Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Ganges - 1797

Embarked: 194 convicts
Deaths: 13
Surgeon's Journal: No
Previous vessel: Britannia arrived 27 May 1797
Next vessel: Barwell arrived 18 May 1798
Captain Thomas Patrickson
Surgeon James Mileham
Prisoners and passengers of the Ganges identified in the Hunter Valley

The Ganges made two voyages for the East India Company before this voyage transporting convicts from England to New South Wales.

Fitting out of the Ganges

The Ganges arrived at Portsmouth on 15 October 1796 to make ready for the voyage to Australia. She was one of the first convict ships inspected at Portsmouth by Sir James Fitzpatrick, the Home Department's surgeon-general. He later sent a report to Under Secretary King......

Surgeon Fitzpatrick to Under Secretary King.
Portsmouth, 23rd October, 1796.,

.........Your manner of receiving me when embarked on the part of a poor miserable convict emboldens me to state to you, for his Grace the Duke of Portland's information, the matters which have been done here, and those which I pray may be done at Cork, for Health of the accommodation and health of the convicts embarked on board the Ganges.

My first object was, in as much as the mode of the original fitting of the ship would allow, to favour the perpetual admission of as much pure air as possible. Then it became my concern to pay that attention to the poor women, which their conduct deserved, by placing them under the protection of their husbands, their merit in a conjugal sense being nearly un paralleled, sacrificing their all, and subjecting themselves to an ignominious banishment, thereby fulfilling the great and essential obligation of the marriage vow.

I railed off a part of the vessel where the convicts were confined and allotted it to the married men, their partners, and innocent orphans. By this alteration the poor women, in place of being subject (as they were before) to the insult of the ship's crew and the military guard, are now protected, and the space which they inhabited is now converted into an hospital apartment, well aired. I put on board ventilators and water-purifiers, also vitriol and nitre for fumigation, and such medicines as were required by James Mileham[3]

Provisions for the Voyage

The following correspondence from the Duke of Portland to Governor Hunter reveals the supplies sent to the colony on the Ganges - Whitehall August 1796.......

(Extract) The Ganges takes out 121,289 pounds of beef and 40,522 pounds of pork for the use of the settlement, exclusive of the necessary quantity for the consumption of the convicts during their voyage, and for nine months after their arrival. The above quantity of beef and pork added to the quantity sent by the Prince of Wales and Sylph, transports, is calculated as making together a twelve month's supply for the settlement. I enclose you a list of the convicts which go by this conveyance with the original contracts entered into by Thomas Patrickson the owner of the Ganges, for their safe delivery in New South Wales together with his Majesty's Order in Council for the transportation to New South Wales of such of the convicts whose sentences required such order.[4]

The Convicts

Prisoners transported on the Ganges came from counties throughout England - London, Somerset, Lancaster, Surrey, Middlesex, Gloucester, Sussex, Essex, Cambridge, Suffolk, Cornwall, Warwick, Kent, Leicester, Bucks, Northampton, Devon, Hertford, Derby, Dorset, Lincoln, Bedford, Salop, Cumberland, Chester, Stafford, Bedford, Cornwall and Northampton.

The convicts from York were sent to Portsmouth from York Castle just a few weeks before the Ganges departed. The Leeds Intelligenser reported on one of the notorious transportees of the Ganges in October 1796.......Amongst the ten felons under sentence of transportation who set out from York Castle for Portsmouth to embark on board the Ganges, on a voyage for Botany Bay, was the famous highwayman and housebreaker Broadbent, better known by the name of New Brass, who has been so long the terror of this country. [6] - Note - There was no convict by the name of Broadbent on the Ganges.

Many other men had been held in prisons and the hulks for years before they were transported. Samuel Phelps age 25 was one of the Ganges convicts. He was first arrested in June 1791 and charged with cutting out the tongues of several horses. He escaped from Dunstable gaol soon afterwards.....This inhuman fellow has, without any reason that can possible be assigned, not only cut out the tongues of several valuable horses, but dreadfully wounded and maimed others [5] He became known as the horse monster.... He was captured and tried at Bedford on 4 August 1791 and sentenced to transportation for life, five years before he was actually transported on the Ganges.

Later in New South Wales in correspondence to the Duke of Portland, Governor Hunter described the difficulties this caused in the colony.....Altho' this recruit of strength (Ganges convicts) is considerable, and will enable me the sooner to effect what your Grace is desirous of, I must at same time say that I discharged the other day more than a hundred men whose time was expired, and struck them off at their own desire from the victualling books; and I must observe that many of those who are just arrived have not more than eighteen months or two years to serve, having been convicted in 1792 for seven years. This is extremely inconvenient, and fills the country with vagabonds. [8]


The Ganges departed England on 10th December 1796.

Port Jackson

They arrived in Port Jackson on 2 June 1797[1].

