Story: Garrett, Henry Beresford

Page 1: Biography

Garrett, Henry Beresford

1818?–1885

Cooper, criminal

This biography, written by David Green, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, vol 1, 1990.

Henry Rouse, alias Henry Beresford Garrett, was baptised in Bottesford, Leicestershire, England, on 8 March 1818, the fourth child of Catherine Rouse and her husband, Thomas, a tenant farmer. Catherine Rouse died in 1821, and the family lived with a grandmother until Thomas's remarriage in 1832. In later life Henry was bitter because his father had neglected him. Henry Rouse is not known to have married, although he refers to his 'wife' in his writings. This may have been Mary Ann Solomon of London, who is said to have given birth to his child in August 1855.

Rouse had little schooling, but learnt the trade of coopering. In 1842 he received three months' gaol for assaulting a gamekeeper, and in 1845 was sentenced to 10 years' transportation for stealing, with two other men, some £50 worth of cloth from a tailor in Bingham, Nottinghamshire. Rouse was first incarcerated on Norfolk Island, then from 1847 in the Hobart area. In the early 1850s he worked as a cooper in Geelong, before moving to the Ballarat goldfields, where he lived with an 'actress'. He was nicknamed 'Long Harry' because of his physical appearance: 'considerably above the average height…very lean, extremely large boned, remarkably straight and upright, of a rather unprepossessing countenance'.

On 16 October 1854 'Long Harry', with three accomplices, robbed the Ballarat branch of the Bank of Victoria of at least £14,000. He escaped to England but a detective sent in pursuit spotted him in London and Henry Beresford Garrett, as he now styled himself, was returned to Melbourne for trial. Sentenced in November 1855 to 10 years' hard labour, he was confined on the prison hulks President and Success, in appalling conditions described in his manuscript 'The demon'. He was nearby when the 'demon' himself, inspector general of Victorian prison establishments, John Price, was killed by convicts in March 1857.

In 1861 Garrett was granted a ticket of leave, and on 7 October arrived in Dunedin on the Kembla en route for the Otago goldfields. After obtaining weapons by robbing a gunsmith, he and several companions carried out a 'most daring Highway Robbery under Arms' at the foot of the Maungatua range, on the track between Gabriels Gully and Dunedin. The 'Garrett gang' had overheard diggers boasting about the amount of gold they were carrying, and were thus able to choose whom to waylay. Fifteen men were tied to trees, parted from gold and property worth some £400, and then treated to light refreshments. There was panic in Dunedin when the victims eventually freed themselves and raised the alarm. Otago police initially detained only a few innocent diggers and a new member of their own force, but the gang's lookout was eventually caught. Henry Garrett was arrested in Sydney in December, and sentenced to eight years' imprisonment in Dunedin in May 1862.

After an unsuccessful attempt to break out of Dunedin gaol with Richard Burgess in September 1862, Garrett seems to have taken no further part in prison disturbances. He became involved with the Plymouth Brethren, probably in hopes of an early release. He was in fact released in February 1868 and sent back to Victoria by the Otago police. He was soon deported from Australia and returned to Dunedin, where he worked as a cooper in a brewery. On 9 November 1868 he was arrested while burgling a seed merchant. Inquiries revealed he had also broken into a chemist's shop, and a search of his dwelling revealed skeleton keys, fancy confectionery, and a variety of poisons. On the assumption that he had intended to murder people who had crossed him, he received 10 years' gaol for each burglary, to be served consecutively.

Garrett remained in Dunedin gaol until 1881, when deteriorating health brought about his transfer to Lyttelton. His daily regimen of hard labour was balanced by reading Shakespeare, the Bible, and philosophy, and by writing with idiosyncratic phonetic spelling on a wide variety of subjects, including 'Napoleonism', 'Evolution', 'Kremation' and 'Womans Riets or Mision'. Some of his articles were published under the pseudonym 'Klodopr'. Released in April 1882, by now in his 60s, he again worked as a cooper. In November 1882, however, he was caught while attempting to steal a bottle of wine from a merchant, and sentenced to the maximum possible gaol term of seven years. More hard labour followed, this time at Wellington's Mt Cook gaol. In July 1885 he was transferred to The Terrace gaol, which had a hospital. Here he died of 'chronic bronchitis' on 3 September 1885.

How to cite this page:

David Green. 'Garrett, Henry Beresford', first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, vol. 1, 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/1g5/garrett-henry-beresford (accessed 24 October 2017)