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Bromptonians in the New Word (part 4)

The Cape of Good Hope and Arrival in Van Diemen's Land

Recap: On the 17th July, 1827 the ship “Caroline”, set sail from Hull bound for Van Diemen’s Land (modern Tasmania). On board were a crew, and 56 passengers from the North East of England, including eight from Brompton-on-Swale including George Barras (Blacksmith), Joseph Hind (Farm Servant), his wife Barbara and their two children, William Prest and brothers George and Henry Stevenson (all listed as Farm Servants). The men were indentured servants to the Van Diemen's Land Company who were aiming to make a profit on sheep farming and would serve the company for a period of several years. Most were illiterate but skilled workers, happy to undertake the risky journey (many with their wives and children) based on the promises of work, payment and housing on arrival and the chance to escape the relative poverty in rural North East England,

We left the Caroline in part 3, having being stopped by pirates but being allowed to continue their journey.

The Cape of Good Hope

While the pirate was behind them, there were still incidents to be recorded by the Captain's wife, Rosalie Hare;

"Tuesday, September 18th, 1827 One of the sailors quarrelling, The Captain, First and Second Officers and the boatswain went below. The sailor, throwing his arms about, bidding defiance to everyone, was collared by the boatswain and put in irons. To the no small amusement of the Captain and the Surgeon, the wife of one of the bailiffs stood by the side of them with a large bar of wood to defend them (as she said) and sure enough she would have been able to fight two men."

There followed two weeks on "uncommonly fine weather" but that all changed on 1st October with entry after entry recording "strong gales", "hard gales", and "heavy squalls". On 15th October Rosalie records that that ship "split two sails".

The bad weather continued all through October with the Caroline battling to make headway. The ship had now been at sea for three and a half months and not seen land. Its hard not to wonder how conditions on board were for the passengers who would more than likely never been to sea before. One also wonders how the livestock were coping.

Captain Robert Hare had express orders from the Van Diemen's Land Company not to call in at any ports so as to save time and expense. However, the Caroline had been provisioned for "150 days" at sea and November 10th was the 117th day at sea. Its not hard to see why Captain Hare dropped anchor in Table Bay , Cape of Good Hope.

Cape Town was a major port and had a population of more than 18,000 by the 1820s.

According to the Cape Town history web site, the town at this time was described as;

"still crowded close to the Heerengracht and neighbouring streets with their canals, which ‘stank abominably’ in the dry season, but served in winter to carry off, sometimes in raging torrents, rain water and drainage. Unsightly buildings occupied the beach with its panoramic view of the bay. The pleasant promenades in the main streets, next to the water canals are lined by shady trees, ended abruptly at Strand Street. Beyond, in the vicinity of the beach, was the old jail, with its treadmill, and the Customs house. The wooden wharf, was in a ‘tottering and precarious state."

Rosalie describes what she encountered;

Sunday, November 11th.

Ship brought to anchor in Table Bay. Officers and steward left the ship, the officers only by mutual consent. Mr Chamberlain joined the ship as mate. We were obliged to put into this port for water. I went on shore in the evening with my husband and the Surgeon. The pier was covered with ladies and gentleman, chiefly English, with slaves dressed neat, very clean and looking very happy and contented. Their clothes generally speaking, were at least equal to English tradesmen's clothing, with the exception of shoes, which no slaves are allowed to wear. Slavery, since the English have been settled, is not to be seen in its true and horrid colours.

Slavery in 1820s and 1830s
Great Britain had passed the Slave Trade Act in 1807 which prohibited the slave trade in the British Empire. However, while it abolished the slave trade on British ships and by British Subjects, it did not abolish the practice of slavery (just the trade of slaves), so slavery continued in many parts of the British Empire. It was not until 1833 (4 years after the journey of the Caroline) that the practice of slavery was legally ended by the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833.  It was reported at the time that there were 38,427 slaves in the Cape of Good Hope.  Slavery in the Cape Colony was officially abolished on 1 January 1834 however, slaves were indentured to their former owners in an apprenticeship system which was abolished in two stages; the first set of apprenticeships came to an end on 1 August 1838, while the final apprenticeships were scheduled to cease on 1 August 1840, six years after the official emancipation.

Rosalie's continues to describe staying with a Mr & Mrs Heideman at their house in the country - "Mr Heideman being one of my dear husband's former owners". She also describes riding out to "the romantic and celebrated vineyards of Constantia" and clearly developed a friendship with Mrs Heideman that she remarks on at some length.

Rosalie also describes in some detail much of the flora and botany of the place and she seems to be educated in many of the Latin names of plants - or at least someone has advised her. Her description of Table Mountain is as follows;

"Table Mountain is 3,582 ft in height, flat at the top and sloping almost perpendicularly down at its eastern end, where it is joined to a rugged peak called Devil's Hill nearly equal in height, the division between forming an apparent gap or chasm. Table Mountain falls also to the westward in a similar steep and sudden manner from its summit to a considerable distance, the further declivity being abrupt until it joins the foot of Sugar Loaf or Lion's Head, a mountain whose elevation is 2,160 ft. On the top of Lion's Head a flag is displayed whenever a a vessel appears in the offing."

