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Convict Ship Hooghley 1834

Embarked: 260 men
Voyage: 113 days
Deaths: 0
Surgeon's Journal: Yes
Previous vessel: Blenheim arrived 14 November 1834
Next vessel: George Hibbert arrived 1 December 1834
Captain George Bayley
Surgeon Superintendent James Rutherford

The Hooghleywas built in London in 1819. Convicts were transported to New South Wales on Hooghley in 1825, 1828, 1831 and 1834.[1]

The prisoners came from counties in England - Norfolk, Wiltshire, Essex, Cambridge, Middlesex, Southampton, Huntingdon, Sussex, Dorset, Worcester, York, Suffolk, Cornwall, London, Stafford, Warwick, Oxford, Bedford, Salop, Surrey, Berks and some who had been court-martialed in Jamaica and Falmouth. There were no prisoners on the Hooghley who had been tried in Scotland.

One of the prisoners was Joseph Platt from Manchester. He was sentenced to 14 years transportation for street robbery on 14 April 1834. Joseph Platt was one of the convicts who served his sentence and returned to England. He later wrote an account of his experiences as a convict entitled The horrors of transportation / as related by Joseph Platt who was transported for fourteen years, with an account of the hardships he endured and his return to England.

On his return to England he found that his parents had passed away and he was without work or money. This account was published in 1862, thirteen years after he returned to England. While some parts are exaggerated or doubtful, his descriptions of the Hooghley and Hyde Park Barracks are interesting have elements of truth.

The horrors of transportation / as related by Joseph Platt who was transported for fourteen years, with an account of the hardships he endured and his return to England


After trial in Manchester Joseph Platt was sent to the York Hulk at Portsmouth:

The rules and regulations were then read, and I thought them very strict. On the next morning I was sent to work in the mud gang; the work being so very hard, I volunteered to go with the first ship to Sidney. I was five weeks on board of the hulk, and then embarked with 250 more transports. [4]


Hooghley departed Portsmouth on 28 July 1834.


The Guard consisted of 29 rank and file, 7 women and 4 children under orders of Lieutenant-Colonel Woodhouse, Lieutenant Gregg and Ensign Wyatt of the 50th regiment (Headquarters).

Joseph Platt remarked in his journal that:

The Captain and Doctor were very kind to the prisoners, but the Colonel of the 50th and the Officers were rather severe upon us poor unfortunate prisoners. [4]


James Rutherford kept a Medical Journal from 28 June to 4th December 1834.

There were no deaths of convicts on the voyage out although an infant of one of the guard died. The surgeon was called on to treat Captain Bayley who suffered from pneumonia for a fortnight from 31st August; and Lieutenant-Colonel Woodhouse who became ill in September...... The surgeon described the illness in his journal. - The Lieutenant-Colonel was observed to have become remarkably taciturn and retired but on the 13th it was strongly suspected that he was not right in his mind. He talked of his sins and a written confession of them which he had made and he which to make public. On the 14th no doubt remained of his insanity, he having rushed forward among the convicts holding his written confession in one hand and a bible in the other for the avowed purpose of reading to them the former and expounding to them certain texts from the latter. He had a certain wildness of expression which could not be mistaken. The surgeon succeeded in inducing him to take a strong purgative medicine which operated freely and with much persuasion, he allowed a vein to be opened in the arm from which about 20 ounces of blood were abstracted... on the 20th he was removed into a more retired cabin than his proper one and in the night of that day by perseverance in the use of the medicines he enjoyed sleep for the first time since the commencement of his disorder. The surgeon observed that the symptoms of the disease were extremely variable sometimes being agitated and sometimes tranquil generally in proportion to the roughness or smoothness of the sea and consequent steadiness or uneasiness of the ship.

