Guide to the Papers of Captain Francis Cadell (as filmed by the AJCP)



National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Created: 2018

Collection Summary

Cadell, Francis, Captain
Papers of Captain Francis Cadell (as filmed by the AJCP)
Date Range
1837 - 1880
Collection Number
22 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

1. Three books of newspaper cuttings 1852-1860 and 1867-1868 referring to Cadell's trade on the River Murray and his Northern Territory expedition.

2. Documents relating to navigation of the River Murray including copies of dispatches from the Governor of South Australia and correspondence between Cadell and the Governor 1853 on the navigability of the Murray. There is also a rough sketch of the canvas boat in which Cadell first sailed down the Murray River from Swan Hill in 1852, and an address by the Murray settlers of New South Wales and Victoria to Cadell.

3. Memorials and addresses outlining the life of Cadell and his explorations in Australia, including a manuscript entitled 'Australia' and a copy of a letter from the First Government Secretary of Batavia, 25 February 1880, giving an account of the death of Cadell.

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-23 September 1770, British Library Add. MS 27885 (AJCP ref:

Existence and Location of Originals

Filmed at Private Residence of Mrs F.A.M. Chitty, Hertfordshire, England.

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.

Archival history

Filmed as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project at the private residence of Mrs F.A.M. Chitty, Hertfordshire, 1963. (AJCP reel M464). Original microfilm digitised as part of the NLA AJCP Online Delivery Project, 2017-2020.

Finding Aid note

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 2018. 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.


Arafura Sea; Cadell, Francis, Capt.; Victoria: exploration; Australia: exploration; Exploration: land; Australia: geology; Gulf of Carpentaria; Jakarta, Indonesia; Java; Murray River, Australia; Northern Territory; Paintings, drawings, and prints; Pearls and pearling; River Murray Navigation Co; South Australia; Swan Hill, Victoria


Originally cited in Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook. Part 8: Miscellaneous (M) Series. Third Edition, published 1998. Entry 84, p.29.

Biographical / Historical

Francis Cadell (1822-1879) was born at Cockenzie, Scotland, the son of Hew Francis Cadell, a mine-owner and ship builder. He was educated in Edinburgh and Cuxhaven. He joined the East Indiaman Minerva in 1836 and took part in the war with China in 1839. He later sailed to South American ports. He returned to Scotland in 1846 and studied shipbuilding and the use of steamships for navigation. In 1851 he sailed the Queen of Sheba, which had been built to his specifications, to the Pacific Ocean and Australia.

In 1852 Cadell negotiated with the South Australian Government to take a steamer up the River Murray as far as the junction with the Darling River. In August 1853 he arrived at Encounter Bay and took the steamer Lady Augusta through the mouth of the Murray. A month later he reached Swan Hill. He was rewarded with a substantial payment from the South Australian Government, as well as a gold medal. He formed the River Murray Navigation Company which bought a number of steamers, one of which sailed up the Murray as far as Albury in 1855. He later took ships up the Murrumbidgee and Darling Rivers and founded the port of Milang, near the mouth of the Murray. His business failed in 1861-62 and he subsequently moved to New Zealand, where he supervised steam transport on the Waikato River.

In 1866 Cadell returned to South Australia and in the following year he led an expedition to the Northern Territory to select a site for a capital and an area for agricultural settlement. He spent most of a year exploring a large area including the Liverpool, Roper and Victoria Rivers, but his recommendations were ignored. He spent his last years trading in the Pacific islands and operating a pearling fleet on the northern coast of Australia. He disappeared in the Dutch East Indies in 1879 and it was alleged that he had been murdered in his schooner Gem by the cook's mate for not paying his wages for five years.

Item Descriptions

John (?) Cadell (Madras) to his brother Francis Cadell. (crossed letter), 12 October 1837 (File 1)

Memorial of Capt. Francis Cadell to the Lord Commissioners of the Admiralty seeking a medal for his services in the Chinese expedition, October 1846 (File 2)

Although described individually, this document was originally microfilmed with a page from another document. The last page of the document described can be found at the beginning of nla.obj-742802415.

