1820 British Settlers Awareness Project

IMG 9 Settlers Pen trnsp webIt is fitting that the arrival of the British Settlers in 1820, and their legacy, will be one of the focal points of GSSA this year. In 2020 we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the first British Settlers in South Africa. In 1819 the British government approved an amount of £50,000 to support individuals who were prepared to emigrate to the Cape. The political, economic, and social pressure in Britain after the end of the Napoleonic wars, and the simultaneous intensification of the Industrial Revolution was so high that some 80,000 people applied for it. However, only about 4,000 were eventually selected to leave Britain.
Most of this group settled on the eastern frontier of the then Cape Colony. They were not the first or last British emigrants to come to the Cape, but it was the only government supported scheme that took a fairly large English-speaking community to a particular region of South Africa. Many of them had no agricultural background and eventually moved to towns such as Port Elizabeth, East London and Grahamstown where they worked as blacksmiths, tailors and in other trades learned in England. This has contributed to the development and economic progress of the villages. Several of the Settlers would eventually integrate fully with the local Afrikaans-speaking population, so that their descendants are spread throughout South Africa today. 
Are you a descendant of the 1820 Settlers? Is there perhaps an 1820 Settler somewhere in your family tree waiting to be discovered? Then read articles 1 - 5 below to get the wheels of your research rolling.
Follow the link for more information: The 1820 Settler Correspondence
 
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The Bicentenary of the arrival of the 1820 Settlers

Nottinghamshire Settlers and Locations
Magaliesberg Association Culture Heritage Logo
A BICENTENNIAL TRIBUTE by Prof. John Lambert
This year is the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the 1820 settlers, a group which laid the foundations for a permanent, distinctive, white English-speaking population in South Africa. In this piece I pay tribute to the settlers who were prepared to undertake the task of establishing new lives for themselves on a remote frontier of the Empire, and at the challenges and opportunities facing them in their new home.
To understand why the settlers came to South Africa, one has to go back to the years before 1820 and to developments that were taking place on the Eastern Cape frontier. In 1817, the Cape Governor, Lord Charles Somerset, recommended to the British government that British settlers be sent to the Eastern Cape where four wars had taken place against the Xhosa since the late eighteenth century. Somerset hoped that a compact British settlement would act as a buffer against the Xhosa.
This request arrived at a time of widespread economic dislocation and agricultural depression in Britain after the Napoleonic wars which had left many unemployed and destitute, fuelling concerns about social unrest. Accordingly, the British government was prepared to finance a scheme which was intended to establish a sturdy, self-reliant community of agriculturalists on the frontier. These would be sent out in parties, each one under a leader and consisting of indentured labourers with their families. These labourers would have to work for their party leader for three years after which each man over eighteen would receive a 40 hectare land grant.
Arriving in Algoa Bay Thoman BainesArriving in Algoa Bay, Thomas Baines
From December 1819, 4,500 settlers left Britain in 28 small cramped ships taking up to 98 days to reach the Cape. From the start, however, it was apparent that Somerset’s vision of establishing a closely-knit agricultural community to act as a buffer against Xhosa incursions had no hope of succeeding. In the first place, the land in Albany where they were to be settled was essentially grazing veld, unsuitable for productive arable farming. On top of this, less than half the settlers were agriculturalists, most being artisans, labourers, small businessmen, half-pay officers and tradesmen from Britain’s rapidly industrialising cities, men with no knowledge of farming. In addition, for the first three years the settlers were plagued by droughts, floods, rust and crop failure. It isn’t surprising that most indentured labourers broke their contracts  and abandoned the lands that had been allocated to them. Of the 1,004 male adults who came to the Cape, only 438 remained on their lands.
Albany mapOf those who left, many moved to the small towns in the interior where they revolutionised urban life, playing an important role in  commerce and public affairs. Within a generation they dominated the towns, establishing banks, schools, libraries, societies and newspapers. Others became itinerant traders and hunters, transforming the lives of rural Afrikaners and blacks who became increasingly dependent on them.
1820 trekking
For those who remained on the land, their diaries and letters paint a vivid picture of the travails they had to endure with many being reduced to a life of hardship and even poverty,. Few knew how to cope with their new lives, exhausting their strength and resources trying to turn Albany into  an agricultural settlement. The more rugged settlers from Scotland and Northern England who were used to working marginal land tended to adapt more easily than their southern counterparts who were less psychologically prepared for so different an environment. Scots were also more willing than the English to learn from Afrikaners and the Khoikhoi (Hottentots) on how to subsist off the veld and how to use the environment to advantage. On the whole it was settlers, mainly leaders of parties who accumulated large land holdings, or those who had many sons to work in the fields and herd livestock who had more of a chance of succeeding.

