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The 1820 Settler Correspondence
 as preserved in the National Archives, Kew
 and edited by Sue Mackay

The Story of the 1820 Settlers

As part of the peace agreement between Britain and France in March 1802, Britain gave back to the Netherlands the Cape of Good Hope which it had taken in 1795. The peace, however, was short-lived and after a fierce battle on the beaches of Cape Town in January 1806, the British took back the Cape of Good Hope.

But it was not until 1814 that the Cape Colony is officially ceded to the British under the treaty of Versailles which conclude the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, Britain formally purchased the Cape from the Dutch for six million pounds and another colony was added to the growing British Empire.

Lord Charles Somerset was appointed Governor of the Cape in 1814. He began to write letters home to Lord Bathurst with regards to the Eastern frontier of the Cape, but the British Government was not prepared at this stage to increase the army presence in the area. The army on the ground, however, was unable to cope with the hostilities which were occurring almost daily on the frontier. Somerset began to lobby for more people to be sent out to the Cape and to be settled in the Eastern Cape in particular. He put forward his idea of an immigration scheme and others at the time were also writing to influential men in England. With the onset of the Fifth Frontier War in 1818, the British Government finally decided to take some action and appointed a Committee to investigate the feasibility of Somerset’s settlement proposal.

The Scheme as set out by the British Government had a three-fold purpose: To settle the disputed eastern frontier of the Cape of Good Hope with an agrarian farming community whose presence would discourage Xhosa pastoralists and cattle raiders from crossing the colonial boundary. To increase the English-speaking community in their newly acquired Colony; and to ase political tensions in Britain that had been stretched to breaking point with post-war unemployment, industrialisation and poor trade.

South Africa before 1820

Long before the first Europeans ever set foot in the Cape area it was populated by various indigenous tribes.

The Khoikhoi, who were later known as the Hottentots, were primarily herders or pastoralists and were located mainly along the Orange River and in the coastal belt stretching from Namibia to the Umzimvubu River in the Eastern Cape. Before the arrival of the Dutch they conducted trade with their Bantu-speaking neighbours in cattle and dagga and to a lesser extent in iron and copper.

The San Bushmen were the hunter gatherers mainly located south of the Orange River and probably never exceeded 20 000. They lived in small groups of about 20 to 22 persons and were highly mobile and nomadic on account of their dependence on game, and for the same reason widely dispersed territorially. They had almost no form of institutionalised authority.

Cape History

The 15th century saw the Voyages of Discovery of Bartholomeu Dias in 1487 & 1488 and Vasco da Gama in 1497 rounding the tip of the Cape and opening up the sea route to India with the Cape becoming an important place in the politics of those times.

During the 1500’s the English explorer James Lancaster rounded the tip of Africa and began exploring the area quite extensively. As we move further forward we have the Dutch East India Company (later known as the VOC) being founded in 1602. One of their ships, the ‘Nieuwe Haerlem’ is wrecked in Table Bay in 1647 and a survivor, Leendert Janszen is instructed to remain behind with some crew to look after the cargo. A year later he is fetched and asked to write a feasibility report on the establishment of a refreshment station at the Cape. As a result of this report the Dutch East India Co decides to establish a trading post at the Cape.

On the 6th April 1652 three ships arrive at the Cape – The Dromedaris, the Reijger and the Goede Hoope under the command of Jan Antony van Riebeeck – a ship’s surgeon. Their objective was to grow vegetables, barter for livestock with the Hottentot tribes, and build a hospital and a sanctuary for the repair of ships. Thus begins the era of the Cape Colony.

The 17th century was the Golden Age of the Dutch Republic. The Dutch East India Co was the world’s greatest trading corporation and had sovereign rights in the East and the Cape of Good Hope and by mid-century was the dominant European maritime power in South East Asia. They began to farm and because there were no suitable labourers available we 1654 ushers in the start of the slave trade. Slaves were imported from Asia, Madagascar and Africa primarily to work the land.

The 1680’s saw the continued expansion of the Dutch Colony with the Khoikhoi losing huge portions of their land to the Settlers. In 1688 the French Huguenot refugees were given asylum and settled in the Drakenstein, Franschoek and Wellington areas and later we have German settlers also making South Africa their home.

So gradually the infrastructure in the Cape begins to build and spread and with that comes a shortage of land and some of the people are given permission and ‘set free’ to explore further northwards and to move across the official borders to find more land for their farms. As these trek boers moved further and further northwards removing land and cattle from the indigenous people in the area it was setting the scene for the political unrest in the Eastern Cape. This was to become one of the main reasons for settling some 4,000 British people in the Albany District to act as a human buffer between the Boers, as they had come to be known, and the various black nations (mainly Xhosa) who continued to cross the official border (the Fish River) into the Cape Colony.

The Cape Colony had to expand and extend their northern borders to the Great Fish River. The indigenous people of South Africa had never had borders within which they had to stay and this resulted in many clashes and incursions into land that now was no longer ‘their’ land and lays the foundation for a series of anti-colonial wars and skirmishes by the AmaXhosa that last until the end of the 19th century. As cattle were stolen the boers would retaliate and vice versa and would complain to their Government hoping for a way to stop the skirmishes. None was forthcoming at that time but it sets the scene for the arrival in the Eastern Cape of the 1820 Settlers.

During this time the slave trade was still on the increase and by 1754 the non-indigenous population numbered some 510 Colonists or Settlers and 6,279 slaves! The Dutch East India Company continues to govern the Cape until 1795.

The role played by Britain prior to 1820

The start of the conflict between Britain and France at the end of the 18th Century sees Britain taking the strategically important step of militarily occupying the Cape in 1795: for fear that the Dutch would turn it over to the French and thereby cut the British sea route to the East. This brings about the demise of the Dutch East India Company and in 1798 it is officially dissolved.

However, in March 1802 peace is made between France and Britain and as part of the peace agreement, Britain gives back the Cape to the Netherlands, now known as Batavia. But this too is short lived and after a fierce battle on the beaches of Cape Town in January 1806, the British defeat the Dutch troops and the Cape belongs once again to Britain.

But it is only in 1814 that the Cape Colony is officially ceded to the British when at the end of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, Britain formally purchases the Cape from the Dutch for six million pounds and another colony is added to the growing British Empire.

One of the first changes that the British made was the abolishment in 1807 of the Slave Trade Act. Slaves could still legally be owned but they put an end to trading in slaves and at the same time they outlawed torture of any kind. Some of the slaves had been freed during this time as settlers applied to marry them and many mixed marriages took place until Van der Stel tried to abolish it.

In 1809 Cape Governor Caledon passes a nasty law curtailing the freedom of movement of the Khoisan and coloured peoples by introducing a pass system. They now needed permission to move about causing a lot of bitterness and anger. The European advance eventually cost the Hottentot their land, stock and trading role. Twice defeated in battle and decimated by smallpox in 1713 and 1755, they ultimately lost their identity as a distinct cultural group and intermarried with slaves and others to form the Cape Coloured people.

Britain had been at war since 1793 fighting the French Revolution and then the Napoleonic Wars. During the mid-18th century the Agricultural Revolution provided the manpower that was a catalyst for the Industrial Revolution. The inventions of the steam engine, spinning jenny and weaving machine see Britain become the first industrial nation in the world and enter a period of expansion and transition.

The downside of this modernisation is that the small cottage crafters who had up to then been the main source of supply are now in trouble. Factories require less manpower and so more and more of the population find themselves unemployed with no means of looking after their families. During the war years these weavers, knitters and tailors who mainly worked from their homes, had provided clothing for the armed forces. The British Navy had increased to include 200 ships by 1814. At the end of the war England now had thousands of returning soldiers who also required employment. Another factor aggravating these problems was the population explosion - death rates had declined and birth rates had increased!

