MAITLAND - The Voyage of 1838

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The "Maitland" was recorded as a Blackwall Frigate, built at the Blackwall Shipyard in Calcutta in 1810 under instructions from shipowner Joseph Somes. It measured 125 feet (38 metres) in length, was constructed of malabar teak and weighed 648 tons. In the terminology of the Navy of Charles II, frigates were third or fourth rate ships, based on their size and rigging.
The "Maitland" was converted to barque rigging for its one voyage to Australia with emigrants in 1838.

The ship was chartered under Admiralty control, and the charter organisers were able to cram 205 adults, 111 children and some livestock (for fresh food) on board for this journey, under the care of Ship's Master Marshall Baker and Surgeon John Smith. Most passengers were being "assisted" to emigrate from England by their Parishes, who paid around Five Pounds in sponsorship in order to remove their commitment to support these poorer families.

Most of the emigrant families came from south-eastern England, notably Kent and East Sussex. Added to the crowded and unhygienic conditions, the effect of typhus and scarlet fever infections resulted in a very high mortality rate amongst the passengers.

I have noted the following ships also carried emigrants from Sussex and Kent to Australia during the period 1836 to 1840, and there are links between the passengers on some of these ships:
Argyle; Augusta Jessie; Cornwall; Coromandel; Duchess of Northumberland; Florist; James Laing; James Pattison; Lady Nugent; Lady Raffles; Moffatt; Morayshire; Neptune; Palmyra; Prince Regent; Roxburgh Castle; Westminster; William Metcalf and the Woodbridge.

It is recorded that the "Maitland" made other voyages up until 1854, as a convict ship to destinations including Sydney (1840), Norfolk Island (1843 and 1844), Hobart (1846), and then with Bounty passengers to Port Phillip (1849 and 1850) and Van Dieman's Land (1854). In his book The Convict Ships, 1787-1868, Charles Bateson states (p.279) that the "Maitland" made its last voyage as a convict ship in 1846, and this is supported by Steve Thomas' web site (

On this particular voyage, the "Maitland" departed from Gravesend, which is on the southern bank of the Thames, in Kent, just west of the river's mouth. It raised anchor on 24 June 1838, and newspaper reports show that it arrived in Sydney, Australia on the night of Monday 5 November 1838. However, the Ship's Log records the date of arrival as 6 November 1838 so this could probably be a result of the ship's Captain not formally reporting to the harbour authority until the following morning (office hours?).

Due to presence of disease on board, the ship was placed in quarantine at Manly Cove, some passengers and crew on board and some "under canvas" on shore. They could not be accommodated at Sydney's North Head Quarantine Station in Spring Cove, due to the fact that the passengers of the ship "William Roger" filled the available spaces in that area, and the groups had to be kept separate. The passengers and crew of the "Maitland" were dispersed from quarantine as soon as they were assessed as not being infected.

A paragraph from Richards,R et al: VISIBLE IMMIGRANTS (ANU Canberra 1989) sets out some of the required processes after docking:
Upon the arrival of each ship, the Surgeon Superintendent, the official responsible not only for immigrant health on board, but also for general discipline, was required to submit a series of returns, two of which related to individuals: a return indicating where those single men or families who left the ship "without entering into formal agreements" were going to reside or work; and a copy of all formal agreements made between employers and immigrants. Similar copies were also kept for those single females who were hired from the Immigrant Barracks or the Depot at Hyde Park.

