Migration of John George and Mary Trinham to Australia

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James Samuel Trinham writes in his memoirs “After discharging our cargo we left London for Hartlepool, where the Sunshine belonged, in ballast. I might state here that while we were riding at anchor just off Sheerness, I, having the anchor watch just before 6.00am on a Sunday morning, recognised, on a passenger steamer on her way to London from Yarmouth passing close by, my eldest brother John. He was pacing the deck with his wife's brother on their way to book for Melbourne. This was the last I ever saw of my brother. He and his wife and her brother sailed for Australia soon after.”

The brother of Mary was Robert Davey and his wife Elizabeth who migrated to Australia and spent all their lives on the mid Victorian goldfields. Their lives are documented in the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registers of the Government of Victoria. The ship that they boarded was the “Kent” As this was a famous vessel in its day there is ample material for research and some sketches in the Public Library of Victoria.

The Melbourne daily newspaper records the arrival of the Kent in the following Shipping Intelligence & Weather Report for the day of arrival, but not the time


“The Kent. Arrived - October 21st, (1857) Black Ball Line from London. 1,200 tons under Edward Burren Brine. London 7th August (W. P. White & Co. Agents.)”

          “Weather. 6am. Wind West, Light, Clear and fine. 5.30pm Wind South East. Clear and fine.”

“Tides. High Water 5.30am and 5.40 pm. Low Water 11.20am and 11.30pm” Sunrise was 5.06am and sunset at 6.13pm.

There is a variation of three hours later at the Melbourne ports to the heads which makes High Water for that day about 2.30am and 2.40pm and low water 8.20am and 8.30pm, therefore optimum time for passage through the otherwise turbulent rip would have been 5.30am, 11.30am, and 5.35. With a nominal sailing time from the heads to the ports at Melbourne of 5 - 6 hours in the light airs recorded, about 80km, would allow for a rate of about 4 knots which seems reasonable. (1 knot equates to 1.85km). The ship possibly dropped anchor between 11am and 5pm. As it is more statistically probable that the ship arrived at the heads between late on the 20th before and first light on the 21st, a period of about 14 hours, than the period approaching 6.30am and 10.30 am or three hours, we might reasonably assume that the ship approached the pier sometime around midday.

The trip took 74 days.

The Ship’s passenger list records the arrival and disembarkation as October 23rd, 1857 (Fiche 134, page 4), but this may be a document, rather than actual date. It is to be noted that only the women are recorded as disembarking. It is possible that the men were employed as seamen on the outward voyage and not counted as passengers, as there is also a discrepancy between the count of names and the number disembarking of +2.

The next week saw a typical cold wet Spring change in the weather which baptised the immigrants.

                                                         6am                                                                 5.30pm

              Thursday             Light Southerly wind, cloudy with                    Light South-East wind, cloudy with

                                           heavy rain.                                                      showers.

              Friday:                 Light Southerly wind, cloudy with                    Light Southerly wind, cloudy with

                                            heavy rain                                                       showers.

              Sunday                Southerly wind cloudy with showers               Southerly wind, fine

              Monday                Fresh Southerly wind, cloudy and fine            Fresh southerly wind, fine

              Tuesday               Light Southerly wind, fine                                Fresh Southerly wind, fine

              Wednesday         No wind clear and fine for the next few days as a high pressure cycle moved in over Victoria

The Kent.

The Kent was the first of the Blackwall Frigates purpose built for the Melbourne trade. Writing in The Age at a later date a Clarke Russel recalled her as “an Indiaman lying in the downs, her painted ports burnished like gold, her teak and brass burnished like gold flashing in the sun; the quarter and stern windows winking in the light and her great spread of rigging fix themselves in the memory of everyone who admires a ship.”

With the demise of the East India Company, those who ran the ships to India had to find an alternate trade. It was natural that some would turn to the migration of the 1850's to the Victorian gold rush. Some East India were ships were built to simulate Her Majesty’s Frigates as a subterfuge to deter attacks by pirates and privateers. The Kent was one of these ships.

Photographs of the Kent is available online from the State Library of Victoria

She was built in 1852 of oak by the Money Wigram’s company at Blackwall, and measured 186 feet, with a beam of 33 feet and a draught of 20 feet and displaced 927 tons of water. She had a full bow with no sheer and carried over the side to wide channels. Her main mast was 130 feet and the yards were banded at every three feet. She carried sails over the royals with four reef points and included a flying outstretched jib boom. She sported quarter galleries and stern windows. Painted black on top and white under with a stumpy appearance contributed to the Navy appearance. The Kent was a twelve knot ship and could only log thirteen knots in a squall, but in the lightest of ships when others were motionless she would fan along.

