Victorian London - Publications - Social Investigation/Journalism - The Criminal Prisons of London and Scenes of London Life (The Great World of London), by Henry Mayhew and John Binny, 1862 - The Convict Prisons of London - The Hulks at Woolwich

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¶ iii.


    Half an hour's journey along the North Kent Railway, past the rising meadows near Blackheath, and the bright toy villas, planted in the centre of the greenest conceivable lawns, which make the neighbourhood of Charlton - then through a long dark tunnel - will deposit the traveller within five minutes' walk of the Dockyard gates of Woolwich.
    The sign of the public-house, "THE WARRIOR," which shows a gaudy front close to the station, suggests at once the proximity of the hulks. The lazy men, in cotton-velvet-fronted waistcoats, leaning against the door-posts; strong musters of very dingy children; remarkably low shops, exhibiting all kinds of goods at wonderfully cheap prices; and street after street of little houses, where the wives of the regularly employed dock labourers advertise the nature of their industry in their parlour windows-indicate the neighbourhood of a great industrial establishment.
    Turning from the entrance of the Dockyard - opposite which is a flourishing public-house, rejoicing in the suggestive sign of "THE OLD SHEER HULK," which probably reminds some of its customers of peculiarly "good old times" - and keeping the high, dark walls of the yard on the left, the way lies past little shops and beer establishments on the right, towards the arsenal. From the elevated churchyard, crowded with graves, the sharp outlines of which are rounded by the waving of the uncut grass, the first view of the river, with the flat Essex marshes beyond, is obtained. Here, immediately opposite the yard, rises the bulky form of the great "WARRIOR" hulk, which, the authorities declare, can hardly hold together. Painted black and white, and with her naked and puny-looking spars degraded to the rank of clothes-props for the convicts, she stands in curious contrast to the light steamers that dance by her, and to the little sloops laden with war stores, and bound for Sheerness or Portsmouth, that glide like summer flies upon the surface of the stream, almost under her stern.
    From the churchyard, veering to the right along the busy little High Street, the way lies past a long line of shop windows, displaying capacious tea-pots, flanked by wondrously variegated tea-cups, and offering tempting advantages to the lovers of "a comfortable tea." A dead wall still further suggests the neighbourhood of the hulks; for there the posting-bill of the Woolwich theatre offers to the aspiring youth of the locality the lessons of "THE CHAIN OF CRIME; or, The Inn on Hounslow Heath!" Then, before the arsenal gates, which are protected by three or four stern policemen, a broad avenue is seen at noon, marked by a double row of women, standing with their arms a-kimbo, and with baskets of the freshest and reddest-looking radishes upon the ground before them, waiting for the coming of the labourers, who are about to leave the arsenal for dinner.
    As we pass through the arsenal gate, noticing a long gun pointed right through the portal, we are asked where we are going.
    "To the 'DEFENCE' Hulk," we answer.
    Forthwith we are ushered into one of the lodges at the side of the gate, where our name, address, and profession are inscribed in a police book. We are then told to pass on to the water's edge, where we shall find a policeman who will hail the hulk. Through groves of tumbled wheels and masses of timber, past great square buildings, from the roofs of which white feathers of steam, graceful as the "marabout," dart into the clear air, and through the doors of which the glow of fires and the dusky figures of men are seen, we go forward to the flag-staff near the water's edge, and close to the bright little arsenal pier, with its red lamps, and that long iron tube under it, through which the shells are sent to the sloops moored alongside. A heavy mist lies upon the marshes on the opposite bank of the river; yet, in the distance, to the right of the "DEFENCE", Barking Church is visible.
The "DEFENCE" and "UNITÉ", moored head to head, with the bulky hammock-houses reared upon their decks, their barred port-holes, and their rows of convicts' linen swinging from between the stunted poles which now serve them as masts, have a sombre look. From this point we can just see, nearly a mile farther down the river, the heavy form of the "WARRIOR" moored close alongside the Dockyard, with the little, ugly "SULPHUR" (the washing-ship) lying in the offing.
    Meantime, the policeman, placing himself in a prominent position upon the pier, has hailed the officer in the gangway of the "DEFENCE;" and in a few minutes afterwards a long "gig," pulled by four convicts, in their brown dresses and glazed hats, parts from the hulk; and showing in the stem the stiff, dark form of an officer, steering directly for the landing- place, upon which we are standing.
    As the boat touches the shore, one of the convicts places a little mat upon the cushioned seats, upon which we tread as we jump into the craft, telling the officer that we hear an order for the governor. With wonderful precision the convict boatmen obey the orders of the officer, and point the boat's bows back again to the gangway of the hulk.
    In a few minutes we are aboard; and, as we pass up the gangway steps, we hear one officer repeat to the other - "For the governor!" And then a warder, with a bright bunch of keys attached by a chain to his waist, conducts us to the governor's drawing-room - a pretty apartment, where, from the stern-windows of the hulk, there is a very picturesque view of the river.

¶ iii-a.

The History of the Hulks.

     The idea of converting old ships into prisons arose when, on the breaking out of the American War of Independence, the transportation of our convicts to our transatlantic possessions became an impossibility. For the moment a good was effected, for the crowded prisons were relieved; but from the time when the pressure upon the prisons ceased, down to the present, when the hulks may be said to be doomed, all writers on penology have agreed in condemning the use of old ships for the purposes of penal discipline.
    If, however, we follow the wording of the 19th Geo. III., cap. 74, in which the use of ships for prisons is referred to, we shall perceive that an idea of turning convict labour to account, for cleansing the Thames and other navigable rivers, had probably directed the attention of government to the possibility of arranging ships for their crowds of convicts.*

[* The section of the act referred to runs thus:-
    "And, for the more severe and effectual punishment of atrocious and daring offenders, be it further enacted That, from and after the First Day of July, one thousand seven hundred and seventy-nine, where any Male Person . . . shall be lawfully convicted of Grand Larceny, or any other Crime, except Petty Larceny, for which he shall be liable by Law to be transported to any Parts beyond the Seas, it shall and may be lawful for the Court . . . to order and adjudge that such Person . . . shall be punished by being kept on Board Ships or Vessels properly accommodated for the Security, Employment, and Health of the Persons to be confined therein, and by being employed in Hard Labour in the raising Sand, Soil, and Gravel from, and cleansing, the River Thames, or any other River Navigable for Ships of Burthen," &c., &c.]

The "JUSTITIA," an old Indiaman, and the "CENSOR," a frigate, were the first floating prisons established in England. This system, though condemned by such men as Howard and Sir William Blackstone,*  [*London Prisons, by Hepworth Dixon, page 124.] was not only persevered in, but extended; till, on the 1st [-199-] of January, 1841, there were 3,552 convicts on board the various hulks in England.*

[* In 1841, the gross number of convicts received on board the hulks in England during the year was 3,625, and these were natives of the following countries, in the following proportion:-
3,108 were born in England.
80 were born in Wales
229 were born in Scotland
180 were born in Ireland
13 were born in British Colonies
15 were born in Foreign States

Their occupations had been as follows:-
304 had been Agriculturists.
1,176 had been Mechanics and persons instructed in manufactures.
1,986 had been Labourers and persons not instructed in manufactures
82 had been Domestic servants.
69 had been Clerks, shopmen, and persons employed confidentially.
8 had been Superior class, or men of education.

As regards the religion of these same 3,625 convicts, the subjoined are the statistics:-
2,934 belong to the Established Church
269 belong to the Roman Catholic ditto
167 belonged to the Scotch ditto.
245 were Dissenters
9 were Jews.
1 were Of "another denomination."

Concerning their prison "antecedents"-
1,451 were first-offence men
487 had been in prison before
1625 had been convicted before
10 had been in penitentiary
52 had been transported before

Their ages were as follows
3 were under 10 years old
213 were from 10 to 15 years old
958 were from 15 to 20 years old
1612 were from 20 to 30 years old
839 were above 30 years old

1,103 were married
2,522 were single.]

In 1854 the numbers so confined had been reduced to 1298.
    Some idea of the sanitary condition of these establishments, even so recently as 1841, may be gathered from the report of Mr. Peter Bossy, surgeon of the "WARRIOR" hulk, off Woolwich, which shows that in that year, among 638 convicts on board, there were no less than 400 cases of admission to the hospital, and 38 deaths! At this period there were no less than 11 ships (including those stationed at Bermuda, and the "Euryalus," for juvenile convicts) used by the British government for the purposes of penal discipline - if discipline the then state of things could possibly be called.
    There are still officers in the Woolwich hulks who remember a time when the "Justitia" (a second "Justitia," brought from Chatham in 1829) contained no less than 700 convicts; and when, at night, these men were fastened in their dens - a single warder being left on board ship, in charge of them! The state of morality under such circumstances may be easily conceived - crimes impossible to be mentioned being commonly perpetrated.*

[* Even so late as 1849, we find the "Unité", hospital ship at Woolwich, described in the following terms .- "In the hospital ship, the 'Unité,' the great majority of the patients were infested with vermin; and their persons, in many instances, particularly their feet, begrimed with dirt. No regular supply of body-linen had been issued; so much so, that many men had been five weeks without a change; and all record had been lost of the time when the blankets had been washed; and the number of sheets was so insufficient, that the [-200-] expedient had been resorted to of only a single sheet at a time, to save appearances. Neither towels nor combs were provided for the prisoners' use, and the unwholesome odour from the imperfect and neglected state of the water-closets was almost insupportable. On the admission of new cases into the hospital, patients were directed to leave their beds and go into hammocks, and the new cases were turned into the vacated beds, without changing the sheets.]

Indeed we [-200-] were assured by one of the warders, who had served under the old hulk "regime," that he well remembers seeing the shirts of the prisoners, when hung out upon the rigging, so black with vermin that the linen positively appeared to have been sprinkled over with pepper; and that when the cholera broke out on board the convict vessels for the first time, the chaplain refused to bury the dead until there were several corpses aboard, so that the coffins were taken to the marshes by half a dozen at a time, and there interred at a given signal from the clergyman; his reverence remaining behind on the poop of the vessel, afraid to accompany the bodies, reading the burial-service at the distance of a mile from the grave, and letting fall a handkerchief, when he came to "ashes to ashes and dust to dust," as a sign that they were to lower the bodies.
    It was impossible that a state of things so scandalous could last; and the successive reports of the directors of convict prisons are evidence of the anxiety with which they urged upon the government the reform - if not the abandonment of the hulk system altogether; for, to the disadvantages inseparable from the conduct of prison discipline on board ship, the governors of hulks were forced to add the rottenness of the vessels intrusted to them. They were expected to govern five hundred convicts in a ship, the same as in a convenient building, and to keep them healthy - in a rotten leaky tub!
    The completion of the Portsmouth Convict Prison, in 1852, at length effected an important reduction in the hulk establishments. The "YORK" was given over to the Admiralty to be broken up. In 1851 the "DEFENCE" had been moved to Woolwich to replace two unserviceable hulks, and the "WARRIOR", which lies off Woolwich Dockyard, and is still called the model hulk, had been reported as unsound. It will be seen, by the accompanying extract from the directors' report for 1852, that they again drew attention to the "WARRIOR"; while in their last report (1854) they have, once more, ventured into a few details.
    "The 'WARRIOR,'" say they, "is patched up as well as her unsoundness will permit, but there is no knowing how soon she may become quite unfit for further use, and it will be advisable to take the earliest opportunity that offers of transferring the prisoners to some more suitable place of confinement, as any serious repairs would be quite thrown away on so decayed a hulk, if indeed they would be practicable." To this remonstrance of the directors the governor added his own, in these emphatic words- "It is well known that the hulk is in a most dilapidated condition, and scarcely able to hold together. Recent repairs, supporting the lower deck, &c., have rendered her safe from any immediate danger; but the remedy is merely temporary. She is rotten and unsound from stem to stern."
    Still the "WARRIOR" remains, in spite of such remonstrances as these, with canvas drawn over her leakages, to keep the damp from the wards, moored off the Woolwich dockyard, with 436 convicts between her crumbling ribs.
    Before passing from this brief history of the hulks, to paint their actual condition, the labour performed by their inmates, and the regulations under which they are conducted, we will quote a paragraph from the general remarks of the directors, addressed to the government at the beginning of last year on this subject:- "Our opinion on the disadvantages of the hulks, as places of confinement for prisoners, has been so strongly expressed in previous annual reports, that we feel it unnecessary here to say more than that we consider these disadvantages radical and irremediable, and to urge the necessity of adopting every opportunity that may offer of substituting for them prisons on shore, constructed, as at Portland and Portsmouth, with sleeping cells for all the prisoners. Now that the transportation of criminals can only be carried on to a small extent, it appears of very great importance that every [-201-] defect in connection with their imprisonment which might lessen the prospect of its being effectual as a punishment, and also as a means of their reformation, should be got rid of as speedily as possible, and of such defects we know none at all approaching in magnitude to the association of the convicts in the prison hulks."
    It should be remembered, let us add, by the opponents of the ticket-of-leave system, that although it is from these condemned hulks, where the men are herded together and arc pretty well free to plot and plan as they please, that they are turned upon society, nevertheless, according to the directors' report just quoted, of five hundred and forty-four convicts discharged in 1854 from the Woolwich hulks only, and one hundred and six discharged before that period - in all six hundred and fifty convicts - there have been but six received back with licenses revoked for misconduct.
    As we have already remarked, however, the hulks are doomed. At the present time the "WARRIOR", lying off Woolwich Dockyard; the little "SULPHUR," a floating wash-tub for the convicts, lying opposite the "WARRIOR;" the "DEFENCE," lying off Woolwich Arsenal; and the "UNITÉ," made fast to the "DEFENCE," and used as the hulk hospital (together with the "STIRLING  CASTLE," the invalid depot, and the "BRITON" convict hospital at Portsmouth), are the only "floating prisons" in England - though, by the by, the "WARRIOR," floats only once a fortnight.*


