Series 19: Correspondence concerning the outfitting and equipping of HMS Porpoise for a voyage to New South Wales, 1797-1801

Number of documents

51

Provenance note

Most of the documents in this series were previously located at ML A79-3 with the following exceptions: documents 5, 10, and 47 which were previously located at ML A78-2; documents 43-44 previously located at ML A78-3; documents 26, 45 and the enclosure to document 36 previously located at ML A79-1. These papers, together with those located at ML A79-3, were purchased in 1884 from Lord Brabourne by Sir Saul Samuel, the Agent-General for New South Wales, and transferred to the Mitchell Library in 1910. They were part of the accession which became known as the Brabourne collection.

The remaining document in this series, document 36, was previously located at ML A82. It is part of an accession of Banks papers purchased for the Mitchell Library from Sotheby's, London, in May 1929.

Background note

George Suttor, a free settler, was engaged as gardener on board HMS Porpoise in August 1798. In return for caring for the consignment of European plants to be transferred to the colony in New South Wales, Suttor received free passage to the colony for himself, his wife and their baby son, and the usual assistance given to free settlers.

Sir Joseph Banks, under instructions from the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury on 22 June 1798, arranged a selection of culinary and medicinal plants, fruit trees and vines, plants for fodder, trees for timber, hops for brewing and other plants which he considered useful or necessary to the colony. These were planted and cared for by Suttor in the Gardens at Kew before being received on board the Porpoise in October 1798. The ship had earlier been fitted with a plant cabin on the quarterdeck according to Banks' specifications.

The Porpoise set sail on 6 September 1799 amid considerable doubt about her seaworthiness. Lieutenant William Scott, commander of the Porpoise, had grave concerns about the ship because of the weight and placement of the plant cabin. After sustaining critical damage in the Bay of Biscay, the Porpoise was forced to return to Spithead. The following month she was replaced by a second refitted vessel, also known as the Porpoise, which set sail for New South Wales in May 1800 arriving in November.

Subjects: Gardeners - New South Wales
  Plants - Collection and preservation
  Plants - Transportation
  Porpoise (ship)
  Suttor, George, 1774-1859