At the same time as the Friendship was being made ready for service as a convict transport, the process of selecting and rounding up the convict women who would make up her human cargo was set in motion. The authorities at the various prisons across the country where these women were being held were alerted and instructed to make the necessary arrangements for the nominated inmates to be transferred to Deptford in readiness for embarking on the vessel which was to be their home for some considerable length of time. Conveyed in carts or coaches, and often in chains, they arrived in dribs and drabs from all parts of England, some from as far away as Scotland and Wales. It would have been a very uncomfortable journey. In effect, the voyage of the Friendship women commenced with their removal from the respective prisons, this first stage of their journey often being recorded in the local newspapers.
The Leeds Mercury of 24 May 1817 reported:
On Thursday morning the following female convicts left York Castle, in order to be delivered on board the Friendship transport vessel, lying below Deptford, bound to New South Wales : – Hannah Hammond Crampton, who was convicted at the last assizes for having forged Bank notes in her possession and ordered to be transported for 14 years. Mary Buxton, to be transported for seven years.[i]
Readers of the 31 May edition of the Caledonian Mercury were advised that:
Yesterday forenoon the following convicts, from Glasgow, were sent from the jail here to Leith, to embark for the hulks, viz. Jean Hume, Mary Cain, Jean Lang junior, Elizabeth Brodie, and Elizabeth Robertson.[ii]
On the same day, the Durham County Advertiser recorded that on Tuesday morning se’nnight, convicts Elizabeth Levison, Ann Granger, and Mary Smiles had been sent off from Newcastle gaol, for transportation, according to their sentence.[iii] The Hereford Journal of 10 June reported that one female convict [Sarah Chandler] was removed from Presteign county gaol for delivery on board the Friendship, at Deptford.[iv]
As noted previously, and reported in the 7 June 1817 edition of the Bristol Mirror, a contingent of ten female convicts was taken from Bristol’s Newgate prison for delivery on the Friendship.[v] On 19 May 1817 the Governor of the Lancaster Gaol forwarded to the Secretary for State the orders of transportation for fifteen female prisoners currently under his custodianship.[vi]
A similarly large group of women was collected by coach from Newgate much to the discomfort of a gentleman passenger. In a letter dated 5 June 1817, ‘Your occasional correspondent, P.K.’ recounted the following unfortunate experience to the editor of The New Monthly Magazine.
Having business at Deptford a few days since, I took a coach in company with my wife from the stand in Gracechurch street; at which time we were assured that the coach would start in ten minutes. It was not, however, until fifty minutes had expired that it moved from the spot. Having at length proceeded a few yards, I perceived that instead of going down Fish Street Hill in a direct line for London Bridge, the coachman had turned up Lombard Street. I then called out the window to know what I was to understand by his taking that direction. The answer was: “Don’t you know, Sir, the pavement is all taken up at London Bridge, and that we are obliged to go round Blackfriars”. This assertion, as I suspected, was a palpable falsehood; but being at that time unacquainted with the state of the carriageway, I was unable to disprove it. We were accordingly conveyed through Cheapside, Paternoster Row, and Ludgate Hill; when, to my utter surprise, the man turned up the Old Bailey! I now concluded either that I had entered a wrong coach, or that the driver was non compos mentis. Having, however, proceeded thus far, and as Deptford was written upon the panel of the coach door, I resolved to wait for the issue.
On arriving at Giltspur Street, I observed that our pace began to slacken, and in a few moments, had the honour to find myself and wife drawn to the door of the Compter! Here we were compelled to wait ten minutes or a quarter of an hour longer, amid the gaze of the gaping multitude, while a quantity of motley luggage was lashed to the roof of the coach. When this operation was compleat, the coach-door was opened, and to my unspeakable astonishment, a party of eleven female prisoners, chained together, were ushered to the steps by the officers as our travelling companions. We instantly alighted, and as the rain had ceased, we took a seat on that part of the coach usually called the dickey— but this could not be retained: we had scarcely sat down, before I found that we were to be driven from that by at least six of the prisoners, who ascended the ladder with as much expedition as their clanking incumbrances would allow.