Number on board "Warrior." "Defence." Total
Remaining on board January 1st, 1854 421 521 942
Admitted during the year 273 298 571
Total 694 819 1513
How disposed of
Discharged to Colonies 25 29 54
Sent to other Prisons 21 22 43
Pardoned 190 216 406
Sent to Lunatic Asylums 0 1 1
Invalided to "Stirling Castle" 5 8 13
Escaped 1 1 2
Died 11 16 27*
Total 253 293 546
Remaining December 31, 1854 441 526 967
Grand Total 694 819 1513
Average daily number of prisoners 436 515 951

* 1,270, J. S., on the 20th July, drowned accidentally in canal. 1,240, J. M., on the 20th June, died suddenly from apoplexy on board the "Defence."

    The expense to the country of the hulk establishment (including the "STIRLING CASTLE" and "BRITON" at Portsmouth), in 1854, the date of the last returns, was £43,545 0s. 7d. Of this sum the cost of management (including the salaries, rations, and uniforms of officers) was nearly £14,000, and that of victualling and clothing the prisoners about £20,000; while the remainder was made up principally of gratuities to convicts (about £3,000), clothing, and travelling expenses of liberated prisoners (upwards of £1,500), medicine, and medical comforts for the sick (£1,860 odd), fuel and light (£l,500), &c.
    The hulk System, condemned, as we have already observed, from the date of its origin to the present time, has been the despair of all penal reformers. Originally adopted as a makeshift under pressing circumstances, these old men-of-war have remained during nearly half a century the receptacles of the worst class of prisoners from all the jails of the United Kingdom [-202-] a striking instance of the inertness of government, as well as of its utter callousness as to the fate or reformation of the criminal.
    Convicts who have undergone the reformatory discipline of Millbank and Pentonville, are at the hulks suddenly brought into contact with offenders who have undergone no reformatory discipline whatever. All the care which has been taken at Pentonville and at Millbank to prevent the men talking together, and associating with one another, is thrown away, since the first freedom granted to the convict undergoing penal servitude is given when he reaches the hulks, and finds himself in a "mess," where he will probably meet with one old companion in crime at least. The authorities declare that in these messes only "rational" conversation is permitted, but it is very clear that forty or fifty men cannot be crammed into one side of a ship's deck, put together upon works, and swung elbow to elbow in hammocks at night without finding ample opportunity for free conversation.
    Whatever good is effected, therefore, by the systems of Millbank and Pentonville is effectually destroyed at Woolwich. The reformed convict from Pentonville is at the hulk establishments cast among companions from whom the separate system sought to wean him, while he is put to labour of the hardest and least interesting character. He was, perhaps, a shoemaker, or a tailor, or weaver at Pentonville; at Woolwich, however, he has to lay aside the craft that he has only just learnt, and is set to scrape the rust from shells, or else stack timber. Here he is not only thrown amongst brutal companions, whom it was before considered perdition to allow him to associate with, and even to see, but put to do the lowest description of labour - in some instances at the muzzle of a guard's carbine - and impressed with the idea that it is the very repulsiveness of this labour which is his punishment, so that it is strange, indeed, if the lessons of Pentonville have not been utterly erased from his memory, granting that the imposed dumbness of the " silent system," or the physical and mental depression induced by the separate system, to have worked some permanent salutary effect on his heart.

¶ iii-B

Convict Labour and Discipline at Woolwich.

     "The hulk system was continued,'' says Mr. Dixon, "notwithstanding its disastrous consequences soon became patent to all the world; and it still flourishes - if that which only stagnates, debases, and corrupts, can be said to flourish - though condemned by every impartial person who is at all competent to give an opinion on the matter, and this because the labour of the convicts is found useful and valuable to the government - a very good reason for still employing convict labour upon useful public works, but no reason at all for continuing the hulks in their present wretched condition.''
    As we have already remarked, this labour is of the description called "hard;" that is to say, it is the exercise of irksome brute force, rather than the application of self-gratifying skill; still those persons who are familiar with the working of a dockyard or an arsenal, know that this "hard'' work is valuable in both establishments; for in the general report of the directors on time results of 1854, under the head of "Earnings and Expenses," we find that the labour of the convicts confined in the hulks alone was valued at £19,736 5s. 9d. These earnings, however, it should be observed, were exclusive of the estimated value of the labour of the convicts employed as cooks, bakers, washers, shoemakers, tailors, and others engaged in work merely for prison purposes.
    The directors tell us that the kind of work performed by the convicts is chiefly labourers' work, such as loading and unloading vessels, moving timber and other materials, and stores, [-203-] cleaning out ships, &c., at the dockyard; whilst at the royal arsenal the prisoners are employed at jobs of a similar description, with the addition of cleaning guns and shot, and excavating ground for the engineer department - 329 prisoners, out of a daily average of 515 on board the "DEFENCE," having been so employed. "The only artificer's work," add the directors, "that the convicts have had an opportunity of performing has been, to a very small extent, in executing repairs and other jobs for the service of the hulks in which they have been confined."*


General Occupation Average Daily No. employed General Occupation Average Daily No. employed Description of Work Average Daily No. employed Description of Work Average Daily No. employed
ORDNANCE (A) Working Parties (as detailed in col. 3)


SICK (C) and unfit for labour (as detailed in col. 4) 22 (A) ORDNANCE WORKING PARTIES (B) PRISON WORK
PRISON WORK (B) (as detailed in col. 4) 63 SCHOOL 60 Removing and stacking timber 114 Boarders cleaning ship generally, and attending on sick at hospital 42
Carpenters 4 SEPARATE FOR PUNISHMENT (or other reasons) 3 Discharging mud 14 Boatmen 10
Smith 1


Shipping and unshipping stores 40 Whitewashers 2
Tinker 1 Average Daily number


Cleaning out sheds 10 Bed-pickers 2
Painter 1 Cleaning shot and shell 27 Net-maker 1
Sawyer 1 Carting sundries 14
Cooper 1 Digging gravel 8 (C) SICK 16
Ropemakers 2 Odd jobs not measurable 1 Sick at Hospital 6
Bookbinder 1 Making and repairing grummetts and wads 24 Ditto, complaining 22
Shoemakers 4 Repairing butt and roads 36
Tailors 6 Assisting tradesmen 27
Washers 12 Cleaning out drains 14
Cooks 4 Total 329


As regards the industry of the prisoners, the directors say "the men generally have worked willingly and with good effect, considering the disadvantage inseparable from their being occasionally mixed with, or in the neighbourhood of; numbers of free labourers and others - a circumstance which requires, for the sake of security, considerable restraint to be placed on their freedom of action. Punishments for idleness, though always inflicted where the offence is proved, have been by no moans of frequent occurrence." ** [** Report of the Directors of the Convict Prisons on the Discipline and Management of the Hulk Establishment, 1854]
    The "willingness" here spoken of, however, is of a very negative kind, and might be better described as resignation, or a desire to escape punishment. Nevertheless it should in fairness be added, that the governor of the "WARRIOR" hulk reported to the directors of convict prisons in 1854, that "the valise of the convicts' labour might be favourably compared with that of an equal number of free workmen."

*** Value of Labour at the Hulks. - -Let us turn now to the value set upon the labour of the prisoners at the hulks by the directors of convict prisons.
    The report for 1854 returns the value of convict dockyard labour at 2s. 5½d. and a fraction daily, per man; while arsenal convict labour, according to the same authority, is worth 2s. 4d. per diem; that of the convict carpenters, blacksmiths, painters, plumbers, and coopers is valued at 2s. 6d. a day, and that of shoemakers, tailors, washers, and cooks at 1s. 6d., whilst the general prison labour, working of boats, &c., is set down at only 1s. 3d. a day.
    Now, by this scale we find that the following were the earnings of the convicts at [-204-] Woolwich, "as calculated according to reasonable wages, for the different descriptions of work performed, per day of 10 hours," during the year 1854:-

Name of Hulk Average daily no. of prisoners Number and Value of Day's Labour performed
By Inferior Workmen By Superior Workmen
No. of Days 10 hrs each Estimated Value No. of Days, 10 hrs. each Estimated Value Total estimated Value Annual Average per Head.
"Defence" 515 96018 £10,067 6s. 9d. 2899,,9 £342 2s. 7d. £10,309 9s. 4d. 20  4  3
"Warrior" 436 68655,,2 £8453 15s. 5d. 11691,,3 £873 1s. 0d. £9326 16s. 5d. 21  7  10
Total 951 164673,,2 £18521 2s. 2d. 14581,,2 £1215 3s. 7d. £19736 5s. 9d. 20  15  0¾

Here, then, we perceive that 951 convicts on board the two Woolwich hulks performed altogether very nearly 180,00 days' labour in the course of the year, and earned collectively, in round numbers, £20,000 or almost 20 guineas per head.*

[*The subjoined is a more detailed account of the quantity and the kind of work done by the convicts in the dockyard and arsenal at Woolwich:-


Removing and stacking, &c., cubic timber, 2,825,073 cubic feet at 12s. per 1,000  . . . £1,965 0s 10½d
Removing and stacking superficial timber, 1,726,555 superficial feet, at 4s. 6d. per 1,000 feet . . . £388 9s 5¾d
Removing iron, ballast, stores, &c. 23,916 tons, at 6d. per ton . . .  £597 18s. 0d.
Weighing and stacking ditto, 25,654 tons, at 4d. per ton . . . £427 11s. 4d.
Removing coals, 46,406 tons, at 7d. per ton . . . £1353 10s, 2d.
Weighing and stacking ditto, 33,586 tons, at 5d. per ton . . . £699 14s. 2d.
Carting sundries, 3,362 loads, at 6d. per load . . . £84 1s. 0d.
Spinning and balling oakum, 228cwt. at 2s. per cwt. . . . £22 16s. 0d.
Cutting up old rope. 193 tons, at 2s. per ton . . . £19 6s. 0d.
Picking oakum 119lbs., at 5 ½d. per lb. £2 14s. 6½d.
Removing, stacking, and weighing old rope, &c. 1932 tons, at 6d. per ton . . . £48 6s. 0d.
Odd jobs not measurable:- Assisting shipwrights and riggers, cleaning out sawmills, steamers, docks, and yard, testing chain cables, &c. docking and undocking vessels, cutting up old iron, staging , pitch scraping, cross-cutting timber, removing boats, &c. &c., 266,948 hours, at 10 hours per day, equal to  26,694 days 8 hours, at 2s. 4d. per day . . . £3414 7s. 10¼
Total value of dockyard labour £8453 15s. 5d.


