Further Light on East Sussex Emigration

by Michael J Burchall BA(Hons) FSG

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Among the extensive parish records of Hailsham are a few documents concerning John Smith's application to be sent to Canada in 1834.

Writing to the overseers of the parish on 3 April 1834, George Eade of Framfield, who had been closely connected with emigration from Framfield earlier, writes:-

The bearer hereof, Jno Smith applied to me this day for information respecting Emigration to the British Settlements in North America he states that he is a parishioner of your Parish and that you have consented to render him the necessary assistance for Emigration.
I beg leave to state that the Parish of Framfield have made arrangements for a certain number of Paupers to sail from London on the 15th Inst upon the following conditions, to provide them with Passage and Provisions to Montreal at six Pounds five shillings for each Adult and half that sum for children under fourteen years of Age and to give each Man & Wife two Pounds each and One Pound to each Child or other single person at landing and if I could render you any service by engaging for your Parishioner or attending to them when they go on Board I should be happy to do it, for you.
I am going to write to the agent in London in the course of a day or two to give in the particular number and ages of our Parishioners which I should be happy to do for your Parish if it is any accomodation but before I can do this you must give me proper assurance of the money &c as they will not engage any without very considerable deposit.
The expense of sending this family including the landing money on the same conditions as we send them will be 55.15s exclusive of conveyance to London & Dock fees for parcels which later will cost about one Pound.

I am Sir,
your Obedt Ser. Geo Eade

PS If the party is conveyed to York in Canada the expense will be 8.15s more.


Unfortunately the Vestry Minute Book for Hailsham at this period has not survived but a minute of a meeting the day following receipt of the above letter is among the Smith family papers (353/12/3). The Vestry then agreed for Smith aged 47, his wife aged 37 and their children Harriet 18, George 17, Frances 16, James 11, Joseph 10, Charles 6, Eliza 2.5 and John only five months old should all be despatched. They were to be sent with the emigrants from Framfield at the expense of the parish and a loan was to be raised to cover all expenses.
Having written to Eade, the overseers received the following letter from Eade dated 11th April 1834:-

Sir, I beg leave to acknowledge the receipt of your instructions for the emigrants of your Parish and if I understand you right you intend to send some person with them to London who will meet me there with the Money. I have already made the arrangements for your family (and one or two more should they come) and have received instructions from the Agent for them to be in London in order to go on board (the Catherine lying in London Docks) on Tuesday the 22nd Inst in the forenoon. I shall therefore arrange for ours to be at the Spur Inn [Borough in Southwark] at 7 o Clock in the morning of that day at which place and time if you have no objection I should like to meet your party in order that they may all have some refreshments together after their Journey before they go on Board. I myself shall go from Uckfield by the Early Coach on Monday Morning the 21st and the Emigrants will be at Uckfield about nine oClock in the Morning of the same day and go on their Journey. If you should have more than 1, 2 or 3 over the number agreed, you will have the goodness to inform me early as possible in order that I may secure their passage &c. or if any thing occurs that may in any way alter the arrangements you will inform me but at all events I should like to hear from you again before the time.

I remain, Sir,
your Obedt. Sert. Geo Eade

The final chapter of this particular story is unknown and one can only hope that John and his family made the crossing and fared well in Canada.



Between 1836 and 1848 the parish of Beckley raised over 1000 for emigration, and was still sending emigrants in 1850. The overseers accounts for January 1838 (237/31/1) record:

Cash paid to Samuel Barnes for Emigration 2.00.0
Journey to Gravesend with Emigrants 1.15.0

In April 1838, Beckley requested funds of 500 through the Commissioners of the Poor Law. Receiving 400 they accounted:

Disbursements of Samuel Stonham and James Gilbert Overseers
- Emigration expenses June 24th 1838:

    Pd Mrs Ann Baker Bill for Outfit of Emigrants 141.18.11
    Pd Mrs Ann Baker Bill for Outfit of Emigrants 19.16.00
    Pd Miss F Cork Bill for Outfit of Emigrants 56. 2. 8
    Pd For conveying Emygrants to Gravesend and expenses attending the same 32. 6. 0
    Pd Mr Marshall land money for Edw Milgate wife 2. 0. 0
    Pd Mr Marshall land money for child 6. 8d
    Pd Mr Marshall land money for Playford Wife 2. 0. 0
    Pd Mr Marshall land money for Children 13. 4d
    Pd Mr Dennis for Clothing &c 7. 0d
    Pd Mr Marshall for Milgate Child under 1 year old 3. 0 0
    Pd Carter & Bonus as p. contract for Canadian Emygrants 90. 6.10
    Pd Johnson expenses of Emygrants 3. 6d

To Balance in hand 50.19. 1

Total 400.00

The accounts also record the conveyance of the Cooper and Dennis families to Gravesend at 2.5s on the same day and later in 1838 Mr Marshall received 21 for the conveyance of seven young men to New South Wales.



