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New Emigration Dept, Baltic Wharf, Plymouth.

From ‘The Western Daily Mercury’- 25th April 1870

The fine ship ‘Corona’, 1,189 tons, Capt. Bate, is at present lying in the Plymouth Sound, with 440 emigrants on board, bound for the inviting Australian colony of Victoria. At 11 of this morning there will be a final muster on board before Capt. Stoll, the Government emigration officer of the port, and in the afternoon, if the wind blows fair, the ship will sail out of the Sound on its long voyage of about seventy days, during which the emigrants will be under the care of Dr. Chapman, assisted by Mrs. Lughrue, the matron. The emigrants will be despatched by Mr. James Chant, the despatching officer under the Hon. George Verdon, and who superintended the fitting out of the ship in London, and the arrival and departure of the people at the emigration depot, Plymouth. Messrs. Stephen and Sons are the owners of the ‘Corona’, and Mr. Croudace, also a part owner, has been at the port to see that everything is fit for the voyage. The Plymouth agents of the owners are Messrs. Wilcocks and Weekes, Barbican. As the ‘Corona’ takes out the first batch of emigrants that have been accommodated in the new depot at the Baltic Wharf since Plymouth has become the sole Government emigration port of the kingdom, a description of the building and a few facts concerning the emigrants, and the ship that is to be their home in their ocean voyage, will be of interest.

The new depot is admirably adapted for the purpose of emigration and in point of convenience and situation it excels any other establishment in the Kingdom. The premises formerly were used as the Victualling yard of the port, and are situated close to Lambhay point, with a good sea frontage. Eleven years since, the buildings were used as the emigration depot of the port, but the accommodation then offered was not nearly so great. A removal was made to the bread and flour mills, Stonehouse, which, however, did not afford the necessary facilities required, and one great objection was that embarkation could only be accomplished at certain states of the tide. Between the old and the new emigration depots at the Baltic Wharf there is, however, a very great difference. The improvements made in the buildings have been of the most complete character. Monster ovens, 60 feet long, have been removed from one block, and the walls have been pierced with windows so as to afford increased light and more ventilation. Another building has been cleared for a luggage store, and neat and convenient premises have been provided for the depot master and matron. Each department has been thoroughly well fitted up with every necessary convenience, and the whole of the premises have a most comfortable appearance. The buildings are so situated that they form three sides of a quadrangle, with the opening facing Cattewater. Each building being separate and distinct, there is plenty of room for the emigrants to promenade during their stay at the depot, and the depot, and the front yard is a particularly interesting place, commanding a view of Sutton Harbour, Cattewater, and a portion of the Sound. The Wharf also gives every accommodation for the embarkation of the emigrants at any tide, and it is the intention, when moorings are laid down in Cattewater, for the emigrant ships to lie some distance off the depot, instead of as now in the Sound, and then signalling and communication will be much more easy. A large sum has been laid out by Messrs. Hilson and Co, for the owner of the building, Mr. Newton, in making it fit for the purposes required. The depot has been carried on at this port for many years by Mr. Arthur Hill, of Reading, the contractor, and Mr. Watson for seven years has efficiently discharged the duties of depot master; and Plymouth can now boast both in premises and in management of a depot quite worthy of its position as the only government emigration port in the Kingdom.

The depot most comfortably provides accommodation for 700 statute adults and on an emergency could receive 1,000 without and great inconvenience. The single women’s rooms are contained in a distinct block, which by folding gates can be completely shut off from the rest of the premises whenever required, an immense advantage in such an establishment. Accommodation is provided here for 300 young women. On the ground floor is a large comfortable mess-room, well warmed by two stoves, and well lighted and ventilated by windows on two sides. It is well fitted with lockers, etc., and opening out of it are doors leading to the depot master’s and the commissioner’s offices, and to the surgery. Above is the dormitory, a particularly well lighted room, fitted with roomy beds with lavatories, and with every convenience. In a cabin at the head of the room sleeps the matron, under whose charge the girls will be under till when on board ship. Connected with this department are extra lavatories and a bath, in which the closest privacy is ensured.

