Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

William Harrison Craig - Convict Artist

William Harrison Craig was baptised on 9th January 1788 at St. Ann's Manchester, Lancashire, son of Elizabeth and William Marshall Craig. His brother Edward Craig was baptised at the same church on 12 June 1789. [15]

William Marshall Craig

William Marshall Craig was an artist. He began exhibiting at the Royal Academy in 1788, and moved to London shortly afterwards. He began working as a miniature and portrait painter in 1791- 92 and also produced landscapes in watercolours. He became one of the most celebrated artists of his era. He was drawing master to Princess Charlotte of Wales, miniature painter to the Duke and Duchess of York, and painter in watercolours to Queen Charlotte.[1] He also excelled as a draughtsman on wood, and as a book illustrator; and he published in 1821 Lectures on Drawing, Painting, and Engraving [2]. His works 'Itinerant Traders' can be seen at Spitalfields Life and 'England expects every man to do his duty. Lord Nelson explaining to the Officers the Plan of Attack previous to the Battle of Trafalgar' at National Maritime Museum, London, Greenwich Hospital collection.

Both Edward Craig and William Harrison Craig were educated. The skills that William Harrison Craig learned from his father were later to afford him a chance at redeeming his unfortunate life.


William Harrison Craig was only twenty years of age when he married Honora Long Audsley, at St. Pancras Parish Chapel on 13 June 1807. One of the witnesses at the ceremony was his brother Edward Craig.[3] Honora Long Audsley was the eldest daughter of Peter and Ann Audsley and was born on 28th April 1785. She was Baptised at St. Marylebone, Westminster, Co. Middlesex. [4] Peter Audsley was probably an attorney-at-law.

Honora and William Harrison Craig's son Edward Augustus was born 11th June 1809 and baptised 23 January 1810 at St. Andrew's, Holborn.

Financial Difficulties

Honora's father Peter died c.1810 and without his support William and Honora were soon in financial difficulty. They turned to petty theft and fraud to cover their debts, however William was soon arrested.

The Bury and Norwich Post dated 29th August 1810 reported their crimes: -

A genteel young man, by the name of William Harrison Craig, was on Friday re-examined at Marlborough street office, on a charge of defrauding tradesmen of their goods, and robbing diverse lodgings of plate, linen etc., There were about 20 persons in the office, ready to exhibit charges against the prisoner, but two only were entered into. Mr. Ball, who resides at Kensington, let lodgings to the prisoner, and a woman whom he represented as his wife and a child. He slept there on the 22nd of July, but next morning he left the house, and it was found that the sheets, some silver tea spoons, and a pair of silver tongs, had been taken away. The prisoner said his name was Kennion, a merchant in Finsbury square. The other charge was Mr. Ryder, and was similar to the former - the prisoner having slept one night in the house, and decamped with the plate and light moveables in the morning. About a dozen tailors had furnished the prisoner with clothes; and he paid one of them, Mr. Forbes in Oxford Street, a draft signed Yarmouth; but on presenting it at the bankers in the City, it was found worthless. [5]


William was probably thrown into Newgate prison. He was taken for trial at the Old Bailey on 19th September 1810 and charged with stealing articles from the lodging house of Hannah Ball. His occupation was recorded as tea merchant. He presented an articulate and desperate defence in which some of the previous few months of his life were explained.......

....... Gentlemen of the jury, It is my humble hope and trust, knowing that I am come before a jury of my countrymen, to offer these few observations; although they may appear foreign to the charge, yet they are inseparably connected with the groundwork of my conduct. Gentlemen, I am unfortunately deserted and persecuted, and the persons I mean to allude to are the appointed guardians to my wife and family. In their views they are fulfilling the voice of a dying parent, in persecuting the children.

My brother was sent on board a ship at the Nore. I am the husband of the eldest child. I have been insulted by them in the grossest manner, and by them treated with indignation; our quarterly salary was diminished; not having it in my power to have redress from the law, I threatened them with manual punishment. I was plunged into a prison fourteen weeks by their power. I began to think I was to be sent after my unfortunate brother, and the only thing left for me to do, they told me, was by signing a certain deed to our disadvantage. I refused to do it, and at the same time I got bail; I absconded, and was a prey to the greatest distress. This was my fatal epoch; I was unable to appear in public, I was friendless and deserted; my infant son and dying wife made me do acts of the greatest dishonour; nothing but the most imperious necessity prompted me to act as I have done. I have a letter from the honourable Mr. Wilberforce, Member of Parliament, I beg leave to forward it to your Lordship, that you may be satisfied.


