Prisoner Henry PAGE

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT Tasmania 1863-1875
LETTERS to the EDITOR, Hobart Mercury
RAPE of children

National Library of Australia catalogue
Henry Page, per Phoenix 2, taken at Port Arthur, 1874 – INCORRECT 

[Henry Page was photographed by T. J, Nevin in December 1875 at the Hobart Gaol]
Call Number PIC Album 935 #P1029/39
Part of collection: Convict portraits, Port Arthur, 1874.

Gunson Collection file 203/7/54.
Title from inscription on reverse.
Inscription: title and “297“–In ink on reverse.
Condition: Slight foxing.

The Mugshot
Despite the online catalogue note devised by the National Library of Australia from an inscription on the verso written in the early 1900s (probably by John Watt Beattie et al) on their accession of this mugshot and more than another 80 of Tasmanian prisoners mugshots in the 1960s, Henry Page was NOT photographed at the Port Arthur prison. He was photographed by government contractor Thomas J. Nevin at the Hobart Gaol in December 1875 for police and prison authorities and for the same reasons those who are arrested, arraigned, sentenced and discharged are photographed today. The wording “Taken at Port Arthur 1874” appears on the verso of this and another 250 or so cdvs of Tasmanian prisoners taken in the 1870s and now extant in public collections (QVMAG, TMAG, NLA, TAHO). It was written by archivists such as John Watt Beattie, whose job on government commission from the late 1890s was to promote the penal heritage of Tasmania in his “Port Arthur Museum” in Hobart and at travelling intercolonial exhibitions associated with fake convict hulk, the Success.

1873: Henry Page’s death penalty recorded
Henry Page was sentenced to death for the rape of a girl aged 9 years and 9 months in mid December 1873. The sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, on the commendation of mercy, apparently because of his age: at sentencing was 70 yrs old. He spent two years at the Port Arthur prison, arriving there on 20th December 1873. He was transferred back to the Hobart House of Corrections for Males (the Hobart Gaol, Campbell St.) on 5th December 1875 (Conduct PA Register Con 94-1-2 1873-76, Folio 6) where he was photographed on being received by government contractor Thomas J. Nevin, He remained incarcerated until transferred to the New Town Charitable Institution.

Prisoner Henry Page
Arrived Port Arthur 12 Dec 1873
Transferred to the Hobart Gaol 5 Dec 1875, photographed by T. J. Nevin
Conduct PA Register Con 94-1-2 1873-76, Folio 6

Henry Page spent his last years as a pauper in the New Town Charitable Institution where he died in 1893. As to his victim in 1873, nine year old Fannie Bransfield, what sort of life she led after this traumatic experience can only guessed at. According to newspaper reports, the circumstances were “the most horrible and revolting that ever came before a Tasmanian jury. This inhuman monster was sentenced to death, but was reprieved on account of his great age, and is now confined at Port Arthur.”

According to the Act of 1863: –

47 Whosoever shall unlawfully and carnally know and abuse any
girl under the age of Ten years shall be guilty of Felony, and being
convicted thereof shall suffer Death as a Felon.

READ the FULL ACT here {pdf}
An Act To Consolidate And Amend The Legislative Enactments Relating To Offences Against The Person (27 Vic, No 5) Austlii Database

COURT REPORTS Mercury 1873

Henry Page charged with rape
Source: Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), Wednesday 3 December 1873, page 2


The Criminal Sittings of Oyer and Terminer were commenced yesterday in Hobart Town.
FIRST COURT. Before Mr. Justice Dobson.

