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Edward Shoesmith (abt. 1804 - 1889)

Edward "Spider" Shoesmith
Born about in Hastings, Sussex, England, United Kingdommap [uncertain]
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married 15 Jan 1821 in Crowhurst, Sussex, England, United Kingdommap
Husband of — married 23 Jun 1851 (to 24 Jul 1851) in Maitland, Colony of New South Walesmap
Husband of — married 15 Dec 1851 in East Maitland, Colony of New South Walesmap
Descendants descendants
Died in Morpeth, New South Wales, Australiamap
Profile last modified | Created 31 May 2011
This page has been accessed 7,130 times.


Baptism (note: no primary source can be found for this information)

Date: 8 APR 1804
Place: Crowhurst, East Sussex, England

Marriage 1[1]

Certificate type Marriage
Usual residence this Parish (Crowhurst, County Sussex)
Usual residence this Parish (Crowhurst, County Sussex)
DATE OF MARRIAGE 15 January 1821
Place of marriage Parish Church, Crowhurst
Witnesses Thomas SHOUSMITH (X mark), John THOMPSON
Minister William DELVES, Rector of Catsfield
Note married in the church, by Banns, with consent of parents; both parties signed with an 'X' mark

Convict details

Event: for life on the Claudine, one of 180 convicts on board
Type: Transported
Date: 1829
Place: Australia[2]

Census details[3]

Census: 1841 NSW Census
Name: Edward SHOESMITH
Notes: Return no. 6
Residence: Co. Durham, Patrick's Plains
No. persons: 2

Marriage 2[4]

Certificate type Marriage
Usual residence Bolwarra, New South Wales
Usual residence Bolwarra, New South Wales
Place of marriage West Maitland Wesleyan Church
Religion Wesleyan
Witnesses William SHOESMITH, Rosenisa (?) SHOESMITH
Minister Stephen RABONE, Minister of Wesleyan Church, West Maitland
Registration details No. 41/1851 V185141 85
Notes his signature, her X mark

Marriage 3[5]

Certificate type Marriage
Usual residence Bolwarra, New South Wales
Status Widower
Usual residence Parish of East Maitland, New South Wales
Status Widow
DATE OF MARRIAGE 15 December 1851
Place of marriage West Maitland Wesleyan Church
Religion Wesleyan
Witnesses Thomas HANKS of East Maitland, and Harriet HANKS of East Maitland
Minister G K RUSDEN, Chaplain, East Maitland
Registration details No. 607/1851 V1851607 37B
Notes married by Banns, with consent of friends, his signature, her X mark


Certificate type Death
Date 27 August 1889
Place High Street, Morpeth
Occupation Farmer
Sex male
Age 90 years (sic)
Place of birth Sussex, England
Time in Australian colonies 61 years in N.S.W.
Occupation Farmer
Mother Hannah Unknown
Place of marriage East Maitland
Age at marriage 51 years
Name of spouse Matilda MITCHELL
Children of marriage Harriet 37; Amelia 35; Miriam 30; Edward 28; Rose/Annie twins 24; Emily 21; Elizabeth 17. 1 male, 2 females deceased.
Informant Matilda SHOESMITH, wife of deceased, Morpeth
Cause of death Polypi in bladder
Length of illness few months
By whom certified F A BENNETT (26th August 1889)
Date of burial 29 August 1889
Place of burial Wesleyan Cemetery, Morpeth
Minister & religion John ROBSON, Wesleyan
Undertaker J G WHITE, C F WAKELY (not signed)
Witnesses Joseph STENRY, Charles DUDLEY
Registration details District Registrar Morpeth, 24 Sep 1889, no. 1697
Registration no. 11457/1889


The Battle of Sidley Green

It was a clear moonlight night with a fresh early January breeze drifting inland from the Sussex coast. The crisp white sails of the lugger shimmered ghost-like as the white boat silently drifted in under The Bluff. The men who had stood quietly and orderly under the cliffs since around midnight now moved forwards. Moving as soundlessly as they could on the beach they began to unload the tubs from the boat which was drawn up close to the waters edge. In a well practised manoeuvre each man took two of the small kegs on his shoulders, ran up the beach and disappeared into the fields above the shore.

