Female convicts were punished in different ways in the convict institutions, but the most common punishments was solitary confinement on bread and water, or separate treatment. Many punishments were a combination of 2 or more.

Elizabeth Boucher (per Mary Anne, 1821) in 1822, for stealing a pocket handkerchief and absconding from her mistress's premises was to be fed on bread and water 14 days, to wear an Iron Collar 7 days and sit in the Stocks 3 days one hour each day.

(CON40/1/1)

Additionally, all Crime (or 3rd) Class prisoners were punished on admittance by having their hair cut short.

Hobart Town Gazette (Tas. : 1825 - 1827; 1830) Saturday 17 June 1826 p 2 Article

Last week, no less than 22 of the women confined in the Female Factory were sentenced to various punishments of solitary confinement, and being fed on bread and water, some of whom had been guilty of disorderly conduct, uttering insolent and abominable expressions, escaping from the cells, over and through the outer wall, and of other conduct highly unbecoming the female character. They were fortunately, prevented from escaping through a large. hole which they made in the wall, and some, of the punishments were inflicted for the ill-treatment the workmen received in mending it up.

Below is a list of punishments recorded for Colonial Offences by the magistrates.

  • Iron Collar Open or Close

     

    Iron Collar


    There were several versions of the iron collar used for the punishment of female convicts in Van Diemen’s Land used between 1815 and 1834. The iron collar was a cast iron neck collar possibly hinged at the sides and either locked into place or riveted into place by a blacksmith.[1] [*] James Boyce, in his book Van Diemen’s Land, described the iron collar as ‘a large band of iron placed around the neck’ which was ‘occasionally, if illegally, used’.  The collar weight varied depending on its design;  however, it was reported in the 1820 Magistrate's Inquiry into the punishment of Alice Robson (Blackstone), that the collar used in her punishment weighed six and a quarter pounds.[†]

     

    iron collar sketch

    Reproduction of an iron neck collar used on convicts in NSW[2]

    The punishment handed down by the Van Diemen's Land magistrates merely states that a female convict was to wear the iron collar for a period of 7 days, 14 days or 28 days, up to a maximum of one month. The iron collar was used mostly as a punishment for the crime of absconding but could also be used for other crimes, including stealing, intoxication, neglect of duty and disobedience. Lt. Col. G. Cimitiere, Commandant at George Town in 1820, described the iron collar as ‘a badge of infamy and disgrace, this Collar being the usual Instrument throughout the Colonies which is put round the neck of women of Infamous character’.[3]

     

    The use of the punishment peaked around 1827 and was not recorded on the conduct records as a punishment for colonial offences for female convicts after 1834. During this time, wearing an iron collar was used as a punishment on at least 91 occasions.

     

    The iron collar should not be confused with the spiked iron collar (see spiked iron collar). The spiked iron collar was not an authorised punishment handed down by magistrates. Anecdotal reports suggest it was used within the House of Correction or female factories as an unofficial ‘in-house’ punishment. The ‘iron collar’ and the ‘spiked iron collar’ are often confused in female convict history. They were distinct forms of punishment.

     

    One of the earliest mentions of being punished by wearing the iron collar in Van Diemen’s Land was the case of Ann Ward  Active in 1815. Ann stole goods which were the property of her master and, as punishment, was forced to wear an iron collar for a week as well as being kept to hard labour in the gaol. In the same year, she was again punished with the iron collar for stealing. In 1816, Mary Evers Kangaroo had to wear the iron collar for 28 days for disorderly conduct and grossly abusing the constables in the execution of their duty.

     

    The iron collar punishment was usually accompanied by one or more supporting punishments. Hannah Burton Mary, for example, who absconded in 1824, was sentenced to the Crime Class at the Cascades Factory for three months and had to wear the iron collar for one month. By 1829, when Mary Davis Harmony absconded from her place of service, she was sentenced to six months in the Crime Class at the Female Factory and had to wear the iron collar for one month, have her hair cut off and be placed in solitary confinement on bread and water for 14 days.

