the third ship of the “Arrogant” class built as a ship of the line with a deadweight of 1,609 tons, and a gun deck 168 feet (51meters) long, 46 feet 9 inches (14.25 meters) of beam and a hold depth of 19 feet 9 inches (6.02meters) She was a fully rigged sailing ship with a total of 74 guns being 28 x 32pounder cannons on the gun deck, 28 x 18pounders on the upper gun deck, 14 x 9pounders on the quarter deck and 4 x 9pounders on the forecastle.
HMS Edgar had served for more than thirty years in the Royal Navy before being decommissioned after participating in the following actions; the Battle of Cape St. Vincent in 1780, the Battle of Ushant in 1781, the Battle of Cape Spartel in 1782, the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801 and the “Gun Boat War” of 1808.
After decommissioning, in 1815 the demasted hulk was renamed “Retribution” and moored in the Thames estuary as a prison ship.
The museum’s information on the hulks includes the following:
Life aboard the ‘Retribution’ James Hardy Vaux described the conditions on the hulk Retribution:
“There were confined in this floating dungeon nearly 600 men, most of them double ironed; and the reader may conceive the horrible effects arising from the continual rattling of chains, the filth and vermin naturally produced by such a crowd of miserable inhabitants, the oaths and execrations constantly heard amongst them…. On arriving on board, we were all immediately stripped and washed in two large tubs of water, then, after putting on each a suit of coarse slop clothing, we were ironed and sent below; our own clothes being taken from us…. I soon met many of my old Botany Bay acquaintances, who were all eager to offer me their friendship and services, that is, with a view to rob me of what little I had; for in this place there is no other motive or subject for ingenuity. All former friendships are dissolved, and a man here will rob his best benefactor, or even messmate, of an article worth one halfpenny”.
Conditions on board the hulks were appalling. The standards of hygiene were so poor that disease spread quickly. The sick were given little medical attention and were not separated from the healthy. Two months after the first hulks had been introduced, an epidemic of jail fever (a form of vermin borne typhus) spread among them. It persisted on and off for more than three years. Dysentery, caused by drinking brackish water, was also widespread. At first, patients, whatever their state of health, lay on the bare floor. Later they were given straw mattresses and their irons were removed. Mortality rates of around 30% were quite common. The living quarters were very bad. The hulks were cramped and the prisoners slept chained up. The prison deck was barely high enough for a man stand. The officers lived in cabins in the stern. The conditions on board were often worse than prisons like Newgate. Prisoners’ attempts knock off the chains around their waists and ankles were punished by floggings, extra irons and solitary confinement in tiny cells with names like the ‘Black Hole’.
The prisoners’ uniform was supposed to be a linen shirt, a brown jacket and a pair of breeches. But the funds intended to buy the clothes were often misappropriated. .The quality of the prisoners’ food was kept as low as possible, so as to ensure that the prisoners enjoyed a lower standard of living than the poorest of citizens. The monotonous daily meals consisted chiefly of ox-cheek, either boiled or made into soup, pease, a kind of porridge made by boiling split yellow lentils, bread or biscuit often mouldy. Twice a week there was oatmeal and cheese instead of the meat ration. Each prisoner was allowed two pints of beer four times a week, and river water the rest of the time. Sometimes, the captain of a hulk would allow the convicts grow vegetables to supplement their diet
Aboard the first two hulks, the Justitiaand the Censor, there were 125 and 183 prisoners respectively whilst on other hulks there were 275-300 prisoners and around 20 officers. On the “Retribution” as described by a contemporary prisoner, there were 600 men. The ever increasing number of hulks lined the rivers like floating slums, with the attendant foul odours on hot summer days. Privileges enjoyed by prisoners in regular jails like exercise or just being outside in the open air, and visits by family and friends were not possible on the hulks.
After surviving his remand on board the Retribution moored at Sheerness, David Langley was embarked aboard the convict transport ship CT David Lyon, of 476 tons, built in Ipswich, Suffolk in 1819. The vessel sailed from Sheerness around 29th April or 2nd May 1830 for Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), Australia, arriving after 108 days (about 3 and a half months) on 18th August 1830. The master of the vessel was (Captain) James Berry and the surgeon was Mr. Charles Cameron. There were 221 convicts on board of whom 40 were to serve life sentences and the average sentence of the others was 8 years. Prisoners were chained up for the entire time at sea. Disease, dysentery and scurvy were rampant. Three convicts and 1 crew member died during the voyage. Prisoners were confined below the deck in cells separated into compartments with as many as fifty convicts in one compartment.
The “David Lyon” arrived in Van Diemen’s Land on 19th August 1830 and the convicts were disembarked still in chains at the harbour of Hobart Town a day or two after the ship arrived. After his arrest and detention at the beginning of June 1829, the weeks and months in Newgate Gaol, then on the hulk, “Retribution”, and after the more than three months of the voyage, David’s first glimpses of the recent settlement of Hobart must have been quite a joyful relief for him, despite the apprehension of how his life would pan out in the penal colonies.
