Guide to the Journal of Henry Widowson (as filmed by the AJCP)



National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Created: 2018

Collection Summary

Widowson, Henry
Journal of Henry Widowson (as filmed by the AJCP)
Date Range
1825 - 1826
Collection Number
1 item
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

Journal November 1825-May 1826 kept on a voyage from England to Van Diemen's Land on the Albion, including accounts of life on board the ship, the weather and other passengers.

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

Filmed at the private residence of Mrs C. Scott, England, as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project, 1988 (AJCP Reel: M2116). Original microfilm digitised as part of the NLA AJCP Online Delivery Project, 2017-2020.

Existence and Location of Originals

The private residence of Mrs C. Scott. Wirral, 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.

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 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.


Australia: visits to; Albion (ship); Tasmania; Widowson, Henry; Van Diemens Land


Originally cited in Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook. Part 8: Miscellaneous (M) Series. Third Edition, published 1998. Entry 501, p194.

Biographical / Historical

The New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land Establishment was a private company, comprising seven partners, formed in London in 1825 on the initiative of Captain Bartholomew Thomas (1785-1831). Thomas, whose brother was an official in Hobart, was confident that the company would receive large land grants in both colonies on which good quality sheep, cattle and horses could be bred. In London he met the newly-appointed governor of New South Wales, Ralph Darling, who encouraged him to look to Van Diemen's Land as well as New South Wales. As it eventuated, the Establishment acquired no land in New South Wales but was active in Van Diemen's Land for thirty years.

Thomas charted a ship, the Albion, which left London in November 1825 and reached Hobart in May 1826. It carried Cleveland and Flemish horses, Shorthorn and Hereford cattle, and Merino, Leicester and Southdown sheep, as well as a quantity of farming implements. More than half the animals perished on the voyage. Also on board were James Toosey (1801-1883), a Norfolk farmer and breeder, and various 'scientific farmers', shepherds, grooms, carpenters, wheelwrights and other artisans. Henry Widowson, who later called himself an 'agent of the Van Diemen's Land Agricultural Establishment', was the head groom in charge of the horses.

Governor George Arthur offered the Establishment land on the Ringarooma River in the north-east of the colony. In June 1826 a party sailed there on the schooner Sally but it was wrecked, with the loss of 13 lives and many of the company's implements and stores. Widowson was one of the survivors. The Ringarooma location was given up, but soon afterwards the Establishment received a grant of 20,000 acres on the Lake River in the central region of the colony. Thomas named the place Cressy and the partnership became known as the Cressy Company. It struggled in the early years, but Toosey, who became manager in 1833, was able to bring more sheep and cattle from England and soon took advantage of the growing market at Port Phillip. The Southdown sheep at Cressy were the foundation stud in Australia. In 1855 the property was divided into 52 farms which were sold at auction.

Widowson left the Establishment not long after the wreck of the Sally. He spent some time travelling round the settled districts of Van Diemen's Land and gained a considerable knowledge of the topography, resources and economy of the colony. He returned to England in 1827 and in 1829 he published a book, Present state of Van Diemen's Land: comprising of an account of its agricultural capabilities with observations on the present state of farming. pursued in that colony, and other important matters connected with emigration. At the time, Widowson was living in Wellingborough in Northamptonshire.

Reference: Ivan C. Heazlewood. The livestock of the New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land Establishment (the Cressy Company) 1825-1855, Tasmanian Historical Research Association Papers and Proceedings, vol. 47 (2), June 2000, pp. 83-85.

Item Descriptions

Series. Journal kept on a voyage from England to Van Diemen's Land, November 1825 - May 1826

Judging from the regularity of the handwriting, the diary, which is addressed to 'Betsy', was re-written by Widowson at some time after the voyage. It begins with a title and short preface and concludes with a poem.

The diary begins with the departure of the Albion, commanded by Matthew Proctor, from Gravesend to the Downs and Portsmouth, Widowson's activities at Portsmouth including inspections of the dockyards, forts and HMS Victory, the departure from Portsmouth (1 Dec. 1825) and views of the south coast and Falmouth. The subsequent entries refer to the weather, the seas and winds, sea sickness, the food allowances, fights and thefts, church services, the sighting of Madeira and Tristan da Cunha, Christmas celebrations, the condition of the sheep, cattle and horses on board the ship, the deaths of animals, shooting and fishing and sighting of flying fish, porpoises, whales and sharks. There are references to other passengers, particularly James Toosey and Captain Bartholomew Thomas, who had initiated the expedition.

The Albion anchored at Cape Town on 23 February 1826 and remained there until 7 March. Widowson sets down in some detail his impressions of the town, as well as describing his daily activities, including meals, church services, encounters with Dutch farmers, a climb up Table Mountain, visits to farms and vineyards, a trip to Constantia, the purchase of horses, and the departure of Lord Somerset, the governor of Cape Colony, and Lady Somerset.

The final part of the diary mainly deals with the rough seas in the Indian Ocean, injuries incurred by passengers and crew, and the deaths of animals. It refers to the formation of a literary society on the ship and also gives details about St Paul's Island, although it was not sighted. Van Diemen's Land was sighted on 1 May 1826 and the last entries describe the views of landmarks as the ship approached the Derwent River and Hobart.

(114 pp.)