Convict Shoe


Known as crab shells or hopper dockers in the convict ‘flash’ slang language, 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 2 of Hyde Park Barracks. The Board of Ordnance and broad arrow stamp 'B↑O' on the inner sole confirms that it was made for the government, probably at the shoemaking and tailoring establishment at Hyde Park Barracks, which was established in 1826. Convict shoemakers were expected to make one pair of shoes every day.

But after so much hard work and walking for kilometres on rough roads, convict shoes quickly wore out. A black market of shoes resulted, with some convicts trading their new shoes for old ones, in order to make money to buy other items such as tobacco. Too large to have simply slipped through the cracks in the floorboards, this convict shoe appears to have been stashed beneath a loose board for safekeeping.

...the change of Good shoes for bad ones, by which the men receive a small Difference in money from the Inhabitants of the Town.

Major George Druitt, 29 October 1819, in Ritchie, Evidence to the Bigge Report, vol 1, 16.

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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

Convict Sydney

Convict Sydney

From a struggling convict encampment to a thriving Pacific seaport, a city takes shape.

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

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