The summer of 1817 had been particularly hot and humid throughout the whole of the British Isles. Weather reports from across the country were recorded in the 3 July issue of the Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser.[i] For Norfolk we learn that:
The fine weather for the last fortnight has greatly improved the appearance of the crops of corn in this neighbourhood, and affords the pleasing prospect of a more plentiful and early harvest than could have been expected.
Similar sentiments were echoed from Scotland.
At Dumfries, on Sunday, the mercury in the thermometer rose in the shade to 88°, which, we believe, is above the average temperature of Jamaica and La Guiara. The wheat and the barley are getting fast into ear, and there never was an apparently more abundant crop in that district of the country; and if the weather continues favourable, the harvest will be uncommonly early.
Such unseasonably hot weather may well have delighted the farmers, but would not have been so appreciated by those involved all the work of preparing a vessel about to proceed on a long voyage to the other side of the world. The bountiful harvest so eagerly anticipated would have been of little interest or benefit to those on board the departing ships, one such was the Friendship, which slipped anchor at Deptford on 3 July 1817, made her way down the Thames and then headed south. Aboard the ship were a few cabin passengers, a small contingent of wives and children of convict men already in the colony who had been granted indulgence passages, and two daughters of one of the Friendship convicts.[ii] However, the most important component of the human cargo was the 101 convict women.
The Friendship was a three-decker merchantman, built by William and John Wells of Rotherhithe and launched in 1793 under the ownership of Oldham & Co. By 1797 her burthen was increased from 341 to 430 tons, and ownership passed to brothers John and James Mangles whose family had significant shipping and chandelling interests at Wapping. She was mainly engaged as a freighter on the London-West Indian and London-Cape of Good Hope-East Indian trade routes, but in August 1799 was one of a small convoy of vessels that departed from Cork bound for Port Jackson. This was to be the Friendship’s first, and only other assignment as a convict transport. Under the command of Captain Hugh Reed, and with 133 male convicts on board, the Friendship departed from Cork on 24 August 1799 and, after a voyage of 176 days, arrived at Port Jackson on 16 February 1800.
Seventeen years elapsed before the Friendship’s services as a convict transport were again called upon.[iii] In the interim, and as advertised under the Private Contracts columns on 3 October 1816, and subsequently, in the Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser, the ship had undergone a substantial upgrade in 1813 and, according to the ship’s broker, was fully operational and available for charter at a moment’s notice.
THE Ship FRIENDSHIP figure head, 420 tons register measurement, built, and since lengthened in the River Thames, had new topsides and a thorough repair at Blackwall in 1813, when the shipwright’s and blacksmith’s bills amounted to £2900, copper-fastened and coppered; has a flush upper deck, and two other decks laid fore-and-aft; sails fast, and carries a large cargo; well adapted for the East or West India Trade, or for the Southern Fishery; abundantly found in stores, which, with the hull, being in good order, she may be sent to sea without any expence but for men and provisions. Lying in the West India Export Dock; E. Smith Commander. Inventories and further Particulars to be had on board at No. 272 Wapping, or of J. LACHLAN, Broker, 22, Great Alie-street, Goodman’s-fields.[iv]
It was not until eight months later that the ‘deal’ securing the contract for the Friendship as a convict transport was signed off in June 1817.
The sheer volume of shipping coming and going to and from the London docks demanded and was regulated by well-defined and exacting protocols. Accordingly, over time a comprehensive and meticulous set of procedures and processes had been established and refined to specifically anticipate and provide for every contingency involved in engaging vessels for the potentially hazardous and uncertain responsibility of transporting convicts to the other side of the world. A prospective contractor – ship owner, or their agent – was required to tender their ship to the Navy Board to have it surveyed for sea-worthiness and, if necessary, suitability for fitting-out as a convict transport. Furthermore, the tenderer had to demonstrate that they could meet all specified conditions and timelines. In his study The Convict Ships Charles Bateson cites an example of a contract drawn up in 1801. He notes that, apart from a few minor amendments, this was the standard format used for decades to come.
