The Other Captain Henderson

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This anecdote has only a minor connection with my research of British troops serving or settling in Western Australia. However, during the timeframe of this story, the 39th, 63rd and 21st Regiment detachments were serving in the Swan River Colony. The story is about a man whose significance in the early years of the fledgling Colony must not be underestimated.

How it all began

In March 2021, I entered a ‘conversation’ between Sue Baddeley and Garry Gillard (see acknowledgements) about the naming of Henderson Street, Fremantle. The topic centred around the Plan of the Town of Fremantle, Western Australia ‘as marked out on the ground in 1844’ [Cons 3868 Item126 WASRO]. Henderson Street was drawn clearly, running at an angle between Queen Street and South Terrace [left, and marked by me in blue]. We also examined another earlier plan dated 1833 [Cons 3868 Item 109 WASRO].

Twentieth century historians such as Caldwell, Bryan (‘Cygnet’), Ewers and many more who followed, have all agreed that Henderson Street was named for Captain Edmund Y W Henderson R.E. who arrived in Western Australia in June 1850 to take up his appointment as Comptroller General of Convicts. Sue had an inspired suggestion that the 1844 Plan whereon Henderson Street is marked, may have predated E Y W Henderson’s arrival in the Colony by more than five years. Sue even offered another contender.

I had doubts, but I studied all the relevant Plans. Maps and plans drawn in the Colony were updated after they were first drawn, often with many versions without name or date. Cartographers’ materials in the Colony – like most things – would have been in short supply, thus the original would have been traced and copied over and over again. Additions on this Plan were numerous and included the signature of Andrew Clarke, Governor in 1846, as well as a faint sketch of the proposed prison and adjacent buildings, resembling E Y W Henderson’s first plan of the convict depot drawn up in August 1851 and subsequently sent to England. The original of the two-page plan of the convict depot, with other pages, is in The National Archives at Kew.

So, if Henderson Street was not named for Captain E Y W Henderson, who then was the other Captain Henderson? Read on …

Master of Cornwallis

Model of a ‘Snow’

Henry Edward Henderson was born in Cork c. 1804, son of William Henderson. I will never know when Henderson first began his seagoing career because crew lists and documentation were not required to be filed with the Register Office of Merchant Seamen until the Merchant Shipping Act of 1835. However, sometime prior to 1823 he became a Master Mariner and first appears in the Lloyds Register of Shipping as Master of the French-built ship Cornwallis for its owner J R Williams.
Cornwallis had been launched by the French in 1802. She was initially rigged as a ‘Snow’, that is she carried square sails on both masts, but had a small trysail mast behind the main mast. The British Navy captured her from the French in 1803 and she was purchased as a trading vessel in 1804 after which she traded with the West Indies, Spain, the Cape of Good Hope, and Singapore as a Brig of 179 tons.

After at least three journeys to the Cape of Good Hope, Captain Henderson left London on 19th October 1825 for Singapore (again for Williams). In 1826 a ‘Henderson’ is listed as both Master and Owner of the Cornwallis, and after undergoing repairs and survey, the ship and Captain Henderson return to sailing the London to Cape Town route. It cannot be assumed that the Henderson ownership was Henry Edward, as it had also stated a ‘G E Henderson’ and most often as ‘W Henderson’ – a family concern perhaps.

Henderson’s first arrival in the Swan River Colony was as Master of Cornwallis on 25th February 1831. He returned to Britain and was back in the Colony again on Christmas Eve that year. Cornwallis then sailed with goods and passengers to Launceston, Van Diemen’s Land arriving in February 1832. In April she left for the Swan River Colony and Isle de France (Mauritius) with a cargo of wheat and other colonial produce. Cornwallis, with Henderson as Master accompanied by his friend and business associate William Samson, made a number of trips to and from the Colony to the Cape of Good Hope trading all manner of goods as we can see from numerous advertisements in the Perth Gazette.

Henderson’s last sailing from the Colony on Cornwallis was on 20th August 1833 after being held up by inclement weather. Perhaps the same storm was the cause of William Samson’s accident. The last full listing for Cornwallis appears in Lloyds Register in 1833/1834.

Left – Perth Gazette 24 Aug 1833



One of the passengers on this last Cornwallis voyage was at that time very much in the limelight. James Keats was the 13-year old younger brother of William, the man who shot Yagan – the infamous aboriginal, judged outlaw, with a price on his head (literally). William was speared in the melee and young James was running for his life because he too had shot one of Yagan’s party. Thus James was reported as leaving on Cornwallis with brother William’s £30 reward.