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1820 Settlers and other early British Settlers to the Cape Colony

Nottinghamshire Settlers and LocationsIf you are an English-speaking South African, chances are that way back in your ancestry was an 1820 Settler. This book marks the 200th anniversary of the arrival of this intrepid group and pays tribute to the part they played in building the South African nation.
Search over 500 pages of text and photographs for your family history!
“In their stark ignorance they made the most pitiful blunders. But inevitably they learnt the hard way, by blood and sweat and tears. Nothing could daunt their indomitable spirit, and by grim determination, steadfast courage and high endeavour, they triumphed over every obstacle.
In the highest councils of the land, in the business and cultural development of the towns and cities, and in the pastoral and agricultural expansion of the country, the have left a name which shall never perish.”
John Wilmot, Editor
For more information and to order this book please follow the link
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Nottinghamshire Settlers & Locations in the Eastern Cape of Good Hope

Nottinghamshire Settlers and LocationsThis 600 plus paged book, meticulously researched by Rob Smith, tells the story of the Nottinghamshire 1820 Settlers. The two parties from Nottinghamshire were representative of typical settlers, suffering many communal trials and tribulations, and participating in outstanding achievements. Ultimately, they were successful in their new home, a land of immense opportunity.The four parties with Nottinghamshire participants were White’s, Damant’s, Calton’s, and Sephton’s. The other principal family in the party with the Damants was the Atherstones with their strong ties to Nottinghamshire. It is appropriate to consider the Damants from Norfolk and the Atherstones from Nottingham as one extended family at the head of the only emigration party assembled in Norfolk. Dr John Atherstone was born in Nottingham in 1791, qualified as a doctor at Guy’s Middlesex Hospital, and married Elizabeth Damant.
"It is no exaggeration to state that the Damants, Whites and Atherstones formed the nucleus of a dynasty at the Cape and certain family members were destined to become some of South Africa’s most influential individuals.”
Separate chapters deal with Henry Hartley, the hunter and explorer who rediscovered the ancient gold workings in Tati (now Francistown) that led to the first southern African gold rush; Dr Guybon Atherstone (who identified the Eureka diamond and performed the first amputation in southern Africa using anaesthetic); and the White family of Albany (whose scion T.C., Thomas Charles, was his own man, a stubborn and caustic character but a champion for the underdog and the unfortunate).
For more information and to order this book please follow the link
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1st Article - 1820 Settlers the story

1820 SETTLERSIn the latter stages of the 17th century and in the early stages of the 18th century the dominant population groups in the Eastern Cape area were the white cattle farmers and the black cattle farmers. Both groups were constantly looking for more land on which their cattle could graze. These opposing groups clashed in a series of skirmishes or wars.
Colonel John Graham was the originator of the plan to settle a large group of Scottish Highlanders in this area. He was in charge of the British troops at a fort in the area. The fort later becomes Grahams Town. The plan was not implemented due to the fact that Britain was still involved in the war with Europe and emigration schemes were not priorities.
In 1817 captain Benjamin Moodie brought 50 young Scottish men who were artisans to the Cape as contracted workers. Later on he brought out a further 150 men. Cape citizens bought the contracts of the first group of artisans however some members of the second group absconded; thus leaving captain Moodie with a financial loss. In the final analysis the Cape gained 200 much needed artisans.
Peter Tait tried to emulate Moodies model but only managed to recruit 30 settlers.
On 22 April 1819 Xhosa Chief Mdushane attacked Grahams town with 10 000 warriors and overran the settlement.
This attack as well as the successful settlement of the Moodie settlers motivated the authorities at the Cape to write an appeal to Lord Bathurst to implement a settler scheme.
The end of the European war brought misery to the British population due to inflation, unemployment and the general stagnation of the economy. These miserable conditions lead to food riots in London in May 1819.
These riots in London added pressure to the then Tory government to consider an emigration scheme to the Cape.
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2nd Article: 1820 Settlers the story

