Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Mangles - 1840

Embarked: 290 men
Voyage: 150 days
Deaths: 1
Surgeon's Journal: yes
Previous vessel: Augusta Jessie arrived 27 March 1840
Next vessel: Surry arrived 13 July 1840
Captain William Carr
Surgeon Alexander Nisbet
Convicts and passengers of the Mangles identified in the Hunter Valley

This was the ninth and final voyage of the Mangles bringing convicts to Australia.

The Convicts

Prisoners came from counties throughout England and Scotland. Those from distant counties may have joined the men at Newgate prison for a short time before being transferred to the Hulks.

There were also twenty-three men who had been court-martialled in Canada.

The Hulks

On 26th August 1839 forty-seven men who had been court-martialled in Canada were received on to the Fortitude Hulk at Chatham from the Athol.. Twenty-four were transferred to the Woodbridge and the remainder (23) were sent to the Mangles on the 7th November 1839.

The Mangles completed fitting out on 2nd November and dropped down to Woolwich where 60 convicts were received from the Justitia and 40 from the Ganymede hulks on 4th November. The next day sailed to Sheerness and received a further 106 from the Fortitude hulk at Chatham. At Portsmouth on 14 November the number was completed to 190. [2]

Charles Bentley who had been sentenced to 15 years transportation for burglary on 28th July was admitted to the Leviathan Hulk at Portsmouth on 10th August 1838 and was therefore incarcerated there when the following Report was made by Superintendent Mr. J. H. Capper -

Following is a return of the daily proceedings on board the Leviathan convict hulk, at Portsmouth, August 16, 1838, being the example : At three o'clock all the cooks are let up to boil the prisoners' breakfast ; at half past five all hands are called up; at a quarter before six the prisoners are mustered, after which breakfast is served down, then one of the three decks is washed, which is done every morning alternately. At a quarter before seven the prisoners (each one bringing his hammock and stowing it away on deck) proceed to labour. On leaving the hulk their irons are examined by the guards, who also search their persons, to prevent any thing improper being concealed; and in order that they may be more strict in the execution of this duty, in the event of anything being afterwards found upon a prisoner, the guard that searched him is made responsible.

The prisoners are divided into ten divisions, each of which is subdivided, as occasion, to make them the more efficient, may require, and delivered into the charge of dock-yard labourers. The prisoners are overlooked by the first and second mate, who patrol the yard, not only to prevent them from straying from their division or attempting to escape, but to make all parties attend strictly to their duties. At a quarter of an hour previous to the return of the prisoners on shore from labour, those employed on board are mustered, to ascertain whether the number is right. At twelve the prisoners return from labour, are searched to prevent any part of the public stores being brought out of the dock-yard, after which a general muster takes place, the dinners are served down, and the prisoners are locked up in their respective wards.

A watch, consisting of an officer and half of the ship's company, is set on between decks, where they remain till forty minutes past twelve, when the other half relieves them. At twenty minutes past one the prisoners resume their labour, and at a quarter before six return on board; their irons are examined and their persons searched as in the forenoon. At half-past six o'clock school commences, and at half-past seven prayers are read in the chapel; after which they are mustered and locked up in their respective wards for the night. The ship's company are divided into three watches (one of which is absent every night, unless duty requires it on board) and returns on board next morning half an hour before the prisoners proceed to labour.

New prisoners are made to pass along the quarter deck every morning with their hats off, for a fortnight after their arrival, in the presence of the officers and guards, that their features, gait, etc. may be made familiar to them, in case of any attempting disguise to effect an escape. On Saturday evening every prisoner washes his person thoroughly before he is allowed to go below. On Sunday all hands are called and mustered at the same time as on the working days, the hammocks are brought up and stowed, and the decks cleanly swept, after which the prisoners return to their wards, and breakfast is then served down. At nine all the prisoners are mustered in divisions on the main deck, for the purpose of seeing that their persons are clean and their clothing kept in proper repair. The steward also, during the week, as opportunities offer, sees that the repairing of the clothing is not neglected, and also issues clothing to those who need it. Divine service is performed by the chaplain once every Sunday. The surgeon or his assistant visits the ship daily. A book is kept in the office, in which is entered a full detail of every day's occurrences.[1]

Military Guard and Passengers

Passengers on the Mangles included Major Sergeantson and Lady, Ensign Charles Robert Grimes and 29 rank of file of 50th regiment.


The Mangles departed London on 28th November 1839.

The passage down channel was favourable and they reached Tenerife in four weeks and then called at Santa Cruz for a small supply of water and fresh beef and vegetables. [2]

Surgeon Alexander Nisbet

Alexander Nisbett kept a Medical Journal from 1st November 1839 to 18 May 1840.

He was well experienced in this position, this being his sixth voyage to New South Wales as Surgeon on a convict ship. Every means in his experience was used to promote health, dryness and cleanliness on the voyage out, including windsails, stoves and keeping half the convicts on deck whenever possible. The convicts below deck were organised into classes of no more than 15 and instructed in reading, writing and arithmetic by other convicts. There were frequent examinations with prizes or indulgences awarded. After supper all hands were permitted on deck and a play performed and other amusements, such as leap frog, went on until darkness. Of the 195 days they were at sea, there were only 5 when the rain was too severe for the convicts to come on deck at all, 23 when they were kept below part of the time and 8 with light showers which did not prevent their being on deck. [2]

The Voyage

They were unfortunate with winds and their progress was very slow. Three months after leaving Portsmouth they were only approaching the meridian of the Cape of Good Hope.

