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Convict Ship Sir Godfrey Webster 1826

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Embarked: 196 men
Voyage: 176 days
Deaths: 3
Surgeon's Journal: yes
Previous vessel: Marquis of Hastings arrived 3 January 1826
Next vessel: Mangles arrived 18 February 1826
Master John Rennoldson
Surgeon Superintendent  William Evans
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The Sir Godfrey Webster was built on the Thames in 1799. (4)

Before each voyage, convict ships were fitted up by shipwrights, joiners, carpenters and plumbers. Cisterns may have been installed or fixed and on-board prisons were built. Often the prisons were constructed of timber and new ones may have been re-built for each voyage. Later one of the surgeons recommended that iron bars be used to allow better ventilation and to save on cost of re-building each time.

The Sir Godfrey Webster was still being fitted out at Deptford when the soldiers of the guard arrived on 24 May 1825.   Several became ill with catarrh and pneumonia because the barrack room became damp and fires could not be lit in consequence of the trades people not having finished their work between decks. Soldiers treated by the surgeon at this time included Alexander Lough, William Welch, Thomas Sweeney, Patrick Goggins and William Pearce.

The Guard consisted of a detachment of the 57th regiment comprising two commissioned officers, 33 rank and file, 6 women and 7 children under orders of Lieutenants John Ovens and James Doyle, embarked on the Sir Godfrey Webster at Deptford. Dr. Doyle of the 57th regiment came as passenger. Select here to find convicts ships bringing detachments of the 57th regiment.

The Sir Godfrey Webster left Gravesend on 3rd June 1825 and reached the Cove of Cork on the 16th June.

On 27 June 196 male convicts embarked from the Surprise convict hulk

............House of Commons

William Evan kept a Medical Journal from 13 May 1825 to 16 January 1826.  (5) He was a well-experienced surgeon superintendent, the Sir Godfrey Webster, being his fifth voyage to the colonies in that capacity.  On examining the prisoners he remonstrated with principal superintendent Dr. Trevor regarding the propriety of taking two prisoners who were extremely ill. Dr. Trevor agreed to have them removed back to the prison hulk. Dr. Evans also objected to several other patients on the same grounds however did not succeed in having them removed and the vessel departed Cork on 11 July 1825 with 196 prisoners.

For most of the convicts this would be the last time they gazed on their homeland.  For the first fortnight they were mostly quite ill. William Evans attributed this to the different food to that given in the hulk where the men had not been allowed any solid animal food.

Cove Harbour c. 1831

Continuous rains prevented many from coming on deck at a time. Fires were lighted in the stoves when practicable to dry the prison room. 

Convicts were afflicted with diarrhoea and dysentery and scurvy began to appear as well for which they were given lime juice and vegetable soup. On the 2nd August they made the peak of Teneriffe and the next day anchored off the town of Santa Cruz to replenish water. Here they also procured fresh beef and vegetables for the convicts & guard and fruit for the sick. The ship weighed anchor on 5th August and came abreast of Cape de Verde Island where the weather was fine and health improved and the prisoners were released from their irons.

They reached the equator on 1st September at which time one of the prisoners, James Develin suffered from sun stroke, having exposed himself without any covering on his head, to the direct rays of the sun. After crossing the equator they were obliged to 'retrace their steps', a circumstance that caused much anxiety on account of the crowded state of the prison and excessive heat. They headed north and then south finally re-crossing the equator on 2nd October 1825.

William Evans recorded the death of one of the convicts off the coast of Brazil: - Michael Bergan, aged 30, nearly blind and under other bodily infirmities was in the act of going below when he lost his hold of the hatchway and was precipitated into the main hold; died 8 September 1825 at 10.30. His remains were committed to the deep the following day. (5)

By the 8th October the ship was making rapid progress to the southward. Scurvy and dysentery became prevalent and the store of lime juice was nearly expended and was rationed out only to the ill. None was allowed to the guard. Because of the serious illness on board they were forced to proceed to the Cape of Good Hope. On the 4 November 1825 the ship reached anchorage in Table Bay. The following day fresh beef and vegetables was received for the guard and convicts and a requisition for supplies was made to the naval store keeper at Simon Town. At this period 38 of the convicts and 2 of the guard were on the sick list afflicted with scurvy. On 9th November they shipped eight live bullocks and fifty sheep but in consequence of strong westerly winds and heavy swell setting into Table Bay they could not put to sea until 13th November when they 'bade adieu to the Cape after a stay of nine days'.