The contractors covenanted that the ships should be tight, strong and substantial, above and below water, and manned by qualified seamen on the scale, in 1801, of six men and a boy and, at a later date, of seven men and a boy to every hundred tons register measurement. The contractors were to fit the ship with masts, sails, yards, anchors, cables, ropes, cords, apparel and other furniture, and to furnish coals, wood, fire-hearths and furnaces for cooking and dressing the provisions, as well as with bowls, spoons, platters and other necessaries for the convicts and their guards. Water casks and fresh water were to be provided at the rate of one butt for each person. Sufficient scrapers, brooms, swabs and other articles for cleaning the prisoners’ quarters were to be furnished, and the contractors agreed to employ these in accordance with the directions of the surgeon or surgeon’s mate.
It was stipulated also that each ship should carry not less than, three proper boats, that wholesome provisions and a sufficiency of water should be furnished to the seamen, and that two windsails for ventilation purposes and an Osbridge’s machine for sweetening water should be in each vessel.[v]
Finally, and only after the authorities were fully satisfied, the successful owners or agent were required to enter into a contract with the only official with the authority to make contracts for the transportation of convicts. Since 1786 this was Thomas Shelton Esq., Clerk of the Sessions of Oyer and Terminer and Gaol Delivery at the Old Bailey for London and Middlesex, and Clerk of the Arraigns for the Admiralty. By the time he died in 1829 Shelton had made out 228 contracts for the transportation of British convicts to Australia.[vi]
On 21 June 1817 a contract (referred to as Shelton’s Account No. 63) was entered into and signed by Thomas Shelton and, on behalf of the Friendship’s owners, Joseph Lachlan, broker of 22 Great Alie Street, Goodman’s Fields. Joseph Lachlan was born in 1774 in London to Robert Lachlan (a baker) and his wife Sarah. As a youth he was apprenticed as a patten-maker, but by at least 1805 he had put up his shingle as a Broker. Specialising in convict transport contracts, Lachlans & Co. (Joseph Lachlan the Elder, followed by Joseph Lachlan the Younger) operated until the mid-1840s, with a minor glitch in 1818 when he was declared bankrupt but ‘cleared’ in 1821. In 1800 the elder Joseph married Ann Gibb. He died in 1842 and was buried at West Norwood Cemetery.[vii]
(As an aside, attention has been drawn to and questions raised by Dan Byrnes in The Blackheath Connection regarding the apparently close working relationship between Thomas Shelton and the Lachlans. Between June 1817 and June 1829 Joseph Lachlan secured 84 contracts for convict transportation.[viii])
In essence, and in accordance with the ponderously legalistic contract document, within a short time-frame Joseph Lachlan was to organise, coordinate and oversee the work of the dockyard ‘chippies’ and other hands in making the necessary modifications to convert the Friendship from a regular cargo carrier to a floating prison.
This involved not only constructing secure and discrete facilities between decks for accommodating 101 female prisoners, but also quarters for the ship’s Master and crew, the military guard and a handful of cabin passengers. Separately, sufficient space had to be allocated and made ready below decks for stowing and accessing the vast amount of food, water and other supplies needed for a protracted voyage. Further, with reference to the Schedule drawn up by Thomas Shelton and annexed to the Deed, Joseph Lachlan his Executors, Administrators, or Assigns undertook to ‘forthwith take and receive the said Convicts and transport them or cause them to be transported effectually as soon as conveniently might be’ on board a ‘certain Ship or Vessel called the Friendship of which Andrew Armit [sic] is Master and Commander’. At the at the completion of the voyage, it would be Joseph Lachlan’s responsibility to ‘procure such evidence as the nature of the case would admit’ of the full contingent’s safe arrival at their destination (‘death and casualties by Sea excepted’) and delivery to Governor Lachlan Macquarie.
