The Convict Ship Corona 1866
When shipbuilder Alexander Stephen (senior) leased the Kelvinhaugh shipyard in 1851, he moved his entire family to Glasgow, including his second and third-born sons Alexander and John. First-born William Stephen (1826-1894) remained in the Panmure, Dundee yard to continue the company’s operations and in 1866 Stephen & Sons built Corona. William Stephen remained her registered owner until 1894 when he died and the executors of his will sold the Panmure shipyard to the Dundee Shipbuilding Co.
Clyde, built in 1860, and Corona were the only convict sailing ships with iron hulls to come to Western Australia. Alexander Stephen senior was one of the first ship builders to understand that iron was the way of the future and he had to overcome a great deal of industry prejudice. One of the chief incentives to use iron lay in the fact that wooden vessels were not strong enough to withstand the vibration of the screw-propeller, which began to oust the old-fashioned paddle-wheels in the early days of steam. An additional incentive was the encouraging approval of Lloyd’s, whose underwriters soon began to make concessions in favour of iron-built vessels.
The 1199 ton ship Corona built in 1866 (official number 52575) was classified as a ‘clipper’ ship with three masts, one deck plus poop and a round stern. Her frame was built of oak and iron and her dimensions were: length 209.6 ft.; breadth 35 ft.; depth 22 ft.; draft 17 ft. She made her maiden voyage to Western Australia and from there to Calcutta where she picked up over 400 Indian workers destined for the sugar-cane fields of Jamaica. Corona returned to Australian shores in 1869 with 448 migrants in steerage bound for Port Philip (Melbourne). She was ultimately de-registered in 1899; but when she was ‘sunk’, as the photograph above suggests, is unknown!
Captain William Storey Croudace was responsible for an alleged record-breaking passage from England to Western Australia in 1866; Corona was, after all, a clipper ship known for their speed. Croudace was an experienced Master, having gained his 1st Class ticket in 1849. He had made a number of journeys to Australia before his voyage with Corona, and it was Captain Croudace who brought her back to Australia with the immigrant passengers of 1869.
Advertisement in the Argus 26 February 1869
The Surgeon Superintendent Dr William Crawford and Mr W Williams, Religious Instructor, boarded Corona at Deptford on 6th September and proceeded to Sheerness where 98 convicts from Chatham prison boarded. The ship proceeded to Portsmouth and Portland where a further 212 convicts boarded. Corona then returned to Portsmouth to set two convicts ashore and on October 16, 1866 set sail for the Swan River Colony. She carried the 35th of 37 shipments of male convicts destined for Western Australia. The voyage took 67 days arriving in Fremantle on December 22, 1866.
Three convict deaths were recorded by Dr Crawford: William Sharpe and Enoch Gibson in September prior to leaving England’s shores and Thomas Hinson who died during the voyage on 3rd November. Thus 310 convicts boarded the ship, two were sent ashore at Portsmouth and three died, making the total arrivals 305. Convict Charles Ward died in the Convict Establishment Hospital soon after arrival. One of the convicts, Donald Petrie, was a veteran of the Crimean War. He had allegedly served in the 2nd Battalion of Sappers and Miners but in 1865 had stood trial for fraud and was sentenced to seven years transportation.
Among the passengers were 30 pensioner guards and their families. This number increased on the voyage when the wives of Thomas Hughes, Patrick Casey and Hugh Devitt gave birth; Michael Rubery’s wife had a stillborn son. Of the 30 pensioner guards, ten have been identified as veterans of the Crimean War. There were two unmarried warders formerly of Chatham prison on board, along with Crimean War veteran Corporal John Sullivan formerly of the 6th Dragoon Guards and his wife.
Dr William Crawford’s surgeon’s journal for the voyage is preserved in the National Archives, Kew. Researchers can view a copy on the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) microfilm reel 3181 which is held in most major libraries and archives throughout Australia. It can also be accessed by subscription on the ancestry.co.uk website.
Lloyds of London Registers 1854-1881.
Crew List Index Project (CLIP).
State Library of Victoria (images out of copyright).
Royal Engineers’ Expedition to the Swan River Colony p.19, by Derrick Prall 2001.
Grace’s Guide: British Industrial History.
Surgeon Superintendents’ Journals of Convict Ships, National Archives Kew.
Perth Dead Persons Society (DPS) Website.
WA State Record Office Cons 72 (re Donald Petrie).
Warders and Gaolers: A Dictionary of Western Australian Prison Officers 1829-1879, David J. Barker
Newspaper clippings from TROVE, National Library of Australia as follows:
Inquirer and Commercial News 26 Dec 1866; Perth Gazette 28 Dec 1866; Argus 22 & 26 Feb 1869.
© Diane Oldman 2015