Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship England - 1826

Embarked: 148 men
Voyage: 135 days
Deaths: 0
Surgeon's Journal: yes
Previous vessel: Marquis of Huntley arrived 13 September 1826
Next vessel: Boyne arrived 28 October 1826
Captain John Reay.
Surgeon George Thomson
Prisoners and passengers of the England identified in the Hunter Valley

The England was built at Chepstow, Wales in 1813. Prisoners were transported to Australia on the England in 1826 (NSW), 1832 (VDL) and 1835 (NSW).

The Convicts

The convicts were tried in counties in England and Scotland - London, Oxford, Stafford, Warwick, Middlesex, Kent, Leicester, Surrey, Bedford, Lancaster, Gloucester, Berks, Sussex, Chester, Surrey, Somerset, York, Bristol, Worcester, Devon, Glasgow and Edinburgh

Surgeon George Thomson

George Thomson kept a Medical Journal from 18th March 1826 to 29th September 1826.

He joined the England at Deptford on 18th March and on arrival showed his appointment to Captain Young, Agent for Transports and to Captain John Reay. On 22nd March medicine and stores for the Guard and Convicts were received from the Agent and the dispenser of Deptford Dockyard.

Military Guard

On 8th April a detachment of 30 men of the 39th regiment commanded by Major George Pitt D'Arcy embarked. The guard consisted of 2 sergeants and 3 corporals; six women and seven children

Cabin Passengers

Cabin passengers included Mrs. D'arcy and family and Mrs. Reay.

Convicts Embarked

At 4am on 14th April the England weighed anchor and proceeded to Woolwich. They moored nearby the Justitia hulk and the following day fifty prisoners were embarked, berthed and issued with a blanket and pillow. The surgeon received from Thomas Bayles the hulk surgeon, a list of the convicts together with a Certificate of health. The prisoners were all ironed however they were permitted to pass to and from the deck at their pleasure during the day and also to see their friends on the Quarter Deck.

On the 17th nine more men were received from the Justitia and twelve from the Ganymede hulk. On 20th April 73 more convicts were received and on the 21st four more prisoners from the Justitia bringing the total number to 148 prisoners.

Phrenologist Mr. De Ville

Phrenology was developed by German physician Franz Joseph Gall in 1796 and was very popular in the 19th century, especially from about 1810 until 1840. The principal British centre for phrenology was Edinburgh, where the Edinburgh Phrenological Society was established in 1820.

Phrenology focused on measurements of the human skull, based on the concept of the brain being the organ of the mind, and that certain brain areas have localized, specific functions or modules. The distinguishing feature of phrenology was the idea that the sizes of brain areas were meaningful and could be inferred by examining the skull of an individual.

In the spring of 1826 the England was visited by phrenologist Mr. Deville (de Ville) who examined each of the 148 convicts and gave a memorandum of the inferred character of each individual, and of the manner in which the propensities were likely to manifest themselves. The most desperate convicts were pointed out and in particular Robert Hughes was noted to be dangerous.

On Board the England

On the 22nd April the prisoners were all mustered and inspected. The Surgeon appointed two Captains for the prison Decks and two for the Upper Decks. Likewise a Captain for every Division of twenty five convicts, Superintendent of the Hospital and Surgery man, Cook and Mate; a Nightman for each water closet and to keep the air conductor clear. A schoolmaster was appointed for the boys. Each mess of six men was to appoint of their number as caterer and each sleeping berth to appoint a man to keep the berths clean and orderly. The convicts requested that some of their money be released to them so that they could purchase small indulgences for the long voyage ahead and the surgeon applied to the authorities on their behalf but to no avail. [3]

This was George Thompson's first voyage as surgeon superintendent of a convict ship and his attempt to gain order and authority by issuing a very detailed list of the Regulations for the Governance and Guidance of the Convicts during the Voyage and affixing to the prison wall in the very first days did not have the effect he desired. The voyage of the England turned out to be one of the more troubled voyages in 1826.


On the 30th April the surgeon received despatches to be delivered to the Governor in New South Wales together with instructions to depart for New South Wales. On 3rd May the Pilot came on board and at 11 am they weighed anchor and made sail down the river. At 5pm they anchored at Gravesend.

