The Neptune was
built in Whitby in 1810. This was her second voyage
bringing convicts to Australia, the first being in
1818. She was
the next convict ship to leave England for New South
Wales after the
Coromandel departed in November 1819.
The Neptune departed from the Downs on
21 - 23 March 1820. She brought with her prisoners
from different counties throughout England, Scotland
and Wales. - Aberdeen, Bedford, Bristol,
Chester, Cumberland, Derby, Durham, Edinburgh, Kent,
Glamorgan, Glasgow, Gloucester, Inverness, London,
Lancaster, Norfolk, Perth Somerset, Surrey, Sussex
and York. Two were court-martialled - John Hadfield
and James Lee.
The guard consisted of a
detachment of the 48th regiment under orders of
Other ships bringing soldiers of the 48th regt., included
James Mitchell kept a Medical Journal from 8
March to 29 July 1820......
On the 9th March
he was employed in examining and receiving 86 male
convicts from the Justitia Hulk at
Woolwich. They were placed in their respective
berths, four to one berth. Each were given a bed,
blanket and pillow. On the following day another 76
men were received from the Justitia
bringing the total to 156 men.
in England had been severe prior to embarkation and
it was found that several of the men contracted
severe catarrhs and suffered with ulcers caused by
infected chilblains. By the 11th, James Mitchell had
the men organised. Messes of six prisoners each were
established. They were supplied with bowls, spoons,
water mugs, knives, forks, razor and strap for
shaving. The men were to be shaved twice a week. The
decks of the prison and hospital were scrubbed and
scraped each day and trustworthy men were appointed
to distribute food and keep the prisoners quiet.
The boys were formed into classes and a teacher
placed over them. Later the adult prisoners also
attended a school and the surgeon was gratified at
the improvements he witnessed on the voyage.
Samuel Dell embarked as a convict on the
Neptune. He later became a parish clerk and
schoolteacher at Newcastle and it was probably Dell
who taught at the school on the voyage out. Among
his first pupils on the Neptune were
probably John Higham, James Lee, William Mayler,
William Richardson, Joseph Stevens and William Jones
who were all sixteen years of age and John Newton
and John Fordyce who were both fifteen years old.
James Mitchell devised a set of rules he
expected the men to follow. There was to be no
smoking or gambling in the prison Any cases of abuse
towards the prisoners by the guard or crew were to
be reported to him immediately. Quarrelling and
fighting was to be severely punished. Under no
circumstances was there to be any swearing or
The prisoners mostly all
attended to the rules so that there was no necessity
of resorting to the painful alternative of flogging.
The only punishments were handcuffs, being double
ironed for a time or giving their allowance of wine
The men were exercised by
cleaning the prison, swabbing the decks or pumping
water for the cisterns. The surgeon did his best to
keep them busy, knowing that idleness is the
Mother of mischief and disease. Divine Service
was performed by the surgeon who read sermons he had
purchased in England for that express purpose.
James Mitchell was kept busy attending to those
on board. Apart from the two obstetric cases, there
were cases of Fever, Flux, Scurvy, Rheumatism,
Pulmonic Inflammation, Ophthalmia, Psora, Tinea
Capitis, Diseased Ears, Tonsillitis, Dyspepsia,
Dysuria, Gonorrhoea, Vertigo, Impetigo and
20th Century Medical Terms)
Mitchell commented towards the end of his journal
that by attention to Divine Service and School and
also by their good behaviour on board that not a few
of them had become determined to reform their lives.
He also remarked on the good will that existed
between himself, Captain McKissock and commander of
the Guard Lieutenant Rice.
arrived in Port Jackson 16 July
voyage of 114 days. One hundred and fifty six male
prisoners arrived in general good health, although
three men were sent to the hospital in Sydney on
With the Neptune
came the news of the death of King George III and on
Monday the 17th, eighty-two minute guns were fired
from Dawes Battery, Flags were raised at half mast
Bells of St.
Phillips Church tolled morning and night.
