Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Adelaide - 1849

Embarked 300 men
Voyage 129 days
Surgeon's Journal: Yes
Previous vessel: Havering arrived 8 November 1849
Master Stephen Wharton
Surgeon Superintendent Frederick W. Le Grand
Prisoners and passengers of the Adelaide identified in the Hunter Valley region

The Adelaide departed London on 17 August 1849 with 300 male convicts. She arrived in Hobart on 29th November where 40 men were disembarked. The ship sailed on to Port Phillip but was refused entry and eventually arrived in Port Jackson on 24 December 1849.


The Adelaide was one of several transports bringing Exiles to New South Wales. Exiles had served part of their sentence in a penitentiary in Britain and were granted a conditional pardon or ticket of leave on arrival in the Colony. Some came from Pentonville Prison and Parkhurst prison on the Isle of Wight. The following extract from a presentation by the Governor Captain Hall to a Committee in House of Lords describes Parkhurst prison in 1847 -
'This is a penal establishment for boys who have been sentenced to transportation, usually between the ages of 10 and 18, but even at 8 or 9 many have been thus sentenced, with a view of getting them here, and not long ago there were as many as 60 or 70 at this tender age. On the boy's first arrival at the prison he is placed in a probationary ward, where he is kept in separate confinement for 4 months or more. During his time he is not allowed to hold any intercourse with the other boys, but for at least five hours he is at different times in the presence of others, either for exercise, instruction, or religious service, and during the time he is in his cell, he is supplied with occupation and books, and is visited by the officers of the establishment. This is not, therefore, a stringent separate system. The boys appear in good spirits, cheery and happy, nor does their health in any way suffer; indeed, boys have frequently asked to go back to the probationary ward after having left it, from feeling there a degree of security from temptation to commit prison offences, and consequently to incur punishment. After this the boys are placed together where they learn trades, and converse or play with each other, under the eye of warders - the meals being taken together, 360 in a large hall. The boys remain at Parkhurst from 2 to 3 years, sometimes longer, during this time a highly favorable change is generally perceptible in the whole disposition of the boy; there is a great difference between the first and second year, and a still greater difference between the third and the former year. The state of health has been remarkably good, only fourteen deaths having occurred during 8 years, among nearly 1,200 boys. On leaving Parkhurst they are generally sent to the colonies, and much depends on the circumstances in which they are there placed'.

Departure from England

The Adelaide departed London on 17 August 1849

Portland, England.- On Monday morning, a party of 132 well-conducted convicts left the convict establishment, and were embarked for Port Phillip in the ship Adelaide, which had been some days waiting for them. We understand that, upon arriving in the colony (should their conduct on board be proved exemplary), they will each be presented with a ticket of leave which will entitle them to work for themselves, being comparatively speaking, free. In addition to the above, there were 170 selected from Pentonville, the hulks, and Parkhurst prisons, who will be allowed a similar indulgence. A guard, composed of 50 soldiers, will accompany them on the voyage, selected from her Majesty's 63rd, 65th, and 99th regiments of foot. There is an experienced surgeon on board, who has the care and management of the convicts, and also a religious instructor. The Adelaide was still in the roads on Tuesday night, waiting for a fair wind. - [1]

Surgeon Frederick W. Le Grand

Frederick William Le Grand kept a Medical Journal from 18 July 1849 to 10 January 1850...The Adelaide sailed from Portland Roads on the 17th of August 1849 with 300 male convicts on board, having embarked at Woolwich 116, at Portsmouth 24, at Cowes 30, and at Portland 133, in all 303 prisoners, but 3 of this number were subsequently disembarked at Portland Prison in consequence of an order from the Secretary of States Office. The voyage to Hobart Town occupied 104 days and that to Sydney 129 days, including the stoppage at Port Phillip having arrived here on the 24th December 1849. During this period only 114 patients were put in the sick lists, the number of persons of all denominations on board being 412, there were but few of the cases of a grave nature. The comparatively healthy state of the convicts during the voyage may in a great measure be attributed to the attention in the first instances (previous to the embarkation of the Guard and Convicts) to the purification of the ships holds and keeping the hospital etc dry, clean and well ventilated. Keeping the convicts between breakfast and supper hourly employed and allowing them on deck as much as possible with strict attention to prisoner's cleanliness. [2]


The Adelaide arrived in Hobart on 29th November where 40 men were disembarked. The ship sailed on to Port Phillip but was refused entry and eventually arrived in Port Jackson on 24 December 1849.

Port Jackson

Three prisoners were sent to the Hospital at Sydney and three were sent to Cockatoo Island on the recommendation of the Surgeon. The remaining prisoners on board were discharged daily as they were hired. The prisoners commenced leaving the ship on the 31st December and the disembarkation was completed on the evening of 9th January 1850.

