Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Speke - 1808

Embarked: 99 women
Voyage: 182 days
Deaths 2
Surgeon's Journal: no
Previous vessel: Duke of Portland arrived 27 July 1807
Next vessel: Admiral Gambier arrived 20 December 1808
Master John Hingston.
Surgeon John MacMillan
Follow the Female Convict Ship Trail
Prisoners and passengers of the Speke identified in the Hunter Valley

The Speke was built in Calcutta. In an article in the Asiatic Journal in 1819 entitled Comparative Strength of Ships built at different parts of India, she was described as still both a good and safe ship although the frame had been built of sissoo, a wood inferior in durability to the saul, of which the frames of ships were built in 1819. It was anticipated by experts who had examined her that she still had another 15 years left in her.

The Speke transported convicts to New South Wales in 1808, 1821 and 1826.


Female convicts embarked on the Speke came from counties in England - York, Middlesex, Suffolk, London, Wiltshire, Stafford, Lancaster, Warwick, Bristol, Lancaster, Cambridge, Somerset, Kent, Surrey, Gloucester, Worcester, Rutland, Oxford, Dorset, Salop and Sussex.

Two of the women were Eleanor Hall and Elizabeth Wade. They were found guilty of grand larceny (the theft of goods of the value of 1 shilling or more, without any aggravating circumstances such as assault, breaking and entering etc.) at the Ely Quarter Sessions, Cambridge.

They were both sentenced to 7 years transportation. An original order dated 4th February 1807 to remove the women from the gaol at Ely and forward them to the Speke at Deptford is held in the Cambridge County Council records. Before being sent to the Speke the women were to be provided with one jacket or gown; one petticoat; two spare shifts; two spare handkerchiefs; two spare pair of stockings; one spare pair of shoes. They were to bring with them a Surgeon's certificate stating they were free from disease.

Hannah Alderson was tried at the Yorkshire Quarter Sessions. She was found guilty of wilful and corrupt perjury and sentenced to 7 years transportation [3]

Ann Beaumont was convicted of stripping children of their clothes. [4] She was tried at the Old Bailey on 16th September 1807 and sentenced to 7 years transportation. She would have been held at Newgate prison to await transportation along with many other women of the Speke . This was five or six years before Elizabeth Fry began her ministrations at Newgate and conditions were harsh. Below is a description of Newgate in 1808....

Conditions at Newgate prison in 1808 when some of the female convicts of the Speke were held there

The Edinburgh Review, or Critical Journal: For October 1808.


The Speke departed Falmouth with 99 female prisoners on 18th May 1808; she was in company with a large convoy from the Brazills, in which was Lord Strangford, the British Ambassador and suite.

Rio de Janeiro

They reached Rio, with the fleet on the 24th July and on the 11th August sailed for the Cape under convoy of the Lightning, Captain Doyle.

Cape of Good Hope

The Speke arrived at the Cape the 10th of September and sailed again for Port Jackson on the 30th September. [5]

Port Jackson

Favoured with an uninterrupted succession of favourable weather, they reached Port Jackson on 15th November 1808. The Speke was the next female convict ship to arrive in the colony after the Sydney Cove in June 1807.

Ninety-seven female prisoners arrived on the Speke, two having died on the passage out. The women were all reported to be healthy on arrival - The healthy and cleanly state in which the prisoners from the Speke were landed is a strong proof of the care and humanity with which they were treated during the voyage.

The Female Factory at Parramatta where female convicts had previously been employed on weaving looms, had been partly damaged by fire the previous year and the Supervising weaver George Mealmaker died a few months before the Speke arrived, so the women who arrived on the Speke were probably mostly distributed around Sydney and Parramatta to settlers, soldiers and others.

Free Passengers

Passengers included Captain Porteous, surveyor John Oxley, Surgeon John MacMillan of his Majesty's ship Porpoise and Mr. Harris a private gentleman. Select here to see the list of goods imported on the Speke probably as investment by John Oxley.

Departure for the Fisheries

The Speke departed Port Jackson bound for the fisheries in January 1809 arriving back in Sydney in October 1809 with 150 tons black oil and sperm oil.

Departure for England

The Speke departed for England in October 1809. After leaving port it was found that four people had concealed themselves on board. Captain Hingston kept them in close confinement until he reached Norfolk Island where they were delivered up. Two of the men's names were reported to be James Mackey and Robert Dawson. [1]

Convicts of the Speke identified in the Hunter Valley region:

Bray, Harriet
Alias Henrietta. Alias Tilley. Tried for larceny at Bristol in July 1807 and acquitted. Convicted of larceny at Bristol Quarter Sessions 11 January 1808 and sentenced to 7 years transportation. Married George Tilley (ship Coromandel 1802) at the Hawkesbury in February 1811. In 1822 she was employed as a laundress and decided to sell a quantity of clothes belonging to Ann Evans that had come into her possession in a professional way instead of returning them. She was sentenced to be transported to Newcastle for 3 years in February 1822. At Newcastle she was assigned to Major Morisset for five months before he left the settlement. She was then assigned to Isaac Elliott, Superintendent. Later in 1822 her husband George Tilley unsuccessfully petitioned to have her returned to Sydney stating that she was his chief support as he was an infirm and old man of 70 years of age. She was sentenced to 11 days in solitary confinement in April 1824 for stealing a shirt belonging to Isaac Elliott. In May 1824, along with three other female prisoners Harriet was punished by being kept in the cells at night for one week after all four were absent from the Muster and missed Divine Service. In June 1824 she was sentenced to solitary confinement for 14 days after she falsely accused the Chief constable James Calvert of being drunk. Harriett returned to Sydney on expiration of her sentence in March 1825.

