Three Lives of John Christmas UNDERWOOD/Christopher Christmas BERRY Part 2: Australia 1837 – 1840

Updated April 2021

The Christopher Christmas Berry period of residence in Australia opens with an  entry in the “Register of Seamen 1835-6” held at the Public Record Office in England: “No. 3854. Name: Christopher Berry. Age 30. Place of Birth: Yarmouth. Ship belonging to: Orissa of Grangemouth. Quality: Mariner.”

It will be noted that In this record Yarmouth is given as place of birth, suggesting that this might not be our man. However It has been established without doubt that CCB was born 1796 in Norwich, Norfolk and Baptised then as John Christmas Underwood. The age given as 30 relates more to his third Christening on 14 January 1803, at St Nicholas Chapel, Kings Lynn, Norfolk, England as Christopher Christmas Berry and subsequent records including his Death Certificate 1851 which records his age as 51. 

His passage to Australia was aboard the Orissa which is recorded as having left England 14 March 1837 and sailing from Hobart to Sydney 14 July 1837 where it is assumed he was discharged. (Source: The Tasmanian, 14 July 1837).

Port Phillip, Colony of New South Wales, Australia (now State of Victoria)

Here I have listed in chronological order references and events to trace CCB’s movements and life during his time in Port Phillip (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia)

  1. 12 September 1838: Historical Records of Victoria: Vol 3, Ch. 30: General Census of Port Phillip
  2. 5 January 1839: Historical Records of Victoria: Vol. 7 Ch 8: Customs Revenue and Expenditure 1837 – 1839. Port of Port Phillip, New South Wales Account Current of Receipts and Payments for the Quarter Ended 5 January 1839. Particulars of Payments … 1839 Jan. 5 To C. Berry, repairs to Customs boat 2 11 0 and To C. Berry, repairs to R. C. Ranger boats 12 0 0
  3. 11 January 1839: “Return Showing Engagements of Families per the Hope[1]” shows the engagement by “Christopher Bury” of Melbourne of “McPherson, William, Farm Labourer” with wages of 6 Shillings a day.
  4. May 1839 –January 1840: Shipping Arrivals & Departures, Victorian Ports, Vol 1 1798-1845 Marten A Syme: “Berry, Charles see also Bury Victoria (M) 8/5/39), (M) 28/5/39, Rectus (M) 1/40, (WP) 1/40
  5. 6 May 1839: Cutters Victoria and Rectus offered for sale by Private Contract.
    Wikipedia: “Queen Street is a street in the central business district of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. The street forms part of the original Hoddle Grid and was laid out in 1837. It runs roughly north-south and is primarily a commercial and financial thoroughfare of the city centre.” 
  6. 8 May 1839: Port Phillip Gazette, Shipping Intelligence: “Cleared at the Customs…. The cutter Victoria, Berry, for Launceston, in ballast.”
  7. 20 May 1839: The Cornwell Chronicle (Launceston, Tasmania) “Victoria, (cutter) 13 tons, Berry for Port Phillip – 2 tons iron, 120 bushels oats, 3,000 laths, 13,000 shingles – Berry.”
  8. 23 May 1839: Launceston Advertiser “Launceston Shipping List – Arrivals May 17 – CutterVictoria, 13 Tons, Berry master, from Port Phillip. G.Fisher agent; in ballast.”
  9. 24 May 1839: Port Phillip Gazette, Shipping Intelligence: …”from Launceston, the cutter Victoria, Bury, with general cargo”
  10. 17 July 1839: C Berry and H Ferguson witnesses to marriage of Francis Bennett and Mary Heard.
    Note: On the same day Harriet witnessed the marriage of Henry Joseph Grimaldi (alias used by a convict Henry Robinson) ”per ship Hero 1834”[1]) to Elisabeth Heard. Grimaldi formerly a Scourger later had his Ticket of Leave withdrawn for having deceived the Reverend Mr Grylls by taking an oath before him that he was free. As an aside The London Courier and Evening Gazette 11 August 1834 contains an article reading:
    “Among tbe convictions in the County Cork Court, Wednesday, was that of Henry Robinson, a soldier, for the robbery of Captain J. R. Smith. He is son to the celebrated clown, Grimaldi, by whom he was apprenticed to the equally celebrated equestrian, Ducrow; but one day, while practising in the circus, not acquitting himself to the satisfaction of his master, Ducrow, after repeated remonstrances, laid on him pretty smartly with the whip. This did not accord with the offender’s notions of what was due to a personage of his consequence, so he eloped, changed his name, enlisted, and is now sentenced to be transported for seven years.”  
    It would seem that Robinson as a “scourger” later in life had a fascination for the whip. (“scourger – a torturer who flogs or scourges (especially an official whose duty is to whip offenders) flogger. torturer) – someone who inflicts severe physical pain (usually for punishment or coercion).
  11. 11 September 1839: Port Phillip Gazette lists an unclaimed letter “now in the Post Office, Melbourne” for “Berry Christopher”.
  12. 12 September 1839: Port Phillip Gazette, advertises “The Cutter Victoria” For Sale. 
  13. 22 October 1839: R. Delaney and C. Berry by letter to C. J. La Trobe, Superintendent, Port Phillip (Pages 1, 2 and 3) offer their services to find boats and vessels for the service and act as pilots.
  14. 25 January 1840: Port Phillip Gazette, Shipping Intelligence, Cleared at the Customs: “On Wednesday last, for the Western Port, the cutter Rectus, Berry, in ballast.”
  15. 16 March 1840: ” “BERRY, Christopher Rectus (M & O 16.3.40.”
  16. 16 March 1840: Shipping Arrivals & Departures Tas Vol 2 1834-1842 Ian Hawkins Nicholson: “Rectus, new cutter of Melbourne, 10t ,3 men L, 16.3.1840”
  17. 21 March 1840: The Hobart Town Courier and Van Diemen’s Land Gazette (Tas. : 1839-1840) Friday 27 March 1840, page 3, Shipping Intelligence. PORT OF LAUNCESTON. ARRIVALS. None. DEPARTURES. March 20—the bark Lord Goderich, 460 tons, Kay, for Port Phillip, Henty & Co., agents —forty-four passengers. 21—the cutter Rectus, Berry, for sealing ground, G. Fisher, agent, with sundries.
  18. 12 May 1840: Resident at Western Port in tent. Please see Sydney Herald, 26 June 1840.This article announces the arrival in Melbourne 19 May 1840 of  Sir Paweł Edmund StrzeleckiKCMGCBFRSFRGSDCL (Polish pronunciation: [ˈpavɛw ˈɛdmunt stʂɛˈlɛt͡skʲi]; 24 June 1797 – 6 October 1873), also known as Paul Edmund de Strzelecki, was a Polish[2][3] explorer, geologist[4] and philanthropist who in 1845 also became a British subject. He is noted for his contributions to the exploration of Australia, particularly the Snowy Mountains and Tasmania as well as climbing and naming the highest mountain on the continent – Mount Kosciuszko (2,228 m).Passages of interest in the article read: “In this situation it became necessary for the travellers to relinquish (which they did with regret) their original intention of prosecuting their researches as far as Wilson’s Promontory, and thence commencing the exploration of the sea-coast, its inlets
    and outlets, and to take instead the straight course for Western Port, the nearest point whence fresh supplies could be obtained.
    …. On the twenty-second day after they had abandoned their horses the travellers came in sight of Western Port, and the sensations which were created by the first view of the water on which a small vessel was riding at anchor, and the blue smoke curling among the trees, may be more easily imagined than described.—It was upon Mr. Berry’s tent the party had stumbled, and to his hospitality and kind attention to their wants they owe their recovery to health and vigour.”In an attempt to put a more precise date to CCB’s residence at Western Point, which interestingly opens into Bass Strait and has a more direct relationship to Launceston in Tasmania from which he was to sail to Kororareka, I have endeavoured to ascertain Count Strzlecki’s arrival date at Western Port. I found that seven cairns or tablets to Strzelecki were erected at Heyfield, Loy Yang, Koornala, North Mirboo, Leongatha, Korumburra, and  Corinella to mark the route of his expedition. The Cairn at Loy Yang records “Count Strezlecki passed this spot 13th April, 1840.” Loy Yang lies 165 kilometres to the east of Western Port and Melbourne at which he arrived on 19 May 1840, 99 kilometres. However to my great surprise my “super sleuth” fellow CCB desendant, John Miller, has come up with a map which shows that the Count was with Mr Berry on “12 May1840”.

