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Convict Ship Providence 1822

Embarked: 103 women
Voyage: 208 days
Deaths 0
Surgeon's Journal: no
Previous vessel: John Bull arrived 18 December 1821
Next vessel: Mary arrived 23 January 1822
Captain James Herd.
Surgeon Superintendent David Reid
Follow the Female Convict Ship Trail

The Providence was launched at Lynn in 1812. She made two voyages transporting convicts to Australia - 1822 (NSW) and 1826 (VDL).

The Providence was the next convict ship to leave England for New South Wales after the departure of the Grenada in May 1821 and the next ship to bring female prisoners from England after the Morley in May 1820.

Exports to Botany Bay - The ship Providence, which has been chartered by government for the purpose of conveying female convicts to New South Wales, is now lying at Woolwich. She will take out about 100, above 60 of whom go from Newgate. Fifty were sent from that prison on Friday and Saturday; they appeared in general young and decently dressed women, and most of them went off in good spirits. Considering the great disproportion that exists between the numbers of the two sexes in New South Wales, which is said to be ten males to one female, perhaps a more desirable consignment could not be made to the colony than a cargo of women: government seems to be aware of this fact, as scarcely any female convicts are now sent to the Penitentiary at Millbank. In the above-mentioned ship there are also between 30 and 40 females who are going out as free settlers. - The Spirit of the Times


Many of the women on the Providence were sentenced at the Old Bailey under a new Act to prevent forgery.

The Proceedings of the Old Bailey Online page of Currency has the following explanation of the high number of forgeries prior to 1822.....

Between 1797 and 1821, the period known as the ‘restriction’, new, primarily copper coins and, most importantly, inexpensively produced £1 and £2 notes were brought into circulation. The poor quality of these notes led to a spate of forgeries, which in turn led to a high number of prosecutions led by the Bank itself, for both forgery and uttering forged notes.

In England in the year 1820 a total of 165 people both male and female were sentenced to 14 years transportation for various offences. Of those people 154 had been convicted of forgery or uttering forged bank notes.

The new Act passed in July 1820 for the further prevention of forging and counterfeiting of Bank Notes gave the penalty of fourteen years transportation. [2] 

In 1821, 108 people were sentenced to transportation for 14 years for various offences and of those 86 were convicted of forgery or uttering forged bank notes. [1]

In 1822 there were no convictions for those crimes.


One hundred and three women were embarked on the Providence. Fifty seven had been tried in Co. Middlesex including nine from London city  were probably those referred to in the Report below.

The Third Report of the Committee of the Society For the Improvement of Prison Discipline ... by T. Bensley was released in 1821 and included the following Report from the Ladies' Committee regarding Newgate prison......  

Newgate. - Report from the Ladies Committee. As the origin and particulars of the improvements on the female side of Newgate are generally known, it will only be necessary to give some account of its present state, in order to shew that the system is carried on with continued advantage, which is evinced by the decrease of the numbers who return to the prison. At this period, we have but few comparatively under our care (about thirty tried, and sixty untried prisoners): some have been sent to various Houses of Correction, and fifty-seven have just been conveyed to the ships for transportation: the latter all left the prison in a quiet and becoming manner.

Many alleviations have been provided for these, which, with employment and regulations for their conduct during their voyage to New South Wales, may tend to promote good order, and thus be the means of procuring for some of them respectable situations, when exposed to those temptations, which are peculiarly incidental to outcasts in a foreign land. In addition to the school for children, an adult school has lately been formed on the untried side, in which the prisoners are taught to read as soon as they are admitted into the prison; and which introduces them (often from the streets) into a degree of wholesome discipline, and prepares them for further instruction in the regular adult school, on the other side of the prison, where those who are desirous of learning to read, are removed after conviction.


Other women came from districts further afield such as Gloucester, Lancaster, Norfolk, Warwick, Sussex, Chester and Edinburgh. They were probably transferred from county gaols to London on coaches and wagons. The prisoners from Scotland may have come by water and may have been taken directly to the ship, or held at Newgate prison for a short time. They were fortunate to be transferred in the warmer months at least, although they were probably sent from the counties heavily ironed and handcuffed like the women of the next female convict ship from England the Mary Anne which departed in the winter of 1821.


