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Thursday, September 16, 2010
GRIM DETAILS OF LIFE ABOARD PRISON HULKS RELEASED
Nineteenth century prison ship records reveal ghastly disease-ridden conditions on board for about 200,000 unfortunates, including young children, according to a BBC news story.
The lists include 8-year-old Francis Creed, confined for seven years on HMS Bellerophon for stealing copper worth a total of three shillings. Convicted in Middlesex on 25 June 1823, little Frank served out his term in the company of an assortment of thieves, bigamists, and murderers, including such colorful characters as 84-year-old sheep stealer William Davies.
The records, held by National Archives, have been published online at ancestry.co.uk
A quick search of the Archives using the key phrase "prison hulks" reveals much fascinating stuff, including the ration of wine per mess (imagine sharing a crowded berth with a drunken murderer!), and surgeons' reports on the difference in health between those on hulks and those incarcerated in "regular" prisons.
Recommended reading for historical novelists, those in search of mystery plots and settings, and people researching the gritty social background of their ancestors.