Prisoners Henry SINGLETON, Richard PINCHES and Robert BEW

Who was Henry Singleton aka Richard Pinches aka Harry the Tinker aka Henry Salterton, really? And who was his companion Elizabeth Wilder aka Mrs Poole or Singleton aka Elizabeth Singleton – his mistress, his wife or his daughter? And how old was he when Thomas Nevin photographed him twice in the 1870s?

The Photographs
According to the Tasmanian police gazette of 23 March, 1871, Henry Singleton absconded from the prison at Port Arthur, 23 March 1871, with two transport ships to his two names – as Henry Singleton per Lord Wm Bentinck, and as his alias Richard Pinches, per Lady Kennaway 2, also known with the moniker Harry the Tinker.

Thomas Nevin photographed this prisoner at least twice, in 1873 and again in 1875 producing a different image for each separate sitting. The questions posed by these two photographs centre on this man’s age and name at the time of transportation, his name and age when photographed in the 1870s, and his and his female companion’s literary tastes which warranted lengthy documentation when the police arrested him in a cave in May 1873 at Oatlands, Tasmania.

On Left: the NLA Catalogue notes (incorrect information
nla.pic-vn4270249 PIC P1029/42 LOC Album 935 Henry Singleton, alias Richard Pincers, per Ld. [Lord] Wm. [William] Bentinck, taken at Port Arthur, 1874 [picture] 1874. 1 photograph on carte-de-visite mount : albumen ; 9.4 x 5.6 cm., on mount 10.4 x 6.4 cm. Gunson Collection file 203/​7/​54.
Title from inscription on reverse.
Inscription: “319”–On reverse

On the left, a copy or duplicate from  Nevin’s negative and cdv of a prisoner, held at the National Library of Australia, called Henry Singleton, alias Richard Pincers, per Ld. [Lord] Wm. [William] Bentinck, with verso transcriptions almost identical to the information on the verso of the different photograph on the right of the same man. On the right, another photograph of Henry Singleton, one of several of him held at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Launceston, with the same information about the same ship and the same name, which might be a phonetic spelling of the name “Pinches” , i.e. “Pincers” with the added date of “1838” and notes about additional photographs. This archivist recorded three copies extant at the time of the transcription: No’s: 318, 319, & 320″.  Photograph No. 319 was the NLA photograph, so the QVMAG photograph must be the last photograph, No. 320. Where is “318” and were there more photographs of this prisoner taken over the course of Singleton’s long criminal career?

More important still is the question about the source of the information written on the versos of these photographs, since no transported convict by the name of Henry Singleton or Pincers appears on the arrival lists of the ship Lord William Bentinck, 1832 or 1838, the only two possible dates. If indeed this prisoner of the 1870s called Henry Singleton arrived in 1838, and the police in 1869 recorded his age as 35 yrs old, he would have been born in 1834, and only 4 yrs old when he arrived in VDL, not as a convict but as the child of a guard perhaps. The fact that the National Library’s copy bears the same information as the copy at the QVMAG suggests strongly that the QVMAG was the source of the NLA’s copy of this photograph (and many others), and that the written transcription on the versos was added from just the one 1871 police gazette notice by an archivist at the QVMAG back in the years of their accession of these records from Beattie ca. 1916 and Beattie’s collection in 1930. .

 Verso of No. 155
No’s: 318, 319, & 320″.
QVMAG Ref: QM: 1985: P: 77.

The Archives Office of Tasmania holds a copy of the QVMAG photograph but recorded Singleton with the alias of “Pinches” and the ship on which he arrived as the Lady Kennaway 2, not the Ld. [Lord] Wm. [William] Bentinck. 

Caption: “Henry Singleton (alias Richard Pinches) convict, transported per Lady Kennaway. Photograph taken at Port Arthur by Thomas Nevin.” 
Archives Office of Tasmania (TAHO):
Ref: PH30/1/3248.