There were only two convict ships arriving in New South Wales in 1797. The convicts of the Ganges arrived in better health than those of the Irish convicts of the Britannia, however some were suffering greatly with scurvy. There were several mechanics (skilled) men amongst them and it was hoped they would prove useful for the colony.

John Stoneham age 14 tried in Middlesex; William Williams tried in London age 14; Richard Willis age 14 from Cambridge and Michael Parker tried in Middlesex age 15 were the youngest prisoners.

Military Guard

The Guard consisted of soldiers of the New South Wales Corps. Governor Hunter was glad of their arrival....The two officers and sixty private soldiers coming out in the two convicts ships Ganges and Britannia will be a considerable relief to the duty of the troops. [2]

In correspondence to the Duke of Portland dated 6th July 1797 Governor Hunter referred to the death of one of the soldiers.......I am concerned to have to report to your Grace the death of Ensign Brock, of the New South Wales Corps. He arrived here in very ill health on board the Ganges, and died the 6th instant. He has left a wife and fmaily much distressed.[7]

Departure from the Colony

The Ganges departed Port Jackson bound for China in December 1797.

Notes and Links

1). William Batman arrived on the Ganges as a convict. His wife Mary and their children Maria and Robert Batman came free on the Ganges. William and Mary were the parents of John Batman b. 1801, founder of Melbourne.

2). The 1825 muster notes the following people arriving on the Ganges -
Elizabeth Graham, wife of convict John Graham;
George Cubbit with his wife Mary were reported to have come free on the Ganges;
Sarah Eggleton;
Jane Hooper;
Ann Miller;
Ann Milson;
Sarah Pearson;
Agnes Shields (died in 1823);
Maria White
Elizabeth Wylde.

3). Convict Evan Morgan is mentioned by Govern Hunter in correspondence to Under Secretary King in November 1798....The young man Evan Morgan whom you have mentioned upon his arrival here, and upon my understanding he had been bred in the medical line, was by my order placed in the hospital department, where he was far more comfortable than he could well have expected, and where he might have improved his information in the original profession for which he had been designed and where also he might have recommended himself by his diligence and proper conduct; but I am sorry to inform his friends after the fair prospect which he had of removing the impression which his unhappy transportation to this country might have made on the minds of his friends and connections, he had made some infamous acquaintances here, which could only serve to hasten his ruin. He had been persuaded by them to attempt an escape from the colony in an American ship bound for China, which had stopped here only a few days; in this attempt he succeeded, which was not discovered until the day after his departure, when his absence from his duty in the hospital made it known. (HRA, Series 1, vol., 2, p. 235)

4). James Mileham was employed as surgeon on the Ganges. In March 1804 he accompanied the historic Expedition to Newcastle where a penal settlement was to be re-established to hold insurgents of the Castle Hill rebellion.

5). The Ganges sprang a leak and sank off the Cape of Good Hope in 1807 ......The Mariner's Chronicle; or Interesting narratives of shipwrecks.

6). Prisoners and passengers of the Ganges identified in the Hunter Valley......

James Harrex aged 29, convicted at Suffolk 25th March 1795. Resided at Newcastle

William Thompson age 18, convicted at Warwick 27 July 1793. Resided Maitland and Newcastle.

7). British Library - Ganges

8). Some of the prisoners mentioned in the following petition were transported on the Ganges....... Reference: HO 47/18/68 Description: Certificate/memorial of William Henry Ashhurst and Beaumont Hotham on prisoners convicted on the Home Circuit at the Lent Assizes in 1795 and recommended to mercy on the conditions set against their names: Essex at Chelmsford 11 March 1795 - National Archives

9). Captain Thomas Patrickson - American-Australian Relations By Werner Levi

10). Joseph Wild (1773?-1847), bushman and constable, was sentenced on 21 August 1793 at Chester, England, to transportation for life and arrived in New South Wales in the Ganges in June 1797. He is said to have accompanied both Francis Barrallier and Robert Brown on their explorations into the interior. In August 1810 he received a ticket-of-leave, and in January 1813 was granted a conditional pardon. For a time he superintended George Crossley's farm on the Hawkesbury; in 1814 he was a labourer at Liverpool but soon afterwards began working for Charles Throsby. He accompanied Throsby on journeys to the country west of Sutton Forest in 1817, to Jervis Bay in 1818, and to Bathurst in 1819; for the last he received a grant of 100 acres (40 ha), but sold it almost immediately........Australian Dictionary of Biography


[1] HR NSW, vol. IV, p. 787

[2] HR NSW Vol. 3, p. 234

[3] ibid, p. 162

[4] ibid, p. 96

[5] Northampton Mercury (Northampton, England), Saturday, June 18, 1791; pg. 3; Issue 15. British Library Newspapers, Part III: 1741-1950.

[6] The Leeds Intelligencer (Leeds, England), Monday, October 10, 1796; pg. 3; Issue 2183. British Library Newspapers, Part III: 1741-1950.

[7] HRA Series 1 , Vol.II, p. 36

[8] ibid., p.32