The emigrant ship the “Woodbridge” left Southampton on 7 May and arrived in Sydney on 15 September 1838.
There were several people on board who had family connections to me.
Robin and Mercy Bell and family, who were an uncle, aunt, and cousins to my ancestor, George Bell who emigrated in 1837.
Also on board were Thomas and Alice (Ellis) Sargent and family who were my 3 X Great-Grandparents. Their daughter, Sarah married George Bell in 1844. I wrote a rather detailed account about the voyage in Bell Family Newsletter No 26 July 1993 p13-19. This blog is based on that article.
At this time emigrant ships were often provisioned through the naval stores at Deptford Dockyards. It was the Surgeon’s job to check the supplies for the emigrants.
Gravesend had been a port of embarkation for emigrants to America and Australia for many years but the inconvenience of trying to load passengers on board from small boats in an often swift tidal current (of the Thames River), led to the erection of a new pier which was opened in July 1833. It extended 100 feet into the river from the old stone pier, with a further extension opened in 1834. This new extension consisted of insulated columns or piles of cast iron which supported a floor or roadway. This pier was constructed so as not to impede the current of the river.
As mentioned below in the Surgeon’s Report emigrants from Kent and Sussex boarded the ship here on 22 and 23 April 1838.
The Surgeon Superintendent on this voyage of the “Woodbridge’ was Alexander Stewart, MD, RN.
He had been a naval surgeon and had been the Surgeon Superintendent on the convict ship “Aurora’ under Captain Dawson which arrived in Sydney on 3 November 1833, so we know he had made the voyage at least once before. His report has survived and is at the State Records of NSW.
Surgeon’s Report of the ship Woodbridge ‘s voyage to Sydney by Alexander Stewart, MD, RN
Much of the below details were taken from NSW State Records Reels 2654,1296 and other papers, and from the Sydney Gazette dated 18 September 1838 by Peter Andrews and included in an article he prepared for the Journal of the Singleton Family History Society. Peter and the Society kindly gave me permission to use the material in the newsletter at the time. Peter is now deceased and his article can be found on the Society’s website.
On the 22nd April 1838, I was appointed by Lord Glenelg (Secretary of State for the Colonies), as Surgeon Superintendent of the Emigrant ship “Woodbridge” bound for Sydney. Being complete with water and provisions the ship was dropped down from Deptford to Gravesend the 22nd of same (April), then the following day,76 persons were embarked and 61 more on the 24th completing the number to be taken on board in the river (Thames). They were chiefly farm labourers from the counties of Sussex and Kent and generally healthy, but a few of the children had a pustular eruption on the face, said by the parents to have taken place after vaccination. In the afternoon of the 25th, we got under weigh and again anchored in the sea reach, the winds becoming unfavorable and blowing strong. 26th 4.00pm got up anchor and made sail in the evening, the wind and the tide being against us, the ship was brought up at Mole. At noon on the 27th again weighed anchor, made all sails and having a fair breeze the ship came to anchor off Cowes, Isle of Wight at 11am on the 28th April. On the 2nd May embarked 130 emigrants from Wiltshire, the greater number of these were also farm servants and married with families. The day after the last came aboard I found out that some of the children were suffering from a whooping cough, but with one exception, of a mild character. No means could be adopted for the separation from the healthy and I am happy to say no serious consequences followed. Only a few cases subsequently occurred and these were very mild requiring some medical treatment. On the 7th May at 7.00am weighed and made all sail running through The Needles with a modest breeze and fine weather.
During the month of May, the weather was fine with moderate breezes. The thermometer averaged at noon,63 degrees, maximum 83 degrees, in latitude 7 degrees north, minimum 50 degrees off Cowes, nine days of which rain fell, chiefly near the equator and in heavy showers of short duration. Winds were 7 days NE,1 day NEbE,1 day NNE, I day NW, I day NNW,3 days SW,1 day SSE,1 day SEbE,3 days E,1 day EbS,7 days ENE, I day EbN,3 days variable with calms. 48 cases were put on the sick list principally obstipatic and dysenteric. Many of the females suffered much from sea sickness, of whom 30 were cured and two children died, one of inanition and the other from dysentery.
June for the most part, fine with moderate and variable winds. Thermometer averaged 77 degrees, maximum 85 degrees in a latitude 4 north, minimum 66 degrees in latitude 28 degrees south. 17 days of which rain fell in heavy transient showers with occasional thunder and lightning. Winds 1 day NE,9 days SE,3 days SSE,1 day SEbE and 13 days variable with calms. Added to the sick list 55, cured 54, two children died of dysentery, the same diseases prevailed as the last month.