On 6th May the pilot was discharged at midday in the Downs and at 4pm they were abreast of Dungeness. The following day the ship was rolling heavily and several of the convicts and guard suffered seasickness. [3]

The Voyage

By 11th May the surgeon had established schools for the fifty-four men on board who could neither read nor write. They were supplied with pens, ink, paper and school books. Around this time the surgeon discovered that 18 of the boys and 27 of the men could take their irons off and replace them at pleasure being originally too large! On 17th May the irons were removed from several prisoners on account of the duties they performed:

David Kennaway (labourer and soldier transported for homicide) and
Thomas Jones, Captains of Prison Decks;
John Hunter and Henry Wood (ornament painter), Captains of the Upper Decks;
Walter Ewing Taylor, Superintendent of the hospital and Captain of the first Division (wine merchant age 28);
Peter McMahon Captain of 2nd division (roadmaker and quarryman convicted of passing bad notes);
Thomas Dobbin Captain of 3rd division;
David Campbell, Captain of 4th division;
Robert Hughes Captain of 5th division.
William Norman, Master of Boys (warehouse clerk transported for embezzlement);
Stephen Clothier, Superintendent of schools (law clerk)
Joseph Smith, Ship's Cook and Mate. [3]


On 18th May several prisoners were punished for theft and giving false evidence - John Wells was to receive 48 stokes over his bare breech with a leathern thong ; William Kerry Thirty strokes; Henry Stone 18 and John Quin 6 strokes. Theft was so common that the number of prisoners allowed on deck at one time was reduced. Two boys John Buckley and William Lillewall were punished in the same way for assaulting another prisoner.

On 23rd May it was found the water closets were inadequate. They had been badly fitted in the first place. The seats were too small, the cisterns leaked and the pipes could not be kept clear and they became very offensive. None but the sick were permitted to use them during the day. The weather was oppressively hot and uncomfortable at this time and occasionally convicts were permitted to remain on deck assisting the crew in sailing the ship. [3]

Threatened Mutiny

By 30th May the surgeon mentioned that the convicts had become very disorderly and disposed to be mutinous. They became very clamorous to have their irons taken off. The following day the surgeon received a letter from Walter E. Taylor requesting to be sent for as soon as possible. He informed the surgeon that John George Munns had that morning come to him at the hospital very early before the other convicts were out of bed and informed him that there was a conspiracy formed to murder Taylor to prevent his giving any alarm and then to murder the surgeon and all who would not assist to seize the ship and run her into South America. Robert Hughes and Thomas Jones were at the head of it and it was their intention to carry it into effect, the first time the ship was in a squall. The surgeon issued a memorandum for Taylor to give to those convicts he could trust, ensuring the surgeon's protection and best services with the Governor in New South Wales, asking them to be on their guard and to get information to act against the malcontents.

Major D'arcy although indisposed at this most crucial time with gout also promised his protection. Major D'arcy gave the necessary orders to the guard as to how to act in case of an alarm and Captain Raey to the crew also who he armed with cutlasses. Munns informed the surgeon of the men who conspired to take the ship - Robert Hughes, Thomas Jones, William Brown, James Hawkes and James Norman were all later kept in double irons and handcuffed. Later associates of the mutineers were discovered - Thomas Phillips the younger, Edward Hayes, John Wells, James Perris, William Brain, William Briggs, Patrick Connor, James Davis and John Turner. They were all to be kept apart from the other convicts. [3]

Crossing the Line

On 15th June they crossed the line but the merriment that occurred on other voyages was denied on the England. The surgeon prohibited the prisoners from the usual customs of shaving or ducking one another on pain of a flogging. The surgeon noted that there were nine prisoners in double irons and handcuffs; 51 in double irons; 18 in single irons and seventy men without irons. By the 27th June the coast of Brazil was in view and by 14th July the Island of Tristan de Cunha was distant about 24 miles. [3]

Port Jackson

On 9th September they made Cape Ottway, and they anchored in Port Jackson at 11.30 on Monday 18th September 1826. [3]

The prisoners were inspected by the Colonial Secretary Alexander McLeay on 22nd September. The indents include name, age, education, religion, marital status, family, native place, trade, offence, when and where tried, sentence, prior convictions, physical description and occasional remarks re pardons, colonial crimes and sentences.