In fulfilling his obligations for preparing the Friendship for its forthcoming voyage Joseph Lachlan would have to work very closely with the Master who, as noted above, by May 1817 was Andrew Armet. It was perhaps fortuitous, therefore, that Andrew happened to be Joseph’s brother-in-law. Born about 1773, possibly in Scotland, widower Andrew Armet married Euphana Gibb at West Ham on 17 July 1816. Euphana had witnessed the 1800 marriage between her sister Ann and Joseph Lachlan. Furthermore, on 15 January 1803, Benaiah Gibb, son of Thomas Gibb, a slopseller (tailor and outfitter), and brother of Euphana and Ann, was apprenticed to Joseph Lachlan, Pattenmaker. On 26 March 1814 Benaiah married Sarah Lachlan, daughter of Robert and sister of Joseph. It would be interesting to know if Gibb & Co. was also involved in the kitting-out process, as a supplier of the regulation clothing issued to the convicts.[ix]
Prior to the ship’s departure it was the Master’s responsibility to ensure that the vessel was adequately victualled, not only for the voyage, but also with sufficient provisions for the use of ‘his’ convicts after disembarkation. Thus, as vouched for on 6 May 1817 at the Victualling Yard, Deptford, 252 (8lb pieces) of beef and 960 (4lb pieces) of pork were loaded aboard to be delivered to the Governor of New South Wales for the use of Female Convicts, after their arrival.
Once under way, the Master’s primary responsibility was to safeguard the security of his ship and to sail it in such a manner, and as conditions dictated, to arrive at its destination safely in the shortest time possible. To achieve this he would have to combine his seafaring and navigational skills and experience with a close and ever-vigilant oversight of the behaviour of his crew.
While the Master was officially in charge of his ship, one other person was crucial to the welfare of all those who were to embark on the Friendship – the Ship’s Surgeon. After the arrival, and unacceptably high on-board mortality rate of the 2nd Fleet, it was decreed that all convict ships were to carry a surgeon who would be responsible for supervising the care of the convicts, the crew, any marine detachments, and other passengers. In his article, “The Heritage of Naval Surgery”, Noel Tait comments:
The re-introduction of naval surgeons into the British convict system saw the transportee death rate plummet. The embarked naval surgeons were given the special title of Surgeon Superintendent to enhance their status beyond their state rank. This made it possible (but not easy) for them to balance the commercial interests of ship owners and merchant captains, and the interests of the British Government and naval commissioners. The role of a naval Surgeon Superintendent on a convict transport ship required firmness along with tact and diplomacy to moderate the cruelty and avarice that confronted them at sea. They did this while exercising clinical skill and experience, tempered by naval discipline, to deliver medical care at sea … Royal Navy surgeons were still obliged to allocate part of their small salary to the purchase of a navy-approved kit of surgical instruments before boarding ship … Only from 1805 had the Royal Navy finally taken over the expense of providing ship’s medicines, previously also a responsibility of the surgeon, to be met out of his salary.[x]
Thus, the atmosphere for all on board a convict ship was essentially governed by the degree of harmony established between the Master and the Surgeon Superintendent which, in turn, depended on the mutual understanding of and operation within the boundaries of their respective spheres of responsibility. A lack of written instructions could and did lead to misunderstandings and quarrels, as highlighted by Charles Bateson.