Land Acquisition & and Import/Export Business

His Majesty’s land in the Colony was being allocated with largesse – both by HM and those who served him in those early days. John Septimus Roe, Surveyor General, generated a document (undated) listing colonists invited to select land of various acreage. Master Mariner Henderson is on the list at 2000 acres: far less than Captain James McDermott, ship owner and business man, and Henry Charles Sutherland, surveyor; only a little less than Mark Currie, habour master; but more than Rev. J B Wittenoom, chaplain. Henderson chose 2000 acres, part of Location 26 in Plantagenet, over 200 miles south of Fremantle. He was, of course, required to surrender this land after he left the Colony. Also on record are further Henderson acquisitions in Plantagenet of 667 and 1333 acres.

Henderson’s business in the Colony was shipping and importing livestock, foodstuffs, clothing, wine and spirits, building materials and all manner of other goods. He warehoused in Fremantle prior to sale. But no ship sails empty, so he also exported colonists’ farm produce – especially wheat – to the Cape and to Van Diemen’s Land. His associates in these ventures were the Samson brothers, Lionel and William Samson who had arrived on Calista in 1829. This association continued many years after Henderson left the Colony as the Samson brothers had both been appointed Government Auctioneers and, in this role, dealt with the absent Henderson’s business activities. Sales and auction advertisements can be found in the Perth Gazette newspaper from 1834 to 1841.


Henderson’s Allotments and Site of Custom House Lots

Henderson’s Store was probably situated on Henry Street, Fremantle where he had made application for several allotments: Lots 89 and 90, valued at  £250 each (fee simple granted in 1834) plus Lots 82, 84 and 88. Further land applications can be found for Lots 113 and 114 on Pakenham Street, close to James McDermott’s enterprises. Later this would be useful for Henderson’s import clearance when the Government purchased McDermott’s buildings for use as a Customs House. Another town lot was acquired at Lot 128, corner of Short and Market Streets. None of Henderson’s advertisements indicate where his ‘Stores’ were located; in the Fremantle of the 1830s everyone would have known!

Henderson was not just about acquiring his own real estate. He ‘facilitated’ deals for others.

In 1829 Mary, wife of serving 63rd Regiment soldier Private George Hodges, was assigned (in occupancy) Section L, Lot 3. This was situated in a group of ten Perth allotments bounded by the riverside Bazaar Street, St George’s Terrace, William and Barrack Streets. Mary Hodges appeared in the first edition of the Perth Gazette newspaper on ‘A List of Persons who have taken out Licenses from the 1st of January 1833’. In January 1834 the wording was more explicit: she had taken out a public house license.

In 1834 George Hodges discharged from the Army had acquired Section L Lot 7 as follows from Memorial MB1-190 (in columns in the Deed book):

Date of original document: 2 May 1834. Date of registration: 5 May 1834.
An agreement with a Deposit of the Title Deeds and Writings of the Hereditaments and premises described in the seventh column by way of mortgage. George Bell Hodges of Perth Storekeeper of the one part and Henry Edward Henderson Merchant of the other part. A certain Town Grant and Hereditaments of the said George Bell Hodges situate at Perth Section L no 7. Of one hundred and eighty three pounds lent and advanced to the said G. B. Hodges by the said Henry E. Henderson. This sum fully paid and satisfied by certificate of satisfaction dated 23 Feb 1837 no. 18. (Signed) Peter Broun.

In January 1835 George Hodges was granted a Victualler’s License for the ‘Sale of Spirituous and Fermented Liquors’ in the United Services Hotel. I imagine that was where and what Mary had been doing since 1829. Thus Henderson facilitated George and Mary’s new hotel in the same Section on Lot 7. Another discharged soldier of the 63rd Regiment, James Dobbins, was allegedly somehow involved in the previous premises at Lot 3 [Tuckfield pp.74-75].

In another land acquisition (August 1833) relating to 1280 acres along a stretch on the right bank of the Canning River, Henderson acted as ‘Attorney’ for William Billingsley who was resident of the Cape of Good Hope. Billingsley was clearly a friend of Henderson’s as the latter named one of his sons, William Billingsley. As far as I can see, Billingsley had never visited Western Australia. Other names featured in the mortgage arrangements for this land were Richard Dawson (purchaser) and his Attorney William Lawson, Richard Scholl [sic] and James McDermott.

