Charles Giles

Charles Giles, another member of the Aldington smuggling gang, was convicted alongside his fellow smugglers and transported to Van Diemen’s Land in 1827.  Charles’ mother, Anne, was the first cousin of John Bailey, another of the gang members transported to Van Diemen’s Land.

If my research to date is correct, Anne was John Giles’ second wife.  She married him in her home parish of Bilsington on 27 August 1797, little more than a year after the death of his first wife, Sarah Briggs.  Sarah died at the age of 32 around the same time or soon after the birth of the couple’s third daughter.  Charles was the first child born to John and Anne. He was baptised at Bilsington on 12 August 1798.  In the twelve years to follow, siblings John, Sarah, Robert, Thomas, Elizabeth and Ann were born.

Bilsington Church

In October 1818 Charles married Mary Chapman at Bonnington, with bride and groom both signing the register indicating some level of schooling.  Charles worked as a shoemaker so had probably served an apprenticeship after leaving school.

Smuggling life

It seems that Charles was involved in smuggling activities for at least five years before he was caught as contemporaries reported him being injured on the night of the so-called ‘Battle of Brookland’ of 11 February 1821, when two of the gang’s members, Richard Wraight and Cephas Quested were arrested by the Blockade men.  Eight Blockade men were wounded that night and one, Midshipman James McKenzie, was killed.  Wraight was acquitted but Quested (who some claim was the gang’s leader at the time) was to hang for his part in the gang’s activities.

It seems that Giles was wounded again on the night of 11 May 1826 when about 150 smugglers converged on the coast at Herring Hang. According to seaman William Wynn’s evidence, Giles was one of the group of armed men who fired at the party of Preventive Service men and Marines who had been stationed at Herring Hang to disrupt the smuggling activity.  The seamen seized a long duck gun that had been left behind, possibly belonging to Giles as he is recorded to have lost his firearms on that occasion.  He had been wounded during the firing and gang leader George Ransley ordered Edward Horn to carry Giles to a small green field some forty or fifty yards from the action.  Able to walk a little, Horn and Giles made their way to the high road where Ransley collected Giles in his cart.  According to other accounts, Giles was then taken to West Wall, beyond Ashford, where an aunt was able to take care of him while the wound to his neck healed.  Dr Bett, of Ashford, attended to him (and was probably paid by Ransley).

Charles Giles was arrested on the morning of 17 October 1826 at or near Bilsington. He initially gave his name as Wood and claimed that the mark on his neck was the effect of a blister. On 30 October 1826, Charles Giles was charged, along with other members of the gang, with the murder of Richard Morgan and with carrying arms on the Kent coast with a view to running smuggled goods.

As set out elsewhere, ultimately those who were sentenced were convicted on the smuggling charges, rather than Morgan’s murder, and the death penalty imposed by Justice Park was commuted to transportation for life.  Charles was taken on board the prison Hulk, Captivity, and subsequently transported to Van Diemen’s Land aboard the Governor Ready, arriving at Hobart Town in mid 1827.

Working for the Field Police

Just three months after his arrival in the colony, Charles Giles was appointed to the Field Police, stationed at Campbell Town.  Others appointed at the same time were Peter Duff, a Scotsman who had arrived in 1826 aboard the Woodman, John Dymond (a Yorkshireman who had arrived five years earlier aboard the Richmond) and Thomas Terry (from Warwickshire who had arrived in 1824 per Lady East).  No doubt Charles was able to learn something of the ways of the young colony from those who had arrived before him.

I have not been able to discover anything specific about Charles’ work with the field police, but the local newspapers carry occasional reports of the forces’ activities.  For example, in October 1827, Campbell Town’s Police Magistrate, James Simpson Esquire, lead a party of his constables to Elizabeth Tier where they came across the remains of sheep that had gone missing from the settlers along Elizabeth Creek.  Three suspects were taken into custody (Hobart Town Courier, Saturday 27 October 1827). The field police were also engaged in work tracking escapees, bushrangers and the island’s Aboriginal population.

Family reunion

On 16 January 1829, James Grant Esq wrote a brief note indicating that Charles Giles was his assigned servant and that he was seeking permission to land his wife and children that day.   Mary had sailed aboard the Harmony with daughters Sarah (then about nine and a half), Jane (aged seven) and Annie Margaret (just five).  The girls received tuition from Mrs Bromley during the voyage. Sailing with them were the families of other Aldington Gang members, including my ancestors Rhoda Higgins and her two children and Frances Gilham with six children.  Elizabeth Ransley, Catherine Bailey, Sarah Peirce and their children were also on board.

It seems likely that the James Grant to whom Charles was assigned was the Scottish born, former London-based merchant who chartered a vessel and sailed for Van Diemen’s Land in 1824 where he represented Lloyds for seventeen years and became a substantial land-holder. Like his brother John, who had arrived earlier, James was granted land on the ‘Break-o-Day’ Plains, fronting the South Esk River.  However, an early priority was to purchase a town residence. From the Rev Robert Knopwood he purchased three acres of land in Hobart Town, extending from the waterfront to Hampden Court and containing a cottage known as ‘Cottage Green No 2’ (No 1 had been the Reverend Knopwood’s residence).

Presumably Charles was soon after assigned to his wife, probably somewhere in Hobart Town.  On 3 October, barely 9 months later, Charles’ first son, Charles Chapman Giles was born.  Musters for 1830 and 1832 indicate that Charles is assigned to his wife and, in 1833 he is listed as the holder of a Ticket of Leave.

In January 1833, another daughter, Mary, was born, followed in August 1835 by Harriet.

Sadly, this youngest child was to lose her mother before she reached her fifth birthday.  Mary Giles died on the 12th of June 1839 and was buried three days later at St David’s Anglican burial ground.

Two years later in Hobart Town the birth of a William Charles Giles is registered with parents listed as Charles and Jane Giles.  I have not yet investigated further to determine whether this is ‘Aldington Gang’ Charles or another.

Readily available records provide few clues about Charles’ life in Hobart Town.  The next most likely reference occurs in 1856 when Charles Giles marries Emma Winsbury Stratton at St George’s Church of England in Hobart.  To date I have not investigated this marriage in any detail.  It seems that Emma was borun about 1833 in Hampstead so she is much younger than her husband.  The children registered to this marriage are Catherine (born 1863), Elizabeth (born 1859), Thomas (born 1860), and Robert (born 1857 and died in infancy).

The Mercury of 3 September 1874 reports Charles Giles’ death: ‘On 2nd Sept, at the residence of his son, Harrington street, after a long and painful illness, Charles Giles, late of Bonnington, Kent, in the 76th year of his age.‘  Charles was buried on the following Sunday afternoon at the Queenborough Cemetery, Sandy Bay.

I would welcome any additional information that other researchers may be able to contribute to help fill-out Charles’ story.

Please contact me by email.

[Updated 10 June 2012]

Online resources

Tasmanian Archives: Charles’ convict conduct record

Charles Giles on my Ancestry tree

Charles Giles on Founders and Survivors 



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