Historic Ships Associated with the Marshall Islands No. 2
The British merchant vesssel Scarborough (1788)

edited by Dirk H.R. Spennemann

The Scarborough had originally been built as a cargo ship and had been chartered by the British navy to serve as convict transports from the United Kingdom to Botany Bay. Prior to the charter, the vessel was routinely surveyed by the government dockyard at Deptford. The basic dimensions of the ship are known from these surveys. The East India Company carried out its own surveys of the vessel as it was to be chartered to carry its cargo. With the exception of small, vignette-like sketches in Gilbert's account, no historic pictures exist. Despite the fact that the Scarborough formed part Australia's First Fleet, little work has been carried out on the vessel and published data are also sketchy.[ 1]
The Royal navy had shown a partiality to the well-built ships coming from the dockyards in the northeast of England. Plain-stemmed, bluff-bowed with a flat bottom that could take running aground, and a narrow, square stern, vessels of this kind had proven to be good sailers.[ 2]

The ship

The Scarborough (also 'Scabro') was a double-decked (with beams), three-masted, ship-rigged copper-sheeted vessel, which had built in 1782 at Scarborough on the east coast of England, where ship building was a major industry. When surveyed at Deptford in 1786, she had an extreme length of 111 feet 6 inches (34m), an extreme breadth of 30 feet 2 inches (9.2m). Her height between decks was 6'1" afore, 6'2" amid and 5'11" abaft (1.78-1.85m).[ 3]
The register for the East India Company lists the Scarborough as an 'extra ship' and desribes it as "2 decks, 4inches bottom, length 109 feet 3inches, 87 feet 1/4 inches, breadth 29ft 10in, hold 12ft 5 1/2 in, wing transom 17ft 4in, 411 tons." [ 4]
She displaced 411t, with a draught when loaded of 17 feet.[ 5] She was owned by three Scarborough merchants, Thomas, George and John Hopper (or Hooper).[ 6]


Her first appearance in Lloyd's Register was as a 600t London Transport, in 1783, where she was listed as built in 1782 and armed with 8 six-pounder standard guns. Her first master was a J Scorbdale.[ 7] In 1784 Scordale was replaced by John Marshall, who remained master until 1792. In 1786 the Scarborough underwent small repairs including a re-sheeting[ 8] and ws then employed on the Bristol to Grenada run until 1787.
The British Admiralty's first charter of the Scarborough as a transport vessel for the 'First Fleet' commenced on 10 November 1786 and continued until 21 August 1789, at a rate of 12 shillings per ton and month. 9 For the voyage to Sydney the Scarborough was commanded by John Marshall, with Dennis Considen responsible as surgeon for the welfare of the 208 male convicts. Considen left the ship in Sydney. The Scarborough arrived back in the UK on 28 May 1789 when it sailed into the Downs.[ 10] Upon return the vessel underwent repairs to make her suitable for a new voyage to Australia.[ 11]
The Scarborough, again under the command of John Marshall, also took part in the Second Fleet, sailing in 1790, and returned in 1792.
In that year the vessel suffered a major accident (partially broke up) and underwent 'good repair' including resheeting. It was then employed on the London to St.Petersburg route.[ 12] The rebuilt and resurveyed vessel had its formal tonnage reduced from 600 to 411, a figure which is close to that determined by the Admiralty in 1786.
From 1793 it was given a new master, M. Hodgson, and employed on the London to St.Petersburg route. 13 In 1795 it underwent repairs and was hereafter listed as 'London Transport."[ 14] In the following year the ship was sold to S.Wharton, who took off two of the guns.[ 15] In 1798 the command was handed to a G. Fryer. Later that year the ship was sold to G.Blakey, who appointed P.Levitt as master. The Scarborough had some damages repaired and was partly resheeted and then, armed with 6 four-pounder guns, employed on the London to Jamaica run under the command of P.Levitt.[ 16] In 1800 the vessel was owned by a Kensington, no employed on the London to St.Vincent (Carribean) run with a J.Scott as new master.[ 17] During that year the ship was almost rebuilt and completely resheeted. 18 Under the command of T. Melville the Scarborough was employed on the London-West Indies / St. Vincent run in 1801 to 1803, by which time it still carried six guns. In 1804 and 1805 the vessel was used in the London to Tobago run.[ 19] The last entry for the vessel can be found in Lloyd's Register for 1805, twenty-three years after it was built. The fate of the vessel, whether it was broken up or lost at sea cannot be ascertained at present.

