Artefacts recovered from recent archaeological excavations at the Barracks

Item Description
lump of cement with newsprint
UG6190 is an unremarkable lump of cement becomes a lot more interesting when we study the fragment of yellowing newsprint stuck to one side. The item was recovered during archaeological excavations at the Barracks in the early 1980s, from a location (Trench 7) originally part of the Convict Superintendent's quarters. There is no date on the paper, but it includes parts of three columns of lost and found notices from an unidentified Sydney newspaper. The central column includes a passing reference to 'blue perspex', which means the paper, and probably the cement to which it adheres, apparently date from some time after 1936. Perspex (or plexiglass) was patented by ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries) in England on 16 November 1934, and was sold commercially by 1936. The lump of cement derives from the District Court Buildings along the north wall of the HPB complex.
Irish-themed smoking pipe UF3150 is a rare example of an Irish-themed pipe from the Hyde Park Barracks, found under the floor of Level 3. It is marked 'CORK' on both sides of the stem, while the brown staining and blackening at the rim indicate frequent and heavy use.
These 'dudheen' Irish pipes were characterised by thick bowl walls, a short stem, and rouletting at the rim. They were common at Cadman's Cottage (Sydney Sailors' Home), and often marked with slogans such as Erin Go Bragh (Ireland Forever).
Such pipes, however, were rare at the HPB, in spite of the number of Irish convicts, orphans, migrants and destitute women passing through its doors over the 19th century. The heavy staining and discoloration indicate that this pipe was probably a cherished possession of an elderly, asylum woman.
Clay smoking pipe with wad of tobacco UF3269 is a fragile but well preserved clay pipe, with a wad of tobacco still inside the bowl. Found under the floor of the women's asylum, it is another example of a darkly stained, heavily used clay pipe. The source of the tobacco is unknown. Tobacco was first grown in Sydney around 1818, but much of it was used as sheep dip. Large quantities of tobacco were also imported from Brazil. Convict ships stopped at Rio de Janeiro on the way out to Australia, and picked up a load of canasta tobacco, which was sweetened with molasses. This trade faded away in the 1840s, however, with the end of convict transportation. Tobacco also came from Virginia, but the American Civil War disrupted supplies in the 1860s, leading to a boom in Australian production.
broken pipe
UF14388 is a clay pipe whose stem has been broken and the end ground smooth to form a new, short mouthpiece. Heavy tooth wear indicates the pipe was used frequently after it was modified, and that it would have been held and smoked very close to the face. There were at least 20 similar examples recovered from under the floor on Level 3. The reuse of short-stemmed pipes indicates that the asylum women placed a high value on these objects, perhaps because replacement pipes were hard to come by. Alternatively, some women may simply have preferred to smoke pipes shortened in this way.
clay pipe stem fragment UF3631 is a clay pipe stem fragment that has been reground, leaving facets around one end. Similar examples were found at the Cumberland/Gloucester Streets Site in the Rocks. It may have been used as a durable kind of writing chalk, used for marking rough timber, brick or masonry surfaces.
scrap of paper with creases A scrap of paper UF4398 with creases, pin pricks and rust stains was used in the Destitute Asylum as a makeshift wrapper for sewing pins. Measuring about 136 mm by 67 mm, the paper has been carefully torn and scissored into a rectangle. Pins up to 30 mm or so in length were then folded into a neat little packet, perhaps to be tucked into an apron pocket for safe-keeping. Pins were tiny and easy to drop and lose, especially for elderly women with failing eyesight. More than 2700 pins were lost under the floorboards of Level 3. This small piece of paper was one woman's response to keeping her sewing tools safely to hand.
lid from an ivory cotton barrel Artefact UF8842 is the lid from an ivory cotton barrel. Prior to the mass-production of wooden cotton reels from the 1840s, cotton thread was wound on a reel attached to a spindle, and placed in a hollow container. A flat screw-on lid had a central hole through which the top of the spindle protruded. The cotton thread was drawn out through a small hole in the side of the barrel, and was wound back by turning the spindle. When the barrel was empty the lid was unscrewed and the spindle was sent back to the makers for refilling. Cotton barrels were extremely practical devices, as the enclosed thread was kept clear and did not get tangled up with other objects in the sewing box. The presence of such an item in the barracks material, among more than 80 conventional wooden cotton reels, suggests that this object was a special keepsake, and the lid may have been lost when it fell between the floorboards
Woman's boot UF7568 - Woman's boot. This is an extremely well preserved example of women's institutional footwear, found beneath the floor of the north-east dormitory in the Destitute Asylum. It shows evidence of skilful repair, using fabrics to provide structure, strength and flexibility. The boot appears to have been rebuilt using a cotton canvas lining to re-attach the leather toe, the suede vamp (upper) and the leather back stay. The upper has been repaired using a soft black suede material, attached to the canvas liner and sewn over the leather backstay. The sole has been machine-stitched to the upper using the 'stitchdown' process. This is one of the oldest and simplest methods of shoemaking, and involved stitching the sole to the underflaps of the upper. It was common for such shoes, including UF7568, to have a middle sole as well. Wear patterns at the toe indicate that the shoe was worn on the right foot. A hole has also been worn in the canvas lining at the toe, and part of the back stay has broken off. The shoe was fastened with ten pairs of lace holes extending from the inside ankle to just above the sole. Each lace hole was reinforced with hand stitching, rather than with metal eyes. The underfloor deposits also yielded hundreds of leather offcuts which suggest that, contrary to conventional historical understanding, there was at least some leather working and/or shoe repair being undertaken within the Destitute Asylum.
