The Ship, Builder and Owner
Enchantress was built in Bristol in 1828, however she did not appear in Lloyds Register until 1829 (right). The ship’s specifications are shown (left) where her builder has been cited as Joseph Tippitt of Bristol. I cannot find this man among the known shipbuilders/owners of Bristol in the 1820s. However, among them is a James Tippett who was associated with a number of ships: Thetis, Peggy, Asia, Ebenezer, Africa and Earl of Liverpool at the Canons Marsh shipyard, Bristol.
W Drew is cited in 1829 as her master and owner on a trade voyage from Bristol to St. Vincent in the Caribbean. In 1830 Drew sailed her to Calcutta under licence from the East India Company. In 1833 Drew relinquished the sailing of the ship to Captain Thomas Canney for her only convict voyage. Canney then seems to have continued as master until the Enchantress was wrecked in 1837.
The Ship’s Unwilling Passengers
Enchantress sailed from Portsmouth on 13th April 1833 with 200 male convicts embarked from two hulks in Portsmouth harbour. They had come from Middlesex Gaol Delivery (66) and London Gaol Delivery (16) – probably tried in the Old Bailey Central Criminal Courts. The balance of the prisoners had been sentenced at Assizes and Quarter Sessions county courts all over England.
William Blackburn, aged 75, died at sea on 20th July 1833, described in Case Note #4 with diarrhoea. Blackburn had been sentenced to 14 years penal servitude at York Quarter Sessions – a ridiculous notion for a man of 75 years of age! One source indicates that there were 55 convicts on board who had been given life sentences – but I cannot verify this claim.
Enchantress was one of 14 convict ships arriving in Van Diemen’s Land from British ports in 1833. This was Enchantress‘s only convict voyage to Australia. The 21st Regiment troops were convict guards, arriving convoy-like, assembling in VDL. Within six weeks most of the guards would be detached to the (then) convict-free Swan River Colony. Guarding the convicts to Hobart are listed right: two officers, one sergeant, 28 rank and file troops, accompanied by six women and seven children. Privates John Allison, Malachi Hogan and Lawrence Mooney took their Army discharges and settled in the Colony.
The Master for this voyage was Captain Thomas Canney and the Surgeon Superintendent James Osborne R.N.
The Ship’s Voyage
18 Mar 1833 At Deptford 21st Regiment guards embarked on Enchantress for Portsmouth.
30 Mar At Spithead convicts boarded from hulks Leviathan (150) and York (50).
13 Apr Departed Portsmouth.
31 Jul Arrived Hobart, Van Diemen’s Land.
Passage 109 days. Disembarked 199 convicts. Temperatures on voyage (see right).
The Ship’s Journal
James Osborne R.N. maintained his Surgeon Superintendent’s journal on Enchantress from 8th March to 5th August 1833, accompanying the 21st Regiment guards from Deptford, London to Hobart, Van Diemen’s Land.
James Osborne was born in Dromore, County Tyrone, Ireland. He may have been related to John and Alick Osborne, Royal Navy surgeons who also served on convict ships. James became an experienced Surgeon Superintendent on three voyages to NSW – Layton 1829, Palambam 1831, and Royal Admiral 1835, with Enchantress 1833 and Maria Somes 1844 to VDL.
James Osborne’s general remarks in his journal are the briefest I have encountered, but he seemed satisfied with the general health of the convicts throughout the voyage, recording, the guards, ships crew, and convicts were healthy in the extreme. His Nosological Summary was equally brief (above). Only six were on the Sick List and each had extensive Case Notes in the journal.
The Ship’s Demise
From 2009-2015, United States archaeological students conducted underwater field schools in the waters off Bermuda on a site called the Iron Plate Wreck – named for two large stacks of sheet iron, one located at the stern and one at the bow. Historical research revealed it likely to be Enchantress.
On 21st November 1836, Enchantress sailed from Liverpool to New York when she struck a reef on 5 February 1837 off Bermuda and sank. She was carrying cargo (later recovered) along with over 60 Irish emigrants. The passengers were saved by Bermudians. In Lloyds last listing of 1837 Thomas Canney is shown as master, but no other details.
The ship’s insurance document filed by the master for insurance purposes details a tumultuous voyage marked by storms, rowdy passengers and crew, and two deaths. One of the deceased had fallen from the main deck into the sea on 27th January during a turbulent storm.
Wikipedia, Wikipedia Commons
Lloyd’s Registers 1828-1838.
The Convict Ships, 1787-1868, Charles Bateson 1974.
Free Settler or Felon? website, Jan Willetts.
Claim a Convict website.
Convict Records of Australia, State Library of Queensland.
Australian Medical Pioneer Index.
Log of Logs, Ian Nicholson Vol. 1, p. 171.
Wrecksite website, Jan Lettens.
Convicts, Cargo. and Calamity: The Wreck of an Emigrant Ship, Abigail E Casavant Master’s Thesis, University of Rhode Island.
Records of Bristol Ships 1800-1838, ed. Grahame D Farr.
Conquest and Settlement, 21st Regiment in Western Australia 1833-1840.
Musters and Pay Lists WO12-3802 to 3809, National Archives, Kew.
Embarkation Returns WO25-3503, National Archives, Kew.
Journal of His Majesty’s Ship Enchantress, ADM101-25-9, National Archives, Kew.
Morning Post 1 Apr 1833.
Hobart Town Courier 2 Aug 1833.
Public Ledger & Daily Advertiser 4 Nov 1837.
The Royal Gazette, Bermuda 3 Mar 2014 (with illustration).
© Diane Oldman 2023