Removing and stacking timber, 2,222,350 cubic feet, at 12s. per 1,000 feet . . . £1333 8s. 3d.
Ditto   Ditto    6,095,636 superficial feet, at 4s. 6d. per 1,000 feet £1371 10s. 4d.
Making mortar, 329 cube yards at 11d. per yard . . . £15 1s. 7d.
Breaking stones, 3,525 bushels, at 5d. per bushel . . . £73 8s. 9d.
Facing stones, 839 superficial feet at 5d. per foot . . . £17 9s. 7d.
Weeding, 59,787 superficial yards, at 1s. 6d. per 100 yards . . . £44 16s. 9d.
Raising and removing mud, 13,070 tons, at 5½d. per ton . . . £299 10s. 5d.
Removing and shipping stores, &c., 53,037 tons at 6d. per ton, £1325 18s. 6d.
Cleaning shot and shell, 247,370 No., 1s. per 24 shot . . . £515 7s. 1d.
Carting sundries, 44,550 loads at 6d. per load . . . £1113 15s. 0d.
Digging and removing gravel, 8,547 cube yards, at 5d. per yard . .  £178 1s. 3d.
Making concrete, 96 cube yards, at 1s. per yard £4 16s. 0d.
Odd jobs not measurable:- Cleaning saw mills, sheds, drains, tanks and cadets' barracks, making and repairing grummetts, wads, &c. repairing butt and roads, assisting tradesmen, filling hollow shot, whitewashing, cutting sods, mowing, making and stacking hay, spreading mud, clearing away now, &c.&c., 19,550 days at 2s. 4d. per day . . . . £2280 16d. 8d.
Total value of arsenal labour £8574  0s. 2d.

N.B. The totals above given, thought incorrect, are copied literally from the Directors' Report.]

 [-205-] *** Convicts Gratuities - The gratuities which the convicts, labouring on the public works or in the hulks, are entitled to, are divided into "conduct gratuities" and "industry gratuities," both of which vary according to the class to which the convict belongs. Each prisoner is entitled to his conduct gratuity irrespective of his gratuity for industry, whilst his industry gratuities are measured by the zeal with which he labours. The conduct gratuities, as arranged in the books of the governor of the "DEFENCE," stand thus:-
        1st Class Prisoners (receive) . - . .  9d. Weekly.   
        2nd Class Prisoners ,, ,, . . . . 6d. ,,
        3rd Class Prisoners ,, ,, . . . . 4d. ,,
    The industry gratuities, or sums placed to the credit of the convicts according to the amount of work done, vary from 3d. for a "good" quantity of labour performed, to 6d. for a "very good" quantity.*

[* The subjoined is extracted from the governor's books:-
1. }                                                INDUSTRY GRATUITIES
2. } as per authorised scale
3. }
    V.G. (very good). If the number of the V.G.s is under one-third of the total number of weeks that the prisoner has been in the prison, he may receive 4d. for every V.G.; if over one-third and under two thirds of the total number, he may receive 5d.; if over two-thirds, he may receive 6d. for every V.G.
    G. (good). The prisoner may receive 3d. for every G. (unless the whole of the gratuities become forfeited by misconduct)
    O. Nil.
    V.B. (very bad)
    P. (punishment)
    B. (bad)
    I. (infirmary). Nil. The infirmary cases are liable for special considerations with reference to class and conduct but not for extra gratuity.
    I.A. (infirmary accident). Discretionary - being governed by the circumstances; but, as a rule, a gratuity is allowed according to the prisoner's previous conduct and industry.
    L. (light labour). According to class (as above), but no extra gratuity.
    The above scale does not apply where a special scale is authorised for invalids.]

    We took the trouble to inspect the books of the "DEFENCE," and can testify to the marvellous neatness and accuracy with which they are kept. When a prisoner is reported to the governor, the latter can tell, by a glance at the character-book, the conduct of the former during every week he has spent at the hulk. At the expiration of the convict's term the character-book is summed up, the advantages resulting from the prisoner's class and industry are added together, and he has a bill made ·out of the sum due to him, in the following form, which we copied from the governor's book:-

J.C. Class I.  

90 weeks V.G., at 9d. per week £3 7 6
13 weeks G., at 6d. per week 0 6 6
1 week (infirmary accident) 6d. 0 0 6
99 weeks V.G., at 6d. per week 2 9 6
4 weeks, G., at 3d. per week 0 1 0
1 week infirmary, 3d. per week 0 0 3
53 weeks (ticket-of-leave class, at 6d. per week** 1 6 6
7 11 9
Had in private cash 0 0 4
Total 7 12 1

[** This payment of 6d. per week was the compensation made to prisoners who, after the suspension of [-206-] transportation for short terms, remained in the hulks during the passing of the ticket-of-leave bill. The weekly allowance was paid to them from the date at which they would have obtained tickets had they proceeded to Australia, till they were set free from the hulks. Thus J. C. was a prisoner 53 weeks longer than he would have been confined had he been sent to the colonies.]

[-206-] This man received on leaving five shillings in cash, £3 15s. in a Post-office order, payable at his declared destination. Thus a balance of £3 12s. ld. in his favour remained in the governor's hands, to which he would become entitled when a letter, of which he was furnished with a printed form on leaving the hulks, was received from him, signed by the clergyman, or some other responsible person in his neighbourhood, as a proof that he was leading an honest life.*


    "In the event of your conduct being satisfactory when at liberty, and that you faithfully perform the conditions printed at the back of the License, your claim to the balance of your Gratuity will be admitted on your returning this paper to me at the expiration of three months from your release, backed by the certificate of the Magistrate or Clergyman of the Parish, or other competent and known authority, that you are earning your livelihood by honest means, and have proved yourself deserving of the clemency which has been extended to you by her Majesty.
    "The following particulars must be carefully stated in returning this paper:-

Christian and Surname at length and Prisoner Number __________
Your Occupation or Calling, or in what manner you are earning your livelihood __________
The name of the Post-Office at which the order should be made payable __________
______________________ Prison
______________________ Governor
______________ 185_   ]

    The rule is, that if a prisoner's account when he is discharged be under £8, he may receive half on leaving, and the balance two months subsequently; whereas, if his balance exceeds £8 and be under £12, he must wait three months for the balance. In addition to the money due to him, every prisoner discharged from the hulks is provided with a new suit of clothes and a change of linen.
    The gross sum paid in gratuities to the convicts at the hulks amounted to upwards of £2,950 in the course of the year 1854, while the cost of the clothes and travelling expenses for the prisoners, on obtaining their liberation, was £1,650 odd.

*** Badges, &c.-A distinctive portion of the discipline carried on at Woolwich consists in the badges worn by the prisoners on the left arm, and the rings worn on the right. These badges arc made of black leather, with an edge of red cloth, with white and black letters and figures upon it. We advanced towards some convicts who were hauling up linen to the mast to dry, and who wore both rings and badges. The first badge we examined was marked thus




The 7 meant that the prisoner had been sentenced to seven years' transportation; the 8 that he had been in the hulk that number of months, and the V. G., that his conduct had [-207-] been very good all the time he had been there. Another man wore a badge marked thus:-


G. 6


This denoted that the prisoner was suffering four years' penal servitude ; that his conduct had been good during six months; and that he had been on board the hulk eight months.
    These badges are collected once in every month, and conveyed to the governor's office. The character-book, as filled up from the weekly reports of the warders, is gone over in each ease, and, at the same time, if the prisoner have behaved badly, his badge is altered, and he loses some of the advantages of his previous good conduct.*

[* "The badges which are given as a record to the prisoner of his actual position with reference to character, have proved to be a great encouragement; and that they are prized is evidenced by the efforts made to obtain them, and to regain them by good conduct in such cases as they may have been forfeited.
    "The Governor of Portland Prison observes:-
    "'The system of wearing conduct-badges on the dress, by which the monthly progress of each convict towards the attainment of his ticket-of-leave is publicly marked, works very satisfactorily, as is evinced by the anxiety of even the ill-conducted prisoners to regain a lost good-conduct mark, an the efforts to keep subsequently clear of the misconduct book.'
    "As a means of promoting good conduct, a system of classification has also been adopted, the object of which will be best understood from the rules established with reference to it, which are as follows:- 
    "'The prisoners shall be divided into three classes, to be called the first, second, and third classes. The classification shall depend, in the first instance, on the report of character arid general conduct since conviction that nosy be received with a prisoner; and subsequently, on his actual conduct, industry, and observed character under the discipline of the establishment.
    "' 6. Prisoners in either the first or second classes shall be liable to removal to a lower class for misconduct. The prisoners in the different classes shall be distinguished by badges, indicating the particular class to which each prisoner may belong.
    "'7. Prisoners who habitually misconduct themselves will be liable to be sent back to separate confinement, or to be removed to some penal establishment under more severe discipline.
    "'8. The object of the classification is not only to encourage regularity of conduct and a submission to discipline in the prison, by the distinctions that will be maintained in the different classes, but to produce on the mind of the prisoners a practical and habitual conviction of the effect which their own good conduct and industry will have on their welfare and future prospects.
    "'9. Such distinctions shall be made between the classes, and such privileges granted, as shall promote the object of giving encouragement to those whose good conduct may deserve it, provided such distinctions do not interfere with discipline nor with the execution of a proper amount of labour on public works.'"  - Report on the Discipline and Construction of Portland Prison, and its connection with the System of Convict Discipline now in operation, by Lieut.-Col. Jebb, C.B., 1850.]

 Three months' good report in the character-book constitutes a V. G., or very good, and advances the wearer three months towards the second stage of penal servitude. Accordingly the man's class is not marked upon his badge.
    But the first man whose badge we noticed upon his left arm, had also upon his right arm a blue and two red rings. The blue ring denotes the second stage of penal servitude, and the red rings that he is a first-class convict. One red ring upon the right arm makes a second-class convict; and the third-class prisoner is known by the absence of all rings from his arm. By this system we are assured that it is almost impossible that a prisoner can be unjustly dealt with.


¶ iii-c. [- 'c' is Greek gamma in text, ed .]

A Day on Board the "Defence" Hulk.

    The cold, gray light of early morning gave to everything its most chilly aspect, when at five AM. we stepped aboard the "DEFENCE," the old 74-gun ship, with the determination of spending an entire day with her 500 and odd inmates. lint before we describe the various duties by which every day in a convict-ship is marked, let us here acknowledge how much we owe to the courtesy and to the lucid explanations of the governor, Mr. S. Byrne. As we run up the gangway of the silent hull, and survey the broad decks, and massive "galleys," and hammock-houses, in the misty light, the only sounds heard are the gurgling of the tide streaming past the sides of the black-looking vessel, and the pacing of the solitary warder-guard - the silence and the stillness of the scene in no way realizing the preconceived idea of a convict hulk. Yet as we pass to the ship's galley, at the fore-part of the vessel, and see the copper sheathing glistening on the floor round the cook's flue, with the large black boiler above it, and the sparkling yellow fire shining through the broad bars, the sight reminds us that there are hundreds of mouths to feed below. The cook sharply rakes the burning coals; and the copper frets, and spurts, and steams, with its unquiet boiling volume of the reddish- brown cocoa.
    This cook is the first convict with whom we have come in contact: he is preparing the breakfasts of his fellow-prisoners, who are still sleeping under the hatches. Close at hand is the bread-room, piled with baskets and boxes; while opposite is the officers' galley, with another stove, standing on its plate of glistening copper sheathing. Above, on the forecastle, are the hammock-houses-divided off into large, black, deep cupboards-bulging over the gunwale of the ship. Then we pass the drying-houses for linen (used in wet weather), and the little cabins at the gunwale waist, where the mechanic-convicts employed on board ply their respective handicrafts. Glancing over-head, we observe the shirts and stockings of the prisoners below dangling from the scanty rigging between the masts, and fluttering in the wind - as we had remarked them from the shore in broad daylight on another occasion.
    We are now near the top deck hatchway by the forecastle; it is still barred and padlocked. Here the bayonet of the sentry on duty, glistening in the light, attracts our attention. Then we notice the heavy bright bell, swung in front of the hatchway. All is quiet yet. We can hear the water splashing amid the boats at the broad gangway, or along the shelving sides of the ship, under her barred port-holes. The warder who accompanies us, ourselves, and the sentry are still the only people on the spacious decks of the old seventy-four. The poop, given up to the governor's rooms, and to those of his deputy and officers, is railed round; while a series of chimney funnels, projecting here and there, break the regularity of the outline.
    The warder proceeds to open the hatchways; and we descend, in company with him, the top deck, in order to see the men in their hammocks, before rising for their day's duties.

