Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Agincourt - 1844

Embarked: 224 men
Voyage: 125 days
Deaths: 4 convicts
Surgeon's Journal - Yes
Master Henry Neatby
Surgeon Charles Henry Fuller

On 28th June 1844 the Agincourt, bound for Norfolk Island and the Lord Auckland for Van Diemen's Land were both lying off the Dockyard at Woolwich with detachments of the 58th regiment on board. Each vessel was awaiting the arrival of convicts from the Millbank Penitentiary. [3]

The Convicts

Convicts to be embarked on the Agincourt came from England, Scotland and Wales......Bedford, Berks, Bucks, Cambridge, Carmarthen, Cumberland, Denbigh, Derby, Devon, Dorset, Durham, Edinburgh, Essex, Glasgow, Gloucester, Hereford, Hertford, Jersey, Kent, Lancaster, Leicester, Lincoln, London, Monmouth, Norfolk, Northampton, Northumberland, Nottingham, Salop, Somerset, Southampton, Stafford, Suffolk, Surrey, Sussex, Rutland, Warwick, Wiltshire, Worcester and York.

Classification of Convicts

An article published in Parliamentary Accounts and Papers concerning convicts and discipline at the Millbank Prison was re-printed in the Annual Register in 1847 and gives an insight as to how it was decided which convicts were to be sent to Van Diemen's Land and which ones were sent to Norfolk Island in 1844........
The Secretary of State has signified to the inspectors of Millbank Prison his intention to appropriate that prison as a depot for the reception of all convicts under sentence or order of transportation in Great Britain, in lieu of their being sent, as heretofore, to the Hulks. He has directed that the inspectors shall carefully examine the convicts admitted into the prison, and the documents transmitted with them; and that the inspectors shall recommend to him, from time to time, the mode in which these prisoners are to be disposed of with reference to their ages, crimes, sentences, and previous convictions, and in accordance with the general principles of the system of convict discipline in the penal colonies which has been established by Lord Stanley, and under which there are four stages through which the convicts will have to pass before they become free, namely:

1st, Detention at Norfolk Island;
2ndly, The Probationary gang;
3rdly, Probationary passes;
4thly, Tickets of leave.
According to these instructions, all adult male prisoners sentenced to transportation for life, and the more aggravated cases of convicts sentenced to any term not less than fifteen years, and all prisoners sentenced to transportation for any term for burglary, arson, rape, forgery, or robberies attended with personal violence, are to be sent to Norfolk Island, for terms of not less than two, nor more than four years. These will afterwards have to pass through the stages of the probationary gang, probationary passes, and tickets of leave, in Van Diemen's Land, before they obtain their freedom.

All other adult male prisoners, who are in a fit state of health to be transported, with the exception of those selected for Pentonville Prison, are to be sent to the Probationary gang in Van Diemen's Land, for terms of not less than one year, nor of more than two years, except in cases of misconduct. These prisoners have afterwards to pass through the stages of probationary passes and tickets of leave before they become free. [2]

Surgeon Charles Henry Fuller

Surgeon Superintendent Charles Henry Fuller kept a detailed Medical Journal during the voyage which included a daily chart of the weather experienced. He reported a total of six deaths on the passage out. Although the ship did not depart England until 8th July 1844 the surgeon was already on board and treating members of the Guard by the 17th June 1844.......
- the Guard became sickly almost immediately after their embarkation and I was necessitated to send two cases, one of acute rheumatism and another of ulcer to the Military Hospital at Woolwich before we sailed. Fever of a typhoid type appeared early amongst them and probably owed its origin to the crowded state of the apartment where they slept and the great heat of the weather, causing them to rush upon deck when in a state of perspiration and throw themselves down to sleep exposed to heavy night dews and occasional showers in a marshy district recently saturated by several days rain after a long drought their inevitable exposure to the same influences during their watches of course added to their liability of being affected by the above causes of disease.

I had seven cases of whom I lost two, a soldier of the guard (Joseph Pegg) and one of their children I had besides nine cases of synochus which probably owed their origin to the same causes and were the same disease. The disease extended to the prisoners, but amongst them I had no fatal cases, tho' two or three were of a protracted and severe character. Frequent fumigation and free ventilation were employed to prevent the wide diffusion of the malady and I am happy to say with success. [1]


The Agincourt departed Woolwich for Norfolk Island on Monday morning 8th July at six o'clock and the Lord Auckland for Van Diemen's Land two days later on Wednesday 10th July. The William Jardine, having on board 318 convicts from the New Model Prison at Pentonville, was also on the eve of departure for Van Diemen's Land. [4]

The Voyage

On the second day of the departure from Woolwich the wind became foul and the weather boisterous and wet by which we were detained upwards of a week in the channel during which time sea sickness became general and the digestive organs of the men much debilitated. The commencement at this period of a less digestible ration than that to which they had been accustomed on shore I have no doubt operated in producing a deranged biliary secretion which excited the intestinal mucous surfaces to inordinate action and gave rise to the diarrhoea which soon began to prevail and continued more or less throughout the voyage, many of the cases descending into dysentery and resisting with great obstinacy the measure employed for their removal. Two of the latter proved fatal and two others were sent on shore to the Hospital in a precarious state. [1]
A modified case of small pox after vaccination appeared as early as the fourth day after leaving the River and eight others were affected, one of whom, prisoner Matthew Hale died on 26th August.[1]

Illness was made worse by the cold wet weather they experienced in the high southern Latitudes into which they were driven by strong north easterly winds before reaching the Cape.

