Letters from Australia to family and friends at home

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Letters from Australia

to family and friends at home

from Brighton emigrants,


Edited by Joyce Collins




Chapter 1 Farewell to England 1

Chapter 2 Leaving Brighton: Making Plans 5
Chapter 3 The Voyage of the Harpley 1849 12
Chapter 4 The Juniper & Wood party:

Arrival in Australia 21

Chapter 5 Early Days in Melbourne

and the Gold Rush begins 26

Chapter 6 Gold Fever reaches Brighton:

more Plans to Emigrate 35

Chapter 7 The Voyage of the Statesman 1852 44
Chapter 8 Arrival of the Gold Seekers 52
Chapter 9 Getting to the Diggings 60
Chapter 10 Life at the Diggings 74
Chapter 11 The End in Sight 93
Chapter 12 Conclusion 101
Sources and Acknowledgements 106
Index of names 108


This is the story of some of the men, women and children who left their homes in Brighton over a century and a half ago to embark on new lives at the other side of the world. They were by no means the first, and certainly not the last, Brightonians to cross the seas in search of a better life, but those who left around the year 1850 are of particular interest as emigrants bound for Australia, and specifically for Melbourne, Victoria. At this time, and for several years during the 1850s, the Brighton Gazette and other local newspapers published regular items of Emigration News which included letters received by families and friends of two large parties which left the town in 1849 and 1852. The first of these ― the “Juniper and Wood Party”― sailed together on the Harpley, arriving at Port Phillip for Melbourne in January 1850. A much larger number of emigrants (probably around 200) left in 1852 on board the Statesman and several other ships. The letters written home by people from both parties form the core of this account but there is a further invaluable source of information about the experience of the Brighton emigrants to Melbourne. Among those who left with the earlier group was the Chandler family ― father, mother and four children, the eldest of whom was John, then ten years old. John never returned to England, and in 1893, when he was in his fifties, he wrote a detailed account of his life and this was published under the title Forty Years in the Wilderness. His memories, together with the letters recording fresh impressions of recent experience, enable us to follow the emigrants’ reasons for going, what happened on the way and what lay ahead for them in their future lives.

The letters themselves are reproduced in their entirety, as published in the Gazette. Occasional spelling errors have generally been left uncorrected. Repetition, e.g. of food prices, indicates the importance to writers and recipients of particular pieces of information. These letters are, of course, only some of the hundreds that must have been written home by the emigrants who left in 1849 and 1852. Their survival in the pages of a local newspaper does however enable readers in the twenty-first century to share in the experience of the men and women who sought to make new lives in Australia – John Juniper’s “land of promise.”

By Charles Bennett. Published in the Illustrated London News,

June 19, 1852.

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