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Convict Ship Indispensable 1809


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Convict Ship Indispensable 1809

Embarked: 62 women
Voyage: 169 days
Deaths 1
Surgeon's Journal: no
Previous voyage: Boyd arrived 14 August 1809
Next voyage: Anne arrived 27 February 1810
Captain Henry Best
Surgeon William Evans
Follow the Female Convict Ship Trail
Convicts and passengers of the Indispensable identified in the Hunter Valley

The Indispensable was built in France and launched in 1791. This is the same vessel that brought convicts to Australia in 1796. [2]

The female convicts who were transported to New South Wales on the Indispensable on this voyage were convicted in the following counties in England - Surrey, York, Warwick, Middlesex, Norfolk, Becon, London, Nottingham and Berwick upon Tweed.

Many had been tried at the Old Bailey and held in Newgate prior to being transported. Some of these included Mary Miller age 28; Jane Day age 45; Sarah Edwards age 30; Mary Lewis age 27; Sarah Burgess age 20 and Hannah Gagan age 20 who were all tried at the Old Bailey on the 1st June 1808.

Newgate was a formidable and notorious prison and in 1808 Elizabeth Fry had yet to begin her work to improve conditions within the walls -

A description of Newgate's female prisoners in 1808 - Henry Mayhew

.....Extract from The Criminal Prisons of London - by Henry Mayhew

Cabin and Free Passengers

Passengers included Rev. Cowper, Mrs. (Anne) Cowper. Rev. Cowper's daughter and sons by his first marriage to Hannah Horner - Mary Stephena Cowper and Henry, Thomas and Charles Cowper. Mary Stephena Cowper later married Newcastle surgeon George Brooks.

Mr. Heartley R.N., Mrs. Heartley and family.[1] (Mrs. J. Hartley and Mrs E.A. Hartley departed the colony in 1814.)

William Tyson (sen) and William Tyson(jun) arrived as free passengers on the Indispensable. Isabella Tyson, wife and mother, was a prisoner on board convicted of theft in Yorkshire.

Surgeon William Evans

This was William Evans' only voyage as surgeon superintendent on a convict ship. He was employed as assistant surgeon in Sydney on arrival. He worked for many years as surgeon in the penal settlement at Newcastle and was also granted land at Patterson's Plains in the early days of settlement there. His wife Mary Evans was granted permission to join her husband in the colony and was given a free passage on the Indian in 1810. [4]


The Indispensable departed England on 2nd March 1809 and touched at Rio de Janeiro on the voyage.

Port Jackson

They arrived in Port Jackson on 18 August 1809. One prisoner had died on the passage out.; Sixty one female prisoners arrived, all in a healthy state.


Some of the women may have been housed in the Female Factory at Parramatta. Others were assigned to private service - The fate of some of the women and their children can be assumed from an extract from the correspondence of T. W. Plummer to Colonel Macquarie (who did not take over as Governor until January 1810).

The correspondence was written in England on the 4th May 1809 -

I beg to submit to your consideration the following remarks:

There is another cause to which the laxity and depravity of public morals is peculiarly imputable.

It will perhaps scarcely be believed that, on the arrival of a female convict ship, the custom has been to suffer the inhabitants of the colony each to select one at his pleasure, not only as servants but as avowed objects of intercourse, which is without even the plea of the slightest previous attachment as an excuse, rendering the whole colony little better than an extensive brothel, and exposing the offspring of these disgraceful connexions to the risk of an example at once infamous and contagious. So prevalent has this practice been that it is estimated there are actually at this time about one thousand illegitimate children in the colony of this description
- HR NSW Volume 7., p.120.

The Indispensable sailed for the fisheries on 21st October 1809 and returned to Sydney in April 1810. She brought with her Captain Piper, late commandant at Norfolk Island and sixty barrels of sperm whale oil.

The Indispensable sailed again for the fisheries at the end of April and it was later reported that they were sighted at Norfolk Island and that most of the crew were down with scurvy. Five sailors had deserted from the Indispensable before she sailed for the fisheries. They were later apprehended in Sydney and held until the return of the ship.

In July 1811 the Indispensable returned to Sydney with 175 barrels of sperm oil and in September she was to sail to New Zealand to complete her cargo and then to proceed direct to London.

Notes and Links

1). Convicts and passengers of the Indispensable identified in the Hunter Valley

2). Heirs are wanted in the latest English papers for the following person: The heir of Elizabeth Spencer, who went to Sydney in 1809 in the Indispensable, as Elizabeth, wife of James Thomson and had relatives at Hadley in Middlesex. - Sydney Herald 13 November 1834

3). Convict Ships arriving in New South Wales in 1809 - Aeolus, Experiment, Boyd and Indispensable.

4). Convicts of the Indispensable so far identified in the Hunter Valley......

Mary Dale

Mary Gee

Mary Kelly

Hannah Robinson

Elizabeth Thompson

Sarah Ward/ Ison


[1] Sydney Gazette 20 August 1809

[2] Wikipedia

[3] HRA, Series 1, Vol. VII, p. 332

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