Cape of Good Hope

The Agincourt had called at the Cape of Good Hope on 24th September and remained there a week. Their water cask had become foul long before they reached the Cape and they were glad to be able to replenish supplies and procure a few medicines. At the Cape one prisoner William Streples was supposed to have escaped but his body is reported to have been subsequently found drowned. He was believed to have slipped aside after answering to his evening muster and to have concealed himself somewhere on deck and during the night attempted to swim to the shore. [1]

Norfolk Island

They arrived at Norfolk Island 9th November after a voyage of 125 days and remained there three days to disembark prisoners and passengers. Rev. Mr. Isom, Miss Isom and four children, Miss Higgins, and Lieutenant Lloyd of the Royal Marines all disembarked at Norfolk Island. [7]
The Surgeon's Journal continued....

I disembarked the first draft of 220 convicts on the 9th of November and the remainder on the following day. Having landed the passengers' and prisoners' luggage and received on board a mail for Hobart Town we left Norfolk Island on the 12th November and proceeded to Sydney with a Government Dispatch with which I was charged. On our arrival at that Port on the 23 November, we were ordered by the Governor Sir George Gipps to forward the mail by post and to disembark the Guard and Government Stores without delay.[1]

The Surgeon's Journal finished on the 23rd November 1844.

Passengers to Sydney

Passengers disembarking at Sydney on 23rd November included Captain H.A. Russell, 58th regiment, Mrs. Russell, two sons and daughter, Lieutenant G. H. Page, 49 rank and file of the 58th regiment, 7 women and 13 children and 2 privates of the 51st regiment. [5]

Sydney to Norfolk Island

The Agincourt returned to Norfolk Island from Sydney on 20 December 1844 taking government stores and passengers including Major Arney, Mrs Arney, Captain Nugent, Captain Calcraft, Mrs. Calcraft and four children, Lieutenant Edwards, Ensign Middleton, Ensign Garston, Assistant Surgeon Bannatyne, David Burn and 210 rank and file of the 58th regiment. [6]

Norfolk Island 1844

Just a few months before the Agincourt arrived at Norfolk Island prison reformer Alexander Maconochie was replaced by Major Joseph Childs who arrived on the Maitland in February 1844. In July 1846 there was a major insurrection amongst the prisoners after cooking utensils were removed. At least eight men were later executed and others sentenced to transportation for life.
Lieutenant George Bott arrived at Norfolk Island on the Maitland in February 1844. In his evidence concerning the outbreak in July 1846 he revealed some of the conditions prevailing at Norfolk Island. Many of the Agincourt convicts sent to Norfolk Island had been given 30 months probation and so were therefore present when the mutiny took place. Read an account of the mutiny in Accounts and Papers of the House of Commons.

Notes and Links

1). William Henry Barber, solicitor, was one of the convicts transported on the Agincourt. He had been tried at the Old Bailey with retired surgeon Joshua Fletcher and Georgiana Dorey for feloniously inciting Susannah Richards, now deceased, to forge a certain administration bond, with intent to defraud the Archbishop of Canterbury and on a 2nd count, stating their intent be to defraud the Right Hon. Charles Shaw Lefevre, and others, Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt......Many believed in his innocence and he endured appalling treatment on arrival at Norfolk Island before being granted a Pardon in 1846 when he returned to England. Rev. T.B. Naylor who was Chaplain at Norfolk Island campaigned long and hard on Barber's behalf. A detailed account was printed in the Sydney Morning Herald in June 1849. Later his correspondence was also printed in the Colonial Times 24 September 1847.
2). Treatment William Henry Barber received while serving a sentence at Norfolk Island.... The royal pardon vindicated, in reference to the claims of William Henry Barber ... By Sir George Stephen.......

3) Declaration of Joshua Fletcher regarding the innocence of William Henry Barber.....The Legal Observer, Or, Journal of Jurisprudence, Volume 28

4). Pardon of William Henry Barber - The Courier (Hobart, Tas. : 1840 - 1859) Sat 1 May 1847 Page 3

5). Convict Records

6). Norfolk Island discipline - The Inquirer and Commercial News 24 November 1858

7) Alexander Maconochie's Thoughts on Convict Management

8). National Archives. Reference: ADM 101/1/7 Description: Medical journal of the Agincourt, convict ship from 17 June to 23 November 1844 by C H Fuller, surgeon and superintendent, during which time the ship was employed in conveying convicts to Norfolk Island and Sydney.


[1] UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857. Medical Journal of Charles Henry Fuller on the voyage of the Agincourt in 1844. The National Archives. Kew, Richmond, Surrey.
[2] Parliamentary Accounts and papers 1847

[3] The Australian 2 November 1844

[4] Lloyds Weekly Journal 14th July in the Shipping Gazette and Sydney Trade List 9 November 1844.

[5] Shipping Gazette and Sydney Trade List 23 November 1844

[6] Shipping Gazette 21 December 1844

[7] The Australian 25 November 1844