Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship Hindostan - 1821

Embarked: 152 men
Voyage: 118 days
Deaths: 0
Surgeon's Journal: yes
Previous vessel: John Barry arrived 7 November 1821
Next vessel: Minerva arrived 16 December 1821
Captain William Williamson
Surgeon Superintendent William Evans

The Hindostan was built at Whitby in 1819. She was the next convict ship to leave England for New South Wales after the departure of the Grenada in May 1821.

Military Guard

The Guard consisted of 24 Privates of the 30th, 48th and 69th regiments, under command of Ensign King of the 48th regiment + five women and five children. They came on board at 3pm on Friday 13th July and 152 convicts boarded at 8.30pm from the Leviathan and York hulks at Portsmouth.

Surgeon William Evans

William Evans kept a medical journal from 25th June 1821 to 29th November 1821.

Under the surgeon's direction the convicts began a routine to keep the prison and themselves clean and healthy. They were allowed on deck, half of them at a time. The routine was broken at 1 o'clock on Thursday 19th July when all the ships at Spithead were dressed with colours and a Royal Salute was fired in honour of the King.

On Saturday 14th July the ship was visited by Earl Spencer and a party of gentlemen who inspected the prisoners and found the victualling and allowances made by Government satisfactory.


On Sunday 29th July 1821, the morning was fine with a gentle breeze from NNW. At 8am they weighed anchor and stood out from Spithead and at 12.30 the pilot left the ship and they began their voyage.

The Voyage

The Monthly Magazine and British Register included an account of the voyage - Volume 1....

Voyage in the Hindostan Convict Ship in 1821.

The situation of offenders against the law of their country, sentenced to transportation, being frequently a subject of discussion, and few being acquainted with the precise mode in which that duty is carried into execution, a description of it will not be a matter of indifference to those who interest themselves in enquiries of so humane a tendency. Such persons, happily for the credit of our country, are more numerous in England than perhaps in all the rest of Europe put together. It is a new and uncommon species of merit, to hunt out crime for the purpose, not of increasing, but of ameliorating, punishment; of showing, that even in our justice we can be kind and that human nature, in its lowest state of degradation, is not indifferent to us.

The condition and discipline of our prisons is now almost, with numbers of our countrymen and countrywomen too, a species of employment of itself. There is no problem in legislation more difficult than to provide fully and adequately, yet humanely, for serious offences against the laws, and peace and well-being of society. Even England, with all her humanity, has not set herself determinedly to the solution up to the present hour; but chiefly contented herself with similarly cutting the knot by hanging the offender: we write our criminal laws in the blood of the victims. The question altogether is very momentous; of course it is not meant to be discussed here transportation, and penitentiaries and the hulks, have all their advantages and defects; but the former, after all, could it be rendered less expensive to the country, would, in the present state of our population, be certainly preferable

Convicts Embarked at Portsmouth

About the middle of June 1821, I went on-board the Hindostan, then lying in the Thames, and soon afterwards sailed for Portsmouth, where 162 male convicts, chiefly from the midland and western counties, were embarked for a passage to Port Jackson. I must confess there is something extremely uncomfortable in the idea of being cooped-up, for months together, with such an abandoned set, - of receiving a cargo of crime, - an investment of iniquity ; besides the impression of insecurity which their previous lawless habits has a tendency to create, and which some desperate attempts have actually produced. They came on-board in divisions, and ironed; search is previously made for any arms or dangerous weapons they might have, to prevent accidents; but, notwithstanding every precaution, they contrive occasionally to secrete files, and pieces of metal, which they ingeniously convert to almost any purpose on emergency.

Location of the Prison

The prison, as it is called, where they are immediately placed, occupies the whole of tire between-decks, that is, the deck below the upper deck, - from the after hatchway to the foremast; thence to the bow forms the sick-birth, for such as are overtaken by disease ; and occasionally, by the good-nature of the officers, for persons who have once been in respectable situations in life, not marked by the deepest degree of depravity, and who behave well. Government admits, and perhaps wisely, no such distinction by its orders; all convicts fare and are treated alike: the responsibility for any such indulgence rests with those who have charge. No merchandize is permitted to be taken on-board by any one, or for any purpose. The ship is chartered for the express purpose of conveying such criminals; and, after landing them, generally proceeds to India, for a cargo for her owners.

