John East

Born in Newton St Cyres in 1819, John was one of William and Grace East’s ten children. The family lived at Winscott, where his father worked as a farm labourer first for the owner Edward Osmond, and then his son John. In 1834 William East was convicted and fined for having an illegal still on his premises. At that time his wages were seven shillings a week. However in 1839 William was awarded £3 at the twelfth exhibition of the Devon Agricultural Society for having “lived 45 years with Mr. John Osmond, of Newton St. Cyres, and brought up 10 children without assistance from the parish”.

On 18 February 1840 John East stole a horse belonging to John Osmond. Four days later he was remanded in Exeter gaol by John Quick of Newton St Cyres. Found guilty at the County Assizes on 16 March, he was sentenced to be transported for ten years.


He was kept on the Convict Hulk “Stirling Castle” moored at Devonport, before being sent to Tasmania on the Susan II, arriving in July 1842. Unusually for a convict, he was able to read and write and behaved well. His only previous conviction had been a fine of one shilling for not attending church. He was described as 5’ 6” tall, with brown hair and hazel eyes. He was noticed to have several old scars on his back resulting from “cupping”, a treatment for back pain. He was a gardener by trade.

He obtained his certificate of freedom in 1852 and then married Elizabeth Spain in Campbell Town in 1854. She had been transported from Wicklow in Ireland, having been convicted of vagrancy. In Tasmania she was frequently in trouble with the authorities, both before and after her marriage.


They had several children. John East died in Campbell Town in 1902.


Back in Newton St Cyres, his parents continued to live on the Osmond’s Winscott estate. His father died in 1849. His mother moved first to Exeter, where she was a poultry seller. She later moved to her son’s in Bovey Tracey where she died aged 94 in 1886.