The Anson - history of the ship


© Irene Schaffer

The H.M.S. Anson arrived in Hobart on 4th February 1844, with 499 male convicts on board, plus a crew of 326. This was the greatestnumber of convicts to ever leave England on one ship.


Her dimensions were 1,742 tons, overall length 175.5 feet, lengthof keel 144 feet, depth of
hole 21 feet. Built at Paull, near Hull England in 1812. She was classed as a third class ship of the line with 74 guns. On arrival in Hobart all her rigging and stores were sold for £12,307/6/4. The vessel was then fitted out as a Probation Station for women convicts, and towed to Prince of Wales Bay at New Town, on the River Derwent.

The Anson's roll as a probation station was to house the convict women as they arrived off the ships, for a period of six months. After that time they were sent to the Cascades Factory in Hobart or to Launceston and later Ross.  Over 4,000 women went through this system between 1844 and 1849.

Mrs Bowden, matron on the Anson and her husband, along with the staff were brought out from England especially for the overseering of these convict women. The women were mainly employed in making garments - men's shirts, jackets, women's day caps, straw bonnets, shoes, stockings etc. One interesting item was for 2,079 lbs. of pickled oakum for Mr Cleburn of Murray Street. Hobart.

Washing was also carried out by the women for Hobart residents; if they were prepared to pay 6/- cab fare to New Town, as well as 1/6 to be rowed out to the ship. (The cost of 67 articles was washed for private individuals was £3/14/4½) Work was carried out for the Marine Department, Queen's Orphanage, General Hospital , Prison Barracks, Nursery, Convict Store etc. The total money earned for the Government from December 1845 to June 1846 was £1,062/15/9.

A convict named Jane Burrell was convicted in Cambridge in January 1848 to fourteen years transportation for receiving stolen goods. She arrived on the Tory (3) in April 1848 and went on board the Ansonfor her 6 months probation period. Jane was married and at the age of twenty-eight had nine children back in England.  On the 9th May 1849 Jane wrote a letter to her husband and children. The letter gives an interesting insight to her life on board the Anson.  She attended school once a week, exercised for two hours each day etc. This letter was discovered with some estate papers in Essex. [ The letter was printed under "A Convict's Letter" and can be found in The Mail,  the newspaper of The Descendants of Convicts Group No 96 July/August 2000 pages 20-23]

The Anson was closed as a probation station in 1849. The vessel was brought up from Prince of Wales Bay to Hobart in Mid June, with some women still on board, destined to be broken up.  Although practically reduced to 136 females convicts she was still afloat a year later.

In the middle of 1850 a temporary station was formed at New Town Farm for the reception of females convict to the colony, in order that they might be kept separate from the old class.

The end came for the Anson when men from H.M.S. Havanna and the Hobart Prison Barracks dismantled her on Saturday 17th September 1851.

Most of this articls was taken from "A Private and Confidential Dispatch of Eardley Wilmot" THRA June 1982 Vol. 29 No 2. with permission by the author Geoff Lennox. Other information from British Parliamentary Papers and Hobart Town Courier 17 September 1851, River Derwent Excursions on board the Lady Nelson Vol. 2.  This index contains only a small number of those who were on the Anson. (sent to me from descendants) To obtain a list of all the women who were on the Anson would mean going through all the conduct records of every female convict who arrived in VDL. There was not a separate list kept for the Anson convicts.

View the list of some of the Anson - female convicts

Anyone who would like to add their ancestors to this list, contact me using the link below.