***  The "Turning-out" of the convicts - On reaching the top deck we found it divided, by strong iron rails (very like those in the zoological gardens, which protect visitors from the fury of the wild beasts) from one end to the other, into two long cages as it were, with a passage between them. In this passage a warder was pacing to and fro, commanding a view of the men, who were slung up in hammocks, fastened in two rows, in each cage or compartment of the ship. There was also a little transverse passage at the end of each ward, that allowed the officer on duty to take a side view of the sleepers, and to cast the light of his bull's-eye under the hammocks, to assure himself that the men were quiet in their beds.
    The glimmering little lanterns attached to the railings, so that the warder on duty could trim them without entering the wards, were still alight. The glazed hats of the men hung [-209-] up overhead, reflecting the pale beams; and the men themselves were still snoring in their dingy hammocks.
    In these two compartments or wards were 105 convicts, parted off into sections, ID 1, D 2, and A 1 and A 2. (See plan, p. 211.) And a curious sight it was to look upon the great sleeping mass of beings within them! The hammocks were slung so close to one another that they formed a perfect floor of beds on either side of the vessel, seeming like rows of canvas-boats. But one or two of the prisoners turned on their sides as we passed along the deck, and we could not help speculating, as we went, upon the nature of the felon-dreams of those we heard snoring and half-moaning about us. How many, thought we, are with their friends once more, enjoying an ideal liberty - how many are enacting or planning some brutal robbery! - how many suffering, in imagination, the last penalty of their crimes! - how many weeping on their mother's breast, and promising to abandon their evil courses for ever! - and to how many was sleep an utter blank - a blessed annihilation for a while to their life-long miseries!
    The convicts here arranged were first-class men - there being manifest advantages in the top deck over the middle and lower ones, as shown by Mr. Bossy, in his report on the "WARRIOR" hulk, in 1841*. 

[* "A STATEMENT of the Number of Prisoners sent to the Hospital, from the 1st of October, 1840, to the 10th May, 1841, inclusive; showing the Deck to which they belonged, and the mortality from each: -

Docks Daily average number of men Total Number sent to the Hospital Rate per Cent. Total Number of Deaths Rate per Cent.
Top 132 48 36 5 3.7
Middle 192 134 70 15 7.8
Lower 284 172 60½ 12 4.2
Total 608 354 58 32 5.2

    "The smaller proportion of illness among the prisoners on the upper deck is readily explained by their exemption from depressing causes.
    "According to the present system of classification, all prisoners newly arrived who are still smarting under the pain of disgrace and separation from their homes, and have not yet recovered from the anxiety, severe discipline, and spare diet endured in jail; all whose transportation is for a long term of years or for life, and all whose character and conduct are bad, remain the tenants of the lower deck; but if the prisoner's sentence be short, and his character and conduct good, he may in three months be raised to the middle deck, and in twelve months to the upper deck, where if he once arrives, there is a strong expectation he will not leave the country; he feels he has the confidence of the officers; and a cheerful hope of regaining his home sustains and restores a healthy rigour to body and mind.
    "If a long-sentenced prisoner is the subject of scrofula, of ulcer, of scurvy, of general infirmity, or of any cause unfitting him for the voyage, he will become by good conduct an inmate of the middle deck, and will remain there for several years ; so that we gradually acquire an accumulation of invalids on this deck, and this is one reason of the frequent deaths of its inhabitants.
    "The upper deck is much drier, being farther removed from the surface of the river; and, being more fully exposed to the sun, is hotter than the rest. The large size of its ports also affords better ventilation." - Medical Report, by P. Bossy, surgeon to "The Warrior, for 1841.]

We followed the warder towards the stern of the ship; and, at the extremity of this deck, WC crossed a grating, and reached the hatchway leading to the middle deck.
    The middle deck was arranged on the same plan as that of the top one; excepting that the passage between the swinging hammocks was wider. Here 129 men were sleeping in the divisions or wards called E 1, E 2; B1, B 2. (See plan, p. 211.) Here, too, the officer was parading between the wards or cages, and splashing about chloride of lime that stood in buckets between the wards. It was still very dark; and the groaning, coughing, and yawning of the sleeping and waking prisoners, had anything but a cheerful effect on the mind. The [-210-] air was close and unpleasant, but not remarkably so, considering that it had been exhausted by the breath of so many men since nine o clock on the previous night, when they turned in.
    We had still another deck to visit; so we followed our warder and descended the hatchway to the lower decks, which was higher, and had a broader passage than the two upper ones through which we had just passed. This deck was arranged to accommodate only 240 men; but, at the time of our visit, it contained only a 190 sleepers, arranged in sections thus,

prisons-14.gif (44785 bytes)

F 1, F 2, and F 3, on one side, and C 1, C 2, and C 3 on the other. (See plan, p. 211.) This spacious deck stretches right under the fore-part of the poop, the barred port-holes admitting but little light; still the air is fresher than in the decks above, which receive the ascending heat from the 190 sleepers; for, by means of broad openings in the stern and bows of the ship, a constant stream of fresh air is carried through the vessel. Altogether there were, at the time of our visit, 424 convicts stowed between the decks.
    The men seem to be comfortably covered, having two blankets and a rug each. The tables used for meals are unshipped, and lean against the bars of the passage; the men's boots are under their hammocks, and their clothes lie upon the benches.
    Having passed through this gloomy scene we reach a narrow white-washed passage, at the head of the lower deck, and entering by a side door, we come to the solitary cells. We follow the bull's-eye carried by the warder. Presently he stops, and placing his lantern against a ride opening in the bulkhead, throws its light upon a man in one of the cells within, who is sentenced to "forty-eight hours." Having inspected the sleeper, who is lying [-211-]  huddled in his brown rug upon the ground, for there are no hammocks allowed in this cell, he darkens the place once more and proceeds to the second.
    In solitary cell No.2, the man is sleeping in his hammock, and the scuttle is not darkened. As the light from the bull's-eye falls upon his face, the prisoner blinks his eyes, and calls, "All right!" as he rolls in his bed.
We now pass on to a cell in the bows of the ship. Here the hammock hides the man's face

prisons-15.gif (36276 bytes)


(The letters and figures A 1, A 2, D I, D 2, &c. refer to the several wards on the different decks; G indicates the Schoolmaster, H Chief Warder, I Clerk, K Steward, L L L L Deputy Governor, M Chaplain, N N Principal Warder, O O Warders' Mess-room.)

from our view, so we advance across immense white-washed timbers or "knees," that stand up as solid as milestones, and so on to the opposite coil in the bows. This one is empty; but the next contains a prisoner who is in for three days, on bread and water, for refusing to work in the boats. We then return to the lower deck, through a door at the opposite side to that at which we entered the solitary cell-passage. There are five such cells in all - two on either side, and one in the bows.
    As we re-entered the lower deck, we found the lamp-man (a convict), in a gray Scotch cap, blowing out the lamps. He, together with the cooks' and officers' servants, are let out a little before the general call-time; their services being necessary before the prisoners are the roused at half-past five o'clock, and the day's business begins.*

* We here publish a table citing the distribution of time on board the hulk, extracted from the Report of the Directors of Convict Prisons. This table, however, can give no definite idea of the work really per-[-212-]formed, nor of the regularity with which five hundred men are made to conform to certain hours, in the minutest particular.


Occupation In Summer (longest day) In Winter (shortest day)
(In intermediate seasons, the hours vary according to light)
AM AM Hrs Mins AM AM Hrs Mins
Prisoners rise, wash, and roll up hammocks 5.30 6.0 =0 30 5.30 6.0 0 30
Breakfast (officers and servants) 6.0 6.30 =0 30 6.0 6.30 0 30
Cleaning classes 6.30 7.15 =0 45 6.30 7.15 0 45
In readiness to turn out to work (preparing the boats, &c.) 7.15 7.30 =0 15 7.15 7.30 0 15
Labour, including landing and marching to and from working ground 7.30 12 noon =4 30 7.30 12 noon 4 30
Dinner for officers and prisoners 12 noon 1 PM =1 0 12 noon 1 PM 1 0
Labour, including mustering and marching to and from working ground 1 PM 5.30 =4 30 1 PM 4.0 3 0
Prisoners are mustered, wash, and prepare for supper 5.30 6.0 =0 30 4.0 4.45 0 45
Supper, washing-up, &c. 6.0 6.45 =0 45 4.45 5.30 0 45
Evening prayers, school, and those not at school repairing clothing, &c., mustered intermediately 6.45 8.30 =1 45 5.30 7.30 2 0
Sling hammocks 8.30 9.0 =0 30 7.30 8.0 0 30
All in bed 9.0
Total from 5.30AM to 8.0PM 15 30 Total from 5.30AM to 8.0PM 14 30
Meals 2 15 2 15
Labour, including mustering, and moving to and from 9 0 7 30
In-door occupation, evening instruction, &c. &c. 4 15 4 45
In Summer 15 30 In Winter 14 30

    The deep-toned bell against the forecastle now sounded three bells. The men had been expecting the unwelcome sound; for, a few minutes before, as we traversed the lower deck to examine the air-passages and ventilators, we saw heads popped up here and there from the dingy hammocks to have a peep at us as we passed. The usual hour for rising was evidently at hand. The effect of the bell, however, was astonishing. In a minute scores and scores of men tumbled out of their beds, and were wriggling and stretching themselves in their blue shirts.
    "All up! Turn out, men!" cries the officer; and the convicts are in their trousers in an inconceivably short time.
    [-212-] "Let us go to the top deck, and we shall see how the hammocks are lashed," suggests our warder; and on ascending to the upper decks we find many of the men already dressed, and with their hammocks lashed up like huge sausages.
    Presently the gates were opened, and the men turned out one after another, carrying their bolster-like beds on their shoulders.
    "Now men, go on there! steady-steady !" exclaims the officer. "Come on, men! Come on, the rest of you!" he shouts as we reach the forecastle. The men appear in single file, some carrying one hammock and others two. Those who carry two have, in addition to their own bed, that of a fellow-prisoner, who remains below to forward other work. Some of the men are fully dressed in their brown striped convict's suit; while others are in their blue shirt sleeves. The officers continue shouting to the men, and hastening their movements. "Come on with that hammock! Come on now!"
    Long lines of men, with their hammocks upon their shoulders, wind along the decks. The sides of the black hammock-houses are open, discovering lettered compartments, as A 1, A 2, B 1, &c.; and the warders on duty go into the houses, and see the hammocks stowed, as the prisoners deliver them, under their proper letters, varying the work by directions, as [-213-] "Shove that a bit forward there. Now then, stow away there, my lads - stow away! Do you belong here? How came you so late ?"
    "Any more C 1? Is that the last of C 1? Now then, come on, lads ! Move up !"
    "We get the whole ship up and stowed in half an hour," said our warder. "The hell went at half-past five, and you'll see, sir, we'll have all the hammocks up by six."
    Still the brown line of men moved forward to the hammock-houses, each hammock bearing the prisoner's registered number stitched upon it, and with the word "DEFENCE" printed on the canvas.
    The prisoners continue to pour out as we descend again between the decks, and find that many have got the tables shipped against the bars, and the benches ranged beside them. Now some of the men are washing in buckets, placed ready over night; and others arranging their hair by the reflection of the window-pane; and others, again, scrubbing the tables ready for breakfast. Everything and everybody seem to be undergoing a cleansing process more or less searching.
    We next proceeded once more to the deck below, following our guide. The scene was a busy one. Some of the prisoners were still combing their hair; others were washing the deck boards, which were shining under the plentiful supply of water; others, again, were covering the white deal tables (which are scrubbed also every morning) with painted canvas table-cloths; then there were groups of men, down on one knee, brushing their boots, while the messmen were busy at the preparations for breakfast. The tables, ranged in a row along the wards, accommodate eight prisoners each. Each man takes his turn as messman, while the service of the ward is divided.
    All the breakfast things are in block-tin, and they glisten as though they had never been used. Some of the men have polished theirs over-night, and tied them up in handkerchiefs, to give themselves a little extra time in the morning. "Where's your plates? Where's your plates?" cry the messmen. For water, one prisoner at a time is let out of each ward, and as soon as he returns another is allowed to go on deck.
    The various processes, collectively called getting-up, may now be said to he complete, and the prisoners are all fairly padlocked in their wards, under the eye of a single warder. After six o'clock in the morning, however, there are two officers upon the lower deck till nine o'clock in the evening, when the men turn in. The costume of the prisoners, as we now see them completely dressed, is the same as that worn at Pentonville, viz., rusty brown, with red stripes upon it.
    The chief warder enters and inquires whether all are up. "All up!" is the answer, as the men give the military salute. " There you see, sir," said our attendant, as four bells (six o'clock) rang, "all the hammocks are on deck, and the men are locked up, as I said they would be."
    The first business of the morning being over, the men break into groups or read. Many a one, to our astonishment, took his Bible and began reading it with no little earnestness. Here an altercation ensued between two prisoners about the tins, which one of them was still cleaning. This was promptly suppressed by a cry of "Halloa! What are you about there, losing your temper?"
    At this time, too, the doctor's mate appeared, carrying a wooden tray covered with physic bottles and boxes of salve, and followed by an officer holding a paper containing the "invalid list." This officer checks the distribution of the medicine.

