Immigration, Emigration and Overseas Travel: Norris Family Newsletter Volume 6 Number 2

This issue features details from a series of letters between Major Edward Macarthur and Reverend John West, Rector of Chettle, which relate to the selection of emigrants and arrangements for their voyage to New South Wales. The transcripts included in this issue have been supplied courtesy of Marion Beaufort of Panania, NSW, and have been extracted from the journal of the Australian Association of Donhead Descendants. One of the more interesting aspects of the letters is the revelation that William Norris sought to emigrate to New South Wales at the same time as his older brother, Henry; however, as the transcripts indicate, he was unable to do so because he was unable to find a suitable wife in time for the voyage. As we know it was another thirteen years before William eventually made the voyage.

As stated in earlier newsletters, in 1836 Major Edward Macarthur sought the assistance of Reverend John West, Rector of Chettle, in Dorset, in finding suitable volunteers to emigrate to New South Wales to work on the Macarthurs' Camden Park Estate. As we know, one of the initial group of sixteen families who emigrated on the Brothers was the family of Henry Norris.

Edward Macarthur likened the selection of emigrants to the planting of a new woodland: 'each destined colonist should as surely have a known place assigned to every tree previous to its removal from its native soil has a spot prepared for its reception.'

While the articles presented in earlier newsletters have focussed on the transporting and transplanting processes, this issue concentrates on the process of selecting suitable emigrants and preparing for their transportation.

As with the earlier articles, our primary source of information is the Macarthur Papers, held in the Mitchell Library, Sydney, in this case MS A2918, which contains a collection of letters between between Major Edward Macarthur and Reverend John West.

Major Edward Macarthur (EM) wrote to Rev. John West (JW) some time before 22 August 1836, on the subject of emigration, but that letter's whereabouts, and that of the reply is unknown. As well, the Mitchell Library has no letters from Rev. West after 8 November 1836 but the two must have kept in touch.

The following transcripts cover only those extant letters which make specific reference to the Norris family [and I have included only those parts that also include the Gumbleton family: SMW].


1. Edward Macarthur to Lt.-Col. Greaves, military secretary to Lord Stanley, 14 June 1844 as quoted in Camden: Farm and Village Life in Early New South Wales, Alan Atkinson, OUP, 1988, Melbourne, p.39.

JW to EM dated 26 September 1836:

Chettle, Woodgate, Dorset
Sept. 26 1836

Dear Sir,
Permit me to thank you for the very kind and liberal present of the wine, I really feel very much obliged - Tho it is at times a little troublesome, yet I have always felt concerned, that in assisting the poor fellows to Engage on the liberal terms you offer them in Immigration, I was benefitting their condition, and opening to them the door of hope, of getting out a hard servitude in poverty, to some little independence for themselves and families, by honest steady persevering industry.

The farmers are the most provoking race of men, I have ever had to deal with - they are now endeavouring to prevent, if they could, some of the young men going out, by persuading not to go to such a transporting country &c &c it will have however little or no effect, I believe. I am not yet able to give you a complete list of the persons actually engaged to go out, but I hope to do so at the latter end of the week, or by next Monday's Post - I have seen today, and the end of last week, the following persons on the subject -

Arnold - Wife & Wife's cousin and one child 3 persons
Elias Trowbridge & Wife 2 '
(George Vincent & Wife + tot Blanchard,
illegitimate and baptised in his mother's name
Vincent, this called Blanchard 2 '
Shepherd Smith & Wife 2 '
Jas. Newe & Wife & two children 3 '
Samuel Wright & Wife and some children 2 '
Wright is a boy & very valuable Servant and only called Shepherd and Shearer of sheep, with Smith whom I know.
The unmarried man 1 '

