Joseph Collets   & the Arsonist

Arson was a major crime in 1830 and the Government ran the following advertisement for  two months.  Apparently Joseph Collet has engendered the anger of someone, the act of arson was punishable by death and many of the transportees from Ireland were resulting from being Convicted of the  Act Insurrection based on   Incendiary actions.  In fact Thomas Higgins, Josephs brother in law was convicted or being idle and disorderly  under such act and was transported.


To loose 200 bushels of wheat would have been devastating  to young Joseph.



Thursday 11 February 1830


 Government Office.

Colonial  Secretary's Office, Sydney,

February 1Oth, 1830.




 WHEREAS it has been represented to the Government that a STACK, containing about Two Hundred Bushels of WHEAT, the Property of Mr. Joseph  Collets, was, on the Night of the 28th Ultimo, or early in the Morning of the 29th, maliciously

SET FIRE TO and DESTROYED, on his Premises, at Penrith;

Notice is hereby given, that the above REWARD OF TWENTY POUNDS will be paid to any Person who will give such Information as may lead to the Conviction of the Incendiary or Incendiaries ; and, if the Informer be a Prisoner of the Crown,

a TICKET OF LEAVE will be given in addition.


An example of the severity of the penalty is for the undermentioned.

Thursday 21 July 1831

On Saturday last, about nine o'clock, John Crisp, convicted of arson   by setting fire to some wheat stacks near Windsor, underwent the last awful sentence of the law at that place. The unfortunate culprit, attended by the Rev. Mr. Docker and another gentleman, having arrived at the place of execution, spent some time in prayer ; after which, upon ascending the scaffold, he briefly addressed the spectators, declaring his innocence. The necessary preliminaries having now been gone through, the drop fell, and the world closed upon his eyes for over. An unusual degree of sympathy was evinced upon this occasion, notwithstanding the flagrancy of the crime, from the extreme youth of the prisoner.





Assigned to  Joseph Collets, Castlereagh, a weaver 
 Saturday 29 March 1834


Tuesday 15 May 1832

John Fitzsimmons was indicted for feloniously and maliciously setting fire to a stack of wheat, the pro- perty of James Morris, at Penrith, on the fifth of   April last.      

Sarah Morris sworn - I am the wife of James Morris, a settler at the Nepean ; a stack of wheat, containing about 350 bushels, the property of my husband, was burnt down about half-past twelve   o'clock on the night of the 5th of April ; the prisoner was an assigned servant to my husband ; his usual hour of going to bed was about nine o'clock, except on rare occasions ; about eight o'clock on

the night of the 5th of April, he made a large fire in the kitchen for baking ; he asked me if I was

going to bake, and I said no, as he was going to bake, the next morning would do for me ; after he had made his bread, he asked me for a cloth to wipe the table, which he got, and, after using it, he left

it on the corner of the table ; when I gave him the cloth, just before I went out of the kitchen, I saw a

broken plate, turned down on a shelf, to which my   attention was drawn by my little boys, who laughed

at the position in which it was placed, I went to my own room, but did not go to bed till about twelve-

o'clock ; at that time the prisoner was not gone to bed ; just as I was going to bed, I smelt something burning, and called to him to know what it was ; he said there was nothing burning; often that I heard

him opening the door leading out ot the kitchen, and called out and asked if it was he who who was

coming in, and he said it was ; just then, I heard' him sigh deeply twice, and asked him if be was in   bed, and be replied " I am ;" in a few minutes after. I heard him crossing from one side of the room to the other, where he had shifted his bed in the evening; shortly after I heard him get up, and come towards that part of the partition between the two rooms against which the head of my bed was.   placed ; I thought he intended to rob the house but was afraid to make an alarm, as there was no,

person there but me and my little family ; he then   crossed the room again and went towards tho door ;

I did not hear him open it, but, in a few minutes after, I heard him come in ; he was out about five or six minutes ; about half an hour after, I heard a   roaring noise, and called up my son to see if the

chimney was on fire ; he got up and opened the   door, and then called out, " Mother, get up, the stack is all on fire ;" I did so, and saw it burning ; my son is about sixteen years old ; we tried to put the fire out but could not ; the stack was all con sumed ; after using every means to put the fire out, we gave up the attempt, and proceeded to take mea- sures to prevent the fire reaching to the next stack, when wo found that several sheaves had been pulled   out of it and placed upon tbe ground covered with some loads of straw, so as to conduct the fire from the stack that was burning to the house ; the burnt

stack was farthest from the house ; neither those , sheaves nor the straw were in that situation in the evening, for I saw the ground swept clean ; my firm belief is that those sheaves were so placed there, to   conduct the fire to the house, in order to burn it and every thing I had in the world ; I procured the as- sistance of several neighbours, and we got the fire under by wetting the straw ; after we had done this I found the plate and cloth of which I have already, spoken, and which I saw in the kitchen when I left it to go to bed, at the but of the burnt stack ; I said, " Thank God ! we have found out, at all, events, that the fire with which the stack was burnt, came out of our own house , close by the plate were

some wood cinders, which I judged had been on it ;   it appeared to me that the cloth was used lo keep the heat from the hand in carrying the plate with the fire on it ; I also saw some half-burnt ashes of stringy bark on the plate, which we supposed had been thrown upon the red fire taken from the house   to causo it to blaze up immediately ; alter this we went into the house, and saw the precise impression

of the plate in the ashes on the hearth, where it had ' boen thrust, in the manner of a shovel, to take the fire up ; we also found some pieces of stringy bark   near the fire ; my husband, at this time, was in tbe