The main building provided accommodation for the married people and their families and single men, in three floors and six large rooms. On the ground floor the lavatories and the baths (ready for use all through the day for families) and a hot air chamber for the fumigating of clothes when required are in one room. On the other side of the entrance is the kitchen fitted with apparatus that will cook for a thousand adults without difficulty, here also the meals are distributed to the head of each mess in regular turn. A wide stone staircase leads to the floors above. On the first floor are two mess-rooms, one designed for the use of the single men and the other for married people and their families. These rooms are fitted up alike. A stove with cast iron pipes occupies the centre of the room, around which are fixed forms, with tables and other forms to construct messes. On the top floors are the dormitories, and the construction of these is novel. The maximum of comfort and convenience is attained in the minimum of space, and this is only accomplished at the cost of long experience. The single men’s berths, in two large rooms, are arranged on a novel principle, introduced by Mr. Chant, despatching officer, under the Hon. G. H. Verdon, the agent-general for Victoria. In a clever manner, space is economized at one point to be lavished at another, where it will be most conducive to comfort. The married people have two rooms of their own with enclosed berths, and they are so arranged that as much privacy is ensured as possible under the circumstances. 150 single men and 150 married adults find every accommodation in these rooms. Gas is laid on throughout, and fire-cocks with a plentiful supply of water are fixed in every room. In another building there are two large luggage rooms, in which the boxes of the emigrants are carefully stored until sent on board ship. Other rooms are also to be fitted up, in which upwards of 200 statute adults could be located. The surgery contains a huge medicine chest from the Apothecaries Hall, and here room is found for a small library of religious and illustrated volumes kindly lent by the depot master. A porter’s lodge and necessary offices are, of course, found on premises in which perfection of arrangement has been attempted. Two well-appointed infirmaries also secure that, in case of disease, patients shall be perfectly isolated from the rest of the building.

Every care is taken to ensure cleanliness and order at the depot. A notice informs the emigrants that “no baskets, bags, or bundies will be allowed in the bedrooms,” and this secures perfect order in the dormitories, and prevents the necessity of their use at all by day. After the departure of every batch of emigrants, the whole of the rooms are thoroughly cleaned and the walls white-washed, and the mess utensils are cleaned, before being put away, and scalded before being again used. Whilst at the depot the emigrants are treated with great kindness, and the discipline to which they are subjected fits them for life on board ship. The emigrants are met at the docks and at the quays; their luggage is taken to the depot free of charge; and they are provided for without charge until the time comes for embarking. On their arrival at the depot, the warrant of each individual is examined by the depot master, and the commissioner sees that they are all supplied with the amount of clothing is to be required , and, lastly, they have to pass the surgeon, who sees that there is no admission of contagious disease. This is done in regular rotation, in contiguous offices, and then passed out from the surgery into the yard; the emigrants, by legible directions on the door of each department, see at once where they are to go. The next thing is to divide the parties into messes of eight and ten, and the companionship thus formed is maintained on board ship. The emigrants choose their own mess so far as is practicable either on the principle of nationality, locality, or by mutual affinity. The messes being arranged, one of the emigrants in each is appointed as its head, and he fetches the rations and is generally responsible for the conduct of the mess. During their stay each emigrant is supplied with two linen bags, and with all the necessary utensils they will require during the voyage. In these linen bags each emigrant is expected to place clothing sufficient to serve them for the first three weeks, and are not allowed to have any carpet bags or loose packages with them. All these are to be placed in their boxes; which, at intervals during the voyage, are taken out to change clothing, etc. Their luggage is also examined at the depot, to see that it contains no articles that are prohibited to be taken on board ship, such as mattresses, feather beds, firearms, offensive weapons, gun-powder, percussion caps, Lucifer matches, beer, spirits, articles of food of a perishable description, or that require cooking, such as butter, eggs, potatoes, etc., nor any articles of a dangerous, noxious, or offensive nature, or likely to become so. In case the emigrants arrive at the depot before the date mentioned on their warrants they are boarded and lodged for 2s a day; so that there is no necessity for them to betake themselves to low lodging houses in the town, and thus run the risk of being fleeced.

