Tuesday, 5 July 2016

The Shrigley Abduction

The Shrigley Abduction

Edward Gibbon Wakefield
Edward Gibbon Wakefield sat in Newgate Gaol in 1828, thinking about the newly proposed South Australia Colony and what could be done to make the new colony, and society in general, work better.
 He believed the southern proposed ‘Utopia’ would need a good colonisation scheme and set about working out he could manifest it. In his plan, the sale of land at higher prices would attract a better class of person, coupled with the idea of not transporting convicts to be labourers, but offering free transport to labour tradesmen and artisans. In 1836, that very idea of Wakefield’s came to be, with the proclamation of South Australia, and the laying out of its Capitol City, Adelaide.
 So how did Wakefield end up in gaol in the first place?
Wakefield was born in 1796, educated in London and Edinburgh, and became a King’s Messenger. His job was to carry diplomatic messages across Europe, of which he did during the Napoleonic Wars and the Battle of Waterloo.
In 1816, he fell in love with heiress, Miss Eliza Pattle and married her. He was paid 70, 000 pounds upon marrying her with an offer of more when she reached the age of 29.
 The newlyweds moved to Genoa with his Mother-in-law and her servants, where they lived as a family, whilst he again worked in diplomatic capacities.
 Whilst in Genoa, his first child, Nina was born, not long after the family moved back to London and a second child was born, Jerningham, unfortunately, due to complications, Eliza died 4 days after the birth. The children were then raised by Edward’s sister Catherine.
Wakefield, looking for a “get a rich quick scheme”, hit upon the idea of marrying another wealthy heiress, and hatched a plan that would later be known as “The Shrigley Abduction” of 1827.
 Edward, with help from his brother William, abducted 15 year old Ellen Turner from her school, after luring her outside with a message that her Mother had fallen ill. His plan was to marry the girl and therefore make a claim on her inheritance.
 The Wakefield brothers were caught swiftly and sentenced to 3 years in the Newgate Gaol.
The gaol sentence did not deter Wakefield from dreaming up another “get-rich-scheme”, this time trying to overturn his Father-in-law’s will through the court system, of which he did not succeed. During the hearings though, Wakefield was accused of perjury and forgery, but was never held accountable for either.
Wakefield, whose influence on The South Australia Colony had begun to fade, now found interest in the New Zealand Association and the rebellion in Canada.
 It was in Canada that his influence would be most felt, becoming an unofficial (the English Government would never employee him) Commissioner of Crown Lands under John Lambton, Lord Durham, which would eventually see upper and lower Canada unite.
Wakefield had sent his brother William and son Jerningham to New Zealand in 1839 to help settle the new colony, followed a few years later by another brother, Arthur, who began settled at Nelson on the South Island.

Edward Gibbon Wakefield died in Wellington on 16 May 1862.

The town of Port Wakefield was named after him in South Australia.

(Wakefield Street in Adelaide is named after Edwards’s brother Daniel Bell Wakefield, the solicitor who drafted the Act which proclaimed Adelaide.)