A Place of Security & Subsistence exhibition

Archaeological dig

Tales from the Moreton Bay convict settlement

In 1824 Redcliffe didn’t exist, nor did Humpybong. The settlement founded by John Oxley and Lt Henry Miller was to be entitled the Moreton Bay Convict Settlement and was designed to be a place that the worst of the worst convicts could be sent.It was meant to be a natural jail, a place from which escape was deemed to be both impossible and futile.

The colony was designed to be self-sufficient and even the Commandant’s rate of pay in the second year was dependant on how many convicts the gardens and livestock of the colony could successfully support without recourse to government stores.

On the morning of 14 September the site for the new colony was chosen. The settlement was sited on the land between the creek, later known as Humpybong Creek, and the seashore. Oxley described it in his field book as “close to Red Cliff Point, possessing permanent good water close at hand, good soil in its immediate vicinity fit for most agricultural purposes, well adapted for grazing, with a sufficiency of useful timber for present purposes.”

In a report carried by the Sydney Gazette on 21 October 1824 the site of the new settlement was announced with the following description:

Red Cliff Point was deemed peculiarly eligible, from its centrical situation; the anchorage, however is not very good off it. The Settlement was left in good health and spirits, and they were rapidly proceeding in erecting comfortable huts, and the formation of little gardens. The site (sic) of the Settlement was dry, and open to the sea breeze – an indispensable advantage in that hot climate.

40th Regiment of Foot

The 40th Regiment of Foot was formed on 25 August 1717 by the amalgamation of eight Independent Companies of Foot stationed in Nova Scotia.  It was then known as Phillips’ Regiment of Foot, named after its first Colonel, then Governor of Nova Scotia. In 1751 the Regiment was re-named the 40th Regiment of Foot. 

In 1782 the regiments were given county titles “which may at all times be useful towards recruiting”. The 40th became the 40th (2nd Somerset shire Regiment) of Foot. Nearly one hundred years later, in 1881, the territorial basis of the Army recruiting was re-organised and the 40th Foot became the 1st Battalion, The South Lancashire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Volunteers).

In 1958 the Regiment was reorganised again to become the 1st Battalion, The Lancashire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Volunteers). A further change in 1970 and the 40th Regiment of Foot has been transformed into The Queen’s Lancashire Regiment. This Regiment and all its antecedents have served all over the world and in all theatres of war. Today the honours and traditions of all the predecessors are cherished and sustained by the Regular and Territorial Army Battalions of The Queen’s Lancashire Regiment.

The 40th Regiment of Foot served in Australia on two occasions. During the latter period, the 40th Regiment faced insurgency in the goldfields of New South Wales and took part in the only ‘battle’ on Australian soil when they stormed the rebel entrenchment at the Eureka Stockade in 1854.

In 1823, during its first tour of duty in Australia, the Regiment established its headquarters at Sydney where it remained for the next three years. At any one time most of its force was out in a number of small detachments at various places in the settled areas of the colony. Their primary role was in guarding convict work gangs or on other duties related to the supervision of convicts.

In 1824 one of these detachments, under the command of Lieutenant Henry Miller, accompanied John Oxley aboard the Amity on his quest to found the Moreton Bay Convict Settlement at Redcliffe.

The Brig Amity

View Amity replica  [PDF 90KB]

Built at St John, New Brunswick, Canada, 1816. Registered Sydney 1831, Hobart 1842.

Length 23 metres, beam 6.5 metres, depth 3.5 metres, 151 tonnes
(A brig was a two-masted ship, square rigged on both masts)

The Government of NSW owned the Amity between 1824 and 1831.  During that period it was involved in the settlement of Moreton Bay (Redcliffe and Brisbane) and Albany in Western Australia as well as doing several runs to the convict settlement on Norfolk Island.

When Amity made the 800 kilometre trip of nearly two weeks from Sydney to Moreton Bay, arriving on 13 September 1824, she carried over eighty persons; the ship’s crew, soldiers and their wives and children, convicts, the commandant and his wife and children, and other government employees, including John Oxley.

In addition there were animals and plants for the new colony, stores for about six months, a prefabricated cottage for the commandant, ship’s boats, together with the normal spare sails, ropes and timber needed to maintain the ship.

Amity had two decks. The upper deck had a total area of about one hundred and ten square metres, but much of it was taken up by hatchways, a skylight, the galley, masts and rigging, and space used by the plants and animals. As such only about eighty square metres would have been available for passengers. The lower deck was considerably smaller (inner length—18.3m; headroom—1.5m; hold depth—3.4m), and a good proportion of the space would have been used for the stores.