bundle of leather tied with thong
UF7559 is a bundle of leather neatly bound with a leather thong. It was found in the north-eastern dormitory on Level 3 of the Destitute Asylum. The leather is 1.5 mm thick and 139 mm (exactly 5½ inches) in width. The leather has been cut carefully to size and tied to keep it secure. It is clearly related to leather working, possibly to the manufacture or repair of shoes. The artefact suggests that although the women's footwear was brought in from outside the institution, some alterations and/or repair was being carried out within the asylum. This is supported by around 400 leather offcuts also found beneath the floorboards on Level 3.
Book 'The Economy of Human Life'
UF2109 is a book, The Economy of Human Life, purporting to be 'translated from an Indian Manuscript, written by an Indian Brahmin'. The book, in fact, was written by Philip Dormer Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield (1694-1773). Chesterfield is best remembered for his witty and shrewd letters to his illegitimate son Phillip Stanhope. The 'Oeconomy' was originally published in 1751, and went through dozens of editions. It was translated into Hebrew (1778) and German (1814), and this Cooke's Edition appears to date from the mid-nineteenth century. It is a book of moral instruction, advising the reader on such topics as Modesty, Prudence, Temperance and Chastity. It describes the moral duties of men and women, of masters and servants, and prescribes proper conduct with reference to a range of human conditions. As such, it is an example of the kind of Improving Literature given to the Asylum women over the years for their moral improvement, and functioned alongside Bibles and religious tracts as a guide to appropriate behaviour.
wooden medicine label
is a circular wooden disc which served as some kind of medicine label. It was found beneath the staircase landing on Level 3, and the handwriting indicates it was 'Ointment' for Mrs Harris. The disc is an example of 'making-do' in the medical treatment of the Asylum women. It may originally have been from a circular match box or other disposable wooden container, and re-used as a label in the absence of a paper one, possibly tied or glued to the bottle.
Page torn from book
UF17368 is a piece of paper carefully torn from a book to highlight the question 'Are You Afraid to Die'? The pamphlet or religious tract of the same name was typical of much of the moral, improving and religious literature brought into the Asylum by church and mission representatives. In a context of institutional illness and, for some, terminal decline, the forthright nature of the question appears today insensitive, but it was clearly important to one of the inmates, who may have kept the neat fragment about her person. This tract was originally published as 'Are you not afraid to die', written by Charles William Twort around 1855. An updated version was published as a 12 page pamphlet by 'J. C. T.', possibly a son or relation of Twort.
two marbles
features two marbles found in the corridor on Level 2, adjacent to the rooms thought to have been used by Matron Hicks as her family's apartments. One of the marbles is made from pale grey limestone, possibly in Germany, where such marbles were produced in grinding mills. The other marble is a stoneware 'bennington', with a mottled brown manganese glaze. It has the typical spots where it rested against other marbles during the firing process, and was also probably made in Germany. The marbles probably belonged to the children of Lucy Applethwaite-Hicks. She gave birth to seven children while the family lived in the Barracks, including John (b. 1862, d.1863), William (b. 1868), Lucy (b. 1871), John Raby (b.1874), Claud (b. 1876, d. 1876), Kate (b. 1878, d. 1878) and Francis (b.1879, d. 1896). The marbles provide a tangible link with the children and the unusual play space they occupied in the halls of the Immigration Depot and the Destitute Asylum.
lead bottle seal
is a lead bottle seal from the landing on Level 2 of the Barracks. It is embossed with the name of George Whybrow, a pickle manufacturer and oil importer who started a business in London around 1825. The company made various kinds of pickles, relishes, vinegars and salad oils. Bottles embossed with the Whybrow name have been found at a number of archaeological sites in Australia, including the Conservatorium in Sydney, the Parramatta Children's Court site, and at Casselden Place in Melbourne. The seal is 51 mm in diameter, and originally came from a wide mouthed bottle, which probably held pickles or some other table condiments. The 'Trade Mark' indicates the bottle post-dates 1876, and pre-dates 1899, when the company was wound up.
wooden matchbox UF17966 is a wooden matchbox containing the skeletons of several mice (Mus musculus), including two skulls and five vertebral columns. It was recovered from below the threshold just inside the door at the end of the corridor on Level 3, on the way to the eastern balcony. The tight fit of the bones in the matchbox suggests that they were placed inside when dead and possibly already desiccated. Were they a woman's dead pets, kept as a souvenir or 'buried' beneath the floor? Were they an example of superstition, placed as a ritual protection of the building?
This practice was widespread in Europe, England and Sweden from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century, and most commonly involved placing an old boot or a dead cat in an inaccessible part of a building during construction, such as a roof cavity, in a hearth wall or under the floor. The superstition was believed to protect the building from evil influence.
shard from a green gin bottle

