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John Meads 2020 - Original documents: National Archive and Find My Past
John Ball's Pardon - 1802

Home Secretary Lord Pelham

At Northampton in October 1802, John Ball, a 42 year-old mason and a member of the Ball family that were to be masons and builders in Burton Latimer right up to the end of the 20th century, was tried and found guilty of robbing a hen roost and sentenced to seven years transportation. He was the accomplice of a more seasoned criminal who was aquitted through lack of evidence. It seems that the crime was completely out of character for John and the sentence appalled people in Burton Latimer.The sentence meant he would almost certainly never see his wife and family again - after completing his sentence he would probably have to work for years to earn the fare home from Australia. A petition was presented to the Home Secretary through one of the two M.P.s for Northamptonshire, Francis Dickins. The list of signatories was headed by the rector Samuel Barwick with another fifteen leading citizens of Burton adding their names. The petition was successful and after five months in prison John was released and went on to lead a productive life until he died aged 70 in 1830

To the Right Honourable the Lord Pelham
One of his Majesty’s principal Secretaries of State
Burton Latimer near Kettering
Feb: 13 1802
We whose names are underwritten, the Minister and Inhabitants of the Parish
Burton, moved with compassion by the distressful situation of our fellow
Parishioner John Ball, who was convicted at the Michaelmass Sessions held at
Northampton of having robbed a Henroost and
sentenced to be transported for
seven years, take the liberty to recommend him to your favour for pardon or
a mitigation of punishment from considerations which were not made known at
the time of his trial. It has been represented to several of the Magistrates who
acted in this cause, upon such testimonyas they can give credit to, that John
Ball in the ordinary course of his behaviour has apparently acted a proper part
has been a kind husband and an affectionate father in his family – an industrious
man in his business, and has demeaned himself with civility and respect towards
all both
in speech and behaviour. His case is considered more pitiable by the
distress in which it has involved a wife and six children. He himself has already
suffered near five months imprisonment in the most inclement season of the
year with the additional grievance of a severe and dangerous illness for several
weeks. These considerations have emboldened us to assume a liberty which
we hope a compassionate mind will admit as an apology.

Signed by us
Samuel Barwick Rector of Burton
Tho Burnaby Churchwarden
Matthew Langley Churchwarden
Thomas Eady
M Andrew
Robt Capps
Robert Freestone
Henry Robinson
Joseph Sudborough
Joseph Henman
Edward Dickings
Richard Shipley
John Hughes
Edward Wood
Thos Mee
Thos Croxen

Above: The text of the petition presented to the Home Secretary
Below: the covering letter by Francis Dickins MP for Northamptonshire
March 4th 1802

My Lord

I have the Honor of receiving Your Lordship's letter respecting the Petition of John Ball, now confined in the Gaol of this County, under sentence of Transportation. He had an accomplice in this Crime of a very notorious Character, against whom there was not sufficient evidence for conviction. Ball was found guilty & from being connected with the other Prisoner, & from the Offence, though in itself not of so flagrant a nature coming into general Practice, the Magistrates thought it their Duty to make a serious example of him; but from many Circumstances, & from his Character upon which the Petitioners is founded, they felt he might be recommended as an Object of Mercy.
I have the honor to be
My Lord,
Your Lordship's Most
Obedient Servant
F. Dickins

The King's Free Pardon signed by Lord Pelham
John Ball............George R
Free Pardon
Whereas John Ball was at a Quarter Sessions of the Peace held for the County of Northampton in October last tried and Committed of robbing a Henroost and was Sentenced to be Transported Seven Years for the same; We in consideration of some favourable circumstances humbly represented unto us in his behalf are graciously pleased to extend Our Grace and Mercy unto him and to Grant him Our Free Pardon for his said Crime; our Will and Pleasure therefore is that You cause him the said John Ball to be forthwith discharged out of Custody, and that he be inserted for his said Crime in Our first and next General Pardon that shall come out for the Midland Circuit without any Conditions whatsoever: And for so doing this shall be your Warrant.
Given at Our Court at St.James the 11th day of March 1802. In the 42nd Year of our Reign.

To our Trusty and Wellbeloved Our
Chairman of Justices of the Quarter
Sessions of the Peace for the
County of Northampton. The
High Sheriff of the said County
and all others whom it may
concern ...................

By His Majestey's Command


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