Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Woodbridge - 1840

Embarked: 230 men
Voyage: 133 days
Deaths: 1
Surgeon's Journal: yes
Previous vessel: Nautilus arrived 3 February 1840
Next vessel: Augusta Jessie arrived 27 March 1840
Captain William Dobson
Surgeon  George Todd Moxey
Hunter Valley convicts / passengers arriving on the Woodbridge in 1840

The Woodbridge was built in Calcutta in 1809. [2]

Prisoners embarked on the Woodbridge had been tried in counties throughout England, Scotland and Wales - London, Stafford, Kent, Warwick, Bristol, Nottingham, Lincoln, Chester, Lancaster, York, Salop, Oxford, Northumberland, Essex, Worcester, Gloucester, Bedford, Manchester, Leicestershire, Worcester, Derby, Somerset, Suffolk, Hertford, Manchester, Bucks, Hereford, Devon, Norfolk, Surrey, Flint, Montgomery, Monmouth, Carmarthen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Perth. There were also twenty-seven soldiers who had been court-martialled in Canada and elsewhere for desertion, striking or threatening an officer or mutiny.

Military Guard

Passengers included Captain George Minter of the 28th regiment, wife and six children, Ensign Green of the 50th regiment, Mr. Murray, assistant surgeon of the 96th and Mrs. Murray and 29 rank and file of the 28th, 50th and 96th regiments with four women and three children.

More about Captain George Minter at Minter Exchange


Early in October 1839 one hundred and thirty male prisoners were embarked on the Woodbridge from the hulks at Woolwich. The remaining 100 men were received at Sheerness from the Fortitude hulk at Chatham.[3]

Excerpt from George Todd Moxey's surgeon's journal on the voyage of the Woodbridge in 1840... George Todd Moxey's Surgeon's Journal.

One of the convicts embarked on the Woodbridge was Charles Cozens. He was 24 years of age and apparently a gently reared young man; son of a Justice of the Peace in Pembrokeshire, he was intended for a career in the Church. However he ran away from his school and later enlisted in the Royal Horse Guards. Having argued with and threatened his superior officer he was court-martialled at Regents Park on 3 July 1839 and sentenced to seven years transportation. He was described as having a dark ruddy complexion, dark brown hair and chestnut eyes with eyebrows meeting. He was 6ft 3 1/2 inches in height and would have towered over his fellow shipmates whose average height was more like 5ft 4 inches. Charles Cozens was one of the few convicts who served his sentence and returned to England. He kept an account of his experiences as a convict which on his return to England in 1848 were published as 'A Guardsman's Adventures'.

A Guardsman's Adventures by Charles Cozens

Charles Cozens described the day he was embarked on the Woodbridge...

The auspicious day at length arrived, fraught with such vital interest to so many; and we were called by name to attend that muster on British soil which was fated to the greater portion to be the last. After being served out with new grey clothing, and having gone through the ceremony of ablution, which under circumstances of such excitement was merely nominal, we were examined and inspected by the surgeon-superintendent of the vessel, Dr. Moxey of the Royal Navy, a tall and determined looking Scotchman, whose countenance denoted characteristic shrewdness and sagacity, accompanied with great energy and decision of character. We were then trans-shipped to our future floating prison a fine ship named the Woodbridge.

Our total number including those forwarded from Chatham, amounted to two hundred and fifty, of all countries and conditions, both grey headed hardened sinners and more juvenile offenders, on the visages of many of whom was clearly impressed the stamp of villainy in all its hideous deformity. Others there were again, who, by their comely countenances and pleasing exterior, gave promise of better and more profitable fruit. But how deceptive is sin and depravity! how often do the finest forms, the fairest faces, conceal the foulest, fiercest, and falsest passions of our frail and feeble nature!

On ascending from the boat to the deck of the vessel in answer to my name, I was accosted by the surgeon, Dr. Moxey, who, inquiring whether or not I had been a non-commissioned officer in the Blues, informed me, that, upon the strength of certain representations which had been made to him relative to me, touching my character, connexions etc, he thought fit to nominate me as head boatswain over my fellow prisoners, and that I should speedily be apprised of further instructions, connected with the duties of my office. I was then ordered to go below.

After groping about for some considerable time, and almost committing a suicidal encounter with the upper deck beams, which were only six feet from the lower deck, and coming into violent collision first with one and then another similarly situated as myself, my vision at length became more acquainted and familiar with the dim light, and I was enabled to distinguish the surrounding objects.

