Joseph Hepper

Joseph was the eldest son of William and Susanna (nee Abbott) Hepper, and was born in Sandford in 1811.

Aged 10, he was apprenticed to William Daw.

In July 1832 he was imprisoned in Bridewell in Exeter “for want of sureties to indemnify the parish of Sandford in bastardy”


The following year he and James Screech were convicted of stealing wearing apparel from Oliver Nosworthy of Lympstone. Joseph was sentenced to three months in jail, with three weeks in solitary confinement.

In 1836 his father and brother, both named William, died. His father, a labourer aged 61, broke his neck when he fell off a hayrick; he died in the Devon and Exeter Hospital. His brother was only 19 when he died a couple of months later.


In 1837 Joseph, then living in Silverton, was accused of stealing “one leg and one shoulder of pork of the value of thirteen shillings” from Clement Murch of Bradninch. He pleaded “not guilty” but was convicted and sentenced at Bradninch Sessions to seven years transportation “beyond the seas”. The long trial delayed the town’s celebration of Princess Victoria of Kent becoming Queen.

There was a bit of discontent about this sentence as he didn’t have a lawyer, and normally crimes of this severity were dealt with at the assizes in Exeter, with more experienced jurors.

In August he was moved to the Justicia prison hulk moored at Woolwich.

A few months later, Mary Ann Richards of Silverton gave birth to a daughter. She was baptised “Ann – a bastard” on 19 November 1837 in Silverton. But it seems that the birth was registered in the register office in Tiverton under the name of Ann Hepper, and that Joseph was her father.

Joseph Hepper was transported on the "Lord Lyndoch" which sailed on 4 April 1838 arriving in Port Jackson, New South Wales, on 8 August 1838, a voyage of 126 days.


12 convicts died on the voyage, most from scurvy.

The Ship’s Surgeon described the sickness and accident which occurred on board. The first was smallpox, the next was an accident whereby 16 men were scalded by boiling tea, and after the ship passed the Cape of Good Hope scurvy symptoms began to appear and became general by the time of the ship's arrival at Port Jackson. There were upwards of 150 affected out of which 112 were sent to Sydney hospital.

In November  1844 Hepper obtained his Certificate of Freedom.  He then married Mary Griffith. They had about 10 children and lived in Liverpool, a Western suburb of Sydney.


In 1850 he was sentenced to six months in jail with hard labour for stealing a tarpaulin.


In 1856 whilst working as a labourer on the railways he was tried and acquitted of manslaughter. A goods train was derailed when it hit a plank on the line between Parramatta and Liverpool. He was initially held responsible for the accident in which two people died. The same year his younger brother Samuel emigrated to New South Wales.


Joseph died aged 72 in 1883 in Paterson, New South Wales.


Back in Sandford, his mother Susanna had died aged 84 in 1866.

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Joseph Hepper (courtesy Graeme Scott)