*** Officers' Duties.-The ship now begins to wear an animated appearance; for at six o'clock the officers, chief warders, and cooks come on board, all those we had seen previously having been on duty throughout the night. The officers at the hulk are arranged into divisions, the first mustering 20 men, and the second 19 men. In answer to our inquiries on this subject, our attendant said-
    [-214-] "There's twenty in first division, and nineteen in second division, and, in addition to these, the chief warder and two principal warders. Twenty officers sleep on board one night, nineteen the next. To the first division there is one principal and the deputy-governor, while the second division is commanded by the chief warder, and one of the principal warders. Well, the first division came on duty yesterday at seven A.M., and will go off duty about six o'clock to-night. It's a very long stretch. The officers came on duty at half-past six this morning, and will remain on duty till six o'clock this evening. They will be on their legs all the time. They will not have more than twenty to twenty-five minutes to get their dinner. It's not only one day, but every day the same thing. They're on their legs all day long, for they are not allowed to sit down. The first night-watch comes on at eight P.M., and remains on duty till half-past ten. The second watch comes on, and remains till one. Then he is relieved by the third watch, who remains till half-past three-the fourth watch doing duty till six o'clock. Now the watch that's just relieved will have a quarter of an hour to wash and shave, for the officers muster at a quarter-past six. So you see there's not much time lost. The breakfast is served down at half-past six. This occupies till a quarter to seven. From a quarter to seven till a quarter past, the warders are at liberty; hut during this time they must breakfast, clean themselves, brush their buttons and the crowns upon their collars, and be on deck to parade at the quarter-past seven. Then they turn to the labour. They're just going to muster the prisoners. Perhaps you'll like to see them."

    *** Muster and Breakfast, Diet &c - We went down once more between decks. The muster of the prisoners had just commenced. Two officers were occupied in the wards. The prisoners were all ranged behind the tables - "Silence! keep silence there!" shouted an officer; and then, while one officer called the names of the prisoners, the other marked down the absentees upon a slate. As each name was called, the man owning it responded, "Yessir," accompanying his reply with a military salute. The replies of "Yessir," in every variety of voice, ran along the wards.
    This ceremony over, the registering officers retired, and the warder on duty padlocked the men in once more. We then went to see the muster of the absentees - as the cooks, bakers, and the like - which was carried on in the same way as with the prisoners in the wards, only each absentee, as he cried, "Yessir," and saluted, passed out, to return to the duty from which he had been for the moment withdrawn.
    "There you see, now," said our attendant, "every man in the ship has answered to his name.
    "All correct, sir!" said the registering warder to the chief.
    "Now, then, A ward!" was shouted down the hatchway.
    "This is A ward, sir," said our attendant, "coming up for breakfast."
    Instantly four of the convicts appeared, following one another. "That's for A ward." "B ward!" was next shouted down. "Now, then, B ward here!" And in this way the messmen of the various wards were summoned from their decks, to fetch the breakfasts of their comrades, the messmen of each deck appearing at different hatchways; for it may be here observed that there is a separate hatchway for each floor of the vessel.
    The messmen were now seen moving along in file towards the ship's galley, and presently they re-appeared, each man carrying a large beer-can full of cocoa, the bread being taken down in baskets, and served out by the officers at the ward-doors.
    At half-past six the doctor comes on board, when an officer goes round shouting in the wards, "Any men to see the doctor?" Six men appear in answer, and are formed in line near the galley-door. They are ushered one by one into the little surgery, and here, if the ease is considered at all serious, a trap-door is opened, and they are passed at once down into a little separate room underneath, prepared with "bath and other convenience."

prisons-16.gif (167377 bytes)

[-215-] Nine-tenths of the calls for medical assistance, however, are dismissed as frivolous, such call being looked upon with great suspicion, as generally evincing a desire to avoid a day's labour in the arsenal.
    While remarking the six applicants for medical assistance, we also noticed four men drawn up in a line at the end of the main deck, attended by an officer. These were "reported" men, about to answer for some infraction of prison rules.
    We now followed the chief warder below, to see the men at breakfast. "Are the messes all right ?" he called out as he reached the wards.
    "Keep silence there! keep silence!" shouted the officer on duty.
    The men were all ranged at their tables with a tin can full of cocoa before them, and a piece of dry bread beside them, the messmen having just poured out the cocoa from the huge tin vessel in which he received it from the cooks; and the men then proceed to eat their breakfast in silence, the munching of the dry bread by the hundreds of jaws being the only sound heard.*

[* The following is the Scale of Diet on board the "DEFENCE" hulk.


 12 Ounces of Bread.
1 Pint of Cocoa.


6 Ounces of Meat.
1 Pound of Potatoes.
9 Ounces of Bread.

1 Pint of Gruel.
6 Ounces of Bread.

SOUP DAYS :-Wednesdays, Mondays, and Fridays, when the dinner stands thus -1 pint of soup, 5 ounces of meat, 1 pound of potatoes, and 9 ounces of bread.
    The bread, potatoes, &c., are served by contract.


1 pint of gruel and 9 ounces of bread for breakfast, dinner, and supper - served when men are on the sick list, in the hulk.


1 pound of bread per day, and water.]

    After this we returned to where the reported prisoners were drawn up, facing the governor's house, upon the quarter-deck. They were called into the office one by one; and as the second man was called, the first re-appeared, and was marched off between two officers to a solitary cell.
    "This is my report for yesterday; I give one in every morning," said the officer attending us, as he went to hand the document in, together with a "cell report," stating the number of prisoners under punishment, the days they had done, &c.
    Next our attention was directed to the convict boatmen, who were preparing to take the ship's messenger ashore.
    "They have already been on shore this morning," continued our persevering informant, to bring off the cook and chief warder. "That's the hospital cutter, sir," and our friend pointed to a little boat, rowed by two prisoners in their brown suits, and carrying three or four warders in the stern.
    "Now, sir, our boat's just going aboard the 'Uneet' (for such is the general pronunciation of the French name). "Here is our sick report, sir, for the day," he continued, showing us the document. "It is delivered in every morning. There are only two men on it now. One, you see, requires light labour, and the other 'low diet.'"
    At this moment a dashing little boat, with her stern seats cushioned, and rowed by four men, pulling long oars, appeared at the gangway.
    "This is the gig, sir, to take the doctor away."
    The officers now begin to exhibit great activity, while the men below are cleaning their tables and tins - having finished their morning's meal.
    "That boat won't be back in time unless she's hailed," said one officer, looking towards the shore. " It only wants a few minutes to seven, now."
[-216-] Another boat now pulled towards the ship, rowed by men wearing guernseys, marked "DEFENCE," and glazed hats that had numbers stamped upon them.
    "Be as quick as you can, Matthews," shouted one of the officers "it's only five minutes. Look sharp."
    The boat, as directed, went off to the long brown boats, and brought them alongside the gangway, to take the prisoners off to their "hard labour" in the arsenal.
    "They're going to take the officers first," said our attendant. "The second division's just coming on duty now, sir." And glancing to the shore, by the side of the bright little arsenal pier, we could perceive a dark group of officers, standing near the landing steps - carrying bundles in handkerchiefs - their glazed caps and bright buttons sparkling in the sunlight as they moved about. "The boats are rather hehindhand, for the prisoners should be all in them at the first stroke of seven."
    Nine bells (seven o'clock) sounded, as we went once more below, and found that the men had just finished cleaning their tin mugs, and were gathering up the bits of chalk into bags, and arranging these same mugs on top of the inverted plates, round their tables ready for dinner. Some, too, were washing the tables again, to get beforehand with their work; while others were covering their bright tin plates and mugs with the coarse table cloths, to keep the dirt from them; and others, again, were reading their Bibles, or lounging lazily about.
    "They know to a minute the time they have, sir; and the officers are as severely taught to obey the progress of the clock, for if they are not at the landing steps at seven precisely, the boat pushes off without them, and will not return to fetch them."
    The boat that had gone to bring the warders aboard was soon on its way back to the ship, crowded with the glazed caps and dark uniforms of the officers, relieved by the fresh white guernseys of the convict rowers.
    Seven o'clock is the hour for the officers' parade upon the quarter-deck; the object being to see that they are all sober and fit for duty. The parade over, the guard appears on deck. It consists of four men, armed with carbines, and with their cartouche boxes slung behind them by a broad black belt. This guard stands near the gangway; the men having their carbines loaded, and held ready to fire, while the prisoners pass to the boats.
    Looking overboard, we now perceive the convict boatmen, in their guernseys and glazed hats, bringing the two long-boats to their proper position opposite the gangway, ready for the debarcation of the prisoners on their way to their work at the arsenal.
    At a quarter-past seven the officers for duty ashore are called over by the chief warder, in the presence of the deputy-governor, while a principal cheeks them. Twelve extra guards, composed chiefly of soldiers from the Crimea, and some wearing clasps upon their warder's uniform (an uniform, by the way, exactly resembling that of the Pentonville officers), now file down the steps, to be ready to receive the prisoners, who begin to appear above the hatchways, marching in single file towards the gangway, with a heavy and rapid tread; and it is an exciting sight to see the never-ending line of convicts stream across the deck, and down the gangway, the steps rattling, as they descend one after another into the capacious boat, amid the cries of the officer at the ship's side- "Come, look sharp there, men! Look sharp!"

*** Debarcation of Prisoners for Work in the Arsenal - The rowers hold their oars raised in the air, as the brown line of men flows rapidly into the cutter below, some seat themselves in the stem, but the large majority stand in a dense mass in the bottom of the long low craft, dotted here and there by the dark dress of the officers planted in the midst of them. In fine weather no less than 110 convicts are landed in each of these boats or cutters.
    It is pretty to watch these long boats glide slowly to the pier, their dense human freight [-217-] painted brown on the stream. And scarcely has one boat landed its felon crew, before another is filled, and making for the arsenal pier and the shore. (See engraving.) Nor is it less picturesque to see the prisoners clamber up to the parade ground; fall in line there with military precision; separate according to the chief officer's directions into working parties (each working party being in charge of a warder); and move off to the scene of their day's labour, in long brown strings. This is a very curious scene, and one that it will be impossible to witness some few years hence.
    A third or surplus small cutter puts off with the few remaining prisoners, and more guards. These guards, we observe, wear cutlasses; such cutlasses being carried as a special protection, for the officers wearing them have charge of working parties employed beyond the bounds of the arsenal; as, for instance, upon a mortar battery in the marshes. The men are now off to work. Those prisoners who remain in the ship are in the deck cabins, plying their handicraft for the use of the hulk.
    We now left the hulk in the deputy-governor's gig, in company with that officer, who acted himself as steersman.
    "Now then, shove off! Altogether! Lay on your oars! Sharp as you can!" were the brisk orders; and as we neared the shore, the directions to the men ran, "Hold water, all of you! Pull all! Hard a-starboard! Port, there! Ship oars!"
    The men obeyed these nautical directions with admirable precision, and soon landed us at the arsenal stairs, amid huge stone heaps, piles of cannon tumbled about, and all bounded by long storehouses and workshops that seemed to cross each other in every direction.
    We accompanied the deputy-governor in his inspection of the gangs, as the convict crew stood drawn up in lines, headed by their respective officers. It is necessary to change and equalize the gangs daily, we were told, according to the work each has to perform. Here the officers proceeded to search under the men's waistcoats, and to examine their neckcloths, so as to prevent the secretion of clothes about their persons, which would enable them to disguise themselves, and to escape among the free labourers. No less than seventeen such attempts to escape had taken place among the "DEFENCE" convicts in one year, though out of these only three got off. In 1854 there were five attempts at escape, of which but one was successful.
    The searching and arrangement of the working parties or gangs being effected, the officer gives the word of command, "Cover!" then, "Face-forward!" and each gang wheels off to the direction of its work, the men walking two abreast, and the rear being brought up by the officer in charge.
    As the several gangs leave the parade-ground, the officer in charge gives the number of his party, and that of his men. The parties, or gangs, are numbered from 1 to 30. Thus, as one party passes, the officer calls, "Two-eight;" that is, party No. 2, containing 8 men.
    " Close up ! close up your party, Matthews - they're all straggling!" cries the deputy- governor to one of the guards, who is taking off his men somewhat carelessly.
    The arsenal is now in full activity. The tall chimneys vomit dense clouds of black smoke; steam spurts up here and there; the sharp click of hammers falling upon metal can be heard on all sides; the men are beginning to roll the shells along the miniature railways laid along the ground for the purpose. All the gangs of prisoners are off, leaving a dense cloud of dust behind them.
    There are 299 in the arsenal to-day, the deputy-governor informs us. This number is added, he says, to the ascertained number remaining on board the hulk; and then, if the whole tally with the number registered upon the governor's books, all is right.
    We then turned our attention to the hulk once more, and re-entered the deputy- governor's gig. As we were jerked through the water by the regular strokes of the men, and the measured working of the rullocks, we noticed the heavy cranes planted along the quay - their wheels covered with small roofs like parasols, but bearing, nevertheless, some [-218-] evidences of exposure to the weather. With one of those cranes," said the officer to us, "I have seen a single man lift a cannon on board a ship. They are worked by hydraulic pressure."
    No sooner did we reach the gangway of the "DEFENCE" once more, than the principal warder on board cried, as he met the deputy-governor, " Two hundred and ninety-nine, sir!" alluding to the number of prisoners who had left the ship for labour in the arsenal.
    "All right!" was the laconic reply.

