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Tragic tale of Norfolk man who became Norfolk Island convict

PUBLISHED: 15:37 18 October 2018 | UPDATED: 08:57 19 October 2018

Convicts boarding a prison ship bound for Australia. Picture: Getty

Convicts boarding a prison ship bound for Australia. Picture: Getty

© Getty Images

The tragic story of a Norfolk man who became a convict banished to Norfolk Island will be revealed in a special talk.

Departure of Departure of "The Convict Ship". Alfred Tallent was transported first to Van Diemen�s Land then to Norfolk Island. Picture: Getty

Alfred Tallent, a grocer and draper who lived in both Dickleburgh and Hoxne, near Diss, was transported as a convict to the island in the South Pacific which in the 1800s had a reputation as one of the harshest penal colonies in the British Empire.

Now this fascinating piece of local history will be told in an illustrated talk by Chris Johnson taking place in Diss, entitled Bound for Van Diemen’s Land.

Declared bankrupt on October 14, 1829, Tallent took to a life of swindling and fraud all over East Anglia and London, acquiring stock for his businesses.

Gateway to main convict jail on Norfolk Island. Today a few foundations of the jail that Alfred Tallent may have known remain. Picture: GettyGateway to main convict jail on Norfolk Island. Today a few foundations of the jail that Alfred Tallent may have known remain. Picture: Getty

Falling foul of the law on two occasions, he ended up being transported first to New Norfolk in Van Diemen’s Land, the original name for the Australian island of Tasmania, then to the feared Norfolk Island.

Minor crimes were punishable by transportation to Australia during this period, with convicts held on rotting prison ships called hulks.

Some 6,458 convicts are recorded as having been sent to Norfolk Island, 1,270 of whom, like Tallent, were originally transported to Van Diemen’s Land.

Friends of Diss Museum are hostsing an illustrated talk on the tragic story of Alfred Tallent. Picture: Diss MuseumFriends of Diss Museum are hostsing an illustrated talk on the tragic story of Alfred Tallent. Picture: Diss Museum

Norfolk Island became notorious with a reputation that its prisoners were the “worst of the worst”. In 1840 Charles Dickens even offered to write a short novel about it, to ensure that the lower orders held it in sufficient dread.

However far from holding depraved criminals, more recent research however has found Norfolk Island convicts were comparable with other transportees. Just under 25% were sent there for explicitly violent offences, while 64% were sent for non-violent property offences.

• Bound for Van Diemen’s Land - A Tragic Story of Alfred Tallent is being held at St Mary’s Church Hall, Mount Street, Diss, on October 19, 7.30pm, admission £5 non members, £3 members, pay on the door.

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