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Convict Ship
Speke 1808

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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



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.

Two of the women who were transported on the Speke 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 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. Ann Beaumont would have been held at Newgate prison to await transportation.  Many other women of the Speke would also have been held in Newgate prison prior to embarking.

Below is a description of the conditions at Newgate in 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. She arrived at Rio, with the fleet on the 24th July and on the 11th August sailed for the Cape under convoy of the Lightning, Captain Doyle; arriving at the Cape the 10th of September with Government stores.

She sailed again for Port Jackson on the 30th September, and having an uninterrupted succession of favourable weather, reached there on 15th November 1808. She was the next 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.

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)

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. 

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.

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)

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.

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). Hunter Valley convicts and passengers arriving on the Speke in 1808

5). 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.
Ann and Peter Duff of Windsor, 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

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

7). Convicts of the Speke identified in the Hunter Valley region:

Name Convicted atLocation NSW
Harriett Bray / Tilley Bristol 1807 Newcastle
Hannah Chapel   Wallis Plains
Jane Mitchell / Jones / Orton Bristol 1808 Newcastle
Elizabeth / Jane Gill Middlesex 1807 Newcastle / Maitland
Rose Lovett / Lovell London 1807 Newcastle
Elizabeth McNeany/ Smith   Newcastle
Eleanor O'Donnell   Wallis Plains



(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.




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