Ca­reer crim­i­nal

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Bap­tised in 1831 in St Philips & Ja­cob Church, Bris­tol, he first ap­peared at the age of 12 at the Bris­tol As­sizes in 1843 for steal­ing fruit, and went on to be­come a reg­u­lar vis­i­tor to the courts. “The Bris­tol record of­fice holds tran­scripts of many of the cases heard at the lo­cal as­size court as well as the quar­ter ses­sions through­out the Vic­to­rian pe­riod,” says Robert. “Some­times the cases are de­scribed in de­tail, and mem­bers of the Cas­tle fam­ily ap­pear many times. Charles Cas­tle was in court on at least 20 oc­ca­sions, and served prison sen­tences rang­ing from a few weeks to 10 years.

“In July 1852 he was ‘trans­ported’, al­though by this date this did not mean Botany Bay, but rather im­pris­on­ment on a hulk moored in Portsmouth Har­bour.”

The Na­tional Ar­chives, Ances­try and Find­my­past hold records for the prison hulks – old ships con­verted into float­ing pris­ons – in­clud­ing pris­oner lists, and de­tail of­fences com­mit­ted and sen­tences served.

“The Na­tional Ar­chives has de­tails of Charles’s early re­lease ‘on li­cence’ in Novem­ber 1855, his con­di­tion de­scribed as ‘want­ing’,” says Robert. “The Bri­tish News­pa­per Ar­chive ( british­news­pa­per ar­chive.co.uk and also avail­able at find­my­past.co.uk) is also a bril­liant

I never knew that my great un­cle killed his brother – it was a fam­ily se­cret that no one talked about

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