Illnesses amongst the convicts were few. There were various sores on the prisoners' legs caused by the irons and the surgeon was called on to treat women and children embarked with the guard with diseases peculiar to their sex and age. A protracted labour and two cases of abortion etc which occasioned large demands on the medical comforts supplied for their use. [2]


Joseph Platt - Every day while we were at sea we used to get a few hours on deck and then were below for the remainder of the night. The victuals we had were very scanty. Each morning a quarter of a pound of biscuits was served out, which in addition to a breakfast of half boiled stirabout, wasto last us all day. For dinner we had either, pork or beef and a small drop of soup, which was all we had till next morning - it was just enough to keep life in us. After we wre five weeks at sea we got our irons knocked off. Nothing particular occured during the voyage, except the death of a child. [4]

The surgeon remarked that "on the whole, never has there been perhaps an equal number of people assembled in so small a space, for so long a time and in similar circumstances more healthy than were the people embarked on the Hooghley." [2]


Arrival of the convict ship Hooghley in 1834. Sydney Gazette 20 November 1834. Go to Free Settler or Felon to find out more about the voyage of the Hooghley in 1834

The Hooghley arrived in Port Jackson on 18 November 1834, a voyage of 113 days. According to the surgeon's journal three men, William Shaw, James Vincent and Henry Osborne were sent to the hospital in Sydney on 4th December having shown symptoms of scurvy.[2]

The Head Quarters of the 50th regiment were landed on Thursday 20th November and were to be stationed at Windsor. Detachments of the 50th Regiment also arrived on the Surry, Forth, Bengal Merchant Hooghley, Susan, Blenheim, Royal Admiral, Lady Nugent, Parmelia, James Laing, Hive, Hooghley, Captain Cook, Hero, Roslin Castle, Henry Porcher, Henry Tanner and Lady Kennaway.


Prisoners were mustered on board on 26th November 1834.

Joseph Platt:

The Govenrment Officers read over the rules and regulations of the country. I thought it was bad enough on board of the Hulk, but the severity of these rules made every man's blood run cold when we heard them read. We were then stripped, and our marks and descriptions taken. [4]

Hooghley convict indents include information such as name, age, religion, education, family, marital status, native place, trade, offence, previous sentences, when and where tried and physical description. There are occasional notes regarding colonial crimes and dates of death. There is no information as to where the prisoners were assigned on arrival.[3]


Joseph Platt:

A week after muster we went ashore. We were marched two deep to Hyde Park Barracks; then the rules and regulations were again read over to us. We were then formed into a half circle, the triangle was brought out, and I counted twenty-five men and boys that were severely flogged. I thought this very cruel on my first arrival in the country, and I wished I had been at home again; but the next day I was called up to the office, and the chief clerk told me that my master had come for me. I saw him pay one guinea and sign a paper, and the clerk said in a moment, "This is your man". He then said to me, "Get your clothes". I then went to the stores and received a suit of clothes, and then folded them up in my bed and put them under my arm, and then went home with my master.

On the road I asked him if he had brought me? He said, No, it was my bed and clothes he had bought. I told him it was very strange to give a guinea for things that were not worth two shillings and sixpence. He then said to me, "I think you are a bit of a lawyer". I said no more to him then. We arrived at his shop, and I found out that my master was a pastry cook and confectioner. He then ordered me down stairs with the rest of the signed servants and on the following morning he set me to work

The prisoners came from counties throughout England and their occupations had mostly been as labourers, gardeners, errand boys, servants, shepherds, fishermen etc. After arrival many were distributed throughout the colony to work as agricultural labourers, hut keepers, stockmen and shepherds. There were some however whose occupations set them apart including Thomas Birkett, solicitor's clerk transported for forgery who died at Port Macquarie two years later and John Francis Boutard, diamond dealer transported for stealing diamonds. There were also some former soldiers who had been court-martialled for desertion or insubordination. [3]

About seventy of the prisoners who arrived on the Hooghley in 1834 have been identified residing in the Hunter Valley region. Some were sent far up the valley to work on estates such as those of Stephen Coxen, James Bowman and William Kelman. Others were sent to the Williams River district. Some such as David Ambrose committed colonial crimes serious enough to be sent to Norfolk Island, then a dreaded hell-hole. Select HERE to find more about convicts and passengers of the Hooghley


Although Sir Richard Bourke had been governor of the colony for three years when the Hooghley arrived, convict discipline remained harsh and punishments endured by John Johnson a 20 year old fisherman from Surry sent for picking pockets were probably fairly typical:........

