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Bromptonians in the New World (part 3)

Updated: Jun 28, 2021

Part 3 - The Voyage to Van Diemen's Land Begins.

Recap: Link to Part 1 Link to Part 2 In 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,

The Good Ship Caroline

The ship for the long journey was a 330-ton 3 masted barque. Built in 1825 in Cochin in the far south of India. The Caroline was a relatively new ship in 1827. She was, according to Lloyd's Register square rigged and sheathed in yellow metal and would have been fitted out to accommodate the crew, passengers and cargo.

Above: a typical 3 masted barque of the 19th century.

The captain of the Caroline was Robert Hare, who was in his early thirties (born in Ipswich in 1797). Robert had married just 3 months before to 18 year old Rosalie Hancorn Ambrose Lind (daughter of army surgeon Robert Lind of the 42nd Highlanders). Rosalie was accompanying him on the voyage to Van Diemen's Land and she was to write a journal and eventually a book of her experiences. Its thanks to her that we know so much about this journey.

As well a crew of about 20-25 and the 56 passengers we know about. we also know that the cargo included 6 cattle (5 cows of the "Teeswater" breed and a pure shorthorn bull (called Red Comet), 8 horses, 7 dogs and 310 sheep. These were specially selected Saxony sheep intended to lay the foundations for the sheep farming business the VDL Co. was hoping to make a profit from and they had earlier been collected by the Caroline from Hamburg. The ship had also to carry sufficient provisions, food and importantly water for everyone and the precious livestock. The Caroline had especially installed casks for water, with a capacity of 80 tons - enough, it was carefully calculated, for 150 days at sea. The VDL Co. had issued express instructions to Captain Hare to avoid stopping in any port in order to avoid delays and additional expense.

Conditions on board - for such a long journey - were probably cramped and smelly and that was as they set off. Months at sea were to follow and that precious water would hardly be spring fresh.

Cast Off !

The Caroline set sail from Hull on Tuesday 17th July 1827. Things did not start off well. Progress seems to have been slow and the ship was only off the Kent coast after 5 days when on Sunday 22nd July she grounded on the "the Brake Sand" - this is a sandbank inshore of the more famous Goodwin Sands. A boat from Deal was engaged to help the ship float off before the Caroline headed to "the Downs" (a sheltered area of safe anchorage).

The Voyage

Rosalie's journal recorded the first (of many) incidents a few weeks later;

"Wednesday, August 8th A__ B__ , passenger intoxicated and using mutinous language, the Captain ordered him to be put in irons. On attempting which he was rescued by four of the passengers, who took him below, when he declared there was a conspiracy in the ship and it should soon be seen. The Captain, Surgeon, Chief and Second Officers armed themselves, handcuffed A__ B__, and kept him a prisoner on the poop, during which time he threatened the lives of the Captain and the Surgeon. At 9 in the evening he was liberated on his promise of good behaviour."

Based on the passenger lists there is only one "A__ B__" on board - a certain Allan Baxter, 29 year old joiner and carpenter from Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Rosalie's journal often mentions other ships they encountered, for example;

"Thursday, 9th August Spoke to the French brig 'Jeune Emilie' off Brest and gave them the longitude by chronometer."

By "spoke to" we can assume this means they came close and hailed each other,

I have to say I am very surprized by the incredibly slow progress being made at this point. The Caroline has now been at sea for 3 weeks - and they are only off Brest in Northern France. A sailing distance of just over 400 nautical miles - so they are averaging less than 1 mile per hour - yet there is no mention of bad weather or storms or any other concerns. Of course, it could have been due to lack of wind as well!

It's also interesting that the Caroline was carrying a chronometer (an accurate clock). Such a device would have been important for measuring longitude on the type of long voyage she was undertaking and such devices had only recently become practical and affordable.

The Longitude Problem
The measurement of longitude (the number of degrees East or West a vessel was from a meridian) had long been a problem for mariners. A clock would be set to the local time of a starting point whose longitude was known, and the longitude of any other place could be determined by comparing its local time with the clock time (which could be determined from the angle of the Sun or Moon). The key was a accurate clock because 1 minute of error in measuring the time, means 15 nautical miles of error at the equator.  Pendulum clocks would not keep accurate time at sea due to the motion of the waves, so it wasn't until 1761 when John Harrison, a Yorkshire cabinet and clock maker, created his H4 "sea watch" that a successful design was recognised. Harrison eventually became the equivalent of a multi-millionaire due to his invention, although after decades of work, he was in the last decade of his life.