The single woman, is Arnold's cousin - the other persons who have applied to me, I shall probably see in the course of next week - As the Board of Guardians and farmers to give £10 and some clothing to Horders if he emigrated, I have given this morning a note to the same Board stating that Wright was engaged to go to N.S.W. with his family and asked if they cd give the same sum, with some clothing for their voyage. I thought it well to do this, as it would relieve the expense of sending them out& at the same time assist the Emigrants who are both from the same Parish. With respect to Hoskins, he carried with him an excellent character as a good farm servant - but tho' he wishes much to go out with the party, he is afraid that he will not be able to meet with a suitable wife, who is willing to Emigrate - he will let you know however by next Saturday - I admire the good feeling of the man, in speaking to some of his strong attachments to his wife who died some months ago - and that he had a wish to marry again - Should this be the case, and he is going wd you engage his servant daughter to be of the party, to go out with Wright's family who know him well as a steady active, smart girl - She called on me this morn; & seemed desirous of going - age 15 - a man of the name of Norris known well to Arnold,....if you w'd engage him if you wanted a Sawyer, he has a wife & 4 children - I told him I w'd return his application - I have told those who have spoken to me again & again not to....with me on the subject, or in going to .... for Emigration.

Believe me, Dear Sir,
Yours truly and Oblige
John West

P.S. Hoskins' daughter gl of 15 - sh'd I engage single men, as Wm. Arnold's cousin.

JW to EM dated 3 October 1836:

Chettle, Oct 3rd 1836

Dear Sir -
I have been waiting in hope of seeing a Blacksmith, who has been strongly recommended, before the Post went, but as he lives 8 or 9 miles off, it may probably be evening before he calls, if he really intends to Emigrate - As I promised however, I send a list of those Persons who are actually engaged in your Service, and who are making arrangements to undertake the voyage, when it is fixed for them to Embark.

Arnold's wife's cousin refuses to go, which is rather provoking, as I had engaged William Ellet, age 18 years, to go as single she being an unmarried woman - and the lad has actually got assistance fromthe Parish in clothing for the voyage - He is a good quiet industrious farm or indoor Servant a parishioner of mine and should there be any awkwardness in his going out as single, I will arrange with him to have what expenses you think should be deducted from his wages of service in the Colony-

Wheelwright -
     Arnold and wife - one child
Sawyer -
     Henry Norris & Wife - Four children

Farm Servants -
     Elias Thorn & Wife
     George Vincent & Wife
     James News & Wife - Two Children
     George Bradley & Wife
     John Weeks & Wife - Two Children
     Richd Weeks & Wife - Two Children
     Henry Gumbleton & Wife - Two Children
     Benj. Weeks & Wife
     Stephen Butt & Wife
     William Ellet - Single man

     Shepherds and Farm Servants -
     Thomas Smith & Wife
     Samuel Wright & Wife - Four children.

William Norris, came today with his brother Henry, says he has worked with him as a Sawyer, and is also a Farm Servant, would be glad to accompany his Elder Brother to N.S.Wales - 20 yrs of age, and will marry and go out, if you will engage him, - provided the ship does not sail before the 23rd Inst., giving him 3 Sundays to Church. [probably refers to the required 3 readings of the marriage Banns - Ed]

I have another young married couple, who will engage in your service, should you wish to engage them.- A married man, brother to Stephen Butt, with 6 children - has also just called, with a message from the Hon. Mr. Damen, expressing a wish that you would be kind enough to get him and his family out to N.S.Wales, in the same ship that takes your party - These men are both valuable steady men, and if it could be arranged for them to go together - Mr. Damen says he will pay the passage money for him - He is 32 yrs of age - wife & 6 children.

     Believe me,
     Dear Sir, Yours Vy Truly,
     John West.

There is quite a spirit of Emigration awakened among the people around me - Parties call on me almost daily.

    To Major Macarthur
    Junr. U.S. Club,
    George St, London.

JW to EM dated 7 October 1836:

Chettle Oct 7th 1836

Dear Sir,

I believe the following list of the ages of the children is correct -
Arnold -
    Sarah 2 years
Norris -
    Marianne 9 do
    Daniel 7 do
    George 4 do
    Child Two months
    Maria 4 years
    Charlott 1 do & a half
    Sarah 7 years
    James 5 do
    Jane 3 do
    Charlotte Three months
John Weeks -
    Eliza 2 years
    Marianne Eight months Weeks

    William 3 years
    Eliza Eight months
Gumbleton -
    Caroline 4 years
    Emily Fifteen months