Bathurst country mustering the cattle; when we first discovered the fire the prisoner assisted to put   it out, but he was afterwards sent to alarm my bro- ther, who lived about a quarter of a mile off, and while be was absent we found the plate; when he   returned I showed it to him, and told him bad  

it not been for finding it, . the suspicion against him would not be so strong ; he rushed towards me to take the plate from me but was prevented ; in addi- tion lo the wheat belonging to my husband, a small stack belonging to a man named Burke, who lived on the same farm, was also wholly consumed ; Burke Telita some part of the same land, and his wheat was stacked near ours ; the prisoner lived with us rather   better than twelve months ; he never expressed any discontent; I never heard him express an intention to injure any one ; these are the plate and cloth of which I have spoken [the plate appeared discoloured by fire] when I saw this plate in the kitchen it was clean, having been just washed by the prisoner him- self, the wheat and straw I saw on the ground between the two stacks must have been placed there by the prisoner; no stranger could have done it without our knowledge, on account of the dogs, of   which there are seven or eight ; not even our next- ' door neighbour can come near tho house without their giving; an alarm; they made no noise that night ; I heard no barking ; had there been any vio- lent barking l must have noticed it; I firmly be- lieve no other person but the prisoner burned the   stack ; I told him so, and he could not utter a word.

Other witnesses were called, who merely corrobo rated the evidenco of the prosecutrix as to the fact of the fire, and the finding of the plate and cloth in the manner described by her.

The prisoner made no defence beyond a simple denial ol' the charge.

The learned Judge summed up the evidence, and the Jury, without hesitation, found a verdict of guilty  

Sentence of death was then passed upon the prisoner j; the Court intimating that there was not the slightest hope of mercy being extended to him.

Tuesday 15 May 1832




Friday 11 March 1831


Population, 1829, 41,437; 1830, 46,276; 18SlJ

61,li5; 1832, 55,954; 1833, 60,794; 1834 6ti,228; 1835, 76,662 ; 1836, 77,096.

Number of convicts, 1833,24,543; 1836,27,831. ( onvicted of offences committed with violence: Murder, 1829, 1 ; 1830, 9^ 1831, 16; 1832,9;

18S3,11; 1834, 26; 1835,19.

Attempts to ditto, 1829,4; 1830,2; 1831, 11 i

1832, 9, 1833, 11 j 183, 16; 1835, 17.

Manslaughter, 1829,1 ; 1830,4; 1834,3; 1835, t, Rape, 1829, 2 ; 1830, 2 ; 1831, 2 ; 1832, 1 ; 1833, 10; 1834, 5; 1835,13.

Unnatural crime, 1030, 2; 1031,2; 1832, 1 ; 1834,

7. . . , Highway-Tobbery nnd bushranging, 1829, 33;

183 >, 24; 1831, 20 ; 1832, 36 ; 1833, 58 ; 1834, 111; 18S5.89.

Burglary, 1022, 29 ; 1830,25; IOSl, 29; 1832,

16 ; 1833, 22 ; 1834, 29 ; 1835, 25.

Piracy and revolt, 1829, 5; 1032, 23; 1834, 6.

Misdemeanor and assault, 1029,6 ; 1030,19; 1031,

38; 1032, 5G ; 1833, 50 ; 1834, 78 ; 1835, 07.

Total, 1829, 9 . ; 1830, 07 ; 1831, 126 ; 1032,151 ; . 1033, 170 ; 1834, 275 ; 1035, 251.

Convicted of offences committed without violence : -

Aisou, 1029, 2 ; 1031, 2 ; 1032, 2 ; 1834, 1 ; 1835


Forgery, 1829,5; 1830, 3; 1831,4; 1832,5;

1835,7; 1834,14; 1835, 15.

Cattle, hors , and sheep-stealing, 1829, 14; 1830,

l8; 1831, 17; 18J2, 27 ; 1833,15; 1034,62;

1835, 67.

Perjury, 1829,1 ; 1831,4 ; 1832,1 ; 1833, 0 ; 1834;

9; 1035,3.

Larceny and receiving stolen goods, 1829, 154;

1830,161 ; 1831, 105 ; 1032, 182, 1033, 239; 1034,229; 1835,347.

Total, 1829, 176; 1030, 102; 1031, 212; 1032,

SiT ; !833,269; 1034, 315 ; 1835, 434. Sentences and Executions :

Sentenced to death, 1829, 69; 1830, 44; 1831,

82; 1832,63; 1033,63; 1034,80; 1835, 8ti.

Executed, 1029, 52; 1830,50; 1031,32; 1832,

12 ; 1833, 31 ; 1034, 44 ; 1035, 38.

Transported, 1029, 110; 1030, 125; 1831, 116;

1832,148; 1033,171; 1834, 317 j.1835, 390.

Pioportion of oiiomlers to population was as

1829, 1:157; 1830, 1:1714; 1831, 1:151; 1032, 1:152; 1033, 1:1S0J ; 1834, 1:112$; 1035, l:l()4.

Proportion of offences with violence to those with-

out was as 1029, 1:2; 1830, 1:2 1-10; 1831, 1:1}; 1632,1:1 3-5 ; 1833,1:11; 1034,1111-6;

1835, lit 2-5.

The proportion of convicted offenders to population in England and Wales, is as 1:850.

The proportion of crimes with violence to those without, is as 1:8}