Convicts Disembarked

On Thursday 28th September the men were issued with fresh rations and a new set of clothes consisting of 1 cap, 1 neck handkerchief, 1 jacket 1 waistcoat 1 shirt 1 pair trousers and 1 pair shoes. The following day at daylight they were disembarked and lodged in the prisoner's barracks and at midday His Excellency the Governor and the Colonial Secretary inspected them.

Captain Reay

According to the surgeon, Captain Reay was severely reprimanded for not supporting the surgeon's authority by flogging the convicts when they were in a state of open mutiny against him.

The Governor directed a Court of enquiry to be held on the 24 men accused of mutinous and insubordinate conduct.

Weather in Sydney

The first month the prisoners of the England were in the colony was one of exceptionally bad weather.... The month of October has been marked by the extraordinary prevalence of high wind. The Town of Sydney has been subjected for days together to gales from the Southward almost approaching to hurricanes. About the middle of the month a sultry humid atmosphere strongly impregnated as it were with a destructive blight, prevailed, and was immediately succeeded by chilling gusts from the Southward. The evenings have indeed during the latter part of the month approximated to a frosty temperature. The glass is said to have been lower for the time of year than for some years past. [1]

Convicts of the England identified in the Hunter Valley -

Allen, James

Baker, James

Baker, John

Barton, Richard

Brown, William

Bull, James

Campbell, David

Chapman, John

Chick, George

Clayton, William

Connor, Patrick

Crout, Thomas

Davis, John

Dawes, James

Field, John

Fincher, George

Flinn, Joseph

Freeman, William

Froom, Edward

Giles, Richard

Gough, John

Green, John

Haggart, John

Hampson, Peter

Harris, John

Hawkes, James

Holsworth, William

Hughes, Robert

James, John

Francis Jermain

Jessett, Henry

Jones, Thomas

Kennaway, David

Kerr, William

Lilliwell, William

McLaren, William

Mottram, Richard

Munns, George

Murray, Edward

Nash, Henry

Oldacker, William

Painter, Aaron

Phillips, Thomas

Phillips, Thomas

Pritchard, John

Rawlins, Thomas

Savage, John

Sharman, William

Shaw, Lachlan

Smith, Robert

Smith, Thomas

Smith, Venables, Thomas

Stanley, Robert

Stanley, William

Taylor, Walter Ewing

Taylor, William

Turner, Thomas

White, William

Woodbridge, John

Worlock, William

Notes from the Indents

Remarks in the indents reveal the fate of some of the prisoners:

James Bull was sent to Moreton Bay for three years 19 October 1829 in the name of James Welsh by the Penrith Bench for being illegally at large and having stolen property in his possession. Ran from the Sydney Hospital in 1833 and was apprehended in July 1837.

John Brown had three years added to his original sentence for stealing

Thomas Burket died in Parramatta Hospital 25 October 1836

Richard Barton - Drowned 13 October 1830 in attempting to cross a brook in Mr. Glennies farm.

David Campbell - Drowned in the Paterson River 30 Jul 1839

James Davis - Died at Moreton Bay 9 January 1830

John Edmonds - Lunatic

Robert Hughes - Sent to Moreton Island; Sent to Cockatoo Island for 2 years in 1842; Residue of sentence remitted and returned to Hyde Park Barracks in 1844. Free 19 November 1844

John Hunter age 26 was transported for stealing money. He ran from the Colony on the brig Cornwallis in 1836 and was returned to the colony in the Maitland in 1840 under sentence of transportation for life for another crime.

Joseph Johnson - Died in the General Hospital Sydney 14 March 1832

Jeffrey Roberts Sentenced to 5 years hard labour on the roads at Melbourne

Thomas Lindsay - Died at Liverpool Hospital 25 September 1833.