Civil registration was only introduced into Britain in 1837 and before this time a Parish system was in place to care for the people who lived within each parish. It was up to the church to record births, marriages and deaths as well as care for the poor through a system of Poor Relief. You had to belong to a Parish in order to be cared for and these parishes were part of the land of the gentry, such as Nottingham, which was owned by the Duke of Newcastle. Nottingham and Leicestershire where the majority of lace makers and Frame knit workers lived were two of the hardest hit areas as these skills were no longer required and the parish was now faced with looking after the poor in their community.

On the other hand a political climate existed where the wealthy were leading a very opulent life style following after their flamboyant and extravagant Regent - King George III having stepped down in favour of his son*. The people became frustrated with what they saw as an oppressive government and began demanding political change and more employment. The Government’s inability to provide a solution resulted in political unrest and in Manchester some 50,000 people gathered to protest and call for change. This unfortunately ended violently much to the dismay of the Government and became known as the Peterloo Massacre. Britain was thus in trouble both at home and further abroad in the Cape Colony.

Lord Charles Somerset is appointed Governor of the Cape Colony in 1814. Somerset begins to write letters home to Lord Bathurst especially with regards to the Eastern Cape predicament. However, the British Government was not prepared at this stage to give more finance to increase the army presence in the area and the army on the other hand could not cope with the hostilities which were occurring almost daily. Somerset begins to lobby for more people to be sent out to the Cape and to be settled in the Eastern Cape in particular. He puts forward an idea of an immigration scheme and others in the meantime are also writing letters to influential men in England. With the onset of the Fifth Frontier War in 1818, the British Government eventually decides to take some action and appoints a Committee to investigate the feasibility of Somerset’s proposal.

Unfortunately they didn’t call upon the right people to come and testify before the Committee. One of those called was William Burchell, the well-known botanist, a very shy man who really didn’t want to appear before the Committee. However, in some ways he was probably the most qualified out of the people that did testify. He had walked through a good deal of the Eastern Cape alongside his special wagon and recorded about 2,074 different species of plant life as he went. He favoured the Eastern Cape but he did warn the British Government that the land was not suitable for farming especially in times of drought and that the Settlers would be in great trouble if there were prolonged droughts. He felt that there were perhaps better areas in which to settle them than along the Fish River. Others that gave testimony were from the Western Cape and had never been to the Eastern Cape. So the facts gathered were rather poor and not a true picture of this location.

The British Settler Scheme

However, the British Government decides to go ahead with the scheme and on the 12th July 1819 £50,000 was voted for the Cape Emigration Scheme. Lord Somerset was advised that the Scheme is underway and must have been quite excited at the prospect of his proposal being accepted. He was a very good organiser and immediately set about planning and putting into motion the various infrastructures that would be required for a scheme of this nature.

The Scheme as set out by the British Government had a three-fold purpose:

  1. To settle the disputed eastern frontier of the Cape of Good Hope with an agrarian farming community whose presence would discourage Xhosa pastoralists and cattle raiders from crossing the colonial boundary. Britain had established a no mans land between the Boers of the Colony and the Xhosa, but this had made no difference and raids had continued with the Xhosa crossing the Fish River, attacking the Boer farms and taking whatever they wanted.
  2. To increase the English-speaking community in their new Colony. Obviously up to that time the Colony had been populated mainly by the Dutch, with a smattering of German, French and African languages and so already had quite a mixed society with different cultures. By bringing in the English Settlers they hoped that some of the English cultures and systems of administration would be implemented within the country and that English would become the language of preference since this was now a British Colony. One must remember too that the English system of Justice was quite different to that of the Dutch and was more democratic in that people were allowed to voice their grudges before Magistrates and have them sorted out, whereas the Dutch system did not allow people the freedom to express their opinions. You just had to swallow hard and perhaps move away as the trek boers did.
  3. To ease political tensions in Britain that had been stretched to breaking point with post-war unemployment, industrialisation and poor trade. The Peterloo Massacre was still very fresh in their minds and the Government needed to be seen to be doing something where unemployment was concerned and so keep the peace within its own nation.

In terms of the scheme, selection was to be limited to men who could afford to engage and maintain a party of at least 10 able-bodied labourers over the age of 18, with or without families. In return they would receive free passage and ‘victuals’ and be granted 100 acres of land in the Eastern Cape plus 100 acres per man in their party. Their initial aim was that the settler parties would be made up of middle to higher-class people who had some capital and would enter into agreements with members of their parties in exchange for land and a number of years working in the employ of the party leaders. They envisaged them arriving in Albany and establishing little English villages since the countryside supposedly resembled that of an English park! It does when it rains! This didn’t happen, as you will see later on.

  1. Deposits were required which were to be used to assist the settlers during their first year after arrival in the Cape Colony. Single men or women were expected to pay £10. Families consisting of a husband, wife and two children also had to pay £10. Children between 14-18 years of age required a £5 deposit and for those under 14 it was £2.10s. If a party included 100 families they would be permitted to take with them an approved clergyman of their denomination whose salary would be paid by the Government. Rev William Shaw was one such minister who accompanied one of the parties. He became very well known in the Cape and after his initial work in Albany he trained up laymen and moved further into the interior establishing various missions. William Boardman was another such minister who was affiliated with Willson’s party and ended up taking over the leadership of that party after arriving in Albany. Families were encouraged to participate, as the current notion was that ‘large families for the purpose of colonisation are riches’. On arrival at the Cape the Settlers had to remain on their land for a period of three years and thereafter the land would be transferred to them.

Applicants had to form their parties and submit lists of prospective settlers stating the names of each person, including wives and children, ages and occupations. These were acquired in order to calculate the amount of the deposits and formed the first lists, many of which are on file at Kew Gardens and on film in the Cape Archives.

I don’t think that the British Government ever expected this scheme to be as successful as it was in terms of the numbers. They were absolutely bombarded with applications and the various sources give the figures at between 10,000 to 90,000 applications as emigration frenzy gripped the people. When visiting Britain in 2004 I spent some time at the National Archives at Kew Gardens and this time round, instead of a film, which I had been given in 2001, was given the actual letters to peruse. Some were quite heart wrenching with people begging to be included in the scheme so that they could support their families and escape the poverty in which they were living.

Suddenly a way had opened up for the poor to be able to own some land and have a freedom which they were not experiencing in Britain with it’s various social classes from Royalty down to the common labourer. They would never own land in England and so the letters just poured in to the Home Office. In most instances the letters were written by the applicants themselves, with the illiterate folk finding sponsors to write letters on their behalf. The first parties were thus formed and their lists submitted to the Colonial Department. Others just sent in their letters of application hoping to be accepted in their eagerness to start a new life somewhere. Many were from the middle to lower class of society and fell outside the parameters of the emigration scheme. Because of the sheer number of applicants the Colonial Department answered these applicants via printed circulars posted in various areas such as taverns and in the daily press. Applications were initially whittled down to approximately 50,000 and of those less than 4,000 people actually emigrated. There were more than 20 counties involved including Ireland and Scotland. Some folk gravitated from their hometowns to London and were then included on the London lists of the larger parties making it difficult today for us to establish exactly where they were born and bred.

Downing Street recorded the fact that each day large numbers of people gathered outside in the hope of hearing whether they had been accepted. For many the initial euphoria began to be dampened by the political opposition putting out various versions of what would happen to them in the Cape Colony. There was much being written in the press both for and against the Scheme. There were exaggerated claims of the settlers being eaten alive by lions and hyenas in the wilds of the country on the one hand, to this vision of English villages and parks on the other. Ultimately there were three distinct types of parties that were formed.

