Caroline/Catherine Arundell and James Elston

Caroline Arundell and James Elston were both born in Devon in 1825; Caroline in Crediton and James in Sandford.

Caroline, or Catherine as she was sometimes called, was the youngest daughter of Richard and Sarah Arundell. In 1841 the family lived in Dean Street, Crediton but later her parents moved to Exeter and lived “under the (Roman) city walls” in the parish of St Mary’s Steps. Her father was a harness maker.

James was brought up in Sandford village. He was the son of James Elston, a farm worker, and Sarah, who had died in 1838 when he was 13. His father married Mary Cousins later that year.

In September 1848 James and Caroline were married at Crediton Church. He was a farm worker and she a maidservant.


In December 1859, they were arrested along with Richard Chasty in Hatherleigh, accused of stealing from John Isaac, a farmer who lived in Sampford Courtney.


North Devon Journal - Thursday 10 January 1850


Hatherleigh —Highway Robbery.— On Saturday the 29th Dec., 1849, Richard Chasty, James Helston (sic) and Caroline Arundell, were apprehended at Hatherleigh, on a charge of highway robbery, and examined before J. H. Veale and J. L. Oldham, Esqrs., magistrates. The prosecutor, Mr. Isaac, Sampford Courtenay, had been to a house in Okehampton, to inquire for his sister, but not finding her he walked along the road towards Bridestowe. About 40 yards from the Western turnpike gate he was overtaken by a woman, who tapped him on the shoulder: he pushed her off, and a man then came forward and knocked him down. A scuffle ensued, in which he lost his purse containing £8 7s. 6d. The same evening the two male prisoners gave a £5 note, in the shop of Mr. Luxton, draper for some calico, and divided the change between them. They were all committed to their trial at the next assize.

The site of the highway robbery - the toll house on the Old Road leading West out of Okehampton - was about 15 miles from their Crediton home.

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They were all found guilty and sentenced to ten years’ transportation. Strangely Caroline, a dairy maid, was tried under her maiden name. She was soon put on board the Emma Eugenia which sailed to Tasmania that October. In Tasmania in January 1853 she and another convict John Vernon applied to marry, but this did not take place. She was assigned as a servant to Moses Abrahams, a portmanteau maker in Hobart.


It was not until December 1853 that her two male accomplices were transported to Western Australia on board the Sea Park, arriving at Freemantle the following April.


It seems that Catherine was later reunited with her husband James Elston. He arrived in Tasmania from Western Australia and in 1862 their daughter Sarah Ann Elston was born in Launceston.

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The birth of Sarah Ann, daughter of James Alston (sic) and Catherine formerly Arundel

By March 1868 Catherine was a widow [A James Elston had died at the lunatic asylum in New Norfolk in 1865]. She then married a farmer, widower Thomas Scott, in the Baptist Chapel in Launceston. Their daughter Kate was born in that town in November that year.

She probably died in 1889 aged 64 in Westbury, west of Launceston.


Back in Devon:


James Elston’s  father died in 1863.

Catherine’s parents died in Exeter, her mother in 1854 and her father in 1861.