Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Prince George - 1837

Embarked: 250 men
Voyage: 114 days
Deaths: 6
Tons 482
Surgeon's Journal: yes
Previous vessel: Sarah and Elizabeth arrived 23 April 1837
Next vessel: Margaret arrived 30 May 1837
Captain Adolphus Holton
Surgeon Thomas Bell
Convicts and passengers of the Prince George identified in the Hunter Valley

The Prince George was built at Bristol in 1830 by ship builder John Green.

The Convicts

Prisoners embarked on the Prince George were convicted in counties in England, Scotland and Wales - York, Gloucester, Kent, Norfolk, Lancaster, Worcester, Essex, Nottingham, London, Lincoln, Essex, Stafford, Chester, Cambridge, Cumberland, Bedford, Derby, Hertford, Warwick, Denbigh, Suffolk, Devon, Leicester, Salop, Northumberland, Oxford, Somerset, Surrey, Durham, Huntingdon, Radnor, Glamorgan, Monmouth, Aberdeen, Perth and Glasgow. There were also several who were court-martialled at Chatham (CM) and Wellington Barracks (CM). [1]

Prison Hulks

On 10 December 1836, 130 male convicts were received at Woolwich from the Justitia and Ganymede hulks. On the 13 December the surgeon inspected prisoners at Chatham and the following day 120 were received from the Fortitude hulk. They were cross ironed since many of them were desperate characters who had been involved in an escape attempt on 7 November.

Escape Attempt

The surgeon gave an account of the escape attempt......
Five men overpowered the guards and attempted to escape in boats but the tide was out and there was not enough water to float the boats. They jumped overboard, intending to swim, but found themselves stuck in deep mud from which they had to be rescued. Another 7 men had taken possession of the main deck of the Fortitude but were driven below by the officers and guard, 'aided by the cook with a red hot poker'. Another 7 men had signed a paper and 'sworn to be true to each other and have death or liberty'. The Government authorities reported these 19 men to the surgeon as 'desperate characters' and the Admiral's Secretary at Sheerness wrote to say that their friends had been trying to bribe the fishermen and watermen to help them escape. [3]

The Standard gave a further account - About five in the morning of the 1st instant an attempt was made by a party of convicts to effect their escape from the Fortitude hulk, at Chatham. To this end, as soon as the prison gates were opened they rushed out in a body, knocked down the guard, and proceeded to the quarter deck, where they met with the officer of the watch, whom they also knocked down the guard, and proceeded to the quarter deck, where they met with the officer of the watch, whom they also knocked down, and then descended into the boat; but finding it secured and without oars, they leaped overboard in order to escape through the mud; but finding that too deep for them, they at length surrendered, and were taken on board and put in irons. Five only got into the boat; the remainder were driven back into the prison by two convicts, who, armed with sticks exerted themselves in behalf of the officers of the ship. It appears that the ringleaders in this affair formerly belonged to the 'swell mob', and for whose escape many plans were devised whilst they were in Newgate. [4]

(Definition of swell mob : a group of criminals who dress fashionably and act with seeming respectability)


The Prince George left Gravesend on 22nd November 1836 in company with the Thomas Lowry. After beating about the channel for over a fortnight because of bad weather, the Thomas Lowry put into Dartmouth and left there on 23 December 1836. [2]

The Prince George received damage to her sail. She left the Channel on 9th December and Torbay on 14th January 1837.

The gales which visited the coast of England on 30 November had done immense damage to the shipping; about three hundred sail were supposed to have been partially destroyed. [2]

Military Guard

The guard consisted of 29 rank and file of the 80th regiment under command of Lieut. Baxter and Ensign Foster; eight women and three children.

The Voyage

The surgeon intended to call at the Cape but the wind coming from the north east it was thought more prudent not to. On the 5 May 1837, they put in towards the land, not being sure of the ship's position, and found themselves off Rain Head, near Bass Straits. The ship was caught in a strong gale off a lee shore and, in trying to clear Cape Rowe, had all her sails blown away. The violence of the sea broke the side scuttles in and a great deal of water got into the prison and hospital down the hatchways, filling it to the level of the lower bunks.