2. PASSENGERS on the "Maitland": June - November 1838

APPS: Richard and Rebecca
* Wittersham, Kent
APPS: William and Ann
* Wittersham, Kent
AUSTIN: Henry, Eliza and children
AUSTIN, George and Elizabeth
AUSTIN, Solomon
* Rolvenden/Benenden, Kent
Anthea Rooney
Lani Austin Moore
Brian Austen
Lee Cant
Phil Austin
Janet McKenna
AUSTIN: John, Philadelphia and children
* Benenden, Kent
Brian Austen
Judy Dumbrell
Phil Austin
BAIGENT: Thomas and Catherine
* Staines, Middlesex
BARNES: Samuel and Caroline
* Brede, Sussex
BATTAM: William, Lucy and children
* Rolvenden, Kent
BLANCH: Edward, Elizabeth and children
* Rolvenden, Kent
Anna Blanch
John Graham
BLUNDELL: Thomas and children
* Bodiam, Sussex
Stuart Hunter
Lee Rich
BOWDEN: William, Elizabeth and children
BOWDEN, Joseph
* Benenden, Kent
Bruce Fairhall
Janette Norcott
Liz Adams
Amanda Taylor
Juliette Hendry
Helene Shepherd
* Rolvenden, Kent
BUTLER: George
* Benenden, Kent
CLARKE: John, Elizabeth and child
* Tunbridge, Kent
DRURY: Thomas, Mary and child
* Rolvenden, Kent
Kerrie L. Metcalfe
FAIRHALL: William, Ann and children
* Guestling, Sussex
Bruce Fairhall
FELLOWS: Richard, Hannah and children
* Guestling/Westfield, Sussex
Don Cornford
FULLER: David, Mary and children
* Bodiam, Sussex and Sandhurst, Kent
Stuart Hunter
Brian Fuller
GILL: William, Susannah and children
* Beckley, Sussex
Daryl Lightfoot
Jane Dent
Terry Hicks
Daphne White
Neil and Darlene McGrath
Alan Buttenshaw
Bev Driver
* Benenden, Kent
Helene Shepherd
HICKMOT: James, Sarah and child
* Lamberhurst, Kent
Marilyn Mason
Nigel Masters
HICKS: John, Maria and children
* Hawkhurst, Kent
Terry Hicks
HOLMES: Thomas
* Staines, Middlesex
JUDGE: Jesse, Hannah and children
* Rolvenden, Kent
MARSHALL: Charles and Hannah
* Benenden, Kent
Rosalie Ryan
MASTERS (Mastus): William, Mary and children
* Beckley/Icklesham, Sussex
Neil and Darlene McGrath
Jan Kersnovske
Heather Peterson
Daphne White
Alan Buttenshaw
Neil and Darlene McGrath
MILLHAM: Uriah/Richard, and children
MILLHAM, Hannah (sister of Uriah)
* Ewhurst, Sussex
Di Neumann
Janelle Cooper
MILLSTEAD: George, Mary and child
* Rolvenden, Kent
MOON: William, Hannah and children
MOON: William and Harriet
* Biddenden/Rolvenden, Kent
Ian Roemermann
MUNN: Caroline
* Benenden, Kent
Bruce Fairhall
Glenys Wrigley
PAYNE: William, Lucy and children
* Fairlight, Sussex
Glenys Wrigley
ROBARDS/ROBERTS: John (Snr), Martha and child
ROBARDS/ROBERTS: John (Jnr), Sophia and child
ROBARDS/ROBERTS: Stephen, Mary and child
ROBARDS/ROBERTS: William, Harriet and children
* Sandhurst, Kent
Kevin Robards
Colin Irwin
ROSER/ROLF: John, Mary and children
* Bodiam, Sussex
Juliette Hendry
Sue Thornton
SAUNTER (Sonter): David, Emma and children
* Northiam, Sussex
Meg Newman
SHOOBRIDGE: John, Mary and child
* Benenden/Rolvenden, Kent
SILDEN/SELDEN: Elias, Frances and children
* Westfield, Sussex
Helene Shepherd
Ron Selden
SISLEY: William, Sarah and children
* Wittersham, Kent
SIVYER: Stephen, Mary, and child
SIVYER: Stephen
* Sandhurst, Kent
Linda Sivyer
Glenys Wrigley
Carol Dale
Bob Spilstead
TURNER: Charles and Harriet
* Benenden, Kent
Dorothy Fulwood
VIDLER: William (Snr), Mary and child
VIDLER, William (Jnr), Harriet and children
VIDLER: James, Hannah and children
VIDLER: John, Mercy and children
VIDLER: Edwin, Mary and child
* Sandhurst, Kent
Liz Adams
Nigel Masters
John Graham
Tracey and Shane King
Frank Rae
Michael Bastion
Stephen Smith
Gary Cook
Marie Marchese
WARD: Joseph, Sarah and children
* Brede, Sussex
WATMAN: James, Elizabeth and children
* Rolvenden, Kent
Kerrie Murray
WATTUS/WATERS: George, Mary and children
* Sandhurst, Kent
Francie Schwarze
Michelle Holthouse
John Graham
Helene Shepherd
WEAVER: Thomas, Elizabeth and children
* Bodiam, Sussex
Alan Buttenshaw
WEEKS: James
* Rolvenden, Kent
* Rolvenden, Kent
WENBAN: John, Mary and children
* Hawkhurst, Kent
Jenny Joyce

WENHAM: George, Mary and children
WENHAM: Henry, Mary and children
* Benenden, Kent
Dianne Finch
Rosalie Ryan
Lauren Winkley
WILLIARD: Henry, Elizabeth and children
* Guestling, Sussex
Barbara and Tony Futcher
Denise Burton
WINSOR: William, Lydia and children
* Sandhurst, Kent
Ann Campbell
WOOD: George, Ann and children
* Crowhurst, Sussex
WOOD, Samuel
* Benenden, Kent

More contacts for Maitland researchers are very welcome!

