Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Hooghley - 1834

Embarked: 260 men
Voyage: 113 days
Deaths: 0
Surgeon's Journal: Yes
Previous vessel: Blenheim arrived 14 November 1834
Next vessel: George Hibbert arrived 1 December 1834
Captain George Bayley
Surgeon Superintendent James Rutherford
Prisoners and Passengers of the Hooghley identified in the Hunter Valley

The Hooghley was built in London in 1819. Convicts were transported to New South Wales on Hooghley in 1825, 1828, 1831 and 1834.[1]

Prisoners came from counties in England - Norfolk, Wiltshire, Essex, Cambridge, Middlesex, Southampton, Huntingdon, Sussex, Dorset, Worcester, York, Suffolk, Cornwall, London, Stafford, Warwick, Oxford, Bedford, Salop, Surrey, Berks and some who had been court-martialled in Jamaica and Falmouth. There were no prisoners on the 'Hooghley' who had been tried in Scotland.

William Delaforce from Trial to the Hulk

William Delaforce, a carter's boy, was sentenced to seven years transportation for housebreaking. Many years later he penned 'The Life and Experiences of an Ex-Convict at Port Macquarie which is available to read at Project Gutenberg

The book begins with his trial and experiences on the hulk and the transportation to New South Wales on the Hooghley -

'Farewell To My Native Land.

The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together; our virtues would be proud if our faults whipped them not, and our crimes would despair if they were not cherished by our virtues. Shakespeare.

I was born at Shoreditch, near London, on the 28th of May, 1819, and was nearing the age of sixteen when one day I was accused of committing a paltry theft. Of this I was innocent, and naturally denied it, but the constable who accosted me insisted, no matter what I said, that I had to go with him. My feelings were anything but high-flown as I passed along the street with him - what boy's feelings would be? - on the other hand they were down almost below zero. It was no use; I soon realised my position, it was this: - If I am found guilty of this offence - and I have little hope of proving my innocence - Heaven only knows where I may find myself.

My trial came on before a Bench of Magistrates in Worship Street, London, on July the 3rd, 1834, and I was committed to take my trial. When a man had the bad luck to get committed, he was sent to Clerkenwell, or to the Old Bailey, and if he listened to the conversations of his associates at either of these places, during intervals that he might be remanded, it was quite possible that a previously innocent man would be converted into an adept at picking pockets and house-screwing. I was a new-chum in places of this kind, and also at such pursuits. New-chums generally fell into, and were made the subject of, numbers of practical jokes, too, at the hands of these fellows, and I was saved none the less in this respect. 'Go upstairs and get the bellows,' one of them said to me: and when I got to the top of the stairs, some others sent me to the far end of the ward for it. On arrival there, another crowd met me with knotted handkerchiefs, and 'pasted' me all the way back. 'Pricking a crow's nest,' was another of their games. This consisted in making a round ring on the wall with a piece of charcoal, and placing a black dot in the centre of it. One was then blindfolded, and his object was to place his finger on this black dot; but instead of doing this, another fellow stood with open mouth to receive the finger, and he didn't forget to bite it either. If anyone took money into this place they might as well say 'au revoir' to it, for they were not asleep.

After a few days of this life my trial came on - I was sentenced to Australia for 7 years' penal servitude. Then I was sent to Newgate, and when the door opened there, I was met by a large number of 'Jack Shepherds,' all in irons, and the place was as dismal-looking as the grave. First I entered the receiving-room, and remained there a day; afterwards I was put in with a fine assemblage of characters, and one might as well begin to count the stars in the Heavens as attempt to define who was the worst individual there. Night came on and I began to look around for a bed; this I found consisted of a rug and a mat, of which I availed myself. If a man was sentenced to seven years he was only kept there for a few days, and was then taken in irons, by means of a van, to the 'hulk' at Portsmouth. This was the fate I shared.

