On 11 May 1833 the ship Charles Kerr cast anchor in Table Bay after a three-month voyage from
It wasn’t the vessel’s first visit to the Cowes, England Cape of Good
Hope, but on this occasion she was carrying human cargo. No, not slaves in the usual sense of the word, but twenty boys sent out by the Children’s Friend Society and destined for
employment in the Colony.
We can imagine the excitement mingled with trepidation among the young emigrants at their first view of the beautiful Bay and its shipping, with
Cape Town nestling at the
foot of the majestic table-topped m . Most of the
children had never been farther afield than ountain London and its immediate environs. Their
lives had begun in narrow streets and mostly in dingy, crowded tenements. Until
a short while previously there’d been little likelihood of a change in these
circumstances. Now they’d embarked on an adventure, leaving behind familiar
faces and places, and crossing the ocean to a distant land.
Between 1833 and 1840, over thirty ships would follow in the wake of the Charles Kerr, bringing further groups of children, girls as well as boys, to the
How and why did this come about? What destiny awaited them in the
Cape and how
did they cope with being uprooted and subsequently transplanted in foreign
soil? Could your ancestor have been among them?
|17th c London|
There was actually nothing new in the idea of sending vagrant or pauper children to
Britain’s colonies. As early as
1618, 100 juveniles were despatched from England
and a second batch soon followed. The children had no say in the matter.
Homeless, unprotected by parents or any charitable authorities, they were
rounded up in the streets of London
and herded into gaols before being shipped off to enforced exile in the
American colony. There they would be bound to unknown masters whose treatment
of the young apprentices was not subject to official regulation. Few of these
child migrants would ever return to the country of their birth.
This practice, whether sanctioned by government or carried out illegally, continued for two centuries. It was a means of ridding
of an unwanted surplus population, as well as providing much-needed labour in
To be continued