A capital offence.
Henry Page, a baldheaded old man, about 70 years of age, was charged with a capital offence on a little girl named Fannie Bransfield, under 10 years old, at East Bay Neck.
The Attorney-General prosecuted ; and Mr. J. W. Graves defended the prisoner.
The little girl (who gave her evidence in a very straightforward manner) detailed the particulars of her seduction, which occurred while she was out in the bush with the prisoner sorting wool. She also spoke to frequent acts subsequently, but in reply to Mr. Graves, admitted that she had not said anything to her mother about the assault for two Sundays after she was taken home.
Dr. Blyth, of Sorell, gave evidence of his examination of the little girl, strongly supporting the theory of the prosecution.
The child’s mother, Anne Bransfield, said the girl made complaints to her on the third day after she was brought home. She further stated that when, a short time before last Christmas, she visited the child, the prisoner interfered, and prevented the child from seeing her on her way home.
Mr. Graves, for the defence, called a witness, who had known the prisoner for 20 years. He said he had never heard anything against his reputation during the whole of that period, until his arrest on the present charge.
His Honor carefully summed up the evidence, and the jury, at a few minutes past one, retired to consult their verdict.

Source:Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), Wednesday 3 December 1873, page 2

On the same day:

The jury empanelled to try the charge against Henry Page, then brought in their verdict.
The Clerk of Arraigns asked if they were all agreed upon their verdict ?
The Foreman : We are.
The Clerk of Arraigns : How say you, do you find the prisoner guilty or not guilty.
The Foreman : Guilty, with a strong recommendation to mercy.
His Honor : I will take care that your recommendation is forwarded to the proper quarter. But it would be as well, perhaps, that you should state the ground of your recommendation.
The Foreman : On the ground of age and previous good character.
The Clerk of Arraigns (To the Prisoner) : Have you anything to say why judgement of death should not be recorded against you according to law ?
The Prisoner (who appeared not to understand his terrible position) replied after a pause : Bless my soul ! I did nothing to deserve death, nor anything else. I are as innocent as anybody can be of what she says. Prisoner then spoke most disrespectfully of the prosecuting witness, and added, I deserve no punishment.
His Honor said the prisoner had been found guilty, the victim being a child living under prisoner’s roof, and who ought to have received his protection.
The prisoner (interrupting) : No one ever protected her more than I have done in evory shape and way ; and I can stand here before this Court and my God, and say my conscience is clear of what she says of me. I have kept myself as respectable as anyone in the island in my circumstances could do, for the last 30 years ; and I have done nothing to deserve death or any other punishment. God knows I have not.
His Honor said the jury had found him guilty on evidence which he was sure could not fail to satisfy most reasonable minds. Not only did the evidence prove the fact that he committed a gross outrage on this girl, but that moreover ho had subjected her to habitual ill-treatment.
The Prisoner : It’s false, Sir, every word of it.
His Honor said the jury had found him guilty, with a recommendation to mercy. A few years ago this offence would have had but one result, and though it still remained a capital offence, he felt in some degree justified, after, the jury’s recommendation, and bearing in mind the merciful clemency of the executive in the present day, not to pass upon him the extreme sentence. However it would be in the power of the Executive, if they think fit, to have the capital punishment carried out. The sentence of the Court was that the sentence of death be recorded against the prisoner, and it would be for the Executive to say what period of punishment he would have to undergo.
The prisoner was then removed.

Source: Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), Wednesday 3 December 1873, page 2

1875: Letters to the Editor
Public outrage at capital punishment, sparked by the execution of Job Smith whom Thomas Nevin had photographed under the alias of William Campbell (copies are held  in the NLA and TMAG collections), referred to the reprieves granted to Charles Downes, as well as Marsh and Henry Page, in letters to the Mercury, May 29th 1875.  These letters  expressed disbelief in the inconsistencies of the sentences:

Extract from letters  
Capital Punishment: Marsh, Page and Downes reprieved,
Job Smith executed.
Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), Saturday 29 May 1875, page 3


