In late 1851 my 3rd great grandparents, Philip Robert and Charlotte Frances Champion Crespigny, decided to emigrate to Australia. They first travelled from St Malo in France back to England. They left their youngest child, six months old, with his grandparents and his aunt, presumably deciding the baby was not able to make the voyage. On 4 December husband and wife, with two of their children and a servant, took passage on the Cambodia from Plymouth. They were the only cabin passengers; three hundred travelled in steerage.

The Cambodia, 914 tons, Captain Hammash, had been built in Sunderland the previous year, evidently to a high standard, with oak beams, and sheathed in copper.

The Last of England by Ford Madox Brown, 1855. Oil on panel. Original in the Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery.

It was very cold when they left Gravesend for Plymouth, where they boarded emigrants from the West Country.

The voyage to Point Henry (Geelong), delayed by light and adverse winds, took 116 days, several weeks longer than the normal run.

The passage saw a few incidents. The third mate had absconded at Plymouth, and this left only 16 crew to work the ship. There were four births and ten deaths. Although on arrival the Cambodia was judged clean and in good order, the Immigration Board, examining the journal of the ship’s surgeon, concluded that he had not been competent to take on the role. Some stores disappeared and the seaman appointed to hand out rations had his gratuity withheld.

Disembarkation at Point Henry was by the PS Vesta, an iron paddle-steamer chartered for the purpose.

Point Nepean Entrance Port Phillip sketched in December 1852 by Eugen von Guérard, 1811-1901

The family’s arrival coincided with the great rush for gold in Victoria which followed the announcement of significant discoveries in July 1851. In March 1851, Victoria had a population of about 77,000. By the end of the following year, 1852, this figure had increased by 100,000.

So great was the influx that fifty-six percent of those Europeans living in Victoria in December 1852 had arrived in that year, while eighty-six percent of those in the colony in December 1854 had come in the previous three years.

Broome, Richard (1984). “Arriving“. Fairfax, Syme & Weldon Associates, page 76

Two of Charlotte’s brothers, Henry Edmund Pulteney Dana (1817- 1852) and William Augustus Pulteney Dana (1826-1866) were both in Australia, Henry in charge of a force of native police and William one of his officers. As Commandant of Native Police, Henry Dana had a substantial position in the new-found settlement and was on good terms with Charles La Trobe, the Superintendent of Port Phillip District who became Lieutenant-Governor of Victoria in 1851. It is probable that Henry suggested Charlotte and her family come to Australia, and offered some assurance that he could find her husband a position in the government service.

The administration of Victoria’s Lieutenant-governor, Captain Charles La Trobe, under-staffed and under-resourced, was barely able to cope with the huge population increase.

Philip Crespigny was appointed an Assistant Commissioner of Crown Lands for the Goldfields on 18 November 1852 (Gazetted 14 October 1853). His first posting was to the Mount Alexander diggings near Castlemaine, and like his colleagues, he was involved with the enforcement of miner’s licences and the inspection and enforcement of claims.

License no. 144. Issued to George Bencraft, 05 February 1853. Issued by Commissioner P. C. Crespigny, Loddon District. State Library of Victoria Collection (H41033/19)

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