Yeovil People

The Farley Family

Including 16-year old William, transported for life for stealing a sheep


Anthony Farley was born around 1700, probably in Yeovil and probably the son of either Lionel, Thomas or William Farley (since he named his second-born Lionel I'm guessing that's a clue). Anthony married Hannah Chant on 15 July 1728 at St John's church. They were to have at least five children, all born in Yeovil; Anthony (b1729), Lionel (1731-1806), Bettey (b1832), William (b1735) and another William (b1837). The deaths of three of his children are recorded in the parish register simply as "Anthony Farley's child", these were in April 1730 (probably Anthony), September 1733 (probably Bettey) and in November 1736 (probably the first William). Anthony Farley died in Yeovil in 1775 and was buried in St John's churchyard on 29 October 1775.

Lionel Farley was the second son of Anthony and Hannah. He was born in Yeovil in 1731 and was baptised at St John's church on 15 September 1731. In 1758, at St John's church, Lionel married Grace Glyde. They were to have eight children, all born in Yeovil; Sarah (b1759), Lionel (b1761), Mariah (b1765), Samuel (b1767), Charles (1770-1797), Grace (b1772), James (1774-1822) and Francis (b1776).

Lionel was recorded in the Woborn Muniments of 1784 as a 'Plaisterer & Tyler'. A vellum indenture in my collection is a "lease for a year of a messuage or tenement burgage and Inn called The Sun situate in the parish of Yeovil in the County of Somerset dated 23 December 1840." On this lease, the first (of a long list) of named occupants of The Sun was Lionel Farley. The Sun Inn was located in Grope Lane (today's Wine Street) and was an alehouse that was certainly extant in 1695. Lionel Farley died in Yeovil and was buried in St John's churchyard on 20 July 1806.

James Farley was the seventh of the eight children of Lionel and Grace. He was baptised at St John's church on 12 May 1774. He married Grace Robbins on 9 April 1803 at St John's church and, unusually for this period, both were able to sign their names indicating a degree of education. James and Grace were to have four children, all born in Yeovil; Sarah (b1804), Maria (b1805), Mary (b 1807) and Charles (b1809).

Of their children - Sarah married Thomas Batty (1803-1833) in Yeovil in 1827 and had four daughters; Hannah (1828-1828), Tryphena (1829-1888), Selina (1831-1911) and Emily (1833-1904). Maria married Charles Dade (1805-1879) at St John's church in 1825. Mary married Caleb Brooks (1809-1892) at St John's in 1836 and had six sons; Charles (1839-1876), William Caleb (1841-1921), Caleb (b1842), Thomas (1845-1926), James Farley (1848-1924) and Bryant (b1850).

In September 1812 Grace Farley died, leaving James to raise four children all under the age of nine. Within a couple of years James had married again - his second wife was Elizabeth (b1777) but, since their marriage is not recorded in St John's parish registers, she probably come from one of the surrounding villages and they married there.

James and Elizabeth had two children - William and Elizabeth - both being baptised on the same day 19 March 1815. There are two possible explanations; either William and Elizabeth were twins or, more likely from later sources (see below), William had been born a couple of years earlier but had never been baptised. Interesting information from their entry of baptisms in St John's parish register (see Gallery) are that their father James was a glove cutter and the family lived at "Rodden Row". This is actually a mis-spelling of Rotten Row which, at the time, was the colloquial name for Rackleford (today's Market Street). It is most likely that Elizabeth suffered during the birth in March since within eleven weeks she had died. She was buried in St John's churchyard on 3 June 1815. Elizabeth was aged just 38 and James was left with six children under the age of twelve to bring up.

On 28 June 1820 at St John's church James married his third wife, Charlotte Manning of Yeovil. They were to have two daughters; Harriett (b1821) and Charlotte (1822-1822). From Harriett's entry of baptism we know that the family were still living in Reckleford and James was still employed as a glove cutter. Baby Charlotte died in February 1822 aged just seven months and was buried on 19 February. Sadly just six weeks later James Farley died and was buried in St John's churchyard on 11 April 1822, aged 48. After just 21 months of marriage Charlotte was left a widow to raise James' surviving children.

