Museum of Brisbane

Convict Brisbane | MoB Stories

Convict Brisbane | Day 1 | The Prisoners Barracks

Did you know that directly beneath your feet in Queen Street and William Street lies the brutal past of Brisbane’s convict settlement?

The prisoner barracks were both severe and imposing, built in the very centre of the Brisbane CBD. This image provided by Queensland State Archives shows the plan of the building which was constructed in the colonial Georgian style, with iron barred windows. The Moreton Bay Penal Colony had a formidable reputation. Located in Brisbane from 1825 – 1839, its purpose was to house convicts who had re-offended while already serving sentences in Sydney. At Moreton Bay the entire colony was a prison, unlike Sydney, and the remote location and harsh conditions were intended to instil fear into convicts.

Come and explore more at Life in Irons on exhibition at the Museum of Brisbane.



Convict Brisbane | Day 2 | Beneath Brisbane

It is estimated that at least 5,000 – 8,000 Aboriginal people lived across the region of the Moreton Bay Penal Colony. The land and waterways surrounding the Colony were a rich source of food and resources, having been carefully maintained by the Aboriginal people for thousands of years. The establishment of the penal colony irrevocably changed the life of the Aboriginal peoples on whose Country the colony was built. This map shows the established Aboriginal tribes that existed on the land that Brisbane now sits, and was developed by Dr Ray Kerkhove.



Convict Brisbane | Day 3 | Convict Dress

This image shows the detail of a Convict shirt, (currently on exhibition at the Museum), found at Hyde Park Barracks, Sydney. Although there is limited evidence to suggest what Brisbane convicts wore at the Moreton Bay Penal Colony, this shirt is a rare remnant of the government-produced convict clothing from Australia’s early colonial era. Convicts were issued with two shirts per year from the colonial government Board of Ordnance. Courtesy of Hyde Park Barracks Archaeology Collection, Sydney Living Museums.



Convict Brisbane | Day 4 | The Redcoats

The British ‘redcoat’ was a symbol of imperial presence in the Moreton Bay Penal Colony as well as across the British Empire. It was worn by many regiments from the mid-17th to 19th century. This woollen Royal Marine Coat (pictured here) dates from 1835 – 1850. It is currently on exhibition at MoB courtesy of Michael Murrie-Jones Collection.

Come and see this original garment in person, and explore more inside Life in Irons: Brisbane’s Convict Stories. Free entry.



Convict Brisbane | Day 5 | The Book of Trials

Governor Brisbane’s original instructions of 1824 required the Commandant to maintain a “Register of Offences”: a record of punishments and trials held at the Moreton Bay convict settlement. Offences mostly included absconding, disobedience, insolence, insubordination, neglect of work (sleeping on the job!), and stealing, for which the punishment was 25 lashes to 150 lashes. The lowest number recorded in the book is 12 lashes and the highest is 300 lashes! Courtesy of  Queensland State Archives.