The following folks appear to have changed email addresses, and therefore have been removed from the table above until we can "find" them again:
Sylvia Anderson; Jan Arnett; Beryl Bauld; Bev Barfield; Sharon Bergman; Novello Byrnes; Judy Caban; Christine Crichton; Brian Damage; June Dawson; Dorothy Fulwood; Jim Hill; Lisa Holliday; Margaret Kennedy (Sonter); Colin King; Katie Lloyd; Leonie Mallins; Linda Manning; Adrienne Marden; Marie Marchese; Kevin Masters; Carrie Moorhouse; Alan Patterson; Jo-Anne Roberts; Bev Robertson; Anthea Rooney; Catherine Smiroldo; Gina Utterson; Myles Wenban and Cheryl Woods

They will be restored once we have their new contact details

Passenger List Click button to view a more detailed Passenger List

Download Click button to download this detailed passenger list in Zipped Microsoft Excel format

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3. RELATED REPORTS - in Chronological Order

Inspector Dept of Hospitals Office

Sydney 7 November 1838
Sickness on Board the Maitland
I have the honour to state in addition to the report I made yesterday from Watson's Bay respecting the Emigrant Ship "Maitland" that altho 280 cases of sickness have occurred since the sailing of the vessel from England and that 34 have died, the major part were of other diseases than Fever, and principally Scarlatina and Bowel Complaints, and that the deaths were chiefly amongst Children - having died
of Children 29
It appears from the statement of the Surgeon Superintendant that the first case of Typhus appeared on the 29th Aug. when near the Cape, since which he has had in all 12 cases of this disease, of which he had lost 3 by death - the last a child on the 22nd October. There are now all (??) five cases Sporadic or independent cases of continued fever he states to have occurred during the whole course of the voyage, of which disease he appears now to have 8 or 10 cases - and to have lost six.
I am apprehensive that these also are fevers of the Typhoid type, either in their incipient stage, or under a mitigated form, which is generally the case in children.
And under this impression I would beg to suggest the propriety of making no distinction in the kinds of fever but send all such cases indiscriminately to the Lazaretto - as has invariably been done on all former occasions - and the sooner these and all such cases are wholly removed from the Ship and from amongst the other Emigrants the greater will be the probability of arresting the progress of the Disease.

and have the honour to be
your Obdt. Hble. Servt
Insp. Thompson
(Inspector) Govt.
FROM: Colonial Secretary's Correspondence
Ref. 38/11865 8 December 1838
- Archives of NSW Loc. 4/2426


The Maitland emigrant ship which arrived on Monday night from England has brought us (as usual) another consignment of typhus fever, consisting of about 40 cases of the worst description. About the same number of emigrants died on the passage of scarlet and typhus fever.
The contagion, it appears, broke out in the vessel immediately after leaving England, and every soul on board is reported to have been affected during the voyage.
The Maitland put in at the Cape of Good Hope, where she was placed in quarantine.

NOTE: These figures were later amended.

8 November 1838: SYDNEY GAZETTE

-This emigrant ship, which came in on Monday evening, has been more unfortunate with regard to sickness than any emigrant ship before her. Shortly after the vessel left the land typhus and scarlet fever broke out, and spread rapidly. About forty of the emigrants died on the voyage, and a great many are laid up at the present moment. On the arrival of the vessel on Monday night she came to an anchor in Watson's Bay, where she remained until the next day, when she was visited by the Medical Board, and the result being unfavourable, she was immediately ordered into quarantine. All hands have been more or less afflicted with one or other of these dreadful diseases.