There are no transportation records for a convict called Henry Singleton transported later than 1842.  Who was copying what from where? The NLA and the QVMAG both document Singleton aka Pincers arriving on the Lord Wm Bentinck (1838), and the source of that inscription is probably from the police gazette of 1871 (see below), but the AOT and the Police gazettes both document Singleton aka Richard Pinches arriving on the Lady Kennaway 2 (1851). That too is unlikely, since the man described as Richard Pinches on the  Lady Kennaway 2  transportation records does not describe the younger man in these two photographs.

It is likely that the prisoner in these two photographs was neither Henry Singleton per Lady Kennaway 2 nor his alias Richard Pinches per Lord William Bentinck. The prisoner in these photographs may be Robert Bew, per Mayda , 1846, off Norfolk Island, or indeed the only recorded Henry Singleton to arrive as a transported convict – Henry Singleton, per Surry 4, aged 18, arrived 1842. Robert Bew was photographed by Nevin on 19 July 1873 when discharged with a TOL but no extant photograph carries his name and he was arrested and convicted with the Henry Singleton documented with the Richard Pinches alias in March 1870 (see police record below).The original convict transportation records for the name Pinches compound the confusion today (see more below); the police at the time were doubly confused by Henry Singleton’s youthful appearance.

Singleton’s Police Records 1869-1883

Henry Singleton aka Harry the Tinker, Index, police gazette called Tasmania Reports of Crime Information for Police 1869. The following records are all sourced from these police gazettes which were published weekly.


Warrant for Henry Singleton 19 November 1869 with alias of Harry the Tinker, for stealing flour. The following description accompanied the warrant.

Description of Henry Singleton, 19 November 1869 -” 35 years old, appears younger“, 5 feet 6 inches, a tin-plate worker, hence the moniker “Tinker”.  If 35 yrs old in 1869, his DOB would be ca. 1834 (1869-35=1834).

Henry Singleton was arrested three weeks later at Oatlands, 3 December 1869. Beneath this notice, a transgendered person was arrested the same week- William McCafferty, alias Annie Lowrie Scotty.

Tradesmen by inclination and intent, Henry Singleton and an accomplice called Robert Bew (or Berr) were committed for trial on 24 December 1869 for theft of carpenter’s tools.


Robert Bew per Mayda and Henry Singleton alias Richard Pinches per Ly Kennaway 2 were convicted in the Supreme Court Hobart on 4 March 1870, sentenced to four and five years respectively for the offence of breaking and entering within curtilage, i.e. within the boundary of a private property. They were sent to the Port Arthur prison where one year later, Henry Singleton absconded and headed towards Oatlands. This is the first mention in the police records of the ship and the alias, Richard Pinches per Lady Kennaway 2


Henry Singleton absconded from Port Arthur, 23 March 1871, with two transport ships to his two names – as Henry Singleton per Lord Wm Bentinck, and as alias Richard Pinches, per Lady Kennaway 2, known with the moniker Harry the Tinker.

1873: The Library in the Cave

Henry Singleton was arrested 30 May 1873. The police discovered quite a cache in his hideout, a cave in Oatlands,including –


The following is a list of articles found in a cave in the Municipality of Oatlands, recently occupied by Henry Singleton, alias Harry the Tinker (vide Crime Report, 1871, page 41), and a woman named Elizabeth Wilder, recently arrested by the Oatlands Municipal Police: – 7 vols Sir Walter Scott’s novels, paper covers; 1 vol. East Lynne; 1 small vice and other small tools (carpenter’s), since identified by Mr John Page, of Lemon Springs; 1 book on Electricity; 1 ditto Philosophy of Common Things; 1 vol. Popular Educator; 1 Church Lesson Book, bound in green velvet, brass edges, “Ohio Brown” written in the cover; 1 single-barreled gun, a crack in the stock where screw fastens lock; 1 small telescope, red barrel; 1 tomahawk; 3 small hammers; several files; 1 rasp; 2 dark lanterns; 8 dies; 2 tin billies; a quantity of note paper and envelopes; a revolver case; 1 bullet mould; 1 nipple-screw; a quantity of bullets; 1 blow-pipe; a quantity of flour; 23 door and drawer keys on steel ring; 14 small keys on a string; 15 ditto; 30 skeleton keys and door keys, some of them broken; 1 frying-pan; 1 pack of cards; 1 black wide-a-wake hat; 1 new Scotch twill shirt; 1 old dark moleskin trousers; 1 pair woman’s stays, new; sugar, tea, caraway seeds &. The above articles with the exception of those claimed by Mr Page, are at Police Office, Oatlands, awaiting identification.