Despite his plea and his letter from Mr. Wilberforce, he was found guilty of the crimes and sentenced to seven years transportation beyond the seas. He mentions his dying wife Honora and child Edward Augustus in his plea to the Judge. No further trace can be found of Honora to date, however Edward survived and on 12 April 1830 married Mary Court at St. Mary's Islington, Co. Middlesex. He died in 1861.

Three months later in December 1810 Honora's younger sister Anne married Mr. Beaver, an attorney-at-law of Wakefield. [6] William Craig at this time was incarcerated in Newgate Prison. He remained there for the next six months until 19th March 1811 when he was transferred to the Retribution Hulk moored at Woolwich. [7]

James Hardy Vaux was incarcerated in the Retribution Hulk just twelve months before William Craig was sent there. Hardy Vaux gave an account of first entering the Hulk in his Memoirs....

At four o'clock in the morning, myself and eleven others were conveyed by water on board the Retribution hulk at Woolwich. I had now a new scene of misery to contemplate; and, of all the shocking scenes I had ever beheld, this was the most distressing. There were confined in this floating dungeon nearly six hundred men, most of them double-ironed; and the reader may conceive the horrible effects arising from the continual rattling of chains, the filth and vermin naturally produced by such a crowd of miserable inhabitants, the oaths and execrations constantly heard among them; and above all, from the shocking necessity of associating and communicating more or less with so depraved a set of beings. On arriving on board, we were all immediately stripped, and washed in large tubs of water, then, after putting on each a suit of coarse slop clothing, we were ironed and sent below, our own clothes being taken from us, and detained till we could seel or otherwise dispose of them, as no person is exempted from the obligation to wear the ship dress. On descending the hatchway no conception can be formed of the scene which presented itself. I shall not attempt to describe it; but nothing short of a descent to the infernal regions can be at all worthy of a comparison with it.


James Hardy Vaux was an old hand, having been transported before. Imagine the horror for a gently reared young man such as William Craig. He remained on the Retribution for five months before being transferred to the convict ship Guildford on 14th August 1811.

The Guildford, Captain Magnus Johnson, departed England on 3rd September 1811 with 200 male prisoners and arrived in Port Jackson on 18th January 1812. Just one month later a letter addressed to William was received into the Post Office at Sydney. It is not known how William Craig was employed on arrival in the colony, however it was not long before he was in trouble again.


In August 1812 he was convicted of forgery and sentenced to 50 lashes in the public market place (Sydney) and then to be sent to Newcastle for seven years hard labour. In September he was put on board the Estramina to make the sixty mile voyage up the coast to Newcastle. Other convicts on this little vessel included John Jones, J. F. Moody, Angelo Parcello and William Farrell. Their time at Newcastle may have been spent in the Coal mines, the Limeburners gang or on one of the cedar getting parties. Angelo Parcello had been one of the many men incarcerated on the Retribution Hulk at the same time as William Craig.[8]

Thomas Skottowe of the 73rd regiment was Commandant at Newcastle settlement in 1811 - 1814. He had an interest in natural history and during his time at Newcastle he compiled a record of the birds, animals, insects, reptiles and fish of the region. Artist Richard Browne a prisoner who arrived on the Providence in 1811, was convicted of a second crime and sent to Newcastle. Skottowe was able to use Browne's artistic talent to illustrate his manuscript.

Richard Browne was fortunate to be employed in this as the penal settlement at Newcastle was notoriously severe. William Craig's experience was very different. The only clothes he had were probably those he arrived in as no further issue was given to the prisoners of the Guildford. The weather in September may still have been cool and food and medical supplies at the settlement were scarce. He soon attempted an escape but was captured in November (1812) along with Garret Armstrong a former soldier of the N.S.W. Corps who had transgressed the law on many occasions. They were sentenced to 25 lashes and sent back to work. [10]

William Craig remained in the settlement for another eleven months before he attempted to escape again in September 1813. This time he took with him a false certificate bearing the name of Farley or Turley. William Lansden also escaped at this time. [11] It is not known how long they remained on the run however William was apprehended and in March 1814 was sentenced to serve the remainder of his sentence in Van Diemen's Land.

Van Diemen's Land

He proceeded there on the Active. Originally 14 men were to be transported on the Active, however as there were fears that they would make themselves troublesome on so small a vessel, only seven were sent on this day. .....John Jones, James Canon, Edward Edwards, Patrick Riley, Thomas Chester, Edward Hinds and William Harrison Craig [12]

The story is told that in August 1814, while on the way to Hobart Town from Launceston under guard, Craig and three other prisoners were 'rescued' by the infamous Michael Howe and his gang of bushrangers. When he realised that the bushrangers planned revenge on the military escorts, Craig liberated the soldiers and accompanied them to Hobart. He was rewarded by allowing him to paint and providing him with paper and drawing materials. [14] Edward Edwards mentioned above, who accompanied Craig on the Active was a former associate of James Hardy Vaux and later became part of Michael Howe's bushranging gang.


