Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Convict Ship William - 1794

Embarked: 1 female
Voyage: 171 days
Previous vessel: Sugar Cane arrived 17 September 1793
Next vessel: Surprize arrived 25 October 1794
Captain William Folger
Follow the Female Convict Ship Trail


The Store ship William, laden with salt beef, barrelled port and agricultural implements departed England 21st September 1793

Female Prisoner

Only one female prisoner arrived on the William. Maria Smith was tried at Middlesex on 4th July 1792 and received a sentence of transportation for life for stealing on the 27th April, six yards of muslin valued at 12s and a half yard of other muslin valued at 12s. and a pair of worsted stockings valued at 16d - Trial of Maria Smith at the Old Bailey

Cabin Passengers

Rev. Samuel Marsden with his wife of three months Elizabeth came as passengers on the William.

Select here to see the wedding dress of Ann Hassall (nee Marsden) c. 1822 (Powerhouse Museum)

Rev. Marsden had been appointed assistant chaplain to the colony. This appointment was originally to have been taken up by Rev. Crowther who embarked on the ill-fated Guardian in September 1789. After the great suffering he experienced when the Guardian was wrecked Rev. Crowther decided not to take up the appointment in New South Wales. (1)

The Manuscript Journal of this first voyage of Rev. Marsden to Australia is held in the Mitchell Library, Sydney and is quoted in Dr. Hocken's lecture of October 17th, 1905, to the Otago Institute, The Early New Zealand Mission and the Rev. Samuel Marsden -

'The William's voyage of eight months was one long trial for Marsden and his wife who, separated from their friends for the first time, found themselves amid unfamiliar surroundings, tormented by the uncouth language and bearing of men of the low type then to be found on English merchant vessels, and without one person on board to whom to turn for sympathy.

The ship, as Marsden tells in his journal which he wrote during the voyage, was detained at Spithead for three weeks by contrary winds and was again held up at Cork until the warship arrived which was to conduct the convoy to the open sea, for the war with France was raging. It was thus the last day of September before the William left the shores of Ireland. A short stay at Las Palmas and another at Rio de Janeiro broke the monotony of the voyage, although Marsden left the latter port with saddened mind, 'greatly affected,' as he puts it,'at seeing the poor negro slaves and the indifference to the Sabbath.'

In Botany Bay, however, he was soon to witness English convicts, Sunday by Sunday, give themselves up to such debauchery as would have appalled the most hardened of the poor slaves of Brazil. As if to prepare him for such scenes, he had already found it almost impossible to obtain any countenance for religious observances on the William. The captain, a coarse, irreligious individual, had nothing in common with the pious exponent of evangelical Christianity whose youthful zeal for the faith made him eager to bear witness against the wickedness of the ship's company and turn them from their evil ways of blasphemy and drunkenness. It was with difficulty that Marsden gained permission to hold service on Sundays, the captain remarking that he had never seen a religious sailor and that to preach to the crew would be mere waste of time.

After holding a service Marsden was almost inclined to agree with the captain, writing 'the sailors are the most stupid, ignorant people in the world; might preach to them for an eternity without doing them the least good.' The misery of the voyage was increased for both Marsden and his wife when the convict girl who had been assigned to them as a maid proved refractory and rebellious, and ultimately, in entire defiance, betook herself to the captain's cabin. As was to be expected, Marsden's interview with the captain upon the subject provoked only an outburst of anger. 'He was exceeding angry and declared he would not bear to be spoken to,' wrote the disconsolate chaplain'.

In violent weather while off the coast of Van Diemen's Land and with no assistance other than her husband, Elizabeth Marsden gave birth to her first child Anne. Rev. Marsden recorded the events of the day in his journal.....

