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, which caused severe pain, bruising, lesions and skin ruptures.

Discovered inside Hyde Park Barracks in 1979 during the restoration by the Public Works Department, it is the only known surviving example of its kind in Australia. With a serrated edge, to soften the edge for the wearer, and designed to be laced together, the cuff has a strap either side that attached over the basil (ring) to hold it in place.

Unlike the convict shoe and shirt also found at Hyde Park Barracks, this guard is not marked with a broad arrow stamp to indicate government manufacture, suggesting it was probably made illegally by a convict who had leather working skills. Such guards must have been in great demand by leg-iron wearers, and might have been commonly manufactured by convicts for trade on the black market.

...a piece of leather made round like the top of a boot, was put in between the iron and the man’s leg, so that the skin would not be so readily chafed.

Settler Tom Petrie, remembering the convict era, in M. Weidenhofer, The Convict Years: Transportation and the Penal System 1788-1868, Melbourne, Lansdowne Press, 1973, 66-67.

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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

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

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