Collection of bones.
Hyde Park Barracks archaeology collection. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

Meet the convicts

Meet the convicts

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Life at the Barracks

The Hyde Park Barracks officially went into operation on 4 June 1819. Convicts lodged at the barracks faced new regulations governing their working hours, and how they were dressed and fed. The men rose at sunrise with the ringing of the yard bell. After breakfast they assembled in work gangs in the yard and filed out through the gates to worksites around Sydney – dockyards, brickyards, limekilns, stables, breweries, quarries, windmills and foundries.

Click the images below to learn more about the objects on display at the Hyde Park Barracks.

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Meet the convicts

Timber-getter and carpenter

Metal chain with circular loop and clasp on opposite ends.

Timber chain sling

Metal chain with circular loop and clasp on opposite ends.
On loan from Ralph Hawkins. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

Timber chain sling marked with broad arrow

This large chain sling was made in Sydney in the 1820s and used by convict timber-getters to transport freshly cut lengths of timber. Designed to support, or cradle, the logs, the links on either end of the chain hooked onto fittings under the axle of a bullock-drawn cart.

Other objects on display

  • Timber feller’s axe head, maul. On loan from Ralph Hawkins
  • Crosscut saw; cabinet-maker’s gouger, carpenter’s hammer, saw, axe, gimlet handle, plane, mallet. On loan from Fred Murrell
  • Timber shingles
Wooden carpenter's tool.

Carpenter’s plane

Wooden carpenter's tool.
On loan from Ralph Hawkins. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

Carpenter’s plane

Planes were used to finish or smooth off rough surfaces of woodwork, such as planking, battens, beams or the edges of window framing and doors. At the Hyde Park Barracks, planes like this were used to remove unsightly saw marks on the floorboards beneath your feet.

Other objects on display

  • Timber feller’s axe head, maul. On loan from Ralph Hawkins
  • Crosscut saw; cabinet-maker’s gouger, carpenter’s hammer, saw, axe, gimlet handle, plane, mallet. On loan from Fred Murrell
  • Timber shingles

Meet the convicts

Stonemason and bricklayer

Wooden handled tool with serrated metal scraper.

Stonemason’s scraping comb

Wooden handled tool with serrated metal scraper.
On loan from Fred Murrell. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

Stonemason’s scraping comb

This scraping comb was used to smooth and level stonework surfaces for architectural features such as plinths, steps, doorways, window ledges and the highly finished stone facings on the front wall of the Hyde Park Barracks.

Brick with heart shaped indent

Brick

Brick with heart shaped indent
Hyde Park Barracks collection. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

Brick stamped with heart-shaped ‘frog’

The exterior of the Hyde Park Barracks is formed from an estimated 90,460 bricks made by convicts. Alongside sandstone, bricks were the building blocks of colonial Sydney. In the Sydney brickyards, teams of convict brickmakers prepared and moulded bricks in batches before baking them in large ovens. In the 1820s, all government bricks were marked with a broad arrow. By the 1830s, symbols, known as ‘frogs’ (usually shapes from playing cards – hearts, diamonds and spades), were commonly used to identify the brickmaker and enable the mortar to bind more effectively onto the brick.

Other objects on display

  • Quarryman’s wedge, stone-breaking hammer, stonemason’s axe head with broad arrow, set square. On loan from Ralph Hawkins
  • Mallet, stonemason’s hammer, chisel, gauge. On loan from Fred Murrell
  • Convict-made sandstock bricks with broad arrow marks; heart-, spade- and diamond-shaped ‘frogs’, or indentations; chisel with broad arrow

 

 

Meet the convicts

Blacksmith

Circular stone wheel housed in metal and wood stand with a turning handle.

Grinding wheel

Circular stone wheel housed in metal and wood stand with a turning handle.
Hyde Park Barracks collection. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

Grinding wheel, stamped ‘BO’ (Board of Ordnance) and broad arrow

In a colony founded on convict work, every trade relied on tools being kept in good order. This hefty grinding wheel, its iron cradle stamped with a broad arrow and ‘BO’ (Board of Ordnance) to mark it as government property, was a critical piece of equipment in early Sydney. It sharpened and smoothed hundreds of implements used in everyday work, including axes and saws to fell trees; scythes to clear scrub; picks and chisels to quarry stone; hatchets and hammers to build fences; and planes, files and pliers to make furniture, carts and buckets. The heavy wheel could be disassembled to be easily transported from one place to another.

Metal tool with winding handle on top.

Blacksmith’s vice

Metal tool with winding handle on top.
On loan from Ralph Hawkins. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

Blacksmith’s vice marked with broad arrows, c1820–40

This large blacksmith’s vice held heavy items while they were being made or repaired. The imprint of a broad arrow has been produced by a chisel rather than the stamp commonly used in the Sydney lumberyard. It is possible that this vice was used by a road gang or at a work depot outside Sydney.

Other objects on display

  • Pliers, tongs and tack header. On loan from Ralph Hawkins
  • Calipers, hammer and compass. On loan from Fred Murrell

Meet the convicts

Cook

Oval shaped metal boiler/cooking pot with a hole in the bottom for draining. It is stamped with a broad arrow and '1846', indicating government ownership.

