The Voyage of Aurora 1851

In my sixth unit, Convicts in Context, I only had to write a 1000 word essay.  I chose to write it on Joseph Stewart alias Goodwin’s wife, Mary Ann Maule who was also a convict.

The Voyage of Aurora 1851

By the time sixteen year old Mary Ann Maule and 231 fellow convicts1 boarded Her Majesty’s Convict Ship ‘Aurora’ on 14 April 1851 at Woolwich2, seventy nine other ships had successfully transported female convicts to Van Diemen’s Land3.  This essay will consider basic conditions, daily routines, the sailing route and illness during the voyage of ‘Aurora’ and show that Mary Ann’s experiences were largely the same as that of the many other convicts who came before and after her.

Basic conditions and routines changed very little over the period from 1818 to 1853 according to the study of many surgeon-superintendents reports. Like the many women before her, when Mary Ann boarded the ‘Aurora’ she would have been assigned to a mess of six to eight women, given a berth, bedding and a bag.  As convicts were unable to wear their own clothing, Mary Ann would have been issued with one jacket, two petticoats, two linen shirts, one apron, two coloured handkerchiefs, two pairs worsted stockings, one pair of shoes and a linen cap4.  Her personal clothing and goods would have been packed into boxes and stowed in the hold.  If she held any money it would have been given to Dr William HB Jones, the ships surgeon-superintendent, for safe keeping and handed to authorities on arrival in Van Diemen’s Land5.

During the days leading up to the ‘Aurora’ leaving England, Mary Ann and her fellow convicts would have started to settle into life on the ship.  They were up at 6am to roll up and stow their bedding then wash the prison. Breakfast was at 8am, dinner at noon and supper at 5pm.  Daily jobs such as washing clothes, handing out of rations and cleaning of the ablutions were done by the women in a rotational system. They would also attend school in the mornings and afternoons and a Devine Service every Sunday. They also would have been addressed by Dr Jones several times on the General Regulations to be adopted whilst onboard. A written copy of the regulations were also ‘stuck up conspicuously within the Prison’ but Dr Jones noted in his journal that he ‘observed my verbal orders, much better attended to, than written ones.6

Although adherence to all regulations would have been strictly monitored on both male and female convict ships, the regulation of it being strictly forbidden to communicate with the Ships Company would have carried more weight for women convicts. This would have been more than likely a reaction to the first all-female convict voyage of the Lady Juliana in 1789/1790 which was dubbed by some as ‘The Voyage of the Courtesans’ or ‘The Floating Brothel’7.

Having only served on three male convict ships previously, Dr Jones seemed to take this regulation very seriously noting in his journal that while on deck, the women were apart ‘as much as possible from the Ship’s Company, and Boys, being more under my own eye, and cognizance satisfactory to myself that no impropriety should take place during the voyage, and I fully believe, as far as I am able to judge, nothing clandestine has transpired as I have been most vigilant myself, no person could be more on the alert’.8

Before sailing, aside from convicts being permitted a visit from her family to say a last farewell, ladies from Mrs Elizabeth Fry’s British Society for the Reformation of Female Prisoners9 also visited and were often accompanied by Ministers of religion.  The ladies bought supplies of books for both the women and their children, usually Bibles or other religious books. They also supplied straw for plaiting and materials to sew or knit articles of clothing such as shirts, caps and aprons to help occupy their time during the voyage10.

On 25 April 1851, ‘Aurora’ left Woolwich to sail further down the River Thames to Gravesend.  The next morning at 10am they sailed and anchored off Deal just above Dover. At 6am on 27 April, Aurora weighed anchor and began it’s 105 day journey to the other side of the world.  Following the route of the many ships before it, Aurora sailed through the English Straight and  into the North Atlantic Ocean keeping close to the coast of West Africa. By 9 May, ‘Aurora’ was off the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira heading south towards Spain’s Canary Islands and Cape Verde.  By the end of May they hit the South East trade winds of the South Atlantic then move past the southern tip of Africa and begin the trek across the Southern Oceans. The weather worsens by the start of July with heavy seas along with either rain, sleet or hail until they arrive in Hobart Town on 10 August 185111.

A week before the ‘Aurora’ docked, Mary Ann found herself in hospital suffering from Ophthalmia, more commonly known as an eye inflammation or conjunctivitis.   During the voyage, thirteen of Mary Ann’s fellow convicts and three infants were admitted to hospital.  Three women and the three infants died during the voyage12. Except for one women and infant, the others were all in a ‘delicate state of health’ when they boarded.   The woman,
Emma, delivered a premature baby girl of 6 or 7 months who only survived 13 days. Emma died just over a month later.  This equates to only 2% on the sick list compared to earlier voyages like the ‘Duke of Cornwall’ in 1850 which saw 30% on the list13.  Although no voyage was as bad as the ‘East London’ in 1843 which had 31 deaths onboard (19 women convicts & 12 infants) and more once landed in Hobart14.

