Colonial Australia c1839

Female Emigration to Australia 1833-1837

To all single women—no place but Australia or Tasmania. From what we learn, nearly 5,000 women will be sent out in the course of this year to the Australian Colonies! It will the happiest, perhaps the only happy incident in their lives. They will obtain service, high wages—and husbands as soon as they please. The male population in Sydney is four to one. There could be no better matrimonial speculation, therefore, for ladies in want of husbands, then to ship themselves off for this part of the world.<span class="su-quote-cite">Newry Telegraph - Friday 27 April 1832</span>

London Emigration Committee

Between the years of 1833 and 1837, a total of fourteen ships sponsored by the London Emigration Committee departed from England and Ireland as part of a scheme to send female emigrants to Sydney, Hobart and Launceston Australia where young women of good character were said to be in high demand. About 4000 people, 2700 of them bounty women, were assisted to emigrate to Australia during this period.

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In New South Wales, young women could expect to earn £12 and £14 as housemaids or servants, double what could be had in England while cooks and dairy-women could look forward to earning between £15 and £20. Women were wanted in the colony and would be assisted by the Government with their passage, with a sum of £15 being offered to those who made the journey and who conducted themselves in a proper manner during the voyage. A certificate of character would be issued to all who met the requirements. The same was true of Van Diemen’s land where young women would be transported free of charge and supported in the colony until they found employment in a suitable situation. In 1835, women emigrants to New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land numbered 618, all of whom received the government bounty of £12 towards their passage.

In the summer of 1834, the captain of a merchant vessel told of his observations of the female emigrant experience on arrival in Sydney relating that many of the women who were sent with free passage were in reality of the lowest class of women servants, often from the workhouses. Women, who came to Sydney via the emigration schemes were known by the ship they came on ‘a Latonian’ or ‘a Bussorah Merchant’ or ‘a Red Rover’ or ‘a Princess Royal’, and were looked down upon, and often offered work of a far different kind than supposed by the Emigration Committee on their arrival.

Departure of the Layton from London

The Layton departed England on Friday, 16 August 1833 and would take just over four months to make the journey to Sydney.

Female Emigrants.— Yesterday morning a number of persons assembled at St. Catherine’s Wharf to witness the embarkation of about 250 females on board the ship Layton, Captain Wade, bound for Sydney, chartered by the Emigration Committee to convey female emigrants to that settlement. Amongst the number we noticed several fine young women, from different workhouses in the metropolis, and every one appeared pleased with the opportunity of endeavouring to better their condition. The accommodations on board the Layton for the emigrants are very comfortable, and everything is done to provide for their safety during the long voyage.<span class="su-quote-cite">Morning Advertiser - Friday 16 August 1833</span>

Arrival of the Layton in Sydney

Accounts have been received from the Emigration Committee of the safe arrival of the Layton Sydney on the 17th of December which sailed from the Downs with female emigrants, the 16th of the preceding August. The government hosts landed the emigrants in good health, accommodation for their reception having been previously provided for them by direction of the Governor. A committee, consisting of the first respectability in the colony has been formed, for the purpose of advancing and aiding the emigrants on their first arrival. All the principal colonists expressed themselves highly pleased with the description of young women thus brought amongst them, and are determined co-operate in promoting the emigration of females of industrious habits and of good moral and religious character. To such the change from their condition in England to the comfortable situations they are at once sure to obtain, cannot but prove highly advantageous : and those who persevere a right course, not only in time obtain liberal wages, but may look forward in a country, where the disparity between the sexes is so great, to marry under circumstances of respectability and comfort, far beyond what they can hope for in the crowded population of Britain. Servants, who have been accustomed to the duties in a farm house in this country, are in great request by the colonial farmers, who. by the last accounts which left the colony, are greatly in want of young women steady and industrious habits, to fill situations in their families. Indeed, all who proceed with a determination to conduct themselves with industry and propriety are sure of doing well in the colony. An experienced surgeon, and a respectable superintendent and his wife, accompany the emigrants on their outward-bound voyage, in order to watch over their health, and to secure the comfort and protection of all during the passage. In consequence of delays which have frequently occurred in the sailing of ships to Australia, belonging to private speculators, the greatest inconvenience and privations during the voyage have been occasioned by those persons, who have proceeded them. Many persons, who have expended their little all in the purchase of a sufficient supply of provisions to last them during the voyage, have often been kept board vessel for four weeks, the daily expectation of its sailing, before they have left the shores of England. They have thus been compelled to make use of a great portion of their stock provisions, which they had provided for the voyage even before sailing, to their serious injury during their progress to the colony. This never occurs with those emigrants who proceed Australia the ships of the Emigration Committee; for the very day upon which it announced that their vessels will depart on that very day they set sail. We make the following extract from a circular, recently issued, of the Emigration Committee. The females sent out by the Committee will taken care of on their arrival Hobart Town; they will be informed, on landing, of the various situations to be obtained, and of the wages offered, and will be perfectly free make their own election; they will not be bound to any person, nor subjected to any restraint, but will be, to all intents and purposes, perfectly free to act and decide for themselves. Every person may confidently rely, that any statement the contrary is utterly destitute of truth. <span class="su-quote-cite">Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser - Monday 28 July 1834</span>

