Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Tottenham - 1818

Embarked: 200 men
Voyage: 201 days
Deaths: 10
Surgeon's Journal: Yes
Previous vessel: Maria arrived 17 September 1818
Next vessel: Morley arrived 7 November 1818
Master Dugald McDougall.
Surgeon Robert Armstrong
Convicts and passengers of the Tottenham identified in the Hunter Valley

The Tottenham was built at Stockton-on-Tees in 1802 by Thomas Haw for the London ship owner, Robert Wigram. Exclusive of her equipment, she cost fourteen pounds per ton, her builder receiving a payment of 7, 238 pounds. She measured 102ft 6ins on the keel and 31ft in breadth. Her tonnage when built was 517 tons, but when she arrived at Port Jackson in 1818 she was officially recorded as being of 557 tons, and paid harbour due on this tonnage. She was then a three-decker of the second class, and ship-rigged.[1]


Traveller and author W.B. Cramp explained the delay of the Tottenham in departing England in Narrative of a Voyage to India.....

At length I was engaged by Messrs Robinson to join his Majesty's Ship Tottenham, bound to New South Wales with 200 convicts. On June 8th (1817) I joined her. After receiving all the ship's and government stores on board, we proceeded to Woolwich, and received on board 50 of our number, and in the afternoon of the same day we made sail, and on a sudden struck on a reef at low water; we were lying high and dry; every means was used to get her off, but without success, till we sent our convicts up to the hulks, and discharged our stores into the different crafts sent for that purpose, and by that means lightened her so, that at the flood she drifted ; she was so materially damaged, it was deemed necessary she should return back to Deptford to Dock. I had not waited long in London until I joined the Lady Castlereagh....... (*Note - the Lady Castlereagh departed England 22 December 1817)

Prison Hulks

UK Prison Hulk Records reveal that two of the prisoners who were removed at this time from the Tottenham and returned to the prison hulk Retribution on 23 December 1817 were William Lewis from Warwick who was later pardoned, and Adam Atwood from Gloucestershire who died on the hulk in January 1818. [3]

Pentrich Rioters

Some of the Pentrich Rioters were transported on the Tottenham. They had been sent to the hulk Retribution moored at Woolwich on 30th November 1817 from Derby where they had been tried and convicted of High Treason on 25 September 1817.

One of the men, Joseph Manchester Turner wrote a letter to folks at home from the hulk -

6th December 1817. 'I promised to inform you of some particulars respecting out situation. We arrived here on Sunday, and are confined in the same cell as the prisoners from the Isle of Ely were confined in (a privilege other prisoners were not allowed): we are ironed and go out to work; we were told our sentence on Tuesday night by the chaplain of our ship. We have barley and oatmeal night and morning, and beef for dinner, four days in the week, and the other days bread and cheese. There is a school and chapel in the hulk, which is regularly attended, and it is far from being a reprobate place, as we were led to believe at Derby; for if a person is inclined, every encouragement is allowed him to improve his morals. By our good behaviour we hope to gain a mitigation of our sentence, and enjoy our liberty once more. A ship is expected here to proceed to Botany Bay in fifteen days, and having made no provision for our journey, you will be so kind to tell the other prisoners to bring shoes, stockings, knives, razors, needles, and sewing cotton, looking glasses and combs, which are very expensive here'. [2]

Other Pentrich rioters included
George Weightman aged 25;
Thomas Bacon aged 62;
John Bacon aged 52;
John MacKesswick aged 37;
John Hill aged 30;
George Brassington aged 32;
German Buxton aged 29;
Thomas Bettison aged 34;
Josiah Godber aged 50.

Some Pentrich rioters were transported on the Isabella in 1818.

Sheerness - January 1818

According to Joseph Godber's letter to his wife Rebecca, the Tottenham sailed from Sheerness on Sunday 11th January 1818 and went as far as Deal before returning to Sheerness on 24th January in consequence of a misfortune befalling the ship.


The Tottenham departed Spithead on 27th March 1818, however three days later it was found that the upper pintle of her rudder was broken off and she put into Plymouth for repairs.


Below is an report on the Tottenham from the Asiatic Journal......

The Tottenham convict ship, which sailed on the 17th April for her destination, put into Plymouth, for the purpose of having new pintles or spills placed on her rudder. It may be considered fortunate that the pintles were discovered to be broken before she finally quitted the English shore. The ship being built in India, the rudder is made of very heavy wood (teak), a quantity of which has been taken away from her, and lighter wood substituted.