Chapel, Hannah
Maiden name unknown - Also known as Anna Chappel. Hannah first came to the Newcastle penal settlement as early as June 1811. She was sent again to Newcastle for larceny in 1822, arriving in the settlement on the Elizabeth Henrietta in March. Hannah was employed in the hospital at Newcastle. In January 1824 with another convict Elizabeth Findlay she was sentenced to 2 days in solitary confinement after they were found by the Chief constable James Calvert in an intoxicated state. In December 1824 she was sentenced to be confined at night in a cell until further orders, having been found guilty of drunkenness and disorderly conduct. In December 1824 she was punished again for drunkenness. By 1825 she was free by servitude and resided at Newcastle. In 1828 she was a housekeeper employed by Joseph Trimbey

Mitchell, Jane
Alias England. Alias Orton. Tried at Bristol Quarter Sessions 11 January 1808 and sentenced to 7 years transportation. Jane was transported to Newcastle for 7 years for a colonial crime in 1820. Her first husband was William Jones (free). They were married at Newcastle in July 1822, Chaplain George A. Middleton. She was in Newcastle in January 1823 when she applied to marry Robert Wilson. This marriage may not have eventuated as Rev. Middleton stated in correspondence that she had been living in a state of open fornication with Wilson for several years. Jane was married in Newcastle in August 1827 to James Auton or Horton or Orton. Jane Orton was listed as a farmer aged 37 at Wallis Plains in the 1828 census. She died at Maitland in April 1845.

Gill, Elizabeth
Alias Fane. Elizabeth Gill and Margaret Holmes were sentenced to 7 years transportation for stealing linen cloth and ribbon at Bethnal Green in September 1807. Middlesex Gaol Delivery 16 December 1807. Elizbeth Gill was 50 years of age when she applied to marry John Austin (ship Hebe) at Maitland in November 1839

Eleanor O Donnell
?Mary McCarty. Possibly tried as Mary McCartney on 13 May 1807 at the Old Bailey. Wife of William O'Donnell of Wallis Plains. William O'Donnell arrived on the Surprize in 1790 and was one of the early settlers at Wallis Plains. She died in August 1833 and was buried in the Glebe cemetery

Lovett, Rose
Rose Lovett / Lovell - Trial place London Gaol Delivery 8 April 1807. Sentenced to 7 years transportation. Transported to Newcastle for a colonial crime in January 1813. In June 1813 the remainder of her sentence was remitted and she returned to Sydney.

Smith, Elizabeth
Alias McNeany. Transported to Newcastle for a colonial crime in November 1811

Notes and Links

1). Jacob Salkeld may have been employed as carpenter on the Speke. He claimed to have been impressed in 1808 and was taken on the Speke when she reached the Cape of Good Hope in September - . Nile's Weekly Register p. 137

2). An account of the Speke, Captain Hingston at New Zealand after the massacre of the people on the Boyd is included in the Sydney Gazette on 28th April 1810. Select here to read of the part played by Captain Hingston and others in the aftermath of the Boyd tragedy.

3). Alexander Mason who arrived as Chief Mate on the Speke was appointed pilot at Port Jackson in 1810. He died in August 1824 and his children Alexander 8, Thomas (10) and Charlotte (13) were all sent to the orphan school. (1825 Muster)

4). The following people are listed in the 1825 muster as having arrived as free passengers on the Speke in 1808....
William Alderson, landholder at Wilberforce in 1825 arrived free on the Speke
Andrew Davidson, employed by Dr. Harris in 1825
Daniel Charker, of Bringelly, came free. Died before 1825 muster.
Peter Duff of Windsor, came free.
Ann Duff of Windsor (daughter) came free
Thomas Kelly, district constable at Windsor, came free
Alexander Mason, came free. Died in August 1824
William Osbourne, came free, sexton at St. James Church, Sydney in 1825
George Sunderland. At Port Macquarie in 1825 under Colonial sentence

5). Elizabeth Wade later married Thomas Colebrook. She resided in Sydney according to the General Muster of NSW 1823/24/25

6). Correspondence dated 5th May 1808, Downing Street, from Under Secretary Cooke to Governor Bligh mentions details of two of the women who were sent on board the Speke:

I have received Lord Castlereagh's directions to transmit to you herewith the Copy of a Letter I have received from Mr. Beckett, Under Secretary of State for the Home Department dated 29th ultimo, together with the assignment of the Convicts who have been embarked on board the Speke for the Settlement under your Government. You will observe that the term 'life' against Jane Rafty alias Holden and Elizabeth Lloyd has been written upon an erasure. (*Copies of the enclosures are not available)


[1] Sydney Gazette 10 March 1810

[2] HRA, Series 1, vol. VI, p.520

[3] The Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury (Stamford, England), Friday, July 24, 1807; pg. 3; Issue 3983. British Newspapers, Part IV: 1780-1950.

[4] The Morning Chronicle (London, England), Tuesday, September 8, 1807; Issue 11953.

[5] Sydney Gazette 20 November 1808