The Barcham Family

Voyages to the New World

In the 19th and early 20th centuries many Barchams emigrated to Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The ships that they sailed in have been identified while diaries, Lloyd's Lists and published sources reveal details of their voyages which were often crowded and lacking in comfort; discipline was strict, sanitary arrangements were basic, food and water were rationed. The prospect of a voyage of four to six months in such conditions, often with young children, and uncertain weather, must have been daunting. Today we can only admire their courage and fortitude and wonder how these pioneering emigrants coped, but they were strongly motivated by the hope of a better life in a new country. Some stories of their voyages follow.

In 1791 John Warby, whose great-granddaughter, Ruby Warby, married Robert Sunman Swinfield Barcham in 1912, was transported to New South Wales aboard the Pitt, which was the largest vessel to be employed in the convict service. She was built on the Thames in 1780. Michelle Vale describes this harrowing voyage in her book Warby, My Excellent Guide.

In 1840 William Ellis and his wife Margaret (née Wilson) sailed from Scotland aboard the Maitland. Their first child, William Maitland, was born at sea on 2 May. On this voyage, 305 male convicts, 29 rank and file of the 96th and 50th foot regiments, four women, two children and the physician (W. Burnett) embarked at Sheerness on 27 February, and arrived at Sydney on 14 July, and proceeded to Norfolk Island where the convicts disembarked on 22 July. The Maitland was converted to barque rigging for its voyage to Australia in 1838. As an old Blackwall frigate, built at Blackwell Shipyard in Calcutta in 1810, it measured 125 ft in length and weighed 648 tons. The charter organisers were able to cram 205 adults, 111 children and some livestock (for fresh food) on board for this journey, under the care of Captain Marshall Baker and Surgeon John Smith. Most passengers were being 'assisted' to emigrate from England by their parishes, who paid around £5 in sponsorship in order to remove their commitment to support these poorer families. Added to the crowded and unhygienic conditions, the effect of typhus and scarlet fever resulted in a very high mortality rate among the passengers. After 22 months in Australia, the Ellis family sailed aboard the Marion Watson, bound for New Zealand. They arrived at Auckland on April 10, 1842. Descendants of Margaret and William have married into Barcham families in both Australia and New Zealand.