William Yardley1

M, #79, b. 9 November 1757, d. 4 December 1805
FatherJohn Yardley2 d. 1809
MotherAnn Swettenham2 b. 30 Dec 1737
Relationship5th great-grandfather of Timothy George Sheens
ChartsAncestors of Timothy George Sheens
Last Edited13 Oct 2015
Birth13 October 1757 Bethnal Green, Middlesex, England2 
Baptism*9 November 1757 St Matthew, Bethnal Green, Middlesex, England;
William Son of John Yardley Weaver and Ann aged 26 days2 
Criminal*22 March 1786 Kingston Assizes, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, England;
William Yardley, a stationer aged 28, and John Le Ross (qv), a jackhitt [sic] maker aged 34, were sentenced to death at the 22 March 1786 Kingston (Surrey) Assizes for the burglary on 7 October 1785 of the shop of John Thomas, linen draper, at 36 Blackman Street, Southwark, south London. Three weavers in their mid-twenties, William Battall, Richard Westfield and Abraham Mathew, were acquitted of the same charge. A few days later both were reprieved to transportation for life. Yardley immediately sent a petition to the Home Office pleading that he had no previous convictions and a wife and elderly father to support. He stated that the evidence against him had been utterly false and that he had been respited from hanging following a confession from John Anstill [Austin?] before his execution at Leicester on 3 April for another offence. Apparently this man’s statement undermined the evidence against Yardley, but was not sufficient to clear him of involvement in the burglary.
Yardley sent with the petition several statements from persons who had heard Abraham Mathew say that only he, Peter Bath and John Austin (presumably the man hanged at Leicester) had committed the burglary. Elizabeth Wallis of Brick Lane in the East End swore that on the night of the crime she had been drinking with Yardley at the Admiral Vernon public house in Bishopsgate Street London, and had spent the night with him in Plough Street, Whitechapel. Several others corroborated this including a butcher of Long Alley, Shoreditch, who said he had been in company with the couple that night and that Yardley was a regular drinker at the pub.
Reporting on the case the trial judge Sir William Henry Ashurst, wrote that witnesses had identified Yardley and Le Ross as two of a group of men seen carrying a large bundle near the burgled shop on the night of the crime. Another witness had identified Yardley as a man who had run off when challenged with a bundle outside a Jew’s house in Winfield Street near Petticoat Lane. Ashurst wrote that I was not dissatisfied with the verdict, he discounted the alibis that both had, two of the women being admitted common prostitutes, while the house they stayed in was clearly a house of ill fame. As the evidence was only circumstantial, however, he recommended a sentence of transportation. Yardley remained in the county gaol until August 1788, when he was ordered to the Ceres hulk at Langstone Harbour, Portsmouth, whence he was embarked on the Surprize transport on 30 November 1789.3 
Petition*April 1786 Petition of William Yardley, England;
To the Right Honourable Lord Sydney. One of His Majestys Principal Secretarys of State &c

The Humble Petition of William Yardley

Most humbly Sheweth
That Your lordships Petitioner was at the late Assizes at Kingston tried before Judge Ashurst for a Burglary in the house of Mr Thomas Linen Draper in the Borough and according to the evidence Given, against him, altho utterly False was found Guilty. Rece’d Sentence and was Order’d for Execution. But is Respited through the Confession of John Anstill who was executed at Leicester on Monday the third of this Present April that he with two others not Yet taken were the Persons who Committed the Robbery for which Your Lordships unhappy Petitioner was unjustly Condemned to Suffer whose innocence the late unhappy Culprit in his Dying Moments Declared and is Attested by the Revd J. Vigott Chaplin to the Gaol and Geo. Oswin Gaoler of Leicester and which Attestation with the Affidavits if Several Persons before the Right Honble Lord Mayor Proving Your Petitioners Innocence are in Possession of the Deliverer of this Petition at any Minute to be Produced for Your Lordships Inspection

