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Conditions on Convict Ships


The health of the convicts on the voyage to Australia often depended on the state of the ship, quality of rations served and the attitude and level of skill of the Surgeon.    Select from the Links below to find out more about living conditions on board various convict ships to Australia


Accidents Food
Amusements Hulks
Arrival in the Colony Illness
Cleanliness Leaving Home
Clothing Military Guard
Conditions in England Mutiny
Conditions in Ireland Punishment
Conditions on board Quarantine
Death Schools
Escapes The Voyage
Female Convicts Weather


 


ACCIDENTS

Were there any serious accidents on the voyages? Most of the convicts had never been to sea before. They were injured in falling down hatchways, and by being struck with ropes and other workings and some fell overboard and were drowned. Serious injury occasionally occurred by scalding when serving out food. The guard also suffered accidental injuries from discharge of guns.  Select from the following ships to find out more.....

Fortune 1813
Henry 1825
Sir Godfrey Webster 1826
Hercules 1825
Harmony 1827
Princess Charlotte 1827
Competitor 1828
Dunvegan Castle 1830
Forth 1830
Roslin Castle 1830
Exmouth 1831
Buffalo 1833
Henry Wellesley 1836
Lord Lyndoch 1838
Diamond 1838



AMUSEMENTS

Many of the Surgeons who were employed in the 1820's 30's and 40's believed in the benefit of activity and amusement to ward off disease and boredom. Some of the activies can be found on the pages below:

Crossing the equator and theatricals - Speedy 1800Elizabeth 1818Eliza 1822
Sparring, singing, dancing - See Albion 1823
Christmas Day -  Lord Sidmouth 1823 ; Fairlie 1834
Dancing and singing on the Recovery 1823
Making Patchwork - Brothers 1824
Dancing on the Asia in 1825
Exercise and amusements - Eliza 1829
Singing on the Sovereign 1829
Boxing on the Lady Harewood in 1831
Dancing, acting and 'skylarking' on the Surry 1834
Dancing on the Lady Nugent in 1835
Dancing and marching on the Henry Porcher 1835
Dancing and singing on the Eden 1836
Dancing and patchwork on the Henry Wellesley in 1837
Dancing and marching on the Clyde in 1838
Singing, dancing and theatricals Earl Grey 1838
Walking on the Portsea 1838
Prizes on the Augusta Jessie 1840



ARRIVAL IN THE COLONY

How did people in the colony react when a new convict ship arrived in the colony?
See Watkin Tench's description - Lady Juliana
Harmony 1827

Were convicts happy to arrive in the colony?- See Lady Kennaway 1836

How long were the convicts held on the ship before being disembarked ?
Bencoolen 1819
Larkins 1829
Earl of Liverpool 1831
Bengal Merchant 1835

How did they disembark from the ship?
See Barossa 1839

Were prisoners issued with clothing on arrival?
See Admiral Gambier 1811

What happened to prisoners after arrival?

Experiment 1804
Canada 1810
Florentia 1828
Earl of Liverpool 1831
Fanny 1833
Fairlie 1834
Diamond 1838



CLEANLINESS

How were the ships kept clean?
Larkins 1817
Grenada 1821
Recovery 1823
Borodino 1828
Bengal Merchant 1836
Earl Grey 1838

How were the vessels rid of vermin?
Alexander 1806

How were the ships kept dry?
Earl Grey 1838
Augusta Jessie 1840



CLOTHING

What clothing did the convicts have when they were embarked?
Speke 1808
Earl St. Vincent 1818
Elizabeth 1818
Daphne 1819
Earl St. Vincent 1820
Elizabeth 1820
Eliza 1822
Albion 1828
Guildford 1829
Clyde in 1838

Were they given extra clothing on the voyage?
Elizabeth 1818
Isabella 1818
Recovery 1823

Were they issued with clothing on arrival:
Friends 1811
Guildford 1812

Worstead - A species of woollen fabric, being spun wool, which obtained its name from having been first spun at a town called Worsted, in Norfolk, in which the inventor lived




CONDITIONS IN ENGLAND

What was it like to be imprisoned in Newgate ?

see Wanstead 1814

See Convict Ships 1835

Description of Bristol gaol - Hadlow 1818



CONDITIONS IN IRELAND

What was the prison like at Cork?
Lady Rowena 1826

What was the prison like at Kilkenny?
Almorah 1824

What was their condition when they were taken from the Essex Hulk to the ship
Bussorah Merchant 1831