From the harbour the prisoners were marched to the Government Lumber Yard where, probably for the first time in many months they were stripped, washed, examined and had their vital statistics recorded.
After the initial “reception” process, convicts were “assessed, classified and appropriated”.
David Langley’s Appropriation Report ‘CON 27/4’ reads:
532 Langley, David, 20, Carter, Middlesex, Life, London. W Wood(deleted) and P. W. written instead.
From this it appears that David was assessed as a “Class 3” convict and appropriated to “Public Works”.
David would have been housed in the prisoners’ barracks penitentiary, known then as “The Tench” located in Campbell Street. Convicts were taken out on daily work parties for road building and construction. On later documents David gives his occupation as “Stonemason” – which apparently was the new profession he acquired there.
David’s Conduct Report ‘Con 31/28’:
532 – Langley, David, ‘David Lyon’ August 1830, Middlesex 14 January 1830 – Life.
Transported for stealing 24 pounds of cheese. Goal Report “here before”. Hulk report “Orderly”. Single.
Stated this offence: Stealing 24 pounds of cheese.
Once for Screw Engine Caps, 21 days House of Correction. Single/Jew
There is no other record of David’s behavior as a convict apart from the above report, therefore it would appear that David was a model prisoner of good conduct since there is no report of punishment or other trouble.. Six years after his arrival David was promoted to Constable on 31 July 1836, Police number 339, rate of pay 1shilling and 9 pence.
This elevation of his social standing did not mean that he had an easy life, as the civilian population suspected them because of their convict past, whilst the convicts disliked them, seeing them as “narks” or “grassers” because they had “gone straight”. Two and a half years later, David resigned as a Constable on 31st January 1839.
In the meantime, David had met a fellow convict, Phillis Skinner and made the following application to marry her:
Application for Permission to Marry ‘CON 52/1’ p. 106, 1836.
Name Ship Decision
532 Langley, David – ‘David Lyon’ – 2 Aug – 8 September – Yes
258 Skinner, Phillis – ‘Edward’
David Langley married Phillis Skinner on 26th September 1836 in Hobart, Tasmania.
Phillis was also a convict, aged 22 at the time of her marriage to David. The marriage is recorded as “solemnized” in the Parish of Trinity in the County of Buckingham in the Year 1836 -Number 299
“David Langley of this parish – Bachelor and Phillis Skinner of this parish – Spinster, were married in this Church by Banns with the consent of both, this twenty sixth day of September in the year 1836.
By me P. Palmer HM Chaplain – Rural Dean.
This marriage was solemnized between us X (the mark of) David Langley Phillis Skinner (signed)
In the presence of: Many Ann Albury and Francis Woolmore of Hobart Town.”
This indicates that David did not know how to sign his name as he only made his mark (X)
Phillis Skinner, had arrived as one of 151 convicts on the CT Edward, on 4th September 1834 having been remanded at Middlesex Goal on 28th November 1833 and sentenced to 14 years transportation for stealing sheets.
“Gaol Report not known, 4 indictments at age 19 years –Spinster. Single
Stated this offence, “pawning a coalscuttle from my lodgings”, tried on 4 indictments, acquitted on two –
Single – 1 child, 6 months old on board.”
When she first arrived in Hobart, Phillis was sent to the Female Factory, where her daughter Jane Skinner died and was buried on 13th October 1834. This has to be Phillis’s child as she was the only female in Hobart with the surname Skinner at that time. Jane was 8 months old when she died, so she was born about January/February of 1834, after Phillis had been convicted and before she was transported. Jane must have been born in prison in London and it is sad that she survived the birth, imprisonment and the sea journey to Australia, only to die about 3 weeks after arriving. This is a copy of her burial record #3441
David and Phillis settled in New Town, Hobart. On 2nd September 1837, Phillis gave birth to their first daughter Amelia Langley, named after David’s own mother.
In January 1839 David received a “conditional pardon” was declared a free man. He had petitioned long and hard for an “absolute pardon” and the failure to obtain such approval meaning that he would never be able to return to England and see his mother and brothers, must have been extremely disappointing. On 3rd June that year, Phillis gave birth to a son. He was named David Langley and baptised at St Johns Church, Newtown, Hobart, Tasmania on the 18th May 1840.
By 1841 David had done well for himself and he had good prospects but Phillis was often in trouble with the authorities for drunkenness and indecent language. Their marriage was possibly not a good one, but for Phillis it was the only way she could have improved her situation. On 2nd May 1841 Phillis was about two months pregnant with their third child when she was absent from the marital home all night and “keeping company with another man”. Accordingly her sentence was “sent to the House of Correction for three months with hard labour, then return to her husband”.
