Cooking Pot Uprising

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Cooking pot uprising
Cooking Pot Riot.jpg
Watercolour drawing by an unknown artist of the Cooking Pot Uprising
Date1 July 1846
Norfolk Island
Result Police victory
Van Diemen's Land
colonial government
Commanders and leaders
Joseph Childs William Westwood
Unknown 1100+[1]
Casualties and losses
4 constables killed
Several wounded
17 convicts executed
Several wounded

The Cooking Pot Uprising, also known as the Cooking Pot Riot, was an uprising of convicts led by William Westwood on the penal colony of Norfolk Island, Australia. It occurred on 1 July 1846 in response to the confiscation of convicts' cooking utensils under the orders of Major Joseph Childs, who was in command of the colony.


In February 1844, Major Joseph Childs took over the command of the convict prison settlement at Norfolk Island where he began a regime of harsh, rigid discipline that ended with mutiny, massacre, and the execution of 12 men.

Captin Maconochie, had been of a more kindly disposition. He had looked on his prisoners as human beings and had given them some little interest in life by allowing them to have small farm plots in which they could grow sweet potatoes and other vegetables. Maconochie also shortened hours of labor, holidays were granted to those convicts whose behaviour was considered satisfactory, and each prisoner was allowed to cook his own meals in saucepans and kettles specially provided.

Major Childs decided to alter all this. Gradually, over a period of two years, he withdrew the privileges that had made the men relatively contented under Maconochie. He abolished the private farm plots. He lengthened the daily hours of work and he withdrew holidays for good behavior. He cut down the prisoners' rations. And then, on the memorable first day of July, 1846, he announced the abolition of the last little privilege – the last vestige of privacy that had given the men a feeling that they were individuals.

Major Childs issued a proclamation that food was to be served in bulk, that no personal cooking was to be permitted, and that kettles and saucepans held by prisoners were to be handed in.


Convict buildings at the former jail on Norfolk Island.

The next day, after a compulsory prayers parade, the convicts went in a body to the lumber yard to read the new proclamation. There were indignant cries. Gathering in rough military formation they marched to the Barrack Yard, stormed the store, and seized every utensil within reach. Convict William Westwood hushed them. "Now, men", he said, "I've made up my mind to bear this oppression no longer. But, remember, I'm going to the gallows. If any man funks, let him stand out. Those who want to follow me – come on!"

So the mutiny began. Westwood, his face transformed with rage, struck at a constable who was watching the proceedings. He felled him, and his mates, their pent-up fury now finding a savage outlet, struck at him with knives, sticks, pitchforks – with any weapons they could find.

Then they hurried to the cook house. Here they found Stephen Smith, the mess overseer. Jacky Jacky attacked him. "For God's sake don't hurt me, Jackey!" he cried out. "Remember my wife and children!" "Damn your wife and children;" said the livid young convict, and knocked him senseless. When the others had finished with him he was a mutilated corpse. The convicts moved on in a wildly rushing mass about 1,600 strong, to the Barrack Yard gate, where they pushed aside a sentry and an overseer who tried to halt them. Their one thought now was to get to Government House, where the main target of their wrath was Samuel Barrow, the Police Magistrate. As they passed by the lime kiln Westwood, now wielding an axe, ran over to a hut, forced open the door, and killed convict constables John Dinon and Thomas Saxton. Dinon was asleep in his bed, Saxton awoke to see the axe fall on him.[2]

As they moved down the road towards Government House, they were confronted by a line of soldiers, muskets at the ready. As though the force of their passion had suddenly been spent, the convicts halted, and then began to retreat towards the lumber yard, where their weapons were taken from them, and they were returned to their cells.[3]

John Giles Price was dispatched to command the convict settlement as a replacement for Major Childs. One of Price's first duties was to arrange for the trial of 26 convicts alleged to have been involved in murders during the uprising of July 1846 at the end of Childs' administration.

Westwood with 11 of the most prominent leaders of the mutiny were all found guilty of the deaths of police runner Stephen Smith, and convict constables John Morris, John Dinon and Thomas Saxton.

People executed[edit]

Death mask of William Westwood

On 13 October 1846, the twelve convicts were hanged in two groups of six and their bodies were buried in a pit near the pier.

  • William Westwood (Jackey Jackey) 26
  • John Davis
  • Samuel Kenyon
  • Dennis Pendergast
  • Owen Commuskey
  • Henry Whiting 22
  • William Pearson
  • James Cairnes
  • William Pickthorne 27
  • Lawrence Kavenagh 41
  • William Scrimshaw
  • Edward McGuinness [4][5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Norfolk Island". The Britannia and Trades' Advocate. Hobart Town, Tas. 19 November 1846. p. 3. Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  3. ^ "The Norfolk Island mutiny was led by The GENTLEMAN BUSHRANGER". The Argus. Melbourne. 19 January 1957. p. 14. Retrieved 4 December 2013 – via National Library of Australia.
  4. ^ "Norfolk Island – The Executions". The Australian. Sydney. 28 November 1846. p. 3. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
  5. ^ "Murder at Norfolk Island". Colonial Times. Hobart, Tas. 25 August 1846. p. 3. Retrieved 29 October 2016.