Things continued to be interesting on board as entries by Rosalie over the next few days show.

"Thursday, August 16th

The Steward delivered up the keys of the store-room for wasting and adulterating the provisions of the passengers. Left the cabin and threatened revenge on the First Officer."

and a few days later;

"Monday, August 20th Mr. and Mrs. N__, passengers, quarrelling with each other and declaring their intention to murder if possible. The husband was persuaded to continue on deck all night and, his own clothes being torn, was supplied with others. At 9 in the morning, the Surgeon was informed that Mrs. N__ had inflicted a severe wound on his arm with a pen-knife, declaring that if he came again near her, she would, as before intended 'cut his throat'. This she was prevented doing by the interference of one of the bailiffs. She was put in irons on the poop, where she continued threatening the lives of those who confined her. There was now a cabin built for her on the quarter-deck. On entering it she declared she "would not leave it the whole voyage", it being the most comfortable place she had been in, and she would reward the carpenter with her grog, should she again receive it, for making it so well. The next day, however, she began to break the door of her cabin in order to take vengeance. Breaking the venetian bling in pieces, she took two of the sticks to strike the Captain and Surgeon. Her child, at her request, was permitted to sleep with her, but she frightened him so much that he dare not continue in her cabin."

Again, from the passenger lists, we know there is only one Mr & Mrs N on board. a Thomas Nightingale, 24 - a bricklayer from Thirsk - and his wife, Ellen, 34. They had two children with them Mary, 12 and William, 5. Rosalie only recorded Ellen Nightingale's release, "on the promise of better behaviour" on Aug 31st, 11 days later.

In the meantime, entries recorded encounters with other ships as the main interest;

Aug 24th - the American ship Garonne (or Gavorne)

Aug 26th - the Dutch ship Gesersters (or Gesusters)

Aug 30th - the Salem ship Patriot (presumably Salem, Massachusetts)

Aug 31st - the Othello of Bristol who transferred a gift of sugar and rice to the Caroline.


According to a later report by the Times (Jan 23rd 1828), the Caroline was at a position reckoned to be [3 N, 13 W] on Sunday 9th September. This is a position off the West African coast of Liberia and Sierra Leone. The next passage is the longest and most dramatic of Rosalie's entries;

Sunday, September 9th

A brig passed about 5 miles to leeward with a French Ensign and Pennant flying at two o'clock in the afternoon in our wake, tack'd and stood after us. She fired her weather-bow gun. Hove our main-yard aback. When she came up, along our leeside, hailed us in English and ordered our boat with all the ship's papers immediately and then fired a shot round us on our weather-bow. Mr Drybrough, First Officer, went onboard with our papers. On going up the gangway he discovered the crew at their quarters, each armed with a cutlass, brace of pistols and long Spanish knife. Two men with drawn cutlasses accompanied him to the companion and then ordered him below. On going into the cabin he was surrounded by ten or twelve men, each having a cutlass in one hand and a pistol in the other.

The French colours were taken down and Spanish hoisted. We now began to feel anxious lest she keep our officer - as is often the case. The Captain (of the pirate) on coming out of his state-room questioned Mr. Drybrough through an interpreter as follows;

- "Have you the ships papers?"

- "Yes"

- "Where are you from?"

- "Hull"

- "What was the reason you did not heave to on first seeing us?"

- "We took you to be a French man-of-war and supposed if you wanted us to stop you would fire a gun"

At this he appeared displeased and said to those around him in Spansh, which Mr Drybrough understood very well but not make known to them fearing they might then keep him; "i do not know what I shall do with this fellow for not heaving-to before."

Question to Mr Drybrough;

- "Of what does your cargo consist?"

- "Cattle"

- "Nothing else?"

- "Nothing but sheep and cows"

- " Do any of the cows give milk?"

- "No" They are too young"

Here he remarked that there was no part of the cargo of any use to them.

- "Have you any course canvas on board?"

- "I don't know if there is any to spare,"

- "How came you so far to the Eastward?"

- "From long continuance of Westerly winds."