The only casualty that occurred during this part of the voyage was that of Patrick Conlan age 49 (convict) who died on 22 November of Scorbutic Dysentery.

On 1st December the prisoners were supplied with a check shirt , one pair flannel drawers, one pair of duck trousers and one pair of stockings each.

The surgeon described one of the convicts James Jackson aged 27,  in his journal....He came on board with extensive ulcers situated on the tibia of both legs; these he said he laboured under for upwards of two years; they were in a healing state when he embarked. The usual application of dressings had been resorted to both on board the convict ship at Dunleary as well as that at Cork with various success. Though a young man his constitution is completely broken from constant dissipation previous to his incarceration and conviction; he has been well brought up under a surgeon of some repute (Doctor Walker of Kells County, Meath). On coming on board here suitable application were had recourse to with considerable benefit and the ulceration became small but never completely cicatrized. However during our protracted voyage together with salt rations, the ulcers have put on a late appearances much less favourable indeed repeated sloughing has taken place form time to time and he is now using the common poultice and I consider him a fit object for hospital treatment.

On the 5th December as they passed by the Island of St. Paul they experienced a series of hard gales, during most of this interval much inconvenience was felt by all but more especially the invalids from the heavy rolling of the ship. The convicts who were well enough assisted the crew to the satisfaction of all. William Evans recorded in his journal that 'at 4 pm on the 27th December we descried King’s Island lying at the entrance of Bass's Strait, and by 10 o'clock the following night got clear through into the Pacific Ocean. On the evening of 3rd January 1826 anchored in Sydney Cove at 8 pm.' (5)

The men were mustered on board on Thursday 12th January 1826 by the new Colonial Secretary Alexander McLeay. The indents include the name, age, marital status, native place, trade, offence, when and where tried, sentence, physical description, remarks regarding their conduct on the voyage and where they were assigned on arrival. The prisoners were landed on Monday 16th January. Their healthy and orderly appearance was attributed to the care of surgeon William Evans, to whose humanity and attentions during the passage, the prisoners themselves bore testimony to in an address.

The Sydney Gazette reported that the men were said to have conducted themselves with the greatest regularity and decorum during the tedious passage of six months. Among the individuals by this ship, was one who a short time since discharged the magisterial functions in the south of Ireland. (This was Edward Orpen)

Within only a few days of being landed four of the prisoners of the Sir Godfrey Webster were charged with scaling the Prisoners' Barrack wall and being at large. One of them was only 14 years of age and in consideration of this was sentenced to only 25 lashes. The others received corporal punishment of 50 lashes each.

The Sydney Gazette reported in February .....The Sir Godfrey Webster, in going out on Friday last, encountered the storm, and was within a very little of being completely overturned. Though the rain continued for a quarter of an hour, rushing down in tremendous torrents, yet the violence of the wind only lasted about two minutes; and this gust caught the Sir Godfrey Webster, and nearly laid her on her beam ends, for her keel was observed about two feet out of water, by the master and crew of a small vessel also clearing the harbour. (3)

Notes & Links:

1).  Michael Bradley was executed at Newcastle in 1841 for murder

2). William Evans was also surgeon on the convict ships Sir William Bensley in 1817, Bencoolen in 1819, Hindostan in 1821, Asia 1824 (VDL), Southworth in 1834 (VDL) and the Earl Grey in 1836

