Guide to the Records of the SS Great Britain (as filmed by the AJCP)


M2346 - M2347

National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Created: 2019

Collection Summary

SS Great Britain
Records of the SS Great Britain (as filmed by the AJCP)
Date Range
21 August 1852 - 1969
Collection Number
M2346 - M2347
68 items
Language of Materials
Australian Joint Copying Project
The Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) online portal was created with the assistance of the Australian Public Service Modernisation Fund, 2017-2020. The National Library of Australia gratefully acknowledges the contribution of the other foundation AJCP partners, the State Library of New South Wales and The National Archives of the UK, and all other organisations which supported the work of the AJCP, the world's most extensive collaborative copying project, operating from 1948 to 1997.


Scope and Contents

The records include manuscripts, typescripts, diaries and logs kept on board SS Great Britain on voyages between England and Australia 1852-1876. They contain accounts of passengers and life on board.

Writers include Allan Gilmour, William Bray, Edward Byrd, Thomas Cawly, John Gifford, Andrew Alexander, James Walter, George Greaves, Rosamund D'Ouseley, Louise Buchan and John Campbell.

Conditions Governing Access

Available for Access.

Conditions Governing Use

Many of the records digitised as part of the AJCP are still in copyright. Readers wishing to publish or reproduce documents should seek permission, in the first instance, from the owner of the original material.

Preferred Citation

Acknowledgement of use of this material should refer to the location of the original material and to the Australian Joint Copying Project.

Items from this collection should include references to the location of the original material and to the AJCP nla.obj number, which serves as the online identifier for the digital copy.

Example: M Series: Journal of Capt. James Cook, 18 February 1770, British Library Add. MS 27885 (AJCP ref:

Archival History

Material selectively filmed at the SS Great Britain Project, Bristol, as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project, 1989 (AJCP Reels: M2346-2347). Original microfilm digitised as part of the AJCP Online Delivery Project, 2017-2020.

At the time of filming the papers were part of the Great Britain Project. An important part of the SS Great Britain Project was the collecting of archives concerning the ship, her passengers and crew. This index lists material gathered to date that relates to the Australian voyages and which is not already available in Australia. A complete listing of the Archive collection of the Project was available from Mr. B. Wheddon, at the SS Great Britain Project, who was always interested to learn of further material.

Existence and Location of Originals

Brunel's SS Great Britain, Great Western Dockyard, Gas Ferry Road, Bristol, England.

For more information see, SS Great Britaincollections. []

Existence and Location of Copies

The original AJCP microfilm of the records filmed from this collection is available at the National Library of Australia [] as well as other institutions holding AJCP microfilm.


Finding-aid Notes

This finding aid is a revised online version of the original finding aid prepared by the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP), published by the National Library of Australia in 2019. The original AJCP finding aids were unpublished typescripts or photocopies available from libraries that held copies of the original microfilm.

Dates used in this finding aid refer to the date range of the records selected for filming rather than to the date range of the Series or Files.


Alexander, Andrew; Australia; Bray, William; Buchan, Louise; Byrd, Edward; Campbell, John (purser); Cawly, Thomas; D'Ouseley, Rosamund; Emigrant voyages; Gifford, John; Gilmour, Allan; Great Britain, SS; Great Britain; Greaves, George; Java; Walter, James


Originally cited in Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook. Part 8: Miscellaneous (M) Series. Third Edition, published 1998. Entry 197, p73.

Biographical / Historical

The SS Great Britain was the second ship built by I.K. Brunel, but his first to be built of iron. She was launched at Bristol in 1843 and spent her first years on the New York passenger run. After sustaining severe damage in a grounding on Dundrum Bay, Ireland, she was sold to Gibbs, Bright and Co. in December 1850. The company converted her to carry passengers and cargo between Australia and England; her last voyage from Australia (her 44th) was in 1875-1876. After a short period as a sailing vessel carrying cargo between Liverpool and San Francisco she was hulked in the Faulkland Islands in 1886. She was finally refloated in 1970 and brought back to Bristol where she underwent restoration work and is now open to the public.

Item Descriptions

Series. Material concerning the voyages, 1852 - 1896

21 items

Liverpool - Melbourne, 7 October 1852; 1896 (File Voyage 9)

2 items
Allan Gilmour. Jottings from life for my children's perusal, 1896 (Item 83 D 1852)

Voyage with father and brother to open Commission house in Melbourne; lack of coal meant ship had to return to St. Helena; death of chinaman; visit to Capetown, pitching tent in 'Canvas City' at Melbourne; death of father and return to London on Atrevida, icebergs. 6p.