    BENCH OF MAGISTRATES.—On Wednesday Ann Bass, a crown servant, was brought before a Bench of Magistrates, charged with behaving in a riotous and disorderly manner to her mistress, and attempting to quit her place without leave, contrary to the Colonial Regulations. The charge being most clearly proved, she was sentenced to be put in the stocks 8 hours, at two different periods, with an iron collar placed upon her neck, and to be imprisoned in the county gaol for 3 months. The complaint was peculiar aggravating, this woman having only been released from prison a few days back on a similar case.[4]

     

    The iron collar was a controversial legacy of the slave trade, which used various versions, usually riveting the collar into place for permanency and connecting chains to rings on the collar, therefore creating both a means of restraint and a symbol of slavery.  The legality of using the iron collar as a punishment for slaves in the Caribbean was called into question in 1816, however the discussion did not include using iron collars on convicts in the colonies of Australia.

    Government-house, November 19, 1816.

    At a meeting of the Privy Council, present

    His Excellency Charles W. Maxwell, Governor,

    &c. &c. &c.

    His Excellency called the attention of the Board to the punishment inflicted on slaves by their owners, and other persons having authority over them, by placing iron collars, puddings, and chains with weights, ROUND THE NECK, LEGS, and other parts of their bodies, IN DIRECT VIOLATION OF HUMANITY AND THE LAW, and expressed his wish of having a stop put to such practices. It clearly appearing that punishments of this description were unauthorised by law, his Excellency suggested to the Board the propriety of sending a circular letter to the magistrates of the town of Roseau, and of the different parishes, requesting them to make inquiry in their different neighbourhoods for all instances of cruelty, and to notify to all persons who may be discovered to use such punishment in future, that the law will be enforced on any repetition of such offences.— The Board readily agreed with his Excellency in the propriety of this step, and the following circular, was sent to the magistrates in conformity:—[5]

     

    The controversy surrounding the use of the iron collar on female convicts did not have any effect in Van Diemen’s Land until 1834 when it was phased out as a punishment by the Magistrates.

     

    The Spiked Iron Collar

    The spiked iron collar was used in the slave trade, as described in the diary of John Nicol on his voyage to St. George’s, Grenada in 1784-85.[6]

    There were two or three slaves upon the estate who, having once run away, had iron collars round their necks with long hooks that projected from them to catch the bushes should they run away again. These they wore night and day.[7]

    Although the slave trade was outlawed in British dominions in 1807, it still continued illegally for many years.[8]  Outlawing the slave trade did not prevent the iron chains and collars being used on British convicts.

     

    In its application on convicts in Van Diemens Land, the spiked iron collar was not mentioned by the Magistrates as a form of punishment but anecdotal reports have it being used surreptitiously within the Cascades Female Factory.

     

    The spiked iron collar was described as an instrument of torture in an account by George Pullen, who in the late 1820s lived in the Hobart and Cascades Female Factories with his uncle, the assistant superintendent. In memories of George Pullen printed in The Launceston Examiner 1892, he describes the following:

    Another form of punishment that was only resorted to in cases of violent insubordination was the iron collar. This instrument of torture (I use the term advisedly) was formed of a band of iron of about an inch and a half in depths, opening by a hinge at the back and, being clasped round the neck, was fastened at the front by a padlock. From this collar band projected outwards four iron spikes of about a foot in length, tapering off and terminating in sharp points, the whole weight of iron resting on the tender collar-bones of the woman, as may be supposed, peculiarly painful and irritating. No alleviation of the terrible and dreadful torture was provided for the sentence recorded, but the humane feelings of one of the superintendents to whom the punishment was particularly distasteful and who- I may say in passing, was altogether too sensitive for his position-supplied relief, as far as it was possible, in the form of padding, to make the punishment easier to be borne.