About a dozen men had crept swiftly away when there was a shout from the far end of the beach and another smaller group of men, obviously armed rushed towards the spot where twenty or so men were still busily unloading the precious spirit. Most of these tub-men continued with their task although a few men lost their nerve and dropping their cargo disappeared into the night. Suddenly, a large group of men, armed mainly with stout ash poles about six foot in length surrounded the smaller, but better armed force of Blockademen forcing them to retreat back up the cliff path.

A few shots were fired but in the confusion no one could see whether anyone fell during the fracas. Snatching up a couple of muskets that had been dropped by the excise men during the affray the Bat-men formed a protective line so that the tub-men could continue their task.

As the smugglers and their protectors moved swiftly up from the beach the Blockademen regrouped. Many of them had been badly bruised during the fight on the beach but no one had suffered serious injury. The original intelligence that had led the party to intercept the smugglers had suggested that the gang, known locally as the Little Common Gang, would be heading for one of their favoured hiding places at Sidley Green about two and a half miles inland.

Determined to head off the smugglers the men of the Blockade set out from Glyne Gap where the smugglers were still rushing to clear the tubs of brandy and other contraband through the maze of lanes leading towards Sidley Green. On the way they obtained reinforcements from the Galley Hill Tower which raised their numbers to about forty armed men.

As they moved swiftly through the moonlit villages the Blockademen came upon small groups of smugglers and a running fight developed between these stragglers and their pursuers. As they ran through Bexhill local residents awakened by the noise appeared at their windows and seeing the progress of the excise men shouted warnings to the smugglers that the Coastal Blockade was close upon their heels.The excise men responded by threatening to shoot the interfering villagers but the local people had a vested interest in ensuring that their kinsfolk were not hampered. Moments before the Blockademen passed through a cart loaded with tubs slipped into the yard of the Bell Hotel and willing hands carried inside a wounded smuggler. The men from the blockade passed within yards of the prize without realising that it had been so close.

Meanwhile, down on the beach at Glyne Gap the Master of the lugger was preparing to put back to sea after first arranging to meet the Gang's leaders the following day at The Bell Inn which even then was taking delivery of some of the spoils of the evenings work as has been seen. A few of the smugglers remained and after a hurried discussion decided to follow the main group towards Sidley. They felt, rightly , that given the ferocity of the Blockademen that night there may be casualties; men who would need to disappear quickly to prevent them from falling into the hands of the authorities.

The Blockademen finally caught up with the smugglers at Sidley Green. Here, the armed portion of the smugglers drew themselves up in a regular line and a fierce battle ensued. These were determined and experienced smugglers who knew that the price for their nights work would be high if they succumbed to the Coast Blockade.

During the first onset the Blockade suffered a serious set back as their leader, a Quartermaster from HMS Hyperion, fell dead. Indeed, the courage and skill displayed that fateful night by all those involved would have graced a more fitting stage. The smugglers were eventually forced to retreat to Cramps Farm but not before the tub men had succeeded in carrying away the contraband and disappearing with their haul into the cold Sussex night. During the desperate fighting which took place several men fell wounded including an old smuggler who fell fatally wounded still clutching his bat which had been hacked almost to match wood by the cutlasses of the Blockademen.

No smuggler was taken alive that night and all the contraband bar a couple of tubs which had been dropped during the flight were safely carried away. In all over six hundred gallons of spirit had been landed illegally. Two men lay dead and many had been wounded, some seriously. The price was not cheap and unknown to those involved the cost was going to increase considerably.