The Party Types

The proprietary or sole-proprietary parties consisted of a party leader, usually a man of with some capital and indentured servants or labourers that were tied by contract to work for that particular leader for a number of years. This ranged from three to ten years for an annual salary and at the end of their tenure they would be given a piece of land of their own. This was the type of party the British Government had envisaged but these only formed a small part of the Settler parties who eventually sailed for the Cape Colony.

The majority of parties were what was known as joint stock or co-operative parties. These were loose-knit voluntary organisations in which the leadership was purely nominal and each man contributed his own £10 deposit and were organised on a basis of mutual assistance, shared labour and a jointly-owned stock of tools and implements. The heads of these parties would receive title to the party’s grant of land but it was agreed that as soon as possible this would be divided and shared amongst the members of the party. People were recruited by way of tavern meetings and advertisements and often consisted of families with many children. Many of the smaller parties, who were rejected, joined other parties and so began the formation of these large joint-stock parties. The three largest parties were those led by John Bailie, Hezekiah Sephton and Thomas Willson. In many instances the people of the party didn’t even know anything about their leader! Those members paying their own deposits would receive their own grant of 100 acres of land in the location allocated to their leader. Some of the leaders were a little unscrupulous and Thomas Willson charged his people an extra £5 each, which was later to cause a lot of unpleasantness. The Government was not dealing with the man in the street, but did everything through these party leaders. Some of the joint-stock parties were formed in a spirit of community, like the largest self-styled Methodist Party, which settled at Salem and sailed in two divisions under Hezekiah Sephton and Richard Gush.

The third group were the Independent parties, which actually fell outside of the parameters of the scheme but were included as part of the 1820 Settlers. These were the three parties led by Major-General Charles Campbell, Lieut Richard Daniell and George Wilkinson. They paid their own way without assistance from the Government in return for their land allocations. Richard Daniell was responsible for the establishment of Sidbury.

As it turned out only four of the sixty-one parties consisted of the poor where the Parishes had raised the money and assisted with the deposits, the Nottingham party being a case in point. Parishes were not allowed to use money from the ‘poor relief’ to pay the deposits for their members. So the Duke of Newcastle had lobbied wealthy patrons and got sponsorship for the poor of the Parish of Nottinghamshire and so enabled them to emigrate.

Parties ranged in size from 10 to 102 families and selection often depended on whom you knew rather than what you knew. Influential sponsors, patrons and parish ministers wrote letters of recommendation for many of the parties. Applicants were not always truthful and fudged their information in an endeavour to be accepted. Many who had never farmed were listed as agriculturists or husbandmen, ages were decreased so that they appeared to be stronger and healthier, children who could get away with looking as though they were under 18 or under 14 were suddenly younger, single woman became ‘married’ to single men because it meant they didn’t have to pay their own deposit but could be classed as a family. Some couples suddenly acquired children from the larger families and this has all contributed to the frustrations and dilemmas that we as genealogists experience when trying to trace our Settler heritage. Often we find graves stating an age of an ancestor showing him/her to be quite a bit older than the comparable age they were when they emigrated. I have one in the family whose age jumped up and down over the years and at times has left me wondering whether there were actually two people with the same name, but nothing can be proved. Benjamin Wright was entered as 22 on the first sailing list but was 17 on the final sailing list, thus saving his family the £5 deposit!

Those first lists were changed numerous times as the euphoria of the initial application began to wane and the enormity of what lay before them actually began to take shape in their minds. Some became afraid as they listened to the stories and rumours in the press and so decided to stay with what was familiar instead of venturing into the unknown. Others had to pull out at the last minute because their spouse had died or was ill, although there are several cases where this happened and the remaining spouse continued on to Albany. Parties kept changing too as applications were turned down and these same folk attached themselves to other parties. Some tried to keep the Colonial Department informed of their changes, but others were not so conscientious or the lists have been lost. The various lists that did survive are on film at the Cape Archives and the actual lists are kept at Kew Gardens in the National Archives. If one does a comparison between the initial list for a party and the list that was later compiled by the Transport Agent, they are often two entirely different lists with perhaps only the leader remaining as the head of the party.

Another factor responsible for these last minute changes was that the 29th September was Michaelmas Day and was traditionally the day when contracts for the next year were signed within the various parishes, ensuring that you had employment and a roof over your head. When the Government had not finalised their selections by this time, many elected to stay with what they knew rather than take a chance and find they were not selected and now had neither job nor a home in which to live.

While these lists were being finalised, the Government was busy making the arrangements to use ships from the Navy to transport all these emigrants. Some were troop ships that had to be refurbished in order to make them more comfortable and suitable for transporting civilian folk. The Weymouth is one such ship, which was actually docked next to a ‘hulk’ while work was being carried out on it. In fact as settlers began to arrive in Deptford they were accommodated on the hulk until the Weymouth was ready for boarding. Navy Transport Agents were appointed to oversee the boarding of the ships and to check that only those whose names appeared on the final list were allowed to embark. This policy was strictly adhered to and often resulted in folk travelling under assumed names just to get to the Colony. At some stage the Colonial Government realised that there were these last minute changes taking place and the policy was amended, but too late for some of the parties who had already sailed. This theory has been proven by documentation of early Colonial life in Albany where people whose names were on the lists did not in fact sail, and others who arrived and lived in Albany were not listed on any of the lists that have survived. John Ayliff who was to become a well-known preacher in the area sailed with Thomas Willson’s party but his name is not on any of the lists. He may have been the 13-year son listed as that of Matthew and Jane Dold whose initial application had been unsuccessful and they had subsequently joined Willson’s party.

People like E Morse-Jones, H E Hockley and later M D Nash have all written wonderful books where they have done comparisons of the various lists from the first list for a party to the final list written up by the Navy Transport Agents. Unfortunately many of these lists have been lost. The Weymouth was one of the ships where, because it was a Navy ship, an accurate log was kept by the Captain and is filed at Kew Gardens.

The Ships and their Parties

The ships had to sail down the Thames and wait for the prevailing winds to be right before they could sail out into the open sea. Some of the ships that were trapped in ice on the Thames had to wait until February for the ice to thaw before they could sail. So one can just imagine how long the journey must have been for them, having embarked in December and only actually leaving England in February and arriving in the Cape in June or July 1820. Because the ice was thick they were allowed on and off the ships and this again led to people dropping out and others replacing them under assumed names. The arrangement was that ships would sail in pairs with one Navy Transport Agent doing the honours for both ships in terms of embarkation and disembarkation. Even though the ships left in pairs, because of weather conditions, they did not always arrive together. A case in point was the Northampton, which left Gravesend on the 13th December 1819 arriving in Table Bay on the 30th April 1820. The Portsmouthleft after them on the 1st January but arrived 15 days earlier on the 15th April 1820 and only a day behind the Nautilus.

The first ship to sail on the 3rd December 1819 from Gravesend was the Chapman with the parties of John Bailie and John Carlisle on board. Bailie’s party finally consisted of 68 families because some of his party had changed allegiance and gone off with other parties, so Carlisle’s small proprietary party of 11 single men was accommodated on the Chapman. Bailie’s party had a high proportion of skilled tradesmen and professional men and was also almost certainly the wealthiest of the joint parties with four men owning indentured servants. The Nautilusfollowed close on the heels of the Chapman and included the parties of John Mandy, Lt Charles Crause, Thomas Owen, Thomas Rowles and George Scott. Crause’s party was a small joint-stock party made up of 12 men, who were tradesmen for the most part. After being settled on his location between the Kap and Wellington Rivers he separated from his party and first Thomas Philipps took over the leadership then James Moorcroft. The parties of Mandy, Owen and Rowles each comprised 11 men. Rowles abandoned his location in 1821 and disappeared off to the Cape and possibly back to England, and Francis Blackbeard then took charge of his party. Scott had paid for his own men and subsequently died of a liver complaint in 1822. These two ships arrived in Algoa Bay on the 10th and 14th April 1820.

