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Friday, 6 December 2013

Royal Charter Voyage Journal of Reverend Charles Hodge – where is it now?

Searching the newspaper accounts relating to the loss of the Royal Charter during the storm of 25-26th October 1859, we’ve come across an article quoting from the journal of a Nottinghamshire parson who travelled home from Melbourne on board the ill-fated vessel.

Storm map
We created an item on The People’s Collection Wales for the Great Gale of 1859 collection featuring the journal and have received a comment asking if there is a full transcription. This has led us to try and find out where it might be now.

Rev Hodge’s diary was found washed up on shore and extracts from it were published in the Pontypool Free Press and Aberystwyth Observer to encourage his relatives to come forward. The newspaper article says that the diary is five inches in length by three in breadth; and contained many interesting facts relative to the ship, incidents on board and items of news from Melbourne. There was even a prayer for safe passage on his journey on the Royal Charter.  Inside the front cover, it was inscribed ‘Rev. C. Hodge, East Retford, Notts., England.’

Interestingly, the Hodge family featured on one of the BBC’s ‘Who do you think you are?’ programmes in 2010. TV gardening expert Monty Don found that Charles Hodge was his great-great -grandfather. Hodge was born at Stogumber, Somerset, in 1812 and had 11 children by his wife Anne.  After the death of one of their infants, Anne made a decision to travel alone to New Zealand to stay with distant relatives. It was an extraordinarily brave for a lone woman. Perhaps worn down by childbearing, Anne saw an opportunity to escape by acquiring vast tracks of land in Australia and New Zealand, and offering them to clergymen willing to emigrate. Anne may have viewed herself as the family’s pioneering settler. She returned for a period and appears to have been reconciled with her husband. Then, leaving 5 of their children behind and taking 4 of their sons with them, the couple emigrated in 1856. Charles was returning home as a result of an edict from his bishop after two years absence in 1859. His journal reveals that he was still torn between the relatively secure life of an English country parson and the prospect of having to carve out a new life down under.

Our research has found out that there is a portrait and a memorial to Charles Hodge in Clarborough Church, Nottinghamshire, and two letters from Charles Hodge to his diocese in the University of Nottingham Archives (Doc refs: Wr C 355-6).

However, the Journal itself continues to elude us.

Are you a descendant of one of Charles and Anne’s nine children? Has the journal survived the years tucked away amongst family papers?

We would love to hear from you in Wales...

Follow this link to the ‘Great Storm of 1859’ collection on People’s Collection Wales to find out more about the ships, the people and coastal communities affected by the hurricane:

By S. Clements and D. Groom

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