20 Jan 1788 - First Fleet arrived at Botany Bay

On this day 20 January 1788 the last of the eleven ships of the First Fleet arrived at Botany Bay.

Captain Arthur Phillip's search for a more suitable site led him to Port Jackson. The rest of the fleet sailed into Sydney Harbour on 26 January. Phillip named Sydney after Lord Sydney, the British Home Secretary.

Source: The First Fleet in Botany Bay. (1888).Illustrated Sydney News (NSW: 1881 – 1894)

Photograph of a wooden model depicting a First Fleet ship.

First Fleet Ships

At the time of the First Fleet’s voyage there were some 12,000 British commercial and naval ships plying the world’s oceans

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 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, 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

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 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