Hillsborough (1783 EIC ship)

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Flag of the British East India Company (1707).svgUnited Kingdom
Name: Hillsborough
Namesake: Viscount Hillsborough
Owner: Robert Preston[Note 1]
Builder: Perry & Co., Blackwall Yard
Cost: £600 for 132 share in 1781[Note 2]
Launched: 9 September 1783[2]
Fate: Sold 1798
United Kingdom
Name: Hillsborough
Owner: Daniel Bennett
Acquired: 1798
Fate: Broken up 1804
General characteristics
Tons burthen: 764,[3] or 7645994[2] or 784[4][5] (bm)
  • 143 ft 9 in (43.8 m) (overall)[3]
  • 116 ft 9 12 in (35.6 m) (keel)[3]
Beam: 35 ft 1 in (10.7 m)[3]
Depth of hold: 14 ft 10 in (4.5 m)[3]
  • 1793: 26 x 4 & 9-pounder guns[4]
  • 1801:22 x 9-pounder guns[4]
Notes: One source reports that her registration was cancelled in 1801, demolition having been completed.[2] However, records exist showing that she continued to sail until 1804.

Hillsborough was a three-decker merchant ship launched in 1782. She made six voyages to India and China as an East Indiaman for the British East India Company. In 1798 she transported convicts from England to New South Wales. After delivering her convicts in 1799, she became a whaler in the South Seas fisheries for several years. She was broken up in 1804.

East Indiaman[edit]

Voyage #1 (1784-85)[edit]

Captain William Hardcastle left the Downs on 27 January 1784 for Madras and Bengal. Hillsborough reached Simon's Bay on 24 April and arrived at Madras on 11 July. She then arrived at Kedgeree on 8 August. For her return voyage she passed Saugor on 8 February 1785, reached the Cape on 5 May and St Helena on 5 June, and arrived at the Downs on 17 August.[3]

Voyage #2 (1786-89)[edit]

Captain William Hardcastle left the Downs on 13 March 1786, bound for Bengal, Bombay, and China. Hillsborough was part of a convoy that also included the East Indiamen Prince William, Lord Thurlow, William Pitt, Barwell, Earl of Oxford, Fort William, London, Glatton, Houghton, Marquis of Landsdown, Pigot, Ceres, and Earl of Abergavenny, amongst numerous other vessels, merchant and military, most of the non-Indiamen travelling to the Mediterranean.[6][Note 3]

Hillsborough reached Simon's Bay on 10 June and Diamond Point on 14 August. From there she sailed to Batavia, which she reached on 30 December. On 23 May 1787 she was at Bombay. She reached Malacca on 24 August and Whampoa on 11 October. For her homeward voyage she crossed the Second Bar, some 20 miles down the river from Whampoa, on 19 February 1788. She reached Benkulen on 23 May and St Helena on 2 October, and arrived at the Downs on 7 February 1789.[3]

Voyage #3 (1790-91)[edit]

Captain Edward Coxwell left the Downs on 17 April 1790 for China, and arrived at Whampoa on 27 August. Hillsborough crossed the Second Bar on 19 December, reached the Cape on 9 April 1791 and St Helena on 28 April, and arrived at the Downs on 27 June.[3]

Voyage #4 (1793-94)[edit]

The French Revolutionary Wars having broken out, Captain Edward Brown received a letter of marque on 17 April 1793.[4] He left Portsmouth on 22 May 1793 for Madras and Bengal. Hillsborough arrived at Madras on 13 September, and Diamond Harbour on 3 November. On her return voyage she passed Saugor on 27 December, and reached Madras on 31 January 1794. By 1 May she was at St Helena. On 20 July she reached Galway, and on 27 August she arrived at the Downs.[3]

Voyage #5 (1795-96)[edit]

Captain Richard Hutt left Portsmouth on 24 May 1795, bound for Madras and Bengal. Hillsborough arrived at Madras on 2 September and Diamond Harbour on 6 October. On 4 December she passed Saugor, reaching Madras on 7 Feb 1796 and St Helena on 7 May, and arriving at the Downs on 3 August.[3]

Voyage #6 (1797-98)[edit]

Hutt left Portsmouth on 18 March 1797, bound for Madras. Hillsborough reached the Cape on 4 June and arrived at Madras on 7 August. By 24 December she was back at the Cape. She reached St Helena on 3 February 1798 and Cork on 24 June. She arrived at the Downs on 7 July.[3]

Convict transport and whaler[edit]

Robert Preston and the other owners sold Hillsborough and she disappears from the list of the EIC's ships.[Note 4] Her new owner was Daniel Bennett.[7][5]

Under the command of William Hingston (or Kingston),[7] Hillsborough sailed from Gravesend via Portland Roads, England, on 23 December 1798, and arrived at Port Jackson on 26 July 1799. She left with 300 male convicts, but 95 died of yellow fever and dysentery on the voyage,[8] and six more shortly after landing. This high death toll gave rise to Hillsborough becoming known as the "fever ship".[9] Governor Hunter wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Colonies:[10]

The Hillsborough has just arrived with a cargo of the most miserable and wretched convicts I ever beheld. Were you, my dear Sir, in the situation in which I stand, I am convinced all the feelings of humanity, every sensation which can occasion a pang for the distresses of a fellow creature, would be seen to operate in you with full force.

