Guide to the Letters of Sir Edmund Frederick Du Cane (as filmed by the AJCP)



National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Created: 2018

Collection Summary

Du Cane, Edmund Frederick, Sir
Letters of Sir Edmund Frederick Du Cane (as filmed by AJCP)
Date Range
1851 - 1856
Collection Number
16 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

16 letters from Du Cane in Western Australia to his mother and brothers, Arthur and Richard. The first two letters were written on board the Anna Robertson, one describing in detail the passengers, eating and sleeping conditions, and shipboard life. The content of his letters from Western Australia varies from details of social life to sketches and written descriptions of the settlements at Perth and Guildford and discussions of the convict system. Events recorded include the Governor's expedition in February 1852 to Champion Bay, the wreck of the Eglinton in September 1852 and rumours of the cessation of transportation in 1853. His letters include sketches of settlers and officials, Indigenous Australians, buildings and animals.

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 private residence of Mr A. Pullan, Buckinghamshire, as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project, 1972 (AJCP Reel: M835). Original microfilm digitised as part of the AJCP Online Delivery Project, 2017-2020.

Existence and Location of Originals

The private residence of Mr Anthony Pullan. Berkshire, 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.

Advisory Statement

Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are advised that this Finding Aid contains material and descriptive information which may be considered culturally sensitive and may cause distress, including names and images of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people now deceased. This Finding Aid contains terms that reflect authors' views or those of the historical period, but which may not be considered appropriate today. While the information may not reflect current understanding, it is provided in an historical context.


Anna Robertson (ship); Champion Bay, Western Australia; Convicts: Western Australia; Du Cane, Arthur; Du Cane, Richard; Du Cane, Sir Edmund F.; Eglinton (ship); Governors and Governors General: Western Australia; Guildford, Western Australia; Paintings, drawings and prints: Western Australia; Perth, Western Australia; Western Australia; Zoology: Western Australia


Originally cited in Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook. Part 8: Miscellaneous (M) Series. Third Edition, published 1998. Entry 145, pp.52-53.

Biographical / Historical

Edmund Frederick Du Cane (1830-1909), the son of Major Du Cane (d. 1832) was born at Colchester, England. He entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich in 1846 and obtained his commission as a second lieutenant in the Royal Engineers in 1848. In 1851 Du Cane was sent to Western Australia to direct the work of convicts employed on public buildings, under the command of Captain Edmund Henderson. He built a house at Guildford and was responsible for public works in York, Toodyay and the eastern district. In 1852 he accompanied Governor Fitzgerald on a journey on horseback to Champion Bay. He was later a visiting magistrate. In 1855 he married Mary Dorothea Molloy, the daughter of Captain John Molloy and his wife, the botanist Georgiana Molloy. They had eight children.

Du Cane and his wife returned to England in 1856. Under the Inspector-General of Fortification, he was responsible for the design of new defences of dockyards and naval bases in southern England, including Dover and Plymouth. In 1863 he was appointed director of convict prisons and an inspector of military prisons. In 1869 he succeeded Edmund Henderson as Inspector-General and Surveyor-General of Prisons. He was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-general in 1873 and was knighted in 1877. He retired from the Army in 1887 with the rank of major-general.


Alexandra Hasluck. Royal Engineer: a life of Sir Edmund Du Cane (Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1973)

Item Descriptions

Du Cane to Eliza Du Cane, 13 September 1851 (File)

Departure from England on the Anna Robertson.

Du Cane (off Cape Verde Islands) to Eliza Du Cane, 30 September 1851 (File)

Account of the voyage since leaving England; fellow-passengers including Bishop Brady; drawings.

Du Cane (Fremantle) to Eliza Du Cane, 30 September 1851 (File)

Arrival at Fremantle; quarantine.

Du Cane (Fremantle) to Arthur Du Cane, 7 January 1852 (File)

Arrival at Fremantle; the Swan River; impressions of Fremantle and the bush; absence of shops; Captain E. Henderson; unlimited money for public works. Includes an extract from a letter from Captain Henderson to General Sir John Burgoyne.

Du Cane (Guildford) to the family, 20 February 1852 (File)

Journey to the north with Governor C. Fitzgerald; inspection of Champion Bay; Indigenous Australians, 'settlers shoot them down like dogs'; fires lit by Indigenous Australians; attractions of Guildford; building works; requests books.

Du Cane (Guildford) to Eliza Du Cane, 18 April 1852 (File)

Receipt of newspapers and letters; weather; construction of his house; monthly visits to York and Toodyay; isolation of settlements; property investments in Adelaide.

Du Cane (Guildford) to Eliza Du Cane, 5 July 1852 (File)

Tour of convict establishments; condition of inns; Aboriginal trackers; plans of house and garden; food prices; country cannot support a large population.

Du Cane (Guildford) to Eliza Du Cane, 12 September 1852 (File)

Wreck of Eglinton; sends sketches; advice on sending mails; his garden; Captain Henderson; 'many gentlemen emigrants have lived in huts for years and only now are making some money'.

Du Cane (Guildford) to Arthur Du Cane, 1 March 1853 (File)

Rumours of cessation of transportation; requests items of clothing and other goods, including beer; arrival of HMS Torch; social events; Captain Henderson's home the best in the colony; investments.

Du Cane (Guildford) to Arthur Du Cane, 29 May 1853 (File)

Public works; lack of warders; bridge over the Swan and road being constructed across Darling Range to Toodyay; cessation of transportation would destroy the colony; possibility of importing goods; requests books.

Du Cane (Guildford) to Dick Du Cane, 21 August 1853 (File)

Investments; economic conditions in the colony; continuance of convict transportation; criticisms of the British Government; convict accommodation ; lack of security in inland prisons.

Du Cane (Guildford) to Arthur Du Cane, 15 December 1853 (File)

Construction of Du Cane's house; the Governor's envy; problem of flies; Catholic bishops J. Brady and J. Serra; only three Anglican clergy in the colony.

Du Cane (Guildford) to Arthur Du Cane, 15 October 1854 (File)

Receipt of letters and newspapers; W.A. Sandford, the Colonial Secretary; Governor C. Fitzgerald; Du Cane's garden; sketch of house and garden.

Du Cane (Guildford) to a brother, n.d. (File)

His garden; possibility of famine, almost out of flour; possibility of war. (incomplete)

Du Cane (Fremantle) to Arthur Du Cane, 7 January 1856 (File)

Imminent departure on Esmeralda; tired of continual heat; Lieut. H. Wray, Capt. Henderson; death of Mary Henderson; decision to leave Western Australia.

Testimonial of Governor Arthur Kennedy on good conduct of Lieut. Du Cane in all his duties, 23 July 1856 (File)