Convict Ship Charles Kerr 1837
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(Convicts and passengers from this
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below to find information about Convict Ships arriving in New South Wales,
Norfolk Island and Van Diemen's Land between the years 1788 and 1850.
Embarked 250 men
Voyage 123 days
Surgeon's Journal - Yes
vessel: Calcutta arrived 5
James Pattison arrived 25 October 1837
Captain Harford Arnold.
Kerr was built in Sunderland in 1826.
John Edwards was a
well experienced surgeon having previously been employed as
surgeon-superintendent on the convict ships
Hercules in 1832,
Henry Tanner in
1834 and Roslin Castle
in 1836. He kept a Medical Journal from 13th May to 18 October
The prisoners of the Charles Kerr had been
convicted in counties throughout England, mostly for various forms
of stealing and there were also three soldiers who were
court-martialled for desertion and insubordination - William
Spencer, Thomas Brett, and John Brown.
|Most of the
prisoners were embarked on the Charles Kerr at Portsmouth
from the convict hulks; some from the York and others from
the Leviathan on 1st June 1837. They were examined by the
surgeon and all were considered to be in good health.
According to the surgeon at the time of embarkation there
prevailed on board the convict hulks a strong scorbutic
diathesis and on inspection prior to embarkation he rejected
a number of prisoners who were suffering some of the
The Charles Kerr sailed
from Spithead on 8th June however owing to boisterous weather and
rain they anchored at Falmouth on the 10th where they remained wind
bound until 14th June. Here Thomas Boyles a feeble old man aged 68
transported for seven years for a trifling offence, died after
suffering diarrhoea. On the 17th June another death occurred, a
soldier of the guard, Adam Bailey died from the result of internal
injuries received by a fall into the hold; and on the 28th June yet
another death - Richard Edwards aged 21, had been tried at the Old
Bailey on 7th April and sent to the Leviathan hulk from
Newgate prison on the 21st April. When he was embarked on the
Charles Kerr on 1st June he had less than a month to live.
Described by the surgeon as an educated, mild and harmless
individual who was the master of a Falmouth schooner,
Richard Edwards came from a respectable background and had
been sentenced to transportation for life with Mate of the
vessel John Woodcock after they were found guilty of
manslaughter by cruelly torturing a sailor boy to death.
The horrific details of the case were reported in the
Morning Post the day following the trial. According to the surgeon
Edwards had, from the time of his imprisonment four months before,
been labouring under much suffering which had debilitated him and
rendered him incapable of struggling through his disease.
thoughts were of his mother and little brother left behind.
For the next few weeks there were no more fatalities although
the surgeon was kept busy in the Hospital. His journal reveals some
of the diseases experienced by the convicts - During the voyage
prisoners presented with illnesses such as Synochus, Phlogosis,
Rheumatism, Pleurodynia, Tonsillitis, Syphilis, Icterus, Scorbutus,
Catarrhs, Dyspepsia, Headaches, Diarrhoea, Colica, Vulnus and
John Edwards' medical journal is interesting
in that it reveals some of the convicts' thoughts and fears -
Richard Edwards mentioned above, weighed down with guilt; and those
of James Dent who died on the 18th August. The indents don't reveal
whether James Dent could read or write, many on the ship could not,
but when he became delusional with fever, he revealed to the surgeon
his greatest fears.....he dreamed he had been removed from the ship
by magic and taken by the bushrangers of New South Wales where he
witnessed horrific transactions. The surgeon could do little to
convince him otherwise. Perhaps James Dent had read of the exploits
of the bushrangers of New South Wales himself or maybe he listened
to dark tales of murder and plunder in a candlelit corner somewhere.
One hundred and seventy-five years later it is a reminder that these
sometimes unworldly men were heading into (for them) unknown
territory that would be every bit as arduous and terrifying as the
most feted explorations and sea voyages. James Dent died at the
most unfavourable portion of the passage when a succession of heavy
gales hit the ship.
The storms lasted for 12 days and there
was almost constant rain and the frequent shipment of heavy seas
kept the vessel above and below continuously under water preventing
anything approaching dryness or ventilation in the prison and
hospital. Besides this the upper seams near the side let
in the water so abundantly that at one time there was not a dry bed
in the hospital - many of the berths in prison equally sharing in
the discomfort. Another man Leonard Turner became ill and died on
the 25th August. After this the weather improved and they
completed the remainder of the voyage without any more serous
The Charles Kerr arrived in Port Jackson
on Monday 9th October 1837 with the remaining two hundred and
forty-six prisoners. The printed indents reveal such information as
name, age, education, religion, marital status, family, native
place, trade, offence, date and place of trial, sentence, prior
convictions and physical descriptions. There is no information as to
where and to whom the prisoners were assigned on arrival.
They were probably at first taken to the Hyde Park Barracks when
they disembarked from the ship. Seventy-six of the prisoners of the
Charles Kerr have been identified residing in the Hunter
Valley region in the following years.
The Guard consisted
of Lieutenant Hilton and Ensign Boyle, 4th regts., and 28 rank and
file of the 28th regt., Passengers Dr. Robert Turnbull of the 80th
reg., Mrs. Turnbull and four children. Two of the soldiers mentioned
in the surgeon's sick list were Private William Felder and Private
William Edwards both of the 80th regiment. The Guard were landed on
10th October and part of them were drafted to Parramatta and the
remainder to the Barracks at Head Quarters.
Convict ships bringing detachments of the 28th regiment included the
Marquis of Huntley,
Portsea, Emma Eugenia
Notes and Links:
1). One of the seamen on the Charles Kerr was William Pendigrass
who was later imprisoned for absconding from the vessel.
Select here to read about the controversy surrounding three of
the prisoners Joseph Botts, Daniel Taylor and Charles Clover who
were sentenced to 25 lashes by Police Magistrate Frederick Campbell
Montgomery in April 1839.
Image of the Charles Kerr - Royal Museum Greenwich
John Woodcock mentioned above was assigned, with two other men from
the Charles Kerr, to
John Busby. Woodcock later received a conditional pardon and in
1850 headed off to the California gold rush.
HERE to find more about prisoners and passengers of the Charles
Captain Harford Arnold was born
c. 1807 the son of Thomas Arnold a mast maker. After his voyage
bringing convicts on the Charles Kerr in 1837 he returned to
England. His next voyage to the colonies on the Charles Kerr
departed Ireland and arrived in Australia in January 1839 with 229
immigrants. When he married Sarah Howes Satcher on 7th July 1841 he
gave his employment as Master Mariner. He was later employed as
Harbour Master of the Port of London. In the 1861 Census he was
recorded as a widower and resided with his son and daughter,
servants and two boarders. On 27 April 1861 he married widow
Elizabeth Harford Barnes at Stepney. He died in 1863.