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Dorset Bounty Immigrants

Life in Dorset in the 1830s was pretty tough for ordinary folk. Agricultural wages were among the lowest in the country and farm mechanisation was reducing available work. At the time, there was also much social unrest with riots in Poole, Blandford, Handley & Sherborne.

So it was no surprise that several Dorset families decided in 1836 to become ‘Bounty Immigrants’ and seek out a better life in Australia. This was an early assisted passage scheme sponsored by the new colony and the Australian land owning Macarthur family. For its time, the scheme was incredibly progressive. Each family was given a three year contract, a wage, a cottage rent free and a plot of land.

Among the first Dorset Bounty Immigrants were the Arnold & Norris families from Child Okeford, two Butt families from Winterborne Stickland, the Coxs & Elliots from Farnham and the New, Thorn, Vincent & three Weeks families from Handley.

They all arrived safely in New South Wales on 8th April 1837 and mainly settled in Camden just outside of Sydney. However, their journey on the sailing vessel, the Brothers was not uneventful. In a storm in the English Channel, the sailing vessel lost much of its rigging so it had to return to Southampton for repairs. In a later storm a prize stallion was lost overboard.

In time, many of the Dorset Bounty Immigrants became significant landowners. More Dorset Bounty Immigrants followed on the Kinnear in April 1838, the John McLellan in October 1838 and on the Royal George in March 1839. All their names are listed in the book Camden by Alan Atkinson.

Perhaps it would have been more appropriate if New South Wales had been named New Dorset!

(Illustration: sailing vessel the Brothers)



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