Her Majesty's Colonial Land and Immigration Scheme which was launched in 1841 was the result of a great deal of national
discontent about the manner in which emigration was developing,
particularly with regard to Australia. It was all very well to send out
convicted criminals by the ship-load but was this really the way to populate such a
promising colony? And all those paupers, elderly and handicapped folk
and orphaned children the Workhouses were sending? Was that doing good
to anyone? What was needed were law-abiding, hard-working families who
would build homes, cultivate land and develop trade between the new
colonies and the UK so that the old and new worlds could build a happy
and prosperous future together
A serious campaign was set in motion to attract the
"right" kind of people.
Posters, adverts in newspapers, articles about colonial life all played
a part in attracting applications from hard-working married
couples under 40 and single people under 30 with trades or
skills which would benefit the new country. The Government set up health
checks to weed out the sick and disabled; they instituted a new set of
rules which actually barred certain categories of persons from entering Australia
such as widows with children, drifters who just wanted to get to the
goldfields, anyone who had ever been on parish relief or those who had not been
vaccinated against smallpox.
By 1854, The Emigration Commission was granting passages to New
South Wales, Victoria. South Australia and Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania). A married
couple under 40 could travel to Victoria in Australia for as little as £1 each and
children under 14 for 10 shillings.
Commission provided bedding and an allowance of food and water for the
voyage. Medicine was also provided and the better ships carried a surgeon.
A Government subsidy to cover the remaining costs was paid to the owners
of vessels on top of the passengers' contributions. For example, each adult passenger to
Victoria was eligible for a subsidy of £18 2s. 6p - there was a half fare payment
for children aged between 1 and 14 and babies travelled free.
Entrepreneurs like Torquay's John Crossman, a wealthy timber merchant
who had already begun to take passengers to Canada, set about acting as
arrangements to split the Government subsidies with other owners if
their own vessels were full or if they covered different destinations.
It worked out quite well for passengers from Torquay for, even if sailing
from London or Gravesend, ships always put in at Plymouth to pick up
fresh food and water and could easily be joined by making a short journey
along the coast in a local
There was one small snag in that passengers to the most popular
destinations, where life would be comparatively easy, could be asked to
repay their subsidies over time , but this did not apply to those
prepared to travel to areas the Government wanted to open up. So for
some, safe arrival on the other side of the world marked the end
of their journey - but for others, it was just the start as
they used further assisted passage schemes as a means of moving on from one colony to
another. It meant spending months travelling on top of the original
it also made a £1 go a long way.