The Providence departed England on 13th June 1821.


This was David Reid's third and last voyage as Surgeon Superintendent on a convict ship. His journal for the voyage has not survived, however he was previously employed as Surgeon on the convict ships Baring in 1815 and Baring in 1819 and his journal for the Baring 1819 survives. In it he recommended that when convicts were first embarked and while detained before sailing that they be given plenty of vegetables and fresh meat instead of salt rations so that their constitution might be enabled to resist the effects of disease in the case of a lengthy voyage.

He also recommended that unless the passage from England to the Southern tropic was quick, it was advisable to stop at Rio Janeiro which was preferable to the Cape of Good Hope as vegetables were plenty and cheap and the passage from that place could be made to Port Jackson in as little time as from England to Rio.


The Providence touched at Port Praya and Rio De Janeiro where she was reported to be in Port on 30th September 1821 [3].

James Dixon mentioned seeing the Providence at Rio de Janeiro in his volume Narrative of a Voyage to New South Wales, and Van Dieman's Land: In the Ship Skelton.......

At day-light we made the land, and saw several vessels from various quarters, steering to the same ports as ourselves. At 9 o'clock, we made the Sugar loaf hill, and Round Island, which lies near the entrance of Rio de Janeiro. At noon we passed the Fort, and were visited by the Customhouse boats, who directed us to an anchoring place. We here found we had anticipated time and tide. No vessel had touched at Rio de Janeiro from Port Jackson for five years preceding. We found here the Royal George merchant ship, having on board, Sir Thomas Brisbane and suite, the new appointed Governor of New South -Wales, and the John Barry with male convicts, both bound to the settlements we had left. Whilst we were there, the Providence Female Convict-Ship also arrived to procure water, and to correct some insubordination amongst the crew.[4]

In 1819 Commissioner John Thomas Bigge spent 17 months in the colonies travelling around New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land. He returned to England on the Dromedary in February 1821 to present three reports based on his observations and the examination of free settlers, ex-convicts and hundreds of convicts. The first was the Report of the Commissioner of Inquiry on the State of the Colony of New South Wales which was published in 1822. He made many recommendations, among them the benefits for convict ships of a direct route to Australia compared to calling at Rio De Janeiro. Select Here to read Bigge's thoughts on the various routes.


The Providence arrived in Hobart on 18th December 1821 and sailed from there on 31st December reaching Port Jackson Monday night 7th January 1822.


Fifty female prisoners arrived in Port Jackson in good health, having left about fifty three women in Hobart. At Port Jackson the women would have been mustered on board by the Colonial Secretary Frederick Goulburn and particulars such as their age, native place, date and place of trial were recorded.

John Thomas Bigge heartily disapproved of the spectacle of the arrival female convicts in port......

All employments that have a tendency to encourage a passion for dress should be studiously avoided ; and the female convicts should be compelled to consider, that the dress that is provided by the government is that which is most suitable to their condition : nothing, indeed, can be more unsuitable to it than the appearance that they have been allowed to make on their arrival in New South Wales, and nothing that ought to be more speedily checked, whenever a proper place of reception is completed, for those who are not assigned to individuals on their first arrival. Select here to read more about the transportation of female prisoners.

Governor Macquarie departed the colony on the Surry in February 1822. Sir Thomas Brisbane was Governor when the Providence arrived having been appointed the previous December and it was probably he who addressed the women on their landing from the ship. Select here to find out more about disembarking prisoners.


Passengers on the Providence included Settler John Laurio Platt, his wife Rosanna, sons Frederick, and Robert and daughters Jane and Rosanna; as well as Mrs. Ann Halloran, Miss Laura Halloran, Lawrence, Henry, Arthur, Ellen, Anne, William, Catherine Halloran, all relatives of Lawrence Halloran who arrived as a convict on the Baring in 1819. Misses Anna Mary, Margaret, and Eliza Magill and Mr. & Mrs. James Robertson and family. Benjamin Bollard later a settler at Bathurst, John and Hannah Bollard, Zilpah daughter of John and Hannah and William Bollard all arrived free passengers.

