Historical information

This hardcover book, The logbooks of the 'Lady Nelson' : with the journal of her first commander, Lieutenant James Grant, R.N., by Ida Lee (Mrs Charles Bruce Marriott) was published over 100 years after the Lady Nelson arrived in Australia to navigate and survey this ‘new colony’. Included in the book are sixteen charts and illustrations from the originals in the Admiralty Library, showing the surveyed land and water. The transcribed Contents, below, summarise the trips of the Lady Nelson during this time.

Book’s Content PLUS text of the Chart of ‘Part of Bass Strait’

- Chapter 1: The Lady Nelson built with centreboards. Her voyage to Sydney under James Grant. The first ship to pass through Bass Strait.
- Chapter 2: Returns to explore the Strait. Her visits to Jervis Bay and to Western Port in 1801
- Chapter 3: Colonel Paterson and Lieutenant Grant survey Hunter River
- Chapter 4: Murray appointed commander of the Lady Nelson. His voyage to Norfolk Island.
- Chapter 5: Murray’s exploration of Bass Strait.
- Chapter 6: Discovery of Port Phillip.
- Chapter 7: The Lady Nelson in company with HMS Investigator examines the North-Eastern shores of Australia.
- Chapter 8: The French ships in Bass Strait. The founding of Hobart.
- Chapter 9: Symons succeeds Curtoys as commander of the Lady Nelson. His voyages to Tasmania, Port Phillip and New Zealand.
- Chapter 10: The Lady Nelson in Tasmania. The founding of Port Dalrymple.
- Chapter 11: The Estramina is brought to Sydney. The Lady Nelson visits Norfolk Island and Port Dalrymple.
- Chapter 12: Tippahee and his four sons are conveyed to New Zealand in the Lady Nelson.
- Chapter 13: The Lady Nelson accompanies HMS Tamar to Melville Island.
- Chapter 14: The loss of the Lady Nelson

Text included with the ‘Chart of Bass Strait’ …
“Part of Bass Strait, including the discoveries made by Acting Lieut. J. Murray, commander of His Majesty’s armed surveying vessel Lady Nelson, between November 1801 and March 1802. By command of His Excellency Governor King.”
“This chart, which bears Murray’s autograph, shows his explorations of Western Port, Port Phillip and King Island. It should be noted that Flinders Island is named Grand Capuchin. This is one of the charts referred to as "unfortunately missing” in the Historical Records of N.S. Wales, vol. iv. P. 764”

The story of the Lady Nelson

In 1798 the British Admiralty ordered a cutter of 60 tons to be built along the design of the armed cutter Trial that was developed by Captain John Schanck, with three sliding keels or centreboards that could be individually raised and lowered, for use on the River Thames. The new cutter was to be named Lady Nelson.

Philip Gidley King, prior to taking up his appointment as third Governor of the colony of New South Wales, was in England at the time of the Lady Nelson’s fit-out and was aware of the need for such a ship for survey work in the colony in New South Wales. He convinced Captain Schanck, the Commissioner of Transport in England, to construct and rig the Lady Nelson as a brig rather than a cutter, keeping the feature of the three sliding keels, which would be very useful for mapping in shallow waters.

The new Lady Nelson was launched at Deptford, England on the River Thames in November 1798, with the official commission to discover and survey the unknown parts of the coast of New Holland (Australia) and establish British sovereignty over the continent.

The Lady Nelson sailed from Portsmouth, England on March 1800 under the command of Lieutenant James Grant. She carried an armament of two original and four extra brass carronade carriage guns and set sail as part of a convoy heading to Port Jackson, in New South Wales, New Holland. After a while she continued to sail on her own. Her journey was troubled with problems at times; damaged and broken keels, troublesome crew and leaking topsides between the waterline and the deck due to poor seals. She arrived at the Cape of Good Hope in July and waited for the winter to pass to avoid the strong winds of the ‘Roaring Forties’.

While at the Cape, Grant received a despatch to travel to Port Jackson via the newly discovered Bass Strait, rather than the usual route via the tip of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania). This also gave him the opportunity to survey the strait on the way. He departed the Cape in October and in December he made his first sighting of New Holland near Mount Gambier in what is now South Australia.

A report by Ecclestone in 2012, ‘The Early Charting of Victoria’s Coastline’, mentions that Grant charted and named Capes Banks and Northumberland, and sighted inland hills that he named Mt Gambier and Mt Schanck, the latter after the designer of his ship. Grant then reached the south-western shores of what is now Victoria on 3-4 December 1800, and from Cape Bridgewater he examined the coast eastward to Cape Patton. Although he had not continuously sighted the coast in the vicinity of Port Fairy and Warrnambool, the western part of Victoria became known as Grant’s Land.

The Lady Nelson continued eastward and passed through Bass Strait, becoming the first vessel to reach the east coast of New Holland from the west, and arrived at her destination of Port Jackson later in December 1800.

Grant, in the Lady Nelson, then left Port Jackson and began survey work. He discovered Port Phillip on Victoria’s coast and explored King Island, he helped establish the first European settlement in Tasmania on the Derwent River, and Port Dalrymple, Newcastle and Port Macquarie. He made several trips from Norfolk Island to Hobart Town. Governor Macquarie sailed on with him to Van Diemen’s Land for a tour of inspection in 1811. Grant helped establish the first settlement on Melville Island in Northern Australia. The Lady Nelson was used to transport cargo, civilians and convicts and to source pigs from Timor.