     

     

    The term for wearing the collar was from 24 to 60 hours, and was intended to be continuous; but as it was impossible for the unhappy sufferer to take rest in sleep, this official chose to incur the risk of censure by having it removed at night and replaced in the morning. There was also another collar, lighter in weight, having longer spikes of [3/8] round iron, each spike terminating in a nob. This was for those of a pugilistic turn, the knobs answering the same purpose, I presume, as those placed on the horns of cattle to prevent them from goring their fellows. This punishment was very rarely inflicted.[9]

     

    It is highly questionable as to whether the Superintendents, under Rules and Regulations governing their punishment of female convicts, were permitted to carry out such a punishment:

    An Act has been promulgated in the Government gazette of last week, by His Excellency lieutenant Governor Arthur, for the summary punishment of disorderly conduct in female prisoners in this Colony. After reciting that in an Act of Sir Thomas Brisbane, passed in the sixth year of his present Majesty, provision was made for the summary punishment of male convicts, but that no provision was thereby made for punishing the misbehaviour of females. It enacts :-1st, That it shall be lawful for any Justice of the Peace within this Colony, to take cognizance in a summary way of any complaint made before him against any female prisoner, whether in the service of Government or of any Inhabitant of this Colony ; and upon conviction to punish such female offender, either by solitary confinement on bread and water, in any place appointed for safe custody, for a term not exceeding 14 days, or by confinement and hard labour in such place not exceeding three calendar months, according to the nature and degree of the misbehaviour or disorderly conduct.[10]

     

    Further anecdotal accounts of the spiked iron collar being used by the Female Factory to ensure discipline in church services are as follows:

    The men would play at cards in the gallery during the service; and the women wore iron collar; with sharp prongs or spikes to prevent them from reclining their heads for indulgence in sleep. Such treatment, as may be supposed, did not produce love or reverence for Sabbath worship; and in too many instances the clergyman officiating contented himself by formally doing duty.[11]

     

    Goodridge, the runaway sailor, in his amusing autobiography, has something to say on the women prisoners. “Previous to Governor Arthur's time,” says he, a frequent punishment inflicted on females was the placing of an iron collar round their neck, on each side of which was a long prong which gave them the appearance of horned cattle, and with this head-dress they were exposed in church during service. - Certainly this was one mode of gathering a congregation.[12]

     

    In February, 1812, Colonel Geils became acting Lieutenant-Governor, and remained until the arrival of Colonel Davey in 1813[13]  He was reported in the Launceston Examiner in 1858 as having used the iron spiked collar on the neck of a free woman.[14]  However, it was Governor Ralph Darling, appointed governor of New South Wales in 1824, who has been attributed with introducing the spiked iron collar to the colony, which was given the pejorative name of “Darling’s Necklace” or the Darling’ Collar”.[15] Darling had, in all likelihood, seen it used illegally in the slave trade in Mauritius, where he had been Acting Governor between 1819 and 1823.[16],[17],[‡] [§]

     

     

    [*] HRA III, Vol.3 p.868: Sarah Wilson, while in a state of pregnancy at George Town in 1820, was fitted with the iron collar which she wore for approximately 15 days. She was able to take it off for 4 or 5 nights.  ‘Mr. Boothman and Doctor McCabe came to me; the next night a Constable came, I was in bed with the Collar on, the rivet was loose; the next morning Mr. Leith sent the Constable to order me down to the Black-smith's Shop to have the Collar on again.

    [†] HRA III, Vol.3 pp.853-868:  In 1820, Alice Robson was the subject of a Magistrate's Inquiry. On orders of Lieutenant Colonel Cimitiere, Commandant of the Port Dalrymple settlement, around 8am on 19 September 1819 Alice set off to walk thirty-five miles from George Town to Launceston with an 'iron collar' (weighing six-and-a-quarter pounds) round her neck.

    [‡]  The True Colonist Van Diemen's Land Political Despatch, and Agricultural and Commercial... (Hobart Town, Tas. : 1834 - 1844) Friday 23 October 1835 p 3

    AFFIDAVIT OF S. BANNISTER, ESQ.,

    Late Attorney General of New South Wales.

    " The said Saxe Bannister by his affidavit sworn at Paris the 26th January, 1835.

    ‘And deponent believes that spiked iron collars were not the usual irons of the said Colony, and that they are unlawful : and deponent hath read in a recent Parliamentary document an account of such spiked iron collars being discovered by the Commissioners of Inquiry in use in the Colony of Mauritius, about the year 1827, and before that year. And deponent believes that said Governor Darling held some office in the said Colony of Mauritius before coming to New South Wales, and that the said collars were introduced into New South Wales by, or under the sanction of, the said Governor Darling.’