On board the Northampton were the parties of William Clark, Charles Dalgairns, Thomas Mahony, Major George Pigot and William Smith. William Clark was a surgeon and had arranged to take out a group of 11 young men from the Refuge for the Destitute in Hoxton, London. John Brown and John Stubbs, joint leaders of a proprietary party joined forces with Clark after their applications were refused. Clark’s party eventually comprised nine independent settlers, mostly married men who paid their own deposits. Dalgairns paid for 11 men in a proprietary party and they were located on the Blaauwkrantz River. He left his location in 1823 and moved to Somerset. Thomas Mahony was an architect and builder and his party of 16 were probably the most ill behaved causing many a disturbance on board ship.

Major George Pigot was a wealthy gentleman farmer who thought he was coming out to be the landed gentry of the day and was going to have a magnificent mansion in which to keep his refined family. He even brought out his daughter’s piano. We have his daughter Sophia Pigot to thank for telling us through her journals about much of the comings and goings during the journey as well as early life in the Eastern Cape. William Smith’s party of 11 were supposed to board the Nautilus but arrived late and so embarked aboard the Northampton. His location was on the road to Trompetters Drift and named Stoney Vale.

The Ocean sailed next from Portsmouth with Edward Damant’s party of 25 men who were all mainly from Norfolk. His brother John who accompanied them had already lived in the Cape and was married to Maria Korsten, daughter of a wealthy landowner in the Cape. Also with them was his sister who was married to Dr John Atherstone a surgeon. John Henry Dixon’s party of 11 was a joint-stock party made up of London tradesmen, all married with families. William Howard, who led a party of 15 and was settled at Salem Hills, was a schoolmaster whose literary style and calligraphy was put to good use in the Colony. In fact he is often a witness at the weddings conducted in the Anglican Church in Grahamstown and was responsible for transcribing many entries in the register. Nathaneal Morgan paid for 12 men in a joint-stock party and was also situated on the Blaauwkrantz River where they named their location Beauty Vale. One of his descendants, John Morgan, is here with us today.

On the 7th January 1820 the Weymouth, which was one of the largest ships, sailed with 450 Settlers in 11 different parties from Portsmouth. Their journey is well documented in the ‘Log of the HMS Weymouth’ and has kindly been transcribed by Sue Mackay and can be found on the Internet. Parties included those of Alexander Biggar, a Capt of the 85th Regiment who had been found guilty of embezzling £1300 from War Office Funds and been discharged after repaying the money. He paid deposits for 13 men and their families who were all indentured to him for three years and would receive 20 acres of land which they would be free to cultivate on Saturdays and Sundays and at the end of three years they would receive title to it. Although his party members signed an Article of Agreement, by July 1820 everyone except George Pollard had deserted him or applied to be released from their contract.

Miles Bowker was a gentleman farmer from Wiltshire and had a proprietary party including eight indentured men, all single men except one. He paid deposits for 9 men and his 17-year-old son made up the 10th able-bodied man in the party. Duncan Campbell’s party was also made up of 10 men. William Cock’s joint stock-party comprised 40 men (including 11 servants) who formed themselves into a ‘Society of Free Settlers’ with a President, Secretary and Treasurer - William Cock being President. This party agreed to put themselves under military discipline and planned to erect a place of worship where Church of England prayers and lessons could be read. They were settled at Green Fountain where one of the first churches was built.

Edward Ford’s party was also a joint-stock party consisting of labourers from Wiltshire and joined by Robert Miles a weaver from Erlestoke. The book ‘Story of a Frontier Family’ documents their life in Albany. This was one of the parties, which arrived early, having sold all they possessed, to find they could not board the Weymouth. They were given temporary accommodation on the three-decker hulk that served as her tender, by a sympathetic Colonial Department. James Jennings, a member of the party, fell ill and died before they sailed leaving his wife and 3-year-old son to sail with the party. She subsequently married Joseph King a member of Bradshaw’s party after his wife Ann had died in about 1823. Ford’s party was moved twice before they set up home on the banks of the Lynedoch River.

The party belonging to Charles Hyman was also a joint-stock party made up mostly of folk from Wiltshire. From the names on the first list, it was only Hyman himself and John Wheeler who actually sailed for the Cape. It seems his party and that of Samuel James absorbed the remains of several parties that had formed and disintegrated and well known Settler names like Trollip, Weakley, Farley and Debnam were members of this party. My husband’s 1820 Settler ancestor, John Henry King was a member of Hyman’s party. This party was one of the few parties that remained together for the first three years ‘having encouraged and cultivated a spirit of unamity (sic) amongst each other’, but were also the hardest hit by the droughts and crop failures and living in abject poverty by 1823.

Samuel James, also from Wiltshire lead a joint-stock party which had been helped financially by the Parish and eventually amalgamated with the remainder of a group from Frome, consisting of the families of Randall, Bartlett, Hayward and Usher. Sadly shortly before they sailed his wife died after giving birth to twins one of whom died at the same time. The other baby died just a week later at sea. What a sad and stressful voyage he must have had! The log of the Weymouth shows that many children under the age of 2 died during the voyage – between the 5th and 25th February, 9 children were buried at sea. Philip Hobbs lost two children, one of whom had been born at sea and James Usher had a daughter born on the 10th March and whom they named Eliza Weymouth Usher in honour of the ship.

Also on board the Weymouth were the parties of William Menezes, which included amongst others the families of Amos, Bowles, Eastland, Green and Hayward. This party was settled at Rietfontein and later moved to join the party of John Parkin on the Kariega River. John Parkin and Benjamin Osler each had a small joint-stock party where deposits were paid for 11 families.

The Kennersley Castle which included the parties of Samuel Bradshaw, James Henry Greathead, William Holder, Thomas Philipps and George Southey was next to sail on the 10th January from Bristol. The Cam parish authorities had recommended Bradshaw’s joint-stock party and deposits were paid for 14 families, which included well-known 1820 families such as Brent, Wiggill and many of the King families including Philip King and his son Richard who is better known to us as the famous Dick King. Greathead’s party was a small proprietary party from Worcestershire. William Holder had recruited his joint-stock party mainly from Bristol and consisted of small tradesmen. Names such as Shepstone, Tainton, Powell and Kidwell were amongst the settlers who accompanied him with only William Holder and William Roberts being remnants of the initial list.

Thomas Philipps was a fairly wealthy gentleman banker from Pembrokeshire, Wales and apart from his family there were no young children in his party. He paid for his 20 indentured men including 3 maidservants. Robert Currie, a surgeon, joined the party and paid for himself as an independent settler. The semi-proprietary party belonging to George Southey included 6 indentured servants and 4 free settlers who were parish assisted, namely Thomas Glass, James Thomas (part of his deposit was paid by Southey), Thomas Style and William Berry. George Southey went on to become quite famous for killing the Xhosa Chief Hintsa. His sons had excellent military abilities and served South Africa well during this time.

Interestingly the Weymouth had a rather dramatic encounter during the journey with a Spanish Galleon ship hoping to capture what they thought was another pirate ship. The English of course also wanted to take possession of the pirate ship so some shooting took place and must have scared the poor settlers out of their wits before the Spanish ship eventually sailed away.

