Worn, torn, crafted, mended, stored, owned, suffered, hidden, traded, gambled, and adapted by convicts – 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.

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Convict Sydney

Absolute Pardon

Convict constable Michael Gorman earned this Absolute Pardon in 1830/1832, for his service in the capture of the notorious bushranger John Donohoe

Image of a convict pardon. It has a red wax stamp in the lower left corner.
Convict Sydney

Absolute Pardon

It must have been a proud moment for John Onion, when he received this Absolute Pardon document in 1835

Convict Sydney

Alcohol Bottle

Recovered from beneath the ground floor of Hyde Park Barracks, glass bottle suggests that, despite the rules, convicts smuggled alcohol into the Barracks

Sydney Living Museums Image
Convict Sydney

Ball and chain

1820s–1840s: Known as darbies or slangs in the convict ‘flash’ language, leg irons came in various shapes and sizes

Convict Sydney

Barracks Rat

Trying to get any sleep in the wards of Hyde Park Barracks must have been difficult at times due to the building’s infestation of rats

Convict Sydney

Bible & Prayer Book

The name and the date 1837 written inside the covers tell us they once belonged to an English brass founder named Thomas Bagnall

Convict Sydney

Branding Iron

Branding irons like this one were used to brand government-owned property livestock as well as items made from timber

Brass dumbell shaped stamp.
Convict Sydney

Brass stamp

Between 1830 and 1848, the superintendent’s office operated from the Hyde Park Barracks, where this stamp was most likely used, on official documents and ledgers

Convict Sydney

Cartwheel penny

This 1797 'Cartwheel Penny' was found by archaeologists beneath the floors of the convict sleeping wards of Hyde Park Barracks

Convict Sydney


One of the most common forms of convict punishment was flogging (whipping) with a ‘cat-o’-nine-tails’

Convict Sydney

Certificate of Freedom

Certificates of Freedom had to be carried at all times and shown to the appropriate authorities on demand

Convict Sydney

Clay Tobacco Pipe

This tobacco pipe with its bowl in the shape of a man’s head was recovered by archaeologists at Hyde Park Barracks

Composite image of a clay pipe with a broken bowl, viewed from both sides
Convict Sydney

Clay tobacco pipe

There were 1500 fragments of convict-era clay tobacco pipes recovered by archaeologists from Hyde Park Barracks

Convict Sydney

Clay tobacco pipes, repaired

Known as steamers to the convicts, these tobacco pipes have been repaired with resin and twine where their fragile stems broke

Convict Sydney

Clock-winding crank

This sturdy crank was used for many years to wind the Hyde Park Barracks clock

Convict Sydney

Convict Braces & Belts

Convict ‘slop’ clothing was one-size-fits-all, so some convicts had to improvise ways to keep up their baggy trousers

Convict Sydney

Convict Cap

A hat was known as a castor or a kelp in the convict 'flash' slang language

George III farthing, 1817, excavated from beneath the ground floor of Hyde Park Barracks
Convict Sydney

Convict coins

This early colonial currency tells us that all kinds of coins changed convict hands at the Barracks

Convict Sydney

Convict gaming tokens

These bone, ceramic, and wooden gaming tokens appear to have been hand-carved by convicts from rubbish scraps and animal bones saved from their meals

Convict Sydney

Convict hat sennets & leaf shredder

This shredding tool and ‘sennets’ or fragments of plaited cabbage tree palm leaves (Livistona australis) were found beneath the floors of Hyde Park Barracks, and used by convicts for making hats

Old and faded blue and white striped cotton shirt
Convict Sydney

Convict shirt

Known as a smish, kemesa or flesh-bag in the convict 'flash' slang language, this convict uniform shirt has been worn, torn, stained and patched

Convict Sydney

Convict shirt scrap, ‘B.A.’