Following the events earlier described, three philanthropists, Vernon, Harberd, and Stracey proposed a privately owned emigration scheme to the Cape of Good Hope. The editorial which appeared in The Times on 12 July 1819 promoted the scheme.
The proposal of the three philanthropists saw discussion in parliament on 12 July 1819 and £50 000 was voted by the government to finance the scheme. A condition of the availability of the fund was that it had to be spent within six months .This stipulation had the effect that not sufficient planning could be done before the implementation phase commenced. It can be said that this was one of the reasons for the failure of the scheme. The scheme was managed by the Colonial Office and was advertised by way of pamphlets which were distributed.
The Colonial Office received more than 90 000 letters of application. Some journalists described the mood in the UK as emigration fever.
The Colonial Office arranged to appoint a number of party leaders. Once appointed party leaders recruited members for their parties. Parties had to have a minimum of 10 men. Party leaders received free passage for the voyage for themselves, their families and their servants.
Party leaders were responsible to lodge £10 for each single male or family group consisting of a married couple with two children over the age of 14. For additional children between the ages of 14 and 18 years of age the cost was £5 each; for every child under 14 years of age £2 10s had to be lodged. Single women had to lodge £10.
These fees were to pay for food for the settlers in each party until they had harvested their first crop at the Cape.
The way these funds had to be lodged lead to various private arrangements between settlers as regards the composition of “families.”
The Colonial Office was not concerned with the way these party leaders compiled and selected the members of their parties.
At this point in time Britain was in the grip of a very deep recession. Parishes and charitable organizations made use of this scheme to relieve them of the obligation to look after large numbers of people who were in need of shelter and substance. The parishes in fact paid the money which settlers had to lodge on behalf of the settlers.
Matters would have worked out fine for the Colonial Office if the settlers could have sailed immediately, however this was not possible and during the delay before sailing the newspapers started publishing cartoons, particularly those by Cruikshank which depicted savages taking bites out of the bodies of settlers. These cartoons and articles did not deter would-be settlers and when ships were available they sailed with full compliments. In some cases would- be settlers developed cold feet and left the parties, however their places were quickly filled by other eager settlers. This process created havoc with passenger lists and other records.
The first ships sailed from the Downs at the mouth of the Thames River from December 1819. Ships also sailed from Liverpool, Bristol, and Portsmouth. The Irish settler contingent sailed from Cork.
According to reports the weather during the passage was good. The first ship, “Chapman,” which arrived in Algoa Bay was spotted in the bay on the 9th April 1820. During April and May all the ships arrived at their destinations except the Abeona which was lost at sea.
The weather may have had the result that the voyage was comfortable but the atmosphere on board ship was stormy. By the time the ships arrived most settlers have tried to terminate their contracts with the leaders of the parties to which they belonged.
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3rd Article - 1820 Settlers the story

The Fanny and the East Indian both sailed from the Cove of Cork, Ireland on the 12th February, 1820. On the 30th April the East Indian arrived in Simon’s Bay, followed the next day by the Fanny.  Only leaders of parties were allowed ashore.
The leaders met with the Colonial Secretary, Colonel Bird, who informed them that they would not be heading for Albany but were to be settled in the Clanwilliam district. This would reduce the number of settlers arriving in Albany by about 350 and would also keep the hot-headed Irish apart from the other settlers.
Parker and two other men left for Clanwilliam on horseback on the 13th and on the 17th were shown the locations by the Land Surveyor. Horrified at, what he considered, the awful conditions and the position the settlers would find themselves in, the three men hurried to Saldanha Bay to try and prevent the settlers leaving the ships.
The two ships had left Simon’s Bay together again on the 16th May and headed back up the West Coast to Saldanha Bay.
The East Indian had one party on board – 222 settlers under the leadership of William Parker some of whom had embarked at Deptford before the East Indian left for Cork where the rest of the party embarked.
The Fanny was a much smaller ship than the East Indian but had three parties on board:
32 settlers under Captain Thomas Butler – this group had walked the 140 miles from Wicklow to Cork,
28 settlers under Captain Walter Synott – this group had made their way by road down from Northern Ireland to Cork where they embarkedand James Ingram’s party of 67 settlers from Cork.
Teams of ox wagons belonging to the local farmers were waiting to meet the settlers and transport them to their destination. The three parties on the Fanny disembarked, loaded up and made their way to the Clanwilliam district where they were allocated farms.
Parker meantime boarded the East Indian and told the party of the awful conditions at Clanwilliam and dismissed the rest of the wagons. They would not be needed. They would not settle there.
Then suddenly he changed his mind. Why? He had heard that there was gold North of Clanwilliam. He could not be persuaded that it was in fact copper. He thought this was a story made up by the locals to dissuade him from following up the claim. So he arranged for transport wagons to be hired from the farmers again and the party set off for Clanwilliam where they were allocated farms.
And then the squabbling started - unfair allocation of land - the land was no good for farming - more and more complaints.
By the end of June virtually every settler was dissatisfied with their lot. Work agreements were annulled while others asked for their services to be officially terminated. Some just absconded while others made their way to the Zuurveld, now renamed Albany.
In 1825, when two commissioners arrived in Clanwilliam to hear the settlers complaints  they found only two families still on their original locations and only twelve families still remained in the area.
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4th Article –1820 settlers the story The Abeona