To return to James and Elizabeth's son William Farley. He was baptised in St John's church on 19 March 1815 but he was probably a couple of years old at the time since he was aged 16 in 1829 when he served a month in the County Gaol at Ilchester and received a whipping "Charged on his own confession of stealing a quantity of Skins of Benedict Edward." He was held in Ilchester Gaol (see Gallery) from 4 April 1829 and released "By Expiration of sentence 27 May 1829". The Gaol's Description Book recorded a physical description of William Farley (see Gallery) which reads - age 16, height 5' 1½", build Slight, complexion Fair, face Long, hair Sandy, eyes L(ight) hazle, large cut on the right leg, Born Yeovil, Occupation Leather Dresser, Place of abode Yeovil, Marital status Single.

Within a couple of months of his release William was in trouble again - this time for stealing a ewe sheep the property of John Toop of Sherborne, with an accomplice William Trenchard. They were both sent to Dorchester Gaol on 19 September 1829 to await trial at the Dorchester Assizes (the offence having taken place in Dorset). At this time 16-year old William gave his occupation as a brick maker. On 12 March 1830 both William Farley and William Trenchard were tried at Dorchester. Both were found guilty and sentenced to death although the sentence was later commuted to transportation for life. They were returned to Dorchester Gaol to await transportation, being finally moved from Dorchester on 3 May 1830 to board HMS Burrell. They sailed from Plymouth en route to New South Wales, Australia, arriving in Sydney Cove after a long and arduous sea journey.

On arrival William was imprisoned in Berrima Gaol which had been recently built over a period of five years with much work done by convicts in irons. Conditions at the gaol were harsh and prisoners spent most of their days in cells with the only light entering through a small grate set in the door. He was later indentured to surveyor and explorer Captain Charles Tyers and worked as a cart driver for Tyers as he surveyed Gippsland (a region in southeastern Australia, extending from Melbourne's eastern suburbs to the New South Wales border). After seventeen years William received a conditional pardon on 19 February 1847 - the condition being that he remain in Australia for the rest of his life and not return to England.

On 6 January 1852 William (seen at left in later life) married Mary Ann Maxella or McSellez (1836-1904) at Bruthen Creek (now North Woodside, Victoria). Mary was the daughter of East Indies missionaries and had been sent to Australia for her own safety. Their children were James (1852-1924), William (1853-1925), Michael (1854-1932), Charles (1858-1925), Ada Maria (1861-1927), unknown, Robert (1864-1930), Mary Ann (1867-1942), Elizabeth (1871-1945) and Jane (1873-1941).

However not all went well in the marriage as witnessed by this advertisement placed in the 18 November 1859 edition of the Gippsland Guardian "Caution to the Public. As my wife, Mary Ann Farley, has left her home and her children of her own free will, and as I have been robbed by her and her paramour, with whom she is at present, John Hill, a man well known in this locality. I hereby caution the public, and especially those in this vicinity, against harbouring her; neither will I be responsible for any debts that she may incur. Signed this 6th day of November, in the year of our Lord 1859. William Farley, Merton Rush, Moe River, Gipps Land." As the dates of their children's births indicate, Mary clearly returned to William.

William gradually prospered and at one time owned Merton Rush station. This was one of four 'squatting stations' established in 1846 as a cattle run by white squatters at Morwell, Victoria. Merton Rush was the largest of the four stations, covering an area of some 40 square miles. He also later ran a hotel although it appears that drink brought him to penury and he ended his days as a labourer.

William and Mary's life together had further turmoil as reported in the Gippsland Times " A tragi-comic occurrence took place at Rosedale on Christmas Eve. During the evening the officer in charge of the police station perceived a large fire at the western end of the township. Hurriedly proceeding there he found the hut of a well-known resident in Gipps Land, William Farley - formerly known as Commissioner's Bob - in a blaze, the proprietor coolly standing with his back to the fire, and his hands behind him, enjoying the warmth, his wife and children, in a state of puris naturalibus (that is, completely naked), being located in a water-hole a few yards off. O'Connor, the officer, asked Farley who had caused the fire, and he replied that he had lit it himself for his own convenience. The man evidently being mad was taken into custody and removed to the police station, the time-honoured bullock chain and staple having to do duty for a lock-up. He was bailed out on Christmas morning, to appear on the 31st. Farley was at one time well-to-do in Gipps Land, but the too ardent love of spirituous stimulants had brought him and his family into a state of destitution."

