Saturday, 2 July 2016

Jane Castings - HMS 'Anson' Hulk (NON FICTION)

Jane spent time a few times on the HMS Anson and this information describing hulks and the Anson comes from SYDNEY LIVING MUSEUM - CONVICT HULKS - HULKS IN AUSTRALIA. At

After the American War of Independence (1775–1783) convicts could no longer be sent to America so instead those sentenced to transportation were sent to hulks, old or unseaworthy ships, generally ex-naval vessels, moored in rivers and harbours close enough to land for the inmates to be taken ashore to work. Although originally introduced as a temporary measure the hulks quickly became a cost-efficient, essential and integral part of the British prison system.

Once tried and sentenced convicts were sent to a receiving hulk for four to six days, where they were washed, inspected and issued with clothing, blankets, mess mugs and plates. They were then sent to a convict hulk, assigned to a mess and allocated to a work gang. 

They (In this case - the men) spent 10 to 12 hours a day working on river cleaning projects, stone collecting, timber cutting, embankment and dockyard work while they waited for a convict transport to become available. In some cases convicts sentenced to transportation spent their entire sentence (up to seven years) on board the hulks and were never sent overseas.

In 1784, the British government passed legislation authorising the transportation overseas of convicts from the hulks. The notion of using hulks as floating prisons was exported along with the convicts. Eventually convict hulks were established at many British colonies including Gibraltar, Bermuda, New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania).

Although the Australian colonies were established as penal settlements with the prisoners assigned within the community, the need for more secure accommodation quickly became apparent, especially for refractory or rebellious offenders and those found guilty of an offence in the colony, called secondary offenders. 

Following the British example, colonial authorities in New South Wales, Van Diemen’s Land and Victoria purchased old or unseaworthy ships and converted them into floating prisons.

The hulks in Australia had two main uses. They provided prison accommodation when existing colonial gaols were unsuitable or already full, and they served as floating holding pens for prisoners convicted of secondary offences while they awaited ships to transfer them to dreaded places like Norfolk Island or Port Arthur in Van Diemen’s Land.

The Anson hulk on the Derwent River in Hobart was unusual in that it housed only female convicts. It was used to alleviate overcrowding at Hobart’s Cascade Female Factory and to stop newly arrived convict women mixing with ‘old hands’ thereby having them spend six months probation on the Anson.  
At the end of their probation the women were sent to hiring depots to be assigned to settlers as domestic servants, or, occasionally, were hired directly from the hulk. 

Over 4000 women spent time on the Anson between 1844 and 1850, when the last inmates were moved to 'Cascades'. The women worked at spinning, sewing, dressmaking, and laundering. They made straw bonnets, knitted stockings from the wool processed on board, made shoes, picked oakum (thick hemp rope) and prepared food.

06 November 2018

I have just received an email containing a letter from Dianne Snowden who was our main lecturer at Uni of Tasmania and is now the President of the Female Convicts Research Centre Inc.  She outlines the history of the HMS Anson in Tasmanian waters:

From 1844 until the end of transportation in 1853, female convicts were required to serve six months’ probation upon arrival In Van Diemen’s Land. This probation period was designed to teach convicts desirable skills, including reading, writing, ciphering (numeracy), needlework and domestic service. It was also designed to separate newly arrived convicts from the more hardened criminals in the female factories. When the probation period was completed, a convict became a probation pass-holder.The HMS Anson arrived in Hobart as a male convict transport in 1844 and was subsequently refitted as a probation station for female convicts. It was then towed to New Town Bay and shortly after to Prince of Wales Bay, Risdon, near Hobart, where it was moored. Between 1844 and 1850, this hulk housed female convicts serving their six month probation period. Dr and Mrs Bowden were appointed to manage the Anson Probation Station. Women from the Woodbridge and the Angelina were among the first to be housed on the Anson. The Anson held from 250 to 520 women at any one time The Anson was dismantled in 1850 and the women were transferred to the Cascade Female Factory.


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