On the 13th January the John leaves from Liverpool along with the Stentor. On board the John are the parties of Richard Hayhurst, Samuel Liversage, Charles Mouncey, John Stanley and Jonathan Wainwright. Hayhurst was also a leader who charged an extra £1 as applicants registered and despite this upsetting the people he managed to put together a joint stock-party of 34 men and their families mostly from Liverpool. Rev William Boardman was originally a member of Hayhurst’s party but when it became evident that this party would not reach the requirement of 100 families, he left and joined the party of Thomas Willson. Their first location was Trappes Valley next to Bathurst. Families such as the Cawood’s who were woollen manufacturers, Bradley, Bold, Gradwell, Foxcroft, Hartley, Kelbrick and Murray were some who accompanied him.

Liversage’s joint stock-party consisted of artisans and labourers mainly from the Parish of Burslem as well as quite a number of children. Thomas Manley was originally entered on the lists as having a wife and seven children under the age of 14 and on the final list he is shown as sailing with only three children, the others apparently having died prior to sailing. I sometimes cannot comprehend what it must have felt like to lose four children in such a small space of time. Families such as those of William Ford, Richard Forrester, William Mountfort, Thomas Payne and Daniel Venables were included in this party. Charles Mouncey’s party was a mixed party in that he paid for his own family and 5 servants and sailed along with 6 ‘free settlers’. They were mainly from Sheffield in Yorkshire. By 1824 conditions had deteriorated to such an extent that 5 men had returned to England and 4 others were making plans to leave. Stanley’s party of 11 men were a highly dissatisfied and violent bunch who caused the authorities many headaches and eventually were granted permission to bring along firearms and ammunition. Perhaps they should have given more thought to their journey instead of worrying about firearms as they omitted to include bedding with their provisions! Many of the party were sleeping on the bare boards of the John in freezing weather conditions and the Navy eventually had to issue the party with bedding.

Jonathan Wainwright was a 48-year-old cloth manufacturer of Leeds, Yorkshire and his party, which included his own family, was also a mixed party along with the families of Charles Cockcroft, Francis Bentley and single men like Joseph and William Stirk, William Hartley and George Duffield.

Valentine and Charles Griffith from Wales who sailed on the Stentor had a proprietary party which included 19 indentured servants as well as their three unmarried sisters. Neave’s party was also a proprietary party from Liverpool. Land claims that were investigated in 1824 showed that the party of James Richardson appeared to have included 7 servants but it is not clear how this party of 11 were financed. Families such as those of George and William Clayton, Charles and William Denton and Richard Hulley were part of this party.

Leaving from Cork on the 12th February 1820 was the East Indian carrying the party of William Parker who was one of the leaders who gave, and continued to give the authorities, a hard time. He was a merchant from Cork in Ireland and a virulent anti-Papist who somehow managed to have some very good connections and so was granted permission to proceed to the Cape despite his many and often totally ridiculous demands which were not met. He promised to take out 500 ‘starving Irish’ but in November two thirds of his list now included people gathered together in London and only about one third were the poor Irish. As a result this party had to board at Gravesend and then sail for Cork to fetch the rest of the party causing numerous delays. The journey was filled with quarrels and discontent and he then refused the grant of land given them at Clanwilliam and demanded they be settled at Saldanha Bay. This was refused and because of his lack of leadership the party was split into subdivisions under new leaders. The Irish were given the option of moving to Albany, which some of them did, and others were given permission to seek work in Cape Town. In 1822 Parker was given a free passage back to Britain where he continued his attack on the Cape Government resulting in Colonel Bird eventually being dismissed.

Thomas Butler’s Irish proprietary party was recruited in Wicklow and 12 men and their families set sail on the Fanny on the same day as the East Indian left from Cork. They were settled at Clanwilliam in order to keep the Irish separate from the rest of the settlers, but eventually Butler and nine of his men moved to Albany and were located on the Assegai Bush River.

Embarking at Gravesend and also leaving on the 12th February after a one month wait for the ice to thaw, was the La Belle Alliance carrying the party of the infamous Thomas Willson who had charged his men an additional £5 deposit which he claimed was to be used to assist them once they were in the Cape. This was however not the truth and the settlers soon became disenchanted with their leader whose group was one of the biggest joint-stock parties. His proposals to the party were ridiculous and his demands to be treated in a similar way to that of ‘Lord of the Manor’ were met with disapproval and discontent. Because the party consisted of 102 families they were entitled to the services of a clergyman and Rev William Boardman joined them after leaving Bailie’s party. On arrival at Algoa Bay the free settlers in the party sent a petition to Sir Rufane Donkin who intervened on their behalf and, thinking that unity had been restored, settled them on the Bush River. However, the peace, if you could call it that, was short lived and Willson abandoned his settlers as they reached the location and returned to Cape Town. Rev William Boardman then took up the reins as head of the party.

George Dyson, Christopher Thornhill and William Wait embarked on the Zoroaster in December 1819 at Deptford. Unfortunately they were trapped in the ice on the Thames and only set sail on the 12th February 1820. George Dyason was the nominal leader of a party of six equal partners consisting of himself and his three brothers, Isaac, Robert and Joseph and Samuel Bennett and Hougham Hudson with 14 indentured labourers. Most of the men were recruited in Kent and Isaac Dyason Jnr called it ‘the Isle of Thanet party’. Thornhill was from Durham and initially entered into a partnership with William Wait and Arthur Barker who recruited labourers in Buckinghamshire. This was a short-lived partnership as Wait had creditor problems and Thornhill refused to place himself under Wait’s leadership. After the Colonial Department was called in to settle the fight the party split and Thornhill became head of his own party of 16 men. Wait was left with 26 men including Barker and his steward Henry Ulyate and their nine labourers. Since the ship was only chartered to sail as far as Simon’s Bay, the settlers had to be transhipped via the Albury for the rest of the voyage to Algoa Bay. Thornhill and his party were located between the Kowie and Rufane Rivers and named it Thornhill. Barker applied to separate from Wait, and his party were granted land on the Kariega River, which they named Waterford. Wait’s location was on the Bushman’s River and by October 1820 his servants had been released from their agreements because he treated them so poorly. My ancestor, Edward Hunt Dell was a member of Thornhill’s party and many years later the family owned Barville Park, which had been allocated to Major Campbell. Upon his death his widow was given a small portion of the original settlement and George Wood bought some of the land. He subsequently sold it to the Dell family whose descendants are today still the owners. To find this early link between my maternal and paternal ancestors was quite exciting especially as neither family even realised that there had been contact between the two families in those early settler days. Barville Park was used extensively during the Frontier Wars as it had a huge fortress built on it, to which families often fled in times of conflict, and also acted as a church and a school at times.

Another party leaving from Liverpool was that of Dr Thomas Calton aboard the Albury who sailed on the 13th February. He was a surgeon from Nottingham and the Duke of Newcastle and several subscribers sponsored his party. Nottingham as mentioned was one of the areas worst hit by the Industrial Revolution. Although the lists for this party were only sent in very late they were accepted because of the patronage of the Duke of Newcastle. On arrival in Albany the settlers named their location Clumber after his seat in Nottingham. Members of the party signed an Article of Agreement binding them to Dr Calton and in return were to be given 20 acres of land as well as the use of the commonage. This party changed continually and many were refused permission to board and urgent intervention had to be sought through the Colonial Department to allow all the changes. His people were quite unruly and obviously being frame knit workers, had very little chance of ever becoming successful farmers. The stress of the journey must have been too much for Thomas Calton, for he died on the beach at Algoa Bay on the 8th July while they were waiting to be transported to their location on the Torrens River. Thomas Draper is elected as the new leader. This party of 60 included the families of John Bradfield, George Dennison, Thomas Hartley, William Pike, George Palmer, Thomas Nelson, Thomas Timm and Thomas Tarr to mention just a few. Bradfield families still live in that area today.

