Berkley Sainty

Berkley Sainty, grandson of Philip Sainty

Researched and created by Frances Belsham

Berkley Sainty prison record photo. 1870.
Record of medical conditions
Health problems whilst in prison
Letters written to family whilst in prison
Letter from Governor of Parkhurst prison
Letter from Colchester police in response to Berkley's attempt to contact the Sanford family.
Letter from Governor, Portsmouth prison warning of Berkley's escape attempt.
Berkley is released from prison on Licence

The Sanford Family Connection

When I researched the Sanford family, I discovered that Berkley Harvey Sainty had a connection to the family by marriage. He was also the son of Philip Sainty, renowned boat builder and smuggler. When I looked at Berkley Harvey’s children I discovered that his son Berkley jnr, had an eventful and rather sad life.

Berkley Harvey Sainty, married Elizabeth George Cole, daughter of Elizabeth George Sanford, who was a cousin of Mary Ann Sanford. Mary Ann was responsible for the building of the almshouses in Rebow Road and who had been the main focus of my Sanford research.

Elizabeth George Sanford

Berkley Sainty’s maternal grandmother, Elizabeth George Lambert (nee) Sanford  was a widow when she married William Whitley Cole. She had previously been married to  James Lambert in 1811. They had one child, James Bragg Lambert.

Elizabeth’s husband James died some time between 1812 -1816. after which Elizabeth married William Whitley Cole in September 1816. Elizabeth and William between them had 5 children. William b.1821, Elizabeth George b.1823, Benjamin Sanford b.1825, Harriet Adelaide b.1831 and Mary Ann Sanford b1833.

Sadly, Elizabeth’s daughter, Mary Ann Sanford  died in 1848 at the age of 15 and so her mother, Elizabeth’s, intention to continue the name of Mary Ann Sanford died with her.

In 1835 Elizabeth died at the age of 44, The children were still fairly young. The two youngest being aged 2, and 4 and very much in need of the care of a mother.

William remarried in 1837 to Hannah Pickess.

Elizabeth and William’s Daughter

In 1843 William and Elizabeth’s daughter, also named Elizabeth married Berkley Harvey Sainty in St Mary’s church in Wivenhoe. They had 4 children between 1845 -1851.

Berkley Sainty was born in 1846. He had an older sister Emma, born 1845 and two younger brothers, George b. 1849 and Arthur 1851.

The 1851 census shows that the family are living in Ipswich. All except Berkley aged 4 who is in Wivenhoe with his grandparents.

Also with the family in Ipswich is Amelia Sanford, aunt to Elizabeth. Possibly there to help with the care of Elizabeth and the new baby, Arthur. Elizabeth may also have been showing signs of illness at this time. She died in 1852 from consumption, leaving young children aged from a 1 year old to a 7 year old.

Berkley Jnr

Berkley would have been 5 years old when his mother died. It is not known if he was still with his grandparents or if he had just been visiting at the time of the 1851 census.

In 1861, Berkley, now aged 14, was living at the Greyhound Inn with his father who had remarried to Sarah Ann Jenkins in 1853 . Also there were Berkley’s siblings Emma, George and Arthur.

From 1862 everything started to change for Berkley when he started to get into trouble with the police as a result of petty thieving.

21st February 1862 Berkley age 15

Berkley, was charged with stealing £1.5s from his father who at the time was living at the Greyhound Inn. Berkley Harvey had discovered that money had been taken from a box in the bedroom. The box had been broken open and the money taken but £5 was left in the box.

Berkley had been away from home for a couple of days and when he returned he was asked where he had been and was challenged by his father with regard to the missing money.  Berkley said he had been in Harwich and Ipswich. He admitted to taking and spending the money.

Berkley again left the family home.

His father felt he had to inform the police when Berkley then broke through the roof of the house and attempted to break open a club box belonging to a benefit society.

The bench sentenced him to one month’s hard labour and he was taken away from the court crying bitterly.

This was Berkley’s first serious contact with the courts, but unfortunately not his last.

October 1865 Essex Quarter Sessions Berkley age 19

Berkley, was again brought before the court on a charge of stealing. He pleaded guilty to stealing a coat, trousers and other pieces of clothing . This was the property of John Winney of Wivenhoe. He also stole a coat, waistcoat and other articles of clothing belonging to George Sainty of Wivenhoe. (Note: This may have been his brother)

On this charge, he was sentenced to 6 months hard labour with the last month spent in solitary confinement.

It was less than a year later that Berkley is back before the magistrates.

21st July 1866 County Magistrates Sitting – Berkley age 20

Berkley’s next appearance in court was on 21st July 1866 where he was charged with stealing more than £15 and items of apparel from his father on the 14th July 1866.

