Peace and half pay
In 1763 Phillip was placed on the half-pay list where his rank entitled him to two shillings per day added to the £130 prize money he made from his squadron’s share of the capture of the Spanish fleet at Havana. However this was not enough to maintain a young man making his way in the world as naval officer and gentleman so marriage to a ‘rich widow’ seemed an obvious solution for some of his problems.
Charlotte Denison had been born Margaret Charlotte Tybott, daughter of a farming family from the north of Wales. In 1759 she had married John Denison, an affluent cloth and wine merchant who also owned property in Lambeth and farming property in Dorset. Unfortunately Denison died in 1760 leaving Charlotte a considerable estate including a £120,000 trust in the Bank of England.
There are no details as to how the couple met and married. Contemporary paintings show Phillip as a rather grim, young man at 25 and Charlotte, ‘a handsome woman simple yet elegant taste’ of 41.
Although it was unusual in those days, Phillip signed an indenture, release and settlement whereby he gave up any claim to the farming lands in Dorset, and any control of the trust fund. Nevertheless, he was now on the edge of society, living at Hampden Court, about fifteen miles west of London. Little is known of how he spent the next few years but they did acquire a farm at Lyndhurst, in the New Forest.
No doubt Arthur acquiesced to playing the country gentleman of means, and after all, it was close to Portsmouth where Michael Everett lived. It is thought they took up residence about 1766 and whether Phillip became a serious farmer is unknown, but what is known is that he spent £2000 of his wife’s money ‘principally on domestic disbursements’, or what we would call, improvements.
Vernals, the farm at Lyndhurst c1766
The farm lay on the southern edge of the town of Vernals, in the New Forest, not far distant from Portsmouth. An 1840s description of the farm described it as ‘a house, farm offices, garden and shrubbery on one and three quarter acres, with 22 acres of pasturage adjoining’. About a year later Phillip ‘obtained by purchase or lease, ‘Glass Hayes’, the area where Lyndhurst Park Hotel now stands but which in the 1840s, ‘consisted of a house, offices garden and pleasure ground on six acres and four acres of adjoining fields, three of which was pasture’. He also acquired Black Acres, a property that has yet to be identified. Here, Phillip had a Shropshire farm labourer, Henry Dodd, who became a valued servant years later.
Phillip had become the country gentleman, a respectable owner of the land, acquitting the post of an ‘overseer of the parish charity from 1766-88′.
It is doubtful, given the nature of the soil of the district that Phillip went into large-scale farm production. He probably kept sheep, poultry and pigs, and he employed an experienced farm labourer Henry Dodd to conduct the day by day affairs. Phillip however was acute enough to observe and absorb the culture of farming, learning the rhythm of the seasons, of crop planting, of fertilising the land with animal dung and seaweed, all needful knowledge even for the gentleman farmer. It is also likely Phillip made periodic visits to Portsmouth to visit socially and discuss service days with Michael Everett at Portsmouth.
We are not privy to Phillip’s thoughts about this charmed existence. Did he miss the adventure of the sea? Did country and married life pale? Did he miss the excitement and adventure of new countries and people in the world, the adventure of battle, the authority and respect due to an officer? Was he starved of the male companionship of the mess and the camaraderie of shipboard life? Did he yearn for promotion, to make his mark at sea? Did he want a return to the orderliness of service life?
Perhaps some instinct, some innate yearning tugged at him to return to profession for which he had trained. Perhaps he had simply wearied of the life of a married country gentleman.
However ‘some circumstance occurred which induced him to wish for a separation’ from his wife. They completed a formal ‘Indenture of Separation’ in April 1769. Phillip agreed in writing to allow Charlotte to retain all of their household possessions, their property at Hampden Court and Middlesex. This loss of everything but his own possessions and his Admiralty half-pay, threw Phillip back onto his own resources again. Excepting when Charlotte died, no record exists of his thoughts or contact with her again.
He must have taken the separation hard as he sought approval from the Admiralty to spend six months holiday overseas, ‘for the benefit of his health’. He spent six months at Omers in the north of France, then sought extension for an additional six months.
