Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Blundell - 1844

Embarked: 210 men
Voyage: 102 days
Deaths: 0
Tons: 573
Surgeon's Journal: Yes
Master Robert L. Hunter
Surgeon Benjamin Bynoe

In March 1844 a large number of convicts under sentence of transportation were removed from the Millbank prison and placed on board the ships Blundell and London, recently commissioned as transport ships, lying off the Royal Arsenal, at Woolwich.

Convicts Embarked

The prisoners were conveyed down the river in steam-boats belonging to the Waterman's Company, under guard of a detachment of the 58th Regiment appointed to proceed with them to their destination. The London (a fine vessel of 700 tons burden) with 250 of the lighter class of offenders, is bound to Hobart Town. The Blundell carries 210 of the worst class, her destination being the penal settlement of Norfolk Island. [2]

Departure from England

The ship departed the Downs on 20th March 1844 and was reported to be the first convict ship to sail from England directly to Norfolk Island.[3] On the 6th May Blundell spoke the ship British Empire, from London, bound to Madras, out 50 days.

Free Passengers

Passengers included Lieutenant Cooper, 58th regiment, Ensign Coleman, 80th regiment, 15 rank and file of the 80th regiment, and 31 rank and file of the 58th regiment, 4 women, and 6 children.[1]

Lieut. Hays, wife, three children, and female servant, and Mr. and Mrs. Stewart, were landed at Norfolk. Island.[3]

Surgeon Benjamin Bynoe

Benjamin Bynoe was employed as Surgeon Superintendent. He kept a Medical Journal from 29 February 1844 to 1st August 1844....{Extract}....

We left England in March with three hundred and twenty four souls on board including forty of the Ship's Company and arrived safe at Norfolk Island on the sixth day of July with the loss of one man. The number of patients entered on the sick book during that period was forty-one and out of that number thirty-five have been entered in the Journal, although many of the prisoners required an occasional cathartic from the want of proper exercise, they were of so slight a nature as not to admit of their being placed on the List......The Pistol shot wound requiring amputation was one of the Sergeants of the Guard who was at the usual hour in the morning loading it when it accidentally exploded and shattered the forefinger close to the metacarpal bone. It healed rapidly without any degree of inflammation.[4]

The Voyage

A new system recently introduced on prison ships was used on this voyage - this entailed each prisoner occupying his own berth, which was about twenty inches wide, and sufficiently long. This allowed the prisoners to leave their bed without disturbing other men. The prisoners remained healthy with no deaths occurring amongst them, however a member of the Guard, Private Ingham died of consumption. He had been considered in a decline at the time they embarked. [3]

Arrival at Norfolk Island

They had a favourable passage of 102 days to Norfolk Island, arriving there on the 5th or 6th July 1844.

Convicts Disembarked

The weather being fine the prisoners, 210 in number were landed in about four hours on the following day and the ship departed that same evening bound for Port Jackson.[5] It was a long passage of 24 days to Port Jackson in consequence of strong winds; no vessels were encountered after leaving Norfolk Island. [3]

On 14 September 1844 the administrative control of Norfolk Island passed from New South Wales to Van Diemen's Land.

Notes and Links

1). Benjamin Bynoe was also surgeon superintendent on the convict ship Aboukir to Van Diemen's Land in 1851.

2) 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

3). The Mutineers of the Bounty and their Descendants on Pitcairn and Norfolk Islands by Lady Diana Joliffe Belcher.....

4). April 1843 - At the Liverpool Assizes on Tuesday last, one George Robinson, alias Saxon, pleaded 'Guilty' to the charge of having illegally returned from transportation, and when brought up for sentence entered into a long and singular statement, which was listened to by a crowded court with great attention. From this it appeared, that in 1820, being then but 18 years of ago, he had been convicted of a highway robbery at Pendleton. He received sentence of death but was finally transported for life. He had, however an irresistible desire to return to his native land, and some time after his arrival in Sydney made an attempt to by swimming off to a brig lying in the roads and succeeded in concealing himself below until she was at sea. She was driven back, however, by stress of weather, he was given up to the authorities, and received 100 lashes, and was sent to a penal settlement, first at Hunter's River, and afterwards at Macquarie harbor.