18 February 1835 - Hyde Park Barracks 12 lashes for insolence;
6 June 1835 - Hyde Park Barracks 5 days in the cells for drunkenness;
19th September 1835 - 7 days on the treadmill for disobedience;
9 March1836 - 100 lashes for obscene language;
3 August 1837 - 3 years in irons for highway robbery;
17 March 1838 - Berrima 50 lashes for neglect of work;
2 June 1838 - 25 lashes for disobedience;
22 June 1840 - 50 lashes for making a noise in the stockade;
6th October 1840 - 50 lashes for absconding;
17 November 1841 - 25 lashes for disorderly conduct at Parramatta.


1). James Rutherford was also employed as surgeon on the convict ships Regalia in 1826, Pyramus in 1832 andMangles in 1833. He was a brother of Surgeon Superintendent George Shaw Rutherford

2). Lieut-Col Woodhouse.....We regret to hear that Lieutenant. Colonel Woodhouse, commanding the Queen's own Regiment at Parramatta has been seriously indisposed since his arrival in the colony. His medical advisers impute his ill health to the heat of the climate, or the rather sudden transition from a cold to a hot one. The Colonel is an old soldier who has " done the state some service" in the " tented field." The faculty have recommended him to return to Europe so soon as his health will permit. - Sydney Gazette 10 January 1835

3). Thomas Spencer Forsaith was employed as 4th Mate on the Hooghley on this voyage. In his memoirs he described his voyage on the Hooghley:

Having served an apprenticeship to the sea faring life, Mr. Forsaith found himself on July 18, 1834, his twentieth birthday, the duly appointed fourth mate of the Hooghly, a ship chartered by the Imperial Government to convey convicts to Sydney.

Two hundred and sixty prisoners of various ages and convicted of a variety of offences, under a military guard commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Wood house, were brought on board. Mr. Forsaith was specially deputed to assist the Surgeon superintendent, Dr. Rutherford, and was almost continuously between decks amongst the convicts.

They were brought on board at Spithead, and it became Mr. Forsaiths duty to attach a number to each prisoner in succession. One young prisoner looked keenly at him and colored deeply. Nothing was said at the time, but next day one of the prisoners’ boatswains approached Mr. Forsaith, and, touching his cap, said, 'Excuse me, sir, but were you not educated at the Rev. Mr. Fan court's, Hoxton Square?' 'Yes, but why do you ask?' 'Because there is a young man here who says he recollects your face at school.' Mr. Forsaith sent for the young prisoner, and recognised in him an old school mate, for whom he subsequently secured a good situation In Sydney.

Another prisoner of high attainments and considerable erudition, who had been sentenced to transportation for life, was wont to pace the decks, grind his teeth, and rage in this manner: 'I will not be chained up for life like a dog. Society in New South Wales shall know ere long that I am a man who might be useful if treated like a man but who will stick at nothing rather than endure the degradation of perpetual bonds. I will be free or die, and if I die, I shall not die alone.' On Mr. Forsaith reminding him that it had been declared on the highest of authorities that the way of transgressors was hard, he re-joined, 'I know it, and have proved it to be so. I have made my bed and am prepared to find it a hard one, but I deny the right of human authority to make it iron. Mr. Forsaith believes that this desperate man of edu cation was afterwards identical with one of those outlawed and bloodthirsty bushrangers that terrorised the interior of New South Wales for several years.

The voyage of the convict ship was not with out strange and exciting incidents, the most prominent and painful of which was the insanity of Colonel Woodhouse, commandant of the military guard. It was evidently a case of religious mania. He rushed out of his cabin one afternoon, and ran forward to address the prisoners on the wrath to come if he then threatened to throw himself overboard if he were not allowed to fulfil his mission. With an open prayer-book in his hand he tried, to harangue the prisoners, and had to be stopped by the sentries. Finally he jumped overboard was rescued, and confined in his cabin for the rest of the voyage. Thus, by the irony of fate, the officer appointed to command the military guard over the prisoners became a much more severely guarded prisoner himself than the bulk of the convicts


[1] Charles & Library of Australian History (1983). The convict ships, 1787-1868 (Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney, pp.352-353, 389

[2] Journal of James Bowman. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857. The National Archives. Kew, Richmond, Surrey.

[3] Convict Ship Hooghley. Bound manuscript indents, 1788–1842. NRS 12188, microfiche 692. State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia.

[4] The horrors of transportation / as related by Joseph Platt who was transported for fourteen years, with an account of the hardships he endured and his return to England, London 1862.

[5] Evening News 30 July 1898