See a Suffolk convict’s sad farewell as he’s about to be transported to Australia
PUBLISHED: 17:08 28 July 2020 | UPDATED: 17:23 28 July 2020
A poignant farewell letter from a Suffolk convict transported for his crimes in 1818 is expected to make up to £600 at auction with Cheffins.
The farewell letter of a convict transported from Suffolk in the early 19th century goes under the hammer this week in a fine art sale by East Anglian auctioneers Cheffins.
The framed farewell by John Tyler is illustrated with a ship, hearts and wreaths containing the appeal ‘Forget Me Not’ and ‘Forgive Me All’. An old label attached to it, and written in copperplate, confirms the letter as being from “John Tyler, transported from England, Suffolk, 1818”.
It’s unclear what John Tyler’s crime was but in the 18th and 19th centuries transportation was an alternative punishment to hanging. Prisons in Britain were overcrowded so convicted criminals were transported to the colonies to serve their prison sentences, usually between seven and 14 years.
It applied to more serious crimes including arson and highway robbery. Murderers, reprieved from hanging, were also transported. Others who were sent included rioters, advocates of Irish Home Rule or Trade Unionism and other political protesters. People who had been convicted for theft, particularly if it was a second offence, were also sentenced to transportation.
From 1787 to 1868, 165,000 convicts were transported from Britain to Australia. Once he arrived, if he was a hardened criminal John Tyler would most likely have been segregated and sent to a special prison. If he was a lesser criminal he would spent served his sentence acted as a servant to a settler or carried out hard labour as part of a gang, supervised by a military guard and convict overseer and locked up at night in a small wooden hut behind a stockade.
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In the same sale is a rural scene called ‘Horse with a hay cart’ attributed to artist Harry Becker (1865-1928). Dated June 21, 1913, it is likely to have been painted after Becker’s move to Wenhaston in 1912, where he settled for the remainder of his life. Also three paintings by Ipswich-born watercolourist Leonard Squirrell (1893-1979), ‘King’s College Chapel, Cambridge’, ‘The Great Court, Trinity College, Cambridge’ and ‘St John’s Gateway, Cambridge’.
Leonard Squirrell studied at Ipswich School of Art and then went on to the Slade School of Fine Art, where he studied under Henry Tonks and Philip Wilson Steer. He travelled to Italy and France, and produced etches of landscapes. At the International Print Makers Exhibitions in Los Angeles he won a silver medal in 1923, and gold medals in 1925 and 1930.
From 1929-1940 he taught etching at Ipswich School of Art. He lived in Ipswich for most of his life, and was a member of Ipswich Art Club from 1914 until his death.
Squirrell made few oil paintings, preferring watercolour and pastels. He produced railway posters, and images for many commercial companies.
Cheffins Fine Art Sale is July 29 and 30. www.cheffins.co.uk