Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Countess of Harcourt (3) 1824

Embarked 174 men
Voyage 111 days
Deaths 3
Surgeon's Journal - Yes
Previous vessel: Brothers arrived 7 May 1824
Next vessel: Prince Regent arrived 15 July 1824
Captain George Bunn
Surgeon James Dickson

The Countess of Harcourt was built in India in 1811.[1] Convicts were transported to Van Diemen's Land on the Countess of Harcourt in 1821 and to New South Wales in 1822 1824, 1827 and 1828.

Military Guard

A detachment of the 40th regiment received orders in February to embark on the Countess of Harcourt which would be finished re-fitting by the end of March. One serjeant, two corporals and 33 privates under the command of Captain Robert Morrow came on the Countess of Harcourt. The 40th had been serving in Ireland.

Following is an excerpt from Historical Records of the 40th (2nd Somersetshire) Regiment By Raymond Henry Raymond Smythies listing the ships that brought detachments of the 40th regiment to New South Wales in 1823 and 1824..........

Early in March 1823, the commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Thornton received an intimation that it was intended to send the regiment to New South Wales. In the meantime it was ordered to proceed to Dublin, thence by sea to Liverpool, and after that by road to Chatham, in order to form guards for convict ships when required.
The head quarters reached Dublin on 15th March and occupied the Royal Barracks. On the 30th the whole regiment embarked at Pigeon House, in eight small vessels, and reached Liverpool the following day.

A twenty eight days' march, including three Sundays, brought the regiment to Chatham. The Regiment marched in three divisions; the first arrived at Chatham on 21st April; the second, consisting of two companies, halted, and remained at Deptford; and the 3rd reached Chatham on 23rd April.

During the next year the 40th was sent out, in small detachments, as guards on board convict ships to Australia. This was after several years' rough service in Ireland, and but a short period of rest in England........

Embarked 25th April 1823 on ship Albion. Lieutenant Lowe
Embarked 5th July 1823 on ship Asia Captain Bishop
Embarked 10th July 1823 on ship Isabella. Lieutenant Millar
Embarked 18th July 1823 on ship Sir Godfrey Wilestoe. Captain Hibbert
Embarked 29 July 1823 on ship Guildford. Captain Thornhill
Embarked 31st July 1823 on ship Medina. Lieutenant Ganning
Embarked 5 August 1823 on ship Castle Forbes. Lt.- Col. Balfour
Embarked 29 December 1823 on ship Prince Regent. Captain Stewart
Embarked 5th February 1824 on ship Chapman. Captain Jebb
Embarked 25 February 1824 on ship Countess of Harcourt. Captain Morow
Embarked 14 June 1824 on ship Mangles. Lt.- Col Thornton
Embarked 14 June 1824 on ship Princess Charlotte. Lieut Neilley

Other ships bringing detachments of the 40th regiment included the Minerva and Ann and Amelia.

Surgeon James Dickson

This was James Dickson's first voyage as surgeon superintendent of a convict ship. He kept a detailed medical journal of the daily occurrences together with his general observations.

Convicts Embarked

The prisoners were embarked between the 3rd and 8th March.....

3rd March 1824 - Received this day at one, draught from the Justitia prison ship at Woolwich, sixty one male adult convicts, victualled on board the Justitia day of discharge. Supplied them with bedding and formed them into messes and berthed them.

The next day another draught of prisoners were embarked and on the 5th March sixteen boys were received into the ship from the Bellepheron hulk. They were immediately sent to the prison set up for them on board and placed under the instructions of two trustworthy convicts. With exception of two, all the boys were under sentence of transportation for life.. The youngest were John Brickfield, William Donald and William Hall who were all 14 years old. [2]

During this time the notorious Joseph Hunt, who was sensationally convicted of being an accessory to murder in Hertfordshire in 1823, awaited his time on the Justitia hulk moored at Woolwich. He was embarked alone on the 8th March. During the voyage the surgeon intended to attempt to befriend Joseph Hunt with a view to garnering information regarding accomplices in his notorious crime.


There were strong gales of wind and very heavy rain in the days of embarkation which prevented the prisoners from being on deck. The surgeon insisted that they march around the prison, two abreast to gain some exercise. This they were very reluctant to do preferring to lounge in their berths. A few days after they were all embarked it began to snow and there were falls of hail as well which lay upon the deck. The surgeon deemed it necessary to issue a pair of numbered drawers to each of the men. The men were also receiving small indulgences from family and friends which the surgeon was happy to allow.

