|George Joseph Sheppard and Matilda Vernum
- a soldier of the British Army and his family -
Continued from page 1
1857: George is confined and fined 3s 6d.
1858: January George is stationed in Sydney. May, George is stationed on Goat Island, a
small island in Sydney Harbour that housed the Navy and Military magazine [gunpowder and
munitions supplies] June onwards, George is in Sydney. October -December- George spends
six days in hospital. 28th - 30th December George is confined and fined 1s 6d. Matilda has
joined George and is living at the Victoria Barracks in Paddington, Sydney, NSW. Son William
Frederick is born.
1859: George is stationed in Sydney. 3rd -11th March, George is confined and fined 3s 6d
1860: 1st June, George is promoted to Corporal.
1861: 22nd February George is confined and tried and reduced [demoted] 23rd February,
released as Private. George and Matilda are residing at the Victoria Barracks, Paddington
NSW. Daughter Rebecca is born 20th July.
1862: The 12th Regiment leave Australia. Some were sent to New Zealand.The Suffolk
Regiment (“The Old Dozen”) was in New Zealand from 1860 to 1866 as the 12th (Suffolk)
Regiment, under the command of Lt.-Col. H. M. Hamilton, C.B. “New Zealand” is worn on the
regiment's battle honours.
1862: January-March George is stationed in Queensland. 20th September Tried and
Imprisoned for breaking out of Barracks. 20th October, released.
1863: Probably Sydney 12th March, tried and imprisoned for habitual drunkenness. 24th
April, released. April-June, spent some time on Cockatoo Island but still stationed in Sydney.
October - December travelled to New Zealand. Spent three days aboard ship, probably the
HMSS Curacoa that departed on 22nd September 1863 for Auckland New Zealand with 266
soldiers on board. Eldest daughter Matilda Ann remained behind in Sydney. For a report on
the 12th regiment's service in New Zealand Click HERE
1864: George is serving in New Zealand.
1865: New Zealand. Restored to Good Conduct pay.
1866: New Zealand. Son James is born about this time.
1867: 25th April - Good conduct pay. 9th May, promoted to Corporal. July to August,
Stationed in Devonport. This is most likely Devonport England rather than Devonport
Auckland or Tasmania. This would suggest that George left NZ and returned to England
between May and July. Two ships, the 'England' and the 'Mary Shepherd' departed New
Zealand with almost 600 members of the 12th regiment in May.
1868: January- March, George is in Devonport. April to May George is in hospital. Cause
unknown. Daughter Matilda Ann, still living in Sydney, marries Peter Hickson [jnr] of Macleay
River on 2nd November. The Roll of the Married Establishment shows George having a wife
named Matilda and four children aged 1-11 years. July-September George is in hospital cause
unknown. The Roll of the ME appears again and George is listed with children aged 2-12
years. 6th November George requested a Discharge. At the time he was in confinement,
awaiting trial - 9th Nov. 10th Nov tried and reduced to Private, forfeiting on Good Conduct pay,
which left him one upon discharge. 20th November, Discharge accepted. 1st December, finally
Discharge: George requested a discharge on 6th November 1868. It was granted on 20th
November and he was officially discharged on 1st December 1868. His description at the time
of his Discharge is as follows:
Age: 43 1/12 years; Height: 5 feet 6 3/4 inches; Complexion: Fresh; Eyes: Grey; Hair: Brown;
Trade: Labourer. Marks or Scars: Tattoo on second finger of left hand. George's intended place
of residence at the time of his discharge in Devonport was Back Lane, Bedminster, Bristol. He
also requested to join the Army of Reserve.
Pension: In the Chelsea Hospital records of Pensions, George is listed as having been
discharged on completion of 21 years of service with a pension of 9d. His pension number
written on the top of his discharge papers was 90270
1870: The Bristol Mercury dated Saturday 5th March 1870 carries the following account in it
Police Intelligence column for Wednesday 2nd March: George Sheppard charged under a
warrant for neglecting to maintain his wife and three children and leaving them chargeable to
the common fund of the union of Bedminster, was sentenced to 21 day hard labour. Whilst I
have been unable to verify that this is 'our' George, subsequent events suggest it is likely.