  19. This information suggests that our man’s departure from Australia would have been somewhat later than that of his recorded departure of 21 March 1840 from Launceston to the sealing grounds. 
  20. Stop Press: John Miller has provided further information concerning the Count’s time at Western Port:
    Gippsland Guardian 28 March 1856
    (Letter by James McArthur, one of Strzelecki’s party)
    …“till the 12th May; on that day we reached the old settlement at Western Port. We were there kindly entertained by a resident named Berry, Mr. Ross, now of Heidelberg, and Messrs. Massie and Anderson, then occupying that country. We remained some days at Western Port, regaining our exhausted strength, and then travelled on foot to Melbourne.”
    The Age  2 April 1927
    Some convicts who had escaped’ from Van  Dieman’s Land were occupying the buildings of the settlement established near the site of Corinella in1826, and abandoned a year or two later. They shared what food they had with the starving and ragged explorers, and showed them the way to Massie and Anderson’s homestead. There they received a kindly welcome, and, after resting for a few days, were taken in a boat to Jamieson’s station near the bead of the port (now Tooradin). From there they walked from station to station to Melbourne,
    Morwell Advertiser  1 April 1927
    “Whilst making their way to Settlement Point they stumbled on Berry’s tent, and after taking of some food, moved to Anderson and Massies Station…here they rested and recuperated for several days, being entertained with much kindness.”
  21. 12 August 1840: Port Phillip Gazette “Christopher Berry 20 Pounds Reward”
  22. 6 August 1841: NZ Herald & Auckland Gazette “Shipping Intelligence Departures. *
  23. 21 June 1842: The Australian 11 July 1842: Port of Auckland, In Harbour, Rectus. *
  24. 31 July 1841: NZ Herald and Auckland Gazette “Shipping Intelligence Coasters in Harbour” *
    * The last 3 entries are to confirm that CCB some time late 1840 arrived  in New Zealand. The New Zealand story is to be found HERE.

Christopher’s association with Harriet FELSTED and her husband William FERGUSON who feature in CCB’s life in Port Phillip from 1837 would have commenced through his assocation with Ferguson, a shipwright, engaged in Port Phillip on repairs to the Revenue Cutter, Ranger, for the Colonial Secretary.

[1] The Hope, a barque, was the first vessel to bring government immigrants to Port Phillip. It arrived from Sydney on 3 January 1839 with 103 men, women and children.
[2] Wright & Co.’s inquiry & missing friends office, 44 Little Collins Street West, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Subjects Wright & Co.(Melbourne, Vic.); Detectives – Victoria.
Work ID 18589892 National Library of Australia. [Open to the public]

Bob Vine, April 2021