Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Shipley - 1818

Embarked: 150 men
Voyage: 123 days
Deaths: 3
Surgeon's Journal: yes
Previous vessel: Morley arrived 7 November 1818
Next vessel: Elizabeth arrived 19 November 1818
Master Lewis Williams Moncrief
Surgeon Robert Espie
Convicts and passengers of the Shipley identified in the Hunter Valley

The Shipley was built in Whitby in 1805. [2] This was the second of four voyages bringing convicts to New South Wales, the others being in 1817, 1820 and 1822.

Convicts to be embarked on the Shipley came from England and Wales. They were probably held in county prisons before being transferred to prison hulks moored in the Thames to await transportation.

Surgeon Robert Espie

Robert Espie kept a Medical Journal from 23 June 1818 to 21 December 1818.

Convicts Embarked

At 3pm on Tuesday 23rd June 1818 eighty male convicts, all but two double ironed, were embarked on the Shipley. They were in good health and according to the surgeon were robust young men mostly under the age of 35 years. Before receiving them Robert Espie had inspected the ship prison which he found clean and comfortable. The following day at 2pm seventy more were embarked, all in perfect health. That evening about a third of the prisoners were allowed on deck. They were reported to be well behaved men. After only a few days the surgeon began to remove the double leg irons of some of the better behaved men. The weather was fine and warm while they moored at Woolwich to await sailing orders. On 1st July prisoner Mercer Ludgater was received on board in exchange for another prisoner. [3]


The surgeon remarked that the convicts conducted themselves in a very orderly manner and were allowed every indulgence possible. Their last day in England, 17th July, was gloomy with rain in the morning. The following day, 18th July 1818, they awoke to a fine, clear day. As they proceeded down the Thames the first mention of unruly behaviour occurred. Abraham Solomons was punished with 35 lashes for riotous and disorderly conduct and Thomas Brown for throwing his mat about was handcuffed. [3]

The Voyage

Robert Espie had made entries in his journal for almost every day. In his summary at the end of the voyage he remarked on the deaths of three of the prisoners - Although three out of the five cases detailed in this journal terminated fatally, I trust it will not be inferred that the ship was sickly or that their illness was in any way caused or aggravated by want of discipline and cleanliness, but that their indisposition and death was purely the effect of incidental disease attacking men already much advanced in years and greatly emaciated by mental anxiety and confinement - each having left behind him a family - two out of the three, I think, would have paid the debt of nature had they been on shore, but the other certainly fell a victim to the motion of the ship and the disagreeable state of the weather. [3]

Port Jackson

The Shipley arrived in Port Jackson on 18 November 1818 after a voyage of 123 days.

A Muster of Convicts would have been completed on board the Shipley before the prisoners were disembarked

Lachlan Macquarie was Governor when the Shipley arrived. It was his custom to inspect the prisoners after the were disembarked.

When the muster has been completed on board the convict ships, the governor appoints a day for their disembarkation. At an early hour on that day the convicts are dressed in their new clothing, and are marched into the yard of the gaol at Sydney, where they are arranged in two lines for the inspection of the governor ; they are permitted to bring with them the bedding that they have used on board the transport ship, and such articles of clothing and effects as they may have brought with them. The captain of the transport, the surgeon superintendent, the chief engineer, and the superintendent of convicts, accompany the governor in his more

Convicts Disembarked

On 24th November the prisoners were disembarked and sent for assignment to Parramatta, Windsor or Liverpool districts..... William Forster/Foster was assigned to William Lawson at Parramatta John Wells was assigned to H. McArthur at Parramatta. Another 30 were assigned to the Parramatta district for general distribution 60 men were sent to the Windsor district for general distribution 224 men were sent to the Liverpool district for general distribution

Departure from the Colony

The Shipley departed Sydney for England in March 1819. Two hundred and twenty men all Soldiers of the 84th, 48th and 46th regiments sailed on her including Captain Bernard, Lieut. Marshall of the 48th, Lieutenants Beamish, McGregor and Andrews and Ensign Ingleby of the 84th. Twenty three women and 34 children accompanied them.

The departure of Lieutenant John Watts of the 46th Regiment, who had been Aide-de-Camp to Governor Macquarie was noted in the Sydney Gazette - he had manifested the strictest honour and integrity; and by his personal worth and virtues obtained and enjoyed the warmest esteem and regard of his numerous friends and associates, by whom his departure is sincerely regretted, at the same time that it is followed by their ardent and best wishes for his safe return to his native Country (1)

Eight naval surgeons also departed on the Shipley - Robert Espie, Andrew Smith, William Hamilton, Thomas C. Roylance, Henry Ryan, Morgan Price, John Johnston and John Whitmarsh

The Shipley returned to Australia with convicts in 1820.

Notes and Links

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

2). Robert Espie was employed as Surgeon-Superintendent on the convict ships Morley in 1817, Shipley in 1818, Dorothy in 1820, Lord Sidmouth in 1823, Lady Rowena in 1826,Mary in 1830(VDL) Roslin Castle in 1834 and the Elizabeth in 1836.

3). The total population in New South Wales in 1818 amounted to 17,165 people of those there were 4,100 male convicts and 2340 female convicts and 850 of their children.

4). George Spencer who arrived on the Shipley was sent to Newcastle penal settlement for a colonial crime in 1820. He was one of eleven pirates who Seized the Cutter Eclipse from the harbour in 1825.


[1] Sydney Gazette 10 April 1819

[2] Bateson, Charles, Library of Australian History (1983). The convict ships, 1787-1868 (Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney : pp.342-343, 382

[3] Medical Journal of Robert Espie on the voyage of the Shipley. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857 The National Archives. Kew, Richmond, Surrey.