Therefore with all humility Earnestly Desires to Prostrate himself at Your Lordships feet Imploring the favour of Your Lordship of Your Innate Goodness to let this Alarming & Dreadful Case Encite Compassion from that Noble and Generous heart that ever feels for the afflicted that the Guiltless may not Suffer for the Guilty nor the Real Innocent be Deprived of his Liberty as not having been Guilty of any Offence that Could Render him Ameanable to the Laws of his Country But honestly Laboured for the Support of himself a Wife and Ancient Father and has Maintained a Fair & honest Character Condescend my Lord to let the heart felt Sufferings of Your Afflicted & unjustly Imprisoned Petitioner with the Prayers And Tears of an Affectionate Wife and Distracted Parent to Reach the tender feelings of Your Lordships heart that You may Procure him his Liberty which under God may Prove the Salvation of an Afflicted and Inconsolable family

And Should Your Lordships Poor Afflicted Petitioner be so happy as to Experience Your Benevolence Extended to him so as to have the Prayer of his Petition Granted will ever Retain the most Grateful sense of Such an Inestimable act of Goodness. And will as in Duty Bound Ever Pray &c &c &c

Declaration of Abraham Mahew

We whose names are hereunto Subscribed (Prisoners for Debt in the Poultry Compton London), Do hereby Certify and Declare, and are ready and Willing to Depose Upon Oath That the person Named Abraham Mahew, who was Committed to this Prison, on or about the 21st day of October 1785 (along with Others) On the Charge of a burglary in the Dwelling House of Mr. John Thomas, Linen Draper, of Blackman Street in the Borough of Southwark and County of Surry [sic], Did Voluntarily, and of his Own free Will and Accord, Confess, and Declare to Us at Several times Separately, that he the Said Abraham Mahew, Along with two Other Persons, Namely Peter Bath and John Austin, were the Three persons (Only) who Actually did Commit the Aforesaid Burglary. Given under our hands Debtors Chambers Poultry Compton prison April the 8th 1786

Jas Clark
Robt Hull
Thos Sparkey
Josph Lester

I have seen the Parties Subscribed Acknowledge And Sign the Above
H West

Jack LaRoss & Willm. Yardley. – the former is the son of the Jew Woman, who applied to the Ambassador for his release from prison.

Letter from George Oswin

Leicester Aprl. 5th 1786
I this moment recd. yours respecting tbe two people now under sentence of Death for the Burglary and robbery of the Linnin draper in the Borough. I hope you yesterday recd. a letter sign’d by the Chaplin of My Gaol and Myself wherein is the confession of John Astill who Says that he was the very person who broak open the same shop together with two others the names he Declar’d he wd. never mention but the two people William Yardley and John Leross Was perfectly Inocent and beg in his last moment I wd. make this known to you for Certain reasons. (Astill and Sexton where Executed on Monday last in the forenoon and died great Penetants) the Clerk of the Assizes for the County of Surry has the facts stated to him which I hope will save them both
I am your Most Obdt.
Geo. OswinGaoler

Mr Saml. Yardley
Deputy Keeper of New Prison Clerkenwell

N:B: John Shenad thir Accomplice turnd evidence and is now in London residence Bowl yard No. 7 Broad St. Giles’s

Affidavit of Elizabeth Wallis

Middlesex to wit
Elizabeth Wallis of Brick lane in the parish of Christ Church in the County of Middlesex Spinster maketh Oath and Saith That on the seventh day of October last she was in Company with one Margaret Pilkington, William Yardley and others at the house of one Folliot the Sign of the Admiral Vernon in Bishopsgate street London until twelve O’Clock at night, and that then they parted and went therefrom to the house of one George Roberts in Plough street in the parish of Saint Mary White Chapel to sleep together there, And Saith That they had not been long in the said Roberts’s house before the said Margaret Pilkington came in with one William Battall (who had likewise been with them that night at the house of the said Folliot in Bishopsgate street) to sleep there which they did, and thast they lay till between Nine and Ten OClock in the Morning, that they then got up and had somethingto drink together and from thence went again to the Admiral Vernon in Bishopsgate street and there Breakfasted and parted to go home which this Deponent did, And this Deponent further Saith that she hath been Informed that the said William Yardley was at the last Assizes held for the County of Surrey at Kingston on Thames Convicted of a Burglary.