On arrival there I was stripped of my clothes, and after the barber came round and cut my hair so close that it was only with difficulty I could catch hold of it, I was washed from two tubs of water which stood close by. Then I was dressed in a pair of knee breeches, stockings, shirt, and a pair of shoes so large that I could have almost crossed the Atlantic in them, and a hat capable of weathering the greatest hurricane that ever blew. Whilst on board the hulk an old Jew paid several visits, for the purpose of buying up all the ordinary clothes of the men, and no matter how new a suit might be, it was either a matter of take half-a-crown for it or throw it away. Fortunately, my best clothes were left behind, and I lost nothing by this.

I remained on the hulk from Friday till Monday morning, and was then transferred to what was known as the Bay Ship - the Hooghley - by means of a cutter. There were 260 prisoners on board this ship altogether. Before leaving the hulk, the irons worn in Australia were attached to the legs, but these were removed on getting to sea. Men, however, were branded all over - shirt, trousers, and everything else. The Hooghley left Portsmouth harbour on the 28th July, 1834, and was 120 days coming to Australia, and the passage on the whole was not unfavorable. Four men, however, were flogged during the passage for misconduct. One of those on board was transported for stealing articles from a Roman Catholic Chapel, and he had by some means managed to get a quantity of tobacco into his possession. One night whilst he was asleep some of the others conspired to get this tobacco, and they put his big toe into the bunghole of a cask. He used to sleep on the tobacco, and as soon as he sat up to release his toe the tobacco was passed away through the crowd, and that was the last he saw of it'. Project Gutenberg

Joseph Platt

The horrors of transportation / as related by Joseph Platt who was transported for fourteen years, with an account of the hardships he endured and his return to EnglandAnother of the Hooghley prisoners was Joseph Platt from Manchester. He was sentenced to 14 years transportation for street robbery on 14 April 1834. Joseph Platt was one of the convicts who served his sentence and returned to England. He later wrote an account of his experiences as a convict entitled 'The horrors of transportation / as related by Joseph Platt who was transported for fourteen years, with an account of the hardships he endured and his return to England.'

On his return to England he found that his parents had passed away and he was without work or money. This account was published in 1862, thirteen years after he returned to England. While some parts are exaggerated or doubtful, his descriptions of the 'Hooghley' and Hyde Park Barracks are interesting have elements of truth.

York Hulk at Portsmouth

After trial in Manchester Joseph Platt was sent to the York Hulk at Portsmouth:

'The rules and regulations were then read, and I thought them very strict. On the next morning I was sent to work in the mud gang; the work being so very hard, I volunteered to go with the first ship to Sidney. I was five weeks on board of the hulk, and then embarked with 250 more transports.' [4]


Hooghley departed Portsmouth on 28 July 1834.

Military Guard

The Guard consisted of 29 rank and file, 7 women and 4 children under orders of Lieutenant-Colonel Woodhouse, Lieutenant Gregg and Ensign Wyatt of the 50th regiment (Headquarters).

Joseph Platt remarked in his journal :

The Captain and Doctor were very kind to the prisoners, but the Colonel of the 50th and the Officers were rather severe upon us poor unfortunate prisoners. [4]

Surgeon James Rutherford

James Rutherford kept a Medical Journal from 28 June to 4th December 1834.

There were no deaths of convicts on the voyage out although an infant of one of the guard died. The surgeon was called on to treat Captain Bayley who suffered from pneumonia for a fortnight from 31st August; and Lieutenant-Colonel Woodhouse who became ill in September - The surgeon described the illness in his journal. - 'The Lieutenant-Colonel was observed to have become remarkably taciturn and retired but on the 13th it was strongly suspected that he was not right in his mind. He talked of his sins and a written confession of them which he had made and he which to make public. On the 14th no doubt remained of his insanity, he having rushed forward among the convicts holding his written confession in one hand and a bible in the other for the avowed purpose of reading to them the former and expounding to them certain texts from the latter. He had a certain wildness of expression which could not be mistaken. The surgeon succeeded in inducing him to take a strong purgative medicine which operated freely and with much persuasion, he allowed a vein to be opened in the arm from which about 20 ounces of blood were abstracted... on the 20th he was removed into a more retired cabin than his proper one and in the night of that day by perseverance in the use of the medicines he enjoyed sleep for the first time since the commencement of his disorder. The surgeon observed that the symptoms of the disease were extremely variable sometimes being agitated and sometimes tranquil generally in proportion to the roughness or smoothness of the sea and consequent steadiness or uneasiness of the ship.'

