Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Friendship - 1818

Embarked: 101 women
Voyage: 195 days
Deaths 4
Surgeon's Journal: no
Tons: 441
Previous vessel: Ocean arrived 10 January 1818
Next vessel: Guildford arrived 1 April 1818
Captain Andrew Armet.
Surgeon Peter Cosgreave
Follow the Female Convict Ship Trail
Convicts and passengers of the Friendship identified in the Hunter Valley

The Friendship was built on the Thames in 1793 [7]. She was the next convict ship to transport female prisoners from England to New South Wales after the departure of the Lord Melville in September 1816.

The convicts came from counties in England, Scotland and Wales - Leicester, Cumberland, Lancaster, Surrey, Middlesex, Northampton, London, Warwick, Lincoln, Northumberland, York, Radnor, Berwick upon Tweed, Bristol, Nottingham, Devon, Stafford, Southampton, Durham, Kent, Sussex, Derby, Salop, Denbigh, Brecon, Inverness, Stirling, Perth and Glasgow.

Many were held in county prisons or Newgate before being transferred to the Friendship.

Elizabeth Fry at Newgate

By the time the women were being embarked on the Friendship, Elizabeth Fry had been visiting prisons for over three years and during this time Newgate had been transformed. Her visits had become regular after Christmas 1816.

Elizabeth Fry arriving at Newgate prison to read to prisoners........

Elizabeth Fry visiting Newgate to read to prisoners, BBC Schools

In April 1817 Newgate prison was visited by Elizabeth Dudley and Martha Savoury in company with Elizabeth Fry.

Elizabeth Dudley in her memoirs recorded the visit: ......

Our visit to Newgate this morning was truly interesting. The alteration which has taken place there within a short time is wonderful. E. Fry and a few other friends have established a school for the children of the convicts, and, also for the women who are under sentence of transportation; and the good effects of order, discipline, and constant occupation are already apparent. Between fifty and sixty of these females, many of them like the offscouring of the earth, were collected in the matron's room, where they sat, not only with becoming quietness, but under feelings of seriousness, while Mary Sanderson read a chapter in the Testament, and William Forster preached the gospel. It was a memorable time to us all, and our hearts, were bowed in thankfulness for the manifestation of divine love and power thus vouchsafed within these prison walls, which M. Sanderson acknowledged on her knees, and the sense of solemnity was such as is not always known in the assemblies of more privileged and higher professors...The women all withdrew under the care of their monitors, and settled to their regular work, which is supplied by slop shops. [1]

The previous behaviour often exhibited by some prisoners sentenced transportation to Botany Bay on the night before their departure was described in Visits to Female Prisoners at Home and Abroad.....

....the women would pull down and break everything within their reach; even the forms were destroyed, and the fire places pulled out, after which they went off shouting with the most shameless effrontery. But to the surprise of the oldest turnkeys and other officers of the prison, after Elizabeth Fry's changes, no noise was heard, and not a window was intentionally broken after regulations had been established. The prisoners took an affectionate leave of their companions, and expressing the utmost gratitude to their benefactors, entered their conveyances without tumult; so orderly indeed, was their behaviour, that only half the usual escort was required, and Mrs. Fry herself was able to accompany them.[2]

Conveyed to the Ship

Early in June 1817 a gentleman and his wife hired a hackney coach to convey them to Deptford. Eleven female prisoners bound for transportation to Australia were boarded on the same coach and his indignant letter was later published in the New Monthly Magazine: Having business at Deptford a few days since, I took a coach in company with my wife from the stand in Gracechurch street; at which time we were assured that the coach would start in ten minutes. It was not, however, until fifty minutes had expired that it moved from the spot. Having at length proceeded a few yards, I perceived that instead of going down Fish Street Hill in a direct line for London Bridge, the coachman had turned up Lombard Street. I then called out the window to know what I was to understand by his taking that direction. The answer was: 'Don't you know, Sir, the pavement is all taken up at London Bridge, and that we are obliged to go round Blackfriars '. This assertion, as I suspected, was a palpable falsehood ; but being at that time unacquainted with the state of the carriageway, I was unable to disprove it. We were accordingly conveyed through Cheapside, Paternoster Row, and Ludgate Hill; when, to my utter surprise, the man turned up the Old Bailey! I now concluded either that I had entered a wrong coach, or that the driver was non compos mentis; having, however, proceeded thus far, and as Deptford was written upon the panel of the coach door, I resolved to wait for the issue.