Ann Collman and children, (wife of Edward Lawrence Collman who arrived on the Canada in 1820) and Sarah Hill, wife of John Hill who arrived in the Hadlow in 1818. Ann Slater wife of John Slater who arrived on the Larkins in 1817 came as free passengers. The wife and five children of John Williams who arrived on the Dick in 1821 also arrived as free passengers.

One of the seamen, George Doors arrived free on the Providence and after obtaining his release from the ship settled in the colony. Perhaps he was a relative of 31 year old convict Mary Doors who had been sentenced to 7 years transportation at Yarmouth.


Forty seven of the women were ordered to be conveyed by water to Parramatta on 11th January. This was about twenty miles distant (about 32 kilometres). Thomas Reid in his journal of the voyage of the Morley in 1820 commented that sending the women by water to Parramatta was to prevent improper conversation with straggling prisoners of the other sex who were continually infesting the roads. If winds were not favourable for the passage to Parramatta when the women were landed they would have been kept in the Sydney gaol. Most were probably housed in the Female Factory on first arrival in Parramatta.  

According to correspondence in the Colonial Secretary's records dated 10 January 1822, two prisoners were assigned to John Laurio Platt and James Robertson straight from the ship - Elizabeth Campbell(* there is no Elizabeth Campbell in the indents. ?possibly Eliza Cammell) to John Platt and Rachael Herbert to James Robertson. These two women did not proceed to Parramatta with the other prisoners.


Those officers signalling their intention to depart on the Providence in February/March included Captain Herd; Chief Officer William Edward Greer; 2nd Officer John Best. Passengers Thomas Reynolds and Evan Powell. The Providence sailed for New Zealand on 26th March 1822. They were reported to be at Hobart on 9th April 1822.  Surgeon David Reid did not sail on the Providence, instead taking his passage to Hobart on the Tiger around the same time.


Of those young, decently dressed women described above who had been tried in London and incarcerated in Newgate the following have been identified in New South Wales. Many of them were convicted of possessing forged bank notes......................

MARY BIRD - Age 27. Wife of John Walker Bird. Tried at the Old Bailey 6th December 1820 and sentenced to 7 years transportation for shoplifting. Her husband was found not guilty of receiving. In August 1823 she was on the return of convicts discharged from the Establishment at Emu Plains ....Old Bailey Online

ELIZABETH BURNHAM - Age 19. Tried in Middlesex on 28 October 1820 and sentenced to 14 years transportation for forgery. Found with 1 pound bank notes in her possession. In August 1822 she was a convict at Emu Plains and provided with clothing from the Parramatta Factory. In April 1823 seeking permission to marry at Castlereagh. In April 1824 discharged with her husband Henry Chapman from the Emu Plains establishment. Old Bailey Online

ELIZA CAMMELL - Age 53. Middlesex 1820. Assigned to John Laurio Platt, on arrival

ANN CLIFTON - Aged 18. Tried in Middlesex on 28 October 1820 and sentenced to 14 years transportation for forgery. Found with 1 pound bank notes in her possession. Sent to Port Macquarie in May 1822. In December 1823 granted permission to proceed to Port Macquarie in the service of Gilbert Smith. In December 1825 wishing to proceed to Port Macquarie to join her husband Benjamin Johnson. Married Edward Bennett in Sydney in 1823. Old Bailey Online

SARAH CORBYN - Age 46. Tried at the Old Bailey in London. Sentenced to 7 years transportation for grand larceny on 28th October 1820. Requesting to marry in the RC church in April 1825. Married William Jones in Campbelltown in 1827. Old Bailey Online

SUSAN DILLOW - Age 20. Tried at Middlesex on 28 October 1820 and sentenced to 14 years transportation for forgery. Found with 1 pound bank notes in her possession. . Married John Cole at Sutton Forest in 1831. Old Bailey Online

MARY HARTNET - Tried at the Old Bailey 11 April 1821 and sentenced to transportation for life for shop lifting a petticoat and cotton - Re permission to marry at Parramatta. Old Bailey Online

MARIA HARVEY - Age 23. Sentenced to transportation for life for pocket picking. Re permission to marry Thomas Bradley (per Coromandel 1820) at Liverpool in August 1822. Permitted to proceed to Port Macquarie to join her husband in June 1823. Old Bailey Online