Sketch of the Scarborough as reproduced by Gilbert 1789, the only contemporary image of the ship.

Artists Impressions

In the absence of original images, a number of artists impressions have been created derived from the limited historic data available. 

Artists Impression of the Scarborough, by @@  [ 20]

Artists Impression of the Scarborough, by Tony Crago.  [ 21]


1. In this summary, the figures contained in the 'Register of Transports, 1774-1794' (FO Adm 49/127, quoted after Bateson, Charles [1959]. The Convict Ships 17871868. Glasgow: Brown, Son & Ferguson., p.82) have been used. Other figures were compiled by the British Admiralty and by Philip Gidley King (1980) The journal of Philip Gidley King , Lieutenant R.N., 1787-1790. edited by Paul G. Fidlon. Sydney: Australian Documents Library   [BACK]

2. Knight 1989.  [BACK]

3. Flynn, Michael (1993). The Second Fleet. Britains Grim Convict Armada of 1790. Sydney: Library of Australian History.  [BACK]

4. Farrington, Anthony (nd). Catalogue Of East India Company Ships' Journals & Logs, 1600-1834. Ms. British Library, Oriental & India Office Collections. London: British Library.  [BACK]

5. Tonnage: Register of Transports 411t; Admiralty 418 36/94 t; King 430t; Lloyds Register 1783-1792 600t; Lloyds Register 1793-1798 411t; Lloyds Register 1798-1805 418t.  [BACK]

6. The various years of the Lloyd's Register list a T. Hopper, T.Hooper, and P. Hooper, and then again T. Hooper as the owner.--In view of the discussion of the impact of these voyages on the British South Sea Islands trade, it is worth noting that a Thomas Hopper owned the vessel Crescent, which in 1805 was engaged in the South Sea Islands trade (Jones, A.G.E. [1986]. Ships employed in the South Seas Trade 1775-1861 Roebuck Society Publication No. 36. Canberra: Roebuck Press, p. 201; 246). Given that this Hopper also commanded the vessel it is possible that they are different people (but may well be related).  [BACK]

7. Lloyd's Register 1783.  [BACK]

8. Lloyd's Register 1787; 1792.  [BACK]

9. Flynn(op. cit).  [BACK]

10. Journal of the Scarborough, 22 Oct 1788 to 18 Jun 1789. Capt John Marshall. British Library, Oriental & India Office Collections L/MAR/B/355G.  [BACK]

11. Lloyd's Register 1790.  [BACK]

12. Lloyd's Register 1793; 1798 (handwritten annotation).  [BACK]

13. Lloyd's Register 1793; 1794; 1795.  [BACK]

14. Lloyd's Register 1795.  [BACK]

15. Lloyd's Register 1796; 1797.  [BACK]

16. Lloyd's Register 1798; 1799.  [BACK]

17. Lloyd's Register 1800.  [BACK]

18. Lloyd's Register 1800.  [BACK]

19 Lloyd's Register 1801; 1802; 1803; 1804; 1805.  [BACK]

20 Image: © Fellowship of the First Fleet, 1997.
Source http://home.vicnet.net.au/~firstff/ships.htm   [BACK]

21 Image: © Tony Crago
Source http://weblink.solutions.net.au/~guthrigg/conships2.htm  [BACK]

Dirk H.R. Spennemann, Institute of Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, P.O.Box 789, Albury NSW 2640, Australia.
e-mail: dspennemann@csu.edu.au

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