Bengal Merchant

A poster advertising for colonists for New Zealand 1839. Special incentives were offered to single women to go out to the early settlements. The New Zealand Land Co was founded by Edward Gibbon Wakefield (1796-1862) in 1838 to promote the settlement of the colony by Britons. The company held a meeting in Glasgow in 1839, sponsored by the Duke of Hamilton, the Duke of Argyll and the Lord Provost of Glasgow, to encourage Scots to emigrate and posters such as this one were produced to generate interest. Eighty-nine adults and thirty-three children were selected to go on the first sailing from Scotland.

The Bengal Merchant left Port Glasgow in October 1839 and arrived at Port Nicholson, Wellington, in February 1840. There were probably no more than 1,000 Europeans living in New Zealand when the first Scots arrived. Wellington was a small and primitive town and its only "boarding house" was a hut which had neither windows or doors. In spite of the difficulties they faced, the settlers proved to be hardy and self-reliant. Many New Zealanders living today can trace their descent to the passengers who sailed with the Bengal Merchant.

The British ship Bengal Merchant was built at Calcutta, India, in 1812.

The 1820 edition of Lloyd's Register (the only edition before 1834) indicates that she was 464 tons, her master's surname was Gordon, she belonged to Boehm and Co., she drew 18 feet when loaded, she was last surveyed at London, at that at the time of publication her intended voyage was to Bengal. Between 1829 and 1832, the Bengal Merchant made two voyages between India and Great Britain as an "Extra Ship" for the Honourable East India Company. The annual volumes of Lloyd's Register from 1834/35 through 1855/56 give the following information):

Tonnage: 503


1834/35-1842/43 - Campbell

1842/43-1844/45 - Ross

1844/45-1847/48 - Thornhill

1848/49-1851/52 - P. Lowen

1852/53-1855/56 - Faldo


1834/35-1839/40 - J[oseph] Somes

1839/40-1855/56 - Haviside

Port of Registry: London

Port of Survey (1834/35-1853/54): London

Destined Voyage:

1834/35-1839/40 - New South Wales

1839/40-1842/43 - [not given] [*]

1842/43-1844/45 - Madras

1844/45-1847/48 - Calcutta

1848/49-1851/52 - Bombay

1852/53-1853/54 - Adelaide

1854/55-1855/56 - [not given]

Poster advertising for emigrants to New Zealand in 1839

Poster advertising for emigrants
to New Zealand in 1839

Bengal Merchant - 1812

Bengal Merchant

[*] The Bengal Merchant sailed from Greenock on 30 October 1839, with Open in new window 160 passengers and dropped anchor off Petone Beach, Wellington, New Zealand, 21 February 1840. Ian Hawkins Nicholson, Log of logs; a catalogue of logs, journals, shipboard diaries, letters, and all forms of voyage narratives, 1788 to 1988, for Australia and New Zealand and surrounding oceans, Roebuck Society Publication Nos. 41, 47 (2 vols; Yaroomba, Qld: The Author jointly with the Australian Association for Maritime History, [1990]-1993).

The Bengal Merchant was last surveyed in 1852. The last voyage of the Bengal Merchant departed from London 1 April 1852, arrving at Melbourne on 2 September; she cleared for Adelaide 22 October, sailed 28 October, and arrived 1 November 1852 [Marten A. Syme, Shipping Arrivals and Departures; Victorian Ports, vol. 2: 1846-1855, Roebuck Society Publication No. 39 (Melbourne: [Roebuck Society], 1987), p. 122].

The entries for the Bengal Merchant in Lloyd's Register for 1854/55 and 1855/56 give only her master and owner, but omit her port of registry, port of survey, and destination, often a sign that the vessel in question had ended her sailing career and had been either lost, broken up, or hulked. It is therefore possible that this 1852 voyage from London to Melbourne was her last.

There is a modern wall drawing of the Bengal Merchant, by Roger Palmer, modelled after a contemporary engraving, in the Portfolio Gallery, Edinburgh.