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CONVICT SHIP ROYAL CHARLOTTE 1825
 

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Embarked: 136 men
Voyage: 114 days
Deaths: 1
Surgeon's Journal: yes
Previous vessel: Henry arrived 22 April 1825
Next vessel: Asia arrived 29 April 1825
Captain Joseph Corbyn
Surgeon Superintendent George Fairfowl  
The Royal Charlotte brought prisoners from England to New South Wales in 1825.

Surgeon George Fairfowl joined the vessel at Deptford on 22 October 1824 and kept a Medical Journal from that day until 6th May 1825. 

On 14th November the ship was reported ready to take on board convicts and dropped down to Woolwich that day. On 15th November they received 136 male convicts from the Justitia hulk. The men appeared to the surgeon to be a very indifferent draught of men. A large proportion of them had been transported for life and they looked sallow and thin.


It was reported on 18th December 1824 at Portsmouth of the detention of many outward bound vessels by contrary winds. Some of the ships had been two months out of the Downs during which they had made repeated ineffectual struggles to clear the Channel but could not get to the westward of Plymouth. The convict ships Hercules, Royal Charlotte and the Asia were among these vessels detained at Portsmouth.

The Royal Charlotte was the next convict ship to leave England for New South Wales after the departure of the Henry in October 1824. The Royal Charlotte departed Portsmouth on 5 January 1825, Teneriffe 26th January and arrived in Port Jackson on 29 April 1825 with 135 male prisoners.

The Guard consisted of Major Edmund Lockyer and 34 men of the 57th regiment, Mrs. Lockyer and family of ten children. According to John Dunmore Lang, Edmund Lockyer was possessed of a gentle and humane disposition.(1) His daughter Ann was married to Captain James Brown who arrived on the Norfolk in 1825. Ann Brown and her four children perished in the wreck of the Lady Munro in 1833. Edmund Lockyer died at Woolloomooloo in 1860.

Select here to find convicts ships bringing detachments of the 57th regiment.

Free passengers included William Barry and Mr. Bates of the Excise department and Mrs. Bates and family. Mr. Bates later sued Captain Corbyn for having provided insufficient provisions and for ill treatment on the voyage from England.

Captain Corbyn reported that the prisoners made an attempt to take the ship. The plot was matured about the period of crossing the line, but was discovered by one of the gang concerned in it. It was then intention of the prisoners to throw one of the mates overboard, and in the confusion of the moment to secure the arms. The murder of the crew formed part of their design. (2)

A number of the ringleaders were placed in irons. Charles Bateson in The Convict Ships wrote of George Fairfowl's solution to the plot in which 43 of the prisoners planned to murder the officers and seize the ship....... George Fairfowl, an experienced surgeon who was on his fourth voyage, separated the ringleaders. Ten of them were secured in triple irons and fed on bread and water and were placed under the forecastle, 18 were confined in double irons in the boys room and another 10 were double ironed in the main prison. He imposed no other punishments and there was no further trouble on the Royal Charlotte.

The prisoners of the Royal Charlotte and Asia were landed on Friday morning 6th May. They were mustered in the prison yard, and were reported to be a fine set of healthy and active men. Out of about 330 only two were reported in the hospital. His Honor Lieutenant Governor Stewart in the absence of the Governor in Chief, inspected the prisoners and after the usual routine of rehearsing names etc., His Honor was pleased to invite any one that had well grounded complaints to prefer, regarding their treatment during the voyage, to advance, and institute the same accordingly.

No complaints were made of ill treatment or of withholding their allowance of provisions although eleven men had been kept on bread and water and in triple irons from the 9 March, a space of 58 days, and 34 others were deprived of their allowance of wine during the same period. They were sensible that they deserved a much more severe punishment than they received His Honor was further pleased to observe, that the mutineers, would remain in custody until a proper tribunal to answer for their crime was called. The Commanders and Surgeon were publicly congratulated on the general appearance of the men; who were afterwards marched to the prisoners' barracks, and from thence distributed throughout the Country. (3) Meanwhile the 38 prisoners accused as being part of the mutiny were confined in gaol. 

On the 6th June a Special Bench was convened to enquire into the circumstances of the conspiracy on the Royal Charlotte. The investigation occupied several hours and the evidence which went to the facts charged were taken in the presence of the prisoners viz. James Farley, William Crossley, Abraham Meharg, Thomas Richardson, John Strachan, James Skelton, William Gomm, William Gorman and Thomas Blockley. James Farley, the principal ringleader and promoter of the conspiracy was sentenced to transportation to Norfolk Island, William Crossley and Abraham Meharg for aiding and assisting were ordered to transportation for three years and the rest of the prisoners were discharged. James Smith and Henry Phinn two witnesses were found to be guilty of gross prevarication and were committed to gaol under recommendation to be sent to a penal settlement for three years. (4)

After the voyage of the Royal Charlotte George Fairfowl returned to England on the Columbia departing on 8th March 1826.  Alexander Nesbitt joined the Royal Charlotte as surgeon for the return voyage.

After the Royal Charlotte underwent the necessary overhaul, it was commissioned by the colonial government to carry detachments of His Majesty's 20th, 41st and 46th regiments to India, in order to join their respective corps. These troops, commanded by Lieut. Henry Clinton of the 20th embarked on the 7th June. The Royal Charlotte left Sydney harbour under difficult circumstances. The seamen all refused to comply with Captain Corbyn's orders to get the ship under weigh  - So urgent was Captain Corbyn to sail that afternoon that he prevailed on the troops to get the ship under weigh whilst Dr. Nesbitt became the "man at the helm (5)

The Royal Charlotte finally set sail under assistance of the soldiers however encountered violent storms not long after clearing the Heads.