The mark of Elizabeth Wallis
Sworn at the Mansion House London the 10th Day of April 1786 before me
T Wright Mayor

Affidavit of Margaret Pilkington

Middlesex to wit
Margaret Pilkington of Old Nichol street in the parish of Saint Matthew Bethnal green in the County of Middlesex Spinster maketh Oath and Saith that on Friday the seventh day of October last She with William Yardley, Elizabeth Wallis and others were in Company together at the house of one Folliot at the Sign of the Admiral Vernon in Bishopsgate London until the Watchman called the hour of Twelve O’Clock at night, and then they came away therefrom and parted, And further Saith that on leaving that house she this Deponent and one William Battall who was likewise in Company with them at the Admiral Vernon aforesaid, wnt to the house of one George Roberts in Plough street in the parish of Saint Mary White Chapel to sleep th3ere together, And that when they came to Roberts’s house they met said William Yardley and Elizabeth Wallis whom this Deponent had just before parted from in Bishopsgate street (which said William Yardley is the same person as this Deponent hath been informed was Convicted of a Burglary at the last Assizes held at Kingston in and for the County of Surrey) And this Deponent Saith Further That she and the said William Battall slept the Remainder of that night together at the said Roberts’s house and that she saw the said William Yardley and Elizabeth Wallis go upstairs together to go to bed, and in the morning between Nine and Ten O’Clock they all got upand drank together there and from thence went to the Admiral Vernon in Bishopsgate street aforesaid and Breakfasted together and then parted

Margaret Pilkington
Sworn at the Mansion House London the 10th Day of April 1786 before me
T Wright Mayor

Affidavit of Martha Roberts

Middlesex (to wit) Martha Roberts the wife of George Roberts of Plough street in the parish of Saint Mary White Chapel Middlesex maketh Oath and Saith that her Husband (Mathematical Instrument Maker) keeps a Lodging house in Plough street aforesaid And that on Friday night the seventh day of October last it being late and getting near One OClock in the morning some person knocked at the door and this Deponent asked who was there, To which William Yardley whom the Deponent had known before made Answer and said Mrs Roberts it is me, and Deponent knowing his voice she opened the door and let him in he then having in his Company a young woman whom this Deponent did not know, Soon after they came in, some other person knocked at the door which she opened and then came in William Battall with a Woman in his Company and asked for Lodgings and this Deponent having some knowledge of them she let them sleep there And this Deponent further Saith That after her Lodgers were all gone to bed it was always usual for her to Lock her doors and carry the Keys with her into her room to prevent her Lodgers from going out in the morning And further Saith that in the Morning, the said William Yardley and William Battall and the two women came down Stairs about Ten O’Clock and paid for their Lodgings and went way, this Deponent having a particular circumstance as to the time

Martha Roberts [her mark]
Sworn at the Mansion House London the 10th Day of April 1786 before me
T Wright Mayor

Affidavit of Richard Beeston

Middlesex to wit
Richard Beeston of Long Alley in the parish of Saint Leonard Shoreditch in the County of Middlesex Butcher maketh Oath and Saith that on the seventh day of October last, he having been out all the afternoon with James Ford of Long Alley Shoreditch Victualler and coming along Bishopsgate street about Eight O’Clock at night they went into the Admiral Vernon Alehouse and stayed there till past Twelve O’Clock at night in the Taproom and further Saith That during the time he was there, There was in said Taproom several persons men and women And that one William Yarldey was one of the persons then present in Company this Deponent being perfectly well acquainted with his person he the said Yardley having frequently been a Customer to him this Deponent at his Shop in Long Alley aforesaid And further Saith That soon after twelve O’Clock this Deponent left the house and went home and that William Yardley and a young woman came out at the same time and walked down Bishopsgate street and there they parted.

Richard Beeston
Sworn at the Mansion House London the 10th Day of April 1786 before me
T Wright Mayor4 
Petition20 April 1786 Report of William Ashurst, East Barnet, Middlesex, England;
To the Kings Most Excellent Majesty

In obedience to your Majesty’s commands I most humbly certify to your Majesty the case of john Le Ross & Wm Yardley, who (with three others who were acquitted) were indicted, at the last Assizes for the County of Surry, & found guilty of a Burglary in the Dwelling House of John Thomas, in Blackman Street in the Borough, & stealing goods there in to a very large amount

