A Gift from the Copland Foundation


A generous gift from the Copland Foundation has enabled Sydney Living Museums to purchase three important items for the Hyde Park Barracks Museum collection.

The Copland Foundation is a philanthropic trust established to fund projects throughout Australia relating to the conservation and management of historic architecture, education programs, and the acquisition of artworks and artefacts for display to the public. A grant received in October 2018 allowed us to acquire three highly significant objects with a strong connection to the Hyde Park Barracks and Sydney’s convict history. We’re delighted to receive the foundation’s support, and thank the Copland Foundation Board of Trustees for their generosity.

Wood and brass pistol.
Double barrelled flintlock pistol, c1828-1836. Gift of the Copland Foundation. Hyde Park Barracks Museum Collection. Photo © Jamie North for Sydney Living Museums

Danks pistol

The first acquisition is a double-barrel pocket-sized flintlock pistol, made in Sydney between 1828 and 1836, and thought to be the earliest surviving firearm of colonial manufacture. The pistol is engraved with the mark of convict gunsmith Joseph Danks, a Staffordshire man who was transported for horse stealing in 1819. A rare example of a firearm made in colonial Sydney, the pistol is equally rare as a product of a fine trade carried out by a known convict craftsman.

The pistol’s former owner Andrew Swinfield inherited it from his father, John William Swinfield, and is delighted that it will be part of the Hyde Park Barracks Museum collection: ‘My father was a keen collector and former president of the Antique Arms Collectors Society. The pistol made by Joseph Danks was his pride and joy. Danks’s convict background and his colourful connection with early Sydney make the Hyde Park Barracks Museum the most appropriate place for the pistol to be exhibited’.

Paper handwritten document with signature and stamp.
Free pardon for Joseph Taylor, signed by Governor Fitzroy, 1846. Gift of the Copland Foundation, Hyde Park Barracks Museum Collection, Sydney Living Museums

Free pardon

Drawn up at Government House, Sydney, on 30 December 1846, and signed and sealed by Governor Charles Fitzroy, this document granted a free pardon to convict Joseph Taylor. A 15-year-old London tailor, Joseph was transported in 1829 for seven years for stealing a handkerchief. In Sydney he continued to offend and by early 1838 he was held at the Hyde Park Barracks; he escaped on 23 March but was apprehended in May. Having served his transportation sentence by 1840, Taylor received a Certificate of Freedom, but couldn’t stay out of trouble. In July 1846 he was convicted of stealing in a dwelling house, tried in the Supreme Court in Sydney and sentenced to be banished to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) for seven years. But in December authorities decided that Taylor was innocent of this particular crime, ‘notwithstanding the acknowledged bad character of the prisoner himself’, and he was granted this pardon.

The document is significant for its association with the highest ranking official in the colony, Charles Fitzroy, who had begun his term as governor of NSW a few months earlier, in August 1846. As a document presented to a transported convict for a secondary or colonial crime, this free pardon is relatively rare among the convict-era documents that survive today. It also reflects the administrative legacy left for the ongoing management of criminals in the colony after transportation to NSW was abolished in 1840. Creases in the paper indicate that it has been folded for storage, and possibly even carried by Taylor himself, since emancipated convicts were required to carry proof of their free status.

Brass dumbell shaped stamp.
Brass handstamp of the Principal Superintendent Convict Office New South Wales. Date unknown, c1810-1840. Gift of the Copland Foundation, Hyde Park Barracks Museum Collection, Sydney Living Museums. Photo © Jamie North

Brass stamp

This brass hand stamp was manufactured for the Principal Superintendent of Convicts in NSW, who was responsible for all matters relating to the conduct and management of convicts across the colony. Between 1830 and 1848, the superintendent’s office operated from rooms on the ground floor of the Hyde Park Barracks, where this stamp was most likely used, on official documents and ledgers.

Some of the responsibilities of the office included keeping track of the arrival of new prisoners, processing requests for and details of private assignment, managing convict musters, processing applications for tickets of leave and marriage, and controlling the movement of convicts between the barracks and other penal establishments. As the only known surviving stamp from the office, it’s significant for its use by superintendents Frederick Augustus Hely (1823–36) and Captain John Leyburn Maclean (1837–55), among others, such as the many convict clerks employed in their office.

The Danks pistol will be on display permanently at the Hyde Park Barracks Museum from late 2019, and all three items will be featured on the convict Objects page of the Convict Sydney website: slm.is/convict-sydney

To help support the renewal of the Hyde Park Barracks Museum and grow the collection, visit slm.is/donate

News item by Dr Fiona Starr, Curator, City Museums Portfolio, with Joy England, Head of Development & Fundraising

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

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