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  • Title
    Waterhouse family papers, together with papers of George Bass and Sarah Bass
  • Creator
  • Call number
    SAFE/MLMSS 6544 (Safe 1/187)
  • Level of description
  • Date

  • Type of material
  • Reference code
  • Issue Copy
    Microfilm : CY 3970, frames 1-559 (MLMSS 6544/1-10, filed at Safe 1/187).
    Microfilm : MLMSS 6544/11, filed at Safe 1/187).
  • Physical Description
    0.34 metres of textual material (1 box) - manuscript

    William Waterhouse (1752?-1822) was a page to the Duke of Cumberland. He married Susanna Brewer (1745?-1815) and they had twelve children including Henry, a naval officer, and Elizabeth, who married George Bass.

    Henry Waterhouse (1770-1812) joined the navy before he was eleven years old. He served on several ships, and in 1786 was appointed to the Sirius as a midshipman after being recommended to Captain Arthur Phillip by Cumberland House. He arrived in Botany Bay with the First Fleet in 1788. He was present at the establishment of the settlements at Port Jackson and Norfolk Island, accompanied Phillip on trips to explore the country and witnessed the spearing of Phillip by an Aboriginal man at Manly Cove in 1790.
    Waterhouse sailed to Norfolk Island in 1790, taking Major Robert Ross and a party of marines and convicts to the settlement there. The Sirius was wrecked on the reef near the island. Waterhouse lost many of his possessions on the ship, including his collection of native artefacts. He and the crew of the Sirius returned to Sydney in the Supply and were subsequently taken to England in the Waaksamheyd, a Dutch ship hired for the purpose. Waterhouse was appointed a lieutenant on the Swallow, then served on the Bellerophon when the forces of Lord Howe defeated the French at the victory of the Glorious First of June 1794.
    When Captain John Hunter was appointed Governor of New South Wales he sought the appointment of Waterhouse as second in command of the Reliance, with power to act as commander in his absence. The surgeon on the Reliance, George Bass, was to become Waterhouse's close friend and brother-in-law. The Reliance arrived in New South Wales in 1795. The following year Waterhouse took the ship to the Cape of Good Hope to buy stock for the colony. While there he and Captain William Kent bought Spanish sheep which became the first merinos imported into New South Wales. They were sold to John Macarthur, Samuel Marsden and other colonists and formed the nucleus of the Australian wool industry.
    Waterhouse acquired land by grant and purchase at Waterhouse Farm, Liberty Plains, and at The Vineyard near Parramatta. While in New South Wales he had a daughter, Maria (1791-1875), by Elizabeth Barnes (Baines) who died soon afterwards. Waterhouse was very fond of his daughter. In 1796 he sent her to England with William and Elizabeth Paterson, to live with the Waterhouse family.
    After his return to England in 1800 Waterhouse was promoted first captain of the Reliance and captain of the Raison, but received no further commissions. He suffered occasional ill health and, to his disappointment, did not rise further in his profession. In 1803 Matthew Flinders observed to George Bass that 'his sun seems to have passed the meridian'. His father ascribed his lack of advancement to his unwillingness to 'brook servile attendance on great Men'. He died in 1812.