On a whole, Mary Ann and her fellow convicts journey would have been very much the same as most of  the voyages before and after the ‘Aurora’. Despite how horrible it was that convicts were taken away from their homeland, for many, including Mary Ann, it provided the chance of making a new life for themselves. One that would have probably been impossible in the very hierarchical nature of British society!

FOOTNOTES

1. Aurora Indent Records, Indents of Female Convicts, Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office, Hobart, CON15/1/7, p. 73-136.

2. Female Convicts Research Centre Inc., ’ Transcript of (Aurora) Surgeon’s Journal’, http://www.femaleconvicts.org.au/docs/ships/Aurora1851_SJ.pdf,  Accessed 18 September 2017.

 3. Female Convicts Research Centre Inc., ’ List of Ships’, http://www.femaleconvicts.org.au/index.php/convict-ships/convict-ships-records, Accessed 18 September 2017.

 4. Surgeon-superintendents journal, John Arnold Mould, Margaret, 1843 – Adm101/48

 5. Ian Brand and Mark Staniforth, ‘Care and Control: Female Convict Transportation Voyages to Van Diemen’s Land, 1818-1853’,Great Circle, Vol 16, Issue 1, 1994, p23-42

 6. Female Convicts Research Centre Inc., ’ Transcript of (Aurora) Surgeon’s Journal – General Remarks’, http://www.femaleconvicts.org.au/docs/ships/Aurora1851_SJ_GR.pdf, Accessed 19 September 2017.

7. YouTube, ‘Secrets of the Dead: Voyage of the Courtesans’, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LmOmLRhtO8, Accessed 18 September 2017

 8. Female Convicts Research Centre Inc., ’ Transcript of Surgeon’s Journal – General Remarks’

 9. Clare Smith, ‘ Doing Time: Patchwork as a tool of social rehabilitation in British prisons’, V&A Online Journal, Issue No1 Autumn 2008

 10. Ian Brand and Mark Staniforth, ‘Care and Control: Female Convict Transportation Voyages to Van Diemen’s Land, 1818-1853’

 11.Female Convicts Research Centre Inc., ’ Transcript of (Aurora) Surgeon’s Journal’

12.Female Convicts Research Centre Inc., ’ Transcript of (Aurora) Surgeon’s Journal’

13.Female Convicts Research Centre Inc., ’ Transcript of (Duke of Cornwall) Surgeon’s Journal’ http://www.femaleconvicts.org.au/docs/ships/SurgeonsJournal_DukeOfCornwall1850.pdf , Accessed 20 September 2017

14.Female Convicts Research Centre Inc., ’ Transcript of (East London) Enquiry’ http://www.femaleconvicts.org.au/docs/ships/EastLondon1843_SJ_enquiry.pdf , Accessed 21 September 2017

Bibliography

Brand, Ian and Staniforth, Mark, ‘Care and Control: Female Convict Transportation Voyages to Van Diemen’s Land, 1818-1853’,Great Circle, Vol 16, Issue 1, 1994, p23-42

Female Convicts Research Centre Inc., ’ Transcript of (Aurora) Surgeon’s Journal’, http://www.femaleconvicts.org.au/docs/ships/Aurora1851_SJ.pdf,  Accessed 18 September 2017.

Female Convicts Research Centre Inc., ’ Transcript of (Aurora) Surgeon’s Journal – General Remarks’, http://www.femaleconvicts.org.au/docs/ships/Aurora1851_SJ_GR.pdf,  Accessed 19 September 2017.

Female Convicts Research Centre Inc., ’ Transcript of (Duke of Cornwall) Surgeon’s Journal’ http://www.femaleconvicts.org.au/docs/ships/SurgeonsJournal_DukeOfCornwall1850.pdf , Accessed 20 September 2017

Female Convicts Research Centre Inc., ’ List of Ships’, http://www.femaleconvicts.org.au/index.php/convict-ships/convict-ships-records, Accessed 18 September 2017.

Indent of Female Convicts, Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office, Hobart.

Mould, John Arnold, Surgeon-superintendents journal Margaret, 1843, (Adm101/48)

Smith, Clare, ‘ Doing Time: Patchwork as a tool of social rehabilitation in British prisons’, V&A Online Journal, Issue No1 Autumn 2008

YouTube, ‘Secrets of the Dead: Voyage of the Courtesans’, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LmOmLRhtO8, Accessed 18 September 2017

 

 

 

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Addicted2MyGenealogy

I have been researching my family history since 2009. I am interested it the family names Shingles, McEwan, Snowdon & Witt around Gippsland and Wodonga areas of Victoria, Australia

One thought on “The Voyage of Aurora 1851”

  1. Thoroughly enjoying your labour of love. I believe Mary Ann also “ran away” several times from her employers up until she met Joseph “Stewart” Goodwin. One of the Goodwin cousins told me this, but I as yet don’t recall who.

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