Henry Singleton’s impressive stash of loot was discovered in a cave at Oatlands after his arrest, reported on 6 June 1873. He was held at the Oatlands Gaol in the Men -on-Routes room until taken on Page’s coach to the Hobart Gaol. He was photographed soon after arrival by Thomas J. Nevin, the photograph (above, left) now held at the National Library of Australia. He may have been sent to the Port Arthur prison again but his name IS NOT on the lists of those 109 men who were sent there from the Hobart Gaol, and then relocated back to the Hobart Gaol by July 1873 at the request of the Parliament.

Title: [Oatlands Gaol]
Publisher: [Tasmania : s.n., 18–?]
Description: 1 photographic print on card : sepia toned ; 197 x 340 mm
Format: Photograph
ADRI: AUTAS001131821738
Source: Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts

Men -on-Routes room
Title: Plan – Oatlands – Plan and elevation of intended alterations in the ‘Men-on-Routes’ room at the Oatlands New Gaol
Description: 1 photographic print
Format: Photograph
ADRI: CSO1-1-937
Source: Archives Office of Tasmania


Henry Singleton was discharged with a ticket of leave from Hobart on 21 July 1875. The police continue to document his ship as the Ly Kennaway 2.

Henry Singleton’s discharge was reported again on 23 July 1875. When he was discharged with a Ticket of Leave from Hobart per this notice of 23 Juy 1875, his name was listed twice: the Port Arthur information listed his sentence as 10 years, i.e. dating from his Supreme Court conviction of 1 March 1870, but omits any physical description; the second entry lists his sentence as 5yrs, giving a physical description, and his age – 60 yrs old. If he was 35 yrs old in in November 1869, by July 1875, he would have been about 41 yrs old, not 60 yrs old. The second photograph of Singleton, held at the QVMAG, was taken by Nevin at the Hobart Municipal Police Office in July 1875 on the TOL discharge.


Henry Singleton was discharged 23 May 1883, sentenced to three months in February 1883 for larceny. Here his age is listed 68 yrs old in 1883, but if he was 35 yrs old in 1869, he would have been 49 yrs old, not 68 yrs old. Was he Singleton or was he Pinches? The age discrepancy points not to aliases, but two entirely different men. Little wonder the police commented that he looked young for his age!

Warrant for the arrest of Henry Singleton 5 September 1883

Warrant for Henry Singleton on suspicion of stealing 20 yards of Crimean shirting etc, 28 September 1883

Henry Singleton and a woman called Mrs Singleton or Poole, accused of stealing a green skirt etc, was also arrested on 26 October 1883.

Henry Singleton, alias Richard Pinches, still documented with the ship the Lady Kennaway 2, now aged 71 years – and now with a new alias – “Henry Salterton” – was arraigned in the Supreme Court Launceston on 7 November 1883 with a 14 year sentence, along with Elizabeth Singleton, aged 27, a native or local, who was arrested on a count of burglary and disposed of with a Proclamation. But if he was 35 yrs old in 1869, and looked even younger to police in that year (!), by November 1883, he would have been 49 yrs old, not 71 yrs old.  Or, if he was the prisoner transported to Norfolk Island in 1851 as Pinches on the Lady Kellaway 2, aged 32 yrs, by 1883 he would be 64 yrs old, not 71 yrs old, (1851-32 = born ca.1819; 1883-1819=64). And if indeed he was transported at all, and in 1869 he was 35 yrs old, in 1851 he would have been born in 1834, transported as a child if transported at all. None of these recorded ages are consistent with the names associated, and none concord with the looks of the prisoner in Nevin’s mugshots taken in the 1870s.

And so on … more offences appear in the police gazettes for both names – Singleton and Pinches – throughout this decade.

