Duke of York 1836

The Duke of York sailed from London on 24 February 1836, and although not the first of the expedition ships to depart England for South Australia, it was the first to arrive at Kangaroo Island on 27 July 1836. 

The ship had been fitted out as a whaler for the trip to South Australia, so passenger accommodation was limited and squeezed into a space between the two decks.  This cramped accommodation was shared by the Captain, his 23 crew and 13 passengers  for 5 months [1].  Passenger space was so limited that four passengers who were classed as labourers were forced to share the crew’s quarters.  

The passengers included the Colonial Manager for the South Australian Company, Samuel Stephens, and his deputy, Thomas Hudson Beare.  Travelling with Thomas Beare was his wife, Lucy, their four children and Thomas’ elder sister, Charlotte Hudson Beare.

Charlotte was born in Winchester, Hampshire and baptised on 21 March 1788.  Four years older than her brother, Charlotte was a spinster who, according to various reports had shared a substantial legacy with Thomas [2] and agreed to accompany him and his family to the new colony.  Given her unmarried status and 19th century expectations, there is little doubt that the family envisaged that Charlotte’s role was to be a companion to her sister-in-law, Lucy and a carer for the four Beare children.  If Charlotte had received a legacy, it is possible that she saw emigration as a chance to break the social customs of the time and establish an independent life for herself in the new colony.

It appears that Charlotte had a close relationship with her brother’s children – William, 10, Lucy Ann, 9, Arabella, 5 and Elizabeth, 2 – and bore much of their care on board, particularly after their mother, Lucy, suffered a complicated labour and lost the baby during the voyage [3].  This tragedy appears to be the start of the severe mental distress exhibited by Lucy for the rest of the voyage and after their arrival at Kangaroo Island.

In addition to the company and entertainment provided by the children, Charlotte attracted the interest of Samuel Stephens, which made her brother extremely uncomfortable.  As the voyage progressed and the attention developed into overt wooing [4], Thomas Beare objected to the overtures and was highly suspicious of Stephens’ motives.  At the heart of this disquiet was the age difference between the two lovers – Samuel was 27 and Charlotte had just celebrated her 48th birthday.  The continuing courtship caused friction between the Colonial Manager and his Deputy, and gave Captain Robert Morgan severe misgivings.  

This courtship was obviously very agreeable to Charlotte and, ignoring her brother’s objections, continued to enjoy the dalliance with Stephens.  The relationship continued after the Duke of York arrived at Kangaroo Island and when a severely ill Lucy was finally brought ashore to be cared for by Thomas, Charlotte took the four children and lived in Stephens’ tent, with Stephens’ reportedly guarding them at night and sleeping outside.  These arrangements caused huge gossip amongst other colonists, and Stephens and Thomas Beare were constantly bickering and sniping at each other.  

By September 1836 Charlotte was acting as an intermediary between the two men, and the situation wasn’t improved when Charlotte & Samuel were married on board the ship John Pirie in Nepean Bay, Kangaroo Island on 24 September 1836 [5].  Acting as celebrant for the service was the Master of the John Pirie, Captain George Martin.  Rumour and gossip about Charlotte’s courtship and living arrangements had painted her in a very ‘discreditable manner’ [6], but this marriage elevated her social position above that of her brother and sister-in-law and freed her from the social restrictions she faced as a middle aged spinster.

By April 1837 a substantial brick and stone house had been built on Kangaroo Island for the Colonial Manager and his new wife but it is unknown if Charlotte and Samuel ever lived there.  Charlotte had purchased two acres at North Adelaide in the first land sales in 1837 and the couple left Kangaroo Island when Samuel was replaced as Colonial Manager by David McLaren at the end of March.  In May 1837 they were living in Adelaide when they hosted the first Methodist Service in the Colony at their home.

Thomas, Lucy and the children were still living on Kangaroo Island on 3 September 1837 when their last child, Mary Ann, was born.  Sadly Lucy died on the same day and Charlotte again stepped in to help Thomas with his family. Obviously the tension between brother & sister caused by her relationship with Samuel had eased.  Thomas grew more & more discontent with the SA Company and in July 1838 he resigned his position and moved his family to Adelaide.

After Samuel died as a result of a fall from his horse in January 1840, Charlotte lived a quiet life in North Adelaide.  The SA author Catherine Helen Spence was a great friend of the Beare family and described Charlotte as a kind, retiring woman devoted to her nephews & nieces and with a large circle of friends [7].  In a rare public appearance she attended the celebrations for the opening of the New Port in October 1840. [8]

Charlotte died, aged 93, on 16 December 1875 at her residence in North Adelaide.  Charlotte left half of her estate to two children of her eldest niece, Lucy Ann, with the other left to her brother’s second wife, Lucy (nee Bull).  An obituary noted that …she preserved her faculties to the last, and her intimate knowledge of early colonists and early colonial events made her conversation interesting to all who knew her. [9] 

Charlotte Hudson Stephens was buried at the West Terrace Cemetery in a vault that already held her niece, Elizabeth, the 2 year old who had travelled with Charlotte and arrived at Kangaroo Island on the Duke of York on 27 July 1836.


  1. Heinrich, D – The Man Who Hunted Whales, Awoonga Press, 2007
  2. Holmesby, W.P – The First of the Many, Island Press, Kingscote 1986
  3. Heinrich, D
  4. Heinrich, D
  5. This marriage is usually referred to as the first in the Colony, however it was preceded by another ceremony on board the John Pirie between a passenger and crew member on 29 August 1836.  This couple was allowed to settle on Kangaroo Island, but the crewman was not originally intending to settler in the colony.  It therefore comes down to semantics as to whether the participants in the August wedding were ‘bona fide’ settlers at the date of the wedding.
  6. Holmesby, W P
  7. Spence, C H, Ever Yours, Wakefield Press 2006
  8. SA Register 24 October 1840
  9. Evening Journal 12 December 1875