Thursday, 13 March 2014

13th March 1814: The death of the prisoner John Baines the younger

A detail from 'Portsmouth Harbour with Prison Hulks' by Louis Garneray, c.1820. The Halifax prisoners were held in ships similar to these at the adjoining harbour at Langstone, immediately to the east of Portsmouth
On Sunday 13th March 1814, John Baines the younger, one of the five men from Halifax found guilty at the York Special Commission of being involved in administering illegal oaths, died on board a prison hulk in Langstone harbour, near Portsmouth.

Baines was the second man to die of the 7 prisoners sentenced to transportation at the York Special Commission. Only 6 weeks after they were sentenced, another of the convicted men, John Lumb, had been run over by a cart which killed him.

Little is known about the cause of Baines death & how he died. The only record is amongst a list of prisoners held on the HMS Portland, where his fate is recorded. Baines would have been around 35 years of age, and his elderly father, also called John (and who was by then about 67), was still alive aboard the same hulk, as were the other prisoners from Halifax. At this stage, none of them had been transported abroad, as per their sentence.

Conditions aboard these prison ships were notoriously poor, to the extent that even those in reasonable health stood a good chance of falling ill from disease. Baines' sentence at York had essentially been a death sentence, only a cruel, slow and lingering one.

The Prison Hulk register is at HO 9/8.

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