The Sir George Osborn sailed on the 16th March 1820 and arrived in Algoa Bay early in July 1820. On board were the three parties of Edward Gardner, Daniel Mills and Edward Ford Turvey. Gardner’s joint-stock party was mainly from Birmingham and the only party with 9 deposits being paid. Through a misunderstanding the party arrived in London ready to embark when they were in fact supposed to sail from Liverpool. They were eventually given permission to board the Sir George Osborn only to have the ship ripped from it’s moorings in a fierce gale which required extensive repairs to be made to the ship causing further delays. Their settlement was named New Birmingham and was located in the Kariega River valley. The small party led by Daniel Mills comprised of 10 men but did not stay together for very long. Charles Hills was in fact the only member of the party to remain on location. Edward Ford Turvey had been granted permission to take out a party after initially being part of the Mahony party. He was fortunate to have influential friends whose patronage helped secure his application and deposits were paid for 14 men. Most of the party consisted of his own family. This party list was probably one of the most confusing since his brother-in-law Peter Clarke Daniel sailed with his wife and children and his mistress and her children but some of the children were listed as those of his wife and some were listed as children of his brother Sampson O’Malia Daniel. Peter became the temporary leader when Turvey was inadvertently left in Simon’s Bay! This group settled on the road to Trompetter’s Drift Post.

The Aurora and Brilliant were two of the ships that had to wait for the Thames to thaw before they could finally sail from Gravesend on the 15th February 1820 arriving at Algoa Bay on the 15th May. The Aurora carried the main division of the very large joint-stock party led by Hezekiah Sephton while Richard Gush led the rest of Sephton’s party on the Brilliant. This party were all Wesleyan’s united by their faith and consisted mainly of small tradesmen. Originally this group was under the leadership of Edward Wynne but when his wife died in October the leadership was eventually transferred to a reluctant Sephton. Deposits were paid for 101 men and their families with 66 families sailing on the Aurora and 35 on the Brilliant. A surgeon accompanied each party and as their minister they had recruited Rev William Shaw a young Wesleyan minister. These parties were also settled twice and their final destination was named Salem. This group formed a tight knit community whose affairs were conducted in an orderly and spiritual manner. As mentioned another of my ancestors was George Wood a 14-year-old boy who was apprenticed to Richard Smith. However, he ran away as they reached the location and was taken in by William Thackwray whose son John became his close friend. Eventually through trading and buying property The Honourable George Wood became a very wealthy man and an influential politician of those times. On his death he left an estate valued at over £264,000!

On board the Brilliant were the two Scottish parties led by James Thomas Erith and Thomas Pringle. Erith’s party was a proprietary one and in fact he had applied in January 1819 to immigrate to the Cape with a party, but had withdrawn because of problems with his partner. After settling near Bathurst this party was moved to a location near the source of the Kaffir Kraal River. His men did not remain long and successfully applied to have their agreements cancelled because of his poor treatment of them. By 1823 this location was all but abandoned. Thomas Pringle led a joint-stock party that included people with a little capital and some agricultural knowledge. He was a cripple who was a poet and journalist and hoped to find employment in the Cape and was recommended by Sir Walter Scott. They settled on the Baviaans River about 30 miles from the village of Cradock, and named their location Glen Lynden. Thomas Pringle subsequently left for Cape Town in 1822 and his brother William took over the leadership of the party.

The Journey

During the journey most of the ships when they arrived at the Cape Verde Islands were able to stock up on their rations and obtain lots of fresh fruit, vegetables and some meat. There were strict rations on board ship and the ordinary settler was given a daily portion of salt beef or pork, mouldy ship’s biscuits and oatmeal for porridge, a little sago, cocoa and sugar. Water was rationed to three quarts (less than 3 ½ litres) a day and was used for drinking as well as washing purposes. Men were given a tot of rum and ladies were allowed tea instead. There were also strict rules in that all had to get up at a certain time, bedding had to be rolled up and partitions taken down, trunks had to be stored away and washing could only be done at certain times. Despite this regimental atmosphere there was a lot of free time and after the initial few days at sea, life must have settled down into a ‘normal’ routine as they got to know their neighbours. There was also quite a bit of strife on board the ships, especially those containing some of the labourer type folk and of course the Irish settlers! Contrasted with that were families like those of Thomas Philipps who was quite the gentleman and being a man of some means, was dining on luxury foods and hot chocolate. Along with his servants he brought out furniture, chickens and some sheep. It must have irked the ordinary settlers to watch him dining in luxury while they ate their rations. The higher-class settler, party leaders and people who had paid their own fares were given separate cabins for their use while the rest of the parties slept in berths and hammocks. The long four-month journey must have been quite tedious, yet from reading the various journals that were kept, there was also in many instances a spirit of gaiety aboard some of the ships.

Arrival at Algoa Bay

As the ships arrived at Table Bay, Deputy Colonial Secretary, Henry Ellis and other Cape officials met them. Lord Charles Somerset had gone home to England due to the ill health of his daughter and in his place, as Governor of the Cape, was Major-General Sir Rufane Shawe Donkin. Somerset had worked very hard organising everything and putting policies in place and had detailed what was to be done in order to help ease the settlers into their new life. He had an undertaking from Donkin to follow through with all the policies and plans he had set in motion but unfortunately this turned out not to be the case. One of the major changes he made was moving the magisterial seat from Grahamstown to Bathurst. This resulted in a small building boom in Bathurst, only to have Somerset on his return, reverse the decision and move it back to Grahamstown. The friction between these two men continued right up until Donkin committed suicide in Britain in 1841.

One can imagine the excitement and awe amidst those settlers as the ships arrived in Table Bay and they caught their first glimpse of the magnificent mountains of the Cape. Algoa Bay on the other hand must have been such a disappointment and contrast with sand everywhere and only a few buildings such as Fort Frederick dotting the landscape. Their must have looked on with dismay as they were transferred to boats and rowed ashore, sometimes transferring to other smaller flat-bottomed boats before being carried ashore by the Hottentots and soldiers who had been engaged to assist with this task. Captain Francis Evatt, the military commander at Fort Frederick oversaw the landing of the settlers and was praised greatly for his kindness and care of their reception.

Some 2,000 tents were eventually pitched on the beach of Algoa Bay to house the Settlers and were immediately dubbed Canvas Town by the Settlers. The bustling camp, which has been vividly portrayed in paintings and writings, contained an ‘invading army’ of settlers, men, women and children from all walks of life and, in some cases, their dogs and livestock too. Certain well-to-do gentlemen farmers had brought with them small but select nuclei of breeding stock for their future flocks and herds. Some settlers later bought livestock from the Dutch farmers in the Colony. Boers were drafted into service by the Landdrosts of Uitenhage and Graaff-Reinet and had already arrived in the bay with the ox-drawn wagons which proved such a novel sight for most of the settlers, though a few, like Lieutenant Gilfillan, had in fact served in regiments at the Cape, occasionally on the Eastern Frontier itself.

While the settlers waited to be taken up country in the Boer wagons, there was time for activities, which reflect the differing character and status of those involved in this mass experiment. The Pigots and the well-connected Philipps family were given privileged quarters on the hill above Canvas Town and socialised with officialdom. They picnicked and boated and, when Sir Rufane arrived in July, joined the dance in the official marquee. Sophia Pigot recorded her delight in shell collecting and in oranges brought from upcountry wagons, playing her piano and attending dances. On the other hand others were having a more turbulent time as the quarrels in Thomas Willson’s party were brought out into the public. He was accused of swindling the settlers out of some £300 and they justifiably confiscated his cash box and ledger, which he claimed was theft. Fortunately the majority of settlers seemed to have departed from Algoa Bay more peaceably. They purchased the implements they would soon need, such as spades, ploughs, harrow-teeth, axes, billhooks and building necessities like hinges and nails. The cost of these goods was debited against their deposits. A few settlers did however bring their own implements with them.

