Family Passengers
British King
The British King
Among the passengers who disembarked in the Hawkes Bay were:

Patrick GRIFFIN (32)
Mary GRIFFIN (21)
Michael LYNN (23)

Mary Griffen was Michael's sister Mary.

There was another passenger who also disembarked in the Hawkes Bay, Eliza LYNN. She doesn't appear in the family records but may have been a cousin.

The Voyage, 1883
The steamship 'BRITISH KING' sailed from London on 1 November, 1883, calling into Plymouth, leaving there on 5 November and arriving in Wellington (via the Cape of Good Hope) on the 22 December 1883. The ship disembarked passengers in Wellington (206), Nelson (18), Taranaki (19), Hawkes Bay (64) and Westland (19). It is not clear if the ship sailed to the other ports or whether the passengers were carried on coastal vessels.

Arrival in Wellington

The following report of the arrival of the ship in Wellington was in the Evening Post, December 8th 1883.

The New Zealand Shipping Company's chartered steamer British King, which it will be remembered was the pioneer vessel of the direct steam line from Great Britain to New Zealand, was signalled at 12.30 this afternoon. Owing to the late hour at which she was cleared, we were unable to obtain a report of her voyage. Her principal dates are as follows: - She left Plymouth on the 5th November and arrived at the Cape of Good Hope on the 28th November, and left again same day for Wellington. Making allowance for detention at Teneriffe and the Cape, also difference of time, her actual steaming will be about 44 days. Captain Kelly is still in command. A signal on board the British King indicates that all are well.

The Ship
The first direct steamer lines between London and New Zealand followed the tracks of the sailing ships of the Shaw Savill Company's and the New Zealand Shipping Company's lines. These went out via the Cape of Good Hope and crossed the southern ocean to Wellington and other ports in New Zealand. Homeward bound, the steamers ran with the westerlies to Cape Horn and so home via Monte Video or Rio de Janeiro or Tenerife. Since the opening of the Panama Canal most of these liners, and those of other more recently formed companies, crossed the Pacific and used the Canal, but some vessels still regularly used what long ago became known as the 'blue water route'.

Both the New Zealand Shipping Company and the Shaw Savill & Albion Company - the latter formed by the amalgamation of the Shaw Savill and Albion Companies - went into steam in 1883, using chartered ships at first. The New Zealand Shipping Company's pioneers were the British King and the British Queen, both four-masted vessels of 3558 tons gross register, owned by the British Shipowners' Association. (The 'King probably used sail propulsion during her voyage out to New Zealand when the prevailing winds allowed.)

The British King, sailing from London on the 1st January 1883, was the first of the chartered steamers to arrive in New Zealand waters. She was also the first steamer to carry frozen meat to London via Cape Horn, though not the first to leave New Zealand with this class of cargo. The German steamer Marsala was the first, though she lost it en-route. The Elderslie, of 1801 tons, which took a cargo in 1884, was six months after the British King.

After the British King and British Queen were used to prove the possibilities of the 'blue water route' for steamers, William Denny & Bros. of Dumbarton built for the New Zealand Shipping Company 5 steamers, - the Ontario, Aorangi and Ruapehu, all of 4163 tons, and the Rimutaka and Kaikoura of 4474 tons. The first to arrive was the Tongariro, which reached the southern Dominion on the 11th December 1883

The above information from:- Pacific Steamers, By Will Lawson, (pages 214 -215)

Ships Official NameBritish King
International Code Signal LettersV.L.T.P.
Master during 1883 voyageMr. S. Lecky
PhysicalRegistered Tonnage: 2278 ton
Net Tonnage: 3559 ton
Gross Tonnage: 3255 ton
Length: 410 feet 3 inches
Breadth: 39 feet
Depth: 28 feet 9 inches
Poop Deck length: 50 feet
Forecastle length: 86 feet
The ship contained 6 steel bulkheads, 3 decks of which 2 were steel and iron beams.
ENGINESCompound inverted 4 cylinder 28 and 60 inches by 54 inches
Steam Pressure: 90 PSI
Rating: 400 H.P.
BUILDERJ. Jack & Company. Liverpool
GENERALShip was constructed at Belfast by Harland & Wolff.
Machinery was certified by the Engineering Surveyor to Lloyds during construction.
Ship was built in March 1881. (Probably took 1 month).
OWNERBritish Shipowners Company.
Survey & OwnershipRegistered Port: Liverpool.
Port of Survey: Liverpool.
Anchors and Chains approved
Date of last Survey: March 1882.
Ship was built under special survey.
Information taken from Lloyds register of Shipping 1883.