Of course, while Rosalie and the ships officers and crew were ashore, so were the passengers. It must have been quite an experience for people from the small towns and villages of northern Britain and they seem to have been making the most of it according to Rosalie who, rather disdainfully, recorded the following;

"Our people afforded amusement; the men by carrying two bottles in each pocket of their fustian or velveteen coats; the women by their vulgar showy dresses, shoes down at the heels, and baskets, parcels and bottles in each hand. The first evening many of them went on shore many of them bent their steps to the Britannia Tavern, a small shed near the waterside, where wine is sold three halfpence a bottle, best wine from twopence to fourpence. .... Our ladies and gentlemen staggering up the gardens eating oranges with their bottles of wine, the necks peeping out of their pockets and exclaiming every minute; 'Lawk a daisy me! What sights of fine folks and black bawns (children) wi' white frocks ... I wunder none of them come from Stockton-on-Tees or Northallerton! Mussy, they'd make a show in Lunnon"

Rosalie also recorded that two of the passengers absconded.

"Two of our people, about nineteen years old, ran away and hid themselves. we suppose in the hills, where there are many small cottage up a considerable height. The Surgeon advertised for them but neither the man nor his wife were discovered, and, being both very unworthy, it was not thought worthwhile to delay the ship for them."

The two people in question are believed to be Henry Slater (cartwright and glazier) from Bedale and his wife, Caroline. At the time of writing its not known what became of them.

Eventually, after 14 days in Table Bay, the Caroline departed on Sunday 25th November 1827, after changing "most of our sailors". It's not known whether this was normal practice or whether new crew were needed due to the delays or other reasons, but Rosalie records that the ship was now well supplied.

"We sailed from this delightful port stocked well with every kind of fresh provision, particularly turkeys, geese, ducks, sheep, pigs, fruit of all kinds. particularly raisins, which are fourpence a pound (the best bloom), plums twopence, almonds three halfpence a pint".

However, they were forced to return to port immediately as it was discovered the anchor was broken and they had to collect another one, departing again on Monday 26th November.

Across the Indian Ocean and Arrival

The entries in Rosalie's journal become sparse for a while and its fairly clear that she was under the weather - which was pretty dreadful as they crossed the Indian Ocean - with "very heavy gales and rain" and "heavy squalls with constant lightening and rain"

As the year 1827 comes to an end, she writes a number of times about a birth on board.

"Sunday, December 29th

Strong gales with a high sea the last fortnight. At 6 o'clock in the morning Mrs B-- delivered of a son, a fine child. The miserable, wicked woman would not take the trouble to make a few clothes for the infant, begging what she could, being too much engaged in smoking a short pipe in the cook-house form morning till night. Her husband and her three other children, ran about half-naked and covered with dirt. This woman had eleven children, the others the husband assured the Surgeon had died of neglect. The Surgeon, after repeated orders at last obliged her to go below to see her infant. He discovered the child's flesh burnt in two places from her pipe. The Surgeon supplied sago for the child but she fed it with cold tea and biscuit.

Sunday, January 6th, 1828

The Surgeon informed Mrs B-- that her infant was ill. Mrs B-- begged that it might be baptised as "she dared say it would die". In the afternoon my husband baptised the neglected baby by the name of John.

Monday, January 7th

One of the women, on passing Mrs B--'s bed awoke her telling her that her bairn was dead. She carelessly lifted it up and said 'No, it has life in it yet'. At twelve her husband told her to feed it. She stuffed large pieces of soaked biscuit into its mouth without ever moving the little creature. The food was found in its throat and the women supposed it was then dead. Her husband expressed much sorrow. John B-- asked that the burial service might be read.

Tuesday, January 8th

My husband read the burial service ere the little unfortunate was committed to the deep. The father, dressing in his best clothes was present and much affected. The service was read in the dining cabin as it rained very fast. I did not attend, being ill. Thus was the dear innocent hurried to Heaven ..."

Finally, land was sighted as the Caroline made its way into the Bass Straight off Van Diemen's Land

Saturday, January 19th 1828

Saw the Pyramid, Van Diemen's Land. Passed Albatross Island and the Hummock Island;

brought to at one and a quarter mile from Circular Head. Much to my gratification as I had been ill most of the passage from the Cape.

Rosalie continues the same day with "Remarks at Van Diemen's Land"

"What was the disappointment of our passengers on their arrival! Their minds, like the minds of most settlers, had been painting fancy visions, and. instead of comfortable houses as they had been used to see in England, here there were tents, bark huts and huge mountains. Some of them were sent to a still less cultivated settlement (Emu Bay) and all were displeased. Thus ended their voyage of hopes. Young men, mechanics, were stamping with passion, wishing themselves with their mothers and all wishing themselves at home and the Directors of the Company, particularly Mr. Inglis (*), in Heaven"

(*) Mr. James Inglis was the Managing Director of the Van Diemen's Land Company in London.

Van Diemen's Land Company's Establishment at Circular Head

A modern image of Circular Head (now called "the Nut").

It seems abundantly clear that the settlers were not met with the expectations they had in mind on arrival and there was a lot of challenges ahead of them. They would no doubt have been reminded of the contracts they had signed and their indentured service to the Van Diemen's Land Company. They would likely have had little choice but to make the best of the situation.

In Part 5 we will find out more about Van Diemen's Land and about some of the settlers as they try to make a new life in their new homeland.


[Source: Original research by Sharon Burnell and Peter Hodgson]

[Source: The Voyage of the Caroline by Rosalie Hare 1827-1828 - copy in possession of Peter Hodgson]

[Source: Cape Town History:]

{Source: Sketch of the History of Van Diemen's Land - James Bischoff Esq. 1832 Project Gutenberg]

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