Biographical / Historical

Allan Gilmour (1835 - 1907)

Stephen [unknown] (on Board) to mother and father, 7 October 1852 (Item 73 L 1852 Reg 1/8 11/12/73)

Life on board and ceremonies leaving St. Helena, dissatisfaction with conditions on board by passengers, comments on fellow passengers, visit to Capetown. Includes lines written during a storm by Mr. Hammell. 3p. (typescript).

Liverpool - Melbourne, 12 June 1854 - 8 September 1854 (File Voyage 11)

1 items
William Bray: Incidents on voyage to Australia, 12 June 1854 (Item)

Details of illness on board, food, deaths, ceremonies of crossing the line, stormy weather, small pox epidemic. Photocopy of manuscript 6p. and typescript 13p.

William Bray: Lying quarantine in Great Britain, 19 August 1854 (Item)

The ship was put in quarantine at Melbourne due to small pox; gives details of inadequate rations allowed. Photocopy of manuscript 14p. and typescript 8p.

Melbourne - Liverpool, 3 March 1859 - 8 May 1859 (File Voyage 16)

1 item
Edward Byrd. Account of voyage (Item 80 D 1859)

Details of building chapel or school building; voyage to England via Cape Horn, loss of sailor overboard. Photocopy pp.34-36 from manuscript diary. 3p.

Melbourne - Liverpool, 8 March 1860 - 7 May 1860 (File Voyage 18)

1 item
Thomas Cawley. Diary, 8 March 1860 - 7 May 1860 (Item 70 D 1860 Museum)

Details of leaving Hobeson Bay, gales, death of two passengers, sighting other ships, concert, flying fish. Includes abstracts from log giving latitude and longitude positions and miles covered. 37p. (in pencil, faint).

Liverpool to Melbourne, 23 July 1860 - 17 August 1860 (File Voyage 19)

1 item
Hugh Allardyce to mother and sisters, 23 July 1860 - 17 August 1860 (Item 70 L 1860)

Life on board-playing cards, dancing, food,-London ships are better provisioned. (typescript 3p.)

Liverpool - Melbourne, 16 February 1861 (File Voyage 20)

2 items
Correspondence of John Gifford, 16 February 1861 (Item 77 L 1861. Res 1/8 8/11/77)

Includes: John Gifford (Liverpool) to sister, 16 February 1861, re carrying 600 passengers.

John Gifford (Queenstown, Ireland) to sister, n.d., re bad weather, loss of boat.

Melbourne - Liverpool, 28 January 1862 - 8 April 1862 (File Voyage 21)

1 item

Filmed selectively.

Melbourne to Liverpool voyage via Cape Horn by a passenger, 28 January 1862 - 8 April 1862 (Item D 1862 pp.1-157)

Difficulty of boarding due to rough seas, purchase of provisions for voyage, death of child, entertainments-music, cards, catching fish and birds, parson refuses to conduct services unless allowed into saloon, sighting iceberg, visit to engines, details of ship's company and livestock carried, serving of lime juice after 38 days at sea, fancy dress ball, thieving, presentations to stewards. (photocopy of manuscript)

Also gives daily latitude and longitude positions and air and water temperatures.

Also includes newspaper cutting from Gloucestershire and Avon Life, 'Ten Years Down, Ten to Go,' September 1980 which discusses the restoration of the SS Great Britain and the finding of this diary.

Liverpool - Melbourne, 15 October 1863 - 17 December 1863 (File Voyage 24)

1 item
Liverpool to Melbourne voyage by a passenger (Item 88 D 1863)

Departure and farewells, services on board, sighting other ships, death of child and sheep from heat, details of other passengers, crossing the line, sailors' songs, taking train to Melbourne.

Also gives latitude and longitude positions. Manuscript 48p. Typed transcript 35p.

Liverpool - Melbourne, 16 December 1864 - 14 January 1865 (File Voyage 26)

1 item
Extract of journey Liverpool to Melbourne [by - Moore?], 16 December 1864 - 14 January 1865 (Item D 1864)

Sea sickness, rough weather, sighting other ships, Christmas Day services and food, drunkeness among crew, formed company of volunteers, entertainment, thieving. Photocopy of manuscript 8p.

Liverpool - Melbourne, 24 April 1866 (File Voyage 28)

1 item
Andrew Alexander (SS Great Britain, surgeon) (Hobeson's Bay) to [next of kin], 24 April 1866 (Item 82 L 1866)

Re death of William Wheatley, Steward, washed overboard on 9 April.

Also includes typed transcript and explanatory letter, 18 October 1982 - Leslie Hose (Stockport) to SS Great Britain Project.