Lieutenant Richard Dawson, Admiralty Mate on Sulphur and James McDermott would be together in Augusta in 1830. Richard Sholl, was Purser on Sulphur and returned to England on her. Richard Dawson left the Colony in February 1833 on Cornwallis with Henderson and William Samson on one of their journeys to the Cape. It was a very small world in the 1830s!

Civil Court Actions

A research colleague once mentioned that the early settlers were a very ‘litigious lot’; now I believe her. Henderson was in the Colony less than four years, yet he racked up at least nine representations in the Civil Court during and after his time in the Swan River Colony. This Table (extracted from TROVE) summarises his ‘brushes with the law’. Henderson seems to have come out fairly well in Court. All of the items have been gleaned from the Perth Gazette (see note at the end of my Sources).

A Man Among Men of Influence?

Henry Edward Henderson at a Fremantle Public Meeting was chosen to be one of those who would deliver a congratulatory address to Governor Stirling in 1834. He was among the Colony’s ‘elite’ in that endeavour – principally George Leake, arguably the most prominent of all.

Captain James McDermott, another on the Public Meeting list, was famously Master of the ship Emily Taylor which had taken the first settlers to Augusta in May 1830, along with Lieutenant Richard Dawson and four soldiers of the 63rd Regiment. McDermott had a narrow escape when that ship was driven on shore in a storm and wrecked at the end of the same month. McDermott shortly thereafter became Master of the Cumberland which also went down in a storm when McDermott drowned in August 1834. Another on the list, Daniel Scott, Harbour Master, was responsible for arranging McDermott’s body to be removed from the beach for interment in Fremantle’s Alma Street Cemetery.

The Last Consignment

There is no verifiable record of the fate of Henderson’s ship Cornwallis,  but following Henderson’s last voyage from the Colony in August 1833, he left England at the end of January 1834 to return to the Colony as a cabin passenger on board Quebec Trader. The ship was also carrying an amount of goods to be sold on behalf the ship’s Captain Bellamy from Henderson’s Fremantle Stores. Henderson arrived back in Fremantle on the Quebec Trader in mid April, and this would mark the start of his ‘swan (River) song’. in September he advertised his intention to leave the Colony.

On the eve of his departure he managed to sell a horse imported from the Cape to the newly formed Mounted Police. And he appeared in Court before Commissioner Mackie in his action against Mr Lamb; the judgement favoured Henderson the plaintiff.

Henderson left on Mary which sailed for London on 28th September 1834. However, this would not be the last the Colony would hear of the Captain; he was in newsprint about his unfinished business in Court and the expiry of his land grants. In April/May 1841 he came and went on Helen bringing merchandise that was warehoused for auction by the Samson brothers (see advertisement above). And in August 1842 his friend William Billingsley was unfortunate enough, according to the newspapers, to have two ships he owned wrecked around the same time: Ellen captained by Henderson and Trusty. But at least the vessels were insured.


Henry married Francoise Justine Aimi Swaving on 6th December 1837 in St George’s Church, Cape Town by special licence. George Hough who officiated was Colonial Chaplain at the time. The parish church became a cathedral in 1847 when the Diocese of Cape Town was created.

The couple’s children were born in Cape Province between 1838 and 1848. Birthdates are imprecise because records were sourced from death certificates or probate records.They were probably born in this order: Helen Charlotte, William, Henry William, William Billingsley, Justine Leontine, Elizabeth Hannah, Cecilia Mary.

Captain Henderson’s Death

Henderson died of Apoplexy [a stroke] at Walcot Square, Lambeth, London at the home of his brother John on 28th May 1848. He was buried on 2nd June 1848 at the Roman Catholic Most Holy Trinity Church, Bermondsey. William Billingsley inserted a death notice in the South African Commercial Advertiser on 31st August 1848. Billingsley also arranged Probate in the High Court of Cape Province . Henderson’s estate comprised a share in the ship Vigilant of Cape Town and ‘household furniture etc.’

Henderson may have acquired his share in Vigilant (a former 404 ton whaler) in 1844 and traded in partnership prior to his death. He appears in Lloyds Register as Master and Owner of Vigilant in 1848, the year of his death in London. During the years 1844 to 1852 the barque traded between London and the Cape of Good Hope. The painting, entitled Vigilant and Harpooner by William Huggins 1832 has placed both ships as if sailing together, which they never did, off an East Indies coastline. It was probably commissioned by the original owners, who often did this either in paintings or prints, to mark their ships going into service. Vigilant is the ship in the foreground.


