My Weekend in a Time Machine - the Brick Lane Scoundrel

Monday, May 3, 2010
From a child I've been interested in the stories that my grandparents and great aunts and uncles used to tell of their long-dead relations. People I never met but feel that I know because their personality shone through in the memories and stories of my old people. Because their blood runs in my veins, and their legacy is left in my face and my features.

This weekend, the internet has become, for me, a time machine. It's incredible what information you can find through google and the pressing of a button. I have found out things about my ancestors that I never knew. Fascinating things. Shameful things. Heroic things. It is interesting how one generation can bring shame and trouble and the next can bring pride and respect.

One family in particular - The Rosie's. My great grandmother (the beautiful Thomasina), her parents and her sisters and brothers. I only knew one of these family members - Great Aunty Pearl. And yet, because of the stories that my grandmother told me, and my mother and Aunt have told me, they are real, living, loved family members.

Isabella Wybrow (my Great great grandmother) was the daughter of James Wybrow, a heroic and well-respected member of the Southland community. I am in the process of finding out more information about him as we hope to visit his town of Fortrose in the Catlins at the end of the month, but more about him in another post. I am mostly rather thrilled because I found his father this weekend. William Wybrow. My great great great great grandfather!
A scoundrel, to be sure!
In the company of his sister, his 'young lady' and a friend, he robbed a public house in London - stealing a f30 note along with many other things including a silk hair ribbon. I read the entire court case on the Old Bailey website! It seems William was not a stranger to this sort of living - he knew where to take the stolen goods to sell, and charged his sister, Susannah and his girlfriend, Elizabeth, to take the f30 note to 'the fence' (a term for a man who will sell stolen goods). He advised them that if they were caught to say that they were given the money by a gentleman for sleeping with him.

I love the little details that I have discovered - that William lived in Brick Lane (now isn't that a Dickensian-sounding address), an East End street in London, which at his time in history was famous for the breweries that were being established, but is now renown for its curry houses, art shops and weekend market.
I even found a walkthrough on youtube. I wonder which was his dwelling place?

William was found guilty and sentenced to death! What a risk he was running back then in the 1700's for all of us! We might not even exist if his sentence had not been changed to transportation for life.

He left England on board the Ganges, a convict ship, for Australia in 1796 and arrived in New South Wales, where he later married and raised a family. His son James, leaving Australia for New Zealand in the early 1800's.

I am just loving finding all of these treasures. It's rather awful to have such a naughty criminal in my history, but his son James made up for it later. My love of Dickens brings the settings and imagery of 1700 England alive in my imagination. It makes it easy to picture these people, their lifestyles, their working-class conditions, their poor and mean characters, for going by what I can glean from the trial, William was no saint. But all these good people in the photo above (except Grandfather Rosie) come from him, mixed with some good blood in them too I suppose from fortunate marriages and lucky turn of events and the mercy of God.


Clara said...

I love history! This was so interesting - thanks for sharing! :) When I read things like this, I can imagine parts of it in my head too (thanks to photos and historical documentaries/movies that recreate those times!)! :)

Cate said...

Wow - you did well to be able to access all of these facts. As our convict ancestor came from Dublin, the information sort of runs out there as the records aren't so well kept.

Heather L. said...

Family history is so fun and fascinating!!! what good stories you have in yours!!!

I managed to do some research while in Scotland and found a number of family graves! Laura is named for my mom, who was named for her great-grandmother who was the wife of a Civil War General. So, I think I need to sit down and start writing a bit of this up....before none of us know the history!

The Maryjanes are ADORABLE!!! And so is the tape measure! I love felt too!!!! hope you figure out a good price. I would think they would sell like hotcakes.

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