Attempted Murder by Stabbing
By Diana Kennedy
This article was originally published in the April 2002 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society.
Member Yvonne Foster enquired whether we had any information on an Edward Sewell from Mitcham, Surrey (Soul Search Dec. 2001).
Edward was a calico printer and had two children, Robert who was born 12th April 1761 and Ann born 8th December 1765, both in Mitcham. Ann Sewell married William Asprey who founded the family business of Asprey and Co. the silver and luxury goods supplier of Bond Street, London. Yvonne is descended from Ann and William Asprey. Tony Sewell (Surrey co-ordinator) found a christening in the IGI of a William Sawell son of Edward Sawell on 15th August 1762 at Mitcham and thought that this could be a brother to Robert and Ann.
By chance in the PRO at Kew my husband, while researching Surrey Assize records, discovered a William Seawell aged 49 who was accused of the attempted murder of William Asprey in 1811. When I searched further I found that Ann Asprey was named as a witness. I later found that this William Seawell was born about 1763. The date of birth together with the names of Ann and William Asprey makes it seem almost certain, that William Sawell and William Seawell are the same person and is more than likely to be the brother of Ann. Using records from the PRO at Kew I found the following information.
The charge states that
William Seawell committed on the 16th August 1811, by the Rev. Dr Rose (magistrate) charged on the oaths of William Asprey and others with wilfully maliciously and unlawfully stabbing him with a knife at Mitcham with intent to Murder him. On the oath of Elizabeth Biggs with maliciously and unlawfully cutting her with a knife with intent to maim and disable her.
The trial was held at Kingston upon Thames, Surrey at the Lent Assizes on Monday 30th March 1812 before Sir Archibald Mac Donald. Records of the court state that
William Seawell late of the Parish of Mitcham, in the County of Surrey Labourer on the 14th August in the 51st year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord George the Third… with force and arms at the parish aforesaid in the county aforesaid in and upon on William Asprey… feloniously wilfully maliciously and unlawfully did make an afsault and with a certain sharp instrument then and there feloniously wilfully maliciously and unlawfully did stab and cut the said William Asprey in and upon the back… with intent in so doing to Murder the said William Asprey …
It goes on in similar fashion with two further charges that William Seawell stabbed and cut William Asprey with intent to disable and to cause grievous bodily harm.
On the back of the record it gives the witnesses at the trial as William Asprey, Ann Asprey, John Pratt, Elizabeth Briggs and John Parrot. The Jury found William Seawell to be guilty and he was condemned to be hanged by the neck until dead. Unfortunately there is no record as to why William Seawell should have stabbed William Asprey and I have not looked in the newspapers.
Following the trial, William was given a Capital Respite i.e. he was reprieved and instead sentenced to Transportation for Life to New South Wales. William Seawell was held in the Hulk Retribution waiting transportation. Retribution was moored in the Thames at Woolwich, Kent. The Hulk records show that William Seawell was aged 49 years. William Seawell left the Retribution to be transported on the 14th October 1812. He sailed on the ship the Fortune which left England on 3rd December 1812 bound for Australia via Rio.
The master of the ship was a Thomas Walker and it carried 201 convicts all men. Of these one man was re-landed and four died on the voyage. On the 11th June 1813, 190 days later, the Fortune arrived at Port Jackson in New South Wales and 109 convicts were landed in Port Jackson.
Unfortunately I have been unable to find the surgeons log for Fortune, which may have provided more information on William Seawell. However at the age of 49 years he was lucky to have survived the journey. Hopefully Yvonne may be able to find out a little more of what happened to William in Australia.
Assize records Assi 94/1674
Hulk Records HO 9/4
The Convict Ships by Charles Bateson (Brown, Son and Ferguson, Glasgow 1969)
Thanks to Yvonne Foster and Tony Sewell for information supplied.
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