Life After the Royal Marines – Theft, Fraud and Imprisonment

My fourth great grandfather, Matthew Buyrn, enlisted with the Royal Marines in December 1812 under the name John Dunmore. In late September 1832, Sergeant John Dunmore was aboard the HMS Caledonia off the coast of Portugal. On the 30th September at East Stonehouse, Plymouth, John’s wife, Harriet, gave birth to their third son. This child was my third great grandfather, Thomas Matthew Buyrn Dunmore.

HMS Caledonia, 120 Guns, Lying in Plymouth Sound, Henry Andrews Luscombe, Public Domain

Not long after Thomas’ birth, John was discharged from the HMS Caledonia and given passage to Plymouth Hospital aboard the HMS Rhadamanthus. John was received at Plymouth Hospital on 28th March 1833 where he remained for the next twenty-three days. The hospital musters show that his disease was recorded as ‘mania’. Two days after John was discharged from hospital, his son Thomas was baptised. Thomas was now four months old, and his father had either been at sea or in the hospital since the time of his son’s birth.

Marine-Barracks, at East-Stonehouse, Devonshire – Engraved by John Roffe from a drawing by Thomas Girtin, Publushed: 1798, Public Domain

These events preceded the end of Dunmore’s twenty-one years service with the Royal Marines. After his discharge in 1833, John returned to his home parish of Edmonton, Middlesex, and resumed the name Matthew Buyrn. It’s possible that this would have been the first time that his wife and children had visited Edmonton.

Edmonton, Middlesex from ‘Ecclesiastical Topography: A collection of one hundred views of churches in the environs of London, from drawings expressly taken for this work.’, Samuel Woodburn, 1807, Public Domain

This was likely not an easy transition for the family. The Buyrn family lived in Orchard Street in an overcrowded dwelling with multiple occupants and poor sanitation. The family applied for their oldest son to be admitted to Greenwich Hospital School. Their application was successful, although further applications for two of their children were declined. It was desperate times for the family who were seen as ‘a real object of charity’ by the parish. Matthew Buyrn very quickly became in trouble with the law, stealing a leather wallet in 1834. He awaited trial in Newgate Prison and was found guilty and sentenced to nine months imprisonment.

Plan of Newgate Prison, John Howard, 1792, Public Domain

This was not the only time that Matthew Buyrn was in trouble with the law. Buyrn came before the Middlesex Quarter Sessions at the Sessions House, Clerkenwell Green on 8th April 1844. He was charged with numerous counts of fraud. Buyrn was convicted and sentenced to six weeks imprisonment and hard labour at the House of Correction for each count. The Quarter Sessions Roll included two indictments detailing four counts of fraud as summarised below:

5th March 1844

Buyrn visited Mary Jane Kempton, wife of Matthew Kempton, Grocer. He claimed that Mark Capper, Warehouseman, had sent him to borrow a half crown as Capper had no change. Mary Jane gave Buyrn a half crown, however he had not been sent by Capper and had acquired the money under false pretences.

7th March 1844

Buyrn did as he had done on the 5th March 1844. He visited Mary Jane Kempton and claimed that Mark Capper sent him to borrow a half crown due to having no change. Mary Jane gave Buyrn a half crown, however he had not been sent by Capper.

11th March 1844

Buyrn visited Mary Jane Kempton again and claimed he had been sent by Mark Capper to borrow three shillings and six pence as Capper had no change. Mary Jane gave Buyrn a half crown and one shilling, however he had acquired these under false pretences.

14th March 1844

Buyrn visited Mary Lamprall, the daughter of George Boyd, Licenced Victualler. Boyd was a customer of Mark Capper. Buyrn claimed that he had been sent by Capper to fetch a bottle of brandy and a bottle of port. Mary gave Buyrn the goods, however Buyrn had not been sent by Capper.

This was clearly a profitable endeavour for Buyrn, and may have continued to be so had he not been found out! Presumably, the Kempton’s had not been paid back the amounts borrowed, or George Boyd sought payment for the brandy and port, and the fraud was discovered.

Sessions House, Clerkenwell Green, Drawn by Thomas H. Shepherd, Engraved by S. Lacey, 1831, Public Domain
Middlesex House of Correction, Engraving by James Peller Malcolm, 1796, Public Domain

Shortly after Matthew Buyrn’s release from the Middlesex House of Correction, he applied to be an in-pensioner at Greenwich Hospital and was admitted on 5th September 1844. This would have once again been a desperate move. He would have been separated from his family, although they would have been permitted to visit. Matthew Buyrn’s story of hardship does not end here, despite him only living for a further two years. There is much more that could be written about the story of his life.

© Richard Holt, Holt’s Family History Research 2022

Published by holtsfamilyhistoryresearch

I am a professional genealogist and AGRA Associate. I love researching those hard to find ancestors and using DNA to help crack those family mysteries. I feel at home in archives handling old documents and getting my hands dirty - often quite literally from years of dirt and grime!

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