James Goacher the Jewel Thief

James was accused of theft, tried at the Sussex Summer Assizes in July 1744, found guilty, and sentenced to transportation. He was transported to the American colonies in October 1744 aboard the transport ship Savannah. The ship is believed to have disembarked its convicts in Maryland.

Some American researchers believe that the extensive Gotcher families in the USA are descendants of the convict James Goacher.

The 1744 Summer Assizes were held at Horsham, Sussex on Monday 23rd July 1744 before Judge James Reynolds. James Goacher had been held in Horsham jail awaiting his trial.

James was accused of breaking open a coffer in his Master, Daniel Ireland’s bedchamber on 4th March and feloniously stealing three Guineas, six half Crowns and other silver amounting to four pounds nine shillings. At today’s prices that £4.0s.0d would be worth the equivalent of more than £500.

The Jury at the trial found James, a Labourer from the parish of Kirdford in Sussex, guilty of Grand Larceny. The Judge ordered James to be transported for seven years.

Of the other people who were tried at the same Assizes as James:

  • 3 were sentenced to be hanged for Horse stealing
  • 1 was sentenced to be hanged for stealing lambs, but was subsequently reprieved
  • 1 was convicted of "Petit Larceny" and sentenced to be "openly whipped on his Back ‘til his Body is bloody and then be discharged"
  • 1 was sentenced to be transported for 14 years
  • 3 were acquitted and discharged

Unfortunately the court and transportation records give no indication of James’ age, parentage or status, except for describing him as a "Labourer" for Daniel Ireland in Kirdford. However we believe that James was baptised on 23 May 1727 in the neighbouring parish of Wisborough Green. If this is the ‘correct’ James, then he would have been about 17 years of age when he was convicted and transported. He was the son of Hugh and Sarah (Street) Goacher and he had at least three brothers and two sisters.

Do you know any more about James or his family? Do let me know if you do – email goacher@one-name.org