Skip to Content

This website uses Cookies you can control them from this page: Cookies Page

Functionality Cookies Performance Cookies Targeting Cookies
22 October - 13 November
FoSS and ESRC logos

Processed in Plymouth: Convict Transportation from the West Country 1778-1868

My local area theme

What’s on offer?

A virtual exhibition focusing on the West Country's history of prison transportation to overseas colonies. 

What’s it about?

This exhibition introduces a local place-based West Country dimension to being transported overseas as a felon. Taking you from the County Courts to Plymouth, where a convicted felon would await being loaded onto one of the convict ships transporting them to a destination like Botany Bay or Tasmania. Much has been written about the convict voyage experience, and about what happened to convicts, notably in Australia. But, what was the journey from arrest to being shipped off really like?

This exhibition endeavours to unmask the cold truth with some thought-provoking questions:

  • How was it decided who should be transported, instead of being hanged, or pardoned?
  • What happened when you got to Plymouth - particularly as felons were held in rotting decommissioned Royal Navy wooden ships (hulks) no longer fit to sail, acting as temporary prisons off Hamoaze in Plymouth Sound
  • What was it like to actually spend weeks on these hulks waiting for that unknown destination beyond the seas?
  • Just how did Plymouth cope with a steady influx of felons awaiting transportation?
  • How were they fed, clothed, treated and how involved was the local community?

This on-line exhibition, taking the shape of an illustrated podcast answering these questions, explores the local dimensions to transportation overseas, including the case study of former Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's Cornish ancestor, exploring William Roberts' arrest, conviction at the Assizes in Bodmin, and then his conveyance to Plymouth, and place on ‘The First Fleet’. 

Who’s leading the event?

Dr Iain Channing, Lecturer in Criminology and lead for CHEx, University of Plymouth
Professor Judith Rowbotham, University of Plymouth
Christopher Wilkes (On Parole)

Open to

Anyone is welcome

Of particular interest to

It will be of particular interest to local schools and history groups, foregrounding the importance of using legal history to develop a better understanding of fair and proportionate justice delivery and its need for a local dimension.