Free Settler or Felon
Convict and Colonial History

Henry Kelsall R. N.,

Convict Ship Surgeon-Superintendent

Henry Kelsall - From an original painting. Bateson C, The Convict Ships. Collection of Miss Rose Kelsall, Perth, WA Photo of an original painting from Charles Bateson's The Convict Ships, Collection of Miss Rose Kelsall, Perth, WA

Henry Kelsall was born in Hampshire 21 January 1802, son of Joseph and Rachel Kelsall [1]

Assistant Surgeon - Weazle

The Morning Post reported on 5th January 1824 that Henry Kelsall had been appointed assistant-surgeon on the Weazle. He may still have been on the Weazle when she sailed for Malta in June 1824. A passenger William Thomson, Assistant Commissary-General to the Forces, later described the voyage, and although the surgeon is not mentioned it is interesting to read Thomson's account. Select here to read the letter

Appointed Surgeon 1824

In October (1824) Henry Kelsall was promoted to Surgeon and appointed to the Naiad.

H.M.S. Druid 1831

He was stationed on H.M.S. Druid in April 1831 when he married Susanna, the youngest daughter of G. Truman of Playmouth.

Andromeda 1834

Henry Kelsall was employed as surgeon superintendent on the female convict ship Andromeda in 1834. The Andromeda departed Cork on 25 May 1834 and arrived in Port Jackson on 17 September 1834.

In November 1834 the Sydney Gazette reported that ....A fine 'old man kangaroo' weighing upwards of a hundred weight was shot at the North Shore (Sydney) on Wednesday by Dr. Kelsall R.N., It is seldom indeed, that such a shot presents itself, or that a person can get within musket shot of those 'Grey Lords of the Australasian wilds'.

He remained in Australia for about six months. In March 1835 it was reported in the Sydney Gazette that he returned to London on the Red Rover.

Margaret 1837

He returned again to New South Wales as surgeon on the female convict ship Margaret in 1837. The Margaret departed Cork on 24 January 1837 and arrived in Port Jackson on 30 May 1837.

Juliana and Waterloo Wrecks

His next appointment was to the emigrant ship Juliana in 1838 which was wrecked at the Cape. He was surgeon on the Waterloo in 1842 which was also wrecked. [2]

Cape Packet

After the wreck of the Waterloo, he embarked as Surgeon Superintendent on the Cape Packet from Table Bay to Hobart. He kept a Medical Journal between 14 October and 26 November 1842. The Journal begins with the treatment of William Collins age 59, described by Kelsall as an old man who had four of the central ribs on the right side fractured and suffered severe bruising in the trunk and extremities when the Waterloo was wrecked. Collins was carried from the beach to the General Hospital in Cape Town where he remained until all the convicts were embarked in the Cape Packet for Hobart on 14th October.

John Calvin 1846

He was appointed to the John Calvin taking convicts to Norfolk Island in 1846.

1851 Census

Henry Kelsall, age 49, wife Louisa Kelsall age 33, son Henry age 17, medical student and two servants reside at 1 Brighton Place Newington, Lambeth.

1871 Census

Henry Kelsall age 69, wife Eliza Kelsall aged 58, daughter Amelia E. age 19 and two servants reside at Camden Villa Reigate.


He was on the List of Surgeons retired in 1864.


Henry Kelsall died 3 December 1874 at Redhill age 72. He was buried at Redhill, St. John, Surrey.

His Will was proved by nephew Joseph Kelsall of Dublin and Harry Rose Barrow, Admiralty Clerk, Executors.

Obituary from the Monthly Homeopathic Review 1875....

Dr. Kelsall was the second son of Lieut. Kelsall. He was born at Hillsea in Hampshire in 1802. His medical studies were commenced at the Chelsea and Brompton Dispensary, and completed at St. George's Hospital. In 1820 he was admitted a licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries, and two years later a member of the Royal College of Surgeons. When the college obtained its charter, enabling it to confer upon distinguished members the higher diploma of 'fellow,' Dr. Kelsall was of the number selected by the council for this honorary distinction. After his admission to the college, he applied for an appointment in his Majesty's service; and after some delay—a period which he occupied by serving as surgeon on board one of the Hudson Bay Company's ships—he was gazetted to H.M.S. 'Weazle.';

After four years service in this, and other vessels as assistant-surgeon he was gazetted as full surgeon in 1827 to H.M.S. ' Ringdove.'

