Banner Image
A direct north general view of Sydney Cove, the chief British settlement in New South Wales as it appeared in 1794, being the 7th year from its establishment. Painted immediately from nature by T. Watling

From Terra Australis to Australia

In May 1787 the British government sent the First Fleet 20,000 kilometres around the world to establish a  British colony in New South Wales.

The Guardian is safe!

The Guardian's safe arrival in False Bay at the Cape of Good Hope on February 21st, 1790 was widely and triumphantly reported in the English press at the begining of May.

This report in the Maidstone Journal and Kentish Advertiser relates the dramatic tale of the disaster and reprints several of Captain Riou's letters to the Admiralty

The Maidstone Journal, report titled `Safe Arrival of the Guardian, being an account of the Guardian's arrival at the Cape of Good Hope after its near sinking'

Riou's letter to the Admiralty

Captain Edward Riou arrived back in England in 1790. He was required to undergo a court-martial - a mandatory trial for a sea captain who lost a ship. (After arriving back at the Cape of Good Hope, the damaged Guardian was finally wrecked and beached during a storm at False Bay). 

Thanks to his bravery, the court-martial was merely a formality and Riou was acquitted. His conduct was considered beyond reproach. The officers and crew who abandonded the Guardian in the smaller boats, however, were heavily criticised by some for not doing their duty. Captain Riou wrote a series of letters to the British Admiralty, exonerating their conduct (particularly focussing on those men who survived the escape). He also requested pardons for the convicts who had remained on board the Guardian and who were later transferred to Port Jackson. Fourteen of the twenty surviving convicts were granted pardons thanks to Riou.

Letters to the admiratly


The Guardian in verse

Broadside ballads were a popular and cheap way of broadcasting news, gossip and stories in verse and song. They were very popular between the 16th and the mid-19th centuries, an era where newspapers were expensive due to heavy taxes. Broadside ballads were usually printed on one side of cheap paper and sold at roadside stalls. They were performed at taverns and other public places where people gathered to talk about the events of the day. Disasters were a popular topic for ballad writers, and the two below are based on the story of Captain Riou and the Guardian.

Articles concerning H.M.S The Guardian



Made possible through a partnership with John T Reid Charitable Trusts and Thyne Reid Foundation - UNESCO Memory of the World