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Charles Jeffreys (1782–1826)

by E. Flinn

This article was published:

Charles Jeffreys (1782-1826), naval officer and author, was born on 16 October 1782 at Cowes, Isle of Wight, England, the son of Ninian and Mary Jeffreys. He joined the navy at 11 and served as midshipman in various ships before his passing certificate as lieutenant was issued by the Admiralty in August 1803. He was commissioned lieutenant in March 1805. In August 1810 at Lambeth, Surrey, he married Jane Gill of London. In January 1814 he arrived with her at Port Jackson in the brig Kangaroo.

Jeffreys's first commission was to transport convicts and other passengers in the Kangaroo from Port Jackson to the Derwent. After an unsuccessful attempt in May 1814 he finally sailed for the Derwent in August and arrived at Hobart Town in October. Instructed to return to Port Jackson by way of Port Dalrymple to collect a cargo of wheat Jeffreys travelled overland, but though the Kangaroo sailed for Port Dalrymple later in October it did not re-enter Port Jackson until February 1815. Governor Lachlan Macquarie was dissatisfied with Jeffreys's explanation of the delay, wanted to send the brig back to England as unfit for service and to discharge Jeffreys, whom he thought a timid seaman and ignorant of his duties; however, in April he dispatched Jeffreys to Ceylon with the remainder of the 73rd Regiment. Whilst on this voyage Jeffreys named Molle Island in the Whitsunday Passage after Lieutenant-Governor George Molle, and Mount Jeffreys on Molle Island after himself. When sailing around Cape York Peninsula in May he discovered and named Princess Charlotte Bay. After his return to Port Jackson in 1816 he made two trips with convicts and stores to the Derwent, which he carried out satisfactorily, but in April 1817 the governor, still critical of Jeffreys's incompetence, reported that he was sending him in the Kangaroo to England. Macquarie instructed him not to touch at any port in either of the colonies, but Jeffreys disobeyed his instructions. He entered Hobart at the end of April under the pretext that he had lost a boat and suffered some damage, but with the real purpose of landing a large quantity of spirits. While the brig was in the Derwent it was learned that several prisoners were missing from Hobart, that two prisoners had been stowed at Port Jackson, and that the escaped Sydney merchant, Garnham Blaxcell, who owed a large sum of money to the government, was on board. When Lieutenant-Governor William Sorell ordered two boats to patrol the river on the evening of 6 May Jeffreys boarded one of them, beat and abused the commander, Captain Jones, and took him and other crew members on board the Kangaroo as prisoners. The captured men were released next day and Jeffreys sailed for England a week later. Macquarie hoped that Jeffreys would be suitably punished, but legal impediments prevented his trial in England; however, at least he had given the British government the means of successfully prosecuting its claims against Blaxcell.

While in London Jeffreys arranged for publication of his Geographical and Descriptive Delineations of the Island of Van Diemen's Land in 1820. Most of the information for his work was obtained from the manuscript of Surveyor George William Evans who had travelled in the Kangaroo between Van Diemen's Land and Port Jackson. The book, now rare, was the first of many guides for immigrants intending to settle in Van Diemen's Land.

In May 1820 Jeffreys and his wife returned to Hobart in the Saracen, and later obtained a grant at Pittwater of 800 acres (324 ha), which he named Frogmore. The first house and all its contents were destroyed by fire soon after being built, but he immediately laid the foundations of another. However, Jeffreys did not prosper as a farmer. He died on 6 May 1826 and was buried at Sorell. His widow remained in the colony, and was allowed an additional grant of 500 acres (202 ha).

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 8-9, series 3, vol 2
  • G. T. Lloyd, Thirty-Three Years in Tasmania and Victoria (Lond, 1862)
  • P. L. Brown (ed), Clyde Company Papers, vol 1 (Lond, 1941)
  • K. R. von Stieglitz, Edward Markham's Voyage to Van Diemen's Land 1833 (Launceston, 1953)
  • Adm 107 (PRO)
  • CSO 1/170/4092 (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

E. Flinn, 'Jeffreys, Charles (1782–1826)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 29 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (Melbourne University Press), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


16 October, 1782
Cowes, Hampshire, England


6 May, 1826 (aged 43)
Sorell, Tasmania, Australia

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