Illnesses amongst the convicts were few. There were various sores on the prisoners' legs caused by the irons and the surgeon was called on to treat women and children embarked with the guard with diseases peculiar to their sex and age. A protracted labour and two cases of abortion etc which occasioned large demands on the medical comforts supplied for their use. [2]

The Voyage

Joseph Platt continued - 'Every day while we were at sea we used to get a few hours on deck and then were below for the remainder of the night. The victuals we had were very scanty. Each morning a quarter of a pound of biscuits was served out, which in addition to a breakfast of half boiled stirabout, was to last us all day. For dinner we had either, pork or beef and a small drop of soup, which was all we had till next morning - it was just enough to keep life in us. After we were five weeks at sea we got our irons knocked off. Nothing particular occurred during the voyage, except the death of a child.' [4]

The surgeon remarked that 'on the whole, never has there been perhaps an equal number of people assembled in so small a space, for so long a time and in similar circumstances more healthy than were the people embarked on the Hooghley.'' [2]

Port Jackson

Arrival of the convict ship Hooghley in 1834. Sydney Gazette 20 November 1834.

The Hooghley arrived in Port Jackson on 18 November 1834, a voyage of 113 days. According to the surgeon's journal three men, William Shaw, James Vincent and Henry Osborne were sent to the hospital in Sydney on 4th December having shown symptoms of scurvy.[2]

The Head Quarters of the 50th regiment were landed on Thursday 20th November and were to be stationed at Windsor. Detachments of the 50th Regiment arrived on the Susan, Surry, Forth, Bengal Merchant, Hive, Blenheim, Royal Admiral, Lady Nugent, Parmelia, James Laing, Captain Cook, Hero, Roslin Castle, Henry Porcher, Henry Tanner and Lady Kennaway.

Convict Muster

Prisoners were mustered on board on 26th November 1834.

Joseph Platt :

'The Government Officers read over the rules and regulations of the country. I thought it was bad enough on board of the Hulk, but the severity of these rules made every man's blood run cold when we heard them read. We were then stripped, and our marks and descriptions taken.' [4]

William Delaforce -' After we had been in Sydney harbour a few days, a number of officials came aboard the ship, and, as if 'to the manner born,' took a list of the marks on the men, who were stripped to the waist. One of them, in particular, had some writing on his arm, and he was told that if it was not quickly removed, he would get 50 lashes for it when he reached shore, so he took the advice'. Project Gutenberg

Indents of the Hooghley prisoners include information such as name, age, religion, education, family, marital status, native place, trade, offence, previous sentences, when and where tried and physical description. There are occasional notes regarding colonial crimes and dates of death. There is no information as to where the prisoners were assigned on arrival.[3]


Joseph Platt:

'A week after muster we went ashore. We were marched two deep to Hyde Park Barracks; then the rules and regulations were again read over to us. We were then formed into a half circle, the triangle was brought out, and I counted twenty-five men and boys that were severely flogged. I thought this very cruel on my first arrival in the country, and I wished I had been at home again; but the next day I was called up to the office, and the chief clerk told me that my master had come for me. I saw him pay one guinea and sign a paper, and the clerk said in a moment, 'This is your man'. He then said to me, 'Get your clothes'. I then went to the stores and received a suit of clothes, and then folded them up in my bed and put them under my arm, and then went home with my master.

