Three ships named “William Miles”

“William Miles”, model at the Albertland Museum, New Zealand, made by Colin Childs

There were a number of ships named William Miles in the 19th century. The Sando/w/e interest is Captain Ralph Sheldon Kindley, the Master of one of them for a few years, dying on board in 1840. They were built and operated by Miles&Co of Bristol, UK, before being sold later. One interesting question is which of them was Kindley’s. Another question concerns migration to Australia, one William Miles transporting convicts to Van Diemens Land (Tasmania) in 1828.

There are two conflicting stories about the history of the first two William Miles. One, referred to here as the two-ship story, states that there were two vessels, one of 577 tons launched in 1808 and and one of 323 tons launched in 1816, both sailing to different destinations. The other, referred to here as the one-ship story, states there was one William Miles of 324 tons launched in 1808 and enlarged to 577 tons in 1816, sailing alone until 1853. This is the dominating view found to date on the web.

The two-ship story is presented in the following books:

– Bateson, Charles. 1959. The Convict Ships 1787-1868. Glasgow
– Farr, Graham. 1950. Records of Bristol Ships 1800-1838. Bristol Record Society Vol XV. Download from Bristol University Library.
– MacGregor, D. R. 1985.  Merchant Sailing Ships 1775-1815. London, Conway Maritime Press.

No evidence has yet been seen in favour of the one-ship story. Both stories contradict each other completely. To resolve this problem, these ships will be traced through Lloyds Registers, noting which was where and when, rigging, maintenance and rebuilding.

This search supports the two-ship story. The first William Miles was built at Bristol in 1808, 577 tons, sold in 1817, and broken up in 1845-1846. The second was built at Bristol in 1816, 323 tons, sold in 1846, lengthened in 1852-1854, lost in 1883.

Finally, a third William Miles was built at Quebec in 1853, 1224 tons.

There is also disagreement about the rigging (disposition of sails, type or class of ship), particularly whether the 1808 and 1816 William Miles were barques or not. No obvious explanation for disagreement has yet been found. Farr describes both vessels as ship-rigged from the shipyard. The following sketches from Wikipedia explain the difference between barques and fully rigged ships for three-masted vessels like the William Miles:

A barque
(From Wikipedia)

A fully rigged ship
(From Wikipedia)

A barque has only fore-and-aft sails on the mizzen mast, the aft-most mast (above left). This is what the William Miles would have looked like as a barque. A fully rigged ship has square sails (across the ship) on all masts (above right). This is what the William Miles would have looked like as a fully rigged ship. Note that the fully rigged ship still has a fore-and-aft sail at the bottom of the mizzen mast. The model illustrated at the top of this page is barque-rigged.

One possible reason for disagreement about the rigging is the changing meanings of ship nomenclature from around 1750 to the early decades of the 19th century (noted by Macgregor 1985, p. 29). Chapman (1768) is an example of ship classification in that earlier period, Falconer’s dictionary (1769) provides contemporary definitions, as well as examples of change in progress. Admiral Smyth’s list of nautical terms also reflects the usage of that period.

– Chapman, A. F. 1768. Architectura Navalis Mercatoria. Stockholm. English translation 1820 here.
– Falconer, W. 1769. A Universal Dictionary of the Marine. London. 1769 edn. here, HTML 1769 edn. here,
HTML 1780 edn. here, 5th edn. 1830 here.
– Smyth, William Henry. 1867. A Sailor’s Word-list. London, Blackie. Online here.

The evidence found by searching Lloyd’s register is unanimous: both the 1808 and 1816 vessels were launched  ship-rigged and remained so for most of their lives, and both were re-rigged as barques for a few years.