William McLaren - Ticket of Leave cancelled and sent to Cockatoo Island 1845

Henry Nash - Sentenced to 12 months to an iron gang by Maitland Bench 13 September 1832 for attempting an unnatural crime and absconding

William Oldacker - Died at Patterson Plains 7 September 1832

John Palmer. Absconded from Moreton Bay 12 September 1829

Robert Stanley and William Stanley were brothers convicted of sheep stealing

Robert Smith - Died 9 April 1836 at Patrick Plains

John Taylor was sentenced by the Bathurst Bench to transportation for life for cattle stealing in 1838

Robert Turner - died in General Hospital Sydney 20 September 1838

Walter Taylor - Died at Moreton Bay in 1845

John Woodbridge - Died 27 August 1852 in the invalid establishment at Parramatta. A Lunatic

William White - Died in a fall from a horse at Liverpool Plains [6]

Notes and Links

1). George Thompson was later employed as surgeon superintendent on the convict ship Borodino.

2). National Archives UK - Chartered ship, 420 tons. Principal Managing Owner: Thomas Ward. Voyages: (1) 1825/6 New South Wales and China. Capt John Reay. Downs 6 May 1826 - Sydney Cove 21 Oct - 31 Dec Whampoa 8 Feb 1827 - voyage ended 25 Jun.

3). Eleven convict ships brought prisoners to New South Wales in 1826 - Marquis of Hastings, Sir Godfrey Webster, Mangles, Sesostris, Lady Rowena, Regalia, Marquis of Huntley, England, Boyne, Speke and Phoenix

4). Return of Convicts of the England assigned between 1st January 1832 and 31st March 1832 (Sydney Gazette 14 June 1832; 21 June 1832; 28 June 1832; 5 July 1832).....

William Brown - Baker assigned to James Cox at Maitland
William Brain or Lawton - Stableman assigned to Joseph Bigge in Sydney
John Hunter - Weaver assigned to James Walker at Wallalang
William Holseworth - Plasterer's boy assigned to J.P. Webber at Paterson's Plains
Robert Jeffrey - Tailor's boy assigned to William Bradley at Argyle
John Maunns - Waterman assigned to John Howell at Wollombi
Peter McMahon - Road maker and quarryman. Assigned to James Raymond at Sydney
George Shepherd - Cabinet maker assigned to John Buckland at Illawarra

5). Assignment to far distant farms and lonely sheep stations was a terrifying ordeal for many convicts in the 1830's. Convict James Allen would rather have died than return to the Williams River district. James Allen was eighteen years old when he was sentenced to transportation for Life at the Old Bailey for picking the pocket of William Good in Bridge Street, London. Read the report below to find out what happened when he refused to return to the Williams River in 1832.

POLICE REPORT James Allen, an assigned servant to Mr. George Mossman, was charged by his master with absconding and being absent since the 13th instant. It was not the first offence, Mr. M. declaring that although he had been five months in his employ, he had never done one hour's work.
Captain Rossi - Well, my man, have you any questions to ask your master
Prisoner-No Sir, I have been milled, celled, flogged, iron-ganged, and I won't go to Williams' River.

Captain Rossi - Why not ?
I'm afraid the blacks will eat me.

Captain Rossi -Upon my word I think you look much more likely to eat the blacks. What have you to say in your defence.
Prisoner-I have been seven years in the country. I have been always assigned to masters with whom I could not get a bellyful, and, who buried me in the bush. Many other assigned servants are better off in Sydney, and you may hang me, but then I won't go; I am sure to come to nothing but misery in this country.

Captain Rossi -You seem to forget my man that you have been sent here for life, for breaking the laws of your country, and have therefore no right to dispose of yourself as you think proper. You would like to be in Sydney, that you might get drunk as often as you like, and associate with your old chums. To my knowledge assigned servants are better fed up the country than in Sydney. You say you have been seven years in the country, now had you behaved well, and stopped another year, you would have obtained a ticket-of-leave.
Prisoner -No ! That I shall never have.

Captain Rossi-No, I'm afraid not, as you now conduct yourself. I am really sorry to see a man so obstinate. I find you guilty of absconding from your service, and sentence you to receive fifty lashes. The prisoner then walked from the bar with a very swaggering air. He was well dressed for a person of his class in life, looked very hearty, and appeared to be one of those pests in the Colony who pride themselves on being what their mistaken ideas styles ' game' - an idea, which the gallows alone induces them when too late to discard
. - The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842) Tue 25 Sep 1832 Page 3 Police Report.