All the adult men were ironed at this stage although the irons had proved useless for the boys who could easily slip out of them. A week later the weather moderated and they were once more allowed on deck. Some prisoners were employed as cooks, others as boatswain's mates. Generally all the prisoners were well behaved and in good spirits.

Orders were received to weigh anchor and proceed to Gravesend. By the 20th the surgeon mentions trouble amongst the boy prisoners. He was forced to separate some of the worst behaved, some of whom had been disrupting the prisons by their disorderly conduct. They had been throwing swabs and dragged out and ill-used one of the prisoners, a Welsh man who could neither speak nor understand the English language. William Summer a young lad who was sentenced for life for highway robbery and twice capitally convicted was a bad character who broke prison and assaulted his fellow prisoner by beating him about the face with a tin pot without provocation. From the disposition among the boys the surgeon ordered that William Sumner should received 12 lashes on the breach which was inflicted by the boatswain; and Richard Clarke, an adult having been fully convicted of theft was punished with 12 lashes on the back.

The Downs

They anchored in Margate roads on 21st March and the weather was squally with heavy rain necessitating the men to be confined in their prisons again. On the night of the 22nd they weighed anchor and proceeded to the Downs. Here Captain Bunn procured fresh beef and vegetables for the Guard and convicts many of whom were affected by the motion of the ship, the weather still being boisterous. The surgeon noted that some of the prisoners seemed depressed, owing he thought to the state of the weather and the motion of the ship. The next day the weather improved and the surgeon ordered all the dirty clothes to be washed. This was done with difficulty because of the indolence and slothfulness of the prisoners.

The men continued to receive small parcels and money from friends and relatives still astonishing the surgeon with their avidity with which they extorted the least farthing by exciting sympathy and moving appeals to their relatives' humanity by describing themselves as having a short supply of rations and that they were crammed together in the most uncomfortable manner. Such pitiable details have the desired effect on their friends who use their utmost exertions to send a few shillings and other comforts which were allowed to be brought alongside the vessel.


The Countess of Harcourt proceeded down the Channel on the 24th March. Punishments ordered by the surgeon included withholding wine for a few days when prisoners hung their wet clothes in the prison instead of on deck, however generally the men were orderly. The surgeon found that the prisoners who had been sentenced for desertion from the army were inclined to be respectful and helpful and much disposed to make themselves useful as boatswains' mates. These included Thomas Jackson, George Morrow, Francis Needham, John Sanderson, Henry Tennant, Charles Tothill and James Turner

Port Jackson

The Countess of Harcourt anchored at 6pm on 12 July 1824 at Port Jackson and the following morning four men were sent to hospital in Sydney.

Inspection and Muster

On the 14th Governor Brisbane came on board to inspect the convicts. He made the usual inquiries relative to their treatment during the voyage after which Colonial Secretary Major Goulburn mustered the men. On the 16th the surgeon received official confirmation from shore to have the men ready early the next day for disembarkation. They were to take their rations with them. Each man was issued with a woollen cap, 1 jacket, 1 waistcoat, 1 pair of trousers, 1 pair of stockings and 1 pair of shoes. They were disembarked at 6am and the surgeon left the ship at 10am having previously procured lodgings. ....

There is no indication in the convict indents as to where the convicts were assigned after arrival. In the Colonial Secretary's correspondence there is a list of 86 men who were forwarded to Parramatta by water on 17th July for distribution amongst settlers. Some were then sent overland to Liverpool, Airds, Appin, Minto, Windsor, Evan and Bathurst. Francis Nuttall (cotton and silk weaver); Thomas Barlow (cotton weaver); John Holden (linen weaver); John Jones (weaver); Edward Barry (cloth dresser); and Michael Harney (cotton weaver) were all assigned to the Factory at Parramatta. The boys were probably sent to the Carter's Barracks. Later some of the men were assigned to the Australian Agricultural Company and to settlers John Bingle and  George Blaxland

Departure from Sydney

The Countess of Harcourt departed Sydney on 24th August, with Stores and provisions and in company with the Tamar taking provisions and personnel to form a new settlement at Melville Island. (HRA, Series 1, Vol. XI, p. 338)