On arriving at Giltspur Street, I observed that our pace began to slacken, and in a few moments, had the honour to find myself and wife drawn to the door of the Compter! Here we were compelled to wait ten minutes or a quarter of an hour longer, amid the gaze of the gaping multitude, while a quantity of motley luggage was lashed to the roof of the coach. When this operation was compleat, the coach-door was opened, and to my unspeakable astonishment, a party of eleven female prisoners, chained together, were ushered to the steps by the officers as our travelling companions. We instantly alighted, and as the rain had ceased, we took a seat on that part of the coach usually called the dickey - but this could not be retained: we had scarcely sat down, before I found that we were to be driven from that by at least six of the prisoners, who ascended the ladder with as much expedition as their clanking incumbrances would allow.

Disgusted with my company, and with my wife nearly fainting at such an outrage on female delicacy, we once more alighted, but could obtain no explanation from the coachman, except that he was ' sorry the lady was frightened.' So that after being detained nearly two hours - driven from Gracechurch Street to Newgate instead of Deptford, and classed with the refuse of our prisons, we were obliged to seek refuse from the inclemency of the weather, by hiring a hackney-coach, to take us to the place from whence we at first set off. [3]


The Friendship departed England on 3 July 1817.

Near Madeira

While off the coast of Madeira Captain Armet received on board six Spaniards and an American sailor who had almost perished being in just a small boat. They were pirates from South America and were later transhipped to an American vessel to be landed at Bonavista. [4] One of the men was James Kaveragh [6]

St. Helena

The Friendship anchored off the coast of Africa on the night of 22nd September. The next morning the cable parted from her anchor and the ship was in great danger of being driven onto the breakers. On the 15th October she arrived at St. Helena where she remained for a week before departing for New South Wales.

Port Jackson

The Friendship arrived in Port Jackson on 14 January 1818. One hundred and ninety-seven female prisoners arrived in Port Jackson; three women died on the passage - Ann Beal, Sarah Blower and Martha Thatcher. Jane Brown also died having thrown herself overboard.

Free and Cabin Passengers

Passengers included William Cordeaux and Thomas Walker, two men of high rank in the Commissariat.

According to the 1828 Census another free passenger on the Friendship was Ann Hickey. She came with her sons John and Allan and daughters Sophia Hickey (who later married Lieut William Hicks) and Elizabeth Hickey (who later married John Cheers). In 1828 Ann resided at Abberly Lodge, Patterson's Plains with her husband John Hickey who arrived as a convict on the Indefatigable in 1815.

Other free passengers included:

Dulcibella Wood.

Lucinda and Todd Watson and six children including John Watson.

Mr. and Mrs. William and Mary Hayes

Mrs. Charlotte Wells and

Mrs. Broadribb

Another passenger was Mr. John Gyles, a Missionary who was intending to travel on to Otaheite. In correspondence to Rev. Marsden he censured Captain Armet for inhumanity in the infliction of punishment; the use of a wooden collar being employed on the voyage; and for lack of control of the women.

Image of Wooden Collar on a slave in Madagascar

The case was later discussed in the House of Lords:

'Mr. Gyles also asserted that no precautions were adopted by Captain Armet or surgeon Cosgreave to prevent an improper intercourse between the crew and the convicts ; and it certainly appears, by the evidence of Mr. Cordeaux, that the very simple and obvious one of depositing the keys of the prison in a place of security during the night, was not resorted to till after a complaint was made at St. Helena. In consequence of this neglect, a very general intercourse took place between the crew and the female convicts ; and after it had been once permitted, the captain and the surgeon, though not without a sense of the advantages that they expected to derive from a strict performance of their duty, had lost that authority over their subordinate officers, that might have enabled them to have enforced some restraint upon the crew; their attempts to restore it were ineffectual, and, in making them, they were opposed by the vicious inclinations of the women themselves.'

John Gyles wrote that the conduct of the surgeon and master during the whole passage was very bad......

'they seldom spoke to any of the convicts without oaths; the treatment of the convicts and others was truly distressing; little or no attention was paid to cleanliness; no vice restrained, excepting in the latter part of the voyage. On arrival at St. Helena the names of the female convicts were then called, and from that time they were locked down at night between decks. The passengers and convicts suffered much for the want of water, though there was plenty on board; the quantity allowed to a grown person was about three pints for 24 hours, for all purposes of cooking etc and half that quantity for a child. This quantity was not more than half enough in the hot weather and the children suffered very much. The canisters of fresh meat, of veal, mutton and beef, were eaten principally at the captain's table and the offals sent to the sick prisoners in lieu. The convicts and passengers suffered greatly from the unfeeling conduct of the master and surgeon who are both very profane men possessed of little humanity.'

