top of page

1860-1911: Workhouse to Warrior (3 of 3)

The former HMP Kingston, Portsmouth

In the final part of three instalments we read about what Richard Chatfield did after he left the army and how how he retired to Ansty.

After leaving the Army Colour-sergeant Chatfield became a warder at Portsmouth Convict Prison.

[Note: A convict is different from a prisoner. A convict was sentenced to hard labour and would have been convicted at the assizes or possibly the lower quarter sessions court but his crime would have been a more serious one. In previous times he would have faced transportation but by 1871 he would serve his sentence in a government prison not a local county gaol].

There he remained for twelve years. Some noted criminals came under his charge while he was acting as a warder. There was Major Arbuckle, an officer in, the Army, who was sentenced to a long term of penal servitude for forgery, and there was another noted forger, Roupell, the ex-member for Lambeth.

Chatfield tells how the other convicts used to do the work for these two, until special warders had to be told off to stop it. While he was at Portsmouth he nearly lost his life through an attack by a convict, who struck at him with a large file, It was a heavy file, and the thickness of his warder's cape prevented it entering his skull.

Now Colour-sergeant Chatfield is spending the closing hours of his life in a pretty country cottage [in Ansty]. He is very happy and contented to wait until the last reveille sounds, and he has to answer his name when it is called at the last great roll-call. ‘And when that comes, I shall be ready,’ he said.

In fact records suggest that the end came very soon after the article was published.


‘Lloyd’s News article reproduced in Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate (NSW), 13 May 1911, page 11.

Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper, called the Sunday News after 1924, was an early Sunday newspaper in the United Kingdom, launched by Edward Lloyd in 1842, and ceased publication in 1931. It was the first of three popular papers to be created for those who only had the leisure to read on Sundays. It was followed by the News of the World in 1843 and Reynold's News in 1850. Wikipedia.


HMP Kingston was built in 1877 and is located in the heart of Portsmouth. For nearly 140 years, the building housed some of the most dangerous criminals in the country. From April 2012 Kingston became mainly a Category C prison, holding a high percentage of inmates serving life sentences. Just 11 months later, in March 2013, the prison closed as part of a wider prisons closure programme established by the Ministry of Justice. The site was acquired by developers St Cross Homes for conversion to residential homes. Photo Courtesy Historic England.


In the Census of 1881 we know that Richard Chatfield lived at 26 William Street, Portsea described at age 61 as a ‘Greenwich Pensioner’.

The Roupell Case

In the 1911 Census Richard now widowed (his wife we believe called Mary) is living with his son George and his wife Clara Ellen at Lovell's Farm Cottages, Ansty, just off Stairbridge Lane. Records suggest he died in May that year, and about the time the article was published.

Contributed by Malcolm Davison.


bottom of page