Whistler Family

    Scenes from Basingstoke and the Area

Journey from Old Basing to Tasmania

Edward Whistler, a butcher of Old Basing, departed this world in 1817. He was survived by a son Edward Whistler and three married daughters: Ruth, the wife of James Bannister (or Banister, also known as Burniston), a carpenter of Old Basing; Harriet, the wife of Joseph Harris, a carpenter of Old Basing; and Mercy, the wife of John Godden, a labourer of Sherfield, Hampshire (1).

Edward’s son and namesake, who took over the family business, was listed as a butcher of Old Basing in the 1844 Pigot’s Commercial Directory for the Basingstoke area. A view of the community of Old Basing was given in a property survey of 1841 in which Lord Bolton was recorded as the main landowner. Edward Whistler, like many Old Basing residents, was a tenant of Lord Bolton (2).

The 1851 census for Old Basing found Edward Whistler, aged 71, unmarried, still working as a village butcher on Basing Street (3). Edward Whistler, aged 78, was buried at the parish church of Old Basing on 20 October 1858.

Catherine (Kitty) Bannister

Catherine, a grand-daughter of Edward Whistler senior, was the second oldest of the nine children of James and Ruth Bannister (4). In the industrial revolution, employment opportunities in domestic service and other trades attracted young women to move to London. While still a teenager Catherine left village Hampshire for the lure of work in London.

Possibly, on her arrival in the metropolis, Catherine was welcomed by one of her cousins. Her mother’s cousin Ann Whistler, who was born in Basingstoke, married John Luker on 14 January 1821 at St Andrew Holborn, London. On 4 August 1823 Ann Luker was a witness at the wedding of her sister, Harriot Whistler, to John Gillam at St Ann Blackfriars, London. In 1828 John Luker was a labourer living at Lambeth Hill, City of London (5).

Catherine’s story is reminiscent of the London scenes portrayed in the writings of Charles Dickens. On 5 April 1827 Catherine Bannister was convicted of theft and deported to Australia.

Her trial was held at the Old Bailey, London’s central criminal court. The trial details record that she was indicted for stealing ‘1 brooch, value 16s, and 1 frill, value 2s’, from Mary Ann Hebert, the wife of Peter Hebert who was a tailor in Broad Street, Bloomsbury (6). At the trial, Mary Ann Hebert testified that, on the evening of 5 March, she was returning from a ‘public-house at the corner of Plumbtree-street’ when she was approached by a person who ‘tore my frill off my neck, which had a gold brooch in it ...; the brooch was found in the passage of the watch-house’. Catherine’s defence was that she was an innocent bystander to the robbery and that another girl was responsible for the theft. In response, Mary Ann Hebert agreed that another girl was at the scene of the crime but she insisted that ‘it was the prisoner who looked so hard at me’. On this evidence, Catherine was found guilty.

Many of the females convicted in London and transported to Australia were migrants from outside London and first offenders (7). It has also been noted that, in the convict settlements, the men considerably outnumbered the women, and, in efforts to correct this imbalance, women ‘who seemed healthy and relatively young were shipped off, whatever their crime or length of sentence’ (8).

In the early nineteenth century, few defendants could afford legal representation at Old Bailey trials and, once in Australia, even if there was a compelling suggestion of innocence, there was likely little hope of a pardon (9). Following an Old Bailey trial, prisoners were led off to Newgate prison where they were confined in yards for transportees. From here they were taken to Blackfriars and rowed down the River Thames for embarkation on the transport ships (10).

Catherine was transported on the Sovereign, departing from the London docks on 14 July 1827 and arriving in Hobart, Van Diemen’s Land (renamed to Tasmania in 1856), on 20 November 1827 – a journey of 129 days (11).

A document with a record of the 81 Female Convicts embarked on board the Ship Sovereign for Van Diemen’s Land gave details for Catherine Bannister as: (12)

Age 19
Crime Stealing from person
Where taken Old Bailey, April 1827    
Convict sentence Life
Married or Single     Single
Character Prostitute

It should be noted that the label of ‘prostitute’ was assigned arbitrarily to young working women. Deborah Oxley, in Convict Maids, states: ‘Many women were labelled whores, not because they were such in any literal sense, but because the term had been appropriated as a reproach to be levelled at women who erred in any one of a variety of ways’ (13).

Catherine married James Jackson in Hobart on 17 June 1829. They had three sons (William James, Frederick Henry, Benjamin Henry) and three daughters (Anne Mary, Ruth Jane and Rachel Jane). She married her second husband, William Dann, in 1847, and they had two sons and a daughter. Catherine received her Ticket of Leave on 19 February 1836 and a Conditional Pardon was applied for on 20 September 1837 and approved on 31 January 1840 (14).

The Conditional Pardon gave the information that Catherine Bannister was given a life sentence on 5 April 1827 and was subsequently transported to Australia on the Sovereign. This is shown in the header of the document:

Bannister Catherine
Sovereign   1827
Middlesex   5 April 1827   =   Life

A transcript of the Conditional Pardon is: (15).

