The vessels and passengers

Most of the Lacemaker emigrants sailed to Australian ports in one of three vessels, viz. Agincourt (destination Sydney), Fairlie (destination also Sydney) and Harpley (destination Adelaide). Other Lacemaker emigrants followed in smaller groups on other vessels. These included Andromache, Baboo, Bermondsey, Emperor, General Hewett, Harbinger, Navarino, Nelson, Walmer Castle and possibly others.


For further information on these ships and the lacemaker passengers who were carried aboard them, check the Passenger Names and then the Shipping Lists

An immigrant's diary

A diary written by a young immigrant who voyaged from England to Australia in the late months of 1848


Generally, the immigrant ships of the mid 19th century were made of timber, about 120’ long and about 30’ wide. They had two full decks, three masts and were either barque or ship rigged. Passengers were usually about 260 people with 30 to 35 crew together for about a 4 months voyage.

Both decks ran the full length of the vessel. The weather or upper deck was open to the weather and where the crew manned the various lines (ropes) to adjust the sails. This deck was also crowded with water butts (barrels), pumps, the small (rowing) boats, spare yards, capstans, companionways, deck houses and pens and cages for the fowls, pigs, sheep, goats and occasional cow that provided eggs and milk or were slaughtered for food during the voyage. The main deck was where the quarters for the crew and passengers were located. Below this deck was the narrow space where the anchor cables (ropes), spare timber for the carpenter, passengers’ luggage and food stores were found hopefully above the water sloshing around in the bilges.

On the main deck the crew’s quarters were in the bows (forecastle) while the captain and his mates had small cabins in the stern. Between these quarters the immigrants were accommodated in three areas. The single men and youths were forward, the married couples and their young children were in the central area and single women were towards the stern but forward of any officers’ cabins. Usually the ships had double-deck timber bunks which ran along both sides of the vessel. Running down the centre of the vessel were two tables with benches fixed to the deck. The Agincourt was an exception as it had the tables along the sides and the bunks doubled up down the centre. Perhaps this was a configuration from when it had been a convict transport vessel a few years before the lacemakers boarded her.

The vessels generally sailed well in fair weather. However, when the wind and sea “got up”, the voyage could become very uncomfortable with the passengers confined to the main deck while the vessel rolled and pitched in the rising sea. The captain was more interested in fast times than in passenger comfort. Slow trips cost him time turning his vessel around and earning commission on his next load. He therefore tried to keep the wind bearing from his stern, but slightly to one side of the vessel or the other. This caused the ship to rise and fall (pitch) on the waves from bow to stern and to roll from side to side at the same time, in an irregular, corkscrewing type motion that upset even the sturdiest of stomachs.

Often a ship’s captain headed down into the Roaring 40s to pick up the strongest winds. In these circumstances, passengers were often confined below decks with hatches battened for weeks on end in poorly ventilated, damp and appallingly smelly conditions.

​More information

Life aboard an Emigrant Ship – Tulle 123 p9

Ship Types and Descriptions – Tulle 104 p28

Those Other Ships – Tulle110 p7

Those Other Ships – Tulle 112 p5

Agincourt Press Clippings – Tulle 112 p9

Emigration Papers – Surgeons Superintendent – Tulle 112 p11

Ship Harbinger

Ship Harpley

Immigrants' accommodation

Immigrants on deck

Sydney Harbour with Campbell's warehouses

Sydney Cove

The Shipping Lists

Check the lists of the passengers aboard each migration ship and information about the ship

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