Metal shackles with handmade leather cuff with button fastening.
Hyde Park Barracks collection. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

World of pain

World of pain

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Defiance and Punishment

Troublesome convicts faced the ever-present threat of being flogged (whipped), clapped in leg-irons or banished to remote penal stations. During the 1830s, punishments grew in severity and frequency, with the flogging triangle and solitary confinement cells at the Hyde Park Barracks put to greater use. Convicts who repeatedly reoffended faced even crueller punishments in a range of locations across the colony.

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

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World of pain

Flogging

Wooden handled lash with knotted ropes.

Cat-o’-nine-tails

Wooden handled lash with knotted ropes.
Hyde Park Barracks collection. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

Cat-o’-nine-tails

‘I have known as many as twenty-nine flogged on one single morning, till their backs were as red as a round of beef …’ CONVICT JOSEPH LINGARD, 1846

This flogging whip, commonly known as the ‘cat’, has nine lengths of knotted cord at the end of a wooden handle. At the Hyde Park Barracks, floggings took place in a separate punishment yard, where convicts were strapped to a sturdy wooden triangle to hold them firm during their ordeal. Floggings could only be ordered by a court or magistrate and were carried out under strict guidelines in the presence of medical officers, officials and sometimes other convicts. In 1833, the superintendent at the Hyde Park Barracks, Ernest Slade, introduced his own fearsome version of the ‘cat’, which he claimed could lacerate the skin after only four lashes.

Other items on display

  • Cat-o’-nine-tails whip with broad arrow marked on wooden handle

World of pain

Shackled

Metal hinged collar with two loops either side of opening.

Iron waist restraint

Metal hinged collar with two loops either side of opening.
Hyde Park Barracks collection. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

Iron waist restraint

Clamped tightly around the waist, this large iron restraint helped to control convicts in transit between places of confinement, or while being transferred to a secondary penal settlement.

World of pain

Iron gangs

Circular shackles with chain links.

Standard leg-irons

Circular shackles with chain links.
Hyde Park Barracks collection. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

Standard leg-irons

This set of leg-irons weighs 7 pounds (3.2 kilograms). Leg-irons were the most common form of punishment endured by disobedient convicts or those charged with committing further crimes in the colony. Fitted around the convict’s ankles, the rings were riveted in place by a blacksmith before being worn for weeks or even months at a time.

Metal shackles connected by linked chain.

Top leg-irons

Metal shackles connected by linked chain.
Hyde Park Barracks collection. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

Top leg-irons

These pear-shaped leg-irons were designed to sit on top of a standard set of leg-irons and were fitted as an additional punishment. Being ‘double-ironed’ increased the convict’s pain and suffering and made escape almost impossible.

Metal shackles connected by two long chain links with central circular link.

Bar link leg-irons

Metal shackles connected by two long chain links with central circular link.
Hyde Park Barracks collection. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

Bar link leg-irons

These bar link leg-irons weigh about 7½ pounds (3.4 kilograms) and were manufactured in England. Unlike the locally made versions, they have a wide cuff, joined by elongated links. According to reports, they were less effective, as convicts found them easier to slip off.

Handmade leather cuff with button fastening.

Leather ankle protector

Handmade leather cuff with button fastening.
Hyde Park Barracks archaeology collection. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

Leather ankle protector

This leather cuff, with its bone-buttoned tag and zigzag edging was worn under leg-irons to alleviate painful chafing and bruising.

World of pain

Escape

Metal oval shackles connected by chain.

‘Ovalled’ leg-irons

Metal oval shackles connected by chain.
Hyde Park Barracks collection. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

‘Ovalled’ leg-irons

The rings on this set of standard leg-irons have been hammered into an oval shape. This unauthorised practice allowed the rings to be slipped over the ankles and the wearer to possibly escape.

World of pain

Bushranging

Wooden handled pistol with brass plate.

Pistol

Wooden handled pistol with brass plate.
Gift of the Copland Foundation. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

Double-barrel pocket-sized pistol

This pistol was made in Sydney between 1828 and 1836 by Joseph Danks, a convict gunsmith, and is thought to be the earliest surviving firearm made in the colony. Easy to carry, and powerful at close range, this style of firearm was popular with escaped convicts who roamed the countryside as bushrangers and highway robbers.

Other items on display

  • Brass gunpowder flask, Justice & Police Museum collection, Sydney Living Museums