In February 1825 the Lady Nelson sailed again for Timor and never returned. One report said that “Every soul on board, we regret to state, was cruelly massacred, and the hull of the vessel was seen some time after with the name painted on her stern.” The hull was sighted on the island of Babar, which is almost 200 kilometres east of Timor.

This particular copy of the book ...

This item is from the ‘Pattison Collection’, a collection of books and records that was originally owned by the Warrnambool Mechanics’ Institute, which was founded in Warrnambool in 1853.
By 1886 the Warrnambool Mechanics’ Institute (WMI) had grown to have a Library, Museum and Fine Arts Gallery, with a collection of “… choice productions of art, and valuable specimens in almost every branch and many wonderful national curiosities are now to be seen there, including historic relics of the town and district.” It later included a School of Design. Although it was very well patronised, the lack of financial support led the WMI in 1911 to ask the City Council to take it over.
In 1935 Ralph Pattison was appointed as City Librarian to establish and organise the Warrnambool Library as it was then called.
When the WMI building was pulled down in 1963 a new civic building was erected on the site and the new Warrnambool Library, on behalf of the City Council, took over all the holdings of the WMI. At this time some of the items were separated and identified as the ‘Pattison Collection’, named after Ralph Pattison.
Eventually the components of the WMI were distributed from the Warrnambool Library to various places, including the Art Gallery, Historical Society and Flagstaff Hill. Later some were even distributed to other regional branches of Corangamite Regional Library and passed to and fro. It is difficult now to trace just where all of the items have ended up. The books at Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village generally display stamps and markings from Pattison as well as a variety of other institutions including the Mechanics’ Institute itself.

Ralph Eric Pattison was born in Rockhampton, Queensland, in 1891. He married Maude Swan from Warrnambool in 1920 and they set up home in Warrnambool.
In 1935 Pattison accepted a position as City Librarian for the Warrnambool City Council. His huge challenge was to make a functional library within two rooms of the Mechanics’ Institute. He tirelessly cleaned, cleared and sorted a disarrayed collection of old books, jars of preserved specimens and other items reserved for exhibition in the city’s museum.
He developed and updated the library with a wide variety of books for all tastes, including reference books for students; a difficult task to fulfil during the years following the Depression. He converted all of the lower area of the building into a library, reference room and reading room for members and the public. The books were sorted and stored using a cataloguing and card index system that he had developed himself.
He also prepared the upper floor of the building and established the Art Gallery and later the Museum, a place to exhibit the many old relics that had been stored for years for this purpose. One of the treasures he found was a beautiful ancient clock, which he repaired, restored and enjoyed using in his office during the years of his service there.
Ralph Pattison was described as “a meticulous gentleman whose punctuality, floorless courtesy and distinctive neat dress were hallmarks of his character, and ‘his’ clock controlled his daily routine, and his opening and closing of the library’s large heavy doors to the minute.”
Pattison took leave during 1942 to 1945 to serve in the Royal Australian Navy, Volunteer Reserve as Lieutenant.
A few years later he converted one of the Museum’s rooms into a Children’s Library, stocking it with suitable books for the younger generation. This was an instant success.
In the 1950’s he had the honour of being appointed to the Victorian Library Board and received more inspiration from the monthly conferences in Melbourne.
He was sadly retired in 1959 after over 23 years of service, due to the fact that he had gone over the working age of council officers. However he continued to take a very keen interest in the continual development of the Library until his death in 1969


This book about the logbooks of the Lady Nelson is locally significant for its association with the brig Lady Nelson, in which Lt. James Grant made the first documented European discovery of the area later known as Warrnambool in December 1800.

This book is also nationally significant for its association with Grant in the Lady Nelson being the first to sail from west to east through Bass Strait, opening up a shorter, faster route to the colony of Port Jackson rather than going all the way south around Van Diemen’s Land.

The book is nationally significant for its contents of the logbooks of the journeys of the Lady Nelson under various commanders and the copies of the charts created from the surveyed information and the new land of Australia was discovered.

This book is also significant for its association with the full-size non-sailing replica of the Lady Nelson from Mount Gambier’s visitor centre, which was restored by Flagstaff Hill’s Master Boat Builder in Warrnambool in 2012, and with a ship mode of the Lady Nelson in our Collection

The Pattison Collection, along with other items at Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village, was originally part of the Warrnambool Mechanics' Institute’s collection.

The Warrnambool Mechanics’ Institute Collection is primarily significant in its totality, rather than for the individual objects it contains. Its contents are highly representative of the development of Mechanics' Institute libraries across Australia, particularly Victoria. A diversity of publications and themes has been amassed, and these provide clues to our understanding of the nature of and changes in the reading habits of Victorians from the 1850s to the middle of the 20th century. The collection also highlights the Warrnambool community’s commitment to the Mechanics’ Institute, reading, literacy and learning in the regions, and proves that access to knowledge was not impeded by distance. These items help to provide a more complete picture of our community’s ideals and aspirations. The Warrnambool Mechanics Institute book collection has historical and social significance for its strong association with the Mechanics Institute movement and the important role it played in the intellectual, cultural and social development of people throughout the latter part of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century. The collection of books is a rare example of an early lending library and its significance is enhanced by the survival of an original collection of many volumes. The Warrnambool Mechanics' Institute’s publication collection is of both local and state significance.

Physical description

The Logbooks of The Lady Nelson
Author: Ida Lee ( Mrs Charles Bruce Marriott)
Publisher: Grafton & Co
Date: 1915

Inscriptions & markings

Label on spine with typed text RA 910.994 LEE
Inside front cover has a sticker that reads
Warrnambool Mechanics Institute and Free Library