6). George Pitt D'arcy died at Parramatta in 1849[4]

7). National Archives - Reference: ADM 101/26/1 Description: Medical journal of the England, convict ship, for 18 March to 29 September 1826 by George Thomson, Surgeon and Superintendent, during which time the said ship was employed on a voyage to New South Wales. Includes list of convicts, with a phrenological report on the formation of their skulls and their mental capacities.

8). Convict ships bringing detachments of the 39th regiment included the following............

Regalia departed Dublin 16 March 1826. Lieutenant William Sacheverell Coke

England departed the Downs 6 May 1826. Major George Pitt D'Arcy

Marquis of Huntley departed Sheerness 16 May 1826 - Major Donald MacPherson

Boyne departed Cork 29 June 1826 - Captain Thomas Edward Wright

Speke departed Sheerness 8 August 1826 - Lieutenant Henry Clarence Scarman

Phoenix departed Dublin 27 August 1826 - Lieutenant Charles Cox

Albion departed Plymouth 4 October 1826 - Captain Francis Crotty

Midas departed Plymouth 16 October 1826 - Lieutenant George Meares Bowen

Mariner departed Cork 14 January 1827 - Captain Charles Sturt

Countess of Harcourt departed Dublin 14 February 1827 - Lieutenant George Sleeman; Ensign Spencer

Guildford departed Plymouth 31 March 1827 - Captain John Douglas Forbes

Manlius departed Downs 17 April 1827 - Quarter-master Benjamin Lloyd

Cambridge departed Dublin 2 June 1827 - Colonel Patrick Lindesay

Champion departed London 3 June 1827 - Ensign Reid

Bussorah Merchant departed London 27 March 1828 - Ensign W. Kennedy Child

Sophia departed Dublin 15 September 1828 departed Dublin 15 September 1828 - Major Thomas Poole

Portland departed Portsmouth on 27 November 1831.


Seeing that no pretension of Phrenology has been more derided than its direct application to the affairs of life, without which it would be a barren and useless discovery, we cannot do more good to the cause than by publishing examples of its practical application. When the male convicts, 148 in number, were assembled for transportation on board the ship England in spring 1826, under the charge of Dr Thomson, a navy surgeon, J Mr De Ville was induced to go on board, and examine the whole gang overhead. The experiment was suggested by Mr Wardrop of London, whom we are pleased to see adding a manly avowal of the new science to his other claims to professional distinction.

Dr Thomson was not previously acquainted with the subject. Mr De Ville furnished him with a distinct memorandum of the inferred character of each individual convict, and pointed out the manner in which the dispositions of each would probably appear in his general conduct on the passage. The desperadoes were all specifically noted, and a mode of treatment to prevent mischief suggested. One man in particular was noted as very dangerous, from his energy, ferocity, and talent for plots and profound dissimulation. His name was Robert Hughes. The history of the voyage is minutely detailed in Dr Thomson's Journal, deposited in the Victualling-Office; and, by the politeness of Dr Weir of that office, we were, in compliance with our request, not only immediately presented with the Journal, but permitted to take extracts and publish them. From different parts of a log of above four months, we extracted all that concerned the conduct of the convicts, as follows:

Log and Proceedings of the Male Convict Ship England, during a Voyage to New South Wales in 1826. 148 Convicts on Board.

9th May. Convicts disposed to be disorderly; read to them my authority to punish; and threatened to act upon it, if they did not conduct themselves in a more orderly manner.

16th - Same complaint, and difficulty to get them to keep their berths and clothes clean.

20th - Punishment by flogging for plundering and violently assaulting each other.

30th; - Symptoms of mutiny among the convicts.

31st - Received a letter from W. E. Taylor, requesting me to send for him as soon as possible, as he had something to communicate to me privately of the utmost importance. I immediately sent for him, when he informed me, that John George Munns had that morning come to him at the hospital very early, before he or the other convicts were out of bed, and told him privately that there was a conspiracy formed to murder him (W. E. T.) to prevent his giving any alarm, and then to murder me, and all who would not assist them to secure the ship, and run her into South America. That Robert Hughes and Thomas Jones were at the head of it, and it was their intention to carry it into effect the first time the ship was in a squall.

