Convicts ‘making do’ at the Hyde Park Barracks


Among the multitude of scraps discovered by archaeologists at the Hyde Park Barracks are some outstanding examples of ‘making do’.

Mundane to their owners, but now curious and fascinating, these rare artefacts connect us with the quiet moments in the wards when convicts worked by candlelight to devise ways to make their harsh lives more comfortable. The range of materials suggests that convicts probably collected all sorts of found objects with the intention of re-using, recycling, and repurposing them into useful things.

Making do: a selection

  • Group of shirt scraps in striped material

    Convict shirt scraps

  • Leather leg iron ankle protector

  • Composite image of braces and belt

    Convict braces and belt

  • Group of handmade clay pipes

    Clay tobacco pipes, repaired

Related content

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.

See more convict-era objects.

This story originally appeared in Unlocked: The Sydney Living Museums’ Gazette, our quarterly members’ magazine.

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About the Author

Fiona seated in hammock in Hyde Park Barracks.
Dr Fiona Starr
The Mint and Hyde Park Barracks Museum
Fiona claims her love of Australian history, genealogy and world history is hereditary – passed on by her mother and grandmother.