Transcript of Immigration letters relating to the voyage

Memorandum from the Agent General, Mr. R. D. (G?)ill (in London) to the Honourable Minister of Immigration (in New Zealand) dated 5th November 1883.

I have to inform you that the steamship 'British King' sailed from Plymouth this day having on board 206 souls equal to 177 statute adults for Wellington, 64 souls equal to 61 statute adults for Hawkes Bay, 18 souls equal to 17 statute adults for Nelson, 19 souls equal to 17 statute adults for Northland, 19 souls equal to 15 statute adults for Taranaki and 2 souls equal to 2 statute adults for Marlborough making a total of 328 souls equal to 298 statute adults.

The following are the payments to be made to the respective officers of this vessel provided they perform their duties of their appointments to the satisfaction of the Government.

To the Captain 25
To the Surgeon Superintendent, Dr. Lovett .de Wolfe 10/- per soul landed alive.
To the Chief Officer 10
To the Matron, Miss Mary Talbot 25 and a second class passage to England if approved for re-employment.

The scale of payments which the Surgeon Superintendent is authorised to recompense in the case of the sub-ordinant officers is given in a list herewith enclosed. (Note that this list was not among the documents cited by the compiler).

The rate of passage money is 15 per adult and 9 per child between 1 and 12 years. Half payable here and half in the colony.


Memorandum from the Under-Secretary for Immigration in Wellington, Alexander Johnston (and two others) to the Immigration Office, Wellington dated 21st December 1883.

Sir,
We have the honour to report the safe arrival of the 'British King' on the morning of the 22nd instant (46 days passage).

We found on boarding her there had been very little sickness during the voyage but unfortunately one of the married men, named Baker, had died of inflammation of the lungs. The passengers, through the Surgeon Superintendent subscribed 25.5.9 for the widow.

There were aboard 74 private passengers only 6 of which were in steerage and 328 Government immigrants. There were (?) all sent on deck while we inspected their quarters which were found to be clean and tidy. After this the roll was called but before answering they were asked if they had any complaints to make, the answer in each case - 'no complaint of any kind'. We consider the immigrants on the whole to be a desirable class and we learn they have, with the exception of the widow, been readily disposed of.

The fittings and accommodation for the immigrants were well arranged, especially the water closets and lavatories with two exceptions. One of the compartments for the single men appeared small for the number there (?) in it and the coal hatch was situated on the same compartment keeping the place continually dirty with the coal dust. We also think the hospital accommodation small would have been found too limited if sickness had unfortunately broken out.

The Surgeon Superintendent and the Captain and Officers carried out their duties in a satisfactory manner. The Matron, Miss Talbot, we believe carried out her duties to the best of her ability but we do not consider her suitable for the position and cannot recommend that she be retained on the staff of Matrons.

In conclusion we recommend that all gratuities be paid and Dr. Wolfe be employed should he desire it.

I have the honour to be
Your obedient servant
(signed) Alexander Johnston
and two others


Memorandum from the Immigration Office, Wellington to the Under-Secretary for Immigration, Wellington.

I have the honour to inform you that this evening the immigrants ex 'British King' will have all been disposed of and the depot again empty with the exception of the widow Mrs. Baker and her family who I hope to arrange for during the next few days.

(signed) James B. (Radivard)
Immigration Officer.


Comments made by the Surgeon Superintendent to (?) in 1883

The general conduct of the immigrants was good.

The regulations were well (?). There was a fair attendance at school and the water was satisfactory, 18 - 20 gallons were produced daily.

I beg to suggest that the Steerage Steward of Steamers should receive a gratuity of at least 5. He is the Surgeon Superintendent's left hand and performed the duties which, in a sailing ship are performed by the third officer.

The Purser, in my opinion, should also receive a small gratuity (?) of the Chief Officer (?) a (?) of 10 and to recommend that the four Officers, First. Second, Third and Fourth should receive each a gratuity of 5.
(The balance of the letter is impossible to read).
Memo from Surgeon Superintendent
Dec 22nd 1883
Signed. Lovett De Wolfe

Passenger List
Notes & References
  1. Ships to New Zealand (note transcription error: see Griffin)
  2. British King
  3. here (note relevant part of passenger list missing)