Murder of the Game Keeper-Herbert
The Murder of John Dunkley, the Marquis of Northampton’s Gamekeeper
Joseph Bedford, William Downing, James Underwood (Born 1820 Brick layer)
In Newhay Copse, Yardley Chase in the Parish of Yardley Hastings
The Trial was held before Lord Abinger at Northampton Assizes 6th March 1841
John Dunkley was a game keeper employed by the Marquis of Northampton. The accused lived in Yardley Hastings. Joseph Longland a resident was drinking in the Rose and Crown with these men and was pestered by Underwood to lend him a gun as they were intending to go off on a spree that night. A witness saw Downing with a gun on the day in company of the others. They were met by George whitely in Lets Close about a mile from Newhay Copse. He subsequently heard shots from the direction of the Copse. Later that day Mr. Longstaff, the Marquis head game keeper was contacted by Dunkley’s wife to say he was missing. He went, on the direction of lord Northampton to search in the woods where they found blood, Dunkley’s Gun and subsequently his body. Suspicion fell on the accused and they were rounded up in Yardley Hastings and there they and their homes were searched. Bedford’s back was found to have gunshot wounds.
Theír testimony in court can be found in the transcript of the trial on the Yardley Hastings Heritage Society Website http://mkheritage.co.uk/yhhs/visitorPages/docsDetail.php?itemID=31 along with the newspaper report of the day and sundry related documents. ( please explore the website further for further documents and photographs – the website is in continuous development and more are being added continually)
They were found guilty of murder and sentenced to be deported for life. They were deported on the Ship the Tortoise to Van Diemans Land ( Tasmania ) in 1841. see ships manifest www.convictrecords.com.au/ships/tortoise
The Rose and Crown pub In Yardley Hastings where the accused were overheard discussing their intentions.
The ship in which they were deported
Commisioned 1805 – Break Up 18 October 1859
HMS Tortoise began life in 1805 as a stores ship for the East India Company and was originally named Sir Edward Hughes. The ship undertook eight voyages before being presented to the Admiralty in 1806. On the 20th July 1807 a notation was made in St.Helena’s records: Governor Patton embarked yesterday for England in H.M.S. Sir Edward Hughes. The ship was made of Teak, had a gross tonnage of 962, a keel of 118 feet and beam of 39 feet. In 1809 the vessel was renamed Tortoise and saw service in the Mediterranean in 1812 and at Gibraltar in 1813, commanded by T. Cook. The Tortoise served at St. Helena in 1817 during Napoleon’s exile there, commanded by William Finlaison. He was also the Commander of Ascension Island, with First Lieutenant Simon Fraser of the Royal Marines as Acting Adjutant. From 1820 to 1838 the Tortoise was back in English waters, first in Plymouth and then at Milford. During November 1824 it became a coal hulk and in August 1841 a store hulk.
In September 1841 the Tortoise sailed from Spithead, Portsmouth, Captain James Wood commanding, and departed Plymouth on October 26th with 394 male prisoners from varying hulks and prisons. The guard was commanded by Major Cumberland, aided by two officers, one Staff Officer and 99 Regulars of Foot of the 96th Regiment, and families. The tonnage is now stated as 1000 tons and the ship is mounted with 2 guns.
On February 19th 1842 the Tortoise arrived in Hobart Town, Van Diemen’s Land. The Surgeon was Thomas Brownrigg. In his report on March 5 he refers to the fact that statistically when it is considered that the Ship left England with 651 Souls on board, & that some of the Convicts, & all the Soldiers, Women & Children were 27 weeks on board – the mortality must certainly be considered as low.
Mr. Brownrigg then recommended that a better system of air ventilating pumps be set up below decks for passengers and convicts. He concluded his report with: 35 of the soldiers were entered on Sick-list, several with Pneumonia & Inflammatory complaints, & some of the Women were ill with Dysentry (sic), but none of either have died. Five women were delivered of Children on board during the voyage, the last one still born in consequence of a breach presentation. Three deaths occurred during the passage, all convicts. On our arrival here we had rather a large number affected with Spongy gums, and other symptoms of Scurvy, but not one confined to bed with that complaint, & most of the cases so slight as not to require any treatment. The authorities here consider the Prisoners to have been landed in an unusually health [condition].
From 1845 the Tortoise, commanded by Captain Morrell, served as a stores ship at Ascension Island. During this time the Captain acted as Governor of the Island, and marriages were performed on the ship between 1855 and 1859. (1847 – Captain Frederick Hutton, 1855 – Captain G. A. Seymour, 1857 – Captain J Elliott). In 1850 it was said that Edward Hodges Cree was on HMS Fury whilst it was in the waters off Ascension Island. He is supposed to have made a panoramic painting of the Island and the Tortoise, which was anchored offshore. (The painting was copied by his grandson and given to the Ascension Island Museum in 1967).
The order came on October 18th 1859 to break up the ship. The wreckage is believed to be close to the remains of the ship Soudan off North Point, Ascension island, at 07 53 25S, 14 22 44w.
The row of cottages built in c1800 by the estate that were given the unfortunate name of Melbourne Terrace as they were thought to be associated with the accused (then changed to Longland’s Row and now known as Sunny View)
A modern view of an area of Yardley Chase in the vicinity of where the crime was committed
The research of what happened to these three men after they were deported continues