3). Athlone Dec. 10. - This day, an inquest was held, in this town, before Richard Handcock Esq., Sovereign and a most respectable Jury, on the body of a young man, named John Connor, who was returning from the market, on last Saturday night, when he was stabbed in the street, by one off the watchmen, of which he died yesterday evening. The Jury, after a diligent examination of several witnesses, returned the following verdict: "We find, that the said John Connor came by his death, by a wound inflicted by a sharp pointed flat instrument, which entered the left breast and the lungs on the same side, and that the same was committed by Robert Brown, William Lackey, Patrick O'Neill, William Galvin and Thomas Goold.(1)

On Wednesday, a trial came before Baron Smith, which excited a very general interest. It was a charge of murder and during the seven hours that the trial lasted, the Court was crowded extremely. The prisoners were the watchmen of Athlone. Browne was the commander of the party.  The person killed was John Connor a person of very good character. The Baron's summing up was listened to with profound attention and a pin might be heard to fall. Some parts seemed to produce a strong sensation. The Jury found O'Neil guilty of the murder, and the other four of manslaughter, expressing their opinion that it was an aggravated case. O'Neill was immediately called up for judgment and received sentence of death. The Baron then announced to the other four that the rule which he made was, that they should be transported for their lives. (2)

William Joseph Galvin was 33 years of age, married with three children and employed as a policeman in Ireland. In Australia he was employed as custodian of the Australian Museum in the years 1831 - 1836. He seems to have been the only one of the five to be granted an absolute pardon (dated 21st March 1833). His wife Margaret and two of their children arrived as assisted passengers on the Edward in 1829. Find out more about William Galvin at the Australian Museum site. Robert Brown was 50 years of age and married with 8 children. He was a serjeant of the 81st regiment; William Lackey was 22 and married. He was described in the indents as a policeman from Longford. William Lackey, was father of Sir John Lackey; Patrick O'Neill was 48 years of age and married with 3 children. He was described as a soldier/labourer. Thomas Goold/Gold was married with 8 children and described as a soldier. His wife Eleanor Goold arrived with some of their children on the Sir Joseph Banks in 1828.

4). Hunter Valley convicts and passengers arriving on the Sir Godfrey Webster in 1826

5). Convict Ships bringing Political Prisoners and Protesters

6). Several men were convicted under the Insurrection Act including - Daniel Connor, Patrick Houlahan and Timothy Keefe from Cork, Denis Craven from Co. Clare, Joseph Nash and John Walsh from Limerick, William Ryan from Tipperary and James Grace and John Ryan from Kilkenny........

7).  Edward Orpen......Kerry Assizes - Tralee, August 4 - Baron Pennefather took his seat at ten o'clock, and after disposing of a few burning petitions, and an unimportant larceny case, the following interesting trial came on: Mr. Rice O'Connor, an attorney, was put to the bar, charged with having conspired with a person named Orpen,* to defraud Mr. John Hurley of a mortgage; and in a second count, to procure the destruction of the mortgage by means of perjury. A Bill had been filed in the Exchequer stating the place and person and by whom a notice was given which was Edward Orpen, who saw it served on the 22nd January 1799 on a bye road near Killarney and that Sullivan, Mr. Orpen's servant was present. John Hurley stated that the Bill was a rank forgery and that he had never been served with the notice as stated by Orpen. The Jury found in favour of John Hurley and Edward Orpen was sentenced to transportation. Rice O'Connor who had been the Attorney in the case and upon intimate and familiar terms with Orpen was indicted for a conspiracy with him however was found not guilty. Freeman's Journal 9 August 1825

Tralee Assizes - The following is a report of the trial which we noticed in our Journal yesterday. It awakened the deepest interest. The Court was crowded to excess, a profound silence reigned throughout, when Edward Orpen, Esq., late of Islands Lodge, in this county, was put to the bar, charged with wilful and corrupt perjury. The indictment contained several counts, upon each of which the prisoner was accused of the above crime, committed with the intention of defrauding J. Hurley Esq., of the benefit of a mortgage on the property of Francis Russell.....Read an account of the trail in the Freemans Journal 18 August 1824.....Many witnesses were examined upon the trial of Mr. Orpen, and after an able charge from Judge Jebb, the Jury having retired for about an hour, returned with a verdict of guilty. His Lordship then addressed the prisoner, and having in the course of a severe reproof, dwelt with eloquence and force upon the unexampled enormity of his crime, sentenced him to transportation for seven years. Some of Edward Orpen's family followed him to Australia. Elizabeth Orpen and other family members John, Samuel, Maria, Alicia and Ann arrived on the Lang in 1826. Edward Orpen died at Newcastle in 1829.