At the beginning of the voyage there were very few sick men, mainly cases of mild diarrhoea which continued until the tropics when fevers occurred. By the time the ship reached the southern latitudes these diseases mostly disappeared and after so long at sea, scurvy began to appear. Forty seven cases were found on the first examination and the following day nine more were found to be suffering from the same disease. Alexander Nisbett indicated to Captain Carr that they should call at the Cape of Good Hope to receive fresh supplies of meat, vegetables and live stock. [2]

Cape of Good Hope

They arrived at the Cape on 27 February 1840. The fresh provisions soon produced beneficial effects and reduced the number of sick. Alexander Nisbett thought that if they had not called at the Cape the consequences would have been disastrous. [2]

They departed from the Cape of Good Hope on 1st March 1840.

Captain Carr

Alexander Nisbett found Captain Carr to be of great assistance throughout the voyage. Captain Carr provided from his own private store, many things to help the convicts and calling at ports at Nisbett's suggestion. He supplied potatoes which were served raw to the convicts with vinegar added as a salad. By this means many were cured of scurvy and the remainder improved.

Port Jackson

After 150 days at sea, they arrived in Port Jackson on 27 April 1840 where they found that they were to proceed to Norfolk Island. After landing 53 convicts at Sydney (consisting of the convict boys, sick requiring hospital diet and convicts transported for military offences), they departed for Norfolk Island on 8th May 1840.

Norfolk Island

They arrived at Norfolk Island after a passage of 10 days with 236 prisoners. By this time they had been on board the Mangles for six months. Norfolk Island was a brutal prison used to hold twice-convicted felons. Desperate men were incarcerated there, including bushrangers William Atkinson and Iram Holmes; it was known as a place of horror, murder and mutiny. However prison reformer Alexander Maconnochie took over as Superintendent at Norfolk Island in March 1840 and began to introduce reforms.

Prisoners who arrived at Norfolk Island on the Mangles in April joined those who had arrived on the Nautilus and the Woodbridge. Although still a penal settlement, Norfolk Island became a more humane place, at least for a few years.

Notes and Links

1). John Ward was tried in Northampton on 26th February 1838 and sentenced to ten years transportation for burglary. He was admitted to the York Hulk on 2nd May where he was described as a bad character. He was sent to the Mangles for transportation on 15th November 1839. The following information comes from the State Library of Victoria Catalogue. Contents/Summary: Diary of John Ward, who was convicted of theft in England, imprisoned on the hulk 'York' and transported on the 'Mangles' to Norfolk Island. Loose pages at the back of the diary contain entries dated 14 May 1842 to 21 January 1844. The names of George Cunningham and John Fell appear on the back end-paper. Included among the loose papers are two poems, one signed by C. Moore. Crime, Punishment and Redemption - A Convict's Story by June Slee published by the National Library of Australia in 2014. The story is based on John Ward's convict diary written while he was imprisoned on Norfolk Island from 1840 to 1844. Read John Ward's diary online at National Library of Australia.

2). Malcolm MacLeod was convicted of the murder of his wife at Inverness in 1838. Read the Details in Reports of Cases before the High Court and Circuit Court of Judiciary in Scotland

3). Convicts and passengers of the Mangles identified in the Hunter Valley

4). Voyages of the convict ship Mangles included those in 1820, 1822, 1824, 1826, 1828, 1833, 1835, 1837 and 1840

5). Charles Sandys Packer, musician arrived as a convict on the Mangles. (Australian Dictionary of Biography Online)

6). William Costigan arrived as a convict on the Mangles. He was one of the soldiers who had been court-martialed for desertion in Upper Canada in 1839. He perished during the ill-fated Kennedy expedition in 1848. Below is an excerpt from The Kennedy Expedition by Glenville Pike.....

Kennedy now decided to divide his party, leaving William Carron with seven men near the Pascoe River estuary, while he, and four men, including Jacky-Jacky, pushed on to Cape York where he still expected to find H.M.S. 'Bramble' waiting for him. On 13th November, farewells were said. At Shelburne Bay further north, Kennedy was forced to leave three men - Costigan, Luff, and Dunn, while he and Jacky-Jacky made the fatal dash to Cape York. Kennedy could spare only enough of his scanty provisions to support the three starving men for a matter of days. Costigan was seriously ill from a gun- shot wound when a musket had accidentally exploded; Luff and Dunn were also ill from weakness, exposure, and ague; the three men were so weak that Kennedy and Jacky were forced to kill a horse to provide them with meat. These unfortunate men were never seen again. They either fell victims to the blacks or perished from starvation in that great loneliness. THE KENNEDY EXPEDITION [By GLENVILLE PIKE, F.R.G.S.A.] (Read 22nd April 1954, at the meeting of The Historical Society of Queensland) p 960

8). Alexander Nisbet was also employed as surgeon on the convict ships Minerva in 1824, Grenada in 1827, Hooghley in 1828, Asia in 1830 and the Earl Grey in 1838


[1]. Justice of the Peace and County, Borough, Poor Law Union and Parish Law Recorder, Volume 3 (Google eBook)

[2] Journal of Alexander Nisbet on the Mangles. 1839 1 November - 1840 18 May. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857. Original data: The National Archives. Kew, Richmond, Surrey.