As day broke four or five well laden carts were already many miles away from the scene of the previous nights events destined for the London market. It was important that the uncustomed goods should be quickly mixed with legally imported ones. Once they had been dispersed detection was less likely and the smugglers slightly safer. Given the dependency of many local people in the area on smuggling to supplement meagre incomes informants were usually few and far between and so the seizure of contraband goods was vital if the excise men were to bring the guilty to trial. Many of those involved that January night would receive more pay for a few hours work than they would for a whole week labouring in the fields through which they had flown.The smugglers had started to assemble around 11 o'clock on the night of January 3rd and the run and ensuing battle had continued into the early hours of the following morning, the 4th of January. Within the week the Lord Admiral had issued a promise on behalf of the King that anyone not directly involved in the murder of Charles Collins, a First Rate Quartermaster of HMS Hyperion, who could supply evidence leading to the apprehension of those responsible together with their accomplices would receive a pardon. A handsome reward of £500 was also offered. Posters issued from Whitehall were soon to be seen, dated 10th January 1828.

The night after the run had taken place a small group of men met in the Bell. Amongst these was Charles Longhurst, alias Hills, who had recruited some of the tub-men for the previous nights work. He had lost his nerve before the goods had been loaded and had returned home from where he had heard the sound of the running battle and observed the flight of his compatriots. Around seven o'clock three of the leading members of the Gang came into the bar. They laughed openly at Longhurst for his cowardice. During the evening there was much talk about the operation and Longhurst learnt that a seaman of the Blockade had been killed.

Two nights later, on the Sunday, the group met again in the Tradesmen's Room where one of the ringleaders, Thomas Waters, paid Longhurst ten shillings for recruiting some of the tub-men. Longhurst had done other work for Waters and left that night with twenty three shillings, more than two weeks wages, in his pocket. The Master of the lugger, James Bennett, was also present and Waters gave him twelve pounds with which to pay the tub-men. Each of those who had carried away goods that Thursday night received ten shillings as his share of the spoils when Bennett met them on the Monday night as previously agreed.

The inquest on the body of Charles Collins that week returned a verdict of "Wilful murder against persons unknown".

The Long Arm of the Law Such was the viciousness of the Battle of Sidley Green that The Times in London carried a report in its edition on Monday 7th January. It was evident from the tone of the article that the establishment meant to bring those responsible to justice. The efforts of the local Justices was augmented by a leading member of the Bow Street force who had been despatched over the weekend to help bring "some of these desperadoes" to justice.

It was not long before the authorities got the break they had looked for.

The District Commander of the Coastal Blockade was an ambitious officer by the name of John Green. A few days after the coroner had returned his verdict Lieutenant Green received some information from a local girl concerning the identity of some of those involved in the affray on January 3rd. On January 31st under oath Ann Easton swore before Justice Frederick North that certain men, whom she named, had assembled armed with clubs and bludgeons in order to assist with the illegal landing, running and carrying of uncustomed goods. Warrants were subsequently issued against thirty seven men from Icklesham, Bexhill, Ninfield, Hastings, Rye and Guestling in respect of the affair at Bexhill.

One of these men was Charles Longhurst and within twenty four hours of Ann Easton swearing on oath before Justice North, Longhurst was doing the same. Having been deeply involved himself the song he sang was indeed sweeter to the authorities. After an initial examination on February 1st he made a voluntary statement dated February 2nd 1828 which ran to eight pages. Two days later Longhurst added a further eight names to his deposition.

It was not the length of the statement which caused delight for Justice North however but the wealth of detail it contained. In a little under four days Longhurst had delivered up to the authorities the names of virtually every man involved in the run. Over thirty men were named by Longhurst, a considerable testament to the power of his memory.

Within days of her testimony many of those who had been named by Easton had been apprehended and were being held in custody even as Longhurst sang. The information supplied by Longhurst not only confirmed their involvement but contained the evidence to prove their guilt. Longhurst had made an application to become an approver and his evidence, vital to the prosecution, had been gratefully accepted.

With lists of names to work on and an awareness amongst the local population that someone was singing the authorities made rapid progress. Further evidence was forthcoming and other informants, emboldened perhaps by the fact that many of the smugglers were either in captivity or had fled, soon came forward.