These genuine differences of opinion were accentuated by the natural irritations and clashes of personality inevitable among individuals of diverse temperament, education and interests in a small vessel on so long a voyage. Cooped up for months in cramped quarters, deprived of all privacy, and engaged on a voyage which all must have regarded with some measure of repugnance, the officers found it difficult and often impossible to live together harmoniously. Trifles were magnified out of all proportion to their importance, and frequently led, particularly among officers jealous of their own authority and dignity, to bitter and sometimes violent quarrels.[xi]
The person assigned to the role of Surgeon Superintendent for the Friendship was Lieutenant Peter Cosgreave, R.N. His warrant date was 4 July 1811 and he was included in the Navy List of Medical Officers in 1814. At the conclusion of the Friendship voyage he returned to England. Born about 1784, he married Maria Ford (21) in 1819 at St. Clement Danes, by whom he had two sons, Peter Campbell Cosgreave and Matthew Friend Cosgreave, both baptised at St Clement Danes in April 1828, and who died young, aged 21 and 28 respectively in 1843 and 1855. Although he did not serve on any other convict transport ship, Peter Cosgreave continued to practise from 34 Norfolk Street, Strand. In 1827 he had been appointed as Surgeon of the Parish of St Clement Danes, apparently carrying out his duties with ‘exemplary zeal and humanity’ for the following seven years. At the 1833 annual election of office bearers his position was hotly contested and he lost the election to a Mr. Richards, who was prepared to undertake the role at a lesser charge – a factor that weighed heavily in his favour.[xii]
The Quarterly Naval Obituary column of the 3 July 1841 Morning Post listed the death two months earlier of Surgeon Peter Cosgreave. His widow, who died on 29 December 1860, outlived him by almost twenty years. Andrew Armet died in July 1826, and his widow in 1866. Their only child, Isabel, died a spinster in 1897.
[i] Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser, 3 Jul 1817, p.3.
[ii] The Cabin passengers were Messrs Cordeaux and Walker, who were to take up their appointments as Deputy Assistants Commissaries General, and the Rev. Giles and his family. A PDF list of those granted indulgence passages, annotated by the Ship’s Surgeon Superintendent, is included in the Arrival section.
[iii] Charles Bateson, The Convict Ships 1787-1868, Library of Australian History, Sydney, 2004. Free Settler or Felon? Convict Ship Friendship 1800, https://www.jenwilletts.com/convict_ship_friendship_1800.htm. Mrs. Hugh Reed, wife of the captain, kept a journal of the voyage, extracts of which are cited in Free Settler or Felon?
[iv] Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser, 3 Oct 1816, p.4. Further notices were placed over the next four months. The Friendship had been built in 1793, and by 1813 would have been in need of a refit.
[v] Charles Bateson, The Convict Ships.
[vi] London Courier and Evening Gazette, 15 Sep 1817, p.4. For further commentary on Thomas Shelton, refer to Merchant Networks, http://www.merchantnetworks.com.au/blackheath/thebc35.htm.
[vii] Merchant Networks, Pathways to the Convict Contractors to Australia, http://www.merchantnetworks.com.au/timelines/pathways2.htm. FindmyPast (FMP), England, Births & Baptisms; FMP, London Apprenticeship Abstracts, 1442-1850; Ancestry, London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921; Oxford Journal, 2 May 1818, p.2; The London Gazette, 14 Apr 1821, Issue:17697, p.850; FMP, Greater London Burial Index.
[viii] Dan Byrnes, The Blackheath Connection, website book, http://www.merchantnetworks.com.au/blackheath/thebc35.htm.
[ix] Andrew Armet died in July 1826, his wife in 1866, and their only child, Isabel (spinster) in 1897. Ancestry, Scotland, Select Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950 – Andrew Armot [sic]; FMP, Thames and Medway Marriages; Ancestry, London, England, Church of England Deaths and Burials, 1813-1980; Ancestry, England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1837-1915; Ancestry, London, England, Freedom of the City Admission Papers, 1681-1925. Ancestry, England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966. Ancestry, AJTO1 Online family tree, https://www.ancestry.co.uk/family-tree/person/tree/70543637/person/390191990990/facts.
[x] Noel Tait, Lieutenant Commander (Professor) RANR, “The Heritage of Naval Surgery”, ADF Health, Vol 12, No.1, 2011, pp. 61-62, http://www.defence.gov.au/heaPlth/infocentre/journals/ADFH_2011/ADF_Health_2011_60.pdf.
[xi] Charles Bateson, The Convict Ships.
[xii] Ancestry, England Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1875. FMP Westminster Marriages, St Clement Danes. FMP, Middlesex, Brompton Cemetery Records.