At nearby Peasmarsh there is only one year for which evidence exists that emigration was taking place, again in 1838. On 14th April of that year a committee was appointed to raise 200 for emigration, and meeting shortly after they reported:

That the several Persons who have made application to emigrate to Canada and Sydney be allowed a few days to take into consideration the terms proposed by this Committee.

A more benevolent attitude seems to have been adopted in this parish and the committee met again on 25th April recommended the following:-

To Australia:

    James Weeks 38, Wife 36 and 4 children 6
    George Daw 35 and 4 children 5
    George A Sheather 23, Wife 24 & 2 children 4
    Thomas Curd 21 (pencil note "not to go") 1
    William Milgate 41, Wife 42 & 4 children 6
    Henry Wells 28, Wife 32 & 1 child 3
    Frank Sisley 8 Years 1

Total 26


For Canada:

    George Stone 28
    on 27th April- James Wait 30, Wife 31 & 3 children 5

The last entry for Peasmarsh is an allowance of 3 for clothes for Jesse Huggett to go to Sidney.



Other parishes were quick to catch on to this easy method of disposing of their unemployed poor.
At Battle in November 1829 the Vestry decided that:-

….it would be desireable to pay the expense of Emigration of ten Paupers of the Parish to the Swan River [Australia] and that proper steps may be taken to ascertain which of the Paupers may be willing to Emigrate.

In March of the following year a sum of 100 was ordered to be raised to send Robert Quaife and his family to America together with any others willing to go. As late as 1841 other Paupers were still being despatched from here, and further resolutions of the Vestry include:-

11th Feb 1841…

    ...to pay the expense of David Reeves his wife and 5 children to Australia not exceeding thirty five pounds.
    ...to pay the expense of James Eldridge wife and 3 children to Australia not exceeding twenty pounds.
    ...to pay the expense of Chas Adams wife and 2 children Australia not exceeding fifteen pounds.

18th March 1841 …

    to advance William Gibbs family of five children twenty five pounds to assist him to Emigrate to Canada.


At Mountfield the 1831 Census notes that 102 persons were said to have emigrated to America from the parish since 1821 (V.C.H. Sussex Vol.2 p.223) and for years after the parish continued its policy. John and William Veness applied on 5th March 1832 (424/12/1) for their passages to be paid, and the overseers accounts of 25th March (424/31/1) record the payment of 16.15s for them.
On 3rd March 1834 the Vestry agreed to help any pauper who applied for funds to emigrate and on the same day Thomas Waters and his wife, and family consisting of Ann aged 20, Thomas 18, Levey 16, Samuel 13, John 11, and Eliza 7 applied; they had an immediate grant of 2.14s to pay their rent and 26s for shoes. Waters himself requested that if his good should not fetch enough to cover his debts then the parish should make up the difference, but to this the Vestry would not agree. Smith & Hulnes & Co received 52 for the Waters familie’s passage, Waters had 13 landing money and a further 7.13s allowed by the parish, and it cost 1 to take them all to Rye.
In March 1839 (424/31/1) the overseers accounts record the payment of 78.8s.8d to Thomas Ticehurst for the emigration expenses of nine families.


Further West at Laughton John Fennell’s application for funds to emigrate in January 1832 was favourably received and in March 1832 Charles and John Tompset were given money to emigrate (409/12/2).

In 1830 the parishes of Ticehurst and Salehurst on the Kent boader were sending paupers to America and elsewhere. On 3rd September 1840 the Vestry Minutes at Ticehurst record that the churchwardens and overseers were authorised to raise 150. Already 148.10s of that sum had been expended on families sent to Canada "under circumstances highly beneficial to the Interests of the Parish," and in March 1841 a further sum of 500 was authorised to be raised.

A later reference at Chiddingly (292/12/2) shows that Trayton Townsend received 6 to emigrate to Australia in November 1848, whilst at Ewehurst Edward Smith had 20 to get to America in 1820.

Edmund Austen (Brede the Story of a Sussex Parish, 1946) records the expenses to America of John Bridger in 1827:
Paid Capt Saml Therburn passage money on Board "Robert Edwards" for Bridger his wife and five children (one of them at the brest) to New York……28.0.0

At Mayfield too, paupers were being sent away in large numbers. On 5th May 1841 it was resolved in Vestry (422/12/1):-
That the sum of seventy pounds be raised for the purpose of enabling some Poor Persons to emigrate.
Resolved unanimously that Thomas Batup and family be sent to Sydney.

