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Title Shipboard Letter from George Allen, Voyage from England to Melbourne
Author Allen, George
Date 1 Dec 1853 - 16 Apr 1854
Document Type Correspondence; Manuscript; Personal Account
Reference HT 16197
Library / Archive Museum Victoria
Collection Name Diaries / Journals / Letters
Description George Allen's letter is a daily account of his voyage on the ship 'Essex' (which he describes as "not a regular passenger ship") to Australia – from carting his luggage and his consignment of cattle to the West India Docks in London on 1 December 1853, sailing down the Thames and then waiting around at Gravesend until the ship's departure, through to sighting Cape Otway on 10 March 1854 and casting anchor at Hobsons Bay on 12 March 1854. The last two pages describe his meeting with the man for whom he had transported the cattle, taking them to the Western District in Victoria and receiving his next commission to collect 2,000 sheep and bring them down to Melbourne market. George is obviously an educated and highly literate man. His letter is written with much colour, wit and warmth. He describes the challenges in maintaining livestock on board, the leaky ship, the unsatisfactory food and his own success at cooking, crossing the equator festivities, as well as experiences on a western district cattle station.
Series Description This letter was transcribed by George Allen one month after he arrived in Melbourne, probably from notes he made during the journey as it is chronological and written in the form of a travel log. It is also in excellent condition and very evenly written on ledger paper. However a close reading reveals two points where a sentence hangs unfinished and a phrase is repeated, which might even suggest that this document is actually a subsequent transcription of George's original letter, although probably still nineteenth century. George sent the letter to relatives back in England, which explains how it came to be amongst the papers of his English descendants. The letter is headed 'No. 1' – perhaps it was (or was to be) the first of a series of diary style letters to be sent back to England. Or perhaps this indicates that this copy is number one of multiple copies.
Biographical Note / History This letter is a significant addition to the museum's collection of nineteenth century migrant letters and diaries. These personal accounts of the voyage and early life in Victoria offer valuable insights into nineteenth century shipboard experiences, and what newly arrived immigrants did – how they left the ship, where they stayed, where they settled, how they were employed, and the nature of their working, social and cultural lives. George sends his letter from: 'Glenferrie, Gardiners Creek Road, Melbourne.' 'Glen Ferrie' was the property of Peter Ferrie, who bought allotment 21 at the land sales in June 1840; allotment 21 ran from Gardiner's Creek Road (now Toorak Road) north to Gardiner's Creek, and to the east of what is now Glenferrie Road. Ferrie is thought to have constructed a house by 1841. The property was subsequently purchased by James Fergusson, who constructed a new house on the land in 1872; the Museum Victoria collection includes the stained glass window from this house [HT 521].
Theme(s) Journey Conditions; Arrivals: Ports and Early Experiences
Country (from) Great Britain
Country (to) Australia
Places London, Gravesend, England; Hobson's Bay, Melbourne, Australia; Cape of Good Hope, South Africa
Ports Port Phillip, Victoria, Australia
Nationality English
Ships Essex; Maid of Judd
People Allen, George; Allen, W
Keywords shipping, livestock, food, journey conditions, agriculture, farming, postal service, bad weather, health and sickness, Christmas, animals
Additional Information Please note: Some of the metadata for this document has been taken from the Museum Victoria catalogue.
Catalogue Link Museum Victoria Catalogue
Language English
Copyright Museum Victoria