He then got his log book out and at the head of each page Mr Drybrough saw "Sylad" or "Singlad" [1] "No. 13". He ordered Mr Drybrough to sign a paper signifying that it was a declaration that he had not hurt us and telling him that he must sign the names of himself and his Captain When he had signed the paper he was ordered to go on board his own ship and return with one bolt of canvas and two sheep, the captain saying he would send us two better in return, remarking aside that we might think ourselves well off (which we certainly did).

He repeated to Mr Drybrough "Remember we have not injured you; we have not hurt you."

Mr Drybrough, on taking the articles ordered to them, saw the marines discharge their small arms, which, with the long guns, had been pointed on us all the time. Our ship having forged on end , they filled their main-yard and placed themselves on our weather-bow in a menacing manner. We of course sent all that was demanded finding resistance would be perfectly useless, as she mounted 18 great guns, Spanish 12-pounders and appeared to have about 300 men. She was above 350 tons, flush-deck and billet-head. The men filled the deck boats, tops and cross-trees.

There was no uniform or mark of distinction among them (the officer); the marines had on red caps of cloth four square, similar to those of collegians. There were several Englishmen aboard! Mr Drybrough could not learn the ship's name or any particulars (although he asked), except that they were going on a cruise. Our officer noted 16 or 18 trunks lashed with white line lying carelessly about the deck of the after cabins with arms of all kinds. They seemed to have plenty of provisions of all kinds on board, having five of six, hands employed in baking. They sent us two sheep [2] and a small quantity of wine which we had thrown overboard fearing all might not be correct. The crew had some wine and biscuit, which they ate and found good.

Her sails were much worn and rigging weather beaten. There were drunken men lying all about her decks. On making sail she told us now we might go where we liked and enquired if we wanted anything.

Never can this day be forgotten! The mercy of God is shown us in a most special manner! That day, the morning of which saw our little band (consisting of 80 men, women and children) bid fair to decrease its numbers; but His Hand, which is ever stretched out to us, said to the enemy "Thus far shalt thou go and no further". Nor was this the least of all His mercies - the calmness with which my beloved husband was enabled to direct us. To him all eyes were turned. Not that alarm or despair was the order of the day. One woman declaring that she would go below with her five little bairns and trust to God [3].

Our passengers (with the exception of a few families), consisting of the lowest class of Yorkshire people, showed their true character. They who had daily, denied the power of God now supposed there was certainly a God, while others declared that on the Captain alone depended their fate ...

The Surgeon [4], seeing so large a number of men on board the pirate, feared that they might send for him, but appeared determined to buy his life with his pistols or sell it as dear as possible. And what were my feelings? They were dependence on the God of all might, and thankfulness that He had brought me hither, either to fall with the dear partner of my life or to give thanks with him for our deliverance ... One shepherd from Scotland [5] reminded me of the shepherd who shall "carry lambs to his bosom" - he went below to watch his sheep and begged that none of his might be taken, with tears in his eyes, caressing them one by one.

No sooner did it appear that the danger was over than vows were forgotten, quarrels renewed, and songs and mirth on board with many finished up the eventful day. Only that very morning the Second Officer was giving us an account of a pirate that they had fallen in with during the last voyage, but much inferior to this

[1] The Spanish word "singlar" past participle "singlado" means to sail daily with a fair wind on a direct course.

[2] The two black rams given in exchange for the two of the Saxony sheep were thought later to be of Spanish breed.

[3] There was only one woman with 5 children on board that we know about - Ann Heaton (from Stockton).

[4] Mr Hutchinson

[5] This was probably Mr William Renwick, who of the shepherds "has been the most attentive to his charges" - from the records of the Van Diemen's Land Company.

The nervousness of those on board the Caroline was not without good foundation. During this time, the South Eastern Atlantic and the West African coast was troubled by many pirates. Its difficult to identify which particular pirate was responsible for delaying the Caroline, but the editor of the book "The Voyage of the Caroline" - Ida Lee - suggests that it may have been the 400-ton Spanish brig "Midas" or a Colombian brig known to be operating in the area. She also notes that the Caroline was perhaps lucky not to have encountered the notorious pirate Benito de Soto - also active at the time, who typically murdered all the crew and passengers of ships he captured.

So, having survived the attention of pirates for now, we'll leave the Caroline making it's way toward the Cape of Good Hope until ... NEXT TIME: in part 4 we will continue the Caroline's journey to her destination.

NOTE: Please feel free to add your comments and questions to the blog - scroll down to the comments section at the bottom of the page.

[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]


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