PC Mark Blood sentenced to 7 years transportation in 1842 after stealing from a fellow officer
Mark Blood was one of the early constables recruited by the Birmingham Borough Police following its creation in 1839. On November 23rd 1841 he was appointed as a constable and given warrant number 1156.
On December 27th 1841 the Commissioner dismissed PC Mark Blood for having in his possession articles belonging to a fellow officer who he shared a room with in the station house on Staniforth Street. These items being a worsted comforter and a shirt. As well as being dismissed, criminal charged were made against the officer.
On January 10th 1842 it was stated in Police Orders that the Birmingham Recorder had passed a severe sentence of 7 years transportation on former constable Mark Blood, meaning he was to be sent overseas to serve his sentence. After being found guilty, he was sent to a prison hulk to await his fate.
Prison hulks were large ships (including many former Royal Navy ships) that had been converted to be permanently docked to hold prisoners during the 18th and 19th Centuries.
Records from the prison hulk register indicate Mark was married and could not read or write. His former profession was recorded as bricklayer (maybe it would have caused controversy amongst his fellow inmates to reveal his most recent profession?). He was shown as being held on Prison Hulk HMS York in Gosport docks, Portsmouth, in February 1842 until he was transported to Bermuda 13 April 1842. These ships were notoriously overcrowded with between 200 to 300 prisoners on board, and rife with disease as there was no way to separate sick and healthy prisoners. Approximately one in three inmates died on board and the individual recorded on one of the registers underneath Mark (Thomas Smith – aged approximately 55) is shown as having died.
Once in Bermuda, Mark was transferred onto the Coromandel hulk ship (formerly HMS Malabar). Bermuda was not a prison colony, like those established in Australia and previously in North America, but fit and healthy convicts were sent there to provide an essential workforce to build the Royal Navy Docks. Prisoners were compelled to return to the UK upon completion of their sentence, or could opt to go to Australia for a reduced sentence. Many however, simply wanted to return home to their lives and families.
In 1843 Mark was recorded as having been admitted to the Royal Navy medical ship for treatment for Synoculus. The whole register is full of convicts with the same complaint. There was an epidemic of Yellow fever in Bermuda this year.
Many of the muster registers from Marks time in Bermuda say his behaviour was good. Maybe this is why he had an early pardon on 25th September 1846. The adjacent record lists several of the convicts and on Her Majesty's Command, states how the authorities 'extend our grace and mercy unto them and grant them a free pardon for the crimes they have committed'. Mark was sent home on June 20th 1846 but it is unclear what happened to him, did he successfully make the dangerous voyage home or did he die on route? What became of the wife he left behind and were they ever reunited? We would love to hear from any descendants of Mark or anyone who can find out what became of him.
With thanks to West Midlands Police Museum volunteer Helen Cippico for research.
For further information and tales of prisoners from the prison hulks, see: