Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Lord Sidmouth - 1823

Embarked: 97 women
Voyage: 169 days
Deaths 1
Surgeon's Journal: Yes
Previous vessel: Countess of Harcourt arrived 21 December 1822
Next vessel: Surry arrived 4 March 1823
Master James Ferrier
Surgeon Robert Espie
Follow the Female Convict Trail
Convicts and passengers of the Lord Sidmouth identified in the Hunter Valley

The Lord Sidmouth was built in Shields in 1817. This was the last of three voyages bringing convicts to New South Wales, the others being in 1819 and 1821.

The Lord Sidmouth was the next convict ship bringing female prisoners from England to New South Wales after the Mary Anne in 1822. The women embarked on the Lord Sidmouth in August 1822 came from districts throughout England and Scotland including Middlesex, Stafford, Newcastle, Ilchester, Nottingham, Wiltshire, Preston, Exeter, Leicester, Chester, York, Gloucester, Lancaster, Edinburgh and Carlisle.

They may have been conveyed directly to the vessel from their various counties, or they may gave been sent to Newgate prison for a short time before embarking. Twenty-one women who had been convicted in Middlesex were already incarcerated at Newgate.

After the Third Report of the Committee of the Society For the Improvement of Prison Discipline by T. Bensley was released in 1821, a set of rules was recommended by the Ladies' Association for female prisoners at Newgate. By 1822 when the Lord Sidmouth women were at Newgate, these Rules were probably already in place.......

Rules for Female Prisoners

Recommended by the Ladies' Association visiting Newgate.

1st. That a Matron be appointed for the general superintendence of the women.

2d. That the women be engaged in needle-work, knitting, or any other suitable employment.

3. That there be no begging, swearing, gaming, card-playing, quarrelling, or immoral conversation; that no novels, plays, or other improper books be allowed, and that all bad words be avoided; and any default in these particulars, be reported to the Matron.

4th. That there be a yard-keeper chosen from amongst the women, to inform them when their friends come to see that they leave their work with a Monitor when they go to the grating, and that they do not spend any time there except with their friends: if any woman be found disobedient in these respects, the yard-keeper is to report the case to the Matron.

That the women be divided into classes of not more than twelve, and that a Monitor be appointed to each class.

That Monitors be chosen from amongst the most orderly of the women that can read, to superintend the work and conduct of the others.

That the Monitors not only overlook the women in their own classes, but if they observe any others disobeying the rules, that they inform the Monitor of the class to which such persons may belong, who is immediately to report to the Matron.

That if any Monitor be found breaking the rules, she be dismissed from her office, and the most suitable in the class selected to take her place.

That the Monitors be particularly careful to see that the women come with clean hands and faces to their work, and that they be quiet during their employment.

That at the ringing of the bell at 9 o'clock in the morning, the women collect in the work-room, to hear a portion of Scripture read by one of the Visitors, or the Matron; and that the Monitors afterwards conduct the classes from thence to their respective wards, in an orderly manner.

That the women be again collected for reading the Scriptures, at six o'clock in the evening, when the work shall be given in charge to the Matron by the Monitors.

That the Matron keep an exact account of the work done by the women, and of their conduct.

Surgeon Robert Espie

This was Robert Espie's fourth voyage as Surgeon-Superintendent of a convict ship. He kept a Medical Journal from 22 August 1822 to 1 March 1823.

Convicts Embarked

The women began arriving at the vessel on 22 August when two came from Maidstone gaol 'healthy, robust appearing women' according to Robert Espie. Over the next few days the rest of the women were embarked.

Most had been embarked by the end of August when Mrs. Pryor and Mrs. Coventry came on board to issue useful items for the voyage and a great deal of good advice.

By September 1822 ninety-seven convict women and their 23 children and 21 free women (passengers and 49 of their children) had been embarked for passage to both Van Diemen's Land and New South Wales.

Free Passengers

Elizabeth Shorter, daughter of Mrs. Ann Robinson of Windsor was one of the free women who took her passage on the Lord Sidmouth. The wife of convict apothecary John Tawell per Marquis of Wellington and their two sons also arrived free. The four daughters of convict Cordelia Knight - Sarah, Lucretia, Mary and Louisa also came free on the Lord Sidmouth.