Enquiry Instigated

However on arrival in Port Jackson, the women of the Friendship apparently indicated to Superintendent of Convicts William Hutchinson, that they were perfectly satisfied with the conduct of the captain. Colonial Secretary John Thomas Campbell's muster of them on board also declared that no complaints were made on the voyage. Nevertheless an inquiry was instigated after correspondence was forwarded to government including that of Amelia Wood on behalf of the other free female passengers; M.C. Kearns, Captain's steward, and 3rd Mate Robert Culverwell.

Those to be questioned at the inquiry included: William Cordeaux, Thomas Walker, Mr. Giles, Mr. and Mrs. William and Mary Hayes (free settlers) and Mrs. Charlotte Wells and Mrs. Broadribb also free passengers.

Surgeon Peter Cosgreave forwarded correspondence of his own stating that Amelia Wood, wife of a convict who arrived in 1809, came on board with her daughter by order of government. She attempted to bring another child by surreptitious means; and on the voyage gave birth to a son.

Surgeon Peter Cosgreave

While no Surgeon's Journal is available for this voyage, a report by Peter Cosgreave to Governor Macquarie written on 14 January 1818 (after arrival) reveals some of difficulties of the voyage. The Report was part of an Enquiry into the circumstance of prostitution during the voyage.


I beg leave to report the arrival of this ship, with female convicts and passengers for the Colony, after a tedious passage from Deptford of nearly seven months, and enclose a list of the deaths and births.

The State of Health during the Voyage has been such as might be expected from the appearance of Typhus Fever, shortly after embarkation, subsequently dysentery, and a present sea scurvy to a serious degree; the latter disease has been in a great measure aggravated by a privation of vegetable food, save a few days at St. Helena where the Master of the ship was under the necessity of putting in in consequence of the insubordinate state of his crew.

By my Instructions, I am apprised of an Enquiry into the state of prostitution in which the female convicts might have lived with the officers and seamen whilst on board, and the measures taken by the Master and myself to prevent the same.

It is with regret I have to communicate to your Excellency the total failure of my Orders in this matter, and that prostitution and its consequence has been carried on to a most shameful extent.

In making my report of the probable cause of such disgraceful transactions, it is with pain I feel obliged to attribute it to individuals by stating that the Officers of the ship are the persons who both showed the example, and encouraged a continuance of it!

Shortly after joining the ship, I rec'd my instructions, which I instantly communicated to the Chief Mate, a Gentleman belonging to the Royal Navy, lately married, and from whom I had every reason to expect a cordial co-operation in the discharge of my duty; the rest of the officers of young men strongly recommended to the Master; the passengers are Mr. Giles, belonging to a religious society and his family, and two gentlemen of the Commissariat Staff; with such Company, I entertained every hope of complying with my orders, at least to succeed so far as to preserve the bounds of decency.

My first care was directed to an arrangement for the comfort of the unfortunate convicts, and I accordingly issued rules and regulations for their government; I allowed indiscriminately the free use of the Quarter Deck and advised them to conduct themselves in an orderly and decent manner, as it was probably that the character, they might acquire whilst on board would tend in a manner to alleviate or augment their sufferings at New South Wales.

After our arrival at Portsmouth, a convict was found in the hammock of one of the men, for which I kept her on the after part of the quarter deck as a mark of disgrace, and applied to the navy board for advice how I should act with the sailor, when they ordered him to be discharged; this circumstance afforded me an opportunity of convincing every person on board that I was determined if possible to obey my orders; I accordingly made known to them and read both my Instructions and the Board's Letter.

The Master of the ship also apprized his crew of the consequence that was likely to result from their meddling with the convicts being considered as the cargo, and called to their recollection the articles which they signed 'to obey all lawful commands or forfeit their wages.' Shortly after, we proceeded on our voyage and continued without any particular occurrence till the 29th July last, when a spirit of great insubordination and mutiny seemed to exist, originating from the restraint of prostitution; by this outrage I lost all control over the convicts in a moral point of view, and I found it useless to contend in a matter where all the Officers and Crew were implicated. I was therefore under the necessity of relinquishing the punishment by marks of disgrace on such occasions.

The women constantly lived in the men's births, and the officers took off the hatches at night to let up others for themselves and for such as wanted them; the men even claimed as a right the effects of their respective deceased prostitutes, till at length they became callous to all shame; threats were held in contempt and remonstrances treated with levity; at this period my situation can be better conceived than described; but when it is considered the wretched prolifigates I had to deal with, astonishment at every act of theirs will cease. They no longer looked upon me in any other light, than destined to watch them in their infamy, and to cheat them of the allowances of government; they became regardless to personal cleanliness, and even left the calls of nature in the prison, under the foolish impression that it was annoying me, because I superintended the cleaning of it.

