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Charles Claxton was born in about 1814. In October 1830, at the age of 16, he was found guilty on 2 counts of fraud at Westminster Quarter Sessions and was sentenced to 3 months’ imprisonment and twice whipped. In May 1831, he was found guilty at the Old Bailey of larceny (stealing) and fined 1 shilling. On 27th June 1831, he was convicted for fraud at Clerkenwell Sessions and sentenced to transportation for 7 years.

We have found information about Charles on a New South Wales historical website where he was described as “Aged 17, Tailor from London. Tried 27 June 1831 and sentenced to 7 year’s transportation for stealing cloth. Note - Later sentenced to 12 months in an iron gang by Maitland Bench.” Maitland is a town in NSW about 100 miles north of Sydney. Convicts who re-offended after arriving in the colony could be assigned to punishment gangs and hard labour of building and repairing roads and bridges.

Prisoners were kept in hulks (old ships without masts) until a convict ship was ready, and Charles was transferred to the ship Hardy, moored in Portsmouth on 31 August 1831. He was then listed on the muster roll for the Asia, the next convict ship to leave England. The Asia was built at Aberdeen in 1819 and she made regular voyages to New South Wales with convicts. She was reported lying wind bound at Portsmouth on 11th October 1831 and did not depart until 16th October 1831. The records show that the ship arrived in Sydney, New South Wales on 13 February 1832, so the voyage lasted 4 months and Charles was 17 by then. The ships may have stopped off for supplies at Gibraltar, in the West Indies, South America and the Cape of Good Hope, or Capetown in South Africa.

Two hundred men from counties throughout England were transported on the ship and most would never see their homeland again. Many were petty thieves and by modern standards, transportation was a most severe penalty for what in some cases, would now be regarded as a minor offence. Records show that Charles gained his Certificate of Freedom on 3 December 1839, for he could marry Catherine Hart, and their daughter Elizabeth Claxton was born in 1845. She became part of the Marchesi family when she married Federico Marchesi in Australia in 1867. Quite often, people who were transported could make much better lives than they might have had if they had remained in England, for there was much work available in Australia at that time. We do not know if there were any other children of the marriage and Charles died in 1869 at Balranald, a small town in NSW.

Click here to see documents and photographs re Charles’ and Catherine’s transportation.

Catherine Hart – sometimes spelt Catharine in the records - was born in about 1824. She was found guilty of larceny (stealing) at Nottingham Assizes on 22 October 1835 and at the age of 11, and was sentenced to imprisonment for 3 months, which shows how tough were the penalties in those days. It was noted that she could neither read nor write. The punishment for grand larceny was death and was based on the value of the goods stolen, so we presume that, in view of the short sentence, Catherine’s offence was relatively minor. However, on 2 January 1837, she was sentenced to 14 years transportation for “larceny, before committed of felony,” a more serious crime, but which seems extremely harsh for a 13 year old. The conviction was later amended to 7 years. One girl aged 20, was transported for seven years for stealing a handkerchief!

Catherine is recorded on the HMS Henry Wellesley Muster Roll. This ship of 304 tons was built in 1804, and sailed from Woolwich, London, to New South Wales, Australia, on the 17th July 1837, arriving via the Cape of Good Hope, in Port Jackson, Sydney, on 22 December 1837. The ship may have stopped off for supplies at Gibraltar, in the West Indies, South America, or the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.

Thus, the voyage took 155 days and there were 139 female convicts on board. We can only imagine the conditions in a small vessel on a voyage of 5 months, passing through the tropics and most probably experiencing some very rough weather. Catherine gained her Ticket of Leave at Parramata, Sydney, and Certificate of Freedom on 6 May 1844. She married Charles Claxton and their daughter Elizabeth, born in 1845, became part of the Marchesi family in due course. Quite often, people who were transported could make much better lives than they might have had if they had remained in England, where poverty was so severe, especially in the big cities.We do not know if Charles and Catherine had any other children. She died in 1861.

Click here to see documents and photographs re Charles’ and Catherine’s transportation.

 

THE AUSTRALIAN GOLDRUSH

The first Swiss settlers arrived in Sydney, Australia in 1833, and many more followed when gold was discovered. Most came through the Port Philip District of New South Wales, into an area occupied by Aborigines for at least 45,000 years. They were ruthlessly pushed off their tribal lands as new settlers took up land for farming or mining.

Settlement at Melbourne, named after the Prime Minister of England, commenced in 1835, on the shore of Port Phillip Bay. It was virtually a "wild-west" town with muddy streets and rough living conditions but it grew quickly. In 1851 the area separated from New South Wales and became a new colony named after Queen Victoria. Gold was discovered at Bendigo Creek, north west of Melbourne, in late 1851, and it is recorded that 20,000 diggers arrived in the first six months of 1852.

This discovery accelerated the abolition of convict transportation to Australia. Early diggings were often worked with crude tools such as picks and pans until the surface gold was depleted. More advanced forms of mining such as large-scale dredging, hydraulic sluicing and hard rock mining then began.