Night after night Lieutenant Green and his men were scouring the countryside in search of accused men. Many houses were broken into by force and hapless occupants carried away. The surrounding villages were in a constant state of terror and alarm as these nightly visits continued. Most of those involved in the run that fateful night had come from Bexhill and the surrounding villages. The efforts of the authorities were therefore very much concentrated on Bexhill, Sidley, Hooe, Westfield, Pett and Peasemarch.

Many men simply absconded rather than risk being taken into custody leaving behind wives and children. For many of these unfortunate families there was no recourse but the local workhouse and in Bexhill alone it was reported that no less than twenty five families had been thrown upon parochial funds. The Exeter Weekly Times in an article published in April 1828 reported at least two cases of dreadful consequences for women who had witnessed the terrifying spectacle of their husbands being dragged from their beds in the small hours. One, confined to bed in the early stages of labour had died apparently from shock and another in a similar condition had been delirious for days after and "only narrowly escaped the jaws of death".

Charles Longhurst was not the only local with a penchant for singing. With the continued success of the authorities in rounding up men based on Longhurst's deposition more of the Gang came into custody and some of these had tales to tell. The penalty for smuggling was death and so the incentive to avoid prosecution was high. One who was of particular use to the authorities was a native of Pett named Thomas Bufford.

Longhurst lived in Bexhill and had been able to supply much information concerning those who lived around him. Bufford however was able to implicate many more who lived in his own neighbourhood but who were unknown to Longhurst. The prosecution had two well informed members who had both turned on their former associates presumably to save their own lives.

Such informers were vital to the success of any prosecution for smuggling at this time. The number of men involved in combatting smuggling at this time was pitifully small in relation to the scale of activity in that part of the country. Smuggling gangs knew that they ran the risk of death if caught and convicted of smuggling and so as we have seen they were not averse to using strong arm tactics to protect their liberty. The history of smuggling in Sussex is indeed a bloody and ruthless tale despite the romantic aura provided by much of the folklore and by works such as Kiplings famous poem."Watch the wall my darling" was however the ethos followed by most locals; they knew that most of them benefited directly or indirectly from its rewards.

Bean James Bennett James Bennett John
Bennett William Birt (alias Burt) James Brazier James
Brett Levi Carey Robert Cossum Edward
Foord Henry Foord James Foord Stephen
Fryman John Gillham Thomas Keir John (alias Care)
Longhurst Charles (alias Hills) Miller Henry Miller Thomas
Pilbeam Francis Russell John (alias Baker, alias Cossack) Shoesmith Edward
Shoesmith John Shoesmith William Smith Thomas
Spray John Stubberfield James Stubberfield Robert
Stubberfield Samuel Stubberfield Stephen Stubberfield William
Underdown Thomas Waters Thomas Whiteman George
Whiteman Spencer Wilson John Wilson William

