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The Baker family: from Salehurst to Sydney

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SARAH DRURY 1796-1839 

Sarah Drury is my 5 x great aunt and was the daughter of William and Mary Drury nee Iden. She was baptised in Rolvenden, Kent on 2 October 1796 [1] and was the fifth of William and Mary’s six children and their youngest daughter. In the 1841 census her father, brothers and all the surrounding households were agricultural labourers.

On 4 January 1813 when she was 16 or 17 and with the consent of her parents, she married William Baker (1795-1844) in Sandhurst, Kent a village 4 miles away [2].

William’s parish at the time was Salehurst, Sussex although it seems from his emigration papers he may have been born in Udimore, Sussex.


Over the next 22 years the couple had 12 children, all but one (William 1815-16) surviving to adulthood. All the children were baptised in Salehurst and from 1816 their place of abode is shown as Park or Park Farm in the village. Their last child was baptised in the village church there in 1836. [3]

On 23 July 1838 Sarah’s brother-in-law Richard Baker (36), his wife Pleasant (29) and their four children set sail from Gravesend on the Lady Nugent, arriving in Sydney on 27 November. [4] They arrived with an additional member of family, their son Edward Nugent Baker having been born at sea on 6 August. It looks like they travelled on their own account, aiming to settle in the Hunters River area.

Three months after their departure, in October 1838, William and Sarah with most of their children set out on the same journey but as Bounty Immigrants on the Prince Regent. [5]


Setting out for Australia 

The Prince Regent sailed from Gravesend on 29 October 1838. On board were mainly mechanics from London and farm labourers from Sussex. [6] Included in the latter catergory were William (43) and Sarah (42) farm and house servants respectively with their 8 youngest children: William 18, Benjamin 15, Reuben 13, Jane 12, Harriet 9, Silas 6, Samuel 4 and Edward 3.

Also with them was their eldest son Thomas Baker (21), his wife Charlotte nee Sweetman (20) and their two young children Alfred aged 2 and Hannah aged 4-5 months, together with Charlotte’s unmarried brother William Sweetman (24) from Mountfield, Sussex.

William and Sarah’s eldest child, a daughter also called Sarah baptised in 1813, remained behind in England having married James Veness (Venis) in Mountfield a village 3 miles from Salehurst in 1832. By the time her parents emigrated she had 2 young daughters with a third born the following year.

Their eldest surviving son James married Mary Store in 1837 and also did not accompany them on the journey. 

Sickness, a sad death and an accident

When the Prince Regent left Gravesend on 29 October 1838 the family were about to embark, on what must have been for them at least, a sad and worrying journey. [7]

Six days after setting sail Sarah became the first patient in the sickbay. She was suffering from diarrhoea with fever and the Ship’s Surgeon’s Report states: [she] Has been suffering from this complaint for the last 3 days, has only applied this morning, pulse small and frequent, skin dry and hot, got wet in the passage from Hastings and had slept in her wet clothes.


Sarah must have been quite unwell as she remained in the sick bay for the next 12 days, finally being discharged on 16 November.

Around this time the first cases of an outbreak of Scarlatina appeared on the ship. Between 14 November and 18 December there were 31 cases of Scarlatina recorded amongst the young children resulting in 4 deaths. In his general remarks the Ship’s Surgeon attributes the outbreak to: many families having been sent from London to make up the vacancies created by County defaulters, and none of whom I had personally seen. I found at first much difficulty in carrying into effect the regulations necessary to preserve health and check disease; and it was not until several deaths had taken place that I succeeded in convincing the heads of families of the absolute necessity of abiding by my directions.

On 20 November, four days after Sarah left the sickbay her 5 month old granddaughter Hannah Baker was admitted (case 14) with Dentition and Scarlatina. She appears at first to have been suffering with what we would refer to as teething. Her gums were lanced which apparently was a common treatment as teething was seen as a cause of death. (It seems more likely that there were underlying causes and lancing of gums in less than sterile conditions resulted in fatal infections). On the 23 November the Ship’s Surgeon reported:

some slight appearance of eruption this morning, had several convulsions during the night, at 6am died during a paroxysm.

The cause of death was stated as Scarlatina. The family would then have faced the ritual of a death at sea with the small body being consigned to the waves.

Two weeks later Sarah’s 4 year old son Samuel fell 14 feet from the forehold to the main deck, rendering himself unconscious for the next 4 hours. At 7pm the same day his elder sister Harriet aged 7 joined him in the sick bay, suffering from Scarlatina.

