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

Clarence Down Under: Voyages to Australia

Why was the Clarence in Australia?
The answer lies within the history and purpose of the Clarence. The Clarence was built by William Pile Jr. at Sunderland in 1858. Richard Green hired Pile to build ships for his line of Blackwall Frigates. The fact that Green had the capacity to build ships at his Blackwall yard attests to the quality of Pile's work. While sources report that the Clarence was one of several ships constructed for the purpose of running a passenger service to Australia, Green's firm predominantly used her for the "coolie trade", sailing to British Guiana and Trinidad as in the log held at Penn.

Although the Clarence spent the majority of its career in the the "coolie trade", it did find an importance transporting passengers to Australia. The Clarence's runs to Australia were part of a route that prolonged the age of sail. In an era of technological advancement, sailing ships had to compete with the faster and more comfortable steam ships.  Fast ships became popular because it meant less time on the uncomfortable voyages. The length of the trips of record-breaking clippers and other ships were reported in newspapers. For this reason, voyages to Australia became highly publicized, and as John Marfell notes in his diary, the Clarence "overhauls" all ships it comes across.

Between 1870-1872, the Clarence made two round- trip voyages from Gravesend, England to Melbourne, Australia.  The Clarence was taking passengers from the homeland, England, to what was perceived as a land of economic opportunity and prosperity. In the 1850s, ships were overwhelmed with passengers rushing to discover their fortunes in the gold mines of the Outback. Now, passengers emigrated to Australia for the rural farmlands. England was becoming increasingly industrialized and the skills of the rural laboring poor were better utilized in Australia. The journey averaged about 4 months.  The Clarence landed at the Sandridge Railway Pier in Melbourne. 

In this path, explore the Clarence's voyages to Austrailia. From primary resources at Penn, the National Museum of Australia, the State Library of Victory, and the Caird Library of the National Maritime Museum, the story of the Clarence will be revealed. From this advertisement in The Argus, you learn that the Clarence leaves at 3 p.m. with strict punctuality. Don't be late!

Haines, Robin F. Emigration and the Labouring Poor: Australian Recruitment in Britain and Ireland, 1831-60. New York: St. Martin's, 1997. Print.
Hassam, Andrew. "Introduction." Introduction. No Privacy for Writing: Shipboard Diaries, 1852-1879. Carlton South, Vic.: Melbourne UP, 1995. Xiii-xv. Print.

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