In 1816, nearing the end of his sentence, William Craig wrote to Governor Macquarie offering to paint views of Hobart and Launceston -

It is my anxious wish previous to my returning Home to present His Excellency with some small memento of my Gratitude for the kind forbearance that has been shown to me at a time when my conduct was marked with illegal steps. I therefore wish to have the permission of His Excellency to make two views of the settlements on Van Diemen's Land that is Hobart Town and Launceston and that on my completing the same, I may also be allowed an opportunity of coming to Sydney for the purpose of presenting the same. About ten months ago I had the honor to make some views of these settlements for the Lieut-Governor, some of which I believe he forwarded to His Excellency at Sydney, but they were on a small scale, and not sufficiently calculated to employ those abilities which I anxiously wish to display. Should this proposal meet the approbation of the governor in Chief, who I trust will grant me an opportunity of displaying my talents , I have to beg, Sir, that you will represent to the Lieut-Governor of Van Diemen's Land the sanction I have to make such drawings and requesting him to furnish me with such assistance as may be necessary to complete the same. [13]

Perhaps Governor Macquarie did not sanction this request. The sketch noted below is one of the earlier sketches and has the date 1815. It is dedicated to Governor Davey, not Governor Macquarie -

Table Mountain VDL - William Harrison Craig. State Library NSW

Table Mountain, and part of the Harbour and Town of Hobart in Van Diemen's Land / W.H. Craig...This sketch of the Table Mountain and part of the Harbour and Town of Hobart in Van Diemen's Land, is humbly dedicated to His Honor Lieutenant Governor Davey, and the officers and gentlemen of that settlement, by their most obedient and devoted servant W. H. Craig' below the sketch. On mount below sketch is 1815. .....State Library of NSW

Departure from the Colony

The Hobart Town Gazette reported on 25 October 1817 that William Harrison Craig was planning to proceed to India via Port Jackson. No further record of him has been found to date.

Convict Artists and Engravers

Joseph Backler arrived on the Portland in 1832

Thomas Bock arrived on the Asia in 1824

Richard Browne arrived on the Providence in 1811

Knud Bull. (to VDL)C.H.

Theodore Constantini arrived on the Ocean in 1823

William Paul Dowling (VDL)

John Eyre arrived on the Canada in 1801

Francis Fowkes arrived on the Alexander in 1788

William Buelow Gould (VDL)

William John Lancashire arrived on the Barwell in 1798

Joseph Lycett arrived on the General Hewitt in 1814

George Edward Peacock arrived on the Prince George in 1837

Walter Preston arrived on the Guildford in 1812 (engraver)

Charles Rodius arrived on the Sarah in 1829

Richard Read senior arrived on the Earl Spencer in 1807

Thomas Griffith Wainewright

Philip Sleagar arrived on the Duke of Portland in 1807 (engraver)

Frederick Strange (VDL)

Thomas Watling arrived on the Royal Admiral in 1792


[1] National Portrait Gallery

[2] Wikipedia

[3] London Metropolitan Archives, Saint Pancras Parish Church, Register of marriages, P90/PAN1, Item 056. (Ancestry)

[4] London Metropolitan Archives, Saint Marylebone, Day book of baptisms, Jan 1779 - Nov 1786, P89/MRY1, Item 080.(Ancestry)

[5] The Bury and Norwich Post. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II. 29 August 1810

[6] The York Herald, York, England), Saturday, December 15, 1810; Issue 1059. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II.

[7] Home Office: Convict Prison Hulks: Registers and Letter Books; Class: HO9; Piece: 7. (Ancestry)

[8] Sydney Gazette 1812 29 August

[9] Colonial Secretary's Papers. Series: (NRS 936) Copies of letters sent to Newcastle, 1810-1813 Item:4/3492 Page 159 22 September 1812

[10] Colonial Secretary's Papers. Monthly return of Corporal Punishments

[11] Newcastle Colonial Secretary';s Papers Series: (NRS 935) Copies of letters sent: local and overseas, 1809-1813 Item: 4/3491 Page: 540, 4 September 1813

[12] Colonial Secretary's Papers. Series: (NRS 937) Copies of letters sent within the Colony, 1814-1825 Item: 4/3493 Page: 82, 9th March 1814

[13] State Records of New South Wales. Main series of letters received, 1788-1825. Series 897, Reels 6041-6064, 6071-6072 (Ancestry), 10 July 1816

[14] Dictionary of Australian Artists Online (Jocelyn Hackforth-Jones.)