CONDITIONS ON BOARD THE SHIP

Sleeping conditions See
Baring 1819
Guildford 827
Lady Harewood 1832
Earl Grey 1838

How did the convicts embark on the vessel?
Elizabeth 1818
Earl St. Vincent 1823
Bussorah Merchant 1828

How were convicts secured when they first arrived on the vessel? Larkins 1817

What arrangements were made for water closets?
Baring 1819
Earl St. Vincent 1820
Daphne 1819
Edward 1829
Andromeda 1830
Asia 1831
Caroline 1833


How did the men keep clean?
Shipley 1817
Hadlow 1818
Earl St. Vincent 1820


Were convicts employed during the voyage?

Friendship 1818 (female)
Isabella 1818
Grenada 1819
Lord Sidmouth 1819
Almorah 1820
Adamant 1821
Lord Sidmouth 1823 (female)
Albion 1823
Almorah 1824
Asia 1825
Edward 1829
Captain Cook 1833
Lord Lyndoch 1838
Augusta Jessie 1840



DEATH

Which vessels had a high mortality?

Scarborough 1790
Britannia 1791
Britannia 1797
Earl Cornwallis 1801
General Hewitt 1814
Three Bees 1814
Tottenham 1818
Eliza 1828
Vittoria 1829
Fanny 1833
Henry Porcher 1835
Earl Grey 1836
Lord Lyndoch 1838

Burial at sea -  
Gilbert Henderson 1840



ESCAPES

Did convicts escape either before the ship sailed or during the voyage? -
See
Lady Juliana 1790
Larkins 1817
Lord Eldon 1817
Earl St. Vincent 1818
Eden 1840 (attempted)



FEMALE CONVICTS

How were female convicts transported from county gaols to London?
Lord Wellington 1820
Brothers 1824

How were they transported from prison to the ship?
Burrell 1832
Elizabeth 1818
Woodman 1823
Forth 1830
Sovereign 1829
Roslin Castle 1830

How were they occupied on the voyage to Australia?
Brothers 1824
Edward 1829
Sovereign 1829

Were the female convicts often troublesome?
Friendship 1818
Lord Sidmouth 1823
Almorah 1824
Sovereign 1829
Surry 1833
Elizabeth 1836
Roslin Castle 1836
Pyramus 1836

Were they given extra rations if they were nursing children?
City of Edinburgh 1828
Fairlie 1834

Where did they live when they arrived in the colony?
Aeolus 1809
Alexander 1816
Almorah 1824
Asia 1830
Burrell 1832


FOOD

What provisions were given to the convicts -
Daphne 1819
John Bull 1821
Edward 1829
Lady Harewood 1832
Planter 1832
Fairlie 1834
Bengal Merchant 1836
Roslin Castle 1836
Heber 1837

What food could they procure at stopovers? -
Diana 1833
Lady Kennaway 1836
Earl Grey 1836
Strathfieldsaye 1836
Clyde in 1838

Were sea-board rations supplemented?
Bencoolen 1819
Recovery 1823

Was their water supply adequate?
Lord Sidmouth 1819
Grenada 1827
Pyramus 1832
Earl Grey 1836
Blenheim 1839

Were the sick convicts given a different diet?
Asia 1831



HULKS

What were the living conditions on the Leviathan hulk like ?
Canada 1819
Lady Feversham 1830
Strathfieldsaye 1836

Prison Hulk Report 1838

Illness on Irish hulks -
Hercules 1830
Asia 1831
Bussorah Merchant 1831
Camden 1831

What condition were the convicts in when they left the hulks?
Camden 1833

The hulk Surprise -
Sir Godfrey Webster

The hulk Captivity -
Portland 1832



ILLNESS

Which voyages had very little illness ?
Almorah 1817
Elizabeth 1818
Guildford 1818
Bencoolen 1819
Grenada 1819
Tyne 1819
Guildford 1820
Lord Wellington 1820
Eliza 1822
Guildford 1822
Henry 1823
Ann & Amelia 1825
Asia 1825
Hercules 1825
Marquis of Hastings 1827
Asia 1828
Competitor 1828
Phoenix 1828
Edward 1829
Governor Ready 1829
Princess Royal 1829
Sarah 1829
Sovereign 1829
Southworth 1832
Adrian 1830
Lord Melville 1830
Hercules 1830
Dunvegan Castle 1832
Portland 1832
England 1835
Strathfieldsaye 1836
Pyramus 1836
Elphinstone 1838
Augusta Jessie 1840