    Transported for stealing from the person.
    Gaol report a Prostitute Single State.
    This offence stealing a Brooch, from the person, behaved very bad on board.
Nov 24, 1827 Reported acts of disobedience of orders with violent and [disruptive] conduct on board the Sovereign on the passage out to [Van Diemen’s] Land in defiance of the repeated warnings of the Surgeon Superintendent – to be confined in a cell 14 days of Bread & Water, to have her hair cut off and removed to the Factory at George Town there to be kept at hard labour for 12 months from the date of her arrival.
May 30, 1828 Factory / Creating a disturbance & fighting in the factory yesterday morning – to be confined in a cell 48 hours.
Dec 17, 1829 [Wife of] Jackson / Felony. Fully committed for trial.
Oct 21, 1830 Wife of Jackson / Being disorderly yesterday.
April 19, 1831       [Wife of] Jackson. Out after hours last night at a Public House – to be returned to the service of the Crown and recommended to be assigned to the Interior.
May 31, 1831 McKenzie / Being illegally at large from the 27th to the 30th instant.
6 months Crime Class House of Correction.
May 9, 1834 [Wife of] Jackson / Out after hours, Reported.
Conditional Pardon No: 1446 – 20 September 1837

An analysis of convict records from Van Diemen’s Land has found that, on average, women were punished about five times each during their sentences (16). So Catherine’s record seems typical of this.

Acknowledgements: Many thanks for the helpful e-mail correspondence from Dorothy Morrissey and Robbie (Robyn) MacKenzie, both descendants of James Bannister and Ruth Whistler.

Selected References

Deborah Oxley, Convict Maids – The Forced Migration of Women to Australia, Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Donald Rumbelow, The Triple Tree: Newgate, Tyburn and Old Bailey, London, 1982.

Christopher Sweeney, Transported: In Place of Death – Convicts in Australia, Macmillan, 1981.


    HRO – Hampshire Record Office, Winchester.

(1) Edward Whistler, aged 72, was buried at Old Basing on 26 June 1817. His will, proved in the Archdeaconry Court of Winchester (HRO), described his family. He was predeceased by his wife Ann who died aged 66 and was buried at the parish church of Old Basing on 6 November 1814. Their marriage was recorded in the Old Basing parish register: ‘Banns of Marriage between Edward Whisler of the Parish of Basingstoke and Ann Hale of this Parish were published in this Church on three several Sundays [as follows] May the 3rd, 10th and the 17th 1772. Edward Whisler and Ann Hale were married in this Church by Banns May 26th 1772’ (photocopy from Old Basing marriage register ordered from the HRO).
Baptisms in Old Basing (FamilySearch Historical Records online) for children of Edward and Ann Whistler were:
        Hariot Whistler (1 January 1775),
        Henry Whistler (17 February 1777),
        Mercy Whistler (27 March 1778) and
        Edward Whistler (14 March 1780).
Henry Whistler was buried at Old Basing on 30 November 1791.
Marriages in the parish of Old Basing from the Phillimores Hampshire marriage registers Vol. 3 were:
      21 Mar 1799   John Godden and Mercy Whistler
      28 Aug 1806   James Banister (or Burniston) and Ruth Whistler

(2) Historical Directories, University of Leicester Special Collections Online;
transcribed copy of the Old Basing Tithe Apportionment 1841 prepared by Gerry Dutton at the website: North Hampshire Tithe Map Project .

(3) 1851 census reference: HO107/1681, folio 110, p. 15.

(4) Biography of Catherine Bannister by John Godfrey, Jackson Family Notes webpage.
Hannah Bannister, a sister of Catherine, married William Gilley, and they had eight children (information kindly provided by Dorothy Morrissey).

(5) Family history was given in Whistler v Basingstoke Canal, 1828, The National Archives, Reference: C 13/911/16.

(6) Website: Old Bailey Proceedings Online , April 1827, Trial of Catherine Bannister (Ref: t18270405-104).
Broad Street was the former name for the western end of High Holborn as it approaches High Street St Giles. This area of London was well known to Charles Dickens.

(7) Deborah Oxley, pp. 90–3.

(8) Christopher Sweeney, p. 136.

(9) Christopher Sweeney, pp. 17, 26 & 57.

(10) Christopher Sweeney, pp. 31 & 37; Donald Rumbelow, pp. 115 & 136.

(11) Charles Bateson, The Convict Ships, 1787–1868, Second Edition, 1969, pp. 358–9 & 385. An excellent history of the convict ships is the website: Convicts to Australia – A Guide to Researching Your Convict Ancestors .

(12) The document was kindly provided by Robbie (Robyn) MacKenzie.

(13) Deborah Oxley, p. 225. Also, see p. 7 and pp. 217–9.

(14) John Godfrey, Jackson Family Notes webpage.
The webpage: Convicts to Australia explains: ‘A Ticket of Leave (TOL) was a document given to convicts when granting them freedom to work and live within a given district of the colony before their sentence expired or they were pardoned.’
‘Conditional Pardons (CP) freed convicts and were granted on the condition that convicts did not return to England or Ireland. Original copies of the pardons were sent to England and duplicates remained in Australia.’

(15) The transcript was kindly provided by Robbie MacKenzie.

(16) Christopher Sweeney, p. 137.

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Revision date: September 2010