Liverpool - Melbourne, 13 December 1867 - 13 February 1868 (File Voyage 31)

2 items
James Walter (Ploughman), 13 December 1867 - 13 February 1868 (Item D 1867)

Extracts from a narrative. Discusses seasickness, details of livestock, on board, ceremonies of crossing the line, concert, visit to engine room. Typescript 2p.

George Greaves Log, 13 December 1867 - 11 February 1868 (Item 83 D 1867-8)

Gives daily latitude and longitude positions, milage covered, coaling at Cape St. Vincent, shearing of sheep on board, death of child, concert, births. Photocopy of manuscript 19p. Typed transcript 5p

Liverpool - Melbourne, 12 August 1869 - 13 October 1869 (File Voyage 34)

1 item
Rosamund D'Ouseley Diary, 11 August 1869 - 13 October 1869 (Item 84 D 1869)

Sea sickness, services, details of officers, activities of sailors, playing cards and dancing, publishing of ship's paper G.B. Times, concert, death of child from scarletina, met by a cousin from South Yarra. Photocopy of typescript 10p. (blurred)

Unknown Voyage, 1871 (File)

2 items

Two accounts of same recollections of undated voyage

Extracts from the Past; earliest memories, voyage round Cape of Good Hope by [Miss Graham?], 1871 (Item (a) 88 D 1871)

Describes gales around Cape of Good Hope. Photocopy of manuscript 2p. Typed 1p.

Recollections of a journey when 7 years old in 1871 (Item (b) 83 D 1871)

Describes gales around Cape of Good Hope. Typescript 1p.

Liverpool - Melbourne, 4 June 1871 - 28 July 1871 (File Voyage 37)

1 item
Diary of a passenger, 4 June 1871 - 28 July 1871 (Item D 1871)

Travelling with brother Charles, sighting of porpoises and dolphins, birds, no ceremony of crossing the line, entertainments on board including masked ball, views of Port Philip and description of Warnambull, Mr. Chinnside's estate. Manuscript 12p. Typed transcript 5p

Liverpool - Melbourne and Melbourne - Liverpool, 13 March 1872 - 28 May 1872 (File Voyage 38)

1 item
Louise Buchan. Diary Adelaide to Liverpool, 13 March 1872 - 28 May 1872 (Item 82 D 1872)


Liverpool - Melbourne and Melbourne - Liverpool, 16 December 1871 - 26 December 1872 (File Voyages 39)

1 item
John Campbell, (Chief Steward) Diary, 16 December 1871 - 26 December 1872 (Item 85 D 1871-2)

Details of passengers at Liverpool, gales, deaths of children, measles epidemic, entertainments, arrival at Port Philip 21 February; 20 March embarking passengers, gales, problems of women at sea, death of woman passenger, arrival Liverpool 27 May; leaving Liverpool 26 July, details of passengers, testimonial dinner for Captain Grey, arrive Melbourne, 21 September, visits on shore; 23 October leaving Melbourne, illness on board, 26 November suicide Captain Grey, rescue of crew of American brig, arrival Liverpool 26 December 1872. Includes a print of a gentleman.

Also gives daily latitude and longitude position, weather and milage.

Photocopy of manuscript for 22 November-26 December 1872 8p. Typed transcript 31p.

London - Melbourne and Melbourne - Liverpool, 11 January 1875 - 30 January 1876 (File Voyages 43 and 44)

2 item
John Campbell, (Chief Pursor) Diary, 11 January 1875 - 30 January 1876 (Item 85 D 1875)

Boarding of warrant and steerage passengers, sea sickness, services, concert in saloon, arrival Cape Otway 19 March; leaving Melbourne 1 May, measles among children, coaling at St. Vincent, passengers drunk on shore, arrival Liverpool 10 July, sailed for London 7 August, sailed from Gravesend 26 August, health of passengers, death of Robert Bright from Typhoid fever, arrival Melbourne 20 October; passengers embarking 26 November, suicide of passenger overboard, icebergs, death of baby, arrival Liverpool 29 January 1876. Typed transcript 20p

Extracts from passenger's log, 26 August 1875 - 20 October 1875 (Item L 75 D 1875)

Sailing from Gravesend, playing cards, food, sailor's concert, bad weather, inspection by doctor and customs. Typescript 6p.

Series. Material concerning the ship, 1852 - 1875

41 items

Subseries 1. Crew lists, August 1852 - August 1875

33 items

Crew lists for voyages Liverpool / Melbourne giving: alphabetical list by surname; christian name, age, place of birth, rank or position.