On 5th December 1841 Sophia Langley was born, and the family now lived on William Street, New Town and Sophia’s birth record gives David’s occupation as “bricklayer”.
Almost a year later in November 1842, David’s mother Amelia (Miriam Halevy Ottolangui) Langley passed away. Another son, Richard Langley was born to David and Phillis about 1843, but no birth registration or baptism record is found.
A daughter Sarah Langley was born on the 31st January 1844 and another, Rachel, was born on the 21st December 1846.
By the end of 1849, David, was unable to tolerate the deterioration of his marriage to Phillis any longer, and he left Phillis and his children behind, departing Hobart on the ship ‘Magusha’ on the 26th December 1849 for the Gold Rush fields of San Francisco, California arriving there on 6th May 1850.
David had befriended a young convict named Richard Pinnuck who according to Wendy Bloomfield from Perth, Western Australia, a collateral descendant, Richard was baptised at St Andrew’s, Enfield, London on 14 June 1826. At this time, children were normally baptised about 1 month after birth, so Richard was probably born in May 1826. He was the fourth son of William and Elizabeth Pinnuck who had 18 children (of which at least 8 died in infancy).
The following information is mostly from Wendy Bloomfield
Richard, aged 15, was tried at the Old Bailey in London on 12 May 1841. He was indicted for breaking and entering the dwelling house of Joseph Field at Enfield, on the 11th April 1841 and stealing 7 pence, 22 halfpence and 20 farthings to which he pleaded guilty. He received 10 years transportation.
The sum he stole (1shilling and 11pence) is roughly equivalent to about £60 today (estimated in relation to average earnings). Richard was transported to Australia aboard the Convict Transport ‘Elphinstone’ which departed Sheerness on 30 March 1842, arriving in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) on 28 July 1842.
Information from Conduct Record
Name: Richard PINNUCK
Trade: Labourer, Height: 4′ 10″ (1.47 meters) Age: 16, Complexion: Freckled, Head: Oval, Hair: Sandy,
Whiskers: None, Visage: Broad, Forehead: High, Broad, Eyebrows: Sandy, Eyes: Hazel Nose: Medium
Mouth: Medium, Chin: Broad, dimpled, Native Place: Enfield
Remarks: Freckles and scar on back of right hand, small scar centre of forehead.
Protestant, can read and write.
Hulk Report: Good.
Stated this offence: Housebreaking and stealing money. Single.
Conduct Report – Orderly.
Period of Probation: Twenty months.
Released from 1st stage of probation 17 April 1843.
Jan 1844 : Tailor – Fair. Not yet able to earn a livelihood. In the meantime to be treated with every reasonable indulgence.
27 Feb 1845 : Absent from his gang without leave – six days solitary.
15 May 1849 : Conditional Pardon
Richard departed Van Dieman’s Land on the ship John Bull for New Zealand and San Francisco on 26 June 1849. He returned on the ship Eliza from San Francisco on 30 August 1850.
At the age of 24, Richard married Amelia Langley in Hobart on 30 September 1850. She was aged 13 at the time although her marriage certificate states 15, but she was born in 1837
Richard and Amelia’s children were Frances Amelia, born on 14 July 1852 in Hobart and Elizabeth, born on 16 February 1855 at Avoca, Victoria.
On 9 December 1852 Richard and Amelia (both as Pinnock) departed Launceston (on the north coast of Tasmania) for Melbourne on the Ship “Yarra Yarra”. The record states Richard was “free”, and Amelia “born in the Colonies”.
The following item appeared in The Argus, Melbourne Thursday on 5th February 1857:
Notice: I hereby caution the public not to give credit to my wife Amelia Pinnuck, and I will not be answerable for any debts she may contract, she having left my home without any just cause. RICHARD PINNUCK
Richard was admitted to Heidelberg Hospital on the 24th April 1894 aged 69 years (Heidelberg is about 6 miles NW of the centre of Melbourne). The record says he was born in England, was a miner, single and his residence was at Beaufort (which is about 110 miles NE of Melbourne). His death entry is listed as Pennock, Richard, Aged 70 years.
The Californian Gold Rush between 1848 and 1858 led to a huge population boom. largely from extensive immigration. The gold rush peaked in 1849 and immigrants and prospectors from that year were called the “49ers”. It is possible that David travelled to San Francisco hoping to find his fortune on the gold fields. In 1849 the population of San Francisco grew from 1,000 to 25,000 and consequently the social climate of San Francisco became chaotic as is described in many writings of the time and depicted in cinema. The need for more housing, clothing and supplies generated employment and the arrival of many cargo ships. According to family legend, David, who had been a carter in London before his imprisonment, worked on the waterfront in the early 1850’s driving a horse-drawn wagon.
To be continued……….