For 12 months at a time he never had the irons off his legs. He described the situation as intolerable without any communication with his friends, shut out from the world, and with hardly a hope for the future. He determined again to make an attempt to escape. He left the colony with several others. Three days after they were attacked by the natives and several of them were wounded, and all their clothes and provisions were carried off. To go forward In this condition was almost hopeless, to go back was to suffer again a punishment of one hundred lashes, and to be condemned to work in the gang reserved for the worst criminals. They resolved to go on. They lost themselves in the Blue Mountains and wandered about naked sixty days, living on what they could find in the bush or along the shore, to which they were finally conducted by another party of natives. They were then near the site of Port Philip. Here they fell in with another tribe, by whom they were taken and given up to the authorities. They were conveyed to Coal River naked as they were. They there were allowed a blanket to cover them, but even this they were obliged to leave behind when they were shipped on board a Government vessel which was taking coals to Sydney; and, but for some canvass which they were allowed to have to cover them, they would have had to lie naked on the coals in the hold. They were landed in this plight at Sydney. There public charity supplied them with some clothing but one of his companions, for months, had nothing but a pair of trousers. They were sentenced to receive 100 lashes, and to be sent back to Macquarie harbour. Their wretched state was such, however, that the first part of the sentence was not inflicted, the medical man having made a representation that prevented it.

He remained at Macquarie harbour some time, when he again with some others, got away in a whale-boat, and ran along the coast for nine days, having made sail by fastening together the shirts of the party. - They were obliged, by want of provisions, to put into Hobart-town, and were again sent back to Macquarie harbour, and placed on Big Island - the depot for the worst offenders. He described the horrors of this place as being more than language could paint. Several, he said, had committed murder that they might be removed to Sydney for trial, though certain that after this short respite death would be the punishment of their crime.

He told a singular tale of one Pearce who had attempted to escape with several others. Provisions failing they were obliged to sacrifice one to save the rest. All perished in this way, till Pearce and another alone remained. They watched, each conscious of the other's intention, for forty-eight hours, until Pearce got an opportunity of killing his companion. He was taken, and again escaped with one Cox, whom he also killed, and for this he was finally executed. At this horrible place the prisoner said he remained upwards of seven years, when he was sent to Hobart-town.

He again escaped on board a vessel and concealed himself till she was 21 days at sea. The Captain, however, gave him up on his arrival at St. Helena. He was sent back to the Cape, and thence to Robins Island, where he worked for seven months, with 251b. of irons upon him. He was then sent to Macquarie harbour. His conduct, during a gale on the passage, recommended him to the merciful consideration of the authorities, and after the lapse of three years he was allowed to come back to Hobart-town, and finally obtained a ticket of leave. He still, however, longed to see his native land.

He escaped on board an American whaler, in which he cruised for several months, but the captain intending to hire him up at the first opportunity, he took advantage of the vessel touching at New Zealand to take refuge with the natives. By them he was well treated, and finally got an opportunity of entering without suspicion on board a vessel bound for Boston hence he wrought up his passage to Quebec and thence to Greenock and Liverpool. He had since been living at Manchester and gaining an honest livelihood by the labour of his hands. He protested that since his original offence his conduct had been that of an honest man. His sole wish had been to see his native land, and he expressed a hope that his sufferings and his good conduct would recommend him to the merciful consideration of the minorities. Mr. Baron Parke said the tale which he had related would, he trusted, help to dissipate any Idea that might be lurking in the minds of any who might hear it, that transportation was a light punishment. It was his duty simply to pass on him the sentence, that he should be transported again for the term of his natural life. The prisoner bowed respectfully and was removed from the bar. The appearance of the man was calculated to procure credence for the history he related. There was a remarkable expression of suffering and hardship in his countenance, and their was something very moving in the manner in which he received the sentence that was to consign him again to the horrors he had been describing.
- Irish Examiner 1841-1949, Monday, April 03, 1843 Page: 4

(George Saxon was first transported on the Speke in 1821; he was re-transported to Norfolk Island on the Blundell in 1844)

5). Detachments of the 80th regiment arrived on the Lady Kennaway, Lloyds, Norfolk, Bengal MerchantAsia, Captain Cook, Earl Grey, St. Vincent, John, Prince George, Mangles, Heber, Theresa, Calcutta, Eden, Emma Eugenia and Blundell.


[1] Sydney Morning Herald 31 July 1844

[2] The Courier 19 July 1844.

[3] The Australian 31 July 1844

[4] UK Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857. Medical Journal of Benjamin Bynoe on the voyage of the Blundell in 1844 The National Archives. Kew, Richmond, Surrey.

[5] Sydney Morning Herald 31 July 1844