Immigration-“Woodbridge” Voyage-1838

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 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.

Barque

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.

http://www.xroyvision.com.au/andrews/history/hist4.htm

Log Commences

APRIL 1838

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 completed 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 unfavourable 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 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.

MAY 1838

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 1838

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 1838

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 aptha of the mouth and fauces.

AUGUST 1838

August, the weather was very unsettled and the decks were wet ,but no injurious effects to 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 1838

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 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.”

Additional Notes-

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.

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Bell Ancestors,Coming to Australia-Robin and Mercy Bell,1838

Robin Bell (b 1785), the third son and fourth child of Thomas and Ann Bell of Mereworth, married Mercy Cheeseman in 1811, and had a family of ten children.

This family emigrated to New South Wales on the Woodbridge in 1838.

In the late 18th Century, England was again at war. The most terrible effect was the great depression it brought about in agriculture. It was essential the land produce an ever increasing amount of food and although land enclosure had been going on for a long time the pressures of war hastened the movement. Many more taxes were introduced and although they mainly applied to the rich landowners they had a roll-on effect to the labourer in that as his taxes rose the landowner used them as an excuse to pay his workers less. By 1795 in the south of England agricultural labourers were paid only a pittance compared to what they had been and attempts were made to supplement his income from the parish poor rate. Many people resisted this step and tried to do without this assistance because of the stigma associated with it. They were willing to work, but there was no work. Of course the Industrial Revolution played its part too.

We know that by the early 1830’s conditions had become so terrible that some agricultural labourers caused riots. In some effort to assist the poor, work houses were set up all over

England. It was probably about this time that Robin and Mercy Bell and family were forced to return to Mereworth from East Farleigh where they had lived and worked for a number of years.  (Mereworth was Robin Bell’s parish of birth, so became responsible for him and his family in times of unemployment and destitution).

At the same time the colonies were calling for more agricultural labourers for the expanding wool trade. Immigration was encouraged but only the richer farmer could afford to go.

By 1837 the first of the assisted immigration schemes to Australia were in place. The summer of 1837 in England and Europe was cold and wet which led to a very poor harvest for that year.

This was probably one of the catalyst that led James and George Bell of East Farleigh, the sons of Thomas Bell (b 1782) and his first wife Mary, to sign on as sailors on board the convict ship Asia to work their way to Sydney in late 1837. See former blogs My Bell Ancestors-George Bell (1817-1894) Sorting Red Herrings posted 3 July 2015 and My Bell Ancestors-George Bell Red Herrings Sorted posted 1 February 2016.

The bad summer of 1837 was followed by a very harsh winter with much snow.

Many families were literally destitute and starving. Several of our Bell families like many others decided to emigrate, hoping to make a better life. The ‘bait’ as it were, was the dream to be able and own land after a few years work in the new colony. This was a dream they couldn’t have realized if they had stayed in England. Having decided to emigrate the families had to full-fill very strict conditions for a free passage to Australia. Many applicants were turned down as they were not able to fit these conditions. Robin Bell (b1785)and his family of Mereworth, Kent, were able to satisfy the conditions to emigrate to Sydney, as most of their family were adults and employable. See former blog “Robin and Mercy Bell of Kent, England, and Scone in New South Wales”, posted 1 September 2012.

With the bounty System for New South Wales the male members of the family would have applied to the Workhouse Union Clerk at Malling for an assisted passage. He would have sent their application onto the Agent General for Emigration in London. Writing back to the clerk at Malling the Agent General would announce that the Surgeon Superintendent of a certain bounty ship, such as the Woodbridge, or his agent, would be available to interview applicants on a certain day in the workhouse boardroom. The necessary certificates had to be presented at the interview. The applicant had to produce certificates certifying to moral and industrious habits, good health and practical knowledge concerning his given occupation. These documents had to be signed by the parish clergyman and other respectable inhabitants in the parish where the applicant resided. The applicant also had to tender certificates to his age and that of his wife and children. These were usually extracted from the parish registers. It is probable that Robin Bell and his family made the original application sometime in February 1838.