Voyage 9 crew lists, 21 August 1852 (File)
Voyage 11 crew lists, 21 August 1854 (File)
Voyage 12 crew lists, 7 March 1855 (File)
Voyage 13 crew lists, 16 February 1857 (File)
Voyage 14 crew lists, 24 September 1857 (File)
Voyage 15 crew lists, 28 May 1858 (File)
Voyage 16 crew lists, 21 November 1858 (File)
Voyage 17 crew lists, 1 July 1859 (File)
Voyage 18 crew lists, 11 December 1859 (File)
Voyage 19 crew lists, 20 July 1860 (File)
Voyage 20 crew lists, 17 February 1861 (File)
Voyage 21 crew lists, 20 October 1861 (File)
Voyage 22 crew lists, 15 June 1862 (File)
Voyage 23 crew lists, 23 January 1863 (File)
Voyage 24 crew lists, 15 October 1863 (File)
Voyage 25 crew lists, 27 August 1864 (File)
Voyage 26 crew lists, 17 December 1864 (File)
Voyage 27 crew lists, 25 July 1865 (File)
Voyage 28 crew lists, 18 February 1866 (File)
Voyage 29 crew lists, 27 October 1866 (File)
Voyage 30 crew lists, 19 May 1867 (File)
Voyage 32 crew lists, 9 July 1868 (File)
Voyage 33 crew lists, 3 February 1869 (File)
Voyage 34 crew lists, 12 August 1869 (File)
Voyage 35 crew lists, 19 March 1870 (File)
Voyage 36 crew lists, 6 October 1870 (File)
Voyage 37 crew lists, 24 May 1871 (File)
Voyage 38 crew lists, 17 December 1871 (File)
Voyage 40 crew lists, 27 March 1873 (File)
Voyage 41 crew lists, 22 October 1873 (File)
Voyage 42 crew lists, 4 June 1874 (File)
Voyage 43 crew lists, 11 January 1875 (File)
Voyage 44 crew lists, 26 August 1875 (File)

Subseries 2. Logs, December 1858 - November 1872

3 items

Filmed selectively.

Extract from Log, 3 December 1858 (File (a) BT 98/6127)

Re collision with Celestia of Boston. (Pro photocopy) 3p. Typed transcript 1p.

Extract from Log, 23 February 1866 (File)
Extract from Log, 26 November 1872 (File (b) BT 100/274)

Re suicide of Captain. Grey and inventory of his effects. 2p. (Pro photocopy).

Subseries 3. Board of Enquiry, September 1860

1 item
Minutes of evidence taken before the Board of Enquiry into the collision between the Great Britain and the Oscar, 27 September 1860 (File (Res 2/8))

Collision occurred on 21 September 1860 between Cape Otway and Port Phillip Heads. (Photocopy of manuscript, 33p.).

Subseries 4. Tickets, Posters etc, August 1861 - October 1873

4 items
Bill of Fare (1p.), 2 August 1861 (File (a) 74 DD 1861 Res 1/8 23/11/74)
Ticket Liverpool to Melbourne, 15 May 1862 (File (b) 77 O 1862 Res 1/8 10/9/77)

Voyage 22 15 June 1862 - 14 August 1862]

Ticket Melbourne to Liverpool, 15 May 1866 (File (c) 77 O 1866 Res 1/8 20/6/77))

Voyage 28 15 May 1866 - 20 July 1866

Poster Liverpool and Australian Navigation Co. Great Britain for Melbourne and Brisbane, 25 October 1873 (File (d) 79 P 1873 Museum)

Series. Miscellaneous material, 1863 - 1969

6 items

Subseries (85 O 1863 Res 2/8 8/2/85). Australian and Eastern Navigation Co. Ltd, [1863?]

3 items
Prospectus. (1p., printed), [1863?] (File)
Statement of Directors to chairman of the Committee of the London Stock Exchange. (10p., printed), n.d. (File (b))
Prospectus and form of application for shares. (3p., printed), [1863?] (File (c))

Subseries 2. Joseph Blake, 15 December 1907 - 11 February 1908

2 items
Voyage to New Zealand on board RMS Corinthic, 15 December 1907 - 1 February 1908 (File (a))

Details of entertainment on board - playing cards, Christmas Day Concert, dancing, fancy dress ball; measles epidemic, rough weather, visit to Cape Town - 'a barren waste', landing at Hobart and trip to cider factory and cattle market; arrival at Wellington. 16p. (photocopy typescript)

Visit to New Zealand, 2 February 1908 - 11 February 1908 (File)

Visit to Awarera station, drought conditions, visit to butter and cheese factory, climbes Mount Egremont, trip to races. 4p. (photocopied typescript)

Subseries 3. Captain John Grey, 1969

1 item
Gerald H. Roberts. Captain John Grey (1819 - 1872): master of SS Great Britain, 1969 (File)

6p.(duplicated typescript).