On the road I asked him if he had brought me? He said, No, it was my bed and clothes he had bought. I told him it was very strange to give a guinea for things that were not worth two shillings and sixpence. He then said to me, 'I think you are a bit of a lawyer'. I said no more to him then. We arrived at his shop, and I found out that my master was a pastry cook and confectioner. He then ordered me down stairs with the rest of the signed servants and on the following morning he set me to work'.[4]

Impression of Sydney

William Delaforce's first impression of Sydney - 'Notwithstanding the fact that the Settlement at Sydney was now nearly 50 years old, my impression on arriving there in the summer of 1834 was anything but a bright one, and by no means came up to my faintest expectations. It was a scattered-looking place - a house here and a terrace there, but miserable enough to my mind.

We remained aboard ship till three days later, we were marched ashore in line, four deep, a little after daylight, and taken to Hyde Park Barracks. Here we got a beautiful breakfast, hominy, in little tubs. At 2 o'clock the same day we were called out to witness a punishment. There were no 25's there; all 50's and 75's - goodness knows what the offenders had been doing.

After this, it was possible for any one of us to be called out and sent to a master. If a man had a seven years' sentence, he had to serve four years with a master before he got a ticket-of-leave; but if he happened to prove himself a success at any particular vocation, he would never get his ticket, as the master for whom he was working would arrange with one of the other servants to quarrel with the handy man, and he would be sent to the lock-up to be flogged, and get an addition to his sentence. If a man was sentenced to 14 years, he had to serve 6 years with a master before he got a ticket. All the master had to give a servant in the year was 2 suits of clothes, 2 pairs of boots and a hat, also his food. The latter was supposed to be either 3 1/2 lbs. of maizemeal and 7 lbs. of flour, or 9 lbs. of beef for the week'. Project Gutenberg

Life in the Colony

The prisoners came from counties throughout England and their occupations had mostly been as labourers, gardeners, errand boys, servants, shepherds, fishermen etc. After arrival many were distributed throughout the colony to work as agricultural labourers, hut keepers, stockmen and shepherds. There were some however whose occupations set them apart including Thomas Birkett, solicitor's clerk transported for forgery who died at Port Macquarie two years later and John Francis Boutard, diamond dealer transported for stealing diamonds. There were also some former soldiers who had been court-martialled for desertion or insubordination. [3]

About seventy of the prisoners who arrived on the 'Hooghley' in 1834 have been identified residing in the Hunter Valley region. Some were sent far up the valley to work on estates such as those of Stephen Coxen, James Bowman and William Kelman. Others were sent to the Williams River district. Some such as David Ambrose committed colonial crimes serious enough to be sent to Norfolk Island, then a dreaded hell-hole.

Although Sir Richard Bourke had been governor of the colony for three years when the 'Hooghley' arrived, convict discipline remained harsh and punishments endured by John Johnson a 20 year old fisherman from Surry sent for picking pockets were probably fairly typical -

18 February 1835 - Hyde Park Barracks 12 lashes for insolence;

6 June 1835 - Hyde Park Barracks 5 days in the cells for drunkenness;

19th September 1835 - 7 days on the treadmill for disobedience;

9 March1836 - 100 lashes for obscene language;

3 August 1837 - 3 years in irons for highway robbery;

17 March 1838 - Berrima 50 lashes for neglect of work;

2 June 1838 - 25 lashes for disobedience;

22 June 1840 - 50 lashes for making a noise in the stockade;

6th October 1840 - 50 lashes for absconding;

17 November 1841 - 25 lashes for disorderly conduct at Parramatta.

Notes and Links

1). James Rutherford was also employed as surgeon on the convict ships Regalia in 1826, Pyramus in 1832 and Mangles in 1833. He was a brother of Surgeon Superintendent George Shaw Rutherford