On either side, fore and aft from the main hatchway, were two tiers of bunks or sleeping berths, having a bench running around the lower tier for seats; and in the intervening space hammocks were suspended. The fore and main hatchways were strongly barricaded with large wooden bars, thickly studded with long spike nails, and having a small low doorway, or wicket gate, of the same material only large enough to admit of the passage of one person at a time. Small oblong port holes at long intervals on either side, made to open and shut, admitted both air and light both of which were, as may be imagined very limited and confined.

Each berth above and below was allotted for four tenants, which, united, formed one mess of eight men. The appurtenances thereto consisted of one small keg or breaker for holding water, a tin quart pot, one wooden bowl for the praties, and an iron spoon or two; a knife and fork were subsequently added to each mess, as, not being allowed to carry pocket knives, the daily dividend of beef or pork into eight equal portions was a matter of no small difficulty. [1]

Surgeon George Todd Moxey

George Todd Moxey was thirty-nine years of age in 1840.

He kept a Medical Journal from 21 September 1839 to 11 March 1840. (3)


The Woodbridge departed Sheerness on 12 October 1839. The surgeon noted the departure in his journal - We were fortunate in getting a good start out of the Channel and from the fine state of the weather, the prisoners did not suffer a great deal form sea sickness which circumstance I always considered as having a material influence in their health during the passage.

Many of them had been upwards of twelve months in the hulks and as I found out on subsequent enquiry some had laboured under ague, scurvy, cutaneous affections which diseases they are occasionally liable to. The greater number were said to be labourers or in their words brought up to no particular trade or business, whose idle characters led to indolent lazy habits. The tradesmen manifested an anxious desire to be employed at their respective trades and managed to keep as many of them at work as possible. Thirty men who had been soldier deserters from the Army in Canada were without exception the best conducted men on board and the example they set of orders and obedience contributed in no small degree to the regularity and good discipline of the whole. [3]

The Voyage

Charles Cozens' account continued - On getting into blue water, our irons were struck off, and all went on well, if not pleasantly. We were allowed to enjoy the benefit of the fine sea breeze on deck, at first by divisions of fifty or a hundred, and then en masse. Bolam had been appointed schoolmaster, and many of his youthful pupils were making a favourable progress in writing and arithmetic, paper and slates being afforded him for that purpose; and by dint of constant attention to his duties, and the unceasing occupation of his thoughts, he was rapidly regaining his former serenity of mind and strength of body.

The prisoners amused themselves chiefly during the passage in manufacturing seals, tooth picks, tobacco stoppers, and other ornaments out of bones; and likewise a few ingenious and experienced ones, in making rings, brooches, etc out of common buttons, at which they were very expert, having no doubt long carried on the fraudulent practice of what is termed ring-dropping.

Our provisions consisted of the customary sea fare, beef and plum dough, pea soup and pork, alternatively. Biscuit, diluted with tea or cocoa, formed our morning and evening repasts. During fine weather we dined on deck in the open air, but during the prevalence of stormy or hazy weather we dined below.

When we reached the Tropics the heat above and below became almost intolerable, and, from the confined ventilation between decks, especially in calms the sensation at night was almost suffocating. Wind sales were lowered in each hatchway; but, with no wind to fill them, they were comparatively useless. Wine and lime juice were now served out at the rate of half a pint each man per diem.[1]

Cape of Good Hope

The Cape of Good Hope was reached on 6th January 1840.

After a pleasant and prosperous passage of six weeks, we reached the Cape where we touched for the purpose of taking in a fresh supply of provisions and water. It was excessively hot, and after a stay of four days during which time we had been boarded by a number of shore boats with fruit etc, we again weighed and once more faced the perils of the mighty deep.