In this state I continued until our arrival at St. Helena, where I expected some example would be made of such as were the cause of our confusion. I therefore represented it to the Admiral who was pleased to say that he would send two Post Captains to enquire into the bad conduct of the crew.

On this subject, I beg leave to refer your Excellency to the report of the Master of the ship; at the same time I take the liberty to maintain that from whatever circumstance, that transpired at this investigation the effrontery of the aggressors was considerably encreased, and every act of profligacy appeared to have received the sanction of law, ocular demonstration being considered indispensably necessary for convictions; and even then it was held that there was no power vested in the Authority of NSW to punish the offenders.

Under such circumstances I trust Your Excellency will make the necessary allowance for my inability in complying with the intentions of the Right Honorable the Secretary of State in preventing Prostitution. I have Peter Cosgreave, Surgeon and Superintendent. [6]

Magistrates taking the Depositions were Darcy Wentworth, Richard Brooks and Simeon Lord. Their findings were that

1). Charges founded by seaman against Captain Armet occurred on the High Seas and were therefore outside their jurisdiction;

2). That rations allowed free passengers were less than the convicts and barely sufficient for their support, but that the withholding of them had been a mistake since rectified;

3). That the Captain and Surgeon made very exertion to prevent prostitution during the voyage.

Surgeon's Opinion of the Convicts

The surgeon compiled a list of the prisoners and gave his opinion of their character. Many were described as prostitutes void of all shame, others he thought indolent and filthy or mutinous and badly disposed. Some were described as quiet and inoffensive women and others were said to be industrious and conducted themselves with propriety. The list can be found in the Colonial Secretary's Papers (Main series of letters received, 1788-1825. Series 897, Reels 6041-6064, 6071-6072. 4/1740. p61)

Other observations included - Mary Jones had acted as nurse and had behaved with the greatest propriety and humanity and he recommended her to the Governor. Another free passenger, Ann Adams he considered unworthy character and mentions her as living openly on board in a state of prostitution with one of the sailors.


On Friday 30 January twenty-eight women were landed; sixteen had husbands already in the colony and were allowed to join them and the remaining twelve went as servants into various families. Thirteen others, who were afflicted with scorbutic diseases, were sent to the General Hospital.


Fifty-six were transhipped from the Friendship to the Duke of Wellington, to be conveyed to Hobart Town, together with 28 artificers and mechanics, sent from Sydney to be employed on the Government works there.

Rev. Marsden's Description of the Ordeal of the Voyage

Three years later, Rev. Samuel Marsden testified as to the treatment some of the women of the Friendship had received:

'I am happy that a committee of ladies is formed in will tend greatly to restrain the cruelties and wickedness of the masters of female convict ships....I shall confine my communication to one ship, which will be sufficient to convince the committee how the females may be insulted and ill treated by the masters. Two or three years ago, a ship arrived with female convicts; many of them, according to custom, were sent up to Parramatta, where I reside.

In my first interview with them they informed me how they had been treated on board; I selected two of the women for domestic servants for my own family; both these women had received a superior education; the offence for which one of them had been transported was small in a moral, though great in a political sense; she assisted a prisoner of war, an officer of rank in the French navy, to make his escape, though he was apprehended afterwards. This woman lived in my family till she was married, and has now a good name of her own; she was strictly honest, and exceeding well behaved at all times, and might be considered as a treasure to a family. The other woman is married also. These women informed me, as well as others of their shipmates, that they were subject to every insult from the master of the ship and sailors; that the master stript several of them and publicly whipped them; that one young woman, from ill treatment, threw herself into the sea and perished; that the master beat one of the women that lived with me with a rope with his own hands till she was much bruised in her arms, breast, and other parts of her body. I am certain, from her general good conduct since she arrived, to the present day, she could not have merited any cruelty from him. They further stated, that they were almost famished for the want of water.