Disgusted with my company, and with my wife nearly fainting at such an outrage on female delicacy, we once more alighted, but could obtain no explanation from the coachman, except that he was “sorry the lady was frightened.” So that after being detained nearly two hours—driven from Gracechurch Street to Newgate instead of Deptford, and classed with the refuse of our prisons, we were obliged to seek refuse from the inclemency of the weather, by hiring a hackney-coach, to take us to the place from whence we at first set off.[vii]
As they stepped on board the Friendship the first person the women had to contend with was the Surgeon Superintendent. Receiving and accounting for these 101 women was a protracted and time consuming process. When their turn came, each of our women would be examined to ensure that they were not carrying any diseases and that they appeared physically fit enough to undertake the rigours of an extended sea voyage. At the Surgeon’s discretion, any person who did not meet these criteria could be refused entry on board but, in the case of the Friendship, all 101 on Shelton’s schedule passed muster. They were then interviewed by the Surgeon who recorded their name, age, and physical characteristics, after which they were issued with rations, bedding, cooking and eating utensils, etc, and the regulation clothing, though they were also allowed to keep their own clothes which were bundled up and labelled for return on arrival at their destination. Next, the women were divided into groups, referred to as messes. The members of the messes would generally sleep and eat together for the whole journey. While the convicts may have had some discretion to choose their own messmates, allocation was generally determined by the order in which they arrived on board. At this point one person from each mess was nominated as monitor. As part of their ‘orientation’ it would have been made quite clear to every woman on embarkation that they were to behave themselves at all times in accordance with the rules.
It was a requirement that, being responsible and accountable for all aspects of the care, health and welfare of his convict charges, the Surgeon Superintendent keep a daily journal of his activities in this regard. Unfortunately no such journal for Peter Cosgreave’s voyage has survived. Typically, apart from the day-to-day ‘medical’ entries, journals might include embarkation details, the daily and weekly routines laid out for the convicts, list of supplies and rations used during the voyage, and a list of the rules of conduct.[viii] By 1817 shipboard routines would have been fairly standardised, and it is likely that regulations set down by Peter Cosgreave and displayed prominently would not have diverged much from those adopted by his contemporary, Thomas Reid, Surgeon Superintendent on the Morley, a female convict transport which carried 121 women to Van Diemen’s Land in 1820.[ix]
With a view to ensure the health and comfort of the prisoners, as to also establish a system of good order, decency, and religious conduct during the voyage, the Surgeon Superintendent has drawn up the following regulations, which must be strictly observed.
I.- The care and management of each mess shall be intrusted to a Monitor, who will be held responsible for any irregularities committed by those under her direction : it is expected that every one will behave respectfully, and be obedient to the monitor of her particular mess.
II.- Cursing and swearing, – obscene and indecent language, – fighting and quarrelling, – as such practices tend to dishonour God’s holy name, and corrupt good manners, will incur the displeasure of the Surgeon Superintendent, and be visited with punishment and disgrace.
III.- Cleanliness being essentially necessary to the health, comfort, and well-being of every person on board, it is desired that the most scrupulous attention in this respect be observed on every occasion.
IV.- The monitors are particularly enjoined the utmost vigilance in taking care that nothing disorderly shall appear among the members of their respective messes.
V.- Any one convicted of disturbing others whilst engaged in reading the holy Scriptures, or other religious exercise, will incur special animadversion, and such misconduct will be entered into the journal.
VI.- A proper reserve towards the sailors will be held indispensable and all intercourse with them must be avoided as much as possible.
VII.- A daily account will be kept, and a faithful report made to His Excellency the Governor of New South Wales of the conduct of each individual during the voyage, and those who behave well, though they may have come here with bad characters, will be represented favourably : the Surgeon Superintendent pledges to use his utmost effort to get every one settled in a comfortable manner whose behaviour shall merit such friendly interference.
N.B. Any breach of the above regulations, or any attempt to deface or destroy this paper, will be punished severely ; and the person so offending must not expect to be recommended to the kind notice of the Governor of New South Wales.
