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Henry Hanger - A Son of Rushden

Generations of Hangers lived in Rushden and nearly parishes in the 18th and 19th centuries. Mostly they worked in the shoe trade, though some were agricultural labourers. In Australia today there are hundreds of Hangers, all of them descended from just one son of Rushden.

Henry Hanger* married Ann Jones at Raunds in 1808, and they had several children. Their fourth son was also Henry, baptized in Rushden on 21st July 1816 1, and he was my great great grandfather.

The Hangers were not wealthy; indeed they were probably quite poor. Why else would young Henry have stolen that sheep? In 1835 Henry was living in Rushden with his married brother John. On 21st December he stole a sheep from Mr Lawton. When the constable called in response to Mr Lawton's shepherd's accusation, a plate of mutton was unfinished on the table. John was nowhere to be found. The remains of the sheep were discovered upstairs in the bedroom, hidden behind sacking.

Of course it might have been John who stole the sheep, we don't know, in which case Henry accepted the blame to protect his married brother.

Henry was tried on 7th January 1836. He was convicted of the theft and was sentenced to transportation for life.2 That's right - life for the theft on one sheep! I wonder what his punishment would be today.

In some ways this was the start of Henry's life, but he never saw his family again.

Henry, and other convicted men from Northamptonshire, were transported from Portsmouth, but first they had to march the 150 miles south. There they were held in hulks in Portsmouth Harbour awaiting transportation.

Four months after his conviction, Henry was transported in a ship called Moffat, leaving Portsmouth on the 7th of May. There were 399 other convicts aboard. The indent reveals that Henry could neither read nor write. He was listed as "shoemaker - indifferent". He was five feet four inches tall, with hazel eyes, light brown hair and a brown complexion.3

Moffat arrived in Sydney on 20th August, 1836. At first Henry was assigned to Hyde Park Barracks. Then presumably he was assigned to a farmer in the Camden area, south-west of Sydney for that's where he settled. He received his Ticket of Leave in 1844; this required him to remain in the Camden area. In 1848 he received his Conditional Pardon; this gave him the freedom to travel within the colony of New South Wales, but not to return to England. On the 3rd of June 1850 he married Mary Dooling.

Mary was from County Wicklow, orphaned by the Irish famine of the 1840s. She arrived in Australia as part of Earl Grey's Pauper Immigration Scheme, intended to solve the shortage of labour and the imbalance of sexes in the colonies. She married Henry after only eleven months. She was nineteen; he was thirty-four.

They married on 3rd June 1855 at St John's Church of England, Camden.4 Over the next sixteen years they had nine children.5 We know from his children's records that Henry continued shoemaking until 1864. Then he turned to farming. He died in 1897, and Mary lived on until 1912.

It's interesting that a poor shoemaker from Rushden, with a criminal record, became a successful farmer and landowner in Australia. It's interesting that Henry has so many descendants living in Australia today, descendants who, in 1998, met for a great family gathering.


1  Rushden Parochial Church Records,  permission Northamptonshire R.O.

2  Northampton Mercury, 9 January 1836

3  Convict Indent of Henry Hanger, Archive Office of NSW.

4  NSW Marriages Register

5  Pioneering in Australia: The Family Tree of Henry & Mary Hanger,  Evagean Publishing, NSW, 1997.

* We have not identified the parents or Henry nor of Ann. Anyone who can solve these puzzles would have our undying gratitude. email:

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