Jabez Whiting 1829-?

Parents:     John Whiting and Mary Scotcher (1)
Born:           6th October 1829 in Haverhill (1)
Baptised:   16th January 1830 in Haverhill (1)
Married:      Ann Piper, Spinster of Burton End, Haverhill, daughter of John Piper, labourer, on 1st July 1851 at St Mary's Parish Church, Haverhill. Witnessed by Edmund Whiting and Sophia Buttle (2,3)     
Children:    ?
Died:           ?


Bio:              Jabez was baptised in a non-conformist ceremony at the Congregational Church in Haverhill. He is missing from the 1841 census along with his parents. However, we have a window on his life from 1847 to 1855 because he served in the Royal Marines and his attestation and discharge records are available to study at the National Archives in Kew.(4,5)

Jabez, a farmers labourer of Haverhill, enlisted as a Private in the 45th Company of the Chatham Division of the Royal Marines at 4pm on 7th January 1847. He gave his age as 18, but he would in fact have been almost a year younger. He received a bounty of three pounds seventeen shillings and sixpence upon enlistment. He was passed fit for service by a surgeon at Bury St Edmunds the next day, and sworn in at 11am the day after.

We are given a description of Jabez too; he was 5ft 7¼ in, of pale complexion, with grey eyes and light brown hair.

He was to serve in the Marines for 8 years, 5 months and 25 days and was eventually invalided on 3rd July 1855 due to 'disease of the kidney'. We get an insight into the kind of Marine he was by the fact that he was court-martialled and served a year in gaol during his service, although tantalisingly we are not told what for in his Marine records. Eventually after doing some research amongst scans of British Newspapers 1800-1900, an excellent online resource hosted by The British Library, I uncovered the truth about Jabez's misdemeanour.(9) He was guilty of thievery of an almost compulsive nature, as the London Daily News will testify - and the article kindly reminds us in it's first sentence:
'A thief is a disagreeable person anywhere, but in no place more so than on board ship; where, of necessity, personal effects are more exposed and more easily to be taken by the dishonest, than on shore. A somewhat remarkable incidence of theiving on ship-board was exposed at a court martial, which was held on Friday, on board HMS Impregnable, for the trial of Jabez Whiting, a private in the Royal Marines, on duty aboard HMS Arrogant, now lying in Plymouth sound. The court was composed of Commodore Seymour, president, Captains Lord Edward Russell, Arthur Lorde, F. Michel, D.S.C. Dacres, F. H. Glasse, W. W. Chambers, C. H. M. Buckle, and Fisher; and Mr W Eastlake, Deputy Judge-Advocate.
From the evidence adduced, it appeared that the prisoner had industrially followed up the practice of stealing, for he had contrived in a very short period, to accumulate nearly a score different articles, the property of varioys men and officers of the ship, the Arrogant, on board which he was serving. The articles stolen were some large, and some small, and included articles of bedding, clothing, ornament and of literary and scientific use - from blankets and trowsers, to watch-guards, pencils, pens, paper and books. The charge was very clearly proved, and not denied by the prisoner; and, after mature consideration, the court adjudged the prisoner to receive 50 lashes on board the Arrogant, at such times, and in such quantities, as the commander-in-chief shall direct, and be imprisoned in the Gaol of the County of Devon for 12 calendar months, with hard labour.' (9)

As well as fifty lashes on his bare back on board the Arrogant, this would have been 12 months of hard labour which would have constituted anything from quarrying or building roads to walking a treadmill.

Interestingly, the punishment meted out to him was 'thought to be a lenient one' considering 'the sentences sometimes passed upon offences of far less turpitude'.

If we place these concerns about leniency in the context of the period, we see that reforms had only recently started to take place with regards to naval punishment. Hansard (20th July 1846) recounts a discussion in the Commons on the subject. A Mr Williams points out 'material difference in the punishment for the same offence, as inflicted by the criminal law, and as enforced by the regulations of the navy. Stealing was now punished by short imprisonment. The Sailor was liable to be hanged for this offence.'(10)

So it looks like Jabez could count himself very lucky, for it appears that only a matter of a few years previously he may well have been hung for his crimes.

It is nice to know his experience had a redemptive aspect to it, not least for the crew of the Arrogant who must have been relieved to be rid of their serial pilferer!

Upon his release, Jabez found himself back in the Marines, and not dishonourably discharged as one might have expected. In his records a testament to his character upon discharge reads: 'The officers composing the divisional board having examined the defaulter's book, and received parole testimony from other sources, are of the opinion that his general conduct and character is bad.' However, earlier remarks state 'he produced a 'good' discharge from HMS Indefatigable', which as this was his last ship means maybe he'd learnt his lesson.

The Marine records are interesting because we get to see which ships he served on, and when.

From 5th September 1847 to 24th May 1851 he was aboard HMS Asia, which some 20 years earlier had been a victorious flag ship at the battle of Navarino, notable for being the last major naval battle in history to be fought entirely with sailing ships. It appears she was in the pacific under the command of Captain Stopford at the time Jabez would have been onboard, and had set sail on 6th January 1848 for the Pacific station at Valparaiso, Chile, commanded by rear-admiral Sir Phipps Hornby. Arriving on 13th February, an illustrated journal of the voyage describing exactly the events Jabez himself would have experienced had been kept by Rear-Admiral Hornby's daughter, Elizabeth, and this can be seen at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.(6)

From 26 September 1852 to 31st March 1853 he was aboard HMS Arrogant, a screw-powered frigate launched in 1848. It was based at Portsmouth under the command of Captain Fremantle apparently carrying out speed-trials when Jabez was attached to it.(7) It was here that the offences took place for which he was court-martialled.

From 30th May 1854 to 21st March 1855 he served on HMS Indefatigable, a wooden sailing-ship commanded by Captain Hope off the south-east coast of South America during this period.(8)

It is frustrating that after finding out such substantial information about his naval service it has not been possible to find out what happened to him afterwards. I do not know whether he had children, when or where he and his wife died, or indeed any more about him. Would the kidney disease have taken it's toll and sent him to an early grave? quite possibly in those days, although one would expect to find a record of his death. Did he get restless and perhaps emigrate? again possible, but no proof of this either. The search continues...


(1) www.bmdregisters.co.uk, Non-Conformist registers, RG4/1845
(2) Suffolk Records Office, Bury St Edmunds, Parish Registers of St Mary's Church, Haverhill. Fiche 578/4/p24 of 37
(3) Marriage Register. 3rd Quarter 1851, Risbridge District, Volume 12 Page 555
(4) National Archives. Royal Marines, Chatham Division, Attestations and Discharges 1842-1912, ADM 157/1289/333
(5) National Archives. Royal Marines, Chatham Division, Attestations and Discharges 1842-1912, ADM 157/48/543
(6) Journal kept and illustrated by Elizabeth Hornby (PHI/308), National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.
(7) http://www.pbenyon.plus.com/18-1900/A/00342.html
(8) http://www.pbenyon.plus.com/18-1900/I/02403.html
(9) London Daily News, Tue 5th April 1853 issue 2144, British Newspapers 1800-1900, The British Library.
(10) http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1846/jul/20/naval-courts-martial-and-flogging-sailors
(11) Reynold's Newspaper (London), Sunday 10th April 1853 issue 139, British Newspapers 1800-1900, The British Library.