The board of the depot is of the most ample character. The women receive the same allowance as the men, and children between one and twelve receive one-half, and for infants new milk and suitable farinaceous food are supplied. An adult receives the following supply daily :- 12 ounces of beef or mutton (boiled and baked an alternate days), 1 lb 8oz of bread, 1 lb 8oz of potatoes, ¼ oz of tea, besides sugar, butter, salt, pepper, and a ¼ pint of new milk. Irish and Scotch emigrants may, if they prefer it, have an allowance of oatmeal and molasses, in lieu of tea, sugar, and butter, and a portion of the potatoes can be substituted for other vegetables. Women with babies are allowed one pint of good porter daily, and in case emigrants remain at the depot more than three days they are each allowed 4oz of flour and 1oz of salt, or 4oz of rice and 2oz of sugar. When the meat is boiled the soup is also served. Few could be found, we should think, to quarrel with such a dietary scale as this. Arrangements are made for dancing and innocent recreation, and on certain evenings a chaplain appointed holds a service; and those who conscientiously object on doctrinal grounds to this can hold meetings on other parts of the building.

The ‘Corona’ is a very fine vessel, and is admirably fitted out for the service. The medical superintendent, who now makes his twentieth voyage under similar circumstances, asserts that she is the finest European emigrant vessel that he ever sailed in. She is 240 feet long, 39 feet across in the widest part, and the depth of the hold is 23 feet. She is, therefore, a very roomy ship, and the arrangements made are admirable. In no matter, perhaps, is there more care taken than in the fitting out of such ships, the agent-general of the colony to which the emigrants are proceeding, and the Government agent at the port of embarkation overhauling the ship to see that she is thoroughly fit for the service. The single young women occupy the after part of the vessel, and are allowed to walk on the poop. The married people and their families occupy the centre, and the single men the fore part. Each section is separate, although the separation on deck between the married people and the single young men is not nearly so definite as that between the single young women and the other emigrants. The young women and married people sleep in bunks, one over the other, on either side of the deck; the young men sleep in hammocks. These places have several ventilating shafts, and are well lighted. Connected with each department are lavatories and baths. There are two roomy hospitals in the midships, and close alongside is the surgery, with a formidable array of medicines and an abundant supply of medicinal comforts, such as arrowroot, wine, preserved milk, etc. A steam condenser on board provides an ample supply of fresh water, which is laid on throughout the ship, so that there is no need whatever for carrying and fetching it. The arrangements for the cooking on board are very good, and include a large oven for the baking of bread and pies. By the regulations new bread is served out three times a week during the voyage. The weekly allowance on board for each person over 12 is :- 3½ lbs of meat, 6oz of suet, 6oz of butter, 2½ lbs of biscuit, 3½ lbs of flour, 1 lb of oatmeal, ½ lb of rice, 2 lbs of potatoes, or ½ lb of preserved ditto, peas and other vegetables, 8oz of raisins, 1oz of tea and 2oz of coffee, ¾ lb of sugar and ½ lb of West India molasses, with salt, mustard, pepper, and pickles, and 3 quarts of water daily. Children between 1 and 12 years of age receive half rations, and for those under one year there is a special dietary scale. Particular attention is paid as to the clothing of the passengers, who are not allowed to embark unless they have provided themselves with not less than the following :- Males – Six shirts, six pairs stockings, two ditto shoes or boots, two complete suits of exterior clothing, two warm flannel shirts. Females – six shifts, two flannel petticoats, six pairs stockings, two ditto shoes or boots, two gowns (one of warm material). Children – Nine shirts or shifts, four warm flannel waistcoats, one warm cloak or outside coat, six pairs stockings, two ditto strong shoes, two suits exterior clothing. There must be at least three sheets for each berth, and 4 towels, and 2 lbs of best yellow soap for each person. The necessary brushes and combs, and clothes brushes, for cleanliness, must be provided by the emigrants. As a general rule, it may be stated, that the more abundant the stock of clothing, the better for health and comfort during the passage. The usual length of the voyage is about four months, and at whatever season of the year it may be made, the emigrants have to pass through very hot and very cold weather, and should therefore be prepared for both.