Back to the sea 1770
Phillip is next recorded joining HMS Egmont, a 74-gun line-of-ship, in November 1770. The Egmont was being fitted out as a part of the re-activation of the navy as a result of a quarrel with Spain over possession of the Falkland Islands. Perhaps the threat of war and action brought him back from France but the conflict was resolved and Phillip spent seven months of inaction as a fourth lieutenant undertaking routine tasks. He remained on Egmont until January 1775 when he elected to take half-pay, claiming illness. Again he returned, with permission, to northern France to Lille to recover his health. Phillip was dogged by illness throughout his life.
It is thought that while Phillip was in France, he studied military engineering as he was known ‘to be well up in fortification and every other branch of the military profession’ and ‘possessed an unusual “theoretical” knowledge of his profession’. He was known to be ‘the oldest and most intimate friend of Isaac Landmann, a German who in 1770 was Professor of Artillery and Fortification at the Ecole Militaire in Paris and, in 1777, the holder of a similar post at Woolwich Arsenal. If Phillip did attend lectures in Paris, it was in his own time. By now of course, he had added a thorough knowledge of the French language to his German and English. Returning to England in 1774, richer in health, experience, and probably in pocket, Phillip was no doubt anxious to return to active naval service again.
Now aged 36 years, Phillip had experienced a poor boyhood but excellent schooling in his field. He had experienced the rough voyages in the bitter Arctic on a whaler and yet he had experienced the sunshine of the Mediterranean, the Caribbean and France. He had experienced some years as a junior officer in peace times and in the war torn West Indies. On half pay he had been married, a gentleman farmer, studied military warfare, become proficient in another language and had been an ‘observer’ in France for the Admiralty. But, he had remained a mere lieutenant in the Royal Navy, a ‘capable junior officer without definite prospects’.
 Henry Edward Dodd (ca 1748-1791 – fl 1788-91) sailed to New South Wales on Sirius as Phillip’s manservant. Because of his knowledge of farming and ability in managing convict work gangs, Phillip used him to organise the farming at Farm Cove and Rose Hill. Dodd’s success contributed greatly to the success of the colony
The basic information for this biography has been drawn from Alan Frost’s most comprehensive biography, Arthur Phillip, His Voyaging. This has been supplemented with and corroborated by the following sources:
Charles Bateson, The Convict Ships, Glasgow, Brown, Son and Ferguson, 1969 (2nd edition); FM Bladen (ed), Historical Records of New South Wales, Sydney, Charles Potter, Government `Printer, 1893. In nine volumes. Facsimile reprint pub 1978 by Lansdown Slattery & Company, Mona Vale.
Part 1, Cook’s Charts, 1768-1770.
Volume 1, Part 1, Cook (1762-1780)
Volume 1, Part 2, Phillip (1783-1792)
David Collins, (Brian Fletcher, ed), An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, vol 1, Sydney, Reid and RAHS, 1975. Originally published London, 1798
M. Barnard Eldershaw, Phillip of Australia, Sydney, Discovery Press – Penrith, 1972. (First published by G. Harrup 1938)
Brian Fletcher, ‘Arthur Phillip’, ADB, vol. 2.
Alan Frost, Convicts and Empire: A Naval Question, Melbourne, OUP, 1980.
Alan Frost, Arthur Phillip, His Voyaging, Melbourne, OUP, 1987.
Molly Gillen, The Founders of Australia, Sydney, Library of Aust History, 1989.
Terry Kass, Carol Liston & John McClymont, Parramatta, A Past Revealed, Sydney, Parramatta City Council, 1996.
Arthur Phillip – The Voyage to Botany Bay, [1789, Facs, Adelaide, Library Board of Australia, Hutchinson, 1982 edn.
Edward Spain, Manuscript Journal; ML mss C266
Ralph Sutton, ‘Arthur Phillip (1738-1814), Our First Captain-General and Governor of New South Wales’, United Service, vol. 47, no. 3, pp. 7-17.
Watkin Tench, (LF Fitzhardinge, ed.), Sydney’s First Four Year, Sydney, Library of Australian History and RAHS, 1979..
For greater detail on Henry Dodd and Henry Brewer, refer to my mss ‘Phillip’s Household. A background to his personal staff and their performance in the colony’.