UF6624 is shard from a green case gin bottle that has been reused as a medicinal bottle. It was found beneath the floor of the sick ward on Level 3. The bottle is labelled 'The Lotion' for an inmate, Francis Cunningham, who was transferred from the Benevolent Asylum in 1862. The bottle has been used at least twice for 'lotion', with an earlier label beneath the top one.

bottle UF6626 is a complete bottle found beneath the floor of the southern dormitory on Level 3. The ribbon seal is embossed with the name P F Heering, and the bottle probably once contained cherry liqueur. Peter Frederick Heering started his company in Copenhagen around 1818, and examples of these bottles are commonly found on the Virgin Islands, the former Dansk-Vestindiske Oer (Danish West Indian Islands).
The company was registered in England in 1877, but the dip mould construction of this bottle suggests an earlier manufacturing date. The neck of the bottle has been roughly sealed with a roll of scrap leather.
Scrap of velvet UF978 is a scrap of brown velvet from the Immigration Depot, embroidered with a leaf and floral motif. Two edges have been cut with pinking shears to give a scalloped effect. A young migrant woman probably began work on this item on the ship out to Australia and lost this scrap in the flurry of activity during her brief stay in the Immigration Depot.
short-sleeved undershirt UF930 is a short-sleeved undershirt in white cotton with drawstrings at the waist and neck. The garment has been sewn together by hand, and features applied decoration at the neck, sleeves and waist. The neck is 105 mm wide and the garment is 122 mm long. It was probably worn by several of the Hicks children, although the item is also the right size for a large doll.
Whtie cotton decorated in broderie anglaise UF18059 is a small fragment of white cotton decorated with a daisy wheel pattern in broderie anglaise. This technique was popular for baby clothes, dolls' clothes and underwear in the nineteenth century. It consisted of a series of cut holes worked in a buttonhole stitch, and was mechanised from the 1860s. This item was found beneath the corridor between the Hicks' family rooms, and probably belonged to one of the children.
scrap of knitting

UF18141 is a rare example of knitting, from below the landing on Level 3. Knitting is an ancient craft, and spread through Europe in the fifteenth and sixteenth century. Nevertheless, hand knitting was uncommon among the Asylum inmates, although sewing with needle and thread was a daily activity. The uneven quality of this example suggests that it may have been knitted by a woman with limited eyesight, a pattern also noted at the Port Macquarie Destitute Asylum in the 1860s.

remains of a Catholic scapular

UF18143 represents the remains of a Catholic scapular, with a leather patch machine-sewed onto a heavy cotton foundation and a remnant piece of tape. Scapulars are an example of Catholic devotionals (the best known is the rosary), worn as a private pledge and reminder of faith. The scapular first emerged as early as the 7th century as part of the monastic habit, with a large length of cloth suspended front and back from the shoulders. The devotional scapular emerged from this tradition in the 17th and 18th century. It generally consists of two small rectangular pieces of cloth connected by bands, each bearing images or verses from scripture. One rectangle hangs over the chest while the other rests on the back, with the bands running over the shoulders. They are commonly associated with devotion to the Virgin Mary. The Asylum scapular, however, is too worn and damaged for any image to remain.