2). Lieut-Col Woodhouse.....'We regret to hear that Lieutenant. Colonel Woodhouse, commanding the Queen's own Regiment at Parramatta has been seriously indisposed since his arrival in the colony. His medical advisers impute his ill health to the heat of the climate, or the rather sudden transition from a cold to a hot one. The Colonel is an old soldier who has ' done the state some service' in the ' tented field.' The faculty have recommended him to return to Europe so soon as his health will permit'. - Sydney Gazette 10 January 1835

3). Thomas Spencer Forsaith was employed as 4th Mate on the Hooghley on this voyage. In his memoirs he described his voyage on the Hooghley:

'Having served an apprenticeship to the sea faring life, Mr. Forsaith found himself on July 18, 1834, his twentieth birthday, the duly appointed fourth mate of the Hooghly, a ship chartered by the Imperial Government to convey convicts to Sydney.

Two hundred and sixty prisoners of various ages and convicted of a variety of offences, under a military guard commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Wood house, were brought on board. Mr. Forsaith was specially deputed to assist the Surgeon superintendent, Dr. Rutherford, and was almost continuously between decks amongst the convicts.

They were brought on board at Spithead, and it became Mr. Forsaiths duty to attach a number to each prisoner in succession. One young prisoner looked keenly at him and coloured deeply. Nothing was said at the time, but next day one of the prisoners' boatswains approached Mr. Forsaith, and, touching his cap, said, 'Excuse me, sir, but were you not educated at the Rev. Mr. Fan court's, Hoxton Square?' 'Yes, but why do you ask?' 'Because there is a young man here who says he recollects your face at school.' Mr. Forsaith sent for the young prisoner, and recognised in him an old school mate, for whom he subsequently secured a good situation In Sydney.

Another prisoner of high attainments and considerable erudition, who had been sentenced to transportation for life, was wont to pace the decks, grind his teeth, and rage in this manner: 'I will not be chained up for life like a dog. Society in New South Wales shall know ere long that I am a man who might be useful if treated like a man but who will stick at nothing rather than endure the degradation of perpetual bonds. I will be free or die, and if I die, I shall not die alone.' On Mr. Forsaith reminding him that it had been declared on the highest of authorities that the way of transgressors was hard, he re-joined, 'I know it, and have proved it to be so. I have made my bed and am prepared to find it a hard one, but I deny the right of human authority to make it iron. Mr. Forsaith believes that this desperate man of education was afterwards identical with one of those outlawed and bloodthirsty bushrangers that terrorised the interior of New South Wales for several years.

The voyage of the convict ship was not with out strange and exciting incidents, the most prominent and painful of which was the insanity of Colonel Woodhouse, commandant of the military guard. It was evidently a case of religious mania. He rushed out of his cabin one afternoon, and ran forward to address the prisoners on the wrath to come if he then threatened to throw himself overboard if he were not allowed to fulfil his mission. With an open prayer-book in his hand he tried, to harangue the prisoners, and had to be stopped by the sentries. Finally he jumped overboard was rescued, and confined in his cabin for the rest of the voyage. Thus, by the irony of fate, the officer appointed to command the military guard over the prisoners became a much more severely guarded prisoner himself than the bulk of the convicts' [5]


[1] Charles Bateson, Library of Australian History (1983). The convict ships, 1787-1868 (Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney, pp.352-353, 389

[2] Journal of James Bowman. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857. The National Archives. Kew, Richmond, Surrey.

[3] Convict Ship 'Hooghley'. Bound manuscript indents, 1788 - 1842. NRS 12188, microfiche 692. State Records Authority of New South Wales, Kingswood, New South Wales, Australia.

[4] The horrors of transportation / as related by Joseph Platt who was transported for fourteen years, with an account of the hardships he endured and his return to England, London 1862.

[5] Evening News 30 July 1898

[6] The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Life and Experiences of an Ex-Convict in Port Macquarie, by William Delaforce