Convicts of the Countess of Harcourt identified in the Hunter Valley -

Bale, William
Boyle, John
Browning, George
Burdis, Michael
Burns, William
Burrus, William
Chalfont, Samuel
Corbett, William
Cousens, Thomas
Crane, John
Eastow, Thomas
Everill, Thomas
Ferries, Peter
Finney, Thomas
Fish, John
Gray, John
Green, Alexander
Hammond, William
Hetherington, Samuel
Hewitson, John
Jackson, Henry
Jameson, William
Jobling, Ralph
Jones, Robert
Jones, Thomas
Mahoney, John
McEwen, James
Moore, John
Pearce, John
Phillips, William
Pigott, George
Press, John
Redford, William
Rhodes, Thomas
Sanderson, John
Smith, Bernard
Smith, William
Stanley, Israel
Summers, Phillip
Turner, James
Watkins, William
White, Joseph

Notes and Links

1). Descendant Contribution: Robert James arrived on the Countess of Harcourt under sentence of 14 years transportation. His wife Catherine James and four children William, David, Jane and Elspet came on the George Hibbert in 1834 as free passengers. . An elder daughter Isabella arrived in 1839 with her two children.

2). Convict Alexander Green was employed as scourger and public executioner at Hyde Park Barracks (See Australian Dictionary of Biography)

3). James Dickson was also surgeon on the convict ships Woodford in 1826 (VDL), Florentia in 1828, and the Norfolk in 1829.

4). In the year 1824, the British Government determined to form a settlement on the north coast of Australia in the vicinity of Melville Island, with the object of opening up intercourse between that district and the Malay coast. On account of the nearness of the place to Timor, it was believed that some of the trade of the East Indies would be attracted to its shores. For some time previously small vessels from New South Wales had traded regularly with certain islands of the Indian Archipelago chiefly in pearls, tortoise-shell and beche-de-mer. In order to carry out the intentions of the Government, Captain James Gordon Bremer left England in H.M.S. Tamar on February 27th, 1824, for Sydney, where the establishment was to be raised. The Tamar brought a number of marines who were to form part of the garrison for the proposed settlement.

Meanwhile, the authorities at Sydney had chartered the ship Countess of Harcourt, Captain Bunn, in which to convey the settlers as well as a detachment of officers and men, then quartered in the colony, with their wives to Melville Island. After taking supplies on board, the following were embarked in the Countess of Harcourt, Captain Barlow, Lieutenant Everard, and twenty-four non-commissioned officers and men, all of the Buffs. Dr. Turner, Royal Artillery; Mr. George Miller, Commissariat Department; Mr. Wilson and Mr. George Tollemache, Storekeepers. In all the Countess of Harcourt carried 110 men, 40 women, and 25 children. The colonial brig Lady Nelson, in command of Captain Johns, also received orders to accompany the expedition. She had returned from a voyage to Moreton Bay on August 12th, and, heavily laden with passengers, soldiers, and stores, sailed with the Tamar and the Countess of Harcourt on August 24th, 1824. The Log Books of the Lady Nelson by Ida Lee- Project Gutenberg

5). On 22nd September 1825, the Countess of Harcourt was in company with the Lady Nelson at Port Essington when one of the boats belonging to the vessel was upset on returning to the ship. Twelve people were thrown into the water and by the great exertions of Lieutenant Golding of the Tamar, eight of them were saved. Two soldiers of the 3rd regiment, the Captain's steward of the Harcourt and a fine lad, the son of a clergyman, an apprentice, were drowned.

6). Captain George Bunn was a master mariner, merchant and magistrate. He was principal of the merchant firm Buckle, Buckle, Bagster and Buchanan, and Director of the Bank of Australia. He married Anna Maria Murray later author of The Guardian: An Anonymous tale 1838. George Bunn died in 1834.

7). Return of Convicts of the Countess of Harcourt assigned between 1st January 1832 and 31st March 1832 (Sydney Gazette 28 June 1832; 5 July 1832).... .
John Mahoney - Tailor assigned to Alexander Busby at Hunters River
William Phillips - Tailor assigned to Robert Jones in Sydney

8). 40th (or Somersetshire) Regiment of Foot 1821.

9). Convict Matthew Gregson was convicted feloniously embezzling Bills of Exchange and other Money. On arrival he was employed in the Colonial Secretary's office, where he worked compiling the Blue Book. Correspondence of Matthew Gregson, appeal for special treatment March 1824 - Historical Records of Australia.

10). Gregson's Cave - Daily Telegraph 10 October 1912


[1] Bateson, Charles Library of Australian History (1983). The convict ships, 1787-1868 (Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney : pp.344-345, 384

[2] UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857 Medical Journal of James Dickson on the voyage of the Countess of Harcourt in 1824. The National Archives. Kew, Richmond, Surrey.