8). The Asiatic Journal reported in 1827......Capt. Renoldson, of the Sir Godfrey Webster, died at Port Louis on the 26th August 1827.

9). Eleven convict ships brought prisoners to New South Wales in 1826 - Marquis of Hastings, Sir Godfrey Webster, Mangles, Sesostris, Lady Rowena, Regalia, Marquis of Huntley, England, Boyne, Speke and Phoenix

10). On Friday last a Coroner's Inquest was held at the sign of the Golden Lion, on the body of a young man named Benson, who died suddenly on the preceding evening. The deceased was generally believed to be of respectable connexions and came out from England as captain's clerk on board the Sir Godfrey Webster. It appeared that he had been enjoying himself on shore together with some other of the ship's company on Friday; that he became intoxicated and was prevailed on ;by the landlord of the Golden Lion to repose himself, in an apartment in his house, where he was found dead by the person who, in the course of evening went to awaken him. (Sydney Gazette 9 January 1826)    

11).  Return of Convicts of the Sir Godfrey Webster assigned between 1st January 1832 and 31st March 1832 (Sydney Gazette 14 June 1832; 21 June 1832).....
Patrick Dent   Stone cutter and setter assigned to H.C. Sempill at Segenhoe
Patrick Quinn   Soldier assigned to Francis Reynolds at Sydney

12). 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

14). Those treated by the surgeon on the voyage and mentioned in his journal included:
James Welsh, convict aged 32.
John Lynch, convict aged 21.
Cornelius Leary, convict aged 27.
H. O'Donnell, convict aged 36.
James Breene, convict age 60.
John McMahon, convict aged 45
John Cahill, convict aged 49
George Fairbrother, convict aged 23.
Tim Scully, convict aged 28.
James Develin, convict aged 27.
Michael Bergan convict aged 30.
Simon and B. Flaherty
Denis Kenneavy
Patrick O'Neill
John Delaney
Denis Slattery
Rhody Scully , formerly a Dragoon died at sea 22 October 1825
Worst cases of scurvy in October:
Patrick O'Neill
Patrick Dent
W. Hughes
James Heerene
George Fairbrother
Michael Mostfane
Michael Daly
Michael Cannavan
Patrick Jago
John Taylor
Denis Slattery
Michael McDermott convict aged 25 18 November 1825 - Of diminutive size and spare habit
William Ryan, convict aged 50 age sea

15). Convict James Jackson was admitted to Sydney Gaol on 13 February 1826 charged with felony. He was sentenced to 3 years in a penal colony and sent to Moreton Bay on the Isabella on 20th May 1826 and was therefore at Moreton Bay when Captain Patrick Logan was commandant. He is entered in the Colonial Secretary's Letters Received etc 1822 - 1827 Reel A2.1 [Bound AS 4/1803] at Moreton Bay as James Jackson/ Mackin

16). National Archives - Reference: ADM 101/68/1 Description: Medical journal of Sir Godfrey Webster, convict ship, for 13 May 1825 to 16 January 1826 by William Evans, surgeon and superintendent, during which time the said ship conveyed male convicts from Cove of Cork to Sydney Cove, New South Wales.


(1). Freemans Journal 14 December 1824.

(2) Freemans Journal 15 March 1825

(3) Sydney Gazette 15 February 1826

(4). Bateson, Charles & Library of Australian History (1983). The convict ships, 1787-1868 (Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney : pp.346-347

(5). UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011. 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). Records of Medical and Prisoner of War Departments. Records of the Admiralty, Naval Forces, Royal Marines, Coastguard, and related bodies. The National Archives. Kew, Richmond, Surrey.



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