John Thomas deposd – [that] he is a Linen Draper No 36 in Blackman Street in the Borough – that on the 8th Octr in the morning his House was broke open – He had been out overnight to spend his Evening at a Friends House & did not return till near Two in the morning – went to bed & left a woman servant up to fasten the doors. Got up between Six & Seven, having been allarmd with an account that Thieves had been in the House – when he came down stairs he found several of his shop Goods at the bottom of the Stairs in great Disorder – the back Door was open – The shutter of the Parlour window (which communicates with the Yard) was broke open, a pane of the window was taken out & then the Shutter broke open (by which means he supposes they got in) When he went into the Shop he found it in very great Disorder, the Compters had been broke open, & every thing was thrown about in the greatest Disorder He missd printed Linens, Cottons, Calicoes Muslins &c to the amount of 500L & more he likewise lost a Patch work Counterpane which was in the Parlour upon a Settee, where he often lay in the day time (having lately been ill)

Eliz Such Deposd, that on the morning of the 8th of Octr her master & mistress came home about Two in the morning, they went to bed & she fastened the Doors & Windows & went to bed about a Qr past Two. Wits. Got up about Six, & when she went down found the back door open (which she had fastened overnight & several Handkerchiefs & other things lying loose – on examining the Parlour she found the Window Shutter broke open where she supposes the Thieves broke in, she immediately allarmd her Master & he got up.

Amy Edwards – deposd – [that] she lives in Goat Yard which goes out of Blackman Street about eight Doors from Mr. Thomas’s That about half hour past five in the morning of the 8th of Octr. She saw the two Prisrs. Yardley & Le Ross in her necessary (which opens towards the Court) It is not usually left open, but happened to be so that night. Wits askd what they did there, they said they came there to ease themselves; there were two other men with them but she did not take so much notice of them. They had with them two Bundles, the one tied in a white Counterpane or Sheet, & the other in a Patch Work Counterpane with a flowerd Border. Le Ross & Yardley had the Bundle in the Patch Work Quilt; it was as big as a Bed, Le Ross lifted it on Yardleys Back & he carried it into the Street – they went towards London bridge – Wits followd them into the Street & as far as St Georges Church (having some Suspicion of the men) She lookd at them several times, they swore at her & askd what she lookd for; She followd them as far as the Corner of King Street (which is near three Quarters of a Mile from London Bridge) & there left them. She is sure Le Ross & Yardley were two of the men – Le Ross said (when she lookd at them) that he wishd he had blown her Eyes out. The Budle was produced at Guild Hall before the Sitting alderman when Le Ross was examined – He He said the dress she then had on, was not the same which she had on that morning (means the 8th Octr); but on a second examination she put on the Dress she had on the morning of the Robbery & then he had not a word to say.

A constable now produced the Counterpane was provd to have been found early in the morning of the 8th Octr. In the second Arch or peak (on the Surrey Side of London Bridge)

(Amy Edwards) swears that is the same she saw with the two Prisrs Le Ross & Yardley It was very particular & she followd them so far that she had sufficient leisure to observe it – It was Patch Work, there was a large Square Red Patch in the middle there was in the next division a blu Stripe, there was a flowerd Border & there were some Holes in it, through which Yardley thrust his Fingers as he carried it, to hold it the better [NB all these marks corresponded]
On Cross Examn. She said she was getting up to go a milking, which was the occasion of her getting up so early – That she heard some People in the necessary for some time before she came down stairs.

Mr Thomas was calld up again & swore to the Quilt as his Property It was on the Settee in the Parlour, that same night when the Robbery was committed.

John Wilcox – deposd that he lives in Tripe Yard Petticoat Lane, he was coming out of Tripe Yard into Peticoat Lane & there he saw the Prisr Yardley pass him It was about 6 O Clock in the morning of the 8th of Octr. He had a Bundle on his back (it was a brown Bundle) Wits followd him He stopt at the Corner of Winfield Street – the bottom of the Bundle was ript or burst there was a Muslin in it There was no one with him till he got to the Corner of Winfield Street - & there Abraham Mayhew (another of the Prisoners) met him He likewise had a Bundle They went to the House of Levi (a Jew) in Winfield Street & knockd at the Door & were let in Wts suspected it was stolen goods, went to one Nash to come to his assistance & they went to Levi’s House, but did not gain admittance & the men made their escape backward into a Court near Levi’s House