This square scrap of striped convict shirt is curiously stamped with the letters ‘B’ and ‘A’

Convict Sydney

Convict shirt scraps

Deliberately torn into squares and strips, these scraps of convict shirt suggest that some convicts were recycling old clothing for new purposes

Handmade convict shoe, HPB archaeology collection
Convict Sydney

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

Convict Sydney

Convict uniform buttons

Archaeologists found over 250 bone buttons, which were once attached to convict shirts, jackets and trousers, and then lost beneath the floors

Composite image of a cauldron. One view from the front the other above.
Convict Sydney

Cooking cauldron

The watery stew eaten by convicts at Hyde Park Barracks was boiled in giant communal cast iron pots

Convict Sydney

Cupping glasses & scarificator

These cupping glasses are of the type that was used in the treatment of convict patients at the General ‘Rum’ Hospital

Wood and brass pistol.
Convict Sydney

Danks pistol

This is a double-barrel pocket-sized flintlock pistol, made in Sydney between 1828 and 1836, and thought to be the earliest surviving firearm of colonial manufacture

Convict Sydney

Earthenware Vessel

This lead-glazed earthenware vessel probably once contained medicines or ointments for treating convict patients

Paper handwritten document with signature and stamp.
Convict Sydney

Free Pardon

Drawn up at Government House, Sydney, on 30 December 1846, and signed and sealed by Governor Charles Fitzroy, this document granted a free pardon to convict Joseph Taylor

Convict Sydney

Ginger beer bottles

In the nineteenth century, ginger beer could be either alcoholic or non-alcoholic

Convict Sydney

Government blanket fragments

These fragments of a natural-coloured woollen cloth are thought to be from a government issue blanket, used by convicts in the Barracks sleeping wards

Convict Sydney

Hack barrow

Convict brickmakers working at the Brickfields (now Haymarket) used hack barrows like this one, stacking 20 or 30 wet bricks on the timber palings along the top, for transporting them from the moulding table to the ‘hack’ yard for drying

Convict Sydney

Hammock Scrap

A few scraps of rope and coarse, but finely woven flax linen scraps like this one are all that’s left of the hundreds of hammocks that originally lined the convict sleeping wards

Convict Sydney

Iron Gang Chain

Convicts who re-offended after arriving in the colony could be assigned to do hard labour in an iron gang

Convict Sydney

Jaw harp

This iron jaw harp was found by archaeologists at Hyde Park Barracks alongside other convict-era objects

 Leather leg iron ankle protector, excavated from beneath the floorboards of Hyde Park Barracks
Convict Sydney

Leg iron guard

A stunning example of an improvised handicraft, this leather ankle guard or ‘gaiter’ was made to protect a convict’s ankle from leg irons

Convict Sydney

Leg Irons, bar link

Known as darbies or slangs in the convict ‘flash’ slang language, leg irons came in various shapes and sizes

Convict Sydney

Leg irons, heavy

Known as darbies or slangs in the convict ‘flash’ slang language, leg irons came in various shapes and sizes

Ovalled leg irons
Convict Sydney

Leg irons, ovalled

Leg irons chafed the ankles, made loud clinking noises with every movement, and made working difficult and tiring

Convict Sydney

Leg irons, standard

Standard leg irons, like those pictured here, weighed seven pounds (3.2 kilograms)

Convict Sydney

Leg irons, top

Top leg irons, like those pictured here, were designed to provide additional punishment

Stacked images of convict love token, front and back.
Convict Sydney

Love token, Daws

James Daws was convicted of stealing pennies (coins) in late 1825 or early 1826

Convict Sydney

Love token, Smith

Joseph Smith arrived in New South Wales in April 1818, while Hyde Park Barracks was under construction

Convict Sydney

Love token, Woodcock

The simple lettering on this love token with his name on it suggests that John Woodcock may have engraved it himself, while he awaited his transportation

Convict Sydney

Rake head

Convicts working in the garden just south of Hyde Park Barracks would have used tools like this hand-forged iron rake for clearing and preparing the soil for planting

Convict Sydney

Rum Hospital glassware

These medicine bottles, irrigation syringe and measuring glass fragments were used for the treatment of convict patients

Convict Sydney


In September 1788 a young woman named Ann Mash (or Ann Marsh) from Devon, England, embroidered the Lord’s Prayer to create this sampler

Convict Sydney

Sandstock Bricks

Sandstock bricks such as these were the building blocks of Governor Macquarie’s ambitious public works scheme for Sydney

Ticket of Leave allowing convict Thomas Beaton to work in Yass, issued 8.10.1840
Convict Sydney

Ticket of leave

This Ticket of Leave granted to convict Thomas Beaton shows how well-behaved convicts could reduce the length of their sentences

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.

Learning resources

Explore our range of online resources designed by teachers to support student learning in the classroom or at home

'Convict Sydney' installation view
Convict Sydney

What are convict love tokens?

A convict love token is a coin that convicts gave to their loved ones before they were transported to NSW