Cabin Passengers

On the 11 September Rev. Henry Williams of the Wesleyan Church Missionary Society with his wife and three children embarked.

On Board Living Conditions

The Lord Sidmouth may have been the first female convict ship with prisons fitted out to the Recommendations of Commissioner John Thomas Bigge.

The vessel was inspected by Mr. Capper who expressed himself pleased with the arrangements Robert Espie had put in place. Commissioner John Thomas Bigge made a brief visit and Mrs. Pryor made another visit bringing with her patchwork for the women to work on during the voyage. Divine service was performed by Rev. Marsh and two members of the Missionary Society distributed bibles to the women. On the evening of the 11th September sailing orders were received.


They proceeded down the Thames as far as Galleons and the following day anchored a little below Gravesend. By the 15th September they were at anchor off Margate. The weather was rough and all the women were seasick.

The Voyage

This didn't seem to prevent them from misbehaving. Ann Jackson and Ann Bell were put in the coal hole for several hours for abusive and violent conduct and Ann Billings for thieving from her messmates had her head shaved. A week later the surgeon reported that many were still seasick, weak, helpless and dispirited however there was no serious illness.

At the end of September a school for the children was established under the superintendence of the clergyman assisted by two of the free women.

Rio de Janeiro

By the time they reached Rio de Janeiro on 17 November several women had been punished by being sent to the coal hole or having their head shaved. Their stay at Rio was not a happy one. Owing to the confusion on deck, the women were kept below. They were not given their usual provisions which had apparently been purloined by the steward, and two were punished by having their heads shaved for boisterous and outrageous conduct. One women Mary McGowan died at Rio de Janeiro. The Lord Sidmouth departed Rio on 3rd December and several of the women were unwell with dysentery, colds and other inflammatory complaints.

On the 22 December a young lad, Robert Gooch fell overboard off the bowsprit while playing there with other youngsters. The accident was not discovered for 20 minutes and he was never heard of again.

Christmas Day

Christmas Day was spent at sea. The women were issued with half a pint of wine. The passengers were also indulged on account of it being Christmas day.;


They arrived at Hobart on Monday 10 February 1823 and anchored in Sullivans Cove at 10am. Four women were sent to the hospital and 46 of the convicts were landed and assigned to service. All the free women landed at Hobart except two had found their husbands.


They arrived at Sydney Harbour on 28 February. Major Goulburn, the Colonial Secretary came on board and inspected the women who were found to be orderly and clean.


On the 1st March 1823 Robert Espie reported that the women were preparing to go on shore from daylight in the morning. At 7am the Government's boats destined to carry them to Parramatta came alongside and in half an hour after the women and all their luggage were safely on board. Robert Espie wrote:

'I cannot but express my great joy at having got rid of so troublesome a charge having been kept constantly on the alert during the period of their being embarked.

The situation of a Surgeon Superintendent of a female convict ship if he does his duty can be no sinecure as they constantly require to be looked after and particularly to restrain them from contact with the sailors. This can only be done by beginning well at first, and checking all appearance of intimacy before the ship leaves England directing the master to discharge any sailor who may show a disposition this way which I did two or three instances did, to no small annoyance. I feel satisfied that making the women do almost everything for themselves and keeping them employed is absolutely necessary to preserve them in health and that the duties of Superintendent are far greater than those of Surgeon