Many young men left Valposchiavo, the Valtellina and Canton Ticino for Australia and America in the 19th and early 20th centuries, because there was no work for them locally. Federico Marchesi 1839-1922, was the first in our family to go to Australia in 1858, and his three brothers Giuseppe, Tomaso, and Adolfo followed. You can see details of the ships in which they sailed, on the Emigrants page. You can also read about their lives on the Biographies page.

Most able-bodied men worked as miners in the gold fields around Bendigo, north of Melbourne, Victoria, but many others provided supplies or services like forestry (pit props), catering, laundry, and blacksmithing, which was very important. They often made more money with much less risk!

Conditions in the gold mines were oppressive with temperatures around 35 degrees and very high humidity. The miners worked and rested in alternate half-hour periods and when the gold became harder to find, a very toxic chemical element called antimony was mined.  This has many uses in industrial processes and was in demand for export, but long-term exposure to it causes serious health problems.

The State of Victoria contributed more than one third of the world's gold output in the 1850s and in just two years, it’s population had grown from 77,000 to 540,000 - 45 per cent of the Australian population. Adventurers arrived from all around the world, and tension in the goldfields was often high due to clashes between the various races and with the authorities over the licensing system and police corruption. The 1850's also saw the operation of the first railways and telegraphs.

Only Adolfo Marchesi (known as Dolph) remained in Australia and worked as a miner. He married Elisabeth Hester and their descendants are there today. Eventually, he and many others became very ill with respiratory problems known as “the miner’s disease.” Dolph died in 1921, and you can see photos of him, Elisabeth, and their family on the “Photos” page in the Great Grandparent's section. We have letters which provide a brief picture of life for a miner and his family in Australia at that time. Elisabeth continued the letters when Dolph became too ill to write.

Click here for original letter in Italian from Dolph to Giuseppe (Joe).

Click here for English transcripts of Dolph's letters.

Click here for original letter from Elisabeth to Joe.

Click here for transcripts of letters from Elisabeth.

To return to this page, click the "back" arrow."

TRANSPORTATION

Federico Marchesi and his brother Giuseppe returned to Poschiavo, and Federico later came to England. We do not know what work they did in Australia or what happened to Tomaso. Federico married Elisabeth Claxton, the daughter of Charles and Catharine Claxton nèe Hart. They were transported to Australia in 1831 and 1837 respectively, for minor offences. You can learn about their story by clicking: -

History of transportation

Charles Claxton and Catherine Hart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The photographs in these galleries can be viewed as stills or slideshows. You can also copy photos by right-clicking on them.  Refer to the HELP button at the foot of the gallery screen if necessary. 

Le fotografie in queste gallerie possono essere visualizzate singolarmente o come slide-show. Può copiare una foto se vuole - clicca la foto sul tasto destro. Se necessario, premi “HELP” in fondo alla schemata. 

FAMILY PHOTOS

Marchesi Great Grandparents

Marchesi Grandparents

Parents

 

SWISS CAFES IN ENGLAND.

From the beginning of the 19th century, Poschiavini left their home town to earn a living abroad. They established a high reputation in many European countries with their traditional recipes from Canton Grigione. Many came to England to establish restaurants, cafès and bakeries, offering high quality food and pastries, often not seen before here. Most were in seaside towns on the south coast which were becoming fashionable holiday resorts at that time. You can see several in this gallery.

To see photographs of some of these cafes, click here:- Swiss Cafes In England.

SWISS CAFES IN INGHILTERRA. Nel 19. e nel 20. secolo, tanti Poschiavini dovettero lasciare le loro case per guadagnarsi da vivere all’estero. Molti andarono in Inghilterra per fondare ristoranti, tea-room, panetterie, offrendo cibo di alta qualità e prodotti di pasticceria non conosciuti in Inghilterra. La maggioranza si stabilì nel sud dell’Inghilterra, sulla costa, dove stavano fiorendo molti posti di villeggiatura. In questa galleria ne potete vedere diversi.

Per vedere alcuni fotografie, clicca su questo link:- Swiss Cafes In England.

VALPOSCHIAVO IN FORMER TIMES. These old photographs give an insight into life in Valposchiavo around 100 years ago. They show how hard travelling over the Bernina Pass was in the old days. Avalanches occurred, and still do, making transport very difficult. Lake Poschiavo was formed by a huge avalanche 15000 years ago. Cars were not permitted in Canton Grigione until 1926. Work in the fields was hard and everyone helped. The establishment of the hydro-electric power station at Brusio in 1904-6, and the opening of the Bernina Railway in 1910 has brought more prosperity to Valposchiavo. Smuggling of tobacco, sugar, rice and salt was a means of earning a little extra, especially during WW2, and continued into the 1970’s. There are several historic churches, with beautiful interiors. Tourism is very important to the valley and travelling there on the Bernina Line, an engineering masterpiece which now enjoys UNESCO World Heritage status, provides a chance to enjoy the beautiful scenery of this unspoilt region.

To see some photographs, click here:- Poschiavo in former times.

VALPOSCHIAVO NEGLI ANNI PASSATI. Una selezione delle fotografie della vita molti anni fa.

Per vedere alcuni fotografie, clicca su questo link:- Poschiavo negli anni passati.