Sunday March 2nd 1794. This hath been a day much to be remembered by me and mine. I hope a grateful sense of the Lord's mercies received this day will never be forgotten. About two o'clock in the morning Mrs. M. began to be unwell. She was in expectation of getting her bed every day, but thought the motion of the ship might affect her and she should be better in a little time. But in this she was greatly mistaken, for she found herself to grow worse. We both rose from bed some time before daybreak and laboured to pass the time as well as we could till the light returned, Mrs. M. all the while growing worse and worse. It had been my wish and prayer that she might arrive at our desired port before she got her bed, but now I saw it could not be. I therefore endeavoured to prepare my mind for the trial as well as I could, and the Lord gave me strength equal to my day. We had no assistance on board of any kind, the captain a very unnatural man, and the wind blowing exceeding hard, and also heavy rain. These circumstances taken together made our situation very unpleasant. In the midst of all I was not cast down, not doubting that God would be with us and bless us. Mrs M. was also in better sprits than could be expected. About daybreak I informed the bad girl we had on board Mrs. M. was unwell, thinking she might be of some assistance to us, as we had nobody else. I shall not soon forget what a rough morning it was. I could not possibly stand without hold of some fixture. About half past ten in the morning Mrs. M. was brought to bed of a fine girl (Ann). She had an exceeding good time, and I believe suffered as little as if she had all the assistance in the world. The child was no sooner born than a great wave washed over the quarterdeck and forced its way into our little cabin through the porthole. Part of it fell upon the child, and also wet our linen. Having never had any fire in the great cabin from our leaving England to the present day caused our linen to be very damp. This I aired as well as I could by putting it between my shirt and skin. Mrs. M. notwithstanding the bad weather, the damp linen, the wet cabin and no assistance but such as I could give, yet she hath had a good day, her spirits have never been down, her mind seems easy and she appears in a very fair way to do well. Having got the child dressed and our little place put to rights, I kneeled down to return God thanks for the great deliverance He had brought to us and hope this was don in spirit and truth.

Elizabeth Marsden went on to give birth to another seven children although not all survived to adulthood. She lost two infants both of whom died in tragic circumstances in the early years of the new century.

Port Jackson

The William arrived in Port Jackson on 10 March 1794, a voyage of 171 days.

Notes and Links

1). More about Rev. Marsden in The biographia Leodiensis; or, Biographical sketches of the worthies of Leeds By Richard Vickerman Taylor........... Samuel Marsden graduated at St. John's College, Cambridge, and in 1793 went out as second chaplain to New South Wales. A prospect more truly hopeless than that which presented itself to Mr. Marsden when he arrived at his post cannot be imagined. He was, however, precisely the man for the place. He was a good man and hated sin, but he was just as little to be depressed at sight of the seemingly overwhelming tide of evil which he had to encounter, as he was to be carried away by it. A more sensitive man might have sunk down in despair and horror; he was not sensitive, and was abundantly sanguine. The retirement of the senior chaplain, which took place almost immediately after his own arrival, made his situation all the more responsible and arduous. Besides adding largely to his pastoral duties, it left him to fight all his battles single-handed. He seems, however, to have been one of those men who stand firmest when they stand alone. Almost as soon as he was established in the settlement, Mr. Marsden was appointed a magistrate. Such a blending of sacred and secular vocations as the appointment in his case involved is certainly not desirable; and, as far as he personally was concerned, the office brought nothing but trouble. After his death at Sydney a memorial was at once raised to him at a cost of £6000 , with which a memorial Church was erected and endowed. To his exalted piety and sterling character, his simplicity, unselfishness, high purposes, and noble enterprises, it is earnestly hoped that a lasting and appropriate memorial may also be raised in his native place. In pursuance of this purpose, the committee have decided that all the chancel windows of Parsley Church should be filled with stained glass, and that a suitable monument of Aberdeen granite should be erected in the churchyard, on which is to be inscribed his name, labours, and virtues. The Rev. P. J. Maning, Incumbent of Farsley, has kindly written to say that there can be no doubt about Farsley being the place of his birth, as a copy or certificate of his birth (July 28th, 1764) and baptism may be obtained to that effect, and that he has, moreover, most ample proof under Marsden's own hand-writing, that when ten or eleven years old, he left Farsley and went to his uncle's, a blacksmith at Horsforth, where he lived and laboured as a blacksmith for several years, and obtained at Rawden, an adjoining village, the rudiments of his education from the Incumbent, the Rev. S. Stones. Thus Horsforth was the place where he was brought up, but Farsley where he was born.

2). Two convict ships arrived in New South Wales in 1794 - William and Surprize


(1) Historical Records of New South Wales, Vol. 1, part 2., p.260