William Farley died on 28 August 1875 at Gippsland. His obituary in the 31 August 1875 edition of the Gippsland Times read "Last night one of the oldest residents in Gippsland, William Farley, died in Rosedale in comparative penury. Farley was an old servant of Mr Tyres, and accompanied that gentleman on his first journey into Gippsland, acting as a driver of one of the teams. By his sobriquet of "Commissioner’s Bob" Farley was well known to all the old residents in this district; for some years he lived at the Moe, where he kept the only house of accommodation, a hotel, between the Bunyip and Sale. There being no bridges the Moe in those days, travellers often had to camp on the hill where Mister Miller's hotel now stands, whenever there was a flood in the rivers, or in the Moe swamp. Provisions not infrequently ran out, and many an hungry party has been indebted to the pluck and good-will of 'Commissioner's Bob' who would swim the intervening waters, carrying a damper and a bottle of hard stuff lashed above his shoulders to comfort the travellers. Farley also owned at one time the Merton Rush station and was in pretty well-do-do circumstances; reverses, however, came, and little by little troubles accumulated, his wife became insane and was sent to a lunatic asylum, and Farley for the last few years has earned a precarious livelihood as a labourer around Rosedale, living in a little bark hut with his two younger children, the elder ones being 'at service'. For a few weeks past he had been failing in health. Last night, alone in his hut with his two little children, he became worse. Calling one of them he said "I am dying;" the child was too young to understand the purport of the plaintive words, and in the morning life was gone. He was one of the pioneers of the land, in the days when a man's life was carried in his hands; there are surely left yet some of the old residents, who will not grudge subscriptions to mark the last resting place of poor old 'Commissioner's Bob' and more recent ones who will aid in relieving the wants of his home-less children."

Many thanks to Janet Farley for supplying most of the Australian information.

See Farley Family Tree - click here




The entry of Lionel Farley's baptism on 15 September 1731 from St John's parish register, which reads "Linaell Son to Anthony Farley 15" (that is, the 15th of September).


The record of the marriage of James Farley and Grace Robbins on 9 April 1803 at St John's.


The record of William and Elizabeth Farley's baptisms on 19 March 1815 from St John's parish register (William's is actually the last entry on one page and Elizabeth's the first entry of the next page - I've just shown them together).


The record of the burial of Elizabeth Farley on 3 June 1815, nearly eleven weeks after the baptisms of her children.


The record of the marriage of James Farley and Charlotte Manning on 26 June 1820 at St John's church.


The record of James Farley's burial at St John's on 11 April 1822.


William received a month's imprisonment in the County Gaol at Ilchester and a whipping for stealing skins (it's a double-page spread - I've put the right hand side beneath the left for easier reading). William, aged 16 and a labourer was "Charged on his own confession of stealing a quantity of Skins of Benedict Edward" and released "By Expiration of sentence 27 May 1829".


From my collection

A contemporary sketch of Ilchester Gaol.


This image is from the Description Book from Ilchester Gaol recorded on 4 April 1829 and giving a physical description of William Farley (again, it's a double-page spread - I've put the right hand side beneath the left for easier reading). The description reads - age 16, height 5' 1½", build Slight, complexion Fair, face Long, hair Sandy, eyes L(ight) hazle, large cut on the right leg, Born Yeovil, Occupation Leather Dresser, Place of abode Yeovil, Marital status Single.


The death sentence passed on William Farley for stealing a sheep with William Trenchard as reported in the 22 March 1830 edition of the Salisbury & Winchester Journal.


Extract from the Dorchester Prison Admission and Discharge Registers for William Farley - which reads "Date of Committal 1829 Sept 19, When Brought to Prison 1829 Sept 19, No 55, Name William Farley, Assizes, Age 16, Parish Yeovil, Trade Brick maker, Condition Single, No of Children - , By whom Committed Revd. J Parsons, Crime Sheep stealing." Again a double page spread but the right hand side is too small to reproduce here but continues "Stature 5' 2¼", Hair rather yellow or auburn, eyes dark grey, complexion fair". The remainder is somewhat illegible other than "When discharged 1830 6 May".


The entry in the Australian Convict Transportation Register recording the details of William Farley and his friend William Trenchard as convicted at Dorset Assizes on 12 March 1830 when they both received commuted sentences of transportation for life.


A photograph of William Farley in later life after serving his sentence. He still had to remain in Australia.


Mary Ann Farley


The record of William Farley's death on 28 August 1875.