Other specified conditions for passage to Australia included a certain amount and type of clothing. Luggage packages were not to exceed 18″ deep and every steerage passenger before embarking had to put sufficient linen and other changes of clothing for a month into a box not more than 15″ square as only these small boxes were allowed in the steerage compartment. All other luggage was stored(preferably in a tin-lined trunk), in the holds to be retrieved and brought onto deck in calm weather about four or five weeks into the voyage.

Eligibility for free passage was determined by the Superintendent or his Agent at the interview. The successful applicants would then be advised the ships departure date and the necessity of reaching the place of embarkation a couple of days before the date of departure so their luggage could be examined for correctness under the rules of passage.

Preparations would take several weeks to complete, as the clothing alone which was all made by hand would take time. Parish Overseers Accounts in the Parish Chest Records for Mereworth, Kent, give a great insight into the lives of our Bell families, as these show us that the Mereworth Parish Overseers paid for the shoes and clothing to be made to allow our Bell families to emigrate. Also the tin lining for the trunk and tools for their trade. Emigrants were expected to travel to the place of embarkation at their own expense. Again the Mereworth Parish Overseers assisted. Note the ‘landing money’ which was given to the emigrants on landing in the colony.

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Original Parish Chest, St Lawrence Mereworth, that once held the parish account books including the Overseer of the Poor. Copyright Nola Mackey-2004

“1838 – An Account of Moneys Spent by me for parish of Mereworth to assist in clothing and other expenses attending so many poor families who were emigrating from this parish to New South Wales”

April Gave Robt Bell by check To purchase tools etc £4
Paid Mr Farrant a bill for Robt Bell and family £6
Pd the Revd Mr Jebb for Robt Bells Family

To receive at Landing in Sidney (sic)

£10

 

Robin and Mercy Bell were also known as Robert and Mary Bell in the Mereworth records.

The family were given ten pounds on landing in Sydney to help them live until they could arrange employment.

The Woodbridge left  England on 7 May  and arrived in Sydney on 15 September 1838.

In the next blog I will give more information on the voyage of the ‘Woodbridge‘ itself.

Robin and Mercy Bell of Kent, England and Scone in New South Wales

I have been researching my Bell ancestors since childhood when my maternal grandmother told me stories of bushrangers, gold miners and colourful family characters. I must admit it is still my favourite family when it comes to research.

It is now more than fifty years since I bought my first certificate, which was the death certificate of George Bell, my grandmothers paternal grandfather, who died in 1894 at Picton in New South Wales.

Since that time I have traced these ancestors back to the Middle Ages in Kent, England. I have also traced many twigs and branches of the Bell Family Tree’. Some of these I have published in book form.

For twenty years I also published a Bell Family Newsletter in which I kept the family members up to date with the family research. Family members also sent details of their ‘twigs’ and ‘branches’ which was also shared through these newsletters.

Although I no longer publish the newsletter I’m always interested in the research of these families and from time to time I solve long standing puzzles and make wonderful break-throughs.

I now intend to share these with family members through my blog and articles on my website. This blog is about the family of Robin and Mercy Bell (nee Cox), who immigrated from Mereworth, Kent,on board the Woodbridge, which arrived in Sydney on 15 September 1838. These were the uncle and Aunt of my fore mentioned George Bell. Much of the story of this family and their descendants is told in ‘The Descendants of Robin and Mercy Bell’, which is available through this website.

I have continued to research this family line to try and solve mysteries and find information not available when the book was printed. I found some of the missing information at a later date and shared it with interested family members in the Bell Family Newsletters Nos 41 and 42. Now I have been able to find more on this family, particularly the women, before the family immigrated.

Mercy Cox was born about 1782, probably in Staplehurst, Kent, the seventh child and youngest daughter of Uriah and Anne Cox (nee Poole). Her baptism has not been found, but it is possibly in the Congregational Church records, as were her older brothers and sisters.