On the 19th June at Cato reef she struck a reef of rocks and was wrecked soon afterwards.

 
Leaving the survivors on shore, the chief officer and Dr. Nesbitt with twelve others, got into the long boat and after 21 days made Moreton Bay. The Amity was immediately dispatched to assist those who had remained on board.

The Sydney Gazette reported the perilous circumstances of those who remained - The troops, with several of the gentlemen, were landed on a beach, the only part of the reef above water; and on the morning following the afternoon they were rescued, the beach disappeared! The master of the Amity Thomas Brown also gave the following report: Sir, I beg to inform you, that on Wednesday the 13th of July, while lying at anchor off the mouth of the River Brisbane, Moreton Bay, a sail hove in sight which, upon investigation proved to be the long boat belonging to the ship Royal Charlotte, of London, Captain Corbyn, with Dr. Nesbitt, R.N. Mr. Sparks, 1st Officer, 8 seamen and 4 soldiers on board, which vessel was unfortunately wrecked on the 20th June on Frederick's Reef, in Lat. 20 53' 30" S. and Long. 154 14' E.  On waiting on Lieut. Miller, Commandant, with these Gentlemen, he gave me permission to proceed immediately in quest of the unfortunate vessel; and after procuring ballast and water, we sailed on Monday the 18th and I have the pleasure to inform you that on Wednesday the 27th we fell in with the wreck, and to our great satisfaction succeeded in rescuing from a watery grave all the sufferers except one soldier (Corporal John Hughes, 41st) who was drowned, and one infant who died with cold at the imminent risk of this vessel, and the lives of every soul on board.......




 

The following is a list of persons who survived the wreck and were on the reef when the rescue by the Amity took place - Captain Dick, lady and child; Lieutenant Henry Clinton (20th regt), lady and child, Commander of the troops; Miss Tyghe, passenger (sister of Mrs. Clinton); Dr. Nisbett R.N.; 71 non commissioned officers and privates, 8 women and 14 children; Captain Corbyn, Commander of the Royal Charlotte; Mr. Parks 1st Officer ditto; Mr. Scott 2nd officer ditto; Mr. Evans 3rd officer ditto; men and boys, crew, ditto. Private Thomas Neal (41st); Private Hugh Murnane (20th regt); James Murphy (41st regt); Corporal Baker (46th regt); Sergeant Lance McDonnel (20th) and wife (Mrs. McDonnel had given birth to a son three days before the shipwreck and the child perished of cold on the reef); Seaman William Banks survived the wreck however died in Sydney from injuries he received when a cask of water injured his leg.  


Notes and Links:

1). Bushranger George Clarke who arrived on the Royal Charlotte

2). Hunter Valley convicts / passengers arriving on the Royal Charlotte in 1825 -

3). Find out more about convict George Rowsthorn

4). The Frederick Reef Archaeological Survey January 2012 - Searching for the wreck of the Royal Charlotte

5). George Fairfowl was also Surgeon on the convict ships Ocean in 1818, Dromedary in 1820, Woodman in 1823, Sovereign in 1829, Andromeda in 1830, Clyde in 1832 and the Hive in 1834.

6). William Woods accompanied Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell's expedition in 1831


7). 
 Read the full account of the wreck of the Royal Charlotte and the perilous conditions of the survivors




8). Return of Convicts of the Royal Charlotte assigned between 1st January 1832 and 31st March 1832 (Sydney Gazette 14 June 1832; 28 June 1832; 5 July 1832).....

John Laird Nailer assigned to David Morris at Sydney
James Pearce Blacksmith assigned to Samuel Icely at Bathurst


9). More about Edmund Lockyer......

   


10). Vessels bringing detachments of the 57th Regiment........

Date/Place of Departure Vessel Officer of the Guard
29 October 1824 Cork Asia 1825 Captain Richard Heaviside
5 January 1825 Portsmouth Asia 1825 (III) Lieutenant Thomas Bainbridge
5 January 1825 Portsmouth Royal Charlotte 1825 Major Edmund Lockyer
5 January 1825 Cork Hooghley 1825 Captain Patrick Logan
17 April 1825 Portsmouth Norfolk 1825 Captain James Brown
17 April 1825 Portsmouth Minstrel 1825 Lieutenant Henry John Tudor Shadforth
16 May 1825 Cork Lonach 1825 Lieutenant John William Donelan
11 July 1825 Cork Sir Godfrey Webster 1826 Lieutenant John Ovens
2 August 1825 Downs Medway 1825 (VDL) Lieutenant William Bates
5 August 1825 Dublin Henry Porcher 1825 Captain Vance Young Donaldson
22 August 1825 Portsmouth Marquis of Hastings 1826 Ensign Stewart
23 October 1825 Cork Mangles 1826 Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Shadforth
30 November 1825 Portsmouth Sesostris 1826 Major John Campbell
11 June 1827 London Prince Regent 1827 Lieutenant Campbell
3 November 1827 Dublin Morley 1828 Captain Robert Hunt
11 February 1828 Cork Borodino 1828 Captain Philip Aubyn
23 February 1828 Dublin Mangles 1828 Lieut. Hill & Adjutant Lieut. Kidd
27 March 1828 London Bussorah Merchant 1828 Captain Burton Daveney (+ 1 soldier)
30 June 1828 Portsmouth Marquis of Hastings 1828 Colonel Allen
23 November 1828 London Asia 1828 Lieutenant George Edwards

    

References:

(1). Lang, John Dunmore, Queensland, Australia: A highly eligible field for Emigration.

(2). Sydney Gazette 5 May 1825

(3). Sydney Gazette 12 May 1825 

(4). Sydney Gazette 16 June 1825 p.3

(5). Sydney Gazette 16 June 1825 p.2



 

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