Miraculously Samuel doesn’t appear to have broken any bones but was detained for 4 days before being discharged back to his family. Meanwhile Harriet remained there until 16 December when she too was discharged ‘cured’.

The family’s troubles didn’t end there: on 23 December Sarah’s adult son Thomas was added to the sick list with diarrhoea, being discharged on 29 December and on 3 January her 12 year old daughter Jane became ill with Synochus (fever) recovering on the 18th.



The ship arrived in Sydney on 17 March 1839: three weeks later Sarah died. [8] Her husband was left to start a new life in Australia with four children under the age of 10 in addition to his four older children. Three months later daughter-in-law Charlotte, whose baby daughter had died at sea, also died leaving Thomas alone with their two year old son Alfred. [9]

It seems likely that Sarah’s husband William died only four years later in 1844. In any event by 1847 Reuben, then aged 22, seems to have had care of his youngest brother Edward as he posted a notice in the Sydney Morning Herald 18 March 1847 to the effect that Edward aged 11 had absconded. [10]

Notice - Edward Baker Absconds from Reuben Baker

According to the obituary of Sarah's grandson Alfred [11], his father Thomas (Sarah’s son) died around 1848 leaving Alfred orphaned at the age of 11 or 12. So of the four adults who set out for a new life in Australia - William and Sarah and their son Thomas and his wife Charlotte - none survived more than nine years after arriving and died aged 49, 43, 30 and 20 respectively. 

Despite this inauspicious start, the Baker family seem to have thrived in Australia creating a large dynasty. The story of their descendants is for another day but a quick look reveals that Sarah and William’s son Reuben became an innkeeper and the proprietor of the Prince of Wales Inn in Nattai, NSW. He died in 1868 leaving 10 children. [12] His nephew (the orphaned Alfred) had, according to his obituary, 44 grandchildren and 62 great grandchildren when he died in 1919. [11]

This story isn't unique as hundreds if not thousands of people emigrated from Kent and East Sussex in the first part of the 19th century: I have at least 7 different families who made the journey to Australia or America at this time.


A side story: the Sweetmans

As a side note, in 1840 the year following Charlotte’s arrival and death in Australia, two of her sisters Philadelphia Coleman and Harriet Sweetman (Swetman) travelled out with their parents to Sydney on the Marquis of Hastings, arriving on 4 February 1841. Philadelphia was married and accompanied by her husband James Coleman and their 6 children aged between 2 and 12 years, whilst Harriet was unmarried. [13]

Next to Harriet's name in the NSW Assisted Immigrant Passenger list it says her parents Henry and Sophie from Mountfield, Sussex are on board, and against Philadelphia and James it says parents and parents-in-law on board but although I've been through the book online page by page I've been unable to find them so imagine either the pages are missing or have been omitted when copying.

However Henry would have been around 56 and Sophia 58 at the time of the voyage which seems somewhat old for assisted immigration. Did they pay their own fares? Interestingly a Mr James Coleman (the same name as their son-in-law) is listed as a paying passenger in the newspaper arrivals report. [14] Did he pay their fare and if so where he did get the money from and why no mention of an accompanying wife?  Or were there two men with same name onboard?







1 Kent Baptisms 1749-1812. Kent History & Library Centre. Archive Ref: P308/1/A/4

2 Kent Marriages & Banns 1813-1838 page 1. Kent History & Library Centre. Archive Ref: P321/1/D/1

3 Photos of individual records can be found on Familysearch under Parish Registers for Salehurst

4 New South Wales, Australia 1828-1842: Bounty Immigrants List

5 New South Wales, Australia, Assisted Immigrant Passenger Lists 1828-1896 and New South Wales, Australia 1828-1842: Bounty Immigrants List

6 19 Mar 1839 - Ship News. - Trove (

7 All extracts regarding the voyage and medical treatment are from the  UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1856 for the Prince Regent - UK, Royal Navy Medical Journals, 1817-1856

8 Australia, Death Index, 1787-1985. 1839, Sydney, NSW, V1839234 23A

9 Australia, Death Index, 1787-1985. 1839, Sydney, NSW, V1839582 23A

10 18 Mar 1847 - Advertising - Trove (

11 19 Jul 1919 - OBITUARY. - Trove (

12 Sydney, Australia, Cemetery Headstone Transcriptions 1837-2003

13 New South Wales, Australia, Assisted Immigrant Passenger Lists 1828-1896










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