Berkley’s father, who at the time was still living at the Greyhound Inn, told the magistrate that he very much regretted appearing against his son, but he had been robbed by him so many times that he felt it his duty to proceed against him.

The evidence given by him stated that he was President of the Wivenhoe Provident Club and he had the box containing the club money in his charge. On the morning in question, he and his wife went downstairs, and his wife locked the door to their bedroom behind them. About an hour later, when Mrs Sainty returned upstairs, she discovered that the bedroom door had been broken open and the club box and some clothes were missing.

The police were contacted and Berkley Jnr who had been seen in the  area came under suspicion. He was traced to North Street Railway Station where he was apprehended in the process of buying a train ticket for Lynn. (presumably Kings Lynn)  Case was adjourned to the following Monday for further witnesses to be called.

Monday 23rd July 1866 County Magistrates Sitting

It was found that Berkley had bought some clothing on the morning of the robbery and still had a large sum of  money on his person. Certain pieces of clothing were produced in court and identified by Mrs Sainty as belonging to her husband.

A witness stated that he had seen Berkley running away from the Greyhound Inn towards the Colchester Road.

It was recorded by the court reporter that although Berkley seemed too young to be a hardened criminal, yet he seemed indifferent throughout the proceedings.

He was then committed for trial at the next General Quarter Sessions. The outcome was another prison term. This time 18 months hard labour from 16th October 1866.

He was released a month before the end of his sentence on the grounds of poor health.

Things just seem to have gone from bad to worse with Berkley. And they were going to get worse still, because in July 1869 Berkley now aged 22, is in the Crown Court on a charge of burglary with 4 previous similar convictions. Things are about to become much harder for Berkley.

15th July 1869 – Crown Court Berkley age 22

Berkley had been committed to Springfield Prison in Chelmsford in May. He came before the court in July charged with burglary of the home of Abraham Ham of Wivenhoe, and stealing £1 and a yachting cap. He was further charged with the same offence in the home of James Moore of Wivenhoe and stealing two pairs of pilot trousers, 2 woollen shirts, a duck jacket, 2 scarfs, 1 blue overcoat and 2 pairs of braces. Mr Moore who was a hosier had early one morning gone downstairs to his shop and noticed his door was partly open. He found a crowbar in the shop which made him realise he had been burgled.

The police were called and their investigation showed that Berkley had pawned articles of clothing in shops in Bury and Ipswich. The clothes were similar to those that had been stolen. He was also found to have pawned a valuable silver snuff box belonging to Mr Moore.

When he was apprehended and asked to dress and accompany the officer, some of the clothes he put on were identified as belonging to Mr Moore.

Berkley was found guilty of the charges and, because of his previous convictions, he was sentenced to 7 years penal servitude.

Berkley’s journey through prison

Berkley was sent back to Springfield prison. During his time there he escaped with another prisoner. He was captured in Wivenhoe and returned to Springfield where he made a second unsuccessful attempt to escape.

In June 1870, he was transferred to Pentonville prison where he was in solitary confinement. Later that same month he was sent to Portsmouth. Most likely to Penny Street gaol as this was the main prison in Portsmouth. In March 1871 he was again transferred. This time to Parkhurst Prison where he served the rest of his sentence.

Prison records described Berkley as a young man measuring 5ft 6in tall, with light brown hair, hazel eyes and a pock marked face as the result of smallpox. His sight was poor and he had a number of health problems.

On entering prison he weighed just over 10 stone. As a consequence he was considered fit only for light labour.

Health Condition

One of Berkley’s health problems was he at some point contracted Scrofula, most likely at a fairly young age.

Scrofula is a tuberculosis disease of the lymph glands of the neck with eventual ulceration.

In 1846, in England, Scrofula most frequently afflicted children between ages 2 and 15. Of 133,000 children examined, 24% showed obvious signs or scars of Scrofula or had enlarged cervical glands. Once a scrofulus node became a tumor on the skin of the neck the illness became a long term disability.  It would, I imagine have been extremely painful and to many unsightly. There were however periods of remission.

There is an interesting piece of history connected to this disease.

King’s Evil

Another name for this disease was King’s Evil. In the middle ages, it was believed that the Royal touch, (laying on of hands) of the sovereign of England or France could cure the disease due to the divine rights of sovereigns. From 1633 the Book of Common Prayer of the Anglican Church contained a ceremony for this.

The ‘touch’ was most commonly applied to people suffering from tuberculous cervical lymphadenitis (scrofula), regardless of social class. The disease rarely resulted in death and often went into remission on its own, giving the impression that the monarch’s touch cured it.

The ritual was normally performed between Michaelmas and Easter. Edward 1 touched up to 1736 people annually.