RACHAEL HERBERT - Age 22. Tried in London on 28 October 1820 and sentenced to 14 years transportation for forgery. Found with 1 pound bank notes in her possession. Assigned to Mr. Robertson in January 1822. Granted permission to proceed to Newcastle in May 1822. Married Henry Allen in Sydney in 1833. Old Bailey Online

SARAH HEWSTER - Age 55. Tried at the Old Bailey 28 June 1820 and sentenced to 14 years transportation for forging bank notes. Convict at Emu Plains. To be provided with clothing from the Parramatta Factory in August 1822. Discharged from Emu Plains in July 1823. Old Bailey Online

ELIZABETH JOHNSON Age 17. Tried in Middlesex in 1821. Re permission to marry at Sydney in May 1824. Given a second chance after being sentenced to absconding from the Service of Frederick Garling in March 1823.

ELIZABETH LOWE. Age 40. Tried at the Old Bailey 12 April 1820 and sentenced to 7 years transportation for grand larceny having stolen and gown and cap. In February 1823 sentenced to the female factory. Request from Superintendent for mitigation of her sentence. Old Bailey Online

MARY MORRIS Age 38. Tried in Middlesex in 1820. Re permission to marry at Parramatta in December 1823. Convict in the service of Thomas Hawkins of Bathurst in 1825

ELIZABETH SMITH Age 26. One of many people tried at the Old Bailey on 12 April 1820 and sentenced to 14 years transportation for forging bank notes.. Re permission to marry at Sydney in December 1822. Old Bailey Online

MARY SMITH Two women by the name of Mary Smith on this vessel. Possibly one of many people tried at the Old Bailey on 12 April 1820 and sentenced to 14 years transportation for forging bank notes. In November 1822 transported to Newcastle. In January 1823 re permission to marry James Crofts at Newcastle (gaoler at Newcastle Gaol). . Old Bailey Online

MARY ANN SMITH - Two women by the name of Mary Ann Smith. Probably one of many people tried at the Old Bailey on 12 April 1820 and sentenced to 14 years transportation for forging bank notes.. Old Bailey Online. Re permission to marry at Parramatta in May 1823; re permission to marry William Richardson at Castlereagh in January 1825

ANN WHITE Age 27. Tried at the Old Bailey on 11 April 1821 and sentenced to 14 years transportation for forging bank notes. In 1821 on the list of convicts employed by William Cox. In the service of Archibald Bell in 1824. Old Bailey Online

MATILDA WILKINSON Age 22. Tried at the Old Bailey on 11 April 1821 and sentenced to 14 years for forging bank notes.. At the Parramatta Factory in December 1822. Petition of John Smith a harness maker who arrived on the Canada to marry her. Old Bailey Online

JANE WINGFIELD Age 17. Tried at the Old Bailey on 6th December 1820 and sentenced to 14 years transportation for forging bank notes. Convict at Emu Plains. To be provided with clothing from the Parramatta Factory in August 1822. In August 1823 re permission to marry at Campbelltown. Old Bailey Online

MARY ANN WOODWARD Age 20. Convicted of grand larceny on 6 December 1820.. In September 1824 re permission to marry Robert Harbison (per Grenada) at Campbelltown. Old Bailey Online


1). Convicts and passengers of the Providence identified in the Hunter Valley

2). Sarah Browne a native of Dumfries absconded from the General Hospital at Parramatta in October 1822. She was described as 4ft 11in grey eyes, brown hair and a fair ruddy complexion; pockmarked.

3). Transportation of Female Prisoners

4). Female Convicts

5). The Edinburgh Christian Instructor included the following correspondence regarding a young woman sent to New South Wales on the Providence.

6). To find out more about female prisoners of the Providence who were sent to Van Diemen's Land select Founders & Survivors


[1] Accounts and Papers

[2] The Statutes of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

[3] The Times 26 November 1821

[4] Narrative of a Voyage to New South Wales, and Van Dieman's Land: In the Ship Skelton... By James Dixon

[5] Bateson, Charles & Library of Australian History (1983). The convict ships, 1787-1868 (Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney : pp.344-345, 383