The ship must have been very crowded—but not nearly as crowded as she had been five or six years earlier, when she carried one hundred and twenty-five passengers plus crew across the Atlantic Ocean from Scotland to Canada, a voyage of 4500 kilometres lasting at least two months.

Sold back into private ownership in 1831, the Amity spent most of the rest of her life based in Hobart operating in any business likely to earn a living. She was a whaler, a sealer, a general carrier and a stock transporter. In 1845 the Amity was wrecked in Bass Strait on an uncharted sandbank. There was no loss of life.

On display in Albany is a stationary replica of Amity built to commemorate the 150th anniversary of its establishment.

Charles Penson, Master of the Amity

Charles Penson was born on 1st March 1786 in West Teignmouth, a coastal town at the mouth of the Teign River on the English Channel, in the county of Devon. Seafaring was the favoured occupation of Devon men and he followed that tradition, becoming a Master Mariner in command of ships owned by The Company of the Levant, trading in the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea.

He married Isabella Millar in Bermuda in 1814 and she accompanied him on his ships to the Mediterranean. One of his children was born in Smyrna (now Izmir), a port in Turkey.

As Master of early trading ships, he made several trips to Sydney in ships owned by his uncle, Richard Brooks. He brought his family out to settle in 1821. He took a position as Master of Government ships sailing from Sydney to Hobart and to Norfolk Island.

In 1823 he commanded the Mermaid which took John Oxley on a voyage as far north as Gladstone in his search for a suitable site for a new convict settlement. On their way back they landed on Bribie Island where castaway timber cutters showed Oxley how to find the Brisbane River. While Oxley was away, Penson charted the southern part of Moreton Bay and the South Passage between Moreton and Stradbroke Islands, a route he then used on his return trip to Sydney.

He returned as Master of the Amity in September 1824 with Oxley, a detachment of the 40th Regiment of Foot and a party of convicts with the intent of founding the Moreton Bay Convict Settlement at Redcliffe. Later he brought both Oxley and Edmund Lockyer to Moreton Bay for their land explorations, and also took the first commercial shipment out of Brisbane – a load of cedar – to Sydney in the Mermaid.

Penson died in Sydney in 1828. His daughter Isabella married William Joyner, an early settler on the North Pine. Joyner was drowned in 1847 when the Sovereign was wrecked in the South Passage. His widow Isabella came to Samsonvale with her daughter in 1848 to take over Samsonvale Station and is buried in the Station cemetery. Many members of the family still live in the North Brisbane region.

The telescope of Charles Penson has remained in the Joyner family and has been kindly loaned to the Redcliffe Museum by Graham Joyner. Charles Penson was his Great, Great, Grandfather. This is a unique object from an era where there are few surviving artefacts.

Spanish dollars in the Australian bush

Extract from letter to Lt Henry Miller,27 August 1824

View 40th Foot Uniform  [PDF 190KB]


Having received the commands of His Majesty’s Government to establish a new settlement at Moreton Bay and having been pleased to appoint you Commandant at that station the troops and convicts now embarked upon the Amity are placed under your orders.

Your salary will be four hundred Spanish Dollars for the first year, after which you will be allowed sixteen Spanish Dollars for every convict you are able to subsist for the next year on the produce of the settlement.


Sir Thomas Brisbane
Governor of New South Wales

The first fleet brought no coinage to Australian other than that in the personal possession of its individual members. Perhaps it was thought unnecessary, as the convicts would work unpaid, everyone would receive commissariat supplies and the colony would soon by self-supporting. Perhaps too, currency was among the many things the authorities overlooked.

For the first few years of settlement most trading therefore involved bartering commodities in demand, like corn and rum. Sundry foreign coins arriving on visiting ships and passing into circulation included the Spanish dollars, the value of which was set at five shillings in 1791. This was the first attempt to impose standard values on the haphazard variety of coins in use.

Continuing coin shortages made the use of diverse currencies necessary. Many coins arriving in the colony soon departed on trading ships.

In 1813 Governor Lachlan Macquarie overcame this acute currency shortage by purchasing £10 000 Spanish silver dollars, punching out the centres and creating two new coins, the Holey Dollar (valued at five shillings) and the Dump (valued at one shilling and three pence). Both coins were stamped with the colony’s name.

This single move not only doubled the number of coins in circulation but also increased their total worth by 25 per cent and prevented the coins from leaving the colony.

After the Bank of New South Wales was established in 1817 it issued banknotes for amounts between five shillings and five pounds and paper tokens for those from a shilling to two shillings and sixpence. When these measures did not overcome the shortage of conventional currency, more Spanish dollars were imported.

Attempts to make them the standard ended in 1826 when the British government decreed Sterling to be the standard, after which British coins were used.

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