*** The Library and School at the Hulks.- "Would you like to come and see the meat, sir?" we were asked by our attendant officer. "I have to go." The steward sees to the proper weight, while the deputy-governor examines the quality of the meat. The piece we saw was an enormous leg of beef, against which prodigious weights were necessary to ascertain its precise value.
    The prisoners left aboard the hulk were now busy washing the deck and the gangway. Some dashed buckets of water on the boards, while others were vigorously plying flat scrubbing-brushes, fixed at the extremity of long handles. Below, in a boat, alongside the hulk, were more brown prisoners, pumping at a small engine, and forcing the water, taken from the Artesian-well in the arsenal, into the capacious tank of the hulk. There is, in fact, one continued splashing of liquid everywhere - on the decks, and in the long-boats, or cutters, which have now returned from the shore. The "DEFENCE," we may add, has twenty tanks, holding two tons each of water.
    We next adjourned to the governor's comfortable breakfast-room, with its pretty stern-windows, and its light blue and white walls. The military salute of the convict-servant who entered from time to time, with his white apron about his loins, was the only reminiscence of the hulk as we sat at the morning meal.
    After this we visited the chapel and school-room.*  The chapel is a square apartment,


Date of Reception Could not read Since learned to read imperfectly Read only Since learned to read and write imperfectly Read and write imperfectly Since learned to read and write well Made considerable progress in arithmetic Read and write well Well educated Total
February 11, 1854 - - - - 12 5 4 4 - 16
February 24, 1854 - - - - 5 2 1 1 - 6
March 13, 1854 - - 4 4 14 5 4 5 1 24
March 24, 1854 1 - 2 2 7 3 5 2 2 14
April 20 2 - 3 3 16 7 10 5 4 30
May 2 6 5 1 1 16 5 7 5 - 28
May 4 3 3 - - 3 1 6 3 2 11
July 1 7 5 6 6 7 3 8 25 - 45
August 11 2 2 1 1 3 - 4 4 - 10
August 14 2 1 2 1 2 - 4 3 1 10
October 9 2 - - - - - - - - 2
October 11 13 - 3 - 18 - 5 13 - 47
November 2 7 - - - 13 - 3 8 - 28
December 19 6 - - - 5 - 4 7 - 18
December 23 1 - - - 4 - 2 4 - 9
Total 52 16 22 18 125 31 67 89** 10** 298

** The prisoners who could "read and write" well, and those who were "well educated" on reception, have since made considerable advancement in arithmetic and the lower branches of mathematics.

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[-219-] admirably arranged for its purpose, the part on the level with the top deck forming the galleries, to which the prisoners on that deck pass direct from their wards, while the body of the little church is even with the middle deck, and accommodates the rest of the prisoners.
    The pulpit is erected at the stern end of the chapel, between the two decks, and has a bright brass reading lamp to it; its cushions being covered with canvas. Four more lamps are suspended from the ceiling, the whole of the wood-work being painted to imitate oak. It is in the body of this chapel that the black, slanting desks, with inkstand holes (the very models of those which all boys remember with horror), are ranged for the daily school.
    At the side of the pulpit is the prison library. The selection of books is suggestive. Let us run over a few titles culled from the backs of the volumes - "Marcet's Conversations on Natural Philosophy," "Paley's works," "The Pursuit of Knowledge under Difficulties," Sturm's "Reflections on the Works of God," "Persian Stories," "Recreations in Physical Geography," "The Rites and Worship of the Jews," "The Penny London Reader," "First Sundays at Church," "Stories from the History of Rome," "Short Stories from the History of Spain," "Swiss Stories, " Scenes from English History," "Rodwell's First Steps to Scottish History," "Stories for Summer Days and Winter Evenings," "Easy Lessons in Mechanics." There are in all 1099 volumes upon the shelves.
    In reply to our questions as to the books that are the most popular among the convicts, and the rules on which they were issued, we were informed that each prisoner had a right to have a book, and to keep it ten days. If he wanted it longer, he could generally renew the time. The books most in demand were Chambers' publications, and all kinds of histories and stories. Very few asked for Paley's "Moral Philosophy."
    "I think," continued our attendant warder, "that 'Chambers' Miscellany,' 'The Leisure Hour,' and 'Papers for the People,' are generally preferred beyond other publications. There is a great demand for them. We haven't got Dickens' 'Household Words,' or I dare say it would be in request. The chaplain objects to it being in the library."
    All friends of education have scouted the idea long since, of leading uneducated men to a love of books by such works as Paley's "Theology" or Sturm's "Reflections." These are now generally regarded as the unread books of Literary institutes - because difficult to understand, and in no way appealing to the minds of the great majority of readers. Let us, therefore, imagine a convict who has been rubbing the rust from cannon-balls all day long, with a copy of Paley for his hour's amusement before he turns in. If he reads he most probably will not understand. A distaste rather than a taste for reading is hereby engendered. Yet books teaching kindly lessons, in the homely accidents of life, and which all may read and comprehend, are hardly to be found upon the chaplain's library shelf.
    The school is divided into nine divisions. The first division, subdivided into sections A and B, musters 110 men. The second division musters 55 men, and so on. The divisions, as they attend the school, are generally so managed as to average 55 in number. Some convicts, we were told, cannot read, and no teaching will make them. The teaching includes reading, writing, and arithmetic, as far as "practice." In reply to our inquiry as to the interval that elapsed between the convict's school-days, we were informed that the turn to remain on board for lessons came round once in every nine or ten days.
    The prisoners told-off for school now appeared on the ground-floor of the chapel, at the black desks. They were well-washed and brushed, and wore blue and white neckerchiefs, and gray stockings barred with red stripes. The third division is in to-day. The school begins with two psalms and a prayer.
    "Now, attention for prayers!" is called out before they begin. Then the clerk reads a chapter of St. Luke; next the schoolmaster cites a verse from a psalm, and the men go stammering after him. It is a melancholy sight. Some of the scholars are old bald-headed men, evidently agricultural labourers. There, amid sharp-featured men, are dogged-looking youths, whom it is pitiful to behold so far astray, and so young. And now the clerk who [-220-] read the prayers may be seen teaching the men; but it is evidently hard work, and few, it is to be feared, care for the school, further than for the physical repose it secures them.
    We now passed to the little rooms off the wards, where a few prisoners were tailoring, while others were making the solid shoes such as the working gangs in the arsenal wear.
    We then advanced to the cabins ranged along the sides of the weather-deck. In one a bookbinder was binding the rugged library volumes in black leather. "Take off your cap, sir !" cried our attendant to the prisoner, as we appeared, "and go on with your work!"
    Next we passed to the lamp-man's cabin, and found him trimming the night lamps for

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the wards. Then we reached the carpenter's shop; and there a gray-headed old prisoner who was planing a deal-board, turned a melancholy face towards us as we entered.
    Then we visited the linen-house, where two or three prisoners were arranging the linen of the various wards in little tight rolls. We inquired how often the men had a change. "They change their linen every week, and their flannels every fortnight," was the reply. How gratifying to men who can remember the horrible filth in which, only a few years since, the hulk convicts were allowed to remain.
    There was not an idle man on board. Festoons of clothes were drying above our heads, swung from the two stunted masts; while across the main deck, lines of dark-brown string were being twisted by a convict rope-maker, to be turned to account for the hammocks that two other prisoners were mending in a little cabin hard by. Everywhere officers were [-221-] standing over the men at their labours, each warder being provided with his book, in which he enters the men's industry, or want of energy. Their tone to the men was firm, but not hard or harsh; still they kept them to their task. Every prisoner we approached saluted us, military fashion, then stood still till the officer said, "Go on with your work, sir !-Go on with your work !" when the men turned to their labour again.

*** The Working Parties in the Arsenal - The governor now called his gig to the gangway to carry us ashore to inspect the labourers in the arsenal. It was a smart little boat, and the rowers were trimly dressed in white, with the word "DEFENCE" printed round the legs of their trousers. The men, with their glazed hats and ruddy faces, looked unlike convicts. Their position is the reward of good conduct. They sit in a little deck-house close to the

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gangway, all day long, ready to be called out at any moment. The men volunteer for boat service. First, they are put into the water-boat, which conveys the well-water to and from the shore; from this service they are promoted to the provision cutter, which also takes off the subordinate officers; and then they reach a seat in the governor's gig. The men like this service, and are sent for misconduct - as when they use bad language - to labour on the public works. We started for the arsenal once more, at a rapid pace; the governor himself steering the pretty gig with its white tiller ropes.
    On landing, after passing by the heavy cranes, we came up with the first gang of prisoners, who were loading a bark alongside the quay. "These are the sloops that convey war-stores to Sheerness," we were told. "And yonder black hull is a floating powder-magazine, near which no ship anchors. We remarked the absence of military sentries, and were told that they had been withdrawn from the convicts working in the arsenal, although they still mounted guard. Then the place is pointed out to us where the "DEFENCE" once had a [-222-] washing-house, which has been taken away by the government; together with a vegetable garden, where the convicts formerly cultivated vegetables for the hulk. "Now we wash on board the little 'SULPHUR' hulk," continued our informant, "and dry on board our own ship."
    We walked into the grounds of the arsenal, and soon came up with a second party of prisoners at work digging out shot. As we approached, the officer in charge gave the governor a military salute, saying-
    "All right, sir - l0-8." The 10 being, as we have already noticed, the number of the gang, and 8 the strength of it. The governor, who knows what the strength of each gang is, can thus assure himself of the presence of all the men. We next turned into the stone-yard, the chosen ground of hard, dull, mechanical labour. Here there was a strong gang of men breaking granite.
    "All right! how many ?" calls the governor.
    "All right, sir - 8-9," answers the officer in charge. Then, seeing a free workman at hand, the officer is told to keep him off. Here each man is doing task-work. Every convict must break so many bushels, according to the size to which he is required to reduce them, the size being measured by a wooden machine, through which they are passed. Thus, a man breaking up the stones small, for a garden walk, must break two bushels daily, whereas a man breaking them up less, must fill four or six bushel measures.
    We then passed on to huge stacks of valuable timber. "All this," said our companion, "has been piled by convict labour." Through fields of cannon lying in rows - here black as charcoal, there red with rust-past stacks of wheels and wheelless waggons, by sheds where the air was impregnated with turpentine from the freshly-worked timber, under heavy cranes, through mud, and sawdust, and shavings - here hailing a gang turning a wheel, and there a gang clearing rubbish - deep down a grove of conical heaps of rusty shells, where the men were filing and polishing them, we made our round of the convict working parties. All of them were busy. The officer takes care of that; for he is fined one shilling every time one of his men is caught idling, while the escape of one entails his dismissal.
    Suddenly we came upon a guard whose duty it was to go the round of the gangs and collect the men who wished to satisfy a call of nature. Then we came upon an angle of the arsenal wall against the Plumstead high-road, where we saw an armed guard with his carbine, marching rapidly backward and forward.
    "Now I shall know directly whether all is right," said the governor, as he raised his hand. The sentinel instantly halted, presented arms, then raised his right hand.
    "Had there been an escape," continued the governor, "he would have grasped his carbine by the barrel, and held it aloft horizontally. That is the escape signal, and this man is stationed here because escape would be easy over the wall to the high road. Only the other day I caused a drain to be stopped up that led from the arsenal to the marshes; for we once had a hunt, that lasted all day long, after two prisoners who got into that drain. We caught them at its mouth by the Plumstead road.
    It is exceedingly difficult to prevent attempts at escape, especially while there are so many free men in the arsenal. Last year there were no less than 14,000 free labourers employed there, and these men taken on without reference to character.
    Here the attempts at escape, which prisoners had made from time to time, formed for some time the subject of our conversation.
    "The convicts," we were told, "were generally assisted by the free labourers," who deposited clothes for them in some convenient spot. The convict slipped for a moment from his gang, put the clothes on, and passed out of the arsenal gates with the crowds of free men. Or else he made a dash for it, bolted past the sentinels, swam the canal, reached the marshes, and made off to the wood at hand. These attempts sometimes defied the utmost vigilance of the officers. It was the duty of a guard, from whose gang a man escaped, to hasten