Sydney seems to have been a favourite place for the emigrants to be sent.

On 3rd December 1841 at Battle the Vestry decided to send James King and his family and also Robert Saxby and his family to Sydney "to which place they are anxious to Emigrate". This phrase and others like it occur time and time again; in each case the parish concerned makes it quite clear that the emigrants are being sent at their own request to these foreign places and unknown chances.

It has been noted that the Beckley accounts show payments to Mr Marshall of landing money for passengers. This was Mr John Marshall, Australian Emigration Agent of Birchin Lane, London. During the year 1838 he was responsible for conveying to Sydney a total of 3099 persons as steerage passengers. One of the ships sent in that year was the ‘Alfred’ . Registered at 716 tons, the passengers were carried in this ship in cabins averaging 9 feet by 8 feet. Each cabin had a water closet and in the main gangway a wine locker. The ‘Alfred’ sailed from Gravesend on 8th September, called at Plymouth on the 17th and proceeded to Sydney. Strict rules were observed on board; each person had to be out of bed at 7 am and all the beds rolled and taken on deck for airing. Breakfast was at 8 and cleaning commenced shortly after. Four men were appointed cleaners for each apartment and for efficiently carrying out their work they could earn 3 to be paid on arrival at Sydney.

Dinner was at 1 o’clock and tea, coffee or Cocoa at 6. Each week the surgeon would select two men, either husbands or fathers, to see the provoisions weighed, and there were daily schools for children and adults. Spirits were forbidden and smoking on board only allowed on the upper deck at the direction of the surgeon. Passengers were required to attend service on Sunday morning at 10 and the morals of the company were looked after by two men and two women elected from among the passengers and approved by the surgeon; it was laid down that opposite sexes were not to visit each others sleeping apartments unless allowed to do so by the surgeon (who seems to have had more power than the captain!). The penalty for contravening these very sensible regulations on a long voyage was to have one’s wine stopped for the rest of the journey.

On the whole, Marshall appears to have been a highly efficient agent; his ships were clean and orderly and most sensibly run for the benefit of the passengers, one of whom, James Potter of Udimore, travelled on the ‘Alfred’ from Gravesend on 8th September 1838 (497/37/13) having received 20 for expenses from the parish.

In April 1838 two other Udimore families emigrated to New South Wales; Richard Harmer and William Morris had 7.12s for clothing for their families on the voyage. Another group were sent out early in June 1841:

Freight Clothing
8 8
Isaac Doust, wife and 2 children
4 2
Jas Doust
1 2
Stephen Doust
1 11.10.0
Saml. Lawrence, wife & 3 children
5 11.10.0
Wm Edwards wife & 3 children
5 6
Frank Whiteman & 3 children
4 2
Hart. Hockham
1 2
Josh. Hockham

The last named emigrant travelled to Sydney free in return for undertaking work on the voyage. The following letter explains:-

Dr Sir,
The Bearer Josh. Hockham is desirous of emigrating to Sydney & to take charge of Horses and Cattle on board the Ship to sail on the 2nd June next. If he can do this duty I will get him a free passage and Mr Marshall will give him 5 on landing - you will therefore be good enough to certify that Hockham is capable of looking after Horses and stock ie Bulls & Carvs - as I think it desirable that a Certificate to this effect is necessary (should be given) from the person who has a knowledge of the party applying……Do you know a Man of the name Edwd. Fellows - he has applied to me to go out as Hockham wishes but has not returned (to my surprise) with the requesite Certificate which I gave to get filled up…….

I am Dr Sir (in haste) Yrs Truly

Hy E Paine

Rye Thursday morning.



The overseers at Udimore received an entirely different request on the same day:-

21st May 1838

Gentlemen,

I am about to Emigrate to Sidny and in a mistake of the Publication of the Bands I cannot gett married without a licience wich will be too pounds for stamps. Mr Cooper the Minnester recommends me to come and see if I can gett the money by Subscription stating that he will give me his fees to make the thing come to less expense. Gentlemen I must humbly beg the favour of your assistence and remain

Your humble pertisioner.

Geo Clark


I have not discovered whether the ‘gentlemen’ in vestry assembled did allow poor Mr Clark the necessary funds for him to get married and take his bride to Sydney, but I imagine that in their haste to rid themselves of yet another pauper they would have consented and thought it money well spent.

Among the list of families to be sent out in 1838 at Udimore had been those of Samuel Lawrence and Frank Whiteman; for some reason they did not then go. For on 2nd June 1841 Whiteman and his family consisting of son George aged 13, Jane 10 and William 6, were sent to New Zealand and given 6; three weeks later Samuel Laurence, his wife and three children were despatched to Sydney.

© Michael Burchall

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This page was updated on: 16 February 2009