Ship Accommodation

The arrangement of the whole of the between-decks is as follows. The stern is occupied by the cabin of the surgeon-superintendent on the starboard side, and of the military officer commanding the troops on the larboard; between them is a mess-place, where either or both may live, if they do not choose to do so with the captain, - which latter plan is, however, generally adopted. Immediately before the surgeon's cabin are the mess and bed places for the seamen who work the vessel. On the other side, before the military officer's cabin, are the same accommodations for the guard, consisting commonly of thirty-five or forty men, detachments going out to join different regiments in India, to which they are forwarded, as opportunities offer, from Port Jackson.

Boys' Prison

A very wise regulation exists to separate the boy from the adult convicts. Their prison is therefore distinct, and stands, in general, immediately before the quarters of the guard, by the larboard side, the door opening to the after-hatchway.

Description of Prison

Before this, on both sides, is the principal prison already alluded to, extending from the after hatchway to the foremast, embracing the whole breadth of the ship. It is enclosed by a very strong partition or bulk-head, with a small door where required, which lets out only one person at a time, and a step just high enough for the length of the shackles, on the legs.

From the main and fore hatchways it is separated by strong upright stanchions of oak, placed angularly to each other, and thickly studded with nails, so that it is found impossible to saw, or otherwise divide them, by any implement they can secretly work, even, if the space between the stanchions, which is not more than an inch, permitted.

On the whole, it is pretty secure, and rather ingeniously constructed; there are also loop-holes, for the guard, upon any desperate emergency, to fire into the prison: cases of this kind have occurred, though very rarely. In the centre part of the prison are long mess-tables, with forms, which are generally knocked down on reaching the tropics; it being difficult, or impossible, among such persons, to keep anyplace clean where there are fixtures. The cribs, or sleeping-places, are fixed to the side, lying with their feet to the latter, their heads toward midships. Five men occupy a crib. Soldiers, or other large bodies of men, when embarked, fare no better. Everything is therefore done for convicts which circumstances permit, or which the most considerate humanity can require, in the way of accommodation; always remembering, that perfect security to others is absolutely necessary, and that some inconveniences in the confined limits of a ship are wholly unavoidable. They are, however, fewer than could be believed; to sailors, indeed, they appear nothing at all

Surgeon Superintendent

The whole care of these people, - their food, clothing, and cleanliness; their reward and punishment; their cure in sickness, and security when well, - is entrusted to the surgeon superintendent, who supersedes the necessity and expense of a variety of other officers, which, under a different management, would be required. He is always a surgeon of the Royal Navy humane and attentive by professional habits; and being accustomed to the routine of service, of discipline, and subordination, is more fit than any other for the charge. Experience has proved this plan not only more economical, but has totally removed the imputations previously advanced, of negligence, inhumanity, and peculation, or rather robbery, of the stipulated allowance of provisions, said to have been made by the masters of the transports employed in this service. It was not an infrequent occurrence, formerly, for even the convicts themselves, who were selected to see justice done in this respect to their unhappy companions, to join, on being paid for it, in conniving at this injustice; at present, there is seldom anything of this kind attempted. To prevent, however, the possibility of any such attempt, our surgeon adopted a very judicious plan, by changing the men so deputed every day: two from the first mess being appointed the first day, two from the second the next, and so on, till the messes had been gone through; when the first mess was begun with again, only choosing two different men from the first. This obviates ill complaint, on the part of the convicts, respecting the quality (which is indeed seldom complained of) or weight of the provisions, a fertile theme of declamation to all such persons, very often without the slightest cause. In the navy, also, a part of the petty officers, - such as quarter-masters, Serjeants of marines, etc. attend on the part of the crew, to sec all provisions weighed and examined.


In convict ships, it is scarcely necessary to state, that the provisions are not in charge of the surgeon, but of the master; the former is to superintend, and see justice done. The allowance is ample and of the best quality; with a proportion of tea, sugar, rice, portable soup, lemon-juice, and a variety of other things for the use of the sick. Two or three convicts are set apart as cooks for the whole, receiving in return some little perquisites, and the fat, or slush as it is termed, at the end of the voyage, which sells at Sydney for 8l. or 10l Besides (possibly the greatest consideration of all) being by their employment exempted from strict confinement on the passage.


We sailed from Spithead July 29th, and soon after, being clear of the English channel, and becoming pretty well acquainted with the individuals and dispositions of our unhappy cargo, gave them a degree of liberty at which many will feel surprise, by admitting them freely on deck. Different surgeons have, in this respect, different regulations. Some admit only one half upon deck at a time; some one third; but, fortified by a good deal of experience in two previous voyages, our superintendent admitted the whole. He would not even permit those to remain below who were too indolent or sluggish to take the trouble of coming up; of which class, idle by previous habits, there are always many on-board. From this persevering exposure to the air, he chiefly attributed his good fortune in not losing a single man in the two preceding voyages; and his plan was fully justified by the result of this one also, - not one dying on the passage; a degree of health very extraordinary, considering the dissolute and abandoned lives led by the majority previous to being received on-board. No village in England, indeed, exhibits such a degree of salubrity. [4]

The Monthy Magazine and British Register included an account of the voyage - Volume 2 .........