Sir,-Since the Executive have shut their ears to all appeals to spare the life of the condemned Job Smith, I cannot refrain from asking, upon what principles the death penalty has been, and is to be hereafter, inflicted, or commuted, in Tasmania. The man Marsh, who was tried on the same day as Smith, and found guilty of the same offence, has been reprieved – not for any extenuating circumstances in connection with his crime, but, apparently, because no great amount of violence was used by him, the fear of his victim having rendered it unnecessary. In December, 1873, Henry Page was tried and found guilty of rape upon a child under age, under circumstances the most horrible and revolting that ever came before a Tasmanian jury. This inhuman monster was sentenced to death, but was reprieved on account of his great age, and is now confined at Port Arthur. In February, 1872, Charles Downes was tried and found guilty of carnally knowing a child under ten years of age, under circumstances which amounted to nothing short of a violent rape. This man was also, after being sentenced to death, reprieved.
In the presence of these three reprievals, I look in vain for the principle upon which the Executive have decided to hang Job Smith. If in anyone, of the four cases now under notice, so far as they are to be compared with each other, there was any palliating circumstances, it was surely in the case of Smith. He had been removed by the strong arm of the law from all the opportunities left open to the other three of sinning at pleasure without rendering themselves liable to arrest for crime. It must also be confessed that had strict discipline been in force in regard to Smith, the offence for which he is about to suffer would not have been committed.
What then is the particularly dark feature in the case of Smith for which the Executive have deter-mined that he shall die? Is it because he struck his victim on the arm with a piece of batten? Then it is not the rape for which they are punishing him. Or, are the Executive carrying out the extreme penalty of the law in the present instance because the Judge who tried the case thought fit to say, that if ever there was a case in which it was proper to do so, this was one? Then the Executive had better, for the future, resign their prerogative into the hands of the Chief Justice. But until they think fit to do so, it is to be demanded of them that they mete out to all persons who come under their jurisdiction an equal administration of the law; but how the reprieving of Downes, Page, and Marsh, and the hanging of Job Smith, can be proved to be that, I, for one, cannot see.
I am, yours truly,

Sir, – A letter appeared in your issue this morning containing statements so startling, that in the interests of justice, the condemned criminal Job Smith should be reprieved until the truthfulness of the statements contained in the letter signed ” Clemency ” has been ascertained. I cannot imagine that any man would pen such statements without good grounds for doing so. Society only requires that justice should be done, and this will be safer after the investigation than before. If the writer of the letter had not sufficient grounds for the statements made by him, he will only have the pain of knowing that he has been the means of raising fallacious hopes in the breast of the wretched criminal, while the Governor, by granting a reprieve, will only have done what appears an imperative duty, while the exercise of his prerogative may save the life of a fellow-creature from being unduly taken.

Sir,- Strange things indeed are done in this world under the name of justice ! A rich man with, thousands in his pocket grasps his poor neighbour by the throat and steals his only pound. Again, a poor miserable wretch with no food, no home, no friends, wandering in the far bush, has the opportunity offered, robs to satisfy his craving hunger. The two are arraigned and convicted of the same offence, and hear, O sages, the result 1 The poor man is hung, whilst the rich is reprieved.
Two men are tried in our courts of justice (?) and condemned for the same crime. The one is a free man, roaming whither he will, with every opportunity for gratifying his lust, (either by marriage or not). The other is a poor wretch, shut up in gaol. In a fatal moment the opportunity presents itself in a most attractive form. Animated by long repressed passion, Job Smith springs upon his victim and perpetrates the crime. How in the name of all justice can Job Smith be hung whilst Marsh is reprieved. I know not whether Smith was labouring under a form of insanity known as satyriasis, but this I know that the circumstances under which he was living were just such as would be likely to produce it. Any way, from a medicolegal point of view the decisions in the two cases are an anomaly to me. Yours, etc, –

[It is evident our correspondent writes in ignorance of the facts that lay down a very broad and distinct difference between the circumstances of the two crimes.-Ed. M.]

Source:Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), Saturday 29 May 1875, page 3

Henry Page dead at 92 years of age
If this record is at all applicable to the prisoner Henry Page who escaped the death penalty in 1873, he actually lived to 92 years of age. He was a resident of the New Town Charitable Institution when he was buried at the Cornelian Bay cemetery on 19th April 1893.

Page, Henry Record Type:
Deaths Age: 92
Description: Last known residence: New Town Charitable Institution, New Town
Property: Cornelian Bay Cemetery
Date of burial: 19 Apr 1893
File number: BU 9263
Record ID: NAME_INDEXES:1561132
Archives Office of Tasmania

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