Which vessels had major illnesses?
Pitt 1792
Hillsborough 1799
Atlas 1802
Glatton 1803
Tellicherry 1806
Three Bees 1814
Surry 1814
Tottenham 1818
Baring 1819
Almorah 1824
Bussorah Merchant 1828
Eliza 1828
America 1829
Lucy Davidson 1829
Vittoria 1829
Burrell 1830
Asia 1833
Fanny 1833
Heroine 1833
Waterloo 1833
Bengal Merchant 1835
Earl Grey 1836
Eden 1836
Lord Lyndoch 1838
Bengal Merchant 1838
Barossa 1839
Blenheim 1839


LEAVING HOME

How did the convicts feel about leaving their country of birth?
Elizabeth 1818
Minerva 1818
Daphne 1819
Prince Regent 1820
Eliza 1822
Earl St. Vincent 1823
Forth 1830
Hercules 1832
Camden 1833

What happened to the convicts when they were embarked?
Canada 1801



MILITARY GUARD

Where did the Guard for the convicts ships embark?
Earl St. Vincent 1823
Larkins 1829

Did conflict occur between the Captain of the vessel and Military escort?
Three Bees 1814

What did the military guard do after disembarking from the ship?
Champion 1827
Albion 1828


MUTINY

Scarborough 1790
Albemarle 1791
Boddingtons 1793
Sugar Cane 1793
Lady Shore in 1797
Barwell 1798
Anne 1801
Hercules 1802
Chapman 1817
Tottenham 1818
Atlas 1819
Daphne 1819
Dorothy 1820
Isabella 1823
Royal Charlotte 1825
Burrell 1830
Captain Cook 1836



PUNISHMENT

Of military -
Lord Sidmouth 1821
Barwell 1798

Of female convicts -
Britannia 1797
Friendship 1818
John Bull 1821
Lord Sidmouth 1823
Almorah 1824
Buffalo 1833
Diana 1833
Surry 1833
Elizabeth 1836
Gilbert Henderson 1840

Of male convicts -
Boddingtons 1793
Britannia 1797
Hillsborough 1799
Shipley 1817
Shipley 1818
Atlas 1819
Globe 1819
Castle Forbes 1820
Dorothy 1820
Guildford 1820
Prince Regent 1821
Brampton 1823
Recovery 1823
Royal Charlotte 1825

Vessels where almost no punishment took place -
Almorah 1817
Eliza 1822
Edward 1829
Captain Cook 1833
Earl Grey 1838
Hadlow 1820



QUARANTINE

Which ships were quarantined on arrival?
Surry 1814
Bussorah Merchant 1828
Lucy Davidson 1829
America 1829
Heroine 1833



SCHOOLS

Were schools established on the convict ships?

Grenada 1819
Tyne 1819
Almorah 1820
Castle Forbes 1820
Dorothy 1820
Elizabeth 1820
Guildford 1820
Eliza 1822
Phoenix 1822
Lord Sidmouth 1823
Brampton 1823
Recovery 1823
Almorah 1824
Henry Wellesley 1837
Earl Grey 1838
Portsea 1838



THE VOYAGE

To read a description of Portsmouth and the Needles see Lady Castlereagh

Length of time between Deptford, embarking convicts and weighing anchor - Lady Feversham 1830

How long did it take to sail from Deptford to the Cove of Cork?
Almorah 1820
Lord Sidmouth 1821
Castle Forbes 1820

Where were the convicts embarked from?
Larkins 1817

How long did it take to sail to Madeira?
Baring 1819

How long did it take to sail from Cork to Teneriffe -
Sir Godfrey Webster

How long did it take to sail from Plymouth to the Cape?
Burrell 1830

How long did it take to reach the tropics after leaving England?
Lloyds 1833

How long did it take to sail to the Cape? -
Active 1791



WEATHER

Which vessels had fine weather all the way?
Sarah 1829
Lloyds 1833
Forth 1835

Which vessels experienced very bad weather?

Catherine 1814
Competitor 1828
Guildford 1829
Roslin Castle 1830
Captain Cook 1833
Hero 1835
Charles Kerr 1837