Ship Board Routine

To give a better idea of their management, the usual routine of a day during the passage, within the tropics, may be mentioned. About six o'clock in the morning they were roused from bed, sometimes a little after, and, their bedclothes being rolled up, the greater part went on deck, to their usual rendezvous on the booms, that is, the space between the main and fore masts; while others put the place in order for breakfast, at which they all assembled precisely at eight o'clock. The time allowed for this meal is half an hour, or three quarters, according to circumstances. When finished, they are again ordered to the booms, while the main process of the purification of the prison begins, by scrubbing, swabbing, washing, and additional ventilation, with the further comfort in moist weather, or when the decks are thoroughly washed, of a large stove, which, by means of an extensive range of iron funnel, carries the heat into every corner.

Every day is the same assiduous cleanliness practised, except that the stove is not so often wanted. At twelve o'clock they descend again from the booms to dinner, and remain till one, when they resume their station as before on the booms, and continue till four, five, and six, o'clock, when they re-descend for the night, till the return of morning calls for the same course of humane superintendence. Thus they are in the open air during the whole of the day whenever the weather permits; while the prison, by being kept empty, becomes cool, is preserved perfectly clean, and has a pure atmosphere to receive them at night. The latter is an essential benefit, the full effects of which are not so much known in our shipping as they ought. Men-of-war, indeed, commonly know and practise the plan of keeping the 'tween-decks, where the crew sleep, clear of incumbrance in the day-time; but even with them the custom is not universal. To many of the convicts, this constant airing was an exercise with which they would gladly have dispensed. Some, indeed, considered it a punishment. Indolent from nature and from habit, they would not perhaps have stirred once in a week from the prison, had they not been compelled to do so; and many would feign excuses in order to accomplish their own scheme of comfort and ease.

Safety Precautions

Many of these unhappy people care not for their lives, and others cannot understand the true nature of the precautions taken to preserve them. It may be imagined by many, that it was running considerable risk to admit them all on deck at once; but, with very moderate precaution, there is no cause whatever for apprehension. The quarter-deck, where the officers remain, is separated from the waist, or booms, by a very strong barricade, five feet high, with a thick netting, extending two feet higher, on the top of it. A door on each side, through the bulwark, leads forward for the seamen who have occasion to pass; but with this the convicts have no business, and never approach it without permission. Anything like a sudden rush is therefore prevented. Independent of this, they have neither arms nor indeed inclination for such an enterprise; while the guard and seamen are of course upon the alert, provided with every advantage to resist any thing like insubordination or tumult.

With a moderate admixture of vigilance and kindness, nothing need be feared: firmness, however, is absolutely necessary; for too much good nature or leniency, where an offence is committed, is instantly taken advantage of; and it is surprising how soon they discern the dispositions of those they have to deal with. But, a still better defence than all these, is their treachery toward each other. They cannot, or will not, be faithful even in the most trifling matters; and a spy in the garrison is pretty sure of finding out everything that passes within it. On great occasions, the hopes of pardon and reward are necessarily irresistible.

On Board Amusements and Activities

While on deck, we always encouraged their sports; such as singing, wrestling, single-stick, and anything else they wished, within reasonable bounds. To see them enter heartily into such amusements, is gratifying to considerate minds, and a pretty good proof that there is no mischief going on.

Prayers were regularly read by the surgeon every Sunday, and attended with due decorum, and in some instances with seeming interest, by our offending cargo : but I am afraid there were among these several hypocrites; one at least we detected in pilfering spirits, by the exertion of more than usual ingenuity.