remains of blue shawl

UF18241 appears to be the remains of a blue muslin shawl, lined at the top and sides with a hem of mauve check fabric, hand-sewn with a running stitch. A copper hook and remnant tape at the top corners were used to fasten the garment around the neck and over the shoulders. The light weight of the fabric suggests it was used more as a clothing accessory than worn for warmth.

calico sock

Most of the socks and stocking fragments in the underfloor collection are made from heavy, machine-knitted cotton. UF9288, however, is a hand-stitched sock made from plain calico, with most of the foot end eaten away. This item is an example of the makeshift response of Asylum inmates, creating extra pieces of clothing from off cuts of fabric at hand.

remnant of barrister's wig UF5478 is the tail (or 'queue') of a barrister's wig, found beneath the hallway on Level 2.
Wigs were first adopted by the legal profession in England in the seventeenth century, worn by judges and barristers to project the dignity of the court. Legal attire in early colonial Australia lacked the formality of the English courts, largely to avoid claims of false status by those with little legal training. By the 1850s, however, full English judicial regalia was increasingly worn in Australian colonial courts, to confer a degree of formality and anonymity on members of the judiciary. This example from the Barracks appears to be made from the traditional horse hair, and dates from the later nineteenth century onward when the complex served as a centre for the NSW Justice Department.
Gilt-brass brooch UF64 is a small gilt-brass brooch with intact pin and hasp, found beneath the southern dormitory on Level 3. The brooch includes three unevenly moulded pink glass gems within a delicate leaf setting. Naturalist designs such as this were popular in the nineteenth century. This item clearly represents a personal item lost beneath the floor by one of the Asylum women.
remains of prayer book

UF17905 represents the remains of a Prayer Book, probably Catholic, which includes chapters on Indulgences, Devotions for the Sick, Litany of the Sacred Heart, and Litany for a Happy Death. The book lacks covers and is poorly preserved, obviously having been heavily gnawed by rats. It was found beneath the floor of the southern dormitory on Level 3, a room occupied by Catholic inmates who could look out on St Mary's Cathedral nearby.

Cotton bodice

UF52 is a remarkably well preserved cotton bodice from the southern dormitory on Level 3.
The item was made from purple-printed cotton with short calico sleeves and metal hooks and eyes. It features a short V-neck and pleats to gather the garment at the waist, and it has a HPB laundry stamp on the rear. The mix of fabrics used indicates a very individual manufacture, perhaps made by one of the Asylum women for herself or a friend.

cotton glove

UF10793 is a machine-knit cotton glove from the southern dormitory on Level 3 of the Barracks. Leather gloves were an important part of women's fashionable dress in the nineteenth century, marking the divide between those who worked and those who did not. Cotton gloves were cheaper than those made from fine kid leather, easier to clean, and formed a staple of the English hosiery trade in the nineteenth century. This example features elastic at the wrist, a feature made possible by advances in textile technology in the 1830s and 1840s, when rubber thread was woven into fabrics. Four other complete cotton gloves have also been identified in the Asylum material, suggesting that a few of the women kept gloves as a sign of personal respectability.

cotton bag

Personal space and private possessions were limited in the Asylum, but this cotton bag (UF8105) suggests that some inmates kept some small items to themselves. The bag has been sewn by machine and features a simple cord drawstring. It measures 235 mm long and 146 mm wide, and was recovered from below the floor of the 'idiot's' ward on Level 3.

pin cushion

UF10763 is a beautifully preserved, hand-sewn pin cushion from the Asylum. The fabric on each side has faint traces of illegible writing, which may have been cut from a larger piece of textile. The item is a fine example of the makeshift nature of the Asylum women's sewing tools.

Women's stocking in silk and cotton

UF948 is a well preserved woman's stocking in silk and cotton, found in the northern dormitory of the Destitute Asylum. It features an embroidered floral motif above the ankle on both sides, and numerous repairs at the heel and toe. The care with which it has been repeatedly darned before its loss or discard hints at the value one of the inmates placed on such a fine personal item.

Scrap of cotton

This scrap of cotton (UF4713), printed with the mark of Thomas Hoyle & Sons of Manchester, reveals one source of textiles brought into the Hyde Park Barracks. Cambric was originally a fine white linen, but during the nineteenth century it also came to refer to a hard-spun cotton cloth a little heavier than muslin. Thomas Hoyle was a wealthy Manchester calico printer who founded a large dye and print works at Mayfield in Lancashire in the 1790s. The firm flourished in the nineteenth century, and made efforts to improve the facilities available to its factory workers. In 1849, for example, Thomas Hoyle & Sons provided a spacious reading room and smoking room for workers, with drinks and tobacco available at cost price (reference: The Builder 27 Oct 1849: 506).