Charlotte (1784 ship)

Charlotte was an English merchant ship built in the River Thames in 1784 and chartered in 1786 to carry convicts as part of the First Fleet to New South Wales. She returned to Britain from Botany Bay via China, where she picked up a cargo for the British East India Company. Charlotte then spent much of the rest of her career as a West Indiaman in the London-Jamaica trade. She may have been lost off Newfoundland in 1818; in any case, she disappears from the lists by 1821.

Great Britain
Name: Charlotte
  • 1784: Mathews & Co.
  • 1789: Bond &Co.
Port of registry: London
Builder: Thames
Launched: 1784
Fate: Possibly sunk November 1818; disappears from lists in 1821
General characteristics
Tons burthen: 335, or 338,[1] or 3455394,[2] or 384[3] bm
Length: 105 ft (32 m)[2][4]
Beam: 28 ft 3 in (8.61 m)[2]
Sail plan: Full-rigged ship
Crew: 30[5]
Armament: 8 × 18-pounder carronades[1]
Notes: Barque-built (1786)[2]

Convict transport

Charlotte was a "heavy sailer," such that she had to be towed down the English Channel in order to keep pace with the rest of the Fleet.[7] Her master was Thomas Gilbert, and her surgeon was John White, principal surgeon to the colony.[8] On 15 March, when Charlotte had been two days at sea it was discovered that her third mate had been left behind at Plymouth; he was replaced for the remainder of the voyage by a seaman hastily dragooned from the accompanying naval vessel Hyaena.[9]

She sailed for Botany Bay carrying 84 male and 24 female convicts,[10] or 88 male and 20 female.[11] Among the prisoners were James Squire, James Bloodsworth, James Underwood, Samuel Lightfoot, William Bryant and Mary Bryant,[12] She also carried 42 men from the New South Wales Marine Corps to guard the convicts.[5]

Charlotte arrived at Port Jackson, Sydney, Australia, on 26 January 1788.[13] This voyage was commemorated on the Charlotte Medal, commissioned by White and created by the convict Thomas Barrett.

She left Port Jackson on 6 May 1788 bound for China to take on a cargo of tea, under charter to the East India Company.[14][13]

In May 1788, Captain Gilbert in Charlotte and Captain John Marshall in Scarborough, left Port Jackson together intending to find a new route to China.[15] After sighting Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island they discovered, on 27 May 1788, Matthew Island, and then, on 24 June, they saw land in the southern sector of the Marshall Islands.[16] They continued on via Abemama, Kuria, Aranuka, Tarawa, Abaiang, Butaritari, and Makin without attempting to land on shore.[8] They reached Canton on 9 September 1788, 126 days from Port Jackson.[17] The two large dispersed groups of islands they discovered in the Central Pacific have since been known as the Gilbert and Marshall Islands.

Later career

On her return to England on 28 November 1789 Bond and Co., Walbrook merchants, purchased Charlotte to use her in the LondonJamaica trade. The following data is from Lloyd's Register.

Year Master Owner Trade Year Master Owner Trade
1790 T. Gilbert
B. Howes
Bond & Co.
London–Botany Bay
1810 R. Allison Fletcher London transport
1795 Kent Bond & Co. London–Jamaica 1815 R. Allison Fletcher London transport
1800 D. Kent Rutherford London–Jamaica 1820 R. Allison Fletcher London transport
1805 D. Kent Rutherford London–Jamaica

Charlotte was one of the transport vessels that were part of the expedition under General Sir David Baird and Admiral Sir Home Riggs Popham that would in 1806 capture the Dutch Cape Colony.

On 11 March she and Anacreon sailed as cartels to France with prisoners from Volontaire.

In 1810 Charlotte underwent a good repair.[1] At some point she was sold to a Quebec merchant.[18]


A Charlotte was lost off Newfoundland in November 1818.[19][18] However, there is no evidence to link the Charlotte that sank while sailing from Quebec to Liverpool with M'Call, master, to the Charlotte of this article. Another source notes that Charlotte continued to be listed in Lloyd's Register until 1821,[3] but it is not unusual for Lloyd's Register to carry stale data for several years.


An Urban Transit Authority First Fleet ferry was named after Charlotte in 1986.[20]

See also

Citations and references


  1. Lloyd's Register (1810), Seq.№C364.
  2. Bateson (1959), pp. 79-82.
  3. Hackman (2001), p. 81.
  4. "Picture of the Charlotte". First Fleet Fellowship. 1996. Archived from the original on 29 December 2011. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
  5. "The Ships of the First Fleet". Fellowship Of First Fleeters. 2011. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
  6. The Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay (1789)
  7. Collins (1975), p. lvi.
  8. Samuel Eliot Morison (22 May 1944). "The Gilberts & Marshalls". Life. Retrieved 14 October 2009.
  9. Collins (1975), p. lvii.
  11. Bateson (1959), p. 85.
  12. "First Fleet Online". Retrieved 3 July 2012.
  13. "Ship News". The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, Sunday 2 November 1806, p.1. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  14. Letter from Newton Fowell, midshipman on HMS Sirius, to John Fowell, 12 July 1788. Cited in Irvine (ed.) 1988, p.81.
  15. Richards & 1986), p. 104.
  16. Sharp (1962), pp. 152–155.
  17. Richards & 1986), p. 106.
  18. Bateson (1959), p. 102.
  19. Lloyd's List n° 5352.
  20. Sydney Ferries Fleet Facts Archived 12 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine Transport for NSW


  • Bateson, Charles (1959). The Convict Ships. Brown, Son & Ferguson. OCLC 3778075.
  • Collins, David (1975). Fletcher, Brian H. (ed.). An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales. A.H. & A.W. Reed. ISBN 0589071688.
  • Hackman, Rowan (2001) Ships of the East India Company. (Gravesend, Kent: World Ship Society). ISBN 0-905617-96-7
  • Irvine, Nance, ed. (1988). The Sirius Letters: The Complete Letters of Newton Fowell. Daniel O'Keefe. ISBN 1862900000.
  • Richards, Rhys (October 1986) "The easternmost route to China, Part II," The Great Circle, 8 (2).
  • Sharp, Andrew (1962), The discovery of the Pacific Islands, Oxford University Press, p.152-55</ref>
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