Journey to Albany

The wagons followed established routes and moved along in one day stages, stopping overnight at the usual outspan places such as Zwartkops River, Sundays River, Rautenbach’s Drift and Assegai Bush. Some parties took the direct route to Grahamstown heading down towards the coast and the Kowie River. From there they turned inland to their locations. The deeply incised rivers prevented short cuts. The journey took anything from 9 to 14 days and was a memorable experience for the settlers. The Khoi found the settlers to be painfully ignorant of the bush and took great delight laughing at the Settlers and their lack of bush sense. The Settlers on the other hand were also quite fascinated by the Boers and their way of dress – skins being used for their pants and jackets, and of course the size of the Boers! By comparison the British settlers were quite small in stature.

Good rains had just fallen and the countryside was really quite beautiful. Many of the letters sent home to Britain praised the beautiful countryside in which they were now moving. Some settlers did notice the abandoned and often blackened gables of deserted houses along the way, which had once belonged to Boer families, and must have been quite apprehensive of what awaited them. Although there were no rhino or hippo west of the Great Fish River there were hundreds of elephants in the dense Addo and Kowie bush. By night hyena and jackal serenaded them and often in the distance they could hear the roaring of the leopard and barking of the wild dogs. They passed herds of quagga, springbok and wildebeest, all of which was so foreign to these new arrivals. During those 14 days I am sure they learnt quite a bit from their Boer transporters that would help them once on their settlements.

The Settlements

Colonel Cuyler met the Settlers as they arrived and took them out to their settlements. It’s a pity that he was not asked to testify before the British Commission as he knew this area extremely well and would have been able to give a very accurate picture of life in Albany. He, like everyone else, was very friendly and kind. He used the top of a hill to survey the land, where today we have a monument erected to the Settlers called the Toposcope. This is a in the shape of a circular wall to which brass plates have been secured and positioned to face the relevant settlements and on each is inscribed the names of the parties and their ships and the number of miles to their location. Sadly those brass plates have had to be removed because of theft, so those who have been fortunate to visit the Toposcope in the past know what I am talking about. For instance one of the plates points to Bowker’s Party. Some of you may have read the book “The Bowkers of Tharfield” and today if you travel through Bathurst and turn left onto the East London road you see the original farmhouse still standing on the left hand side of the road near Riet River.

The Government Surveyor, J Knobel had been given the complicated task of dividing Albany into locations for the various settler parties. Maps of that area at that time were not good and so the task must have been extremely difficult. He had endeavoured to give each location access to some water, but had cautioned the authorities that few of these sources were reliable - a warning that was sadly ignored.

The Boers transporting their new neighbours were friendly and appeared to feel sorry for the settlers especially when it came time to say goodbye and leave them at their locations. They were off loaded with their belong­ings and tents and left to fend for them­selves. Rosa Cawood nee Pike recalls “I remember that while the wagons were being unloaded…I ran down to look at a small river which was near, and on my return found my mother sitting on a large box and crying. On asking her what was the matter, she said she was afraid, she thought the tigers and wolves would come that night and eat us up.”

There was, however, no time to be idle as they had to set up camp as quickly as possible and begin to plan what they were going to do with their land. Henry Dugmore, who was nine years old at the time, later recalled:

“Our roughly kind carriers seemed, as they wished us goodbye, to wonder what would become of us. There we were in the wilderness…We must take root and grow, or die where we stood, but we were standing on our ground, and it was the first time many could say so”. Henry, at this young age, was already keeping a diary that has been published as a small and most delightful book.

So amidst the fears of wild animals attacking them, hope bloomed in their hearts as they now surveyed their own beautifully green land and began to plan where to build their new homes. The houses that were constructed were simple and built either from reeds or they used the British wattle and daub method where mud was mixed with stone and built up slowly in layers between poles. The roof was made from thatch. Most homes consisted of two or three large rooms and took about three months to build. During this time they used their tents for shelter. As time passed some of the more industrious among the settlers discovered the yellow clay in the area and used this to paint their houses. Others crushed shells and made lime and used this as paint. They even took time to plant small gardens and some of the English roses we have here today are from this era. At this stage they must have begun to feel a little bit more settled as some of their belong­ings were unpacked and the houses were made to feel a bit more like home. The majority of settlers had not been able to bring out their furniture and only had about three chests each containing their clothing, linen and small belongings, mementoes and heirlooms. Sadly many of these heirlooms were lost during the various Frontier wars. It was only the wealthy men like Philipps, Bowker and Pigot who actually brought out furniture and in the case of Pigot a carriage. His house was a disaster as he tried to build a ten room mansion and years later it was still not completed. Some of the single men did not bother to build a house but simply took reeds and made bivouacs or dug caves in the riverbanks. This was rather foolish as their homes were washed away with the first floods.

The close of 1820

Once the houses were erected, and possibly even as they were building, the Settlers began to plant their crops with the seed they had bought on arrival at Algoa Bay. They were not allowed any outside labour and so had to do everything themselves. They soon found that the ploughs they had bought were inadequate for the job of tilling the very hard, stony ground and many had to approach their Boer neighbours for help and to be shown how to make stronger ploughs. Most of them owned no cattle so had to try and push the ploughs by hand. Those who could afford it bought, or bartered with the Boers, for some of the long horned cattle they owned and their first attempts to harness these beasts and control them as they ploughed often ended in disaster. The children of those times have recalled many funny stories and anecdotes about those first attempts as they kept a close watch on what was going on. The whole family was involved in everything they did, because of their lack of labour. I sometimes try and imagine what it must have been like toiling away in the blazing hot sun with their fair British skins and no sunscreens like we have today to protect them against sunburn!

But they persevered and planted their crops of wheat. They were absolutely delighted when the first wheat crops began to appear and everything looked so lush and green. Their hopes were soon dashed as the crops were destroyed by rust. Little did they know, but the very seed they were planting contained this disease. They were given more rations on account against their next crop and soon found that their deposits were hopelessly inadequate and more money was needed to just survive. Rations such as live sheep, flour, tea, sugar, candles and soap were provided at cost price. The cattle they bought provided them with milk and some sold the butter and cheese they made at the nearby forts. Those that could buy the fat tailed sheep were able to use the fat from the tails for cooking and the making candles. Some of the settlers found work in Bathurst with the building boom, but this soon ended when Somerset returned and put a stop to Rufane’s plans. At this stage they were not nervous of the Xhosa and seemed to be living in peace.


On their arrival in Albany a system of permits and passes is introduced and the Settlers are not allowed to leave their locations without obtaining permission to do so. But in 1821 Donkin relaxes this permit system and the men with trades can now go to Grahamstown and as far as Uitenhage to find work. Fortunately many of these settlers were artisans rather than farmers and so had this to fall back on when things began to go awry. Strangely enough, although the British Government had wanted an agrarian society, they had selected many more tradesmen than farmers, which proved to be the saving grace for many as the scheme failed. In Grahams­town many shops are erected and carpenters, builders, upholsterers, tailors, bakers and shoemakers start businesses. But times are hard and they are usually paid in kind or on credit. At this stage the Settlers are still not aware that they had in fact been brought into the country to act as a human buffer between the Xhosa and the Boers! But the land had proven not to be arable and was really only good for grazing cattle. Bowker brought out some sheep and he expands this method of farming and imports more sheep, as does Lt. Richard Daniell of Sidbury.

The press during this time was muzzled and the printing press belonging to Robert Godlonton had been confiscated on arrival at Table Bay. Harry Rivers was appointed as Landdrost and was hated by the Settlers, as was Colonel Bird. It was only in 1831 that Robert Godlonton was granted permission to print and started printing the Grahamstown Journal.