The captain of the Tottenham, whilst lying in Barnpool, was very anxious to get further from land, under an apprehension that the convicts might effect their escape with more case than in a less favourable situation. Upward of 30 attempted to get off their irons, and a convict swam from Barnpool to Mount Edgcumbe, having previously extricated himself from all his irons, excepting the rings attached to his legs. George Weightman, one of the Derby rioters is on board; he is a very fine young man, but appears much depressed in spirits. He declares he had no intention to subvert the constitution of this country ; thinks his punishment severe; and grieves more, apparently, at his lot in being separated from his wife and children, than for any consciousness of bad designs


The Tottenham sailed from Plymouth for New South Wales on April 17 1818.

Surgeon Robert Armstrong

By June scurvy had broken out and on the 18th June 1818 Robert Armstrong noted the necessity of putting into Rio de Janeiro for fresh supplies - In consequence of scurvy having appeared to an undesirable extent amongst the prisoners and calculating upon the length of the voyage and the probability of the disease gaining ground stated to the Master the necessity of touching at Rio de Janeiro or some other port for the purpose of obtaining a supply of fresh provisions for the prisoners and Guard. [4]

This was Robert Armstrong's first voyage as Surgeon Superintendent and he proved to be a humane and level-headed man. He was later employed as surgeon on the convict ships Dick in 1821 and the Countess of Harcourt in 1822. He handled the difficult conditions on the long voyage in a common-sense and capable way.

Rio de Janeiro

By the time the Tottenham put into Rio on June 24 there had been 36 cases of scurvy, of which 16 were still under treatment. The Isabella was at Rio at the same time however departed on the 2nd July. The Tottenham remained at Rio until July 16, but on arrival at Sydney on 14 October 1818, of the two hundred prisoners who had been embarked a total of ten men had lost their lives. [4]

Rumours of Mutiny

There were rumours of mutiny which Armstrong recorded in his journal but they came to nothing and there was no corporal punishment meted out. The only serious event occurred on July 26 when a sentry fired a shot into one of the stanchions after prisoners attempted to put out his light. [4] No shots were aimed at the convicts and later, Governor Macquarie after an investigation and perusal of the Medical Journal, gave his full approval of the conduct of Robert Armstrong.

Port Jackson

The Tottenham arrived in Port Jackson on 14th October 1818.

Convicts Disembarked

On 20th October the prisoners were disembarked and sent for assignment....

24 were sent by water to the Parramatta district to James Johon for repairing roads

11 were sent to the Town Gang at Parramatta

8 were sent to Parramatta for the street making gang

15 were sent to Parramatta district for general distribution

2 were sent to Captain Brabyn in the Windsor district

24 were sent to the Windsor district for general distribution

12 were sent to the Liverpool district for general distribution.


A cargo of Brazil tobacco was sent on the Tottenham, to the great relief of users as the shortage in the colony had caused the price to rise considerably.

Departure from the Colony

The Tottenham was delayed from departing the colony because of the illness of Captain McDougall.

On Monday 8th February 1819, Governor Macquarie recorded in his journal.... it blew a very hard Gale all this Day from the South East which Drove some of the Ships in the Cove from their anchors however the Tottenham Transport got on shore with out being damaged or injured.

The Tottenham departed Sydney a few days later under the command of the Chief Officer however it was reported in the Sydney Gazette that she took several days getting out of the Heads due to bad weather and baffling winds.

The Sydney Gazette reported on 20th February 1819: The various detachments that have arrived to this Colony as guards in the transports lately from Europe were embarked on board the Tottenham on Monday morning last, under the command of Captain Wallis of the 46th, in order to their being conveyed to join their respective corps at present stationed in the British Settlements in India. It is reported the vessel proceeds on her voyage early tomorrow.

The Tottenham was further delayed by adverse winds and did not actually depart until Wednesday 3rd March 1819.

Notes and Links

1). Captain of the Tottenham, Dugald McDougall died on 10th February 1819 in Sydney aged 39. His funeral took place on the 11th February and was attended by the Governor and all the Officers of the Garrison.

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

3). William Chaffey was apprehended for bushranging near Newcastle in 1826

4). Peter Penney arrived as a convict on the Tottenham. In February 1821 he escaped from the colony with another convict William White as a stowaway on the Dromedary which was returning to England. They were discovered and handed over to the authorities on arrival. Both men were later re-transported on the Asia in 1822. Select here to read about their harrowing ordeal on the Dromedary. Penney was sent to Port Macquarie on arrival in 1822 where he was employed as a shipwright and overseer of boat builders. With several other men he escaped from the colony in 1824.

5). Medical journal of convict ship Tottenham. Reference: ADM 101/72/1 Description: Medical journal of convict ship Tottenham Date: 1817-1819 Held by: The National Archives, Kew


[1] Bateson, Charles, The Convict Ships 1787 - 1868

[2] The Times [London, England] 25 Dec. 1817: 3. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 11 Mar. 2013.

[3], Prison Hulk Records

[4] Medical Journal of Robert Armstrong on the voyage of the Tottenham. UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857 The National Archives. Kew, Richmond, Surrey.