Leg irons, shoes and vegies at next Port Arthur Talk

April 23, 2008

Three speakers – Eleanor Cave, Chris Leppard and Claire Martin, each of whom has been working recently as a guide at the Port Arthur Historic Site – will present what promises to be a fascinating summary of their recent research projects.

Their talks are entitled, respectively, Pleasure or Punishment? The Importance of Food Gardens to Secondary Penal Settlements; Why leg-irons were not emancipated – A study of leg-irons in VDL and NSW; and Convict Shoemaking at Port Arthur.

As settlement spread across Australia, one of the common aspects of early colonisation was the establishment of a vegetable garden.

Secondary penal settlements had to create a particular species of punishment labour and promote horticultural labour. Basic food crops were required for subsistence and reducing costs by making the establishment self-sufficient, provided an exportable item; and horticultural production provided training in colonially useful skills.

Eleanor Cave will discuss how settlements like Port Arthur balanced the need for basic vegetables with the requirement to employ prisoners in repetitive, arduous work and the impact this had upon the success of the penal settlement.

Convict leg-irons are a pervasive symbol of the convict experience, but both the roles and purpose of leg-irons within colonial Van Diemen’s Land and N.S.W. have been distorted and mythologised. Using material culture, documentation and statistical analysis, Chris Leppard discusses how a revisionist view has emerged of these symbols.

Claire Martin will outline views on the purpose of penal stations in colonial society through tracing the history and development of shoemaking as a convict trade at Port Arthur.

Eleanor Cave is a botanist and a historian who has recently completed her Honours in history at UTAS and is now undertaking her PhD in history, focussing on the ecological imperialism and the exchange of plant material between Australia and the British Empire in the first half of the nineteenth century.

Chris Leppard was awarded a BA with First Class Honours at UTAS 2007. Recipient of numerous prizes she is beginning a PhD at UTAS on prostitution in early Victorian/Georgian London using records of female convicts to VDL.

Claire Martin completed a BA in 2005, and completed her Honours year at UTAS in 2006. All three speakers have recently worked as tour guides at Port Arthur.


Wednesday 30 April, 2008 at 5.30 p.m. sharp
Junior Medical Officer’s Conference Room,
Port Arthur Historic Site