Whilst in London, the Wangal clansmen toured impressive monuments including St Paul's Cathedral and the Tower of London. They visited museums, attended theatre performances and even took in a criminal trial at the Houses of Parliament. Later they were relocated outside London in rural Eltham.



... written down from the Singing of BENELONG, and YAM-ROWENY, the two Chiefs who were brought to England some years ago, from Botany Bay, by Governor Phillips [sic]. The subject of the Song, is in praise of their Lovers; and when they Sang, it seem’d indispensable to them to have two sticks, one in each hand to beat time with the Tune; one end of the left hand stick rested on the ground, while the other in the right hand was used to beat against it, according to the time of the notes. 

 - Edward Jones, 'A song of the natives of New South Wales', Musical Curiosities, 1811


Within days, the party was in London.  Lloyd’s Evening Post announced the arrival thus:

Governor Philip [sic] has brought home with him two natives of New Holland, a man and a boy, and brought them to town. The Atlantic has also on board four kangaroos, lively and healthy, and some other animals peculiar to that country. From the description given of the natives of Jackson’s Bay they appear to be a race totally incapable of civilization, every attempt to that end having proved ineffectual … no inducement, and every means have been perseveringly tried, can draw them from a state of nature … They are cruel, particularly to their women, whom they beat in a most barbarous manner on every occasion. That instinct which teaches to propagate and preserve the species, they possess in common with the beasts of the field, and seem exactly on a par with them in respect to any further knowledge of, or attachment to kindred.[1]

This brief introduction to the British public was repeated by the Dublin Chronicle a few days later.  A number of newspaper reports followed but there was not the same level of interest that had accompanied previous visitors from North America and the Pacific. The lack of impact on the British public when viewed against previous indigenous peoples may have surprised Phillip.[2] The absence of gossip or interest at an official level may have reflected a change in taste.  Indigenous people were no longer newsworthy.  They had also arrived at a time when France and great Britain were at war.  The reigning monarch, George III, also appeared to lack interest in the arrivals – something that would have stimulated wider interest in their presence.

Tench, on learning that Bennelong would accompany Phillip to England  expressed the opinion that 'Baneelon, whom imagination had fondly pictured, like a second Omai, the gaze of a court, and the scrutiny of the curious ...’.[3]

Phillip intended for his charges to be introduced to English society. The outfitters Knox and Wilson provided Bennelong and Yemmerawanne with, frock coats, breeches, waistcoats and fine cotton underwear at a cost of ₤15 for each man.  They were later provided with hats from Busby & Walker. Despite their finery they were the only New World envoys not to be dignified by such a meeting. During his stay, Bennelong lived at a number of locations, including that of William Waterhouse in Mayfair.

William Waterhouse was the father of acting third Lieutenant Henry Waterhouse who was present at Manly Cove when Phillip was speared. William Waterhouse had been principal music page to Prince Henry Frederick, Duke of Cumberland.  The Waterhouse residence was a musical one and Bennelong and Yemmerawanne provided a song in their own language accompanied by hardwood clapsticks.  The words and music were written down by Edward Jones, bard to the Prince of Wales and a neighbour of William Waterhouse.  The music was published in 1811 in Jones’ Musical Curiosities; or a Selection of the most characteristic National Songs, & Airs,

Consisting of Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Danish, Lapland, Malabar, New South Wales, French, Italian, Swiss…(London, 1811) as ‘A song of the natives of New South Wales’.

Bennelong and Yemmerawanne also lived in quarters at Eltham. Thomas Townsend, 1st Viscount Sydney and former Home Secretary, had been given responsibility for devising a plan for settling British convicts in Australia and had framed the articles under which Phillip had acted in abducting Bennelong.  Lord Sydney’s country seat, Frognal House was located in Chislehurst, Kent approximately 5km Bennelong’s Eltham quarters and it would appear that Sydney and Bennelong maintained contact during the visit. While in London Bennelong and Yemmerawanne men toured the key sites of the city including St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London.  They visited museums, attended theatre performances and attended a session of the trial of Warren Hastings at the Houses of Parliament.[4]

[1] Lloyd’s Evening Post

[2] Fullagar (2009):37

[3] Tench: 203

[4] True Briton, London, 2 July 1793


Primary Texts
Dawes – language notebooks
Dumont d’Urville/1
Dumont d’Urville/2
Secondary Texts
Aboriginal History Vol 33
Aboriginal History Vol 33 Kate Fullagar -Woollarawarre Bennelong: rethinking the tragic narrative
Aboriginal History Vol 33 Keith Vincent Smith -Bennelong among his people
Aboriginal History Vol 33 Kate Fullagar -Bennelong in Britain
Aboriginal History Vol 33 Emma Dortins -The many truths of Bennelong’s tragedy
Attenbrow, Valerie ‘Aboriginal placenames around Port Jackson and Botany Bay, New South Wales, Australia Sources and uncertainties’ inAboriginal Placenames.Naming and Re-naming the Australian LandscapeAboriginal History Monograph 19 Edited by Harold Koch and Luise Hercus ANU E Press 2009
Attenbrow, Valerie Sydney's Aboriginal past: investigating the archaeological and historical records, Sydney, UNSW Press, 2002.
Dictionary of Sydney Contains biographical entries for many of the people mentioned in text
Powell, Michael and Hesline, Rex ‘Making tribes? Constructing aboriginal tribal entities in Sydney and coastal NSW from the early colonial period to the present.’Journal of the Royal Australian Historical Society