The emigrants will, of course, be provisioned by the Agent-General of Victoria during the voyage, and he also supplies them with cooking utensils, new mattresses, bolsters, blankets, and counterpanes, canvas bags to contain linen, etc., knives and forks, spoons, metal plates, and drinking mugs, which articles will be given, after arrival in the colony, to the emigrants who have behaved well on the voyage.

The emigrants are subjected to strict discipline while on board, but this is necessary for good order, and consequently for comfort, and no person should think it irksome. The medical superintendent is responsible for the care and good management of the emigrants. The single women are looked after by a matron, who appoints sub-matrons for various duties, and these at the end of the voyage are entitled to a gratuity of £2 each. In the married people and the young men’s departments a school-master (entitled to £5 on arrival at Victoria) is appointed, and on the voyage, during stated hours, he teaches the adults and the children – in calm weather on deck, in the infirmaries during rough. A suitable library has been provided, and the school stock of slates, pencils, copy books, reading books, etc., is sufficient to last during the voyage. The single women will also have a school, and for them a large box of sewing and knitting materials is provided. These will be made up on the voyage, and will be given to them who behave well.

The emigrants on board the ‘Corona’ are of two classes – those for whom friends in the colony have paid a contribution towards their passage, and those who, selected by the Hon. G. Verdon, will go out free. The latter are, for the most part, agricultural labourers and gardeners. About one half of the emigrants are single young women, and about 170 of the total number come from Ireland. The rest come from all parts of the kingdom. Of the colony to which the ship is chartered the “Melbourne Argus” recently drew a picture sufficient to make the emigrant’s mouth water with joyfulness. The climate stated our Australian contemporary, resembles that of the south of Spain and the south of Italy. Frosts are of rare occurrence, and snow never falls except upon tablelands or the mountains. Of the 55,500,000 acres of land comprised within the limits of the colony, nearly 49,000,000 acres remain in the possession of the Crown, and, under the Land Act just passed, any person can select not exceeding 320 acres of this soil in any part of the colony under extremely favourable conditions. By residing upon and improving the allotment selected, the occupant will be called on to pay 2s per acre rental for three years, at the expiration of which time he will be allowed to become the owner of it on payment of 14s per acre. The soil of Victoria is alike prolific of necessities and luxuries. Wheat, oats, barley, hops, tobacco, and the usual root crops are abundant. While all the fruits that grow in Great Britain arrive at great perfection in Victoria, with the addition of oranges and lemons. Further than this, says the “Melbourne Argus”, wages are high, provisions cheap, and political, municipal, and industrial life is rapidly becoming assimilated to the best aspects of life in old England. From another source we learn with regard to the colony: Fresh immigration regulations of an advantageous character are before Parliament. The Agent-General in London is by these empowered to grant free passages to female domestic servants and married people of the class of small farmers and labourers; others will be enabled to obtain warrants, entitling then to a passage to the city, upon payment of £1 to £8, according to age and sex. The news from the gold fields is very encouraging, A nugget, weighing over 116 ounces, has been found in the Perseverance claim. Pitfield Plains, near Smythiesdale. A party of Berlin miners recently unearthed two nuggets weighing 21oz and 6oz 13dwts., and during the same week others of 7ozs and 7oz 6dwts., respectively. In Cattoo Paddock three nuggets were turned up, weighing 260oz., 177oz., and 9oz. The Bank of New South Wales purchased from a party working in the last named claim a nugget of pure gold, weighing 78oz 6dwts on the 15th inst. At Tyler’s a fine nugget of 65oz was got, and numerous other finds are mentioned. Some of the alluvial claims on Crooked River yield richly. In several the shareholders are netting over £10 per week each. The new industry of meat preserving continues to prosper, and exceed their powers of production. The Victoria Meat Preserving Company has issued 5,000 additional shares at £5 each. The wants of the labour markets are still insufficiently supplied; skilled artistes find ready employment, and the demand for domestic servants as great as ever.

A second batch of emigrants will be despatched in the ‘Western Empire’, which will arrive in the Sound on the 23rd of May.

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