In February 1821 the Settlers had their first scare when the Xhosa arrived at the Clay Pits in vast numbers causing great alarm. This was their traditional ground for collecting the clay that they used during their annual ceremonies, but this caused great consternation amongst those living there. This visit is however, quite friendly. In September 1821 the crops are again attacked by rust and totally ruined. By now some have planted barley, rye, oats and Indian corn as well as vegetables and these did do reasonably well. Even though some shops have now been established in Grahams­town, the people simply do not have any money to pay for the goods they need and so everything is provided on a credit basis, since shop owners cannot stand by and watch their fellow settler suffer.

At this time it also becomes apparent that 100 acres of land is not sufficient for the crops, since part of this land is also used for their house and vegetable crops and grazing land if they owned cattle. Little can be done about this but later as people leave the settlements more land does become available for distribution and families start buying up more land or moving to bigger areas. Thomas Stubbs and Jeremiah Goldswain apprentice themselves to a Saddler for seven years without salary just to keep a roof over their heads. Times were hard indeed. Doctors resorted to driving wagons since their skills did not appear to be needed and people were far healthier, despite the problems, than in England.


With the failure of the second crop the Colonial Government extends credit for a further year, but the crops fail yet again. The Settlers are now in serious trouble with many wearing sackcloth or remnants of their tents for clothing and walking barefoot as they had no shoes and no money to buy anything and there is very little food available. This is also the start of people just disappearing off the settlements and cattle being stolen. Up until this time the Xhosa had kept their distance and the Settlers had felt quite secure in their homes and in fact had been quite naïve as to what was really happening across the Fish River while they busied themselves with setting up home. An incident at the Clay Pits in August 1822 sees Richard Freemantle being killed in an unprovoked attack when the Xhosa again return for ‘their’ clay. John Stubbs is also killed and in fact simply disappears and his body is never found. Some books say he was involved in illegal bartering and trading and this may have been the cause of his death. Thomas Scanlen has all his cattle stolen, but some are recovered when Troops arrive and form a small commando with the settlers and go across the neutral territory and succeed in bringing back his cattle. Two boys from Willson’s party north of Bathurst also go missing.

By 1823 many have moved away from their land because of another crop failure and the severe drought. Those that remain have yet to face another enemy, this time in the form of the terrible floods that ravage the countryside. Over half of the remaining settlers are affected when for two weeks the rain pours down and what little some of them had left is totally destroyed and swept away in the floodwaters. They were literally left with the clothes on their backs. Some are helped through the Society for the Aid of the Distressed that was started when they landed and is now called upon to assist the Settlers. William Shaw spends much time making sure the very poorest are helped. Complaints and pleas for help seem to fall on deaf ears and it is only in 1825 that Somerset decides to visit the area to address the problems and sees the situation for himself. He grants additional land and trading is at last allowed between the settlers and anyone in the interior. For many the ability to trade helps them become established and they in fact become quite wealthy.

Schools and Churches

Rev Boardman taught the children near to Willson’s party, but unfortunately died in 1824. In fact he started teaching the children while on the beach at Algoa Bay and I am sure being Anglican he would have been baptising the babies that were born on the ships as well as marrying the young couples who had started up romances on board the ships!

By December 1820 William Shaw who was only 21 years of age, had formed congre­gations at Green Fountain, Pendennis, New Bristol and Grahamstown. He too would have been baptising and marrying folk on the beach at Algoa Bay, but the earliest registers do not record any of these happen­ings. The early Wesleyan registers have him as the minister doing the baptisms, marriages and burials. Every second Sunday he would preach at Salem and by January 1821 he had already appointed lay preachers and begun adding more Sunday Schools to those already established at Salem, Green Fountains and Somerset Place. These schools contained 136 scholars and this probably was the only schooling some of the settler children had in those early days. William Matthews, who was a teacher, was appointed to teach at Salem and this Salem Academy became quite famous in its time. When they had no writing materials such as slates, they used wet ground to practice their writing. The ministers walked miles and miles to do their preaching and their shoes were often in tatters. English shoes were not meant for walking in this rough terrain. Although there were shoemakers available many had no money with which to purchase them.

All of the denominations shared one place of worship in those very early days and often one finds a baptism of a child in two different registers. There weren’t always official registers and simple notebooks were used and pieces of paper which were then transcribed into the registers a while later. Sadly this was not always done and so we have no records of these ceremonies. The Anglican Register mentions the fact that some registers were destroyed in fires during the Frontier Wars and again this poses a problem for those of us searching for our ancestors. The earliest register starts in 1823 for the Anglicans, but some like the Presbyterians and Baptists and Union churches do have entries going back to 1820.

In the Salem Wesleyan Baptism register there is a piece of paper stuck in the front of the register that appears to be the names of the people buried or born at sea during the voyage.

Some Anecdotes

In the book “The Chronicles of Jeremiah Goldswain” published from his diaries he talks about his life during these times. He came out as part of William Wait’s party and after an argument he leaves and joins Mahony at the Clay Pits, known as Cuylerville. But this resourceful young man was already working while they were on the beach at Algoa Bay. He is a sawyer by trade and so hires himself out each day. While living with the Mahony party he meets and falls in love with Eliza Debenham, the daughter of Isaac and Mary Debenham, and eventually moves in with her parents who are part of Hyman’s group. He asks her father for permission to marry her and is given his consent in writing because she is under 21. In order to get married one had to apply to the Landdrost of the Matrimonial Court in Grahamstown for a licence to marry. For Jeremiah and Eliza this involved a round trip of 60 miles on foot and a wait of some four hours before being inter­viewed. After their interview they are told that their names will be posted on the Office door together with the letter from her father, for a period of two weeks, at the end of which Jeremiah could come and pay the fifteen shillings and get his licence. He does so on the wedding day and with Eliza on the only horse available from Hyman’s party they travel the 10 miles through Bathurst to Willson’s party to ask the Rev Boardman to marry them. Imagine their dismay when they find that Boardman is in Grahamstown. But all is not lost and someone remembers that the previous night a preacher named Rev Stephen Kay had preached at Richard Walker’s at Green Fountain and was probably still there. Someone provides Jeremiah with a horse and he rides off to find Rev Kay and manages to persuade him to come back with him and perform the ceremony. But he has to undertake to provide Kay with a congregation to preach to, which he duly does by stopping along the way and inviting people to his wedding. An exhausted but triumphant Jeremiah finally leads his bride before Rev Kay and the young couple were married at 6.30 on the evening of the 21st October 1822.

For me this tale is just one of the examples of the perseverance and determination which many of these Settlers displayed in their lives. Adversity seemed to strengthen them and one can only stop and marvel that they survived at all during these terrible times. As Henry Dugmore had said “We must take root and grow, or die where we stood.” Many did die, but just as many took root and grew and some of us stand here today as descendants of these wonderful people, who were brave enough to risk everything for a better life and who have given us our heritage.

The Frontier Wars were yet to come, but this is a whole new topic on its own. 

The Settler Handbook by M D Nash.
The 1820 Settlers by Guy Butler.
The Chronicles of Jeremiah Goldswain.
The Journal of Harry Hastings.
The 1820 Settlers by Lynn Bryer and Keith S Hunt.
Story of a Frontier Family by Wendy Beal Preston.
The Reminiscences of an Albany Setter by Henry Dugmore.

*This article is the text of the late Tessa King's address to the West Rand GSSA in 2005. It should perhaps be pointed out that the Prince Regent took over the government of Great Britain in 1811 when his father, George III, became incapacitated and incapable of ruling - he did not 'step down'. George IV succeeded to the throne on the death of his father in 1820. [Ed]

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