On left, the NLA image (1873), flipped and color-corrected to compare with the QVMAG image (1875) on right. The prisoner on right looks a little older by 1875, but he does not look like a man who was supposedly born in 1819 and transported in 1851 to Norfolk Island, aged 32 yrs. He was described by the police gazettes as “35 years old, appears younger” in 1869, so in 1873, per police records, he would have been 39 yrs old, and by 1875, he would have been 41 yrs old. These look like correct ages for the man photographed, so why was he associated with the following transportation records?

Too old: a man named Richard Pinches from Birmingham (UK), a glazier and plumber, was tried at the Oxford Q.S. in 1844. He was 32 years old when he arrived on Norfolk Island on 4th July 1851, so by 1873 this man would have been 54 yrs old. He was then sent to Hobart (Port Arthur) as a convict on board the Lady Kennaway 2,on 29 September 1852 per these records:

Richard Pinches per Lady Kennaway 2, 1851

TAHO Ref: CON14-1-42_00322_L;  CON14-1-42_00322_L

TAHO Ref: CON33-1-102_00185_L
Convict Details
Pinches, Richard
Convict No: 56424
Extra Identifier:
SEE Surname:
SEE Given Names:
Voyage Ship: Lady Kennaway (2)
Voyage No: 337
Arrival Date: 28 May 1851
Departure Date: 05 Feb 1851
Departure Port: Portsmouth
Conduct Record: CON33/1/102, CON37/1/ p5138
Muster Roll:
Appropriation List:
Other Records:
Indent: CON14/1/42
Description List: CON18/1/52
Remarks: Reconvicted as Henry Singleton

Robert Bew per Mayda, 1842

TAHO Ref: CON33-1-79_00018_L

Robert Bew per Mayda and Henry Singleton alias Richard Pinches per Ly Kennaway 2 were convicted in the Supreme Court Hobart on 4 March 1870, sentenced to four and five years respectively for the offence of breaking and entering within curtilage, i.e. within the boundary of a private property.

Henry Singleton per Surrey 4, 1842

TAHO Ref: CON33-1-27_00216_L

This prisoner called Henry Singleton was 18yrs old, literate and 5 ft 6 ins tall when he arrrived at Hobart, VDL in 1842 on board the Surrey 4, but was this prisoner a different man with the same name, or the same man whose alias was Richard Pinches? This man would have been 50 yrs old in 1874,

Henry Pinches per Candahar, 1842

Information is requested respecting Henry Pinches, per ship Candahar, whether living or dead; if the latter, the date and place of death. Communicate with this Office.

Illiterate, too short and too old: someone was looking for a man by the name of Henry Pinches, per this missing friends notice published in the police gazette of 19 September 1879.  Henry Pinches, aged 25 years old, was illiterate and under five feet tall when he was transported on the Candahar in 1842, per this record which shows he was discharged from the Police Office Hobart Town Hall in August 1874 where he would have been photographed on discharge by Thomas Nevin, so where is his photograph? If he was born ca. 1817 (1842-1825=1817) he would have been 57 yrs old by 1874.

TAHO Ref: CON33-1-23_00168_L

Why the Infamy?
The Tasmanian tourist destination, the Port Arthur Historic Site (PAHS) (accessed April 2014) on the Tasman Peninsula, makes a great deal of this prisoner for visitors, casting him as a bad character –

… constantly in trouble for refusing to work, being dirty and disobedient, talking and having money improperly in his possession, insubordination and using threatening language. He received many short sentences of hard labour or solitary confinement. Sent to Port Arthur in 1853, he continued to refuse to work, and to be disobedient and insolent, and received more spells in solitary for his pains.

Webshot on Singleton file

The PAHS insisted (up to April 2014)  he be called Richard Pinches and not Henry Singleton, despite all the police records over decades stating clearly that the name Richard Pinches, per Ly Kennaway 2, was an alias, and despite these transportation records for Richard Pinches showing no correlation to the youngish prisoner called Henry Singleton whom Nevin photographed in the 1870s.