Dreadful Results of Smuggling

There have been committed to Horsham jail within the last few weeks no less than 13 men, charged with being concerned with affray between the coast blockade and a formidable gang of smugglers, in which a Quarter master of the service, of the name of Collins, and an old smuggler of the name of Timothy Smithurst, were killed in a lane leading from the village of Bexhill to Sidley Green, six miles to the westward of Hastings. A coroner's inquest, which was held on the body of Collins, returned a verdict of "Wilful murder against some person or persons unknown" and a day or two later, a girl who has some time known as a of loose character, gave information to the district commander of the coast blockade, Lieutenant Green, which led to the apprehension of a young man named Charles Hills, alias Louckhurst, a resident of Bexhill, and other persons. They were confined in one of the Martello Towers for some days, and then taken before F.F. North Esq., one of the magistrates of the hundred of Hastings, on several successive days. At length Hills made a voluntary offer to become an approver, and his evidence was accepted; the consequence of which was, that six men were at once sent to Horsham for the trial for the murder and a great number of warrants "we believe upwards of sixty" were issued against other individuals. Lieutenant Green and his men were out scouring the country night after night for weeks, in search of the accused persons, and many houses were broken into by main force, in some of which was found the objects of their search, in others they were unsuccessful. The villages around Hastings, for a circuit of twenty miles, were continually in a state of terror and alarm which it is impossible to describe. These were principally Bexhill, Sidley, Hooe, Westfield Pett and Peasemarch. At Peasemarch they apprehended two brothers named Whiteman, who were stated by Hill to be two of the leaders of the affair. The men, as they were apprehended by the officers and identified before Mr. North by Hills, were committed to Horsham. Another man name Buffard, a native of Pett, on being taken into custody, became an evidence for the crown, and pointed out the residence of persons to be implicated, who lived in his own neighbourhood, and were not so well known to Hills. the distress occasioned around a considerable extent of country by this unfortunate occurrence is almost beyond conception. A great number of men, besides those in custody, have absconded, no other resource for their families, but the workhouse; and in one parish alone, Bexhill, no less than 25 families have been thrown upon the parochial funds, which were before very heavily burdened. Consequences of a still more melancholy nature have been produced in some of the families resulting from this unhappy conflict. In one instance a young women, who had lain-in but a few hours, experienced so dreadful a shock on seeing her husband, one of the accused, dragged from the house, that she died in a state of madness the following day. In another case a wife similarly situated was delirious for several days, and only narrowly escaped the jaws of death.

Edward's Sentence

Edward was convicted at the the April session of the Old Bailey in 1828 in London for being part of the Sidley Green smuggling gang. Of 12 men convicted for this, 2 were hanged, the rest transported.

He was sentenced to death aged 24. This was commuted to life and he was transported for life in 1829 aboard the "Claudine", aged 26. The Claudine sailed from London on 24th August 1829 and arrived in Sydney 104 days later on 6th December 1829. the ship started with over 180 convicts and 178 arrived. He left behind a wife Hannah and five young children in Sussex, (one son George came to Australia in 1841).

Education given on the ships list as RW - (might be reads and writes), religion listed as PRD - (protestant) and trade listed as "ploughs reaps and indoor servant". Height 5 5 and sallow complexion dark brown hair with hazel eyes.

The Medical and surgical journal of the Claudine Transport for 30 July to 16 December 1829 by W H Trotman, Surgeon and Superintendent.

10 August, received 60 convicts from the Justitia hulk at Woolwich and left for Plymouth. Much sea sickness on the way.

13 August, in the Channel: Jonathan Perry, aged 20, Convict; disease or hurt, febris anomala. Put on sick list (30 September 1829, continued mending and was landed in good health).

15 August, arrived in the Sound and received 120 convicts from the Captivity Hulk.

24 August, Sailed from Plymouth .

20 September, at sea Jonathan Willson, aged 58, Convict; disease or hurt, debilitas. Put on sick list, .On 10 November , 'he is kept alive by baths, blisters, bark and wine and he is fed from the Master's table but continues weak and low' (Landed at Sydney 16 December in good spirits but very weak). Described as a pure case of debility from affection of the mind without any apparent disease. Extremely emaciated, with no appetite.

30 September, at sea [near the Equator]. Until arrival in the tropics the only cases were minor ones of syphilis and ulcers. The hotter weather in the tropics produced some fevers apparently 'by irritation of the chylopoietic organs'. Symptoms and treatment are described. No-one has yet been confined to bed for more than two days. They were becalmed some days in the tropics and the men suffered greatly from thirst. The prison is kept clean and ventilated. The men are served wine or lime juice and sugar, on alternate days. The journal will be in the form of a monthly summary with interesting cases in more detail, should there be any. There were 9 cases of syphilis; 1 with an open bubo in the groin, 3 of chancres on the glans penis, 3 of warts on the prepuce, and 2 of warty excrescences in the anus.

