By the time that Charles and Jane Clarke secured sponsorship for their emigration to Tasmania in 1855, they likely knew what to expect ‘on the other side of the world’.
Charles’s eldest brother Robert and his wife and family had emigrated to South Australia the previous year. Although this was a time before the telephone (and well over a century before emails!), undoubtedly Robert exchanged letters with his family back in Rocklands.
Rockland All Saints Church view from a nearby footpath
Charles Clarke was born on the 22nd February, 1816 in Rockland All Saints and baptised in the Parish Church on the 31st March. He was the third son of James and Ann Clarke. His mother, the former Ann Houchin, was born in Great Ellingham. Members of the Houchin family were in Great Ellingham for many generations.
The 1841 census captures Charles Clarke with his parents in Town Street, Rockland All Saints. His wife-to-be Jane Steel is with her parents, Charles and Susan Steel, ‘by Church Farm’ in nearby Rockland St Peter. Also listed in the Steel household is William aged 24, Charles 12, Susan 20 and Jane’s illegitimate daughter, two year old Matilda.
[I have found reference to the spelling of this family’s name as ‘Steel’ and ‘Steele’. However, for ease of reference, I will use the spelling Steel].
On the 28th October, 1842. Charles Clarke married Jane Steel in the Parish Church of Rockland All Saints with Saint Andrew. Jane could read and write as she signed her name in the marriage register. However, Charles put his mark ‘X’.
Children in Rocklands
Following their marriage, Charles and Jane Clarke along with Jane’s daughter Matilda, settled in Rocklands. The couple’s daughter Susan was born the followng year. Susan was followed by Ann in 1845 and George in 1848.
In 1849, Charles and Jane welcomed another son, Charles. Sadly, Charles died later that year. However, the following year, Jane gave birth to another son named Henry.
The 1851 census captures the family living in White Hart Street, Rockland All Saints. Charles and Jane are both aged 31. Charles is working as an agricultural labourer. The children are listed as Matilda (Steel) 11, Susan 7, Ann 5, George 3 and five month old Henry. Charles’s widowed father, 64 year old James Clarke is also with the family.
On the 5th January 1853, Charles and Jane welcomed another daughter, Editha Alice. Registered as ‘Edithy Alice’, Editha Alice was baptised in the Parish Church of Rockland All Saints on the 15th May, 1853.
Move to Plymouth District
By the end of the following year, Charles and Jane had moved from Rocklands to the Plymouth area. Sadly, the death of Editha Alice Clarke aged just one year old was registered in the Plymouth District between October and December 1854.
Just months later, Jane gave birth to another son, James. His birth was registered in the Plymouth District between January and March, 1855.
With baby James just five months old, the Clarke family boarded the passenger ship the Montmorency and began their journey to Tasmania. Charles Clarke was one of the many ‘bounty immigrants’ who secured sponsorship. His sponsor was Henry Dowling junior, a member of a wealthy land owning family of the Longford area of Tasmania.
Having already lost two infant children, Charles and Jane must have been heartbroken when their son George died during the voyage.
Map of Tasmania taken from page 104 of The Life of a Century (1901) by Edwin Hodder. Launceston is identified by a red dot.
Nevertheless, Charles and Jane Clarke and the rest of the children arrived in Launceston on Saturday, 29th June, 1855.
Following their arrival, they lived down the East Coast of Tasmania in the Cleveland District in order to ‘pay back’ the cost of the passage by working for Henry Dowling. It was usual for the sponsee to work for the sponsor for an agreed period of time, which was often 2-3 years.
Charles and Jane were farmers. The couple had further children in Tasmania: Charles born in 1857, Ellis Steele born two years later in 1859, Evelina Jane in 1862 and Agnes Bertha in 1865.
Matilda Steel Clarke married George Edwards. Susan Clarke married William Mainwaring
James and Ann Fielding (seated) with their children and families. Courtesy of Kim O’Brien
Ann Clarke (born in Rockland All Saints in 1845) married Rocklands born James Fielding, a son of Jeremiah and Mary Ann Fielding. This Fielding family had emigrated to Tasmania in 1854.
Henry & Harriett Clarke née Parsons. Courtesy of Kim O’Brien
Henry Clarke married Harriett Parsons
James Clarke married Elizabeth Parsons. He later married Hannah Elliot
Ellis Steele Clarke married Theresa Elliot
Agnes Bertha Clarke, the youngest daugheter of Charles and Jane Clarke married John Henry Truscott
John Charles (front left) and Evelina Jane Webster née Clarke (front right) with their family. Courtesy of Kim O’Brien
Evelina Jane Clarke married John Charles Webster senior
Jane and Charles Clarke. Courtesy of Kim O’Brien, a great great great grandson of the couple
The above photograph is a wonderful image of Jane and Charles Clarke who spent their early lives in the small village of Rockland All Saints, Norfolk, and made a journey of over 10,000 miles to Tasmania to start a new life.
Jane died in 1893 and Charles in 1901. Like many emigrants to Australia, Charles and Jane’s legacy is their many descendants in Australia, the UK and other parts of the world.
GRO Index. https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro
Rockland All Saints with Saint Andrew Parish Registers. Norfolk Record Office; Norwich, Norfolk, England; Norfolk Church of England Registers; Reference: PD 335/3. Viewed via https://ancestry.co.uk. Ancestry.com. Norfolk, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1919 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.
Also transcription viewed via FreeReg https://www.freereg.org.uk/
1841 census HO107/781/14, HO107/785/22
1851 census HO107/1823/155, HO107/1823/149, HO107/2357/530
Huge thanks to Kim O’Brien and the large number of descendants of the Clarke families in Australia