The 'hurricane' lasted until 7pm the next day, the pumps were kept going constantly assisted by the prisoners. The damage was too great for the carpenters to repair all the berths. The bedding and clothes were taken on deck to dry; there was no bedding or clothing except that on the upper bed places on the starboard side that was not soaked. The Prince George leaked constantly and for half the voyage; the lower beds were useless from leaks. This circumstance and the unfortunate start to the voyage produced such debility that 27 men had to be sent to the hospital on arrival at Sydney.

Six prisoners died at sea - Joseph Augar, John Beck, Thomas Griffith, Edward Hughes, Thomas Hunter, John Rylah.

Port Jackson

The Prince George arrived in Port Jackson on 8th May 1837. Two hundred and forty four male prisoners arrived under the superintendence of surgeon Thomas Bell, six having died on the passage out.

The Guard were disembarked on Tuesday 9th May 1837 and marched to the Barracks.

Convict Indents

The convict indents reveal the name, age, education, religion, marital status, family, occupation, crime, sentence, date and place of trial, prior convictions and physical descriptions of each prisoner. There are also occasional notes about deaths and family members in the colony or about to arrive........

John Allen from Gloucestershire died in the General Hospital, Sydney on 24 May 1837
John Barker from Stafford died in the General Hospital, Sydney on 5 June 1837
Robert and William Banham, both on board were brothers
John and Christopher Bent, both on board were brothers
George Blows' brother James Blows arrived in the colony two years previously
John and Joseph Briggs, both on board were brothers
Joseph Everett Carter was father of John Carter, both on board
James alias Joseph Hart - Son James a soldier of the 80th regiment
Thomas Lane died in the General Hospital Sydney 18th May 1837
May Oakley died in the General Hospital Sydney 11 May 1837
John Sexton, father of Burroughs and Robert Sexton, all three on board
John Skinner alias Wenham - Mother Ann Wenham on board the Sarah and Elizabeth
George Willett died in the General Hospital, Sydney on 17 May 1837

Notes and Links

1). Convicts and passengers of the Prince George identified in the Hunter Valley.

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

3). Leaving Lincolnshire - In Chains written by David J. Porter tells the compelling tale of his ancestor, Lincolnshire farm labourer John Porter, who was accused of killing a sheep belonging to the local curate. John Porter was promptly convicted, on farcical evidence, and transported to Australia for life, leaving his wife and four young sons to manage without the breadwinner. John Porter was one of 244 convicts who arrived on the convict transport Prince George in May 1837. Leaving Lincolnshire - In Chains contains Dr. Bell's report of the voyage revealing much on the lives of convicts under his care. During the voyage of the Prince George over 200 of the convicts and many of the guard of the 80th regiment required medical treatment. Author David J. Porter has the full set of records left by Dr. Bell, which includes the name and age of the convict, illness, when each was taken off the sick list and the outcome of each case. With thanks to David Porter, select HERE to find a list of the convicts and guard who were treated by Dr. Bell, together with a summary of the more serious cases

4).Records of Bristol Ships, 1800-1838 (vessels Over 150 Tons) edited by Grahame E. Farr (scroll down). (scroll down).

5). George Edward Peacock, attorney, was convicted of forgery at the Old Bailey on 11 September 1836. His exemplary conduct throughout the voyage was mentioned in the surgeon's journal and Dr. Bell later interceded to have him appointed as Gate Keeper ; subsequently he was employed as a clerk. Find out more about George Edward Peacock at Design Art Australia Online and examples of his art work at Artnet


[1] Convict Indents. State Archives NSW; Series: NRS 12189; Item: [X640]; Microfiche: 727

[2] Sydney Herald 3 April 1837

[3] Medical Journal of Thomas Bell. Surgeon's General Remarks. National Archives ADM 101/60/7/13

[4] The Standard (London, England), Monday, November 14, 1836; Issue 2969. British Library Newspapers, Part II: 1800-1900