In consequence of this information, the following memorandum was given by me to W. E. T. in the form of a protection, to be shewn to such men as he could trust. As two-thirds of the convicts are the most depraved and desperate of characters, and robust athletic men, in order to prevent their taking any alarm, and assassinating in the prison during the night, as they had threatened to do, or at any future period, however distant, those convicts who should divulge their wicked intentions, every necessary precaution was privately taken, until the ringleaders could all be discovered, and safely secured without violence.

Mem. * Dr Thomson will thank W. E. Taylor and other well-disposed men to be on their guard, and, if possible, to get such evidence as will enable Dr T. to act against the malcontents. Dr T. promises protection, and his best services with the governor of New South Wales, to such men as may appear to him to deserve it.' Some of the soldiers had heard in prison what induced them to expect soon to be employed against the convicts. This they reported to Dr Thomson.

1st June. Hughes, for assaulting Daniel Dean, was secured and double-ironed on deck under a sentry. Munns applied for protection from being strangled or assassinated as was threatened. He gave the names of those principally concerned ; Robert Hughes (always the first), Thomas Jones, William Brown, James Hawkes, and James Norman. Jones gave himself up, observing, he was not the first bullock that had been sold, and hoped he would have a fair trial. He was double-ironed and handcuffed. Brown, Hawkes, and Norman, were all handcuffed, and placed under the sentries. Other arrangements followed for safety. Crew armed with cutlasses, etc.

29th September. Landed at Sidney. Court of inquiry on 24; Robert Hughes, Thomas Jones, etc.' We have not seen the evidence on the trial, but are informed that the facts of the conspiracy, and the shocking depravity of the mode of the intended murders, were proved beyond all doubt, and that the share each person had in the matter was in very close accordance with the notandum of character affixed to each name by Mr De Ville. Hughes was especially marked by him as a person capable of ruthless murder and deep-laid plots. We have not seen Mr De Ville's memorandum, but subjoin with great pleasure Dr Thomson's letter to Mr Wardrop.

Extract from a Letter of G. Thomson, Esq. Surgeon of the Ship England, to James Wardrop, Esq.
Sydney, October 9. 1826.
I have to thank you for your introduction to De Ville and Phrenology, which I am now convinced has a foundation in truth, and beg you will be kind enough to call on Dr Burnett, whom I have requested to show you my journal, at the end of which is Mr De Ville's report, and my report of conduct during the voyage; and likewise the depositions against some of the convicts, who you, with your usual tactus eruditus, discovered would give me some trouble during the voyage, and I think the perusal of them will make you laugh, as they were going to rip up the poor doctor like a pig. De Ville is right in every case except one, Thomas Jones; but this man can neither read nor write, and, being a sailor, he was induced to join the conspiracy to rise and seize the ship, and carry her to South America, being informed by Hughes, the ringleader, that he would then get his liberty.

Observe how De Ville has hit the real character of Hughes, and I will be grateful to De Ville all my life; for his report enabled me to shut up in close custody the malcontents, and arrive here not a head minus, which, without the report, it is more than probable I would have been. All the authorities here have become Phrenologists, and I cannot get my journals out of their offices until they have perused and re-perused De Ville's report, and will not be in time, I am afraid, to send them by the Fairfield.'

We cannot conclude without bestowing a well-deserved encomium on Mr De Ville, for so cheerfully undertaking and so skilfully performing a task from which all but a zealous phrenologist would have shrunk with a mingled feeling of disgust and fear. We regret that the details in the Logbook are so meagre, and that Dr Thomson has not sent home extracts from the evidence on the trial. [5]


[1] The Monitor 10 November 1826

[2] Bateson, Charles Library of Australian History (1983). The convict ships, 1787-1868 (Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney : pp.346-347

[3] UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857. Medical Journal of George Thompson on the voyage of the England in 1826. The National Archives. Kew, Richmond, Surrey.

[4] The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954) Thu 26 Jul 1849 Page 3 Family Notices

[5] Selections from the Phrenological Journal. edited by Robert Cox 1836

[6] Convict Indents. State Archives NSW; Series: NRS 12188; Item: [4/4011]; Microfiche: 661