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[-223-] on board with the rest of his men (unless he can find an officer to undertake this duty while lie runs after the lost man), and report the escape. We then signal to the police authorities by telegraph, to Bow Street, Erith, Guildford, Ilford, Bexley Heath, and Shooter's Hill, so as to surround him with a band of vigilant policemen, and prevent his getting clear. It was impossible to guard entirely against these attempts under this mixed system. They could not prevent the men from talking by night. But how much worse was it under the old system, when some six hundred or seven hundred prisoners were crammed into a hulk smaller than the "DEFENCE," and with only one officer all night to watch them.
    We inquired whether the men were very severely punished when they were lazy, and were answered in the affirmative.
    "They are sent here to labour," said the governor. "Here, officer, give me your labour-book." This book contained on one side a description of the nature and quantity of the work performed, and on the other the conduct of the men during the work. We were assured, however, that the men have very seldom to be punished for idleness. "They do twice as much as free men," added the governor. "They work excellently."
    We now turned from the busy arsenal, crossed the canal bridge, and approached the little black wooden lodge of the policeman who guards the gate leading to the marshes. He salutes us as we pass out to the marshes.
    The scene, close by the gate, is singularly English. To the right lies the rising ground of Plumstead, with its red square church-tower peeping from among the dense green cluster of the trees. Below is a cluster of village houses, and beyond swells Abbey Wood up the shelving ground; while beyond this, again, and serving as background, rises Shooter's Hill, capped by two or three suburban villas.
    Right before us is a vast earth-work, all, as we are told, raised by convict labour! It is a 5-mortar battery. We approached it (crossing the range where the ordnance authorities try their rifles at the butt, while that solitary man, far over the marshes, comes out of the shed by the side of the mark, after every shot, and with a long pole marks the point hit) and found the prisoners, with their brown jackets thrown off, and some with their legs buried in water-boots, reaching to their thighs, digging the heavy, black, clayey soil, and carrying it away in barrows, under the eyes of two guards, with their cutlasses at their sides and two non-commissioned officers of the sappers and miners, who were directing the works. (See engraving.)
"That's a nice circular cut, sir," said one of the non-commissioned officers, pointing to the earth-work thrown up.
    The governor then challenged the guards, who told off their numbers, and gave the usual "All right !" The bright red shell-jackets, and. the caps with gay gold bands, stood out in painful contrast with the dingy crew of unfortunate men they were directing. As we looked on at the work going bravely forward, our attention was specially directed to the healthy appearance of the men.
    "See," said the governor, evidently not a little proud of their ruddy checks, "they are not ill-looking men. I have to punish them very seldom. One or two of the men in the stone-yard were old offenders, and they're the best behaved. There's a fine young chap there, stript to the buff, and working away hard!"

*** The Convicts' Burial Ground.- We turned away, and went farther over the marshes, the ground giving way under our feet; and presently we passed behind the butt, while the Minié balls were whistling through the air, and that solitary man was marking the hits. We approached a low piece of ground-in no way marked off from the rest of the marsh - in no way distinguishable from any section of the dreary expanse, save that the long rank grass had been turned, in one place lately, and that there was an upset barrow lying not far off. Heavy, leaden clouds were rolling over head, and some heavy drops of rain pattered [-224-] upon our faces as we stood there. We thought it was one of the dreariest spots we had ever seen. 
    "This," said the governor, "is the Convicts' Burial Ground !"
    We could just trace the rough outline of disturbed ground at our feet. Beyond this was a shed, where cattle found shelter in had weather; and to the right the land shelved up between the marsh and the river. There was not even a number over the graves; the last, and it was only a month old, was disappearing. In a few months, the rank grass will have closed over it, as over the story of its inmate. And it is, perhaps, well to leave the names of the unfortunate men, whose bones lie in the clay of this dreary marsh, unregistered and unknown. But the feeling with which we look upon its desolation is irrepressible.

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    We followed the governor up the ridge that separates the marsh from the river, and walked on, back towards the arsenal. As we walked along we were told, that under our feet dead men's hones lay closely packed; the ridge could no longer contain a body, and that was the reason why, during the last five or six years, the lower ground had been taken.
    Then there is a legend - an old, old legend, that has passed down to the present time - about a little pale-blue flower, with its purple leaves - the "rubrum lamium"- which, it is said, grows only over the convict's grave-a flower, tender and unobtrusive as the kindness for which the legend gives it credit. Botanists, however, will of course ruthlessly destroy the local faith that has given this flower value; for they will tell you it is only a stunted form of the "red dead nettle."
    We pass from the graves-meet a perambulating guard, who signals "All right !" by saluting and raising his hand-and then, recrossing the canal-bridge, where the convicts are stacking wood, and the click and ring of bricklayers' trowels are heard, relieved now and then by the reports of hit ordnance rifle-practice, we make our way towards the boat [-225-] saluted by the "All rights" and salutes of the officers of other working parties that we pass by the way.
prisons-22.gif (11766 bytes)    There are many objects to arrest our attention, as we go, from the exploded wrecks of barrels, &c., lying for sale near the butt bank, where men are digging shot out of the ground. We meet another patrolling guard, who gives the "All right" salute; and whose duty it is, as soon as he hears of an escape, to dash through the enclosure about the arsenal, and, waving his carbine horizontally in the air, communicate the fact to the sentries in the marshes.
    Our way lies then by the rocket-sheds, rather celebrated for accidents. 
    "Occasionally you see the men at work there," said the governor, "rush out with their clothes all in flames, and dive into the canal. Only a month or so ago, two or three sheds blew up, and the rockets were flying about all amongst my men." As we passed, a workman, black as gunpowder, appeared at the door of one of the sheds with a sieve.
    Close at hand to the rocket-sheds, were little powder boats, like miniature Lord Mayor's barges, with the windows blocked up and the gilding taken off.
    "There are the cartridge-sheds, too; and there the fire-engines are always kept at the water's edge, in case of accident, and with the hose ready in the water, as you see. All right, Mr. Watson ?"
    "All right, sir! No. 3-10."
    Here, opposite the gang of convicts just hailed, and who were hard at work stacking planks, were some few idlers upon the top of a barge. Contrast the conduct of those fellows with my men, was the governor's observation.
    "Their language is dreadful, as you can hear. You see, too, that new building, with the tall, minaret chimneys, flanked by low stacks, and with crimson tongues of flame at top - that's a shell factory." There are shoots of white steam, and plumes of black smoke issuing from it; and as we advance past endless stacks of heavy timber arranged by the convicts, we hear the rattle of machinery and the noise of wheels. Then as we go by the large new building where mortars are to be cast, the governor approaches a gang, and asks again- "All right, Mr. Jenning ?"
    "All right, sir ! 10-10," replies the officer.
    We now pass through sheds - large as railway stations-under which numerous piles of timber are stacked, together with endless rows of wheelless carts, with their wheels stacked opposite, and here we find the prisoners beginning to march in gangs towards the parade-ground. "It is half-past eleven o'clock, and they must be on board the hulk to dinner at noon precisely," says the governor to us. As we draw nearer and nearer to the parade-ground, we can see them filing along from different directions. There is no confusion on reaching the spot, for each man knows his exact place. Then a strict search of the men is made by the warders, to see that they have not secreted anything while at work - the men opening their waistcoats, and pulling off their cravats, as before, to facilitate the operation.
    The searching over, the men descend the stairs, in parties, to the cutters, and return to the hulk in the order in which they left her in the morning. Having made the tour of the [-226-] arsenal (which, including the section of the marshes turned to use, measures 150 square acres in extent), we also returned on board the hulk with the governor.
    "Weigh all!" is the word of command. And in a few minutes we are at the "DEFENCE" gangway. The officers are hurrying the convicts on board.
    "Now, Mr. B--, bring your men up!" A long-boat approaches, crammed with men and warders.
    "Hoist your oars !" cries an officer as the cutter touches the hulk. The warders land first, and then they hurry the men up the gangway steps. As soon as they reach the deck they advance, in single file, to their respective hatchways, and descend at once to their wards.
    The tread of these two hundred men sounds below almost like thunder rolling under the decks! They are at once locked up in their wards, where their tin mug and plate are turned upside down, one upon the other, around each mess-table, previous to dinner.

*** The Convicts at Dinner and Leaving for Work. - Now men appear at the end of the wards with large clothes-baskets full of bread.
    "3-7; 4-8; and 5-8!" cries the warder, as he dispenses the loaves to each mess.
    The mess-men of these parties advance to the gate of the ward, and receive their proper quantities for their respective messes. Some messes have a loaf and a quarter, others two whole loaves, according to their numerical strength - the men dividing these quantities themselves. There is also upon the mess-tables a deal-board to cut up the meat upon. A man now comes below carrying knife-bags, and distributes them according to the number of men in each compartment. After dinner they are cleaned, put back into the bags, and returned to the proper officer. The men who have been on board all day were in their wards, pacing to and fro, before their companions came pouring down from their arsenal work.
    "To your table, men !" cries the chief warder; and accordingly the men range themselves in their proper seats.
    "Now A ward!" is shouted down the hatchway. "Come on here - one, two, and three ! " A man from each mess answers the call. Presently these messmen are seen returning, each carrying a small tub full of meat, and a net full of potatoes, together with the supper bread. One man at each mess may now be seen serving out the potatoes into tin plates. Then there is a cry of- "All up!"
    The men rise, and grace is said. When the men are re-seated, a man proceeds at once to cut up the meat upon the mess-board. The dinner is now portioned out, and we are informed that the men very rarely quarrel over the division of the allowed quantities. When the meat is cut into eight or nine portions, as the case may be, the meat-board is pushed into the middle of the table, and each man takes the piece nearest to him. Then the peeling of potatoes goes actively forward, and the men are soon fairly engaged upon their meal, talking the while in a low, rumbling tone.
    "Not too much talking there! Silence-silence here! " cries the warder.
    Since the morning, the top deck and the others have undergone a complete change. The windows have been removed, and the atmosphere is fresh and pleasant.
    The governor now went his rounds, and was saluted on all sides.
    At length one o'clock sounded. At five minutes past we saw the guard go down the gangway with fixed bayonets, followed by one of the principal warders.    
    "Now, then, turn the hands out, Mr. Webb, and man the gig!" was shouted.
    In a few minutes the convicts began to stream up the deck from the hatchways, and to move down the gangway in single file, to the cutters, as in the morning.
    "Oars up, here! Oars up!" shouts the guard in the cutter to the rowers, as the first prisoners reach the water's edge. The boat carrying the guards - their bayonets sparkling in the sun - and some officers too, is already off to receive the men on shore.

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    [-227-] In a few minutes the two hundred men are on their way to the parade-ground; while on board the officers arc occupied in mustering the "boarders" and schoolmen.
    Once more we push off in the governor's gig, as the sharp crack of the rifles in the marshes reminds us that the ordnance men are still practising at the butt.
    During the men's absence in the afternoon, the boarders carry the hammocks back from the houses ; and while we were watching this operation, our informant related to us the story of a convict who, being employed in the chaplain's room, managed to cut imp his black gown, and manufacture it into a pair of black trousers. With only this garment upon him, he contrived, one very dark and gusty night, to drop overboard. He swam clear off, and reached a swamp, where he got entangled in a bed of rushes. Here he got frightened, and cried for help. Some men in a barge, who were passing, picked him up, and suspecting that he was a convict, delivered him up to the prison officers.
    The convicts leave their afternoon's work at a quarter-past five, so as to be all collected by half-past, and before the free men leave. It was a pretty sight to see them re-embark for the night; for the slanting rays of the sun threw long shadows from the cutters over the water, and the evening light sparkled warmly upon the tide, and danced as it caught every polished point of the dense mass, while the boats advanced towards the hulk.
    As we watched the cutters approach, we inquired into the regulations concerning the receiving visits and letters from their friends by the convicts. In reply we were told that they see their relatives once in three months, and that they arc allowed to write every three months. These meetings of the prisoners with their friends arc held under the poop - three meetings taking place at a time. There are, however, no regular days for visits; if a friend calls while a man is away at labour, the authorities send for him. The regulations, we should add, appear to be carried out with great consideration.
    On the cutters reaching the hulk, the prisoners stream up the gangway in single file as before - then pour down the hatchways, into their respective wards, where gruel is at once served out to them, and they arc allowed to rest till chapel-time, at half-past six o'clock.
    After chapel, at eight o'clock, the men are mustered in their wards-and the gates of the wards locked for the night. When the officer cries, "The muster's over!" the men jump up, the tables disappear, the forms are ranged along the sides of the ward, and each man gets his hammock from the corner in which they were piled in the afternoon by the boarders. In a few minutes all the hammocks are slung, and the men talking together. "The44 division is for school to-morrow," cries an officer.
    Shortly after this each man is beside his hammock, preparing for bed, and then they are allowed to talk until nine o'clock; but directly the clock strikes, not another word is hoard. At nine o'clock the two officers to each deck are relieved by the night officer, and the men are in bed. There are also four guards who relieve one another through the night, at the gangway. 
    At nine o'clock the countersign is given out by the governor to the chief warder, the chief warder giving it to the officers on the watch, so that after this hour nobody can move about the ship without it.
    All is quiet. We hear once more the gurgling of the water about the hulk. Over towards the arsenal, the warm red lights of the little white pier stand out prettily against the dark shore, and there are bright lights shining over the crumpled water, in little golden paths. The shore, too, is studded with lights as with jewels.
    We are informed that the countersign for the night is "Smyrna." Then we hoar the loud metallic ring of two bells. "Nine o'clock!" cries the warder. Now there is not a sound heard below, but the occasional tramp of footsteps over-head. The men, as they lie in their hammocks, look like huge cocoons. The principal warder tries all the locks of the wards, and at ten o'clock the hatches are padlocked for the night, and the day's duties are ended.