Philip Moses Cohen
Wits lives in New Court Winfield Street, the back part of his House looks into Levi’s yard about 6 in the morng of the 8th of Octr he heard a noise in Levi’s yard & before he coud get up three men had got into his Room The Constable then knockd at Witss front Door & the men again jumpd out at the Window – he believes they came from Levi’s, but cant swear to the men, & don’t know which way they got off

Grace Levi
Swears that she is a servant to Levi, that two men came to her Master’s with a Bundle the morning when the Bustle was, but cant swear to the men

Benjamin Nash deposd – [that] on the the 8th Octr (a little after six in the morning) Wilcox came to him & told him he saw a Bundle go into Levi’s House & heard the men run down stairs & make their way out backwards – Wits heard them reach their way into a House in a Court adjoining belongs to Cohen. Wits went round into the Court & forcd open Cohens Door, went into his yard, & two of the men made a cut at him; the men escapd Wits then went into Levis yard & took from the servant Girl a Bundle wch he produces

Wilcox says that he believes that was not the Bundle which Yardley had but that which Mayhew had

Mr Thomas – swore that the Muslins contained in that Bundle was his property – there is his mark upon them & they are part of the things he lost the night of the Robbery.

On this Evidence the Jury found the two Pridrs. Le Ross & Yardley guilty; the rest were acquitted. I was not dissatisfied with the Verdt. But the Clerk of assize having receivd a Letter from the Chaplain who attends the Convicts at Leicester, giving an account of the confession of one Austill (at the place of Execution) in Exculpation of these two Prisrs. (tho I do not in general pay much regard to such confessions) yet as the Evidence on which the Prisrs were convicted was only circumstantial, I thought it the safer to err on the Side of Mercy; & therefore humbly recommended them to your Majesty for a Pardon on Condition of Transportation.
I still think the Verdict was a right one: & as far as concerns Yardley (on whose behalf the Petition is preferd) the affidavits tending to prove an alibi, don’t seem to deserve much attention; two of them are made by two women, who upon their own confession are common Prostitutes, & the other by a man, who (upon his own shewing) keeps a House of ill Fame. In regard to the Butchers affidt. (it does not appear who he is) but at all events he does not prove the seeing Yardley later than twelve.
On the other Hand there is the Evidce of two positive witnesses on the Tryal That of Amy Edwards, proving him to be in her Necessary House at half past five on the morning of the 8th – and Wilcox swears to the seeing him at six going to Levi’s House. Therefore I can not (from any thing which at present appears) advise your Majesty further to extend to the Prisr. your Majesty’s Royal Pardon.

W H Ashurst4 
Transportation*26 June 1790 "Surprise", Sydney, NSW;
Name: William Yardley
Ship: Surprise
Trial Place & Year: Surrey 1786
Sentence: Life5 
Birth of Son1 April 1794 NSW;Principal=Edward Yardley6 
Birth of Daughter1795 Toongabbie, NSW;Principal=Ruth Yardley1 
Pardon*7 July 1797 NSW7 
Article*17 March 1805 NSW;
To be Sold by Private Contract,
And immediate Possession given,
An excellent Farm at Seven Hills, con-
taining 30 acres all excellent ground,
adapted equally to Stock or Agriculture, being
constantly supplied with abundance of fine water;
pleasantly ard very eligibly situate, and in all
respects worthy the attention of persons desirous
of purchasing.