Ralph Sheldon Kindley (1799)-1840

One William Miles was captained by Ralph Sheldon Kindley from 1835-1840, when he died on a voyage from West Africa to the USA, with probate proceedings subsequently held in New York. He is known to have served on at least one other ship, the Lord Melville around 1818 when he added his “signature of approbation”  to a campaign for improving the conditions of merchant seamen led by Jeffery Dennis, who published A Systematic Plan for Bettering … of the Merchant Sea Service. The Lord Melville was launched at South Shields, UK, in 1804, taken over by the RN as HMS Porpoise, and sold in 1816. She then made two trips to Australia with convicts before 1820, with Kindley (hardly a master yet) possibly working on at least one of them.

– Dennis, Jeffery. 1822. A Systematic Plan for Bettering the Condition of … the Merchant Sea Service. 4th edn., London. Online here.

Lloyd’s Registers show his appointments as Master, sailing to Mexico, Calcutta and New Orleans: 1826-1828 Master of the Harriett; 1828-1829 Master of the Angerone; 1829-1831 Master of the Sir Edward Codrington; 1831-1834 Master of the Lord Cochrane; 1835-1838 Master of the William Miles.

Kindley was born on Tyneside, UK, before 1800 (his 1836 Seaman’s Service Record gave his age as 37 and birth at Newcastle). He had three marriages, one in London and two in Cornwall at Penzance. His relevance for Sando/w/e research is his daughter Jane Childs Kindley (1827-1889), who married John Sandow in 1850, a farmer in Cornwall and a gold digger in Australia, who left his family at St Ives, and died in Victoria in 1873. Their son John (1857-1919) also emigrated to Australia, marrying Sarah Jane Head in 1882. Their children are thus great grandchildren of Ralph Kindley, including Ralph Sandow (1891-1953) who carried the name onward for another generation. At least two episodes of Who Do You Think You Are? have been devoted to descendents of Ralph Kindley, one reviewed here: https://tracingthetree.wordpress.com/2012/04/08/edie-falco-who-do-you-think-you-are/. More details of Kindley’s life can be found here: http://www.birdchildsandgoldsmith.com/acatalog/Childs_History.html.

The first two William Miles

Farr (1950) recorded two vessels:

(1) Pages 8,40, a larger William Miles built at Bristol in 1808, 577 tons, 3 decks, length 127′ 8″, breadth 32′ 4″, quarter galleries, a bust head. Employed in the Jamaica trade; sold in 1817, sailed to India, then the Mexican Gulf trade; broken up in 1846; and
(2) Page 62, a smaller William Miles built at Bristol in 1816, 323 tons, 2 decks;  length 105′ 1″, breadth 26′ 6″, no gallery, a bust head, a quarter deck; a West-Indiaman while registered at Bristol, with trips to Russia; sold in 1845, sailing to Quebec; registered in Liverpool in 1852; lengthened in 1854 now 572 tons; trading to India in the 1850s, the Mediterranean in the 1860s; stranding in 1883.

No evidence or source has yet been seen for the one-ship story. The Lloyds Registers for the years around 1808 and 1816 should disclose any distinguishing evidence between the two stories.

The entry in the 1809 Lloyds Register for a “William Miles” built in 1808 at Bristol

There was one William Miles in the 1809 register. The coded entry (line 9 above) reads:

“[William] Miles, ship-rigged (S), bolted (CB) copper sheath (sC) in 1808 (08), Master W T Thorne, 577 tons, 3 decks (3Ds), built at Bristol, 1 year old, owner P J Miles, 18 foot draught when loaded, survey port Bristol (Br), sailing to Jamaica, class A1 surveyed in Nov 1808, amended to class A1 surveyed in Oct 1808”

The entries in the 1818 Lloyds Register for two ships named William Miles built in 1808 and in 1816 at Bristol

The 1818 register (above) shows two ships named William Miles. The first entry (line 7) is for the 1808 vessel, still ship-rigged and 577 tons, now 10 years old, now owned by Coot&Co (confirming the 1817 sale noted by Farr) and sailing to Bengal (Bengl). The second vessel (line 8) is a new William Miles, the full coded entry reading:

“[William Miles], ship-rigged (S), copper-sheathed (sC) in 1816 (16), Master Williams, 323 tons, two decks (default, not stated), built at Bristol, 2 years old, owner Miles&Co, 17 foot draught when loaded, survey port Bristol (Br), sailing to Jamaica (Jamai), class A1 surveyed in 1816, amended in margin to class A1 surveyed in Sep 1817”

These register entries confirm Farr’s account. The larger William Miles was built in 1808. The smaller William Miles was built in 1816. Both were launched ship-rigged and not barque-rigged. There was no mention of any rebuilding in 1816. It also demonstrates that both vessels existed simultaneously in 1818, sailing in different oceans. The one-ship story appears to be incorrect in every detail.

