Many people have passed through the corridors of Ripon’s former Liberty Prison.
Elisha and John Sinkler (alias Hebden) of Pateley Bridge were notorious local poachers who often had violent encounters with local gamekeepers. Early in August 1831, they severely beat up a gamekeeper named Barker, employed by Mrs. Lawrence of the Studley Estate on Dallowgill Moor.
Arrest warrants were issued by the Ripon Liberty Justices and on 18 September the Ripon Liberty Head Police Officer, Samuel Winn, together with Thomas Dinsdale, the Ripon Sergeant-at-Mace and two Ripon Constables, Thomas Binns and Thomas Sweeting, went to Stonebeck near Pateley Bridge to arrest the brothers. They captured Elisha but his brother, John, and a young man named William Longthorne effected a rescue. A violent struggle took place during which Thomas Dinsdale was knifed. New warrants were issued and notices offering 10 guineas reward for each brother and Longthorne were posted throughout the area.
On 16 November 1832, Elisha was captured and delivered to York Castle to await trial at York Assizes. William Longthorne was also captured and delivered to York for trial.
They were tried on 5 March 1833 and were convicted of being accessories to wounding with intent to murder and sentenced to be hanged. This sentence was later commuted to transportation.
Elisha sailed for Australia on 30 May 1833 and arrived there on 18 October. He spent his first months at the Convict Settlement at Port Arthur and was later hired out to work on a local farm. In 1841, he was granted a pardon and returned to England where he resumed his poaching.
In 1843, he was involved in another stabbing incident and appeared before York Assize Court where, on 4 March, he was sentenced to transportation for life. He was sent to Australia for a second time but it is not known to which settlement he was allocated. He was again pardoned in 1856 and returned home.
His brother, John, had evaded capture for 10 years despite the posting of further reward notices, until he was finally caught in March 1843. He was sentenced to death with an intimation that the sentence would be commuted to transportation, which was finally set at 15 years. He left for Australia on 13 March 1844. It is not known to which settlement he was allocated or exactly when he returned home.
After their return home, the brothers had enough money to purchase property in the area and continued their poaching.
In 1871, they appeared before Ripon Court for poaching and threatening a gamekeeper. This time Elisha was fined £2 with costs and John was sentenced to two months hard labour in the Liberty Prison.