Jane Skinner

Jane Skinner was born and baptised in Newton St Cyres, near Crediton, in 1817. Her family soon moved to Sandford, as when ten years old she was indentured as an apprentice to Sandford farmer Daniel Norrish (1770-1842).


Norrish was probably then farming at Yarmleigh, just north of Sandford. On Friday 23 March 1834, his house burnt down. At about 11 am Jane had alerted him that she smelt burning, but nothing was found at that time. Then at about 5pm he found his pig house, house and outbuildings ablaze. He suspected her as being responsible, and after initially denying it, she confessed to constable Wellsford. In court she begged for forgiveness. She stated that after feeding the pigs she had put a hot coal and some straw in the linhay over the pig house and that this started the fire. She said that her master's niece, (Mary Ann Burrington, 1803-1868) was always quarreling with her. She later said that she had been tipsy when she started the fire.

 

She was found guilty of arson and sentenced to death. This sentence was commuted to transportation for life.

On 6 October 1834 she was transferred from Devon County Gaol to Woolwich. She was 5 feet tall, with dark brown hair and hazel eyes.

 

On board the "New Grove" she was taken to Hobart, Tasmania  with 164 other female convicts arriving there on 27 March 1835. On arrival she was immediately put in Gaol for two years as a result of her offence being one of arson.

 

She mainly behaved herself once released from gaol and was assigned to Rev Joseph Orton, Wesleyan Minister in Hobart. In 1843 she married another convict, 35 year old John Casson from Cumbria. She was given a conditional pardon in 1846. They had a daughter Jane in 1845, who later moved to Yarram Yarram in Victoria.

 

Back in Sandford, Daniel Norrish's niece Mary Ann Burrington married his distant cousin William Norrish, who farmed at Prowse, an ancient manor house. By 1841 Daniel was living there with them. (William Norrish's daughter Priscilla married Samuel Price who later lived in Bow and ran the tannery there.)

Daniel Norrish died at Prowse in 1842, his niece Mary Ann being residual legatee of his will.

 

Jane's father James Skinner had died in 1835. Her mother Grace was a pauper who died in Crediton Workhouse in 1844 and was buried in Sandford.