July, on the 21st of this month, finding the bowel affections continuing on unabated and also with symptoms of scurvy making their appearance, I judged it necessary for the benefit of the health of the emigrants to put into some port to enable me to procure fresh provisions. Accordingly, I wrote to the Master of the ship requesting him to take her to the nearest convenient harbour for that purpose. On the same day, we arrived at Simmons Bay, Cape of Good Hope, where I purchased 2501 pounds of beef and mutton and half that quantity of mixed vegetables, having also taken on board 8 tons of water. No fruit was available. We proceeded on our passage on the 26th. The weather this month was more unsettled, the winds being stronger and a good deal of thick foggy atmosphere. The29th and the 30th days were particularly thick and muggy with torrents of rain and much thunder and lightning, which so injured our remaining fresh beef that a survey was held upon it and 887 pounds were thrown overboard, being unfit for use. The thermometer averaged 60 2/3 degrees, maximum 66 degrees at 29 degrees south latitude, minimum 56 degrees in the latitude 34 degrees south. Nine days of rain fell with the exception of the two days stated above in moderate passing showers. 34 were added to the sick list,32 cured and 4 died,3 children of dysentery and 1 of aphtha of the mouth and fauces.
August, the weather was very unsettled and the decks were wet, but no injurious effects on the health of the people. The sick list, remarkably diminished since the issue of fresh provisions. Thermometer averaged 53 degrees, maximum 64 degrees in latitude 39 south, minimum 49 degrees in latitude 38 south. 19 days of rain fell in transient but heavy showers with occasional hail. The winds chiefly westerly, suddenly shifting around to the north and south, blowing strong with occasional gales and thick weather. The winds were 2 days N,2 days NNE,1 day NE,4 days NW,2 days NNW,2 days NWbW,8 days WNW,2 days WSW,3 days WbS,2 days SSW,1 day SW and 1 day variable and calm. 16 were added to the sick list,19 cured and a married female died from the debilitating effects of sea sickness.
September, on the 15th, the Woodbridge anchored in Sydney Cove and the morning of the 18th, the emigrants were disembarked. With the exception of one child, all were healthy. The weather this month was generally fine, with light and moderate breezes, no rain. The Thermometer averages 50 1/2 degrees, maximum 67 degrees in Sydney Cove, minimum 48 degrees in latitude 40 south. 2 added to the sick list,29 discharged, one of whom was a married woman died of dysentery
On Monday the 17th September 1838 the following two articles appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald:
- Shipping Intelligence : From Portsmouth, same day, having sailed the 7th May, the Ship “Woodbridge”, Captain Dobson with 260 government emigrants, under the superintendence of Dr. Stewart.
- The undermentioned immigrants, with their families, who arrived on the ship “Woodbridge”, on the 15 September, under the superintendence of Alexander Stewart, Esq., R.N., will be landed on the 19th instant, at the Immigrant Buildings, Bent Street; and persons desirous of engaging their services are requested to apply to the Superintendent, at the Buildings, the following day.
The Sydney Gazette dated Tuesday 18 September 1838 in the Ships News Column stated: “The emigrant ship Woodbridge is a vessel well adapted for the conveyance of settlers to our shores, her between decks, being more than seven feet in height, and very spacious. The emigrants on board appear to be in a mostly healthy state, and their berths and other accommodation do great credit to the commanding officers on board, and also the Surgeon Superintendent, Alexander Stewart, Esq., R.N. The only deaths on board this vessel during her passage were eight young children. (In actual fact the deaths were 8 children and 2 married women). Messrs R.Campbell & Co. are her Agents. The emigrants will be landed this day, and as they are principally agricultural labourers, there will be a good opportunity for the settlers to provide themselves with such as they may require.”
The vaccination referred to was for Small Pox, also known as Variola. Small Pox was a contagious feverish disease characterised by eruptions on the skin.
The ‘sea reach’ was a stretch of water where ships anchored waiting for a favourable wind. ‘Mole’ on The Downs’ is an anchorage or roadstead between the east coast of Kent and the Goodwin Sands and takes its name from the range of chalk hills visible in the distance that run through Hampshire, Surrey, Kent and Sussex.
The steamers and small boats brought the emigrants from Southamption about 10 miles down the reach to the ships at anchorage off Cowes. The ships then sailed Spithead side of the Isle of Wight or through The Solent down the other side of the island through The Needles and out into the English Channel.