    [§] A version was made and used as  military discipline in a famous case in NSW in 1826, attributing the death of Joseph Sudds to Darling’s spiked iron collar. The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842) Thursday 4 July 1839 p 3. Also mentioned in Governor Ralph Darling’s Iron Collar  by Marcus Clark (http://www.telelib.com/authors/C/ClarkeMarcus/prose/OldTales/ironcollar.html accessed 29/02/2020):

    Mr. Mackaness, the sheriff, stated also that, calling at Government House with Colonel Mills a few days prior to the punishment of Sudds and Thompson, he saw on the right hand of the hall after entering the door “either one or two sets of irons, having collars and iron spikes projecting from them,” which now he has no doubt were the same he afterwards saw upon the men in gaol. Mackaness “took them to be newly-invented man-traps.” 

     

     

    [1] HRA III, Vol.3 p.868.

    [2] Carters, https://www.carters.com.au/index.cfm/item/115107-convict-cast-iron-neck-iron/

    [3]HRA III, Vol.3 pp.863.

    [4] Hobart Town Gazette and Southern Reporter 27 September 1817 p.2.

    [5] The Australian (Sydney, NSW : 1824 - 1848) Friday 13 July 1827 p 3

    [6] The Life and Adventures of John Nicol, Mariner, http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks16/1600031h.html Chapter 5, accessed 29/02/2020.

    [7]The Life and Adventures of John Nicol, Mariner, http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks16/1600031h.html accessed 29/02/2020.

    [8] The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842) Thursday 11 January 1827 p 3

    [9] BACKWARD GLANCES. No. 3. Launceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 - 1899) Saturday 19 November 1892 p 2

    [10]  Colonial Times and Tasmanian Advertiser (Hobart, Tas. : 1825 - 1827) Friday 11 August 1826 p 2

    [11] The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954) Wednesday 22 December 1869 p 3

    [12] Notes by the Way,  Critic (Hobart, Tas. : 1907 - 1924) Friday 28 September 1917 p 4

    [13] West, J. (1852) History of Tasmania- Volume 1 http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks/n00012.html

    [14] SELECTIONS FROM WEST'S "HISTORY OF TASMANIA." THE FIRST SETTLEMENT. Launceston Examiner (Tas. : 1842 - 1899) Thursday 8 July 1858 p 4

    [15] The Maitland Daily Mercury (NSW : 1894 - 1939) Saturday 20 February 1904 p 6

    [16] Darling, Sir Ralph (1772–1858), Australian Dictionary of Biography  http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/darling-sir-ralph-1956 accessed 29/04/2020

    [17] The True Colonist Van Diemen's Land Political Despatch, and Agricultural and Commercial... (Hobart Town, Tas. : 1834 - 1844) Friday 23 October 1835 p 3

Bread & Water
Head Shaved/Hair Cut
Hard Labour
Wash Tub/Laundry
Admonished/Reprimanded
Separate Treatment/Separate Apartments
Solitary Confinement/Confined Cells/Solitary Working Cells
Gaol/Imprisonment
Relocation:

Removed from the District/ Sent or hired, to the interior/assigned to country/not to be assigned to…

Transportation Sentence Extended
Tickets-of-Leave Revoked or Suspended
Stocks
Crime Class
Existing Sentence Extended
Probation/Probabation Extended
Returned to Government (sometimes this was for medical reasons)
Indulgence Revoked (eg The indulgence of being allowed to attend church to be withdrawn)
Fined
Transportation/Penal Servitude
Death/Execution/Hanging
Unusual Punishments:

Lashes (1); a night on Sarah Island; washing 40 men’s shirts a week; wages stopped;

 

Punishments used by the Female House of Correction:

  • Gagging Open or Close
     

    On 19 July 1843, Jane Eskett, who was transported on the Garland Grove, was charged at Cascades Female Factory on the complaint of the Superintendent John Hutchinson with insubordination in openly resisting his lawfully constituted authority on the night of Monday 17 July. Jane pleaded guilty. The case of insubordination was dismissed but she was found guilty of misconduct and received 14 days in solitary confinement. Jane's case is interesting in that John Hutchinson quelled her behaviour by using a gag. At her hearing, the Superintendent stated the following (TAHO, AC480/1/1).

