Trades of the First Fleet Convicts

Over 80 different trades were listed for the First Fleet convicts, many of these were probably useful in shaping the new colony, but many trades were so specialised they were not able to be practiced here; they were not the trades required for the establishment of a new frontier settlement.  Some of the more unusual trades listed against the convicts names are: lemon seller, pinheader, tambour worker, button stamper and artificial flower maker.  Listed are some of the trades associated with clothing and apparel.  Does anyone know what a pinheader or tambour worker did?

Hand loom weaving

Hand loom weaving

Lady Penryhn – Esther Abrahams, Elizabeth Cole, Jane Parkinson (died on voyage), Nancy Yates

Alexander –Thomas Gearing
Charlotte – George Legge
Friendship – George Clarke, James Grace, Richard McDale, James Murphy
Scarborough – John Ayres, George Clayton

Silk Weaver:
Alexander – Peter Wilson
Friendship – John Ryan
Scarborough – Charles Allen, Jacob Bellett
Needle Worker:
Lady Penrhyn-
Rebecca Davison, Elizabeth Hippesley, Ann Sandlin, Mary Williams
Prince of Wales – Catherine Johnson
Lace Maker:
Lady Penrhyn – Maria Hamilton, Ann Ward, Lucy Wood
Stocking Weaver:
Friendship – Simon Burn, William Jones, Henry Taylor
Apprentice Clog Maker:
Lady Penrhyn – Elizabeth Haywood
Shoe Binder:
Lady Penrhyn – Ann George
Alexander – Humphrey Lynch
Friendship – William Davis
Scarborough – David Lankey
Silk Dyer:
Friendship – Joseph Morley
Silk Winder:
Lady Penrhyn – Mary Harrison
Alexander – Ottiwell Hindle, Edward Risby, John Silverthorn
Charlotte – Thomas Martin
Friendship – Cooper Henley, James Mackey
Lady Penrhyn – Sarah Bellamy
Scarborough – Joseph Marshall
Charlotte – Frances Hart
Lady Penrhyn – Sarah Burdo, Mary Carroll, Ann Green, Ann Inett, Sarah Partridge, Mary Smith
Woolen Draper:
Friendship – Thomas Oldfield
Lady Penrhyn – Sarah Davies
Button Stamper:
Alexander – Charles Repeat
Leather Breeches Maker:
Friendship – Charles Granger, Thomas Hill
Lady Penrhyn – Amelia Levy
Stay Maker:
Lady Penrhyn – Mary Dykel

From the Journal of a First Fleet Surgeon by George B Worgan, Surgeon of the Sirius
Now I’ll tell you what we have done with the Convicts, how they are disposed of, employed, &c. &c – The Governor had on the passage made himself acquainted with the Trade and Occupations o each: Accordingly, when they were landed, the men that could be spared from the principal Business of clearing the Ground were set at their respective employment’s, as occasion required such as the Carpenters, Sawyers, Shingle Makers, Stone cutters, masons, Brick Makers Blacksmiths, &c. These were divided into Parties, and one of the most promising among the Party, was made an overseer to the rest.

Chain gang convicts going to work near Sidney (Sydney) N.S. Wales (Wikipedia)

Chain gang convicts going to work near Sidney (Sydney) N.S. Wales (Wikipedia)

Convicts of Little Use as Settlers, 1790
Governor Phillip to Lord Grenville, 17 July 1790, Historical Records of Australia, Series 1, volume 1, pp-195-7
Experience, sir, has taught me how difficult it is to make men industrious who have passed their lives in habits of vice and indolence.  In some cases it has been found impossible; neither kindness or severity have had any effect; and tho’ I can say that the convicts in general behave well, there are many who dread punishment less than they fear labour; and those who have been bought up to hard work, which are by far the greatest part, bear it badly.  They shrink from it the moment the eye of the overseer is turned from them…

I do not (wish) for many farmers to be sent out as superintendents, for few farmers will be found equal to the charge of a considerable number of convicts; but if two good men could be found, who, as well as being good husbandmen, had sufficient spirit to discharge the trust which must repose in them, they will be of a great use.  They will be necessary as the number of convicts increase, and the more so as the person who at present has that charge ill not settle in the country.  It was supposed that a sufficient number of good farmers might have been found amongst the convicts to have superintended the labours of the rest; and men have been found who answer the purpose of preventing their straggling from their work, but none of them are equal to the charge of directing the labour of a number of convicts, with whom most of them are linked by crimes they would not wish to have brought forward, and very few of the convicts have been found to be good farmers…

I wish, sir, to point out the great difference between a settlement formed as this is and one formed by farmers and emigrants who have been used to labour, and who reap the fruits of their own industry Amongst the latter few are idle or useless, and they feel themselves interested in their different employments.  On the contrary, amongst the convicts we have few are included to be industrious, or who feel themselves anyways interested in the advantages which are to accrue from the labours, and we have many who are helpless and a dead-weight on the settlement.  Many of those helpless wretches who were set out in the first ships are dead, and the numbers of those who remained are now considerably increased.

Such are the people sent from the different gaols and from the hulks, where it is said the healthy and the artificers are retained.  The sending out of the disordered and the helpless clears the gaols, and may ease the parishes from which they are sent; but, sir, it is obvious that this settlement, instead of being a colony which is to support itself, will, if the practice is continued, remain for years a burthen to the mother country.  The desire of giving you a full and clear information on this head has made me enter into this detail.  Of the nine hundred and thirty males sent out by the last ships, two hundred and sixty one died on board and fifty have died since landing.  The number of sick this day is four hundred and fifty; and many who are not reckoned as sick have barely strength to attend to themselves.  Such is our present state; and when the last ships arrived we had not sixty people sick in the colony.  But sir, I hope the many untoward circumstances which the colony has hitherto met with now done away; and I flatter myself that after two years from this time we shall not want any further supply of flour.

Convict Workers
Governor Phillip’s opinion (1790) of the convict workers was supported eleven years later in a letter from Governor King:
I beg to suggest to your Grace that among the convicts sent by the Royal Admiral and Earl Cornwallis, not six carpenters or other useful artificers or mechanics could be found. If this colony had the advantage of having such mechanics and artificers as are transported sent out here instead of being detained in the hulks and in houses of correction at Home, a great advantage would arise from possessing some people of that description, instead of the numbers that are almost entirely composed of the worthless London pickpockets who are incapable of any industrious exertion beyond what they absolutely are compelled and driven to.

Norfolk Island - Kevin Richardson, Bill Frost with unknown local identity (H Timbury)

Norfolk Island – Kevin Richardson, Bill Frost with unknown local identity (H Timbury)


© First Fleet Fellowship Victoria Inc, 2013