She was one of the fastest of the Blackwall frigates and her greatest rival was the clipper Marco Polo. In 1854 she sailed the homeward passage in 84 days beating Marco Polo by a day, after both ships left the Port Philip heads together.. On one occasion she took 63 days from Melbourne to the western isles. The Kent regularly completed the outward journey in about 80 days. Her record was 66 ½ days to Melbourne in 1861. On one homeward journey in the 1850's she caught up to a flotilla of clippers racing for line honours with new season tea. They included the Robin Hood, Falcon, Kate Carrie, and others, all famous ships of their day. The Kent simply sailed through the fleet and left them behind, which is surprising considering the clippers are clean hulled and built for speed, whilst the Kent had to drag her great channels and quarter galleries through the water.

The Kent had a crew of about sixty and ten midshipmen. Everything was done in the finest manner and to proper discipline. Her crew tailed on the halyards and walked the yards up to the mast head man-o-war style. Shanties were not allowed and work was completed to the bosun’s whistle or a fiddler. On hoisting the topsail passengers would join with the crew in tailing to the halyards. The three top sails were reefed simultaneously, ten minutes being considered enough to put in the first reef, haul out the reef tackles and hoist away. The bosun’s mates who had charge of rigging the main and foremast were to be addressed as ‘mister’ Petty Officers and men before the mast were always carefully selected by the Mate and the Bosun and a list was then presented to the Captain for his approval. In addition to their seaman’s duties, crew were almost always qualified as a sailmaker, rigger, a neat marlin spike workman, sail fitter or expert helmsman. In port when the decks had been washed, ropes coiled and awnings spread, the bosun would take the ship’s boat and sail around the ship to ensure that the yards were squared. This compliment for these small 1000 ton ships of hand picked specialist sailors was considered in excess to what a larger passenger ship normally considered necessary. A comment at the time was that, “one had difficulty in finding work for them all.”

Whilst she brought migrants out she carried gold home which was concealed in a caulked vault under the master’s cabin, an on one voyage carried over half a million pounds worth. She was described as “the armed clipper ship, Kent” He best known masters were George Coleman who took her from the stocks until 1856, then Captain Edward R. Brine for three years and in 1859 M. Clayton who at that time was 28 years old. Captain Brine under whom John Trinham and Robert Davey sailed was one of the old school who demanded that his masts and yards be set to plumb line or sextant. In his day the Kent carried hemp sails and he required that his masts had to be stayed to a hair, so that his sailors had little or no rest.

The Kent was armed with three guns; one long gun and two carronaides and John Trinham as a sailmaker probably took on sailmaker’s duty which included his trade but also to handle the main tack and foresheet in the waist of the ship. Hid duty in event of an attack, of which there is no record for his voyage, was to take position with cutlass or pike on the quarter deck, and otherwise attend to the trim of the sails

A cabin passage cost 80 guineas. Usually the fare would vary, depending on how the ship filled up, but the Kent was so popular that the prices kept high. Passengers provided their own bedding, linen and soap. Drinks were free, champagne on Thursday and Sunday when dinner would finish with plum duff with plenty of brandy.

 (Information abstracted from :

‘Ships of the Past letters from Old Passengers and Others’ The Age 2nd June 1934 David M Little

‘The Kent - The Blackwall Frigates’ 1924 by Lubcock B. from page 155

The Argus Thursday 22nd October 1857 Page 4., Shipping Notices and weather information

 The Argus also advertises the return of the ship by Blackwall line of:

“For London Direct - To Sail Positively on Tuesday December 8th

The celebrated clipper ship KENT

A1 at Lloyds 1000 tons. Belongs to Messers Money Wigram and Sons, E B Bryne Commander

The extraordinary voyages which have been uniformly accomplished by the above renowned Blackwall liner render it scarcely necessary to enlarge upon her admirable sailing qualities, or to state, that as the pioneer of the celebrated fleet to which she belongs, her reputation in the Australian trade stands unrivalled

The Kent on her recent homeward run reached the termination of the passage in seventy days and there is every reason to anticipate that the forthcoming voyage will be equally as prosperous . . .

Her First Class accommodations are of a very superior character and include every requirement that can be demanded by families and single gentlemen proceeding to England.

In second and third class the cabins are spacious, lofty and well ventilated; and the scale of diet comprises a liberal supply of the best provisions. Stewards have been engaged to wait upon second class passengers. Carries an experienced Surgeon.

Fares: 1st by negotiation. Second £35, Third £25 and £20. For plans of the cabin and second and third dietary scales, apply to W P White & Co. 10 Elizabeth Street.

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