Leg irons, heavy
Early to mid nineteenth century
Known as darbies or slangs in the convict ‘flash’ slang language, leg irons came in various shapes and sizes. These heavy leg irons weigh 14 pounds (8 kilograms), and were probably used in jails to restrain men awaiting trial on serious crimes. It has also been suggested that heavy irons like these were worn by convicts as they were taken aboard the transport ships. On arrival in Sydney, convicts had their irons removed, but there were plenty of convicts who soon found themselves back in irons. By order of a magistrate, leg irons were fitted onto the ankles of convicts who committed secondary crimes, such as running away, trying to escape the colony, highway robbery or selling government property. They were then put to hard labour in iron gangs for several months or longer - one of the worst punishments that could be given to convicts. These men had to wear special trousers that buttoned up the sides, so they could be taken on and off around the leg irons. Leg-irons were made by convict blacksmiths at Sydney’s lumberyard after those sent from England proved to be inferior and easily slipped off. Irons were affixed to and struck off convicts’ ankles by the blacksmiths.
...I was taken to the Blacksmith, and had my irons, the badge of infamy and degradation rivetted upon me…
Convict Edward Lilburn, describing mid 1830s, A Complete Exposure of the Convict System... Lincoln, n.d. (c1841), 5.