I should think it very advisable that you should provide Beds & Bedding for the party in London. Can you obtain for them Bibles and Prayer books, from any religious Institution in Town - or will I make an application to their supply, as Emigrants. I write immediately on receipt of your ascertain whether Colonel Damen will pay the Passage money for the family he mentioned - & shall be probably able to write you the answer the beginning of next week - Stephen Wright asked me if he might take his favourite, & much valued by him, Sheep dog. I told him I thought not, but as he wished it, I will in writing mention his request to you - I have not yet seen the Blacksmith but am still enquiring about one - I have been consulting Capt. Maitland, of the Navy, a friend and neighbour of mine - He thinks the best way will be to take the Emigrants in a couple of light wagons, a distance of about 40 miles from here, that they may take the Steamers from thence to the Ship, or Cowes - It is sometimes a tedious passage from Poole to the Isle of Wight, & there is little objection to their going that way, they would probably get thoroughly sea sick, beating up in a ...., and be put aboard the Ship, probably some of them, more half dead than alive -

The Ladies at the table last night begged that I would express their thanks for some very fine flavoured Tea, which they received with the cake you kindly sent me.
    Believe me, Dear Sir
    Yours truly,
    John West

JW to EM dated 10 October 1836:

Chettle, Oct 10 1836

Dear Sir,
I send by the mail this Even the Certificates of Baptism, and the Characters of the Emigrants, which I have received -

Norris's of Baptism - not yet sent to me, but should get it - appears he is not 30 - Gumbleton's also - will be sent to me - I know they will be satisfactory. Butts - also - His I am persuaded will be the same.

I hope you will find what you receive, satisfactory - Norris's Brother I mentioned became fearful, that the time would be too limited for him to marry - I have therefore substituted in his stead, the name of Thomas Cox, in the list, wife, and one child, age 11 months - He is a Parishioner of mine, and I am happy to say, that he is one of the strongest, most industrious, steady farm servant in the Parish - I can also speak particularly in favour (as known also to me as Parishioners), of Stephen Smith - and William Elliot - Martha Gumbleton, single woman, aged 16 is Engaged to Emigrate, with her Uncle, Henry Gumbleton, & go out under his & his wife's protection. Her engagement may probably make it more favourable for Elliot, as both going out single.-

I hear nothing of the Blacksmith. The following are the parties, as they now stand in the list, waiting for embarkation.

    Arnold - wife - one child
    Norris - wife - four children
    Elias Thorn & wife
    Thos. Smith & wife
    Jam's New & wife - Two children
    Jam's Wright & wife - Four do
    George Brady & wife
    John Weeks & wife - Two do
    Richard Wack & wife
    Henry Gumbleton & wife - Two do
    Stephen Butt & wife
    Benj. Week & wife
    Thos Cox & Wife - one child

    William Elliot - single - 18 yrs
    Martha Gumbleton - single - 16 years

    14 families 28
    Single Persons 2
    Children 18

    I remain Sir, Yrs Vy Truly
    John West

JW to EM undated: [probably 1836 - Ed.]

Dear Sir,
The bearer of this note is a good judge of sheep and will aid your judgement in the selection of Lambs, I think, from Mr. Bennett's flock.- He is employed by me on a small quantity of Glebe, and should you think it advisable and for the best of the Lambs sh'd be brought here so as for all to make one party to arrive at the same time at Southampton, he can fetch them tomorrow - I have not heard a word of dissatisfaction yet as to the delay in starting - but at the same time they express a wish that they were off. I found one today without employment and I am glad of an opportunity of getting him to work - I think there will be some falling off from the numbers you have engaged to go - I would be glad however, if they w'd veer round to the North or the N.E. or East - Pray let me have the earliest information on the ship's arrival in Cowes - it will be scarcely possible for the Emigrants to start off the same day I receive the note of information - but the day after it may be accomplished, so as for them to arrive at Southampton the following morning at 7 or 8 o'clock.

Arnold - Norris the Sawyer and Wright one of the Shepherds are now living with their friends 7 or 8 miles from Chettle - so that it w'd be most impracticable to get them here the same day I received of Letter.

    Yours vy truly
    John West

To Major Macarthur, at Pyt House.

Norris Family Newsletter Volume 6 Number 2

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