Saturday, 7 September 2019

The Tranby and the Settlement of the Swan River


The 9th September marks the 190th anniversary since the ship The Tranby set sail from Hull on a voyage to help establish a new colony by Western Australia’s Swan River. Upwards of forty people from Hull, East Yorkshire, North Lincolnshire and beyond, together with livestock and farming equipment, left Hull on 9th September 1829. Their arrival in the February of 1830 is considered one of the first significant migrations to Western Australia.

The Tranby was built on the River Hull at the yard Samuel Standidge Walton. Before being chosen as the vessel to take settlers to form the new colony in 1829, she had been a wreck, lying in the Humber damaged after her moorings broke by Hull’s Citadel. Eventually sold, repaired and fitted out, The Tranby left Hull on 9th September 1829. Crowds lined the old dock, while family, friends and loved ones sailed with The Tranby as far as Spurn Point before a steamer returned them to Hull. 

Emigration Card relating to the voyage of The Tranby from Hull to the Swan River, Australia [ref C DFX/18/1]

Early stages of the voyage were slow with the vessel making little progress, taking almost two weeks to clear the coast of Cornwall. The vessel almost ran aground in the English Chanel. On the 8th December, The Tranby arrived at Cape Town and supplies were replenished and additional livestock taken on board, including horses, geese, ducks and pigeons. Weather conditions hindered the vessels departure, but it eventually set sail again on December 19th.

Voyages of this magnitude brought other dangers for crew, passengers and livestock. Passenger William Hardey died on 21st January, though this was accidental rather than because of illness, while towards the end of the voyage daily rations had been reduced. It wasn’t all bad news. The voyage gained an additional passenger when infant James Brownell was born just before landing at Cape Town, and the birth of some 17 piglets boosted livestock numbers.

A more unusual incident took place on 1st October. It was report that, at about 2.30pm, a fireball from the clouds struck the deck of the vessel. It exploded, slightly injuring and causing shock among a number of passengers and crew. A dog belonging to Mr. Clarkson suffered a broken leg, while one of his sheep was killed. What the passengers and crew had in fact witnessed was a small meteor strike!

Land was eventually sighted on the 2nd February, and The Tranby anchored at the mouth of the Swan River the following day. Eventful as the voyage was, its passengers knew this was just the beginning of an adventure in this largely unknown and forbidding land.

Extract reporting the departure of The Tranby for the Swan River, Australia, The Hull Advertiser, 11 Sep, 1829

Not everyone remained at the Swan River colony. Great risks and difficulties led some settlers to move on to more established colonies such as Hobart in Tasmania. Others returned to England. Those that remained at Swan River put down roots. John Hewson, who arrived on the Tranby as a member of the ship’s crew, initially left before returning with his wife. Others influenced the development of the area. These included the passenger John Hardey, who settled on the South Eastern side of the new town of Perth. He together with his son Robert Hardey did a great deal in developing the Belmont area. James Ougden, who left Hull, was the proprietor of the Pier Hotel and Family Boarding House situated opposite the Perth Jetty.

Although The Tranby is long gone, the house from which it takes its name can still be seen by the Swan River. One of Western Australia’s oldest buildings, it was first built by Ann and Joseph Hardey in 1830. The building we see today dates from 1839, and serves as a reminder of those early pioneers and the role their played in the development of modern day Perth.

You can read about The Tranby, its passengers, and the early years of the Swan River colony in The River Swan Adventure: being a concise history of the voyage of The Tranby to Western Australia from 9th September 1829 to 3rd February 1830 [Reference: L.325.2]. The Local Studies holds other material relating to emigration from Hull and the surrounding area. This can be searched using the Hull Libraries catalogue. And remember, newly catalogued material is being added daily so keeping checking.

Neil Chadwick, Project Officer.