Mercy Cox married James Cheeseman on 8 November 1800 at Smarden in Kent. James was the eldest son of Solomon and Sarah Cheeseman (nee Cornwall) and had been born at Marden Kent in 1767.

Ann Pool, the eldest daughter of James and Mercy Cheeseman was born at Staplehurst, and was baptised on 4 July 1802.

In late 1803 James Cheeseman went away to the Napoleonic Wars, and never returned. In the Staplehurst Overseers Account Books we find that the parish paid Mercy Cheeseman a weekly allowance from parish funds for nearly three years. On the 18 December 1803 the infant daughter of Mercy and James Cheeseman died and was buried in the churchyard at Staplehurst.

On the 22 April 1804 another daughter was born to Mercy and she was baptised in the Staplehurst church on 22 April. She was named Sarah Cornwall Cheeseman for James’ mother.

Mercy’s parish allowance payments stop on 14 April 1806. Lady Day, the 25 March is the first day of the Church year, and it would appear these payments stopped soon afterwards. After the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, there was a break in hostilities with France, so one would expect James Cheeseman to return home to his family. Obviously not having put in an appearance by the end of the church year in March 1806, the parish may not have been willing to continue to support his family, and may have tried to resettle them in the husband’s parish of birth, Marden, Kent.

Sometime in 1806 another daughter was born to Mercy Cheeseman, possibly at Marden. She was baptised at Marden on 31 January 1808 and is recorded at the daughter of James and Mercy Cheeseman. I will write more about these three daughters of Mercy Cheeseman in my next blog.

It was about this time that Mercy Cheeseman formed a relationship with Robin Bell of East Farleigh, Kent. Robin, the fourth child and third son of Thomas and Ann Bell (nee Lawrence) was born at Mereworth, Kent, and baptised there on 15 March 1785.

Jane Bell the eldest daughter of Robin and Mercy Bell was baptised at East Farleigh on 28 February 1808. She died at Maidstone the following year and was buried in All Saints churchyard on 25 November.

It had been over seven years since Mercy Cheeseman’s husband, James had gone off to war, and the general conclusion was that he had perished, as he had not returned home to his family. Robin Bell and Mercy Cheeseman were married at East Farleigh on 10 October 1811.

On the 10 November 1811, Ann Bell, the daughter of Robin and Mercy Bell was baptised at East Farleigh. She later married her cousin Josiah Bell and remained in England when her parents and siblings emigrated.

Mary Bell, the third daughter of Robin and Mercy Bell was baptised at East Farleigh on 16 January 1814. On 4 August 1834 there was a Removal Order for her to be removed from East Farleigh and returned to Mereworth her father’s parish of birth because she was expecting a child. At her examination on 18 August 1834 she named John Saunders, a labourer of Brenchley as the father. She remained at East Farleigh with Mereworth Parish Overseers paying parish relief to East Farleigh for her keep. In the following month a son was born to Mary and she named him Robert in honour of her father. He was baptised at East Farleigh on 7 October 1834. He died just before his third birthday and was buried in St Mary’s churchyard, East Farleigh on 26 September 1837.At this stage nothing further is known of Mary Bell. She may have been the Mary Ann Bell who married George Terry at Maidstone in 1836.

Further children were born to Robin and Mercy Bell including the following:

Robert Bell baptised 28 April 1816 at St Mary’s East Farleigh.

Henry Stirling Bell baptised 16 August 1818 at St Mary’s East Farleigh. Died and was buried there on 5 March 1820.

John Bell, baptised 28 May 1820 at St Mary’s East Farleigh.

Thomas Bell, baptised 7 June 1822, at All Saints Maidstone.

James Bell, baptised 7 November 1824, at St Mary’s East Farleigh.

Jethro Bell, baptised 18 March 1827, at All Saints, Maidstone.

Charlotte Bell, baptised 15 November 1829, at St Mary’s East Farleigh.

All these children emigrated with their parents on board the Woodbridge in 1838. Much of their life and descendants can be found in my book, The Descendants of Robin and Mercy Bell.