A school was also established, for the instruction of the boys: a convict, recommended from the prison for better conduct than usual, taught them; and was not incompetent to the task. Several adults, desirous of being instructed, likewise attended: the whole, indeed, were much in need of it, had they been willing; for I never before saw such an assemblage of the people of our country so ignorant, - scarcely one out of the whole being able to write legibly. This, however, is an uncommon occurrence, particularly among the convicts of the metropolis; many of the ships contain numbers possessed of superior information and talent, had these been turned to honest account. Our doctor, who, as I have remarked, has made this journey three times, and consequently enjoyed no little experience, told me he had once a more than usually respectable cargo: an officer of dragoons, for making free with the portmanteau of two foreign noblemen (N.B. No tricks upon travellers); a midshipman of the navy, for not comprehending the precise difference between *meum and tuum; an attorney, for administering unlawful oaths; a clerk of a large house in London, for pocketing some of his employer's money ; several dandy shopmen, apprentices, and attorneys' clerks; with gentlemen pickpockets ad libitum. Some of their adventures were not a little amusing. I advised the doctor to try his hand upon a book, with these vicissitudes of genius for the theme: 'Memoirs of a Convict Ship' would be an original and taking title

Perfidy of the Convicts

The itch for thieving among them is wholly unconquerable. They steal from each other, or from anyone else, almost everything they can, without enquiring whether it is worth the trouble, whether they can make use of it, or whether they want it.

On the least probability of detection, it is thrown overboard. Continual complaints of these thefts were made, and several punishments inflicted in consequence; but without effect in preventing their repetition. Another mode of raising the wind, made it almost a matter of risk or obloquy to do them an act of kindness. Several, who had a little money on coming on board, deposited it for safety in the hands of some of the officers, till the termination of the voyage; but two fellows, who really had none, hit upon the expedient of boldly demanding from one of the mates the sum (10l.) they had given into his charge; and, when threatened to be thrashed for their impudence, resolutely complained to the surgeon of their money being withheld.

An enquiry took place: one fellow said he had deposited the money, the other that he had seen it so deposited; and in a court of law the poor mate would probably have been compelled to disburse. But we manage these things better at sea. The presumption being against the complainants, and some other suspicious circumstances arising, the doctor, who not much troubled Coke upon Lyttleton, confined them separately on the poop, under the charge of sentinels, for the greater part of the day ; when at length, the accomplice becoming weary of his situation, and finding no profit likely to accrue from it, in the cant language split, and acknowledged the imposition: when the principal got repaid - with the cat-o'-nine-tails

Another species of depredation threatened still more serious consequences. When we had been at sea about six weeks, it was discovered that several of the convicts were intoxicated, and quarrelled among themselves, for some days in succession; and, notwithstanding a minute examination, and the utmost exertion of vigilance, no clue could be found to point out how this could be accomplished, every care being exerted to keep spirits out of their reach. Suspicions fell upon the steward, and upon others; the keys were taken from them, and liquors, taken out for other purposes, carefully put under other superintendence: but, to the general surprise, the drunkenness continued. At length a swab, - that is, a large bunch of picked cordage, used to dry up moisture from the decks, the same as a mop in a house, - Was observed for several days to remain in one spot in the boy's prison; and, on being removed, the deck, three inches thick, was found cut through large enough to admit a boy, who, being thus lowered into the hold, broached a cask of rum, and had drawn off, as it appeared on examination, thirty five gallons. These ingenious thieves were-of course duly rewarded for their industry.

Punishment of a Convict

Sometimes they become sulky, impudent, and intractable; insulting those whom they cannot otherwise assail. One of the officers, who had been particularly attentive to their comforts, found himself more than once indirectly jostled and obstructed in passing through the prison, from a mere spirit of wantonness; and at length one evening, when nearly dusk, and being unaccompanied, received a volley of bones, from the day's dinner, at his head. Pretty certain of the quarter whence they came, he sprung at the offender, and collared him, calling for assistance. An attempt was made at a rescue and hustle, and he would have fared ill, had not some of the guard promptly arrived; the fellow was smartly punished; and the resolution displayed by the assailed in securing him, inspired an awe that prevented any future interruption.

Arrival in Australia

The voyage, which was on the whole fine, except now and then a gale, occupied something more than seventeen weeks. Madeira, and the Islands of St. Paul and Amsterdam, in the Southern Indian Ocean, were the only lands seen till we made the entrance to Bass's Straits. On the left hand, or New Holland shore, appeared Cape Otway, Wilson's Promontory, Cape Dromedary, Rondeau's, and Curtis's, and Kent's, groups of islands; after weathering the latter of which, you are clear of the straits, and may then safely shape a course direct for Port Jackson. To the right lay King's Island, and many others; only one group of which, named Furneaux's, was visible from the ship.