    I am the Superintendent of the Female House of Correction, and on Monday last at 12 o'clock in the day there was a considerable noise and uproar proceeding from the cells. I first went Mrs Stewart to beg they would desist and to inform them if they did not I should come to them, Mrs Stewart is one of the Officers of the Establishment. I was obliged to go to them with cuffs & gags the noise proceeded from Eskith no one of the number she was in one of the cells confined under a special order of the Governor. I opened the cell door in which she was confined, her conduct was so riotous I was compelled to put the gag on. I repeatedly advised her to desist, and at last she did, her behaviour was such as to cause insubordination in the Building so I was compelled to remover her. After she confessed her fault I took off the gag and she then commenced most violent language in consequence of a noise in the adjoining cell. Her language was not bad but violent. I was compelled her to removed her to one of cells. Her language was not bad to me personally. She did not continue violent in the next cell. Eskitt's general conduct up to the time of this disturbance has been very good. There about thirty or thirty five women engaged in the disturbance it did not commence with this woman and she was not worse than the rest. She was using violent language at the time I gagged her she did not fight.

     

     

Solitary Confinement Box

 

 

COLONY OF VAN DIEMEN'S LAND: 1826--1830

________________________________________________________________

VAN DIEMEN'S LAND.

 

COPIES of the LAWS and ORDINANCES passed by the Governor and Council of the Colony of Van Diemen's Land: 1826-1830

__________________________________

Anno Septimo GEORGII IV. REGIS • No. 1.

 

By his Excellency Colonel George Arthur, Lieutenant Governor of the Island of Van Diemen's Land and its Dependencies, with the Advice of the Legislative Council.

 

AN ACT for the Summary Punishment of disorderly Conduct in Female Offenders in the Service of the Government, or of any Inhabitant of Van Diemen's Land; and for vesting in the Principal Superintendent of Convicts the like Powers and Authorities as are given to the several Justices of the Peace, by a Law or Ordinance made in the Sixth Year of His Majesty's Reign, by his Excellency Sir Thomas Brisbane, late Governor of New South. Wales, with the Advice of the Council of that Colony, intituled, "An Act for the Summary Punishment of disorderly Conduct in any Offender in the Service of Government, or of " any Inhabitant of New South Wales or Van Diemen's Land, " and by the present Act.

WHEREAS; under and by virtue of the said Law or Ordinance, the several Justices Of the Peace in this Colony are authorized to take cognizance, in a summary way, of every complaint made against any such male offender as is therein described, for misbehaviour or disorderly conduct during the term of his transportation or subsisting conviction; and upon conviction of any such offender, to inflict or cause to be inflicted such moderate punishment as in and by the said Law or Ordinance is mentioned and allowed, subject nevertheless to the proviso and restriction therein in that behalf contained; But no provision is thereby made for punishing the misbehaviour and disorderly conduct of female offenders of the like description; For·remedy whereof be it Enacted, by his Excellency the Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen's Land; with the advice of the Legislative Council, That it shall and may be lawful for any Justice assigned to. keep the peace within this Colony, to take cognizance, in a summary way, of any complaint made before him against any female offender convicted in Great Britain, or other parts of The King's dominions, and transported to this Colony, or convicted in this Colony and under sentence or order of transportation for misbehaviour or disorderly conduct during such her term of transportation, or during the time she shall be under such sentence or order of transportation, whether such female offender be in the service of the Government or of  any inhabitant of this Colony or its dependencies, and upon conviction to punish such female offender, either by solitary confinement on bread and water, in any place appointed for safe custody, for any term not exceeding Fourteen days, or by confinement and hard labour in such place for any term not exceeding Three calendar months, according to the nature and degree of the misbehaviour or disorderly conduct.

