The Rajah Quilt

The Rajah Quilt

Sunday, April 15, 2012


The Rajah was a barque - a sailing ship with 3 masts, which weighed 352 tons, built at Whitby in 1835.  This is the style of ship that she was:

The Rajah was a commercial ship - from 1838 to 1851 her Master was Captain Charles Ferguson, a Scot, who was only 25 at the start of his association with the Rajah.  Working between Britain, India and Australia the Rajah carried passengers and merchandise.

At the end of 1840 she was fitted out for convict transport.  The journey which began on 5th April 1841 was her only voyage as a convict ship.  On board for this journey was Miss Kezia Hayter, who was part of the group formed by Elizabeth Fry, hoping to provide female prisoners with skills for a better life.  Captain Ferguson and Miss Hayter became engaged in Hobart at the conclusion of the voyage. 

After the Rajah arrived in Hobart on 19th July 1841, the prison fittings were dismantled.  They formed part of a Government auction, advertised on the 3rd of August 1841, just 2 weeks after arrival.   The Rajah returned to commercial business, leaving Hobart on the 22nd of August bound for India, with passengers and freight. 

Kezia stayed behind while her beau travelled off, he didn't return until the 23rd June 1843.  On the 1st of July 1843 they were married, at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Hobart.

A quote often seen on websites, where people are writing about the Rajah Quilt:

'the patchwork only lasted 2/3 of the voyage and that the women talked as they sewed, and that the conversation was obscene'

This quote, while memorable, can't be about the Rajah Quilt - since it's source is quoted as from a Select Committee Report into Transportation - in 1838. 


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Research and ye shall find.

While I have been researching into more background for Grace's story, I have made some amazing discoveries.  What a wonderful thing the internet is, it's fantastic that there are so many historical records and documents now available on line, many for free.  This often means that volunteer transcribers have spent the time recording, scanning, typing or copying, old records from churches, newspapers, archives, and other official documents.

I knew that it said in Grace's convict records that she had one prior conviction for theft of fabric.  In the West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser, Friday the 10th of January 1840, it was reported that at the Penzance Quarter sessions of the previous Monday (6th January) Grace STEVENS, 15, pleaded guilty to stealing a piece of cotton print, from the shop of Mr. Tucker, Draper, and was sentenced to three months' imprisonment.

Her second conviction, that earned her the sentence of transportation to Van Diemen's Land, was reported in the Cornwall Gazette on Friday 17th July 1840.  This report says her trial had taken place on Tuesday of that week, the 14th of July.  This one is not on-line.

On Google Books I found the Sixth Report of Inspectors of Prisons of Great Britain, to the House of Commons, 1841.  Prison Inspector for the Southern and Western area, of Great Britain, Dr Francis Bisset Hawkins (an eminent physician and social reformer), visited the Penzance Town Gaol and House of Correction on 16th July 1840. 

On the day of his visit to the Penzance Gaol and House of Correction, he reported that the gaol held 10 prisoners, 7 women, one man, one boy and ‘a girl 15, sentenced to Transportation’.   Grace, having been sentenced to Transportation at Penzance two days earlier, on the 14th, was the only person who could fit this description on the 16th of July.

 In reporting on the prisoner's literacy levels, he noted  “of the prisoners now here, 1 girl (who is for transportation) has not been to any school;”.  Grace again.

The report gives a glimpse into prison life: “The Keeper does not allow talking. […] The prisoners do not go outside the walls to work, on any pretext.  Tobacco is forbidden.  On the night preceding my visit, all the women slept in single or double cells -- one by herself, and six, two in a bed.”
 Construction.—There are six cells here, three in the male yard and three in the female; one dark room; and two yards (besides the tread-wheel yard).  There are no day-rooms; but the cells are large and each has a fire-place.”
“Diet. – The keeper receives 2s. 6d. per week for each prisoner, for which he is obliged to find them 1 ½ lb. of seconds bread daily, and 1 ½ pint of tea morning and evening; also for dinner, on Sundays, 4 ozs. Meat and 1 ½ lbs potatoes; Mondays, soup, with ½ lb. of bread extra; Tuesdays, stew with 4 ozs. of meat and 1 ½ lbs. of potatoes; Wednesdays 4 ozs. of fish and 1 ½ lbs. of potatoes; Thursdays 4 ozs. of liver and 1 ½ lbs. of potatoes; Fridays, the same as Mondays; Saturday’s, the same as Wednesdays.  Salt is given without limit.” 
Dr Bisset Hawkins made some recommendations at the conclusion of his inspection, including that “A bath of some kind is wanted”, and that “Tread-wheel labour is, in my opinion, unsuitable for women.”

Born in 1796, Dr Hawkins, wrote the first book on medical statistics in English in 1829. The book was influential in the use of hospital records and in the insertion of cause of death in registration documents.  He was a prolific author in the fields of industrial medicine and public health.  
He held the important offices of factory commissioner, to which he was appointed in 1833; of inspector of prisons, in 1836; and of metropolitan commissioner in lunacy, in 1842. In 1847-48 he was commissioner for the government of the Model prison at Pentonville, and in 1858 was appointed a deputy lieutenant of Dorsetshire. In his Report on the Health and Condition of the Manufacturing Districts, he strongly recommended the diminution of the hours of labour for children and women; and suggested the creation of public gardens or parks at Manchester.
His picture above is from the British Medical Journal of January 1895, published after his death in December 1894. To think that Grace saw this man in 1840, is really incredible.