The first sign of approaching our destination was Macquarie light-house, discernible forty miles distant at sea, which has a revolving light, to distinguish it from the numerous fires along the coast at night, lighted by the natives, and which have frequently misled shipping as to their relative position. The tower which supports it stands on the most elevated part of the south head, or left-hand entrance; is ninety feet high, and was erected by the governor whose name it bears. The appearance of the coast in the vicinity resembles that near Dover in steepness and abruptness, but differs from it in being of a reddish colour. On entering the harbour, the view, which without is bleak and dreary, instantly changes. It is strewed with innumerable small islands, green and pleasant to the eye; the land of the main slopes gradually to the water's edge, with several coves or small bays, and on the left-hand side are seen some pleasant houses: one the pilot house; one named Vaucluse, formerly the residence of Sir Henry Brown Hayes; one Capt. Piper's marine villa, beside others' whose names and owners I do not recollect.

Sydney Cove

The distance from the heads or entrance to Sydney Cove, the usual anchorage, is about seven miles, situated on the south side of the harbour, and of course from the name, bordering the town. Much of this extensive harbour, particularly on the north it is said, along with many of the islands, are little known but to sportsmen and casual visitors; North Harbour is rugged on both sides, the banks composed chiefly of sand-stone, and ready apparently to fall to pieces. Our 'live lumber' viewed the scene of their future abode with no small anxiety ; many, I believe, with hope, and a desire to endeavour to do better than ' in times past;' but, before discharging them, another preliminary ceremony was to be performed.

The surgeon recorded their arrival in Australia on Saturday 24 November 1821. The weather was fine and clear with a light breeze. At daybreak made the land near Jervis's Bay. At 1pm they made the light house on the South Head of Port Jackson and at 6.30 came to anchor in Sydney Cove.

Convit Muster

On Tuesday 27th November the prisoners were inspected on board by Major Goulburn and William Hutchinson and the following day a complete suit of clothing was given as well as a double allowance of provisions. There had been no deaths on the voyage and all the prisoners were disembarked on 29th November 1821.


The Hindostan was to leave for Madras in December 1821. Dr. Evans was planning to depart on her as was Mr. Pemberton, 1st Officer, Mr. Hillier 2nd Officer and Mr. Hopper 3rd Officer.

Notes and Links

1). John Cooper was one of the convicts who absconded on the Gurnett in 1826. He was later charged with piracy but acquitted because of unco-operative witnesses.

2). More about Ensign King of the 48th regiment - According to some sources, Ensign King and Harriet Calcott had a daughter, Mary Ann in 1819. Harriet Calcott was the daughter of Richard Calcott an emancipist. Harriet Calcott and Ensign King were advertising their intention to leave for England on the Surry in June 1819. Harriet Calcott's second daughter Frances (Fanny) Murdoch Stirling, was a daughter of Lieut. Robert Stirling, aide-de-camp to Governor Brisbane. Harriet Calcott's third and fourth daughters born c. 1830 and 1831 were to Alexander Walker Scott.

3). Return of Convicts of the Asia 1832 assigned between 1st January 1832 and 31st March 1832 (Sydney Gazette 28 June 1832).....
John Knight - House servant assigned to John Norman at Sydney

4). William Evans was also surgeon on the convict ships Sir William Bensley in 1817, Bencoolen in 1819, Asia 1824, Sir Godfrey Webster in 1826, Southworth in 1834 (VDL) and the Earl Grey in 1836

5). Ship Conditions

6). Commissioner's Enquiry

7). *Meum is Latin for 'what is mine,' and tuum is Latin for 'what is thine.' If a man is said not to know the difference between meum and tuum, it is a polite way of saying he is a thief.

8). Convicts and passengers of the Hindostan identified in the Hunter Valley :

Braham, John

Bransgrove, Thomas

Callowhill, William

Cooper, John

Cooper, Joseph

Divall, William

Dolan, Michael

Ellis, Samuel

Finch, Thomas

Hewson, George

Hill, William

Holmes, Thomas

Lewis, Richard

March, Jesse

Previll, John


Wilson, John

Woodbury, John


[1] Bateson, Charles Library of Australian History (1983). The convict ships, 1787-1868 (Australian ed). Library of Australian History, Sydney : pp.344-345, 383

[2] UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1857 Medical Journal of William Evans on the voyage of the Hindostan in 1821. The National Archives. Kew, Richmond, Surrey.

[3] National Archives - Reference: ADM 101/34/6 Description: Medical journal of the Hindostan, convict ship from 25 June to 29 November 1821 by William Evans, surgeon and superintendent, during which time the said ship was employed in a voyage to New South Wales. [The journal is in the form of a diary and includes details of the ship's position, weather conditions and routine on board].

[4] The Monthly Magazine and British Register - Voyage in a Convict-ship to New South Wales -Volume 1

[5] The Monthly Magazine and British Register - Voyage in a Convict-ship to New South Wales - Volume 2