Provided alway, That a quarterly return of all sentences imposed by every such Justice, under the authority of this Act, shall be made to the Governor or Acting Governor for the time being of this Colony.

And whereas, under and by virtue of an Act of Parliament made and passed in the Fifth year of His Majesty's reign, intituled, " An Act for the Transportation of " Offenders from Great Britain," His Majesty is authorized to direct that male offenders convicted in Great Britain, and being under sentence or order of transportation, shall be removed to any part of His Majesty's dominions out of England, and there confined and kept to hard labour, under the custody and management of a Superintendent and an Overseer, to be respectively appointed as therein mentioned; and such Superintendent and Overseer are thereby respectively authorized to inflict upon any such offender who shall be guilty of any misbehaviour or disorderly conduct, during such custody, such moderate punishment as shall be allowed by one of His Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State; and such Superintendent is thereby authorized, in every such place of confinement, to act in every respect as a Justice of the Peace:

And whereas the duties of the Principal Superintendent of Convicts in this Colony are similar to those of the said Superintendent mentioned in the said Act of Parliament:

And whereas the necessity of resorting to the police and other magistrates for the punishment of such male offenders as aforesaid, in the service of the Government, as have been guilty of misbehaviour and disorderly conduct, hath frequently occasioned great hindrance both to the magistrates in the execution of their offices, and to the carrying on of the public works and the maintenance of good order amongst such male and female offenders as aforesaid would be greatly facilitated by giving and conveying to the said Principal Superintendent of Convicts the powers, and authorities hereinafter contained in that behalf:

Be it therefore further Enacted, by the authority and with the advice aforesaid, That it shall be lawful for the Principal Superintendent of Convicts for the time being to take cognizance, in a summary way, of every complaint made before him against any male or female offender convicted in Great Britain, or any other part of the King's dominions, and transported to this Colony, or convicted in this Colony, and being under sentence or order of transportation for any misbehaviour or disorderly conduct during his or her term of transportation, or during such time as he or she shall be under sentence or order of transportation whether such offender be in the service of the Government, or of any inhabitant of the said Colony or its dependencies; and to examine into, hear, and determine the matter of every such complaint; and upon proof by one or more credible witnesses upon oath, (which oath such Principal Superintendent of Convicts is hereby authorised to administer,) to convict or acquit the offender against whom such complaint shall be made; and also, without the complaint of any other person, and without examination of any witness or witnesses, to convict any such male or female offender, being in the service of the Government, of any misbehaviour or disorderly conduct committed by him or her within the view of the said Principal Superintendent of Convicts; and upon every such conviction as aforesaid, to order and cause such moderate punishment to be inflicted upon the offender convicted, as under and by virtue of the said recited Law or Ordinance, and of the present Act, or either of them, any Justice of the Peace is authorized to inflict or cause to be inflicted in a like case.

Provided alway, That nothing herein contained shall be deemed to authorize any Justice of the Peace, or the said Superintendent of Convicts, to take cognizance of any misbehaviour or disorderly conduct of any such offender as aforesaid, who, at the time of such misbehaviour or disorderly conduct, shall be in the-private service of such Justice, or the said Principal Superintendent of Convicts respectively.

Provided also, That the said Principal Superintendent of Convicts shall make a weekly Return, on Monday in every week, to the Governor or Acting Governor for the time being of this Colony, of all. convictions made and all punishments ordered by him, under the authority of this Act, during the week preceding every such Report.

Provided also, That this Act shall continue and: be in force for the term of Two-years from and after the making hereof, and no longer.

GEORGE ARTHUR.

Passed the Council this 1st day of August 1826.

John Montagu, Clerk of the Council.

 

 

Further Resources:

Inquiry into Female Convict Prison Discipling 1841-1843

The Prosecution Project:  Tasmanian Courts, Early Justice

 

 

 

 

 

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For academic referencing (suggestion only) Database: [http address], FCRC Female Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land database, entry for xxxx ID no xxx, accessed [date].

For academic referencing (suggestion only) Website:  Female Convicts Research Centre Inc., accessed [date] from [http address].