Cartwheel penny


A penny was referred to in the convict 'flash' slang language, as a win or winchester, and this 1797 'Cartwheel Penny' was found by archaeologists beneath the floors of the convict sleeping wards of Hyde Park Barracks. Cartwheel pennies were one of the coins introduced to the colony and proclaimed by Governor King in 1800 as official colonial currency. At the time, the main currency in the colony was rum (or any spirits), but Governor King arranged for the shipment of tons of British copper coins, and other Indian, Spanish and Dutch coins, and announced that in the colony the copper coins would be worth twice their face value, so that they would not be taken away by those leaving. As the shipments arrived from 1799, these ‘Proclamation coins’ gradually came into circulation and were widely used by the colonists. Convicts were paid with coins like this one, for work they did after their government work finished each day at 3pm. At the markets and grog shops, convicts could spend their copper pennies to buy food, tobacco and drinks. Some even used them for gambling games like ‘chuck penny’ or 'pitch and toss'.

...scores of convicts are actually amusing themselves a great part of the day by playing pitch and toss.

Sydney Gazette, 1835

Published on 
Convict Sydney, Level 1, Hyde Park Barracks Museum
Convict Sydney


These convict-era objects and archaeological artefacts found at Hyde Park Barracks and The Mint (Rum Hospital) are among the rarest and most personal artefacts to have survived from Australia’s early convict period

Close up of a ceramic bottle. This item was featured in one of our virtual excursions.

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West elevation (front) of Hyde Park Barracks, from across Queens Square

Hyde Park Barracks

UNESCO World Heritage convict site