To be deported for the heinous crime of stealing a lump of sugar seems like very hard justice but that is exactly what appeared to have happened in 1807 according to the newspapers of the day.


It seems that in 1806 one JOHN ORIEL was committed for stealing out of the shop of WILLIAM SHRAPNELL of Bradford-on-Avon one lump of sugar, value thirty shillings. However, when appearing before the magistrates at Salisbury in March the following year he was sentenced to be transported for seven years.


Thirty shillings worth of sugar (£1.50) seems rather expensive for a lump of sugar even 200 years ago. Translated into todayís currency the value of that would be about £90, enough to buy probably in excess of 2 cwt of sugar, which presumably would fill several sacks. Maybe it was not such a little lump after all!


So who was JOHN ORIEL? Did he do his 7 years in the wilderness and then return home or did he stay abroad and help found a new colony in whichever part of the world he was sent? His name was unusual and would have been prone to many misspellings so will be difficult to research. However I have found a JOHN ORIEL who died in 1850 at Calne which is only 14 miles from where the crime was committed in Bradford-on-Avon so maybe he did come back! Or did he?


I think I will leave Johnís life to speculate on further if time allows.


Noted from Salisbury & Winchester Journal courtesy of Richard Heaton

This article updates that in our Newsletter number 9, 1999/2000