22 November 1838: GOVERNOR'S DESPATCH

Sir George Gipps to Lord Glenelg
I have still further with sorrow to inform your Lordship that we have had occasion also to place in Quarantine the ship "Maitland" which arrived here on the 6th Inst. with Government Emigrants from Gravesend, after a voyage of 134 days. The Buildings at the Quarantine ground being all occupied by the people of the "William Roger", it has been necessary to place the Emigrants by the "Maitland" under canvas, with exception of those actually sick, for whom a temporary wooden Hospital has been erected. The number of deaths on board the "Maitland" was 35, Six of whom were adults, and 29 children. The cases of disease entered on the Surgeon's Books were no less than 286; but in this number the same individuals may in some cases have been reckoned more than once. Two women and two children have died since their arrival, and the present number of sick is 13. Scarlet fever was the first disease that broke out among them, but various others afterwards made their appearance.
As soon as these ships are released from Quarantine, I shall institute a strict enquiry, in order to ascertain if possible the cause why sickness has been so much greater in the present year on board Government vessels than those engaged on the same business by private individuals. At present I am utterly unable to account for it; it is suggested that it may be in consequence of the greater number of children embarked in them, or that the Emigrants are in a worse state of health when put on board, or that, being taken from a poorer class of society, they are less prepared with necessaries for the voyage.
The "Maitland" is said to have arrived in a very dirty state; but whether this was the fault of the Surgeon Superintendent, I am as yet unable to say. A talent for managing men, and gaining by easy means an influence over them, is no less necessary in a Surgeon selected to bring out Emigrants than Medical skill; indeed I should say it is more necessary. I have some reason to fear that a sufficient degree of control has not in some cases been exercised over Emigrants, in the essential particulars of forcing them to go on deck in fair weather, and to keep themselves clean at all seasons. The necessity of paying implicit obedience to the orders of the Surgeons in health, as well as in sickness, should I think be impressed on the Emigrants, at the time when they are promised a passage; and it should be explained to them, that they will forfeit all claim to the care or protection of this Government on their arrival, if they misconduct themselves in any respect during their voyage.

I have &c.,
Geo. Gipps

from: HISTORICAL RECORDS OF AUSTRALIA (Series 1 Vol.19) pp 684-5

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Extracted from Ship's Log: 28 November 1838
Soon after leaving GRAVESEND, as will appear by the date of the first case, viz. the 26th June, the Scarlet fever presented itself, and continued to 20th August when the last case appeared. Sixty four children out of one hundred and twenty seven sickened, and one man suffered from its visitation.
To prevent the dissemination of the disease I met with much opposition, the parents resisting all my endeavours to remove the children into the hospital, thus affording the only chance of arresting the disease promptly. To effect my purpose, I was under the necessity of causing them in some measure to a compliance. This I think had in a great degree the desired effect, so few children having suffered from the disease out of so large a number.
As respects the origin of the disease, I am quite of opinion that it must have been conveyed into the ship in a latent state in the person who was the subject of the first case, and probably in the second and the third cases also.
The Infantile Fever or Marasmus was the next great cause of the mortality. It began to manifest itself at an early period, and the oil being applied to the flame without intermission it continued up to the period of their debarkation. The great existing cause of this was the overfeeding of the children with the common rations instead of the Arrowroot and Sago, food more suitable for their digestive powers. These articles of food I had much difficulty in compelling the parents to administer to their children.
Among the women, particularly the unmarried, hysterical disease was increasing, and among the married there were many cases of bowel complaints all which I attribute to the same cause, namely an excess of unaccustomed food.
Among the men there was no disease until we reached the high southern latitudes, when pulmonary and febrile diseases appeared in a few, the effect of cold and wet.
Dropsies of different kinds. Water in the head, bowel complaints and infantile fever were the sequels of the Scarlet fever - many of which proved fatal.
It is my opinion that, but for the Scarlet fever having appeared so early, the mortality would have been very small.
The parents of the sick suffered much from nursing, in many instances whole families, except the heads themselves having been all suffering from the disease together.
I had much difficulty in having cleanliness observed more particularly in the men, they were very resisting in this as also in the airing of their bedding.
In regard to the fittings of the ship, the berths were rather confined they being made only for 2 adults in each. In several instances at the request of the parties, I allowed 2 berths to be put into one; by this there was a freer ventilation and more room to repose.
Laziness prevailed to such a degree among the men, that I had much difficulty in keeping the decks sufficiently clean, and there being no coke for the swinging stoves, I could not prevail on them to attend to the latter, to produce the combustion of the coal which was the only substitute.
As respects their general demeanour, when left to themselves they were peaceable. But when compelled to do that, which, in their opinion, they had no right to do, some were extremely insolent and intemperate. In two instances of married women, their conduct was extremely bad. They abandoned themselves to vicious habits.
In regard to dieting. There appeared to me to be an excess of food, both of bread and tea. The oatmeal they refused at the onset, and on my assembling all the heads of families, and directing such as were in favour of its use to show hands, there were only four who manifested a desire for it, to those I directed it to be issued.