In November 1820, the transport-ship Abeona was chartered by the Government for the conveyance of emigrants to the Cape of Good Hope. Having taken on board fourteen passengers at London she proceeded to the Clyde, where 126 emigrants embarked. There were 21 crew on board and with a fair wind the ship left Greenock, Scotland on the 13th October 1820 and began her voyage down South.
She caught fire at 4°30’N, 25°30’W and burnt for 15 hours. She was completely destroyed.
Three boatloads of survivors were rescued by a Portuguese merchant ship and taken to Lisbon.
“Arrived here yesterday, the Royal Charlotte, from Lisbon, in 17 days, having on board the surgeon, second mate, carpenter, one seaman, and three boys; and also 22 emigrants, part of those saved by the boats from the wreck of the Abeona transport, Capt. Pritchard.” from The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register for India and its Dependencies, Vol 2, page 206-7
The following year 6 survivors set off for the Cape in HMS Sappho, arriving in Simon’s Bay in August 1821. Who were they?
“May it please your Excellency, We the undersigned five men of the few survivors that were saved from the Abeona after losing all our families and property in that melancholy catastrophe and after our return finding little comfort at home again petitioned Government through the medium of the Magistrates of Glasgow to grant us lands as near as possible to Cape Town consistent with the views of Government and at the same time petitioned for agricultural implements and seeds to our farms, which petition being kindly granted us along with passage, we accordingly proceeded.
Signed: James Clark, John McLaren (a joiner, lost his wife and 4 children), John McLean (lost his wife and son) Thomas (a sawyer, lost his wife as per our list) and his wife, Agnes Reid, Robert Thompson (a bricklayer, maybe the Thomson below).” As per M D Nash.
It would appear that these men settled in the Western Cape. The full story and passenger list is available elsewhere on this website. https://www.eggsa.org/1820-settlers/index.php/articles-2/loss-of-the-abeona-1820
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5th Article –1820 settlers the story The Settler Lists

From The Settler Hand Book by MD Nash  - Living with The 1820 Settlers by Marion Robertson.
The official settler lists can be accessed at the Cape Archives and the Public Records Office, London.
(Cape Archives CO 6138/1 and 2) But these lists are not always correct.
Each party head had to submit a list of settlers to the Colonial Office when applying to emigrate. This would have been in August 1819. But they were only notified of a successful application in October or November. By this time many prospective settlers had changed their minds.
As people cancelled, others took their place, sometimes travelling under the names of the persons they had replaced. Even at the docks unofficial replacements slipped in as people changed their minds about travelling to a strange far off land. Then there were stowaways.
The terms of the scheme were also open to abuse.  Each party was to be made up of at least 10 men, one a leader, with or without their wives. The party leader had to deposit £10 for himself and the same for each man in his party. This amount also covered a wife and two children under 14.  Families with more than 2 children had to pay an extra £5 for every 2 additional children. Children between the ages of 14 and 18 had to pay £5 each.
Deposits were to be returned to the settlers in three stages:
  • One third on arrival so that they could buy provisions,
  • One third when they had settled and
  • One third after settlement.
To make applications acceptable ages were changed so that older children came into the “under14” category. Children from large families were “transferred” to other families. Apprentices were added as “sons”. Single woman were listed as wives of single men. Older men reduced their ages so that they would be more acceptable as settlers. Occupations were also altered to be more acceptable – after all, who would need a piano-tuner in the Zuurveld!
So for most parties the final lists differs vastly from the initial application. The most reliable would appear to be the Embarkation Lists, made by the Agents of Transports officers when the settlers boarded and updated during the voyage to record births and deaths at sea.
But take note – the Agents’ Returns rely on the honesty of the agent compiling the list and remember they only recorded what they were told by a settler who had his own interests at heart.
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