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Blandford's 'Convict Royalty'


Ria and Bill Bleathman are descendants of Richard Bleathman who, with George Long, were condemned to death by Judge Stephen Gaselee in Dorchester for their involvement in the 1831 Blandford riots. Bill Bleathman is the retired Director of Tasmania’s Museum and Art Gallery while Ria is a management consultant and company director.

Both Bleathman and Long were found guilty of damaging the property of Blandford lawyer, George Moore following the declaration of the result of a Dorset by-election. Many old Blandford records were lost in the disturbance and others that were recovered were found stained with horse manure. Moore was a political agent of the successful candidate, Lord Ashley who was strongly opposed to extending the right to vote beyond a small number of eligible property owners. Bleathman and Long believed that Moore had used confidential client information to prevent political opponents from voting in the by-election which Ashley narrowly won. 

Following protests from both Blandford and Sturminster Newton and petitions, the judge wanted to prevent any further social unrest. He changed the decision to transportation to Van Diemen’s Land, now Tasmania, for life. Both Bleathman and Long spent time in the convict hulk, Captivity berthed opposite Devonport Dockyard. While waiting to be transported to Australia they were put to work as dockyard labourers. Captivity was previously the Royal Navy vessel, HMS Bellerophon on which Napoleon Bonaparte had surrendered.

In time both Bleathman and Long obtained their release. Richard became a farmer, married twice and had a large family. George Long found work as a sailor on a sailing vessel which journeyed between the Australian mainland and Van Diemen’s Land. Sadly, George Long lost his life in an accident when he fell into the ship’s cargo hold when it was berthed in Melbourne.

Prior to the 1988 Australian Bicentenary, few Australians would admit to having a convict as an ancestor. It was known as the ‘stain’. Now that there is a better understanding of some of the injustices of the convict system it is ‘du rigueur’ to have a convict in the family tree. Ria Bleathman recently said,

‘My father’s ancestor was one of the so called Dorset rioters and was transported as a rioter, in the 1830s, for the term of his natural life. He was effectively a “political prisoner” and therefore Convict Royalty.’

 (Illustration: Ria & Bill Bleathman outside Richard Bleathman's tiny two room cottage in Tasmania - March 2021.)



Comments

  1. Hi Its Bill Bleathman (pictured above) great great grandson of Richard Bleathman. What a wonderful very readable resource this site is. It has been particularly pleasing to find out so much more of the pre transportation history of Richard and his admirable stand against injustice and oppression. I am somewhat ashamed to say that we knew very little of his Tasmanian life let alone his English days. As my sister mentioned growing up in Tasmania in the 60's and 70's there just wasn't encouragement to investigate convict links, now it is a badge of honor. Since reading his history we have started our own journey to discover more about him. One thing is certain he lead a very quite life in Tasmania. I think that when you cheat death by hanging on the very day of the proposed execution it may re focus your thinking about many things. My sister and I re discovered the original little cottage built by Richard (pictured above) possibly around the 1850's, his original home after he was pardoned. It is located on Broadmarsh Bluff and is the only historical structure to survive the many bush fires and storms that have ravaged this area over the years . I am meeting with other family members in the coming days to try and glean more info. There is a collection of very old photos somewhere and indeed his bible is supposed to still exist somewhere, these mysteries and others I hope to solve now that the enthusiasm has been bolstered by this site and the other fine English research that has been undertaken about my great great grandfather.
    regards
    Bill Bleathman

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great story, especially for me as a resident of Tasmania, it’s wonderful to explore the place you live in with a view to the past. Keep the posts coming.

    ReplyDelete

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