Further evidence for two vessels comes from the burial in Jamaica of a seaman from the “William Miles of Bristol” at Hanover Old Church on 3 Mar 1816 (source online burial indexes). She would barely be back in Bristol again before May, leaving only a few months for the completion of the smaller 1816 vessel. This ship at Jamaica in March 1816 can be identified from contemporary Lloyds Registers as the larger 1808 William Miles making one of her last trips to the West Indies for Miles&Co before being sold in 1817, while the new smaller 1816 vessel was being built at the shipyard in Bristol as a replacement in the Miles&Co fleet.

Additional evidence for the two-ship story is provided by Bateson (1959) and MacGregor (1985).  Bateson, p. 260, listed the William Miles arriving at Van Diemens Land on 29 July 1828 with a convict transport, recording  a vessel of 581 tons, built in 1808, class E1. The tonnage of the 1808 William Miles was revised by 4 tons from 577 to 581 in 1820, following repairs  (source: Lloyds Registers for 1819-1821, 1828). Double-checking the Lloyds Registers again for 1828 and 1829 confirms Bateson’s details, except that he gave the ship type as a barque (but no source reference) while the register still has ship-rigged. MacGreggor, pp. 115-117, described the 1808 vessel first – 577 tons, built at Bristol, 3 decks, sold in 1817. He included some shipyard drawings, that also show details like ten open ports, long straight sides, flat and vertical without tumblehome, resulting in a bluff (less sharp) bow. The main deck was lined with rails rather than bulwarks. Like Bateson, he described the 1828 convict transport “sailing under barque rig”, again without documentary support. MacGregor also explained that this William Miles had ample armament, explaining that well-armed and built for speed, some ships could be authorized to sail alone, while most were slow cargo-carriers that sailed in convoys for protection. MacGregor went on to describe the 323 ton 1816 William Miles, warning against confusing the two vessels.

Pictures of the William Miles

Two pictures of ships named William Miles are known, a painting from 1827, location not stated, and an undated photograph, location not known.

The “William Miles of Bristol”, painted in 1827 by Miles Walters (1774-1849): Bristol Art Gallery

This painting “The William Miles of Bristol” is in the Bristol Art Gallery and is published online by the UK Arts Council. The epithet “of Bristol” suggests ths is the smaller 1816 vessel, the only William Miles registered at Bristol in 1827, owned by Miles&Co of Bristol and sailing regularly to Jamaica. The larger 1808 vessel was registered in London, sailing regularly to India, and no longer had any connection with Bristol. Both vessels, 1808 and 1816, were ship-rigged in 1827, like this one. The painter, Miles Walters, often included two aspects in one view, from the side and from the stern as here.

Undated photograph of the 1816 William Miles from MacGregor D R, 1985, Merchant Sailing Sips 1775-1815, Conway Maritime Press.