¶ iii-d.

The "Unité" Hospital Ship.

     While the men were performing their afternoon labours in the arsenal, we found time to go, in the captain's gig, on board the convicts' hospital ship, the "UNITÉ"- or "Uneet," according to the local pronunciation.
    The "UNITÉ" hospital ship, moored to the "DEFENCE", is an old 36-gun frigate, taken from the French. The officer who steered us on. board bade us examine the beauty of her build.
    This ship is excellently arranged and has large airy decks, along which iron bedsteads are placed, at sufficient distances, for the reception of the sick men from the "DEFENCE" and "WARRIOR" labour hulks. The vessel is cleaned by a few healthy convicts; while some of the convalescents, in their blue-gray dresses and odd comical night-caps, are employed as nurses. The top deck is a fine spacious room, covered with matting, and lighted by wide, barred port-holes.
    The invalid bedsteads were ranged on either side of the deck from one end to the other, and at the head of them there were small places for books. "Here the temperature in the winter months," said the master, "is kept up to sixty."
    We passed one man in bed, who was coughing. It was a case of phthisis. He had chloride of lime hanging all round him, to destroy the odour of the expectoration. Then there was another poor fellow, with his head lying upon a pillow, placed upon a chair at the side of the bed, who had a disease of the heart, and had been spitting blood. The convalescents, in their queer, blue-gray gowns, draw up at the end of their beds as we move along, and salute us. Another man lies in bed, wearing a night-cap, marked "Hospital;" he has a broken leg.
    Another, of whom we asked the nature of his illness, replied, "Asthmatical, sir!"
    "Two healthy prisoners are employed on each deck," said the master, "to act as nurses. One of the convalescents acts as barber. That's he, with his belt round his waist filled with sheaths and razors."
    Then we visited the place where the convalescents assemble for prayers, morning and evening. "We have twenty-four in hospital to-day," the master added; "five were discharged this morning. There is plenty of ventilation, you perceive. A perfect draught is kept up, by means of tubes, right through the ship. We were told that a Bible and Testament were placed at the head of each bed; and we saw one convict reading "Recreations in Astronomy."
    We inquired about the scale of diet. In reply the master said, "The man so bad, up-stairs, has 2 eggs, 2 pints of arrowroot and milk, 12 ounces of bread, 1 ounce of butter, 6 ounces of wine, 1 ounce of brandy, 2 oranges, and a sago pudding daily. Another man here is on half a sheep's head, 1 pint of arrowroot and milk, 4 ounces of bread, 1 ounce of butter, 1 pint extra of tea, and 2 ounces of wine daily. Here is the scale of full diet for convalescents:-

4 ounces of bread
¼ pint of milk.
2 ounces of oatmeal gruel.

4 ounces of bread.
One-sixth of an ounce of tea.
½ ounce of sugar.
¼ pint of milk.


8 ounces of bread.
8 ounces of mutton (uncooked).
1 pound of potatoes.
½ ounce of salt.
½ pint of porter.
1 pint of soup."

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[-229-] The healthy men employed on board the "UNITÉ" muster twenty strong, including the boatmen, cooks, and washermen. There are nine warders, an infirmary warder, and principal. The night-watches begin at half-past five, at which hour half the officers leave the ship, and return at seven o'clock on the following morning. The principal, however, lives on board, and there is also a resident surgeon.
    From the directors' report in 1854, we learn that there were on board, on the 1st of January in that year, 58 patients; that in the course of that year 675 patients were admitted; that in the course of the same year 658 patients were discharged; that two patients were pardoned on medical grounds; that 25 died; that two patients were invalided to the " Stirling Castle;" and that on the 31st of December, 1854, there were 36 patients left in the hospital.

¶ iii-e.

The "Sulphur" Washing Hulk. 

From the "UNITE" we proceeded, in the gig of the governor of the "DEFENCE", past old steamers, low wharves, flaunting little river-side public-houses, towards the great bulging hulk of the "WARRIOR". But before being landed at the dockyard steps, to go on board the model hulk, we pulled aside to a little, low, dingy ship, which serves as a floating wash-tub to the Woolwich hulks.
    This old sloop of war, once carrying thirty guns, has now fifteen convicts on board, under the orders of a master, whose business it is to wash the clothes of the men in the "WARRIOR" and "DEFENCE" hulks. There are three washermen, one blacksmith, and two stocking-menders here employed. On deck there was a solitary soldier keeping guard. The maindeck was very wet. Forward there were large square black water-tanks, and beside these a corrugated iron blacksmith's shop, with an old convict filing away inside. Bundles of convicts' stockings lie waiting to be mended near the poop, while lines, ornamented with linen, dangle over-head. Below, between the low decks, we groped our way, in the deep gloom, amid damp clothes-past men mending stockings, others folding convict clothes, and tying them up into rolls ready to ho worn-in the steam and smell of clothes drying by heat, past capacious vats and boilers, all half-hidden, and looking terrible, because dark and spectral-like.
    The warder in charge of the old sloop showed us over his dingy kingdom with great courtesy, and answered our many questions with excellent good-humour. lie told us that all the convicts employed with him throughout the day slept on board the "WARRIOR" opposite. He alone remained on board all night.
    We pushed off from the "SULPHUR", thanking the warder for his courtesy, and pulled for the dockyard steps alongside the "WARRIOR."

¶ iii-z.

The "Warrior" Hulk.

     This great hulk - an old 74-gun ship, upwards of sixty years of age, which has been the subject of annual remonstrances from the prison directors to the government for some time past [-230-] and the ribs of which, it is said, hardly hold together - is moored alongside the dockyard, with her head towards London, and serves to house the convicts who work in the dockyard.
   We have so fully described the hulk system on board the "DEFENCE," which differs in no important particular from that pursued on board the "WARRIOR", that it will be unnecessary to do more than glance at the general arrangements of this ship. Even the employment of the prisoners in the dockyard differs little in character from that performed by the convicts who work in the arsenal.
    The distribution of the prisoners' time closely resembles that on board the "DEFENCE," there being 2 hours given to meals; 9 hours and 5 minutes to work; and 4 hours and 25 minutes to in-door occupation throughout the summer; while in the winter the meals occupy 2 hours and 5 minutes; work, 7 hours and 55 minutes; and the in-door occupation, 5 hours.
    The "WARRIOR" is reached, from the dockyard, by a gallery projecting from the quay to the gangway. At the end of the compartment under the forecastle is a large iron palisading, with two gates, which are securely padlocked at night.
    "The ship," our attendant-warder informs us, "is lighted by gas - the only one in the world, perhaps, that is so." This is owing to the close contiguity of the vessel to the shore.
    The top deck has a fine long wide passage. The wards are divided into two messes, and contain two tables each. The other arrangements are the same as in the "DEFENCE". Here, however, each ward has its little library; and every man has a Bible, a prayer-book, a hymnbook, and a library-book; the last he gets from the schoolmaster. Each ward, too, has a solid bulkhead, which prevent the authorities having too large a body of prisoners together. There is a gas-light at the bulkhead between each ward, so arranged as to light two wards at once, while the passage is darkened, so that the officer on duty can see the men, while they cannot see him.
    The middle deck is very fine and spacious, the passage being about five feet in width. There are eight wards on the top deck, ten in the middle deck, and fourteen on the lower deck.
    The ship can accommodate four hundred and fifty men. There are now four hundred and forty-nine men in her, and out of this number only ten in the hospital. At the head end of the middle deck is a shoemaker's shop, where we found the convicts mending prisoners' shoes; while opposite them is the tailor's shop, and here the workers were repairing shirts and flannels.
    The lower deck is also a fine long deck, reaching right from the head to the stern. There is a current of air right through it. It is, however, very low. At the fore-part of this deck, on one side, is the carpenter's shop; while the seven refractory cells occupy the opposite side.
    A black label hangs at each door of the dark cells, and upon this is chalked the name and punishment of the inmate. One runs thus:- "In for 4 days; B and W (bread and water); in 19th, out 23rd. The next man is in for seven days, with bread and water, for having attempted to escape; and a third prisoner is also in for seven days, for extreme insolence to the governor and warders. We now passed on to the chapel, the surgery, &c., and entered the schoolmaster's cabin, where we saw the same class of books as we noted down on board the "DEFENCE".
    The school classes are divided into eleven divisions, arranged according to the ability of the men. All the men have half a day's schooling each per week. All take three lessons, viz., one hour's reading, one hour's writing, and one hour's arithmetic. Here we found some trying in vain to write, while one was engaged upon a letter beginning, "Dear brother." [-231-] The copies the men were making were generally better than one could expect.*


Date of Reception Could not read when received Since learned to read imperfectly Could read only when received Since learned to read and write imperfectly Could read and write imperfectly when received Since learned to read and write well Have made progress in arithmetic Could read and write well when received Were well educated when received Total
January 4 1854 2 1 8 6 6 6 3 - - 16
February 24 1854 9 5 6 5 12 11 5 12 - 39
March 14 1854 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 - - 4
March 24 1854 - - 2 2 5 5 2 3 - 10
April 20 1854 3 1 5 5 5 5 3 2 - 15
April 27 1854 5 4 1 1 3 3 2 - 1 10
May 1 1854 2 2 1 1 2 2 1 - - 5
May 3 1854 3 2 3 3 1 1 2 3 - 10
June 7 1854 7 4 12 9 10 8 6 5 - 34
June 15 1854 3 3 2 2 - - 2 7 - 12
August 14 1854 6 6 5 5 7 7 4 2 - 20
August 28 1854 1 1 1 1 3 3 2 4 - 9
October 11 1854 1 1 2 2 10 9 3 7 1 21
October 20 1854 2 1 4 4 5 4 - 9 - 20
October 27 1854 1 - - - - - - - - 1
November 2 1854 4 1 3 3 3 3 - 8 - 18
November 3 1854 1 - - - - - - - - 1
December 19 1854 2 - 6 - 13 - - 7 - 28
Totals 53 33 63 50 86 68 36 69** 2** 273

** Those who could "read and write well" when received, or were "well educated" have since made considerable progress in arithmetic and other subjects

We noticed also the chapel clerks, who were convicts with silver-gray hair, and appeared to belong to a better class. They write letters or petitions, we were told, for the prisoners who are unable to do so themselves. One of these clerks had been a medical man, in practice for himself during twenty-five years, while the other had been a clerk in the Post-office. The clerk had been transported for fourteen years; and the medical man had been sentenced to four years' penal servitude.
   The working parties here are arranged as in the arsenal, only the strongest men are selected for the coal-gang, invalids being put to stone-breaking. In the dockyard there are still military sentries attached to each gang of prisoners. We glanced at the parties working, amid the confusion of the dockyard, carrying coals, near the gigantic ribs of a skeleton ship, stacking timber, or drawing carts, like beasts of burden. Now we came upon a labouring party, near a freshly pitched gun-boat, deserted by the free labourers, who had struck for wages, and saw the well-known prison brown of the men carrying timber from the saw-mills. Here the officer called - as at the arsenal - "All right, sir! 27-10." Then there were parties testing chain cables, amid the most deafening hammering. It is hard, very hard, labour the men are performing.