Thomas Gosse, The Founding of the Settlement of Port-Jackson at Botany Bay in New South Wales, a print

Published in London, England, AD 1799

First convicts land in Australia

The print shows the first British penal colony in Australia at Sydney Cove, Port Jackson a few miles from the originally intended site at Botany Bay. The First Fleet arrived in January 1788 with about 750 convicts together with officials, seamen and marine guards. Sailors and convicts are shown here clearing land for settlement. Native turtles and exotic birds are being killed for food. Cattle and pigs have been introduced to stock the new farms. An Aborigine is being questioned by a marine. At first the settlers lived in tents. It took several years to complete the buildings that are seen in the distance.

The loss of the British-American colonies after the American Revolution created a need for a new place to send convicts. Botany Bay, in Australia, was chosen in 1786, having been deemed suitable by Sir Joseph Banks who had visited in 1770. The convicts, the vast majority of whom were transported overseas because of various forms of theft, sometimes settled in the colony after their term of penal servitude expired. Australia was used as a destination for 160,000 convicts between 1788 and 1868.

The naval officer is probably intended to represent Captain Arthur Phillip (1738-1814), first governor of New South Wales, who returned to England in 1792.

Thomas Gosse (1765-1844) appears to have spent his entire career in Britain and to have based this and other Pacific subjects on descriptions by those who went on voyages of exploration.

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More information


R. Lister, Thomas Gosse a biographical sk (Linton, England, 1953)

A. Griffiths, Prints and printmaking: an int, 2nd edition (London, The British Museum Press, 1996)

T. Clayton, The English print, 1688-1802 (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1997)


Height: 540.000 mm
Width: 610.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1856-10-11-105



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