This is the information greeting visitors to their website up to April 2014 until their update and after viewing our post here with a thousand clicks:

PAHS publication: People of Port Arthur

Richard Pinches a.k.a Henry Singleton was a 27 year old plumber and glazier when he was transported. He was a single Roman Catholic from Birmingham who could read and write.
Pinches had made a habit out of minor crime; he had four previous convictions for stealing and housebreaking and had served short sentences. Finally the court decided that it had seen enough of him, and he was transported for 14 years for stealing linen. He arrived in mid 1851.
He was first sent to Norfolk Island and in a year he served nine and a half months hard labour in chains for being disobedient, dirty, disorderly and having money improperly in his possession.
Transferred to Port Arthur in early 1853, Pinches continued his campaign of disobedience, earning himself more time in solitary and hard labour in chains. In May 1854 he gained a pass but it seemed that he still had not developed a taste for work; three months later he absconded from his master. He was caught after some weeks and returned to Port Arthur for 18 months hard labour. This was not to his liking and two months later he bolted; he was recaptured and after serving 12 months he was again assigned to a master.
This time Pinches completed his sentence without incident. His next appearance was in Oatlands Goal under a new name, Henry Singleton, but he was still up to his old tricks. He was sentenced to four years at Port Arthur for stealing five pigs. There he got another three months hard labour for being drunk. In early 1864 Richard gained his freedom but only seven months later he was back in goal in Hobart, charged with bigamy. Marriage records cannot even verify that he was married once.
He was acquitted, so the charge against him may have been fabricated.
He kept out of trouble until 1870, when he was returned to Port Arthur for five years for breaking and entering an outbuilding and stealing. He must have misbehaved at Port Arthur because four years later he was in the Separate Prison, although his offence was not recorded. Then he received another three years with hard labour, including a year in the Separate Prison, for attempting to escape.
In July 1875 and again in 1879 he was in the Prisoners’ Barracks, but we do not know why. 1883 was a bad year for Richard. He was arrested twice, once in February when he was sentenced to three months hard labour for larceny and then in November he received 14 years for burglary. We have no further records for Richard.
He was then 65 years old and had spent almost half his life in the convict system.

Note the vernacular phrasing and attitudinal markers, the intimate use of the prisoner’s first name “Richard”, and the closing down of the topic by affirming there are no further records for the prisoner because “we” don’t have any.  The information used by the Port Arthur site was most likely sourced from Thomas Keneally’s book, Australians from Eureka to the Diggers (2011, Allen & Unwin), page 2, (or vice versa) though no sources are cited.

This is the PAHS update (accessed 6 October 2014) which denies ever having insisted on the name Pinches instead of Singleton:

But the PAHS still insists on captioning the QVMAG copy of Nevin’s photograph of Singleton with the A. H. Boyd misattribution on their fact sheet. Attributed by whom? Again, no source, no concession to the simple fact that not one photograph of a prisoner or landscape or anything else purported to be taken by the Commandant A. H. Boyd has ever existed except in the febrile minds of vested interests at the Port Arthur historic Site:

[sic] “Henry Singleton circa 1873-4, photograph attributed to Boyd
Reproduced courtesy of Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery”

Relatively speaking, compared with the murderers, child rapists, and the thousands of blood-thirsty felons who populated the prisons of Tasmania in Singleton’s time, he was neither especially dangerous to people’s physical safety, nor ignorant or malicious. The loot found in his cave hideout at Oatlands in 1873 gives a very clear idea of what aspirations he held, despite his circumstances. He was a tradesmen who stole tools in the hope of building himself and his female companion Elizabeth a house; he was literate with educated tastes who stole novels to read for their amusement, and religious volumes for their enlightenment, and above all, he cared and shared all this with a young woman called Elizabeth, probably his daughter, whom police disposed of with a Proclamation in 1883 rather than imprison. Why the infamy?

One of the books found in Henry Singleton’s possession …

Mrs. Henry Wood, 1814-1887
East Lynne, or, The Earl’s Daughter.
Richmond: West & Johnston, 1864.

Print by Alfred Winter
Title: Photograph – View of the township of Oatlands, shown in picture are the sails on Callington Mill
Description: 1 photographic print
Format: Photograph
ADRI: PH30-1-2969
Source: Archives Office of Tasmania