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Riveted Leg irons by Laycock

May 7 2017 at 11:48 PM
Paul Davies  (no login)

I can add another manufacturer of English Riveted Leg Irons to the list.
From the images below, by combining what is legible on the 2 different stamps, one on each basil, Laycock made these as part of an English Government contract (M&C 1865) for Military and Civilian use in 1865. My best guess is that Laycock were J. Laycock and Co, of Winlaton, England.

As the last Australian convicts were transported here from England in 1868 to Western Australia, these fall just inside the convict era. At 7 pounds in weight, these are the standard light leg irons, as opposed to heavier punishment irons, or double irons.

A convict sentenced to say 3 years on a road gang in irons would have worn these non stop for his entire sentence unless a doctor recommended otherwise. The last image is from an index to letters from the Convict Prison Hulk (Ship)"Success" to the Inspector General of Penal Establishments in Melbourne, John Price, recommending a downgrade from punishment irons to the 7lb irons. Among these letters are orders for new irons and rivets, and repairs being sent to Pentridge Prison where there must have been a workshop. John Price was later murdered by a prison gang who worked at a quarry on shore during the day.
Paul
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Paul Davies
(no login)

Re: Riveted Leg irons by Laycock

May 8 2017, 12:28 AM 

PS
the heavy irons were 28 lbs (pounds for our Euro friends).
The tackling described below refers to the leather straps attaching the irons to the waist, known to the convicts as "up and downers". The rollers referred to here is, I believe, the leather gaiters used to protect the ankles.
[linked image]

 
 
Mark (RMP)
(Login cuffman69)

Re: Riveted Leg irons by Laycock

May 8 2017, 2:29 AM 

Hi Paul,

Well done again. A lovely find and a very interesting post. Thanks for sharing this with us.

Mark (RMP)

 
 
Nils
(no login)

Re: Riveted Leg irons by Laycock

May 8 2017, 10:54 AM 


Thanks Paul! Great job!

Nils

 
 

Joseph Lauher
(Premier Login lauher)
Owner

Re: Riveted Leg irons by Laycock

May 8 2017, 3:35 PM 

Paul
Nice find. You are our always best source of English history.
You say this is "another manufacturer of English Riveted Leg Iron". What other companies are already on your list for riveted irons?
Joe

 
 
Paul Davies
(no login)

Re: Riveted Leg irons by Laycock

May 8 2017, 7:59 PM 

The only other manufacturer names I've seen on these are Hiatt, Moreton & Foster, and now Laycock. 99 times out of 100 there are no manufacturers names on them. The most common marks are a Board of Ordnance stamp with a Broad Arrow.

It is interesting that the Convict Ship Success (one of 5 prison ships moored in the bay) had its own blacksmith and forge on board which could have made and repaired such irons, but every little thing had to be requisitioned via the Inspector Generals office who chooses to get them from the Prison at Pentridge in Melbourne.

Pentridge Prison was in its infancy at the time of the above letters, 1855, being developed using Bluestone to replace the Hulks off Williamstown and wooden Stockades dotted around Melbourne, and also to support the Melbourne Gaol/Jail. There would have been many blacksmiths building Pentridge at the time, and if they were civilian they could be trusted to make the irons properly.

Portland prison in England is well known for its extensive blacksmith operations. I'm sure every big prison had its own workshop, so why would any of these simple irons have been made by private contractors unless it is the result of Government Bureaucracy and distrust of convict labour. The distance between Australia and England would likely necessitate local manufacture for small quantities.

Paul

 
 
ex convict
(no login)

Re: Riveted Leg irons by Laycock

May 8 2017, 8:22 PM 

Paul, Is the leg iron pictured on timber floor the actual leg iron from which the images of the stamping was taken? or just there as a generic riveted leg iron image?

 
 
Paul Davies
(no login)

Re: Riveted Leg irons by Laycock

May 8 2017, 8:52 PM 

That is the actual leg iron on the timber floor. Usually these have 4 large chain links either side of the central ring. But these differ. I have another pair of unknown maker with a longer but smaller link chain weighing 5 pounds 5 ounces. Now that I am thinking about weight, the Moreton & Foster irons (x2) are only 3 pounds 10 ounces whereas the Laycock are 7 pounds 6 ounces in weight. Maybe private contractors were better at making them to specific weights.
Paul

 
 
ex convict
(no login)

Re: Riveted Leg irons by Laycock

May 8 2017, 9:27 PM 

thanks Paul, interesting. These appeared to have drilled holes not punched for the rivets.

 
 
 
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