In 1834 he was appointed surgeon to the convict ship 'Andromeda.' In 1838 he was placed in medical charge of the emigrant ship 'Juliana' which was wrecked—happily without loss of life—off the Cape of Good Hope. In 1843 he had the misfortune to be serving on board the convict ship 'Waterloo,' a rotten, unseaworthy vessel, which was wrecked in a comparatively slight storm off the Cape of Good Hope, and sunk, within twenty minutes after striking, 200 yards from shore with a loss of 189 lives out of the 302 on board. Dr. Kelsall's life was saved on this occasion by a convict of the name of Gardiner to whom he had shown some kindness when on board. He here sustained an injury in the hip-joint which left him more or less lame during the remainder of his life.

In 1847 he proceeded to Glasgow to graduate. While in this city he became acquainted with Dr. Philips of Harley Street—then a student of medicine at the university—by whom he was introduced to Dr. Scott now of Tunbridge-Wells. It was in observing the remarkable success that attended Dr. Scott's practice that he was led to investigate and finally to adopt the homoeopathic method.

On retiring from the navy on half-pay (which he did shortly afterwards) he placed himself under the instructions of the late Dr. Curie, and subsequently commenced practice in the Old Kent Road. During 1849 an epidemic of cholera occurred, and he devoted himself with much success night and day to the treatment of cholera patients in one of the most densely populated districts of the metropolis.

He shortly afterwards removed to Leicester, where he succeeded in obtaining a fair practice and much popularity. The health of his wife failing, he was induced on her account to reside in Guildford, where she died within a year. Thence he removed to Exeter, where his increasing infirmities debarred him from entering upon active practice. In no long time he retired from practice altogether, and thenceforward resided at Reigate where he died on the 3rd ultimo.

Dr. Kelsall was a genial, kind-hearted, generous man, of considerable intellectual power and varied attainments. When lameness, and ultimately almost complete paraplegia—depending on white softening of the spinal cord—had deprived him of the power of moving about, he occupied his time in the study of Hebrew, Syriac and German, rendering himself able to read each language with ease.

Ten years ago, he devised a plan for preventing the growth of barnacles on the bottoms of iron ships. This he submitted to the Board of Admiralty. By the Board it was—almost as a matter of course—ignored. He had, however, the satisfaction—such as it was—of subsequently witnessing the adoption of his invention (with some slight modifications) and the credit thereof given to one of the officials of the Board!


Henry Kelsall is listed in the British Medical Directory for 1853 - Henry Kelsall, New Kent Rd., Surrey, M.D. Glasgow 1842; F.R.C.S. (Nom) 1844 M.R.C.S.E. 1822; L.S.A. 1820.

He is listed in the Medical Register 1865 - Residence Camden villa, Redhill, Surrey. Qualifications Lic. Soc. Apoth. London 1820. Mem. 1822 Fell. 1844, R. College Surgeons. M.D. University Glasgow 1842.

Notes and Links

1). Colonial Cousins: A Surprising History of Connections Between India and ... By Joyce P. Westrip, Peggy Holroyde

2). Bottle thrown overboard from the Kinnear to determine ocean currents. Nautical Magazine

3). Surgeon-Major Henry Kelsall (b. 1834) - Afghan Campaigns of 1878, 1880: Biographical Division By Sidney H. Shadbolt


[1] England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.

[2] Australian Medical Pioneers Index

[3] 1851 Census, England. Class: HO107; Piece: 1568; Folio: 289; Page: 30; GSU roll: 174802 Description Enumeration District: 10 Source Information Original data: Census Returns of England and Wales, 1851. Kew, Surrey, England.

[4] 1871 Census, England. Class: RG10; Piece: 830; Folio: 106; Page: 13; GSU roll: 838705 Description Enumeration District: 6 Source Information Original data: Census Returns of England and Wales, 1871. Kew, Surrey, England.