Elizabeth Fry, renowned prison and social reformer, made her first visit to Newgate Prison in 1813. Apart from her efforts to improve conditions for women and children incarcerated within the prison, she campaigned for the rights and welfare of those who were being transported. She arranged for each woman to be given a ‘vital care package’ containing pieces of material and sewing tools so that they usefully occupy themselves during the journey.[x] Referring to Elizabeth Fry’s visits to the female convicts awaiting the departure of the Morley, Surgeon Reid commented:
Her absence, when unavoidable, was unremittingly supplied to the convicts by the care and watchfulness of Mrs. Pryor, whom not the roughest weather or greatest personal inconvenience could deter from the work of humanity. Her kind impressive admonitions and consoling advice were given to the unfortunate exiles without reserve, and several articles of comfort and convenience, which had been provided by the Committee, were then distributed by this amiable character.
Whilst these attentions to their personal wants were sedulously given, a due regard to their spiritual welfare was not forgotten. Bibles and Testaments … were furnished by the Committee, and also other books of a religious and moral description, peculiarly selected for their circumstances.[xi]
It is quite possible that that the Ladies Committee arranged a similar visit to those women awaiting their fate on the Friendship. Surgeon Reid also mentions an on-board visit by ‘The Solicitor to the Bank of England’ who was commissioned by the Bank Committee to make gratuity payments to some of the Morley women.[xii]
It is almost certain that a solicitor representing the Bank paid a similar visit to the Friendship in response to petitions for financial relief submitted by seven of the female convicts who were then on board the vessel awaiting the sailing date – Hannah Hammond Crampton (27 May), Mary Davis, Mary Lenny, Margaret Sellers, Barbara Oliver (4 June), and Susannah Courtney (7 June).[xiii] (Refer to Part 2 Individual Profiles for further information).
On 24 June 1817, from Downing Street, Under Secretary Henry Goulburn penned a memorandum to Governor Macquarie, which was one of the despatches carried on board the Friendship.
I am directed by Lord Bathurst to transmit to you herewith the Assignment of One Hundred and One Female Convicts, embarked on the Friendship for the Colony of New South Wales.[xiv]
With all the arrangements finalised, the Friendship, under the command of Captain Andrew Armet, set sail on 3 July 1817 for what was to be a very long and, as was subsequently revealed, troubled passage. Off the coast of Madeira the vessel came across an open boat carrying six Spaniards and an American sailor. Using their shirts as a jury rigged sail, exhausted and with no food, they were almost at the point of death, having been tossed around at sea for six days. Captain Armet ordered them to be hoisted aboard and found out that these ‘fortunate’ men were actually pirates from South America. The renegades were transferred to an American ship on 7 August. The Friendship anchored off the coast of Africa on the night of 22 September. The next morning the cable parted from her anchor and the ship was in great danger of being driven onto the breakers. On 15 October she arrived at St. Helena where she remained for a week, during which time Peter Cosgreave sought the assistance of the Admiral of the naval base in recommending appropriate action to stamp out the fraternisation between the ship’s officers and the crew and the convicts. The matter was unresolved when the Friendship departed for New South Wales.[xv]
[i] Leeds Mercury, 24 May 1817, p.3.
[ii] Caledonian Mercury, 31 May 1817, p.3.
[iii] Durham County Advertiser, 31 May 1817, p.2.
[iv] Hereford Journal, 25 Jun 1817, p.3.
[v] Bristol Mirror, 7 Jun 1817, p.3.
[vi] FindmyPast (FMP), England and Wales Crime and Punishment, 1770-1935.
[vii] The New Monthly Magazine, Volume VII, Jan-Jun 1817, H. Colburn, London, pp.517-518.
[viii] Convicts to Australia, Life on a Convict Ship, http://members.iinet.net.au/~perthdps/convicts/shiplife.html.
[ix] Thomas Reid, Two Voyages to New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land, Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, London, 1822, pp.98-100.
[xi] Thomas Reid, p.96.
[xii] Thomas Reid, p.124.
[xiii] Prisoners’ Letters to the Bank of England, 1781-1827. Ed. Deirdre Palk. London: London Record Society, 2007. British History Online, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/london-record-soc/vol42, pp65-92.
[xiv] Historical Records of Australia (HRA), Series I, Volume IX, The Library Committee of the Commonwealth Parliament, 1917, p.438.
[xv] Charles Bateson, The Convict Ships 1787-1868, Library of Australian History, Sydney, 2004. Free Settler or Felon? Convict Ship Friendship 1818, https://www.jenwilletts.com/convict_ship_friendship_1818.htm.