Governor Macquarie recorded the arrival of the Neptune
Saturday 15. July !!! ! Late
this Night anchored in Port Jackson, the Male Convict
Ship Neptune Commanded by Capt. Mc.Kissock, bringing the
afflicting and much lamented intelligence of the Demise
of our beloved and most revered Sovereign King George
the 3d. whose Death took place on Saturday the 29th.
of January last at WindsorCastle. This Ship also
brings the mournful and distressing intelligence of the
Death of H. R. Highness Field Marshall The Duke of Kent,
the King's fourth son which is to be considered a
great National loss he being in the prime of Life
and a most excellent Prince. He died on the 23d. of
last January six days before his Royal Father of
blessed memory. The Neptune sailed from England on the
23d. of March, being only 3 months & 22 days on the
Passage. She has brought 156 Male Convicts all in good
Health, none having died on the Passage; Doctr.
Mitchell R. Navy being Surgeon Supdt., and the Guard
consisting of a Detachment of the 46th. Regt. Commanded
by Lt. Rice. There is only one Passenger a Mr. Warner.
I have received no Public Dispatches by the Neptune.
Muster would have been held on board and details
such as name, when and where convicted, sentence,
native place, calling, age and physical description
were recorded. There is no information in the
indents as to the nature of their crimes or where
and to whom the prisoners were assigned. On
disembarking, the men would have been
addressed by Governor Macquarie, a duty he rarely
missed. They were disembarked on 28th July 1820.
Three were assigned to H. Macarthur. Sixteen were
sent to join the
Western and Windsor Road Parties under the
superintendence of Johnson and Ford and another six
were privately assigned and these men were all sent
by water to Parramatta. The remainder were
distributed at Parramatta, Liverpool, Windsor, Upper
Emu Plains. Those sent to Emu Plains included
Thomas Ignoll, John Needham, Thomas Wharton, Thomas
Hammond and Robert Catlin. They were to work under
the superintendence of Mr. Richard Fitzgerald.
1). Lewis Collins who
arrived on the Neptune was sent to
Newcastle penal settlement in 1821. He was one of
eleven pirates who seized the cutter Eclipse from
the harbour in 1825. Find out more about their
daring escape at
2). James Warman, formerly of the Royal Navy
arrived as a free settler on the Neptune.
3). Find Hunter Valley convicts/ passengers
of the Neptune
4). James Mitchell was
also employed as surgeon on the
in 1822, and the
to depart Sydney in August 1820. Surgeon James
Mitchell, First Officer Samuel Groube, Second Office
H.M. Taylor, and Third Office J. Buckpit were all
intending to depart on her.
6). Mentioned in
the Surgeon's Journal at
William Griffen, aged 19, convict
James Burton. 12
Private Eastman's wife was seized with the pangs of
labour and was safely delivered of a healthy girl.
James Gaffney, aged 40, convict
William Griffen. 13
aged 20, convict
Private Grey's wife
Private Grey, aged 29, sick list.
James Martin, aged 28, convict
Private Tidd of
the Guard, aged 19,
Joseph Barker, aged 28, convict
Private Eastman's wife discharged.
Frazer, aged 31, convict
Thomas Jones, aged 29,
James Hutton, aged 25, convict
Challons, aged 33, convict
James Burton, aged 21,
Samuel Williams, aged 21, convict
Sergeant Orrall of the Guard, aged 29,
David Crabb, private in the Guard, aged 25
6). Read James Mitchell's
account of this voyage from Sydney to Batavia.......
7). Return of Convicts of the
Neptune assigned between 1st January 1832 and 31st March
1832 (Sydney Gazette 14 June 1832; 21 March 1832).....
Alexander Fraser....Merchant's clerk
assigned to Thomas Smart in Sydney
1). Bateson, Charles & Library of
Australian History (1983). The convict ships, 1787-1868
(Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney :
National Archives. Medical Journal Reference: ADM
3). Ancestry.com. UK, Royal Navy Medical
Journals, 1817-1857 [database on-line].
Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations,
Inc., 2011. Original data: Admiralty and
predecessors: Office of the Director General
of the Medical Department of the Navy and
predecessors: Medical Journals (ADM 101, 804
bundles and volumes). Records of Medical and
Prisoner of War Departments. Records of the
Admiralty, Naval Forces, Royal Marines,
Coastguard, and related bodies. The National
Archives. Kew, Richmond, Surrey.