Certificate signed by George Ireland (master) stating that Francis Cadell served as fifth mate on the Minerva between 3 May 1839 and 1 February 1840 (File 3)

Rough sketch of the canvas boat in which Cadell descended the River Murray from Swan Hill to the mouth of the river in 1852 (File 4)

Hew F. Cadell, 6 August 1862 (File 5)

Memorandum regarding his son Francis Cadell, 'the Explorer of the River Murray and other Rivers in Australia'. (9pp)

Hew F. Cadell (Cockenzie), 11 August 1862 (File 6)

Memorial to the Duke of Newcastle, Secretary of State for the Colonies, seeking a land grant for Francis Cadell. (4pp, draft)

Governor Sir Henry Young (Adelaide) to Francis Cadell, 1853-10-24, 1853-10-27 (File 7)

Forwards address of Legislative Council on opening of steam navigation on River Murray; design of a medal (1p, copy), together with a copy of Cadell's reply, 27 Oct. 1853, and a copy of a letter from John Morphett, Speaker of the Legislative Council of South Australia.

Francis Cadell to Sir Henry Young, 23 June 1854 (File 8)

Navigability of the River Murray. (4pp, extract)

Colonial Office. Copies or extracts of despatches from the Governor of South Australia on the subject of the navigation of the River Murray, ordered to be printed by the House of Commons (15pp), 7 March 1854 (File 9)

Francis Cadell. Report of the Northern Territory exploration (ms, 28pp), 26 August 1867 (File 10)

First Government Secretary (Batavia) to the brother of Francis Cadell, 25 February 1880 (File 11)

Account of the death of Francis Cadell.

Printed sheet headed Navigation of the Murray 1853 and four copies of a printed extract from a speech of Mr Morris in the Riverine debate in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales 1864 (File 12)

'Adventure in the first steamer, the Melbourne, out of the mouth of the River Murray on 28 August 1854' (typescript, 6pp) (File 13)

Memorandum of the services of Francis Cadell, 'explorer of the Murray River' (5pp), together with a rough draft, n.d. (File 14)

Address to Francis Cadell from the Murray settlers of New South Wales and Victoria when he was approaching the boundaries of South Australia on the Lady Augusta, (3pp), 7 October 1852 (File 15)

Address to Captain Cadell from officers of the Waikato Steam Navigation Service, Auckland (1p), 26 March 1866 (File 16)

Memorandum on the services of Francis Cadell, (7pp, first sheet with Cockenzie letterhead), n.d. (File 17)

Manuscript entitled 'Australia', n.d. (File 18)

Including notes on the maritime discovery of Australia, the colonisation of New South Wales, Port Phillip and South Australia, the goldfields, the River Murray steamships, the life of Francis Cadell, shipping routes to Australia, and the Australian Aborigines. (40pp)

Obituaries and other newspaper cuttings relating to the life of Francis Cadell, 1879 - 1880 (File 19)

Cutting book, mainly relating to Francis Cadell and the navigation of the River Murray, 1852 - 1856 (File 20)

The cuttings, which include shipping notices, were taken from a large number of newspapers in Australia and Britain, including the South Australian Register, Adelaide Times, Adelaide Observer, Weekly Dispatch (Adelaide), The Argus (Melbourne), Border Post (Albury), Sydney Morning Herald, The Empire (Sydney), Maitland Mercury, Australian and New Zealand Gazette (London), The Times (London), London Illustrated News and The Sun (London). In addition, there are printed maps of New South Wales and Victoria (1852), the proposed River Murray and Encounter Bay Railway (1850) and a sketch by J.W. Pullen of the mouth of the River Murray (1840).

Cutting Book Mainly relating to Francis Cadell, the navigation of the River Murray, Murray trade and colonial borders, 1857 - 1860 (File 21)

Most of the cuttings are from the Border Post (Albury). Others were taken from the South Australian Register, Wagga Wagga Express and the Australian and New Zealand Gazette (London). The volume also contains a photograph of Francis Cadell.

Cutting book concerning the Northern Territory expedition led by Francis Cadell, 1867 - 1868 (File 22)

The newspapers represented include the South Australian Register, Adelaide Observer, Sydney Morning Herald, Riverine Herald (Echuca), Australian and New Zealand Gazette (London), The Times (London), The Athenaeum (London) and The Scotsman (Edinburgh).