The Guard consisted of detachments of 58th and 65th regiments.

Report of the Principal Superintendent of Convicts

Of the Arrival, Inspection, and Disposal of the Convicts by the Ship 'Adelaide.'

I have the honour to report, for the information of His Excellency the Governor, that the 'Adelaide' convict ship arrived in Port Jackson on the evening of the 24th ultimo, with 259 male convicts (one having died at sea and one left sick at Hobart Town), under the superintendence of Dr. Le Grand, surgeon in the Royal Navy. I proceeded on board that vessel on the 26th ultimo, and made the usual inspection. The men presented a healthy, cleanly, and most orderly appearance, evincing that they had been kept in a high state of discipline during the voyage. They expressed themselves well pleased with their treatment and victualling, and none of them had any complaints to make. The surgeon superintendent spoke in high terms of the conduct of the men, with the exception of three, who were accordingly ordered to Cockatoo Island on probation, as is usual in such cases. The surgeon also reported to me that three of the men were sick with trifling ailments, and they were, under his Excellency's authority, removed to the hospital at Parramatta.

I have further the honour to report that, on the completion of the muster of the men, they were permitted to make engagements, and, on the 2nd instant, 50 of them were sent, by his Excellency's permission, to Twofold Bay, for distribution to the settlers in the district of Manero, who had, on the expected arrival of the 'Hashemy,' made application for 100 men, but which, from the urgent demand by parties having agents in Sydney, could not, until the present occasion, be even in part complied with.

The whole of the convicts by the 'Adelaide'; notwithstanding the arrival of two immigrant ships, were hired within nine days from their being open to take engagements, at wages varying from 10l. to 20l. per annum, with the usual rations. It is worthy of remark that the number of persons applying for convicts were greater on the present than on any former occasion, and many were too late to obtain any prisoners from the vessel; indeed, the circumstance of employers being engaged at a distance at their sheep-stations, and the delay in communication with Sydney, appears to me to have been the cause of the men not having been even sooner hired, as so many persons went on board at the last to obtain men, that they (the prisoners) refused to hire at the highest rate of wages which had been previously given. This circumstance I mention to show that the demand for this class of persons has increased, notwithstanding the supply of free labour.

I feel bound to express my satisfaction at the system of discipline exercised by Dr. Le Grand on board this ship; the order and regularity exhibited everywhere reflects the highest credit upon him, particularly when it is considered that the present is the first charge of the kind he ever had; indeed, no vessel has arrived in this colony since the 'Hashemy' in which I felt so satisfied with the respectful and subdued, but yet contented manner of the prisoners, as was the case with those by the 'Adelaide.' At the same time, I feel assured that much of this credit is due to the religious instructor (Mr. Cooper), to whom the men seemed to look up with great respect and regard; and the exertions of both these gentlemen, and the assistance afforded by them to the officers of my department, while on board engaged in the hiring and distribution of the men, called forth my warmest approbation; in a word, it seems to me that they are eminently well qualified for the performance of the duties which have been on this occasion entrusted to them. In conclusion, I cannot omit remarking upon the facility at all times given by the master of this vessel, by lending his boats or sailors when required for any purpose in connexion with the prisoners. Principal Superintendent of Convicts'

Office, (Signed) J. McLean, Sydney, 14th January 1850. Principal Superintendent. - Convict Discipline and Transportation: Correspondence

Notes and Links

1). Hunter Valley medical practitioner George Bridge Mullins arrived as an exile on the Adelaide.

2). Convict ships bringing political prisoners and protesters

3). Prisoners and passengers of the Adelaide identified in the Hunter Valley region

4). Old -Convict Days. -There recently passed away at Wellingrove, Inverell district, in the person of Henry Harrison, one of the few remaining convict survivors of the early clays of transportation. Harrison, who was ninety six years of age, was sent out here abut 78 years ago for housebreaking in Warwickshire and had lived in Wellingrove district for fully 70 years. He was given a good character by old residents as a hard-working, honest man. The escapade which led to his transportation was his first and last lapse into crime. He lived with the aborigines for over 60 years and his 'wife' was a full blooded aboriginal who died 35 years ago. He has 61 living descendants nearly all of whom are living in Inverell and Tingla districts. After his wife's decease he seemed to have the single ambition of bringing up his family as respectably as possible, and in later years, long after he had entered his dotage and was practically helpless, it was an education to observe the care and attention he received from the hands of his descendants. He was buried in Wellingrove cemetery. - The Cobar Herald 22 June 1913


[1] Sydney Morning Herald 30 November 1849

[2] Journal of F.W. Le Grand on the voyage of the Adelaide in 1849., UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

[3] Bateson, Charles, Library of Australian History (1983). The convict ships, 1787-1868 (Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney : pp.356-357, 370-373