More on Australia

by Michele Ann Young

My we are flying around the world at a rapid rate!

If you are anything like me, you would have found the look of Hyde Park Barracks in the earlier post distinctly depressing on the outside.

On the other hand, some of these people had been sitting in wrecks like the one pictured here for a very long time. Perhaps four square walls didn't look quite so bad after all.

These ships were called prison hulks and they eased the overcrowding in prisons on land. And of course, conveniently located the prisoners off shore or in the Thames estuary for when it was their turn to be transported. sometimes they remained on board for years.

One can imagine that it would be dark and dank with absolutely no privacy.

The men would be shackled during the day in ankle shackles such as these, which would be connected to another chain which encircled waist or throat.

During the day they were put to work on all sorts of projects, depending on where there ship was in relation to shore.

Many of the hulks were located near Woolwich which was expanding rapidly at the time and needed lots of labourers. With the marshes on one side and the naval docks and the Royal Arsenal on the other, escape was difficult.

James Hardy Vaux was a prisoner on the Retribution, an old Spanish vessel, at Woolwich during the early 1800s.

While waiting to be transported for a second time to New South Wales, he recalled:

Every morning, at seven o'clock, all the convicts capable of work, or, in fact, all who are capable of getting into the boats, are taken ashore to the Warren, in which the Royal Arsenal and other public buildings are situated, and there employed at various kinds of labour; some of them very fatiguing; and while so employed, each gang of sixteen or twenty men is watched and directed by a fellow called a guard.

These guards are commonly of the lowest class of human beings; wretches devoid of feeling; ignorant in the extreme, brutal by nature, and rendered tyrannical and cruel by the consciousness of the power they possess….

They invariably carry a large and ponderous stick, with which, without the smallest

provocation, they fell an unfortunate convict to the ground, and frequently repeat their blows long after the poor fellow is insensible.

The prisoners had to live on one deck in group cells that were barely high enough to let a man stand up. The officers lived in cabins in the stern. Disease such as dysentry and typhus were rife caused by the lack of fresh water, overcrowding and vermin. Many died. The men stole from each other, and their guards stole their issued clothing. Punishments were harsh, primarily the cat o' nine tails and solitary confinement.

It was also difficult for relatives to visit and bring them the necessities of life as they often did in the prisons on land.

And they still haven't started on their journey to Bontany Bay.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Transportation and Australia during the Regency

by Michele Ann Young
Having just returned from Australia, I thought I would share some of the research, and the pictures I took at the Hyde Park Barracks Museum and in the old part of Sydney. I suppose I need a bit of a disclaimer here. I researched information I thought might be useful for a small part of a book I have in mind.

I have not done and intensive study of Australia or the transportation of convicts. This is more like a thumbnail sketch to get me started. I though you might be interested.

Our first picture is of the Hyde Park Barracks a convict barracks, not military, located on what is now Maccqarie Street in Sydney. It is not far from the famed Sydney Bridge and the opera house. Built in 1817 to 1819, so right at the end of the Regency era. It is one of the few public buildings which survives from that time in New South Wales.

Prior to these barracks convicts were housed in private houses and hotels in areas like The Rocks, an old and less reputable part of town. Apparently, while the convicts were set to work all day, in the evening they had a jolly good old time and got a bit disorderly.

Public outcry led to the building of the barracks for 600 men who formed the labour force Governor Macquarie needed for his public works program.

Francis Greenway, (1777-1837), pictured here was the architect for the Barracks. Born at Mangotsfield, near Bristol, England he was in private practice as an architect when in March 1812 he was found guilty of forging a document. He was sentenced to death, but the penalty was later changed to transportation for fourteen years. He arrived in Sydney in February 1814 in the transport General Hewitt, and was followed in July by his wife Mary, whom he had married about 1804, and three children in the Broxbornebury.

Sentenced to death for forging a document. Good for Mary following him all the way to Australia.

Greenway was responsible for the design of many government buildings during this time, but apparently had few social skills and got on the wrong side of everyone of any importance. I do wonder what he would have thought of the Opera House.

The men who physically built the barracks were also convicts, laborers and tradesmen. The barracks then housed 600 convicts, both government-employed and those loaned out and those waiting assignment. It was not a prison, but it did serve to restrict their freedom and was intended to increase their productivity. While the inmates received basic accommodations and increased rations of food many worked for the government, and thus lost opportunity for private and more profitable and sometimes less onerous work.

So there were two kinds of convicts. Government men employed in docyards, stores, gardens, quarries, mines, waterworks, military barracks and in building, lad clering, street and road making or in sydney's brick field or lumber yard. The others were convict servants, or assigned servants, working for private individuals.

Inside the barracks there were plum jobs, constables, messengers, scourgers (floggers) and gatekeepers. those with good behavior were allowed to spend time out of the Barracks after work. Married men with families could live in privat lodgings and report to the Barracks each morning. Some were also permitted to undertake private jobs on Fridays and Saturdays.

After five or so years, a convict could be eligible for a "Ticket of Leave". It must have been a prized event for it allow them to leave the Barracks and find their own employment, provided they remained within a designated area.

Life for convicts in the Barracks and elsewhere was hard. After all, it was a punishment. We'll get to that next time.

Until then Happy Rambles in our modern world.