Sailing the British Empire : The Voyages of The Clarence, 1858-73

A Mate's Progress

On the Clarence’s voyage of 1864-5, Commander Watson was assisted by first mate Henry Berridge (b. 1838). Logs consulted at the Maritime History Archive show that Berridge served in that capacity at least from June 1863 through 1867, providing some leadership continuity on the ship as it passed from Joseph Watson’s command to that of Henry Gibson.

In the 1841 census, we find the three year-old Henry, son of Robert, a Leicestershire surgeon.  Ten years later, the census takers again found the family in Melton Mowbray, though Robert’s medical practice was identified as being in London. Henry Berridge thus fits the profile of Joseph Watson (and as we’ll see later, midshipman Ralph Gallilee Huggup) — young men from middle class families who went on to have careers as professionals in the merchant marine.

At 14, Henry Berridge was a midshipman on the Success, sailing out of Liverpool, moving the next year to the Lochnagar - advertised as "the well known fast-sailing A1 barque" - which sailed between London and Port Phillip (Melbourne).   In July 1853, he entered Richard Green’s “celebrated service” as a midshipman aboard the Owen Glendower, becoming fourth mate on the ship in 1856. (Joseph Watson captained the Owen Glendower beginning in 1857, and it does not seem that Berridge served under him at this point.) Berridge would spend the rest of his career at sea under Green & Co.’s flag.


We find Berridge serving as third mate on Green’s Northumberland in 1857-58, and on the Anglesey in 1858-59, which sailed to Australia. He qualified as a second mate in 1858, serving in that capacity on the Clarence from 1859-63 (though he qualified as a first mate in 1861). First mate on the Clarence from 1863-66, Berridge was certified a master in 1866. Berridge's years on the Clarence appear as an Indo-Carribean interlude in a career otherwise built around the Australia trade.


Berridge’s first command was Green’s Walmer Castle, which he captained from 1868/9 to 1872/3, sailing between London and Australia. (The Walmer Castle had been built in 1855 for Green by William Pile of Sunderland, builder of the Clarence.) He then moved to the High Flyer until 1878-79. His next command was the Superb, built in 1866 and noteworthy for being Green & Co.'s first iron ship (such a thing being unthinkable during "Dicky" Green's lifetime, according to Basil Lubbock).

In 1869, Henry Berridge (aged 31) married Maud Timperley, a cleric's daughter eight years his junior. She accompanied him aboard ship for the remainder of his career. The couple had two sons, and at least on occasion the entire family sailed together.

The newspaper written by the passengers of the Superb on its voyage to Melbourne in 1882, digitised by the National Library of Australia, gives us a vantage on Henry Berridge as captain. The last entry in the paper offers the travelers' collective thanks to Captain and Mrs. Berridge - a courtesy of any voyage, but one which nevertheless seems sincere.


Reminiscences published in Australian newspapers in the 1930s affirm that the Superb under Berridge was one of the best known ships sailing to Australia, and one gives a vivid account of the master:


​"many years ago I had a couple of long voyages in that vessel, which belonged to Green’s Blackwall line of passenger ships, sailing from London to Australian ports, and usual loading with wheat or wool for the voyage home. She had large two-berth cabins, almost like rooms, and oblong windows instead of the usual small round scuttle; also a long poop deck, on which we used to have deck quoit matches in fine weather, and sometimes a dance in the evening... The Superb’s captain in my time was Henry Berridge, a bluff genial skipper of the old school, who joined with zest in deck games, and, in spite of his stoutness was a splendid dancer.  He was an expert whist player (bridge was not then in vogue), and many a tough battle we had in the evening on the saloon table, the doctor and another passenger making up the party."


Lloyd's Register for 1884-5 shows command of the Superb passing from Berridge to a Captain Carr. Our next trace of Henry Berridge comes, alas, from the National Probate Calendar, where we discover he died in Middlesex on January 15, 1891, leaving an estate of £499 15s. to his widow Maud.

Basil Lubbock, The Blackwall Frigates (Boston, 1922)
England Census for 1841, 1851, 1881 accessed via Ancestry
Launceston, Tasmania Examiner 3 June 1932 (accessed via Trove)
Lloyd's Register

Records of Henry Berridge's service and examinations from UK and Ireland Masters and Mates Certificates, 1850-1927, Ancestry

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