Soon after doubling the Cape we experienced a terrific gale, which at one time imminently threatened the safety of the vessel. Our quarter deck bulwarks were stove in, the sea making a clean breach over her; the hencoops on the poop were washed away, tenants and all, and an immense quantity of water shipped, which inundated the soldiers' quarters and the place appropriated as a hospital, till many of the patients floated in their berths. During the gale we were all secured below with the hatches closed and battened down, and symptoms of the most intense apprehension were evinced by many of the hardened desperadoes who were thus cooped up with only a plank between them and eternity. The howling of the wind through the creaking cordage - the harsh vociferations of the master and mariners, the incessant tread of hurried footsteps, the increasing and choking "heave ho" of the sailors, together with the angry roaring and dashing of the waves, lashing themselves like an angry lion, into fury, were the only sounds which greeted our awestruck anxious ears. [1]

Charles Cozens was grateful to the surgeon and captain for their treatment of the convicts under their care -

the sagacious, politic, and salutary measure adopted by the surgeon-superintendent, powerfully aided by the kind, conciliating and truly paternal conduct of the captain, would almost alone have ensured submission and even cheerful compliance. Too much praise cannot be awarded to those gentlemen for the generous, manly and philanthropic conduct to the friendless unfortunates under their authority and control for every indulgence, comfort and accommodation which could reasonable be expected, or safely allowed was freely and willingly bestowed. [1]

Port Jackson

The Woodbridge arrived in Port Jackson on 26 February 1840.

The Surgeon reported in his concluding notes that the prisoners (with the exception of a few mentioned in the journal) were landed in Sydney in good health, and perfectly recovered from all signs of scurvy which seemed to threaten rather serious consequences at one period of the voyage, but a beneficial change soon manifested itself after their obtaining a supply of fresh meat and vegetables at the Cape of Good Hope. [3] John Pooley who was convicted at Lancaster Quarter Sessions on 22 July 1829 died on the voyage out and John Wisbey who was court-martialled at Barbardos died in Sydney Hospital soon after arrival. [4]

Charles Cozens described the day their personal details were recorded:

We remained on board three days after our arrival, during which period the superintendent of the prisoners' barracks, Mr. Timothy Lane came on board, and examined every man separately and minutely taking down the particulars of our former pursuits, convictions, and places of nativity, with our present crime, sentence, and personal descrption, embracing the smallest scar visible on any part of us. [1]

The Colonial Secretary and Superintendent of Convicts declared they were pleased with the state of the ship and the appearance and demeanour of the prisoners and on the fourth day after arrival two hundred and twenty nine prisoners were landed.

Hyde Park Barracks c.1820...Hyde Park Barracks

Charles Cozens - We debarked in divisions being landed in a large launch, immediately under the Government house. Here an officer from the barracks was in attendance, and when the complete disembarkation had been effected we were conducted to Hyde Park Barracks. The town being situated at the back of the bay, we did not pass through it, but merely through what is termed the Domain or land attached to the Government house. After half an hours walk, dressed in full uniform - grey jacket, white trousers, and striped woollen caps a la cosque, with our bag, baggage, and bedding buckled to our backs, we arrived at the barracks, a large and gloomy looking building surrounded with a high wall, having strong folding entrance doors. Here we were marshalled up in complete battle array, two deep, but in open order, ready for the inspection of his Excellency the Governor Sir George Gipps. [1]

Early in March the Sydney Herald reported that the convicts of the Woodbridge would not be taken to Norfolk Island in consequence of there not being sufficient room for their reception. During their stay in Sydney they were to be employed on the public works. [6]

On the 14 March the Sydney Gazette reported that eighty of the men of the Woodbridge had been sent on the Augusta Jessie to Norfolk Island and the remainder of them sent to the different works in the interior.[5]

Charles Cozens was one of those sent to 'the interior'. After a few weeks in Hyde Park Barracks he was appointed to a party of border mounted police. Military prisoners were often selected for such duty as they were accustomed to firearms and thought to be more trustworthy. This force was designed for the protection of squatters in remote and dangerous districts and Cozens' party was sent to the Cooma district.

Penal reformer Alexander Maconnochie arrived on the Nautilus in February 1840 and took up duties at Norfolk Island in March 1840. One hundred and ninety nine prisoners of the Nautilus were also sent to Norfolk Island along with the Woodbridge convicts. The men of the Nautilus and the Woodbridge would have had a very different experience at Norfolk Island than some of their predecessors.

Notes and Links

1). George Moxey was also employed as surgeon on the convict ships Margaret in 1839, Susan 1842 (VDL) and the Mount Stewart Elphinstone in 1849

2). Hunter Valley convicts / passengers arriving on the Woodbridge in 1840

3). Convict ships bringing detachments of the 96th regiment to New South Wales included the Woodbridge, Barossa, Nautilus, Augusta Jessie, Maitland, Pekoe and Eden

4). Archibald Bolam mentioned in Charles Cozens' journal was 42 years old, native place Northumberland. Occupation Actuary in a bank. Convicted of manslaughter at Northumberland Assizes on 27 July 1839.