A second image of the 1816 William Miles is known, a photograph (date and location not cited), reproduced in MacGregor (1985). The photograph was sourced from the Nautical Photo Archive Ltd (a former London company that specialised in publishing photographic postcards of sailing ships for most of the 20th century). The author pointed out details like the bluff bow, a distinct tumblehome and an extra port low down near the bow for loading timber (and there is a stack of timber on the quay). Unfortunately there is no record of the number of ports for the 1816 vessel vessel, neither before or after being lengthened in the 1850s (the painting shows ten ports in 1827). Eight can be seen in the photograph and two more might be extrapolated in the remaining distance. Further, unlike the ship in the painting, the photograph shows the mizzen mast is rigged as a barque and not ship-rigged (there are no horizontal yards for square sails on the mizzen mast).  Why this difference? Both vessels, while being ship-rigged for most of the time, were rigged as barques for shorter periods. The Lloyds Registers for the relevant years give the details. The larger 1808 vessel was barque-rigged from 1834 to 1846, when she was broken up. Farr recorded that the smaller 1816 vessel was finally sold by Miles&Co in 1846, and was reduced to a barque at the same time, transferred to Liverpool in the early 1850s, then lengthened and restored to full rigging by 1854. She was reduced to a barque once more for her final years. The photograph might therefore portray the original 1816 vessel in 1846-1850, or the enlarged 1816 vessel in the 1870s or 1880s. This offers opportunities for dating. Bearing in mind the history of photography, the later period is more probable (the 1840s were still at the Daguerreotype stage).

Transitional terminology as a source of misunderstanding

MacGregor (1985 p. 29) explains how the years before 1800 were a period of transition from 18th century classification by hull structure to 19th century classification by sail rig. The whole period might cover one or two lifespans, so that as time passed people would be faced with both terminologies before older practices were forgotten.

MacGregor quotes Chapman’s (1768) treatise as an example of earlier 18th centry classification. Chapman described five basic merchant hull types: frigate, hagboat, pink, cat and bark. Each could be rigged as any of ship, snow, brigantine, schooner or sloop. A bark, for example is characterized by features like a plain stem without figurehead, square stern, flat vertical sides. At the same time MacGregor also quotes Falconer’s (1769) definition of bark:

“a general name given to small ships; it is however peculiarly appropriated by seamen to those which carry three masts without a mizen top-sail”

showing how the current definition was also being anticipated in this period.

Smyth (1867) has clearly assimilated Falconer; his definition of bark or barque, updating Falconer’s to the mid-1850s, is

“… by seamen with a three-masted vessel with only fore-and-aft sails on her mizen mast … with no square sails on the mizen mast”

note also that the spelling bark is changing to barque in the 19th century.

This transition in terminology and classification, strong as it was, would mainly affect observations and references to the 1808 and 1816 William Miles during their early years. It would only affect Bateson and MacGregor if they were citing 19th century sources when they refer to the 1828 convict transport as a barque, but they cite no source. Just in case it was a newspaper report of the voyage that mentioned barque, the Trove collection was searched for all references to the William Miles in 1828. Most referred to her as a ship, a few as a transport, and one as a prison ship. There were no references to her as a barque. The mystery remains.

The first William Miles (1808-1846)

This section traces the history of the first William Miles, gleaning information from any available source.

She was built at Bristol in 1808, ship-rigged, 3 decks and 577 tons (Source Farr and the 1809 Lloyds Register). She spent her first years sailing to Jamaica.

3 Mar 1816 at Jamaica (source church burial register). Jamaica was her regular destination for 10 years.

1817 sold, now sailing to India (Source Farr, 1818 Lloyds Register).

1819-1820: Round trip to Calcutta. Private journal kept by the surgeon of the William Miles, leaving London on 10 May 1819 for Calcutta via Madeira and the Cape,  returning 24 Dec 1819 via St Helena, arriving in London 23 May 1820 (source online catalogue of the Welcome Library, London).

1828: Round trip UK to Van Diemens Land, convict transport, 192 covicts and passengers (source passenger list, the surgeon’s sick journal still exists). The 1827 and 1828 Lloyds registers list her as still sailing to India, still owned by Beadle&Co, and now rated at 581 tons. She is still ship-rigged, but now sheathed with felt and copper on boards, and has undergone repairs. Above all she is now classified as E1 last surveyed in 1825, amended to class E1 surveyed in Feb 1827. The 1829 Lloyds Register shows her sailing to Van Diemens Land and New South Wales. The Hobart Town Courier for 30 Aug 1828 reports her about to leave for Calcutta.