In addition to the insults they were subject to on board, the youngest and handsomest of the women were selected from the other convicts and sent on board, by order of the master, the king's ships who were at that time in the fleet, for the vilest purposes; both of my servants were in the number. One of them when in bed told me she received an order sent by the captain, to come upon deck, which order she was obliged to obey, when she was put into a boat with others and sent off to the king's ships; this was not the only time they were sent during their passage. They further informed me, that they were promised the sum of 30 pounds but none of which they received ; and it was also said, that rope and canvas had been given as the wages of iniquity. I have no doubt but these are facts, so many bore testimony to them; near two hundred persons must know of these females being sent on board the king's ships. [5]

John Gyles' Description of the Women

Observations of female convicts sent from Newgate who arrived on the Friendship (for the information of the Committee of Ladies):-

Mary Smith - behaved orderly and well on board; sent to VDL without landing at Port Jackson

Mary Williams ditto ditto

Grace Blaker - Retained, with her husband at Port Jackson. Behaved quiet and orderly on board, but much insulted by the captain and surgeon; and there is no doubt but herself and husband will do well here. She appears to be a decent woman; lives at Parramatta

Jane Brown - This unfortunate woman met an untimely death by the ill timed severity of the captain; she had a quarrel with anther convict woman, and was selected by the captain for punishment; the other was not punished. She told the captain and surgeon that if she was punished above, that she would throw herself into the sea. A wooden collar was put about her neck, which she wore the whole of that day; in the night, she got her collar off; the captain observed it the next day; after tearing her bonnet and shawl off, with many oaths said he would put another collar on; she repeated, that she would throw herself overboard if he did. He ordered the collar, and advanced towards her, when she threw herself overboard, and was drowned; this happened off the Cape of Good Hope. She was a decent well behaved young woman.

Elizabeth McGinnis (disorderly);

Mary Gilbert (behaved well)

Frances Nowland (behaved well)

Janes Barnes (behaved well);

Mary Ann Caffray (disorderly)

Mary Sheen (behaved well);

Mary Fineham (behaved well) ;

Ann Tilling (disorderly)

Frances Tibley (disorderly);

Emma Groom, Susan Courtney and Ann Jackson (all well behaved) all sent to Van Diemen's Land.

Harriet Garvey (behaved well) remained at Sydney

Martha Thetcher - died on the 7th December 1817 of dysentery; she appeared to be a pious woman.

William Hicks

In February 1st Officer of the Friendship William Hicks made an application to remain in the colony after the departure of the Friendship. He was informed by the Colonial Secretary that:

'from certain considerations respecting the conduct pursued towards the women convicts during the voyage hither, His Excellency will not on any account sanction or permit your remaining here after that vessel's departure'. However later in the month Captain Armet also applied to have William Hicks discharged from the ship citing the safety of the vessel as a reason and at this time Hicks' request was granted......Captain Armet stated that 'a most dangerous conspiracy and combination was regularly organized by the crew and (as your Memorialist has reason to believe) at the instigation of the Chief Officer who employed an Attorney to assist the crew in their malicious attempts against your Memorialist in order the more to harass and oppress your Memorialist by Litigation'.

Lieutenant William Hicks, R.N., signified his intention to leave the colony on the Laurel in April 1818.

Crew of the Friendship

Some of the crew mentioned in the Enquiry included:

Mr. Spencley - 2nd Mate
George Brown - had a severe attack of a pulmonary affection which was aggravated by his continued intercourse with a female named Sarah Randall
John Paterson
John Watson - issued the provisions on board
Robert Culverwell
Charles Kearns
James Drake[6]

Notes and Links

1). Lucinda and Todd Watson and six children including John Watson arrived free on the Friendship

2). Convicts and passengers of the Friendship identified in the Hunter Valley

3). In February 1820 missionary John Gyles returned to Sydney from Otahheite. He had once been a sugar planter in the West Indies and joined an expedition to Port Macquarie with Commissioner John Thomas Bigge, Thomas Hobbes Scott and John Oxley in which he assessed the land around Port Macquarie for suitability of growing sugar cane. He later returned to England on the Admiral Cockburn.

4). Eighteen convict ships arrived in New South Wales in 1818. Three of these transported female prisoners to the colony - the Friendship, the Maria and the Elizabeth. A total of 292 women were transported on these three vessels.


[1] Dudley, Elizabeth. Memoirs of Elizabeth Dudley: Consisting Chiefly of Selections from Her Journal and Correspondence, Charles Tylor, (Ed.), London, 1861, p.44

[2] Visits to Female Prisoners at Home and Abroad edited by Matilda Wrench, London 1852, p. 7

[3] New Monthly Magazine

[4] Sydney Gazette 31 January 1818

[5] Correspondence of Rev. Marsden in Evidence of W.R.H. Brown, Minutes taken before Select Committee on Gaols, Selection of Reports and Papers of the House of Commons: Prisons, Volume 51, P. 98

[6] H.R.A., Series 1, Vol. IX, pp 752 - 759

[7] Bateson, Charles Library of Australian History (1983). The convict ships, 1787-1868 (Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney : pp.340-341, 382