    George Bass (1771-1803) was born in Aswarby, Lincolnshire, the only child of George and Sarah Bass (nee Newman). After his father died, the six year old George moved with his mother to the nearby town of Boston where he was educated at the grammar school. When he was sixteen he was apprenticed to Patrick Francis, the Boston surgeon and apothecary. In 1789 he passed the examination to become a Member of the College of Surgeons and obtained a position as a surgeon in the British Navy, serving on several ships before being appointed to HMS Reliance in 1794. The Reliance left for Port Jackson in January 1795 conveying some of the men with which Bass was to have a close association - Captain John Hunter, Matthew Flinders and Henry Waterhouse.
    Soon after their arrival in Sydney, Bass and Flinders and William Martin, Bass' young servant, explored the Georges River in a small eight foot boat which they named Tom Thumb. In 1796 they set out again in a second Tom Thumb to examine the coast south of Sydney, reaching the entrance to Lake Illawarra. The following year Bass returned to the south coast to collect specimens which confirmed reports of the discovery of coal at Coalcliff.
    In December 1797 Bass made an eleven week voyage in a whaleboat to ascertain whether, as he suspected, a strait separated Van Diemen's Land from the mainland. He explored Wilson's Promontory and Western Port, but was forced to return to Sydney by bad weather and lack of supplies. The existence of the strait, now Bass Strait, was confirmed when Bass and Flinders circumnavigated Van Diemen's Land in the colonial sloop Norfolk in 1798-1799.
    Bass sought medical leave to return to England in 1799. He sailed on Pacific trader Charles Bishop's ship Nautilus, charting and naming Bass's Reef-Tied Islands (now Maloelap in the Marshall Islands) and charting the port of Rhio on Bintang Island and the Straits of Singapore. Bass and Bishop decided to form a partnership to take advantage of trading opportunities in Port Jackson and the Pacific. A syndicate of investors, which included Sarah Bass, Elizabeth Bass and William Waterhouse, purchased the brig Venus and filled her with cargo.
    On 8 October 1800 Bass married Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of William and Susannah Waterhouse. They spent ten weeks together before Bass sailed for Port Jackson in January 1801.
    Bass and Bishop were unable to sell their cargo in Port Jackson because of an oversupply of goods. They accepted a contract from Governor Philip Gidley King to voyage to the south sea islands to procure salt pork for the colony. Sailing via the west coast of New Zealand, they discovered four large sounds near Cape West which they named the Inlets of Venus. Bishop established a trading post at Matavai Bay, Otaheite [Tahiti], while Bass took the Venus to buy pork and salt from the Hawaiian Islands and other islands in the Pacific. The venture was reasonably successful, but the return did not cover all their debts. Bass conceived a bold plan to trade in South America, despite restrictions on foreign traders. He left Sydney on 5 February 1803 and was lost at sea, probably before he reached the coast of New Zealand.
    Bass was a remarkable man with a variety of interests. He was elected a member of the Linnean Society and published his observations on the anatomy of the wombat, the feeding habits of the swan and the nesting behaviour of the white-capped albatross. He spoke Spanish, knew some Arabic, and had a good understanding of the Aboriginal language spoken near Sydney, having learned it from Bennelong on the voyage from England to Port Jackson on the Reliance in 1795.
  • Scope and Content
    The Waterhouse family papers include letters and other documents relating to the early settlement and exploration of New South Wales. They are described in the following series:

    SERIES 1
    William Waterhouse - papers, 1782-1803.

    SERIES 2
    Susanna Waterhouse - papers, 1785-1800.

    SERIES 3
    Henry Waterhouse - papers, 1786-1811, 1813-1819.

    SERIES 4
    Elizabeth Bass - papers, 1801-1803.

    SERIES 5
    George Bass - papers, 1799-1803.

    SERIES 6
    Sarah Bass - papers, 1797-1802.

    SERIES 7
    James Luttrell - letter received from Henry Waterhouse, 1790.

    SERIES 8
    Waterhouse family - business records concerning the Brig Venus, 1800-1801.

    SERIES 9
    'View of the Highlands of Neversunk [Navesink Highlands, New Jersey]...', approximately 1800.

    SERIES 10
    George Raper - Chart of Port Hunter, Duke of York's Island, 1792.

    SERIES 11
    Miscellaneous papers of the Pownall family, 1832-189?
  • System of arrangement
    This collection comprises 11 record series. You may navigate to a more detailed description of each series from this record.
  • General note

    Microfilm copies of the papers are available for reference at the Mitchell Library, and at the following libraries: Central Western Co-operative Public Library, Orange; Shoalhaven City Library, Nowra; Macquarie Regional Library, Dubbo; Wollongong City Library; Wagga Wagga City Library; Broken Hill City Library. The microfilm may be purchased by contacting the Manuscript Microforms Librarian at the Mitchell Library.
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