5). Convict ships bringing detachments of the 28th regiment included the Woodbridge, Recovery, Lady McNaughten, Charles Kerr, Westmoreland, Marquis of Huntley, Norfolk, Backwell, England, John Barry, Susan, Waterloo, Moffatt, Strathfieldsaye, Portsea and Emma Eugenia.

6) Commandants at Norfolk Island......

Lieutenant Philip Gidley King 1788 - 1790 (arrived per Sirius in 1788)
Lieut-Gov Major Robert Ross 1790 - 1791 (arrived per Sirius/Scarborough)
Philip Gidley King 1791 - 1796 (arrived per Gorgon)
Captain John Townson October 1796 - November 1799 (Arrived per Scarborough in 1790)
Captain Thomas Rowley November 1799 - July 1800 (arrived per Pitt in 1792)
Major Joseph Foveaux 1800 - 1804
John Piper 1804 - 1810 (arrived per Pitt in 1792)
Captain T.A. Crane April 1810 - February 1813
Richard Turton 6 June 1825 - April 1826 (arrived per Ann and Amelia in 1825)
Vance Young Donaldson 1826 - 1827 (arrived per Henry Porcher in 1825)
Thomas Edward Wright 1827 to 1828 (arrived per Boyne in 1826)
Robert Hunt 1828 - 1829 (arrived per Morley in 1828)
Joseph Wakefield February 1829 to 29 June 1829
Colonel James Thomas Morisset 1829 - (arrived per 1834 Harmony in 1827)
Foster Fyans 1834 (arrived on the Sovereign from Mauritius in 1833)
Major Joseph Anderson 1834 - 1839
Thomas Bunbury 1839 (arrived in VDL per Susan in November 1837)
Thomas Ryan 1840 (arrived on George the Third in 1835)
Alexander Maconochie - 17 March 1840 - 1844 (arrived per Nautilus in 1840)
Joseph Childs - 8 February 1844 - 5 August 1846
John Giles Price - 1846 - 1853

7). Convict Ships to Norfolk Island...... Nautilus Augusta Jessie Mangles Maitland Blundell Agincourt Hydrabad David Malcolm Mayda China John Calvin Eliza

8). The soldiers court-martialled in Canada included

Patrick Bird from Co. Waterford. CM Upper Canada
Patrick Carty from Kilkenny. CM Upper Canada
William Cooper from Inniskillen. CM Edinburgh Castle
Timothy Cotter from Cork. CM Barbadoes
Charles Cozens from Pembroke CM Regents Park
John Douglas from Co. Down. CM Upper Canada
James Farrell from Galway. CM Upper Canada
David Fenton from Perthshire - CM Upper Canada
Edward Flynn from Tipperary - CM Upper Canada
George Fry from London - CM Upper Canada
James Haslam from Lancashire - CM Upper Canada
William Hunter from Stirlingshire - CM Upper Canada
Edward Hyde from Berkshire - CM Upper Canada
George Kirton from Roxburghshire - CM Upper Canada
Charles Lamont from Forfarshire - CM Upper Canada
Donald McIntyre from Hampshire - CM Upper Canada
John Murphy from Dublin - CM Upper Canada
Timothy O'Keefe from Cork - CM Lower Canada
James Potter from Cheshire - CM Upper Canada
William Poynton from Roscommon - CM Upper Canada
William Rawlins from Bedfrodshire - CM Lower Canada
William Sparrow from Gloucestershire - CM Upper Canada
Edward Stanton from Galway - CM Upper Canada
James Taff from Meath - CM Lower Canada
William Taylor from Devonshire - CM Upper Canada
William Walsh from Co. Clare - CM Upper Canada
John Wisbey - Barbadoes Court Martial - Died in Sydney Hospital 28 February 1840 [4]


[1] Cozens, Charles, A Guardsman's Adventures, London, 1848.

[2] Bateson, Charles Library of Australian History (1983). The convict ships, 1787-1868 (Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney, pp.350-351, 387

[3] Journal of George Todd Moxey. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857 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).The National Archives. Kew, Richmond, Surrey.

[4] Woodbridge Convict Ship. Annotated printed indents (i.e., office copies). NRS 12189, microfiche 696 - 730, 732 - 744. State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia.

[5] Sydney Gazette 14 March 1840

[6] Sydney Herald 6 March 1840