1831, Feb-Apr. Correspondence concerning the William Miles being ordered to take casualties and portuguese prisoners to UK, after the RN apprehended a Portuguese slave ship near Sierra Leone Feb-Apr 1831; sailing West Africa-Portsmouth (Source House of Lords Sessional Papers 1801-1833, Vol 313 1831-1832). The Lloyds Registers show she was still sailing from London to NSW in 1830, then London to Sierra Leone in 1831, having changed owners again, and still ship-rigged.

1834-1839 With Ralph Kindley as master (source his life, and Lloyds Registers). Up to 1833, she was still ship-rigged, still sailing to Sierra Leone. Then in 1834 came a change of ownersip, in 1834 she was in London now barque-rigged, having undergone major repairs, class E1 surveyed in Nov 1833. She then sailed to Mobile and New Orleans (USA). Kindley died on board in 1840, sailing from West Africa to the USA according to the probate proceedings held in New York.

1846 Broken up (source Farr). The Lloyds Registers for 1841-1845 show her still a barque, unclassified. The registers show she made one last trip to New Orleans in 1841, then idle in London only. She was not registered in 1846 or later. She had a life of 38 years.

The second William Miles (1816-1883)

This section traces the fortunes of the second William Miles.

She was built at Bristol in 1816, ship-rigged, 2 decks and 323 tons (Source Farr and the 1809 Lloyds Register). She spent most of the time until 1846 sailing to Jamaica, apparently the main business interest of Miles&Co.

1822 Jun: She was sighted in the North Atlantic for a few days
(source Diary of General Lachlan Macquarie, lately Governor of New South Wales, Macquarie Archive).

1823 Jul: Thomas Waters buried 17 Jul 1823 at Trelawney Church, Jamaica, second mate of the William Miles of Bristol, “having fallen overboard in a fit”. The Lloyds Registers for 1823 and 1827 both show Jamaica as the regular destination of the 323 ton 1816 vessel.

1846. The Lloyds Register for 1846 confirms the sale to Howell&Son (source Farr). Now barque-rigged, 324 tons, sailing Bristol to Quebec. She is now the only William Miles, the 1808 vessel having been broken up. She continued to sail to Quebec until 1849 (source Lloyds Registers).

1850. Still a barque, still owned by Howells, no home port, no voyage, no classification.

1851-1853. Not registered.

1854. Ship-rigged again, now lengthened, built at Bristol in 1816, now 634 tons, now owned by JDeWolf, Liverpool, sailing to Calcutta, class A1 surveyed Feb 1854 (source Lloyds Registers).

1860. Still ship-rigged, sheathed with yellow metal, now rated 577 tons, now owned by Wilson of Liverpool, sailing London to India, class A1 surveyed Jan 1859.

1869. Now barque-rigged, now 572 tons, now owned by Robinson, home port London, sailing London to the Mediterranean

Lloyds Register 1883, with “Lost” in the margin

1883 The last entry for the 1816 William Miles in Lloyds Register: Still barque-rigged, still 572 tons, still owned by Robinson, home port London, “Lost” noted in the right margin. She stranded near Porthcawl in the Bristol Channel on 9 Aug 1883. All on board were rescued, the ship was wrecked. She was 67 years old.

A third William Miles

A third William Miles was built in Quebec in 1853.

1854. Lloyds Register: ship-rigged, 1223 tons, built at Quebec, owned by Miles&Co, Bristol to New Orleans, classA1 surveyed Feb 1854.

This is the vessel that carried large numbers migrants to Australia and New Zealand in the 1850s and 1860s. For example, from the Otago Witness, 25 Aug 1860:

The departure of the William Miles from Bristol for New Zealand (The Otago Witness 25 Aug 1860)
https://natlib.govt.nz/collections/a-z/papers-past

1862 Shiprigged, 1227 tons amended to 1224 tons, owner changed from Miles&Co to Seymour, home port London, no voyage recorded

1863-1865 Ship-rigged, owner Seymour, home port London, no voyage recorded

Not listed in later registers. Fate not known.

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