Passenger Stories

The female emigrant passengers of the Layton were conveyed to a lumberyard where they were to stay until finding employment in their new home. Some were less than impressed with their new surroundings and the opportunities afforded them.

The Laytons, Female Emigrants. The women of the Layton are much disappointed with the Colony. One of them, a very respectable young, woman, was hired by a gentleman as a nursery Governess ; on seeing her bed-room, nicely fitted up with chest of drawers &c &c, she happened to cast her eyes upwards, when seeing the sloping roof unplastered, she made an excuse, and immediately returned to the Lumber Yard, refusing to return. She was assured, that half the Settlers in the Colony of the first and second class, slept in such rooms; this had no effect on the poor girl ; she was terrified and wept bitterly. As we have often said, girls and women from country-villages, are the only sort now required in New South Wales. Of such, we still want a thousand of the working class, of all ages up to fifty. Town-girls cannot rough it as we do in a new Colony.<span class="su-quote-cite">The Sydney Monitor, Friday 3 January 1834</span>

Some of the emigrants who were unable to raise their £5 portion of the fare to Sydney were loaned the sum under the condition that they would repay the amount with interest after they secured employment in their new home. Some were advanced other funds with which to outfit themselves for the journey.

One poor female, now in Sydney, is a pretty instance of the benignant principles in force when the Layton was preparing for sea : she waited on the agent, the picture of destitution, in rags, and solicited to emigrate. He gave her, in the presence of a most respectable gentleman now here, thirty shillings as a loan to provide articles of clothing, and in his presence obliged her to give a promissory note payable in the colony for Three Pounds !<span class="su-quote-cite">The Sydney Gazette, Thursday, 22 May 1834</span>

Conditions aboard the Layton were reported to have been less than ideal, a circumstance that was reported back to the London Emigration Committee who set out to ensure that subsequent ships were better outfitted.

The poor girls who arrived by the Layton, were extremely ill-treated in two respects; not of a sentimental or other frivolous nature, but of the most substantive kind. They were compelled to occupy a space, about one-half of that which is allotted to Convict women; to feed on about half the quantity of food, biscuit excepted ; and the scanty allowance given them was, all of it, of a cheap inferior quality, except the pork. <span class="su-quote-cite">The Sydney Monitor, Tuesday, 18 February 1834</span>

Not all passengers found the journey uncomfortable, however. One woman passenger from the Layton wrote to England:

” Our voyage was, with regard to weather, highly prosperous one, for which have much cause for thankfulness. Of my companions I will say nothing, except, might have been expected such an assemblage of people, some were agreeable, and others very much to the contrary ; and that there was on the part of some individuals, a great manifestation of the baneful passions of jealousy and envy, which led them say much to the detraction of character which did not deserve it. Upon our first landing, a lady and gentleman, to whom I had introductions, invited me to stay with them until they could procure a situation for me, which was obtained in about three weeks. l am now in it, and like the family very much. They are plain, high principled, excellent people. I might have gone into much higher family, but gave the preference to this, and have had no reason to repent my choice. My introductions to such respectable families have been of great service, and I have found some very kind friends, even in the distant (and, with respect to morality, odious country of New South Wales.<span class="su-quote-cite">Brighton Gazette - Thursday 02 October 1834</span>

Public Opinion in Sydney

The women of the Layton were not well received in Sydney society. With some of the women being plucked from the workhouses and slums of London, more than a few were considered to be of bad character and were seen to take up with the lowest class of Sydney residents, some turning to prostitution to earn their living.

The extraordinary scenes of disgusting profligacy which are said to have been exhibited by a great number of the females of “good character and industrious habits,” sent out by the London Emigration Committee, afford another instance of the prodigal and scandalous prostitution of the purposes for which the funds of the colony were voted by the council. The streets of London and the provincial towns seem to have been swept by this committee in order to enrich our country with that which was too vile and worthless to continue in Britain. To a population containing a large portion of criminality (but under restraint), we are about to add a grievous preponderance of vice and debauchery without any check whatever upon its range. We consider that the functions of the London Committee ought to cease, and that resolutions ought instantly to be adopted by the colonial government, or councils, declaratory of the gross waste of the revenue and the injury which an immoral emigration inflicts upon the community at large. The names of Red Rover, Bussorah Merchant, and Layton, are in a majority of cases equivalent to those of rogue, vagabond, and worse, and if we form an opinion of those now in the harbour, the levity and contempt with which we regard most of the former importations, will not be alleviated by them. The commander and responsible officers have declared that a worse-conducted and more unmanagable set never were cooped together, and that the instances of open vice shewn by the reckless and unprincipled females to the simple and moral were of the most painful character. It is time that pests were left in England to be there cured without throwing them upon us. If we are only to receive the sweepings of streets, rather let our money be thrown to the dogs. As a receptacle for British convicts, this colony has long rendered most important services to the country; but prisoners are under that subjection that free females can set at defiance, and thus it is, that emigrants of bad character are worse than convicts.<span class="su-quote-cite">The Sydney Gazette, Thursday 30 October 1834</span>

Bloomfield Family

Not all of the passengers on the Layton were lone single women.

Bricklayer William Bloomfield married Frances Jane Meares on 30 May 1810 in St Andrew Holborn and they went on to have at least 13 children together in the east end of London. In 1833, with the Emigration Committee searching for women to emigrate to Australia and offering a bounty on the passage, it appears that Bloomfield, with six daughters, decided to seize the opportunity. When the Layton left London that Friday in August, the Bloomfield family was on board. In addition to William and his wife Frances Jane who was again heavy with child, their eleven children were scattered throughout the ship including the oldest, Stephen Evangelist, aged 24; Zaphiel or Sophia, aged 23; Charoline Anna, aged 21; Frances Elizabeth, aged 19; Ann Augusta, aged 15; Drucilla, aged 13; William Josiah, aged 11; Richard Alfred, aged 9; Stephen, aged 6; Jane, aged 4; and the youngest, John, aged 3.

About two weeks prior to their arrival in Sydney, the Bloomfields baby was born 5 December. They named him Hepzibah but he only lived a few weeks, dying 19 January 1834 in Sydney. His mother died only a few short months later on 21 April 1834 and was buried the same day at St. James Church in Sydney. Widower William Bloomfield married Hannah Scott, nee Graves later that year on 20 December 1834 at St. Philip’s Church, Sydney, NSW, Australia.

Zaphiel Bloomfield

Zaphiel or Sophia, the oldest daughter of William and Frances, married William Crookshanks in Sydney in 1836. William Crookshanks was a convicted house robber who had received a sentence of transportation for 14 years at Winchester on 28 February 1825. He was transported aboard the Marquess of Hastings on 19 August 1825 but was granted a ticket of leave on 29 November 1834.