This post is about a Devon family who travelled to the other side of the world in search of a better life.
John Tickle (also shown as John Tickell in some records) was born around 1801 in Bridestowe, Devon, England. He married Ann Isobel Cole in 1827 and they set up home in the hamlet of Dipperton, in the Marystowe parish, Devon. They had at least 11 children, and possibly as many as 14. I’ve found a family tree on Ancestry showing three more children, who died young. Unfortunately, it doesn’t cite any sources and I haven’t been able to verify the information for myself. I’ve only included the children shown in the 1841 census in my count.
John worked in a manganese mine. Manganese is a hard, silvery metal, first found in Devon about 1770. It was initially used in the potteries and in purifying glass but later it became essential in steelmaking, for removing sulphur and oxygen from the molten steel, and for strengthening alloys, such as aluminium.
Devon was a key place for mining manganese in the early 19th century – 3,000 tons of it was shipped annually from Exeter. During the second half of the century, Welsh mines became dominant and less manganese was produced in Devon, leading to the loss of jobs..
In 1851, when John is shown on the census as a manganese miner, Marystowe had a population of 570. At the next census, ten years later, the population had decreased to 448. One in five inhabitants had left in the intervening years, mainly due to lack of employment. There were fewer jobs, both at the manganese mines and on farms – in the latter case due to the introduction of agricultural machinery, which replaced manual labour.
John Tickle and his family were among those who left. John, Ann, and eight of their children took an assisted passage to New South Wales, Australia. An assisted passage was paid for in full, or subsidised in part, by one of several assisted immigration schemes operated to encourage people to move to New South Wales from the United Kingdom and other countries. The family travelled on the ship, Alfred‘, arriving on 23 July 1857. Records show that the Alfred, a 1278 ton vessel, sailed from the port of Liverpool to Sydney in July 1857, carrying 467 passengers / emigrants – 188 men, 158 women, 59 boys, 50 girls, and 12 infants. There were also 53 crew, one lady (a Mrs Cossey, wife of the owner) in a passenger cabin, and two stowaways – W Frazer and Henry Perrish!
In the mid 19th century, Australia was sparsely populated by convicts, soldiers, and a few ‘free settlers’. It had a major labour shortage. Farmers needed labourers to clear the land, plant crops, and take care of animals. Convict labour, which had been used in the past, was insufficient to fulfil demand from the expanding settlements.. Convicts were also seen as a bad moral influence and many people wanted the transportation system to stop, rather than to increase the number of convicts in the workforce.
The preferred solution was to encourage more free settlers to emigrate to Australia. However, North America was much more attractive to most British emigrants. It was a far shorter trip – three or four weeks as opposed to two or more months to get to Australia – and it was much cheaper! A ticket to Australia cost four times as much as a ticket to North America.
The Australian colonial government decided that the best way to encourage migrants to come was to pay for the tickets of eligible applicants. In 1831, the British government established the Emigration Commission which offered assisted migration schemes to New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land for those who could not otherwise have afforded it. There was plenty of work in Australia and unemployment in many areas of England. An assisted passage tempted many to make the arduous journey. Over one million immigrants (either assisted or unassisted) arrived in Australia from the United Kingdom during the 1800s.
Among the information recorded in the passenger records are the names of John and Ann’s parents, of whom only Ann’s father was still alive, and the fact that John and the children could all read and write while their mother could do neither. Although John had been a miner, he is shown on the passenger list as a farm worker. The oldest of the children travelling with them was 21-year old Joseph, who was listed as a farm servant as was his younger brother, Thomas. A younger son, William, had died the previous year at just 6 years old. Perhaps this was the event that triggered the family into seeking a new life elsewhere?
A farm worker? I thought John was a miner?
I couldn’t understand this. It was definitely the same family as shown in the 1851 census, with children’s names and ages all matching, as did the names of Ann’s parents. At first I wondered if John, then aged 55, wanted a change of career. It could be that, as they had assisted passages, they had already obtained positions on a farm. It’s also possible that there was a simple financial reason. I recently came across a scale of charges for passage to Australia. The amount charged to adult men varied depending on their trade. Agricultural workers could obtain the cheapest passage at £6. Skilled workers such as blacksmiths and miners were charged £8, while others paid even more. Although the family were on an assisted passage, they may have had to pay a percentage of their fares. In that case, it might be advantageous to be classed as the lowest-paying category.
The Female Advantage
The oldest daughter who emigrated was Eliza, aged 19. Eliza Tickle would have been an asset to the family in obtaining assisted passages. Among the criteria used to judge suitability is found:
” The candidates who will receive a preference are respectable young women trained to domestic or farm service, and families in which there is a preponderance of females.”
The fact that the family also had two younger daughters might well have counted in their favour.
Life on Board
The trip to Australia by sailing ship could take up to four months, sometimes more, and the passage included areas of the ocean noted for storms and big seas, such as the Bay of Biscay, the Cape of Good Hope, and the Southern Ocean.. It is hard to imagine how families managed to cope on board for that length of time, with few facilities. Those making the passage in steerage class (the equivalent of economy class) were housed in the lowest deck, which often had little light or ventilation. Bad weather meant conditions became almost unbearable. During a storm, the steerage passengers could be locked below in the dark, suffering from sea-sickness, in a heavy sea, and with no toilet or washing facilities. Dysentry, typhoid, and other diseases were rife in the crowded and unhygienic conditions. Many passengers did not survive the rigours of the journey. As many as one in five children, and one in 60 adults died before reaching Australia. Ironically, at this time, conditions on the convict transportation ships were often better than those on ships carrying immigrants. You can learn more about emigrants’ journeys to Australia on the Victoria Museum website Journeys to Australia and the New South Wales 19th century emigrant experience.
Later Family History
My research into the family is on-going but you can find the details I’ve recorded so far in the Genealogy section of the website, which you can access here. Please let me know if you can add to or correct any of the existing information.
Unfortunately, many 19th century NSW censuses were destroyed in a fire in 1882, including the detailed household forms from 1861, 1871 and 1881, so it is a little harder to trace people.
Not all of John’s children went to New South Wales. Three of the older children remained in Devon, and I have some details on their spouses and children. There are descendants of John and Ann Tickle from Dipperton, Marystowe in both Australia and the UK. If you’re connected to this family, do please get in touch.
These were not the only Tickles to emigrate down under. Future posts will cover some of the others, including George Tickle, from the Midlands of England, who was transported as a convict at a young age.