John Prentice (1828 – 1861), a labourer and convict exile, was born in Cressing, near Braintree in Essex, England. On 4 January 1848, aged 19 years, he was charged with larceny at Chelmsford and sentenced to seven years’ transportation. Prentice sailed to Moreton Bay on the Mount Stuart Elphinstone arriving in Brisbane on 1 November 1849. As a convict ‘exile’, who had already served time in an English gaol, he was granted a ticket of leave for Moreton Bay on arrival in the colony.
John Prentice was baptised on 14 December 1828, the son of Francis and Ann Prentice of Cressing, Essex. Francis was an agricultural labourer and by the time of the 1841 census, three daughters had died, leaving five living children. On 23 February 1847, John Prentice, aged 18 and a labourer like his father, was charged with two offences of larceny in the Essex Quarter Sessions in Chelmsford and imprisoned for three months’ hard labour at the Colchester House of Correction. His crimes had been to steal a waistcoat, twelve tumblers and ‘other articles’ from two premises in Braintree.
A year later, on 4 January 1848, John, aged 19, was tried again at the Essex Quarter Sessions for stealing four chickens at Braintree and, as this was his second conviction for the felony of larceny, he was sentenced to seven years’ transportation. Later that month, Prentice and other prisoners sentenced to transportation were sent from the Convict Gaol at Springfield to the Millbank Penitentiary in London.
On 25-26 May 1849 convicts were received on board the Mount Stuart Elphinstone from Pentonville, Millbank and Wakefield prisons and from the hulks of Woolwich and Portsmouth. In John’s case the hulk was the former HMS Portland anchored in Langstone Harbour at Portsmouth. The Mount Stuart Elphinstone sailed on 1 June 1849 for Ireland, arriving in Cork on 7 June 1849. After embarking further prisoners, the convict transport ship finally arrived in Brisbane via Sydney on 1 November 1849.
An article in the Brisbane Courier on Saturday 21 July 1928 recalled the arrival in 1849 of three ships carrying free settlers to the colony of Moreton Bay. Their combined complement of 600 souls arrived under the auspices of Dr Dunmore Lang as a part of the solution to the chronic shortage of labour that threatened to stall development of the colony. Following the ships Fortitude and Chasely, the Lima arrived in Moreton Bay on 3 November 1849.
The Courier stated that the Lima “had previously put into Sydney Harbour, and found lying there the Mount Stuart Elphinstone, with convicts on board. The Sydney people, however, had refused to allow them to land, and the ship was ordered to take her cargo of felons to Moreton Bay, where she arrived two days in advance of the Lima.”
John Prentice received a Ticket of Leave allowing him to work in the Moreton Bay district on 30 November 1849. Just over six months later, on 16 June 1850, he was granted a Ticket Of Leave Passport allowing him to remain in the service of St. George Richard Gore of Bodumba Station on the Darling Downs for twelve months.
Meanwhile in England, John’s father, Francis Prentice, aged 66, was listed as a pauper inmate of the Braintree Union Workhouse in the 1851 census and died in the town of Braintree in 1854, possibly at the workhouse. John’s younger brother, Francis, was tried in 1852 for the burglary of six teaspoons and a sovereign from a house in Braintree and sentenced to twelve months’ hard labour. Three years later, in 1855, Francis died aged just 22.
Back in Queensland, John Prentice married Johanna Cotton Landey — born in Dublin, Ireland to Richard Landey and Johanna Cotton — at the Warwick Court House on 26 September 1854. Both gave their place of residence as Bodumba.
The Prentices had four children born in Warwick: Frank Theophilus Prentice (b. 1855), Georgiana Prentice (b. 1856), Sarah Ann Prentice (b. 1858) and John Prentice (b. 1861).
John Prentice (Senior), a bushman, died on 16 April 1861 at Rosenthal Station near Warwick of ‘natural causes’. According to his death certificate he was aged 30, but if he was baptised in Essex in December 1828 he would have been at least 32 years old. Prentice was buried at the Warwick Cemetery but there is no headstone to mark his grave. At the time of John’s death their children were Frank (5), Sarah (3) and John (2 months). Georgiana had died six months previously.
John and Johanna purchased an allotment of land in Palmerin Street, Warwick in the name of Frank Theophilus Prentice when he was aged 4 in 1859, and Johanna purchased land in her own name in Guy Street, Warwick in 1862 after John’s death. John Prentice (Junior) inherited both properties on 17 October 1884.
Johanna Prentice (née Landey) also died young, aged just 41, on 26 November 1869. She is buried at Warwick Cemetery in the Church of England section. Johanna was the 58th person buried in the cemetery. As for her husband, there is no headstone to mark her burial place. At the time of Johanna’s death, eldest son Frank was 14, Sarah was 10 and John was 8 years old. It is not known who looked after the children after the death of Johanna.
Of the children, Frank Theophilus Prentice, born 27 April 1855 at Warwick, died aged 22 at Yenda Station, Gayndah. Georgiana Prentice, born 5 December 1856 at Warwick, died 13 October 1860, just before her fourth birthday. Sarah Ann Prentice, born 16 December 1858 at Warwick, married Urban Lane, a baker, on 23 February 1884 and died 29 March 1919 aged 60 years. Sarah and her husband are buried in the Toowong Cemetery, Brisbane.
The youngest son, John Prentice, a horse breaker, trainer, professional rider and publican, was born 28 January 1861 at Warwick. He married Rosina Fanny Lewis Roach on 4 August 1884. In September 1915, during World War I, John enlisted in the 2 Remount Unit aged 54. He died on 28 May 1950 in Brisbane aged 89.
Alison Appelgren and Lester Jackson (descendants), with Jan Richardson, ‘John Prentice (1828 – 1861)’, Harry Gentle Resource Centre, Griffith University, 2021 (updated 2023), https://harrygentle.griffith.edu.au/life-stories/john-prentice/.
John Prentice, tried Essex Quarter Sessions, 23 Feb 1847 and 4 Jan 1848
John Prentice per Mt St Elphinstone [sic] (1849)
John Prentice per Mt St Elphinstone [sic] (1849),
Historical marriage entry of John Prentice and Johanna Cotton Landey, 26 Sep 1854
Historical death entry of John Prentice, died 16 Apr 1861
Inquest into death of John Prentice
Historical death entry of Johanna Prentice, daughter of --- Landey, died 26 Nov 1869
Convict arrangements, Moreton Bay Courier, 3 November 1849, p. 2.
The convicts per Mountstuart [sic] Elphinstone, Moreton Bay Courier, 10 November 1849, p. 2.
"Essex Adjourned Session", Chelmsford Chronicle, 26 February 1847, p. 3 .
"Essex Quarter Session", Essex Standard, 14 January 1848, p. 2 .
"Chelmsford", Essex Standard, 4 February 1848, p. 2 .
Catholic Church, Warwick, North Australian, Ipswich and General Advertiser, 6 July 1858, p. 2.
"Apprehension of two burglars", Essex Standard, 16 January 1852, p. 3 .
"Burglary at Braintree", Chelmsford Chronicle, 12 March 1852, p. 4 .
Nut Quad [pseudonym], Arrival of Dr. Lang's immigrant ships in 1849, Brisbane Courier, 21 Jul 1928, p. 21.