Cooking pot or cauldron

Oval shaped metal boiler/cooking pot with a hole in the bottom for draining. It is stamped with a broad arrow and '1846', indicating government ownership.
Hyde Park Barracks collection. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

Cooking pot or cauldron, stamped ‘BO’ (Board of Ordnance), broad arrow and the year 1846

This hefty cast-iron pot – estimated to hold 445 litres of liquid – would have been set into a brick structure built over a fire in an institutional kitchen like the one at the Hyde Park Barracks.

Convict rations were prepared in large cauldrons such as this one by convict cooks in the kitchen at the Hyde Park Barracks. The food was portioned out to mess groups of six men to share, with convict overseers stationed to make sure it was distributed fairly.

Other objects on display

  • Cow, sheep and pig bones, some with butchery cuts

Meet the convicts

Shoemaker and tailor

Selection of irregularly shaped leather offcuts.

Leather shoemaking offcuts

Selection of irregularly shaped leather offcuts.
Hyde Park Barracks archaeology collection. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

Leather shoemaking offcuts

Around 1826, a shoemaking establishment operated at the Hyde Park Barracks. Convict shoemakers worked in groups throughout the dormitory building, with each shoemaker expected to produce one pair of shoes each day for government use. Hundreds of small leather shoemaking offcuts were found beneath the floorboards.

Other objects on display

  • Shoe last and tailor’s scissors. On loan from Ralph Hawkins
  • Shoemaker’s hammers, hole puncher, heel cutter, leather shapers, hole stretcher, creaser. On loan from Fred Murrell
Discoloured piece of striped fabric.

Convict shirt scrap

Discoloured piece of striped fabric.
Hyde Park Barracks archaeology collection. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

Convict shirt scrap

This scrap of striped cotton was cut or torn from a convict shirt. Blue stripes were common on convict clothing, though the line thickness often varied in width. Convict tailors at the Hyde Park Barracks made and repaired the men’s regulation clothing, including trousers, shirts, jackets and overcoats. The fabric was imported, or woven by convict women in the Female Factory at Parramatta.

Other objects on display

  • Balls of cotton thread, convict shirt scrap and linen trouser pocket cut into a semicircle.

Meet the convicts

Pipe maker

White pipe with bowl decorated as head.

Clay tobacco pipe

White pipe with bowl decorated as head.
Hyde Park Barracks archaeology collection. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

Clay tobacco pipe, made by Joseph Elliott, c1830

This pipe is marked with the maker’s name, Joseph Elliott, and ‘Market Wharf’ in raised letters. Like many models of the time, it is adorned with a handsome moustachioed face. The prolific pipe maker Joseph Elliot operated a factory near Darling Harbour between 1828 and 1840. Smoking was a popular pastime in the colony, with a large number of pipes imported as well as made locally.

Other objects on display

  • Clay tobacco pipe bowls and stems manufactured at the Sydney Brickfields by pipe makers William Cluer, Joseph Elliott, Samuel Elliott, Jonathon Leak and Matthew Pryor Piggott

Meet the convicts

Convict clothing

Worn striped shirt with one arm folded in.

Convict shirt

Worn striped shirt with one arm folded in.
Hyde Park Barracks collection. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

Striped cotton convict shirt with bone buttons, stamped ‘BO’ (Board of Ordnance) and broad arrow

Male convicts at the Hyde Park Barracks wore regulation clothing stamped with the initials BO (for Board of Ordnance) and a broad arrow to identify them as government property. This shirt is one of only two complete convict shirts known to survive from the convict period in Australia. It was found bundled inside a staircase during renovations of the Hyde Park Barracks in 1979.

Other objects on display

  • Balls of cotton thread
  • Convict shirt scrap
  • Linen trouser pocket cut into a semicircle
Leather semi-circular cap with BO stamp visible inside.

Convict cap

Leather semi-circular cap with BO stamp visible inside.
Hyde Park Barracks collection. Photo © Paolo Busato for Sydney Living Museums

Convict ‘side cap’, marked ‘BO’ (Board of Ordnance) and broad arrow

The leather convict cap was one of the most recognisable symbols of convictism in Australia. It had a brim that could be folded up and tied, or turned down to protect the wearer from both sun and rain. The caps were unpopular with convicts, who preferred wearing woollen caps in winter and broad-brimmed straw hats in summer. Despite being impractical, the leather caps remained part of the convict uniform at least into the 1850s.

Leather shoe, sole slightly separated from top.

Convict shoe

Leather shoe, sole slightly separated from top.
Hyde Park Barracks archaeology collection, Sydney Living Museums. Photo © Jamie North

Convict shoe, stamped with broad arrow

Two or three pairs of shoes were issued to each convict annually. This leather convict shoe was discovered by archaeologists beneath the floor of the north-eastern sleeping ward on level two of the Hyde Park Barracks. Typical of the shoes made in the early 1800s, it is ‘straight-lasted’, meaning that it is symmetrical and could be worn on either foot. The Board of Ordnance and broad arrow stamp on the inner sole confirm that it was government made, either by the shoemaking gang at the government lumberyard in Bridge Street, or in the tailoring establishment at the Hyde Park Barracks, which operated after 1826. Convict shoemakers were required to make one pair of shoes a day.