While at Port Jackson Hillsborough received a new master, Captain Robert Rhodes,[7] who had come out to New South Wales as mate on Hillsborough.[Note 5]

As Hillsborough was preparing to sail from Sydney Cove in October, a strict search found 30 stowaways aboard her. They were removed and punished. Two sailors who had aided the stowaways were also brought on shore and punished before being returned to Hillsborough.[11] Rhodes then sailed for the south seas fisheries to engage in whaling.[Note 6]

Hillsborough spent eight months sealing and whaling around the Desolation Islands. During this period Rhodes prepared a chart of the islands, and named a bay "Hillsborough Bay".[13] Forty years later, James Clark Ross spent some months in the islands during his expedition to the Antarctic in Terror and Erebus. Ross found Rhodes's charts useful and so named a bay after Rhodes in tribute to him.[14]

Hillsborough then returned from South Georgia.[7] She reached Gravesend on 15 April 1801.

Hillsborough again sailed for the South Seas on 11 August 1801.[5] Daniel Bennett now shared her ownership with Charles Price, and her master was Captain Thomas Pittman (or Pitman). Pittman received a letter of marque on 17 July 1801, shortly before Hillsborough left England.[4] Hillsborough was also listed on the Protection List, which exempted her crew from impressment. In 1802 she was valued at £11,000.[7] Hillsborough returned from the south seas 20 March 1803.[5]

Hillsborough apparently made one more voyage for Bennett and Price, this time to Peru. Cyrus reported that in October 1805 Hillsborough was near the Galapagos Islands with 60 barrels of oil and on her way to New Zealand.[5]


The Register of Shipping for 1804 carries the notation that Hillsborough was broken up.[15]

Notes, citations, and references[edit]


  1. ^ Preston had been captain of the previous Hillsborough when a Spanish and French fleet had captured her in the Action of 9 August 1780.
  2. ^ The investor received a return in dividends of £2390 spread over six voyages from 1784 to 1798, a return of about 20% per annum.[1]
  3. ^ The news account states that Osterley was in the convoy, but in March 1786 she was still returning from an earlier trip to China.
  4. ^ Hackman reports that her registration was cancelled, her demolition being complete.[2] This is clearly incorrect.
  5. ^ Hingston had left Hillsborough at Port Jackson, becoming part-owner of Hunter, which would depart shortly after Hillsborough.[11] Hunter, with Hingston as master, left Port Jackson on 7 October, sailing first to New Zealand to pick up spars, and then sailing on to Bengal.
  6. ^ The newspaper listing of her arrival and departure at Port Jackson gives her departure date as 12 May 1810, but this is clearly incorrect.[12]


  1. ^ Bowen (2005), p. 284.
  2. ^ a b c d Hackman (2001), p.128.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k British Library: Hillsborough (2).
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Letter of Marque, p.68 - accessed 25 July 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d e [1] Jones, A.G. E.; Dale Chatwin; and Rhys Richards. BSWF Database – voyages: Hillsborough.
  6. ^ Gentleman's magazine (May 1793), Vol 63, part. 1, p. 474.
  7. ^ a b c d e Clayton (2014), p. 141.
  8. ^ Bateson (1974), p.153.
  9. ^ Bateson (1794), pp.150-2.
  10. ^ Clune, Frank (1965). Bound for Botany Bay: A Narrative of a Voyage in 1798 Aboard the Death Ship, Hillsborough. Angus and Robertson. p. 40. 
  11. ^ a b Collins (1802) pp.267-8.
  12. ^ "Arrival of Vessels at Port Jackson, and their Departure". Australian Town and Country Journal, Saturday 3 January 1891, p.16. Retrieved 21 August 2012. 
  13. ^ Findlay (1866), p. 295.
  14. ^ Gurney (2007), p.261.
  15. ^ Register of shipping (1804), Seq. №H486.


  • Bateson, Charles (1974) The Convict Ships, 1787-1868 (Sydney). ISBN 0-85174-195-9
  • Bowen, H.V. (2005) The Business of Empire: The East India Company and Imperial Britain, 1756–1833. (Cambridge University Press). ISBN 9780521844772
  • Clayton, Jane M. (2014) Ships employed in the South Sea Whale Fishery from Britain: 1775-1815: An alphabetical list of ships. (Berforts Group). ISBN 978-1908616524
  • Collins, David (1802) An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales: With Remarks on the Dispositions, Customs, Manners, &c., of the Native Inhabitants of that Country. To which are Added, Some Particulars of New Zealand, Volume 2.
  • Findlay, Alexander G. (1866) A directory for the navigation of the Indian Ocean: with descriptions of its coasts, islands, etc., from the Cape of Good Hope to the Strait of Sunda and western Australia, including also the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf; the winds, monsoons, and currents, and the passages from Europe to its various ports. (Published for Richard Holmes Laurie).
  • Gurney, Alan (2007) Below the Convergence: Voyages Toward Antarctica, 1699-1839. (W. W. Norton & Company). ISBN 978-0393329049
  • Hackman, Rowan (2001) Ships of the East India Company. (Gravesend, Kent: World Ship Society). ISBN 0-905617-96-7

External links[edit]