Berkley’s entry to the prison system

The prison recorded other health problems that Berkley experienced during his time of incarceration. He suffered from Rhumatisus, enlarged glands, boils and general debility.

As Berkley moved from one prison to another there was an exchange of letters between Governors regarding their views on Berkley. Not unsurprisingly, they were not always favourable. One such letter from the Governor of Portsmouth prison to the Governor of Parkhurst prison stated ‘I take the opportunity of saying I know of no other person who requires more careful watching than he did or one more determined to escape if he had the chance to do so.’

Berkley’s Contact with his Family

For whatever reason Berkley was showing anxiety about making contact with family members which is shown in two letters between Governors of the prisons. It appears that Berkley was attempting to contact a member of the Sanford family. A letter from Colchester police informed the Governor of Portsmouth prison that:

‘ I have to acquaint you that there is no man named Sanford residing near the Greyhound Inn, but there is a woman of that name living there and she is a respectable person.’

It appears that Berkley continued to try to make contact with the Sanford family shown in a letter in May 1871 from the Governor of Parkhurst prison to the governor of Portsmouth prison. He wrote, ‘ Convict, Berkley Sainty  states that he wrote a letter on the 5th Dec 1870 addressed to Mrs Sanford of Wivenhoe, to which he has received no reply and he is very anxious to know if the letter was posted or suppressed.

Berkley also wrote to his more immediate family. A record was kept by the prison of letters that Berkley wrote and received. Early in his sentence he wrote a number of times to his father but it appears he had only one response.

The person he wrote to most often was his brother George. He was in regular contact with him until his release from prison.  Berkley was released on License in April 1875. He had served almost 6 years of his 7 year sentence.

On his release from prison he had gained an occupation as a bricklayer.

Life After Prison

What happened to Berkley on his immediate release from prison is not known. What is known about his family is that his brother George who he had been in regular contact with during his time in prison, died the year after Berkleys release in 1876.

The next known record of Berkley is in November 1890 when he is recorded as being on the ship Port Caroline heading for Sydney Australia.

In 1901 he is shown on the census as living in Islington in the home of a Joseph Hill and his family. Berkley is there as a boarder and working as a bricklayers labourer. He is now aged 54.

The next record of Berkley is in 1911 when he is on the census as being a visitor in the home of George Playle. He is a carpenter and some years older than Berkley. There does not appear to be any family connection. Berkley is listed on the census as a seaman.

Demise of the family

There is nothing to indicate that Berkley had any contact with his family after leaving prison but that doesn’t mean that he didn’t see them.

What is known is that the person he had most contact with during his time at Parkhurst, was his brother George, who died the year after Berkley left prison.

His sister Emma who had been living in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, died in 1882 at the age of 37 leaving a husband and a 13 year old son, Harry.

Arthur, Berkley’s youngest brother had married and had a very large family. He also moved to Great Yarmouth. He died at the age of 57 in 1908.

Finally, Berkley’s father continued to live in Wivenhoe. In 1901 he was living alone in Queen Street. On the census he was recorded as a retired shipwright. He was also recorded as being deaf. He died in 1902 at the age of 81.

So Berkley was the last surviving member of the family. He died in December 1921 in Edmonton Essex. He was aged 77.

Berkley brought a lot of his problems on himself, but I feel a certain amount of sadness for him. To lose his mother at such a young age and to have the health problems that he experienced wouldn’t have made for an easy life. While I realise such tragedies and difficulties were probably commonplace at the time, I don’t for one minute imagine that they would have made it any easier to experience.

So while Berkley can be seen as a bad person, he was also very sad.

Frances Belsham
December 2017


This page was added on 06/12/2017.

Comments about this page

  • So interesting – just found this accidentally. William Whitley Cole was my 3 greats grandfather and Elizabeth (nee Sanford) my 3 greats grandmother.
    My great great grandfather William Edward was born 1821, their eldest son. By 1841 he is marrying in Alnwick Northumberland and had a large family. Maybe he didn’t like the sea (father William Whitley was a master mariner) or maybe he didn’t like his stepmother, mother Elizabeth had died when he was 14 and with a large young family, William Whitley had not surprisingly remarried. Anyway, henceforth the rest of the family history is from Alnwick, where, in 1903 my own father was born. William Edward’s son Benjamin was my great grandfather, but interestingly also among his other 14 children were boys named Sanford and Whitley, and both names also appeared as second names for other children -grandparents remembered.
    The strangest thing of all is that my own grandfather, Benjamin’s eldest child born 1875 was named William Edward Lambert Cole, recalling his grandfather and his great-grandmothers previous married name. They had more of an idea of history than we imagined.

    By Maggie Petch (Nee Cole) (08/01/2019)

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