For further information apply to Wm. Yardley,
on the Premises.8 
Death*4 December 1805 Lower Portland, NSW1 
Article8 December 1805 "The Sydney Gazette", NSW;
On Thursday a Coroner's Inquest assembled at Hawkesbury on the body of William Yardley, a settler down the River, whose death was occasioned by the following melancholy circumstances : A considerable time after himself and family were in bed Wednesday night,  
the house took fire, and burned with such rapidity as to render their escape difficult : he suceeded nevertheless, with his wife's assistance, in snatching his children from the flames, and then unhappily returned to save some little cloathing, but the roof falling in, he perished in the attempt. The body of the deceased presented a ghastly spectacle to the jurors, whose verdict was appropriate to the event. As the accident of the house taking fire was most unaccountable and mysterious,  
many people attributed it to the lightning, which was very vivid at the time; but it is a much more probable conjecture that the disaster originated in the rancour of the Branch natives, to whose excesses his activity was a
constant curb, and whose hostile inclinations are as manifest as ever. So long as they content themselves with pillaging the settlers' grounds they experience civility and hospitable treatment : but tiring with this comparative moderation, they rush into acts of open and declared hostility; and it is much to be lamented that possibly from the want of suficient caution, the first objects of their treachery have too frequently become its easy victims.9 
Article9 March 1806 "The Sydney Gazette", NSW;
From the observation of persons resident in the flames by which his habitation was consumed, a suspicion arose that he was destroyed by human hands, and the house afterwards set on fire intentionally to conceal the wilful murder. On the first disclosure of the suspicion every probable means of determining it were promptly resorted to by Thomas Arndell, Esq. Magistrate at the Green Hills; who with the active aid and perseverance of Mr. Thompson, chief constable for the district, collected such information as at the present juncture to justify the strong presumption of his inhuman murder; in which we are shocked to state his wife was implicated on strong suspicion, and after undergoing a long examination before Mr. Arndell, was committed to the county gaol yesterday se'nnight. A Bench of Magistrates was yesterday convened, before whom a further investigation of this lamentable affair took place; when one principal circumstance in establishing the fact upon evidence appeared, that when the mutilated remains of the deceased were found among the ruins, the head alone remained uninjured by the flames; that the appearance of blood was at that time visible about the lower part of the face, which was very reasonably attributed to a violent blow from part of the building falling in upon him; but that in consequence of the subsequent suspicion, the interred remains were taken up and more minutely examined; when a handkerchief tied firmly about the head being unbound, discovered to the astonished spectators a large and ghastly aperture in the skull, which might indeed have been attributed to the above cause, did not the cavity appear to have been filled with cloths, and covered with a bandage, as was also the hair of the deceased, which was very much stained with blood. A man servant to the deceased, also in custody, pleaded an alibi; but was, with the woman, remanded for further examination.;Principal=Catherine Edwards10 
Article*16 March 1806 "The Sydney Gazette", NSW;Mary Yardley and her servant Henry Murray underwent another examination for the suspected murder of the late unfortunate William Yardley.
John Campbell a settler at the next farm to that of the deceased, appeared to answer to the Bench such interrogatories relative to this unfortunate transaction as should be thought necessary. His depostion comprehended a narrative of all the circumstances attending it; the deponent was the first that rendered assistance in extinguishing the fire he had, at the hazard of his own life, attempted to get the decased [sic] out of the house, hoping that he might yet be saved; but upon the first touch found the body almost consumed, and desisted from any further attempt ; he was afterwards present at the Inquest taken on the body, and saw the handkerchief round the head, which he proposed taking off, owing to some little curiosity being excited by the appearance of blood under the nose: but was vehemently opposed by all his brother jurors, who concluded that to gratify so idle a curiosity could have no other end than to increase the horror, of the spectacle. His evidence with respect to Murray principally went to prove a dislike to his master ; and on being questioned as to the conduct and general deportment of Mary Yardley during the time, he said he conceived it becoming, and that she appeared sensibly affected. The compress about the head, however, was still a mystery which none could fathom. The Medical Gentlemen correspond in the opinion of its being a premeditated and deliberate murder ; and the Magistracy take every possible pains to discover its authors. - Both prisoners were remanded.;Principal=Catherine Edwards11 


Catherine Edwards b. 1762, d. 14 Oct 1818


  1. [S51] Tom Croucher Years of Hardship.
  2. [S295] London, Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812, online www.ancestry.com.
  3. [S291] Michael Flynn The Second Fleet.
  4. [S372] The National Archives, HO 47/4/30 Report of William Henry Ashhurst onl petition (prisoner) on behalf of William Yardley.
  5. [S156] The Convicts to Port Jackson 1788 - 1849, The Convicts to Port Jackson.
  6. [S47] Microfilm Baptism, St Philips Sydney, 1787-1937.
  7. [S369] NSW Convict Register of Conditional and Absolute Pardons, 1788-1870, online http://ancestry.com, William Yardley 1797.
  8. [S154] Australian Newspapers, trove.nla.gov.au, Sydney Gazette, Sunday 17 March 1805.
  9. [S154] Australian Newspapers, trove.nla.gov.au, Sydney Gazette, Sunday 8 December 1805.
  10. [S356] The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, Sunday, March 9th, 1806.
  11. [S356] The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, Sunday, March 16, 1806.