Convicts of the Lord Sidmouth identified in the Hunter Valley

Capps, Elizabeth
At the Old Bailey on 3 July 1822 Elizabeth Capps, aged 23, was found guilty of feloniously assaulting Joseph Read , on the 16th of June , on the King's highway, at St. Clement Danes, putting him in fear, and taking from his person, and against his will, one half-crown, one shilling, and one sixpence , his property. She was sentenced to death and later reprieved. She married Thomas Frost (ship Baring 1819) in March 1824 at St. Phillips Sydney. She received a ticket of leave for Paterson in 1838 which was cancelled in January 1843 when she was admitted to Newcastle gaol for 14 days solitary, having been found guilty of stealing meat from the slaughterhouse of Mr. Wiseman. She was assigned to Rev. Wilton at Newcastle in May 1843 when her ticket was again cancelled. In 1846 Elizabeth Capps and Sarah Sherrard were admitted to Newcastle gaol from Paterson having been found guilty by Magistrate Charles Boydell, of being improper characters and living in a disorderly house. They were forwarded to Hyde Park Barracks with recommendation that their tickets be cancelled. Elizabeth was granted a ticket of leave for Liverpool in 1847. She accused Samuel Major of Liverpool with assault with intent to rape in 1848 however, without calling on the prisoner for his defence, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty and the prisoner was discharged. She was granted a conditional pardon on 9 August 1852.

Davis, Rachael
Rachael Davis was born in Glamorganshire, Wales in 1797 She was convicted of highway robbery at Gloucester Assizes on 3 April 1822 and sentenced to transportation for life.. Rachael was granted permission to marry Thomas Burley or Barlow (ship Hadlow) in August 1823 in Sydney and was living in Sydney with him in 1825 (muster). She was assigned to John Bingle in 1828. She was sent to Sydney gaol in June 1831 and from there to the Parramatta Female Factory under sentence of 6 weeks in 1st Class, her master having no further use for her. She was granted a ticket of leave for the district of Maitland in 1845. She was granted a ticket of leave for Vale of Clwyd on 5 November 1838. (38/1791), which was altered to Maitland 7 October 1840. This was cancelled in November 1840 for being out of her district and living in a state of adultery. She was granted a conditional pardon in 1849

Ferris, Christiana
At the Old Bailey, Christiana Ferris was tried for feloniously assaulting Joseph Bentley, on the 14th of January, on the King's highway, putting him in fear, and taking from his person, and against his will, one brooch, value 15 s. , his property. Found guilty of stealing from the person only, and sentenced to transportation for Life, aged 22. In October 1823 her application to marry Joseph Nicholson was refused as she had stated on arrival that she was married. As Christiana Harris, she was granted permission to marry John McIntosh at Parramatta in March 1824. She was sent to Newcastle gaol for drunkenness in January 1840. She was granted a ticket of leave for Paterson in 1841. In February 1843 she was admitted to Newcastle gaol again charged with repeated drunkenness. Her ticket of leave was cancelled and she was returned to government service. She was granted a ticket of leave for Newcastle in 1844 and a conditional pardon in 1849. She was residing in Maitland in 1851

Rigby, Hannah
Hannah Rigby was born in Lancashire, England, where she was employed as an embroiderer. She was convicted of larceny by a court in Liverpool in October 1821 and sentenced to 7 years transportation. In 1824 she married George Page (per Shipley). In September 1826 she was sent to the Parramatta Female Factory for three month for absconding from service and again in September 1827 for being illegally at large. She was granted a certificate of freedom in 1828 and resided at Newcastle, employed as a seamstress. In February 1830, Hannah was convicted of stealing 30 yards of ribbon belonging to Frederick Boucher and sentenced to 7 years transportation. She was sent to the penal colony at Moreton Bay where she served her sentence and returned to Sydney in February 1837 and obtained another certificate of freedom the following month. Three months later she was convicted of stealing two hats and received a third sentence of transportation. She arrived back in Moreton Bay on the Isabella in August 1837. In 1853 the Moreton Bay Courier reported on her death - an inquest found that she had died of apoplexy. - Deceased was elderly and lived alone. She was a relict of the old times in Brisbane, having resided there many years before it became a free settlement

Notes and Links

1). The Lord Sidmouth was one of three convict ships bringing female prisoners to New South Wales in 1823, the others being the Woodman and the Mary. A total of 199 female convicts arrived in the colony in 1823.

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.


[1] Bateson, Charles, Library of Australian History (1983). The convict ships, 1787-1868 (Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney : pp.344-345, 384

[2] Medical Journal of Robert Espie on the voyage of the Lord Sidmouth in 1823. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857. The National Archives. Kew, Richmond, Surrey.