12 October, at sea: Charles Broom, aged 17, Convict; disease or hurt, inflammation of the mucous membranes of the abdomen commencing with catarrhal fever. Put on sick list. (Died, 23 October.) Originally applied with symptoms of the common cold. Described as a case of inflammation of the mucous membranes of the throat, stomach and intestines, with the membrane of the brain sympathising. The Surgeon thinks that if he had bled him more, instead of concentrating on the pulse, he might have saved him, but his disease appeared to be more of nervous irritability than of vascular excitement. In these sorts of irritations or inflammations oily clysters and mucilaginous drinks should be taken and bloodletting, poultices, baths and blisters used.

31 October 1829, at sea. There have been less cases than the previous month but they have been more severe. The change from the tropics to colder weather has meant many coughs and colds, some attended with sever catarrhal fevers or inflammation of the mucous membranes of the intestines. There was also one disease of the elbow joint. Treatments are described, one man was saved but one was lost The ship is very damp between decks. All the venereals are cured, except the one who came on board with the bubo. He is of a bad disposition and does not take the Surgeon's advice.

5 November, Stephen Spratt, aged 21, Convict; disease or hurt, inflammation of the mucous membranes of the stomach and intestines and the membranes of the brain commencing with catarrhal fever. Put on sick list . Taken ill with symptoms of common cold which rapidly worsened. On 25 November he has resumed his job as barber to the convicts and the Surgeon remarks on how little flesh he has lost and how quickly he regains strength after 'such large bleeding and such a low diet'. (Landed in health)

30 November, at sea. The weather has been cold and damp, the prison deck never perfectly dry. The convicts have not had sufficient clothing and there have been many cases of catarrhal affections, with some fever and some inflammation of mucous membranes and some slight scurvy. Treatments are described. Boils have been troublesome throughout the voyage but vinegar and lime juice were an effective treatment.

26 November, at sea: James Sillince, aged 17, Convict; disease or hurt, hydrocordis and hepatitis [parinchematora]. Put on sick list. Complained with headache, difficult breathing, pain in the region of the liver and soreness on pressure, with a fullness about the stomach. Died, 28 November. Because of his sudden death, when no danger was anticipated, the Surgeon decided to perform an autopsy and the findings are described. The Surgeon describes him as 'a dull sluggish lad and the most obstinate disposition I ever knew'. Signed, W H Trotman Surgeon and Superintendent.

Arrival in Australia

Edward was sent to ??Davidson, Lower Wilberforce. A ticket of leave was granted - number 38/375 - on 1st March 1838 to Edward Shoesmith - prisoner number 29/2686. Allowed to remain in the district of Patricks Plains (Singleton) and a conditional pardon number 45/577 was given in 1845 and dated 13.8.1845.

Edward was granted a ticket of leave on 18th March, 1838 conditional upon remaining in the district of Patrick Plains. A conditional pardon was granted on 13th August, 1841 which then allowed him to move freely in New South Wales. Edward re-married in Australia in 1851. Edward married three times altogether, and had another large family in Australia. (His 2nd wife died shortly after their marriage, hence two marriages in the same year).

One source - First Families 2001 -- lists Edwards birth date as 10.2.1803


  1. Marriage details for Edward SHOESMITH and Hannah SMITH - from Family Search website - - accessed 12 February 2021
  2. Source: #S501 TMPLT FIELD Name: Page
  3. 1841 New South Wales, Australia, Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007. - accessed 15 June 2021
  4. Marriage details for Edward SHOESMITH and Martha MORRIS - provided by Robyn Dean (a SHOESMITH descendant) - accessed from Family Search website; some details sourced from NSW Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages online indexes - 12 February 2021
  5. Marriage details for Edward SHOESMITH and Matilda ALLEN - transcribed from a copy of their marriage certificate (issued 1 October 1982) in the Shoesmith family book, compiled, reproduced and assembled by Margaret & Robert Johnson, 1990
  6. Death certificate Edward Shoesmith - transcribed from a copy of his death certificate (issued 19 July 1982) in the Shoesmith family book, compiled, reproduced and assembled by Margaret & Robert Johnson, 1990

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Categories: Singleton, New South Wales