About Henderson Street

Well, for whom was it named? Why don’t you have some fun and work it out for yourselves … I have given you all the references!



I first need to thank Sue Baddeley aka M S James (author of Superior Body of Men) and Garry Gillard (author of Fremantle Stuff website). They first raised this topic and kept me busy and entertained by it for many weeks. And may we always be permitted to beg to differ.

Christine Stack, Geospacial Officer and Cheryl from Customer Service at Landgate (formerly Department of Lands Administration) were very prompt, patient, professional and – above all – friendly while dealing with me.

Gerard Foley from State Records Office very kindly gave me permission to use and publish parts of the digitised maps cited. Damien Hassan helped with advice relating to Memorials and other land records.

Liz Rushton who accompanied me to Landgate, made notes and took photographs of Memorials (Deeds). Roland Sharpe gave me insights into the Lands & Surveys Department’s processes from his many years (from 1957) of employment with the department. Sally Kenton who liaised on 63rd Regiment Privates G Hodges and E Barron confirming (for the latter) the Civil Court Plaint No.888 [WASRO Cons 3546-4].


Hitchcock, J.K. 1929, The History of Fremantle, The Front Gate of Australia 1829-1929, Fremantle City Council.
Caldwell, Kate 1931, Fremantle street names, Early Days: Journal of Royal WA Historical Society, 1, 9: 45-57.
Bryan, Cyril as ‘Cygnet’ West Australian 17 May 1934.
Ewers, John K 1971 [1948], The Western Gateway: A History of Fremantle, 2nd ed.; adapted Caldwell in appendix 9: ‘Fremantle Street Names’: 219-230.
Statham, Pamela 1979, Dictionary of Western Australians, Volume I Early Settlers 1829-1850.
Erickson, Rica 1987, Bicentennial Dictionary of Western Australians, Volumes I-IV 1829-1888.
Tuckfield, Trevor 1971, Early colonial inns and taverns, Part 1, Early Days Journal of RWAHS.
Bell, Leita 1995, Turner’s Augusta.

Ships & Shipping Intelligence
Cornwallis (1803 Ship), Wikipedia.
Lloyds of London Register of Shipping 1825 to 1848.
Research Guide, The Merchant Navy, The Royal Museums, Greenwich.
Naval & Military Gazette 27 Jul 1833.
Swan River Vessels 1829-1832, CO18-10-167, WA State Records Office.
Passenger List CSR36-134, State Library of Western Australia.
Vigilant and Harpooner, William John Huggins 1832, Image No. BHC3390, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Green Blackwall Collection.
Morning Post [London] 4 Apr 1834.
*Perth Gazette 1833 to 1842.

Vital Statistics
Parish Registers 1801-2004 Church of the Province of South Africa, National Archives SA.
Civil Records 1840-1972, Cape Province, National Archives SA.
Probate Records 1834-1989, Master of the High Court, Cape Province, National Archives SA.
St George’s Church and Cathedral, Cape Town, Wikipedia.
Index of Deaths in England & Wales, General Registrar’s Office.
South London Burial Index 1545-1905.
The Tablet [London] 10 Jun 1848.

Land, Maps & Plans
Plan – Town of Fremantle, Western Australia as marked out on the ground 1844, Cons 3868-Item-126, WA State Record Office.
Plan – Part of Fremantle submitted by the Surveyor General for the approval of the Lieutenant Governor, March 20 1833, Cons3868-Item 109, WA State Record Office.
Site Plan of the Convict Establishment (Plan 1, Aug 1851) signed by E Y W Henderson, Comptroller-General, The National Archives MPGG 1/114/8 Architecture Landscape and Visual Arts, UWA.
GEONOMA Database, Geographic Names Team, Landgate, Western Australia.
J S Roe Land Selection document (undated) CSR25-99 and CSR 28-131 WA State Records Office.
Applications for Fee Simple Lots 89 & 90 CSR28-131 WA State Records Office.
Memorial of Deeds Index and Volumes, Landgate, Western Australia.
Western Australian Government Gazette 1836 to 1852.
*Perth Gazette 1833 to 1852.

*Note: The source Perth Gazette is an abbreviation for the full title of two different periods of Western Australia’s first printed newspaper. TROVE is the National Library of Australia’s online newspaper archive.
The Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal 1833 to 1848 and
The Perth Gazette and Independent Journal of Politics and News 1848 to 1864.


© Diane Oldman 2021