(sgd) John Smith, SURGEON R.N. Superintendent

P.S. I beg to add, having omitted it in its proper place that, the remedies resorted to for preventing the disemmination of the scarlet fever were: washing with caustic lime and chloride of lime, all the berths, decks and other fittings once a week, and sanitising often, also sprinkling the bedding and other articles frequently with the chloride of lime.

EMPLOYMENT- There was no employment for the people, they being too lazy and insubordinate to do any useful work.
Schools were established under the Chief Superintendence of one very able and Christian teacher John Vidler; whereby the children in general received some instruction and wherefrom they derived some advantage, the greater number having been, at the time of embarkation, perfectly illiterate, not having the most distant knowledge of the rudiments of the English language.

(sgd) John Smith

Reference: Archives of NSW Film 1292 - Location 4/4832

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29 November 1838: SYDNEY GAZETTE

The "Maitland" has been released from quarantine, having been detained at Manly Cove for twenty three days. She will come up as soon as the wind proves favourable.

20 January 1839: GOVERNOR'S DESPATCH

Sir George Gipps to Lord Glenelg
With reference to my Despatches of the 29th Sept. last, No.153, and 22nd Novr., No.189 respecting the placing in Quarantine of the ships " William Roger" and "Maitland", I beg leave to report that the last of the Emigrants by these ships were released on the 3rd Instt. and the Quarantine Establishment for the present broken up.
The number of deaths in Quarantine were:
"William Roger" 26 Adults 18 Children
"Maitland".......... 2 Adults.. 3 Children
TOTAL............ 28 Adults 21 Children

I beg further to report to your Lordship that, considering the disasters which have marked the voyages of both these vessels, the dirty state in which the Emigrants by the "Maitland" were reported to be on their arrival, and the enormous expenses which have fallen on the Colony by their long detention in Quarantine, I have not judged it proper to issue Gratuities to the Surgeon of the "William Roger" or to the Surgeon or officers of the "Maitland "; though, as the Master of the "William Roger" died in Quarantine, I have not withheld his Gratuity from his Widow. If the result of the voyage is not to be taken into consideration in the payment of Gratuities, I would respectively submit to your Lordship that there can be no sufficient reason for making any part of the remuneration of the Surgeon's a contingent one; for it will be scarcely ever possible to prove misconduct or inefficiency against a Surgeon, unless indeed it be of a nature to call for a far heavier punishment than the mere stoppage of a Gratuity.
I have no positive charge of misconduct to prefer against either of the two Surgeons of these two vessels; but the enterprise, in which they engaged, has been signally unfortunate. The loss of their expected Gratuities is also the less heavy upon them, as, in addition to their full pay, they have received the following sums for their services in Quarantine, vizt.:

The Surgeon of the "William Roger" ..... 64 Pounds
The Surgeon of the "Maitland" ............. 46 Pounds

I have, &c.,
Geo. Gipps


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(Historical Article - Page 13)

The "Maitland", with her dirt, overcrowding and lack of discipline, was typical of the worst seagoing slums in the migrant traffic. She started her 134-day voyage with 223 adults and 127 children packed below decks. No fewer than 200 cases of sickness occurred during the voyage and the bodies of 35 of her passengers, including 29 children, had been fed to the sharks before she sighted Sydney Heads.
As the migrants and crew of the "William Rogers" (an earlier plague ship) occupied all the accommodation at Spring Cove quarantine grounds, another tented colony had to be established for the "Maitland"'s people, accentuating the desperate shortage of supplies. Fortunately not many from the "Maitland " needed attention, and only five more died after they were put ashore in quarantine. At the sinister little settlement on North Head, day after day victims were carried to the isolation huts, where they raved in delirium or lay in a stupor that ended only in death.
On November 22, 1838, Governor Gipps wrote in a dispatch to London: "The sickness and mortality at the quarantine station is unexampled, no fewer than 140 persons having been attacked with typhus of the most malignant kind..."
The quarantine station consisted of a couple of wooden shanties, a surgeon's cottage and a cluster of tents pitched among the scrub and sandhills.
On January 3, 1839, when the last sick patient was reported convalescing, the Governor allowed the two ships to disembark their passengers and bring them up the harbour.
A committee of inquiry report was a damning indictment of the ships and a system under which herds of immigrants were "transported to the colony like cattle."

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This page was updated on: 25 Sep. 2018