Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Surry - 1836

Embarked: 229 men
Voyage 129 days
Deaths: 5
Surgeon's Journal: yes
Previous voyage: Recovery arrived 25 February 1836
Next voyage: Mary arrived 4 June 1836
Master George Sinclair
Surgeon Thomas Robertson
Follow the Irish Convict Ship Trail
Prisoners and passengers of the Surry identified in the Hunter River region

The Surry was a square-rigged transport ship with an overall length of 117 ft. 6 ins., a breadth above the gunwales of 29 ft. 6 ins, and a draught, when loaded, of 18 ft. She was copper-sheathed, and had quarter galleries, with a bust of Minerva for a figurehead[2].

The Australian in May 1836 reported the following information about the Surry which had been printed in the Portsmouth Herald (n.d) -


The Surry, convict ship, drove from her anchors on the 25th, and struck on the brake. She lost three anchors and cables. The underwriters have gained the consent of the Admiralty to her being docked and refitted here. Notwithstanding the strong representations that have been made of the unwholesome effect of supplying those unfortunate people, the prisoners, with cocoa, instead of oatmeal, the Surry has been supplied with that article, which even, was it of the best quality is any thing but nutritious, and in the present instance it is the very refuse of the stores. We expect to hear that the men will suffer even worse than did the miserable men who perhaps happily for them, perished in the George the Fourth.

On Thursday 3rd December 1835 the Surry was reported to be at Spithead waiting a fair wind to proceed to Cork to take on board convicts for New South Wales [1]


The prisoners embarked on the Surry had been held in Cork prison prior to transportation. A description of the gaol and prison at Cork was published in the Topographical Dictionary of Ireland.....

The gaol has been enlarged at different periods, and is now very commodious and well-arranged. It is under the direction of a governor and deputy-governor; and is divided into 8 wards, 2 for male debtors, 5 for male offenders, and 1 for females of every description, which is subdivided into three sections appropriated respectively to debtors, untried and convicts. The male wards contain 95 cells, capable of accommodating 425 inmates; that of the females has accommodations for 66; each ward has a day-room and a spacious airing-yard: there are four solitary cells. The gaol and the surrounding extensive enclosed ground are kept in the highest order; the prisoners, who on their admission are clothed in a distinguishing prison dress, are fully occupied either on the tread-wheel or in the duties of whitewashing and cleansing the floors, yards, and passages. The number of prisoners committed in 1835 was 978, of whom 740, including 203 females, were charged with criminal offences; 200, of whom 12 were females, were debtors; 20 were soldiers, and 18, of whom one was a female, were committed under process of the exchequer. The House of Correction, built by Messrs. Pain on the north side of the gaol, is a well-arranged edifice, consisting of a centre and two detached wings towards the gaol, and of three other ranges of building, radiating from the centre northward. The centre contains the governor's apartments on the ground floor, a chapel both for Protestants and Roman Catholics on the second, and an infirmary on the third. The radiating buildings contain 78 cells, with washing-rooms in each range; on the ground floor are day and work rooms, having airing-yards attached to them. The number of convicts committed, in 1835, was 567. The prison is under the management of a governor. The classification and regulations, both of the gaol and house of correction, are highly conducive to the reformation of the prisoners. Those in the latter establishment are employed in manufacturing their own clothing and other necessary articles of consumption: attached to it is a tread-mill, used for supplying both prisons with water. A sum of £1600 was presented by the Grand Jury, at the last autumn assizes, for an hospital for the use of the prisoners, to be erected on the adjoining ground: it is to extend 100 feet in front, the centre to be two stories high, with wings; the interior is to be divided into six wards, three for each sex. The Female Penitentiary or Convict Depot, occupies the site of the old fort erected in the southern suburb, in the reign of Elizabeth. It is capable of containing 250 inmates, who are brought hither from all parts of Ireland, and remain until the arrival of vessels to convey them to their final place of destination. During their residence here they are employed in needle-work, washing and knitting, so as to supply not only themselves but all the convicts sent out of Ireland with clothing: the number of suits thus made annually is about 1000. The number committed to this prison, in 1835, was 457, of whom 315 were transported to New South Wales. Schools have been established in all the prisons. The hulk is no longer used as a place of confinement.

Surgeon Thomas Robertson

Thomas Robertson kept a Medical Journal from 9 October 1835 to 4 June 1836. At Cork he received on board 227 male prisoners including 32 emigrant boys from Ireland all in good health.


The Surry departed on 9th January 1836. According to his journal Thomas Robertson commenced giving the prisoners oatmeal two weeks into the journey. There was enough provided that they could have it for breakfast twice a week. The rest of the time they had the chocolate which they did not like.

Port Jackson

The Surry arrived in Port Jackson 17 May 1836 with 222 male prisoners, five having died on the voyage: -

Jeremiah Bryan aged 38,
John Kelaky age 20,
James Burn aged 30,
Patrick Lane aged 60 and
Moses Ward aged 45.

Free Passengers

Passengers arriving on the Surry included Dr. John Arthur, Inspector General of Hospitals VDL, Mrs. Arthur, two children and two servants.

Military Guard

Lieutenant John Braithwaite Bonham, 50th regiment, Ensign O'Neil, 4th regiment, and 26 rank and file of the 50th regiment with eight women and fourteen children.

Detachments of the 50th Regiment arrived on the convict ships Susan, Surry, Forth, Bengal Merchant, Hooghley, Hive, Blenheim, Royal Admiral, Lady Nugent, Parmelia, James Laing, Captain Cook, Hero, Roslin Castle, Henry Porcher, Henry Tanner, Lady Kennaway and the Arab.

Notes and Links

1). Thomas Robertson was also surgeon on the convict ships William Bryan in 1833, (VDL), Forth in 1835, Surry in 1836, James Pattison in 1837 and the Planter

2). Convicts of the Surry identified in the Hunter River region

3). Find out more about Michael Clogher who arrived as a convict on the Surry

4). John Braithwaite Bonham was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel in the 50th reg., on 14th February 1852.

5). Dr. John Arthur in 1832.

6). Convicts were transported to Australia on the Surry in 1814, 1816, 1819, 1823, 1829 (VDL), 1831, 1833 (VDL), 1834, 1836, 1840 and 1842 (VDL).

7).The National Library of Australia holds a sepia etching of the Surry arriving in Sydney Harbour.


[1] Hampshire Advertiser and Salisbury Guardian Royal Yacht Club Gazette, Southampton Town and County Herald, Isle of Wight Journal, Winchester Chronicle, and General Reporter (Southampton, England), Saturday, December 05, 1835; Issue 646. 19th Century British Library Newspapers: Part II.

[2] Bateson, Charles, The Convict Ships, p. 172