1871 Census: The census in April 1871 finds George, an army pensioner, living at 6 George
Lane, St George, Gloucestershire with daughter Rebecca [a student] and a woman named
Miriam WALTERS. Both George and Rebecca are also recorded with the surname Walters
however all other details show they are the Sheppards. Matilda is residing at Catherine Mead
Street, St Pauls Bristol with sons George [labourer] and William [errand boy]. Were George
and Matilda living apart or was George merely visiting a relative or old friend with daughter
Rebecca? Miriam Walters was the widow of George Walters, tin plate worker. Miriam was born
in Huntspill Somerset about 1823. Also of interest is a second entry for Matilda Sheppard, a
widow aged 50 born Bristol residing in the home of Elizabeth Arrowsmith a 75 year old
annuitant at 24 Meridian Place, Clifton, Bristol. Matilda's relationship is shown as servant and
her occupation is invalid nurse. Could this be Matilda, recorded a second time at her place of
Death: George Joseph Sheppard [death registration is in the name George James Sheppard]
died on 21st March 1872 at the Rising Sun, a lodging house in Temple Backs. Cause of death
was suicide by hanging whilst in a state of temporary insanity. An inquest was held on 22nd
The Bristol Mercury of Saturday 23rd March reports the following:
Suicide on Temple Backs: - Mr Wasbrough, the city coroner held yesterday an into the
death of George James [sic] Sheppard, 48 years of age, a discharged soldier who
committed suicide by hanging himself at the Rising Sun, Temple Backs at which house
the inquest was held. John Hobbs said he was a lodger at the Rising Sun and the
deceased also lodged there. On Thursday, finding that the deceased did not make his
appearance went up to the room which he occupied and forced open the door. He found
the deceased hanging to the rail of the bedstead and cut him down. He was quite dead.
The door was barricaded with a chair. It was not unusual for the deceased to stay
upstairs for four or five days at a time. Witnessed had noticed that lately he had lately
looked very strange and that he appeared greatly depressed in spirits. The last time
he saw him was Tuesday. Matilda Sheppard said the deceased was her husband and
that she had been separated from him for some six weeks. He could get no work and
this prayed upon his mind. She was quite sure he was "not right". The coroner, in
summing up said there was no doubt that the deceased committed the act whilst
labouring under a fit of temporary insanity. The jury returned a verdict to that effect.
The Western Daily Press dated 23rd March 1872 reported:
Suicide in Bristol: Yesterday afternoon at The Rising Sun public house, Temple Backs,
Mr Wasbrough, the city coroner held an inquest on the body of George James Sheppard
who committed suicide the previous day by hanging himself at the Rising Sun. John
Hobbs who lived in the house said that the deceased who was a discharged soldier had
lodged there for several months. Occasionally he lay in bed for two or three days
together. On Tuesday night he went to bed and did not get up on Wednesday or
Thursday. On the evening of the latter day witness went into his room and found him
hanging by the neck by a rope. There was a stool underneath him which he appeared
to have kicked away. Matilda Sheppard, wife of the deceased, said she was separated
from him, her allowance being 4s6d per week. He had not paid the money lately as he
had been unable to get work. The officials of Bedminster Union were going to summon
him next week if he did not pay her allowance. Lately he had been very low spirited.
The jury's verdict was the deceased committed suicide while in a state of unsound
1881 Census: By the 1881 census Matilda is recorded as a widow residing at 25 Church
Street, Temple Bristol with son William and daughter Rebecca.
Death: Matilda Sheppard died 11th October 1881 aged 64 years. Cause of death was
degeneration of the cerebral vessels and serious apoplexy. Her address at the time was 25
Church Street, Bristol. Daughter Rebecca was the informant and was present at her death.
Left: Victoria Barracks Paddington NSW,
enlisted mens barracks where George and
Matilda resided for a time