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Students study the image of convict workers from a hulk in England to learn about convict work whilst imprisoned. 

Student activities

Task no. 1


By the mid the 1700s, British prisons like London’s Newgate Prison were so overcrowded that there was not enough room for all of the prisoners. Large, worn-out old ships called ‘hulks’ were used to house the rest. Hulks were stationed in rivers and ports around England at Woolwich in London, Portsmouth and Plymouth. Male convicts only were imprisoned on the hulks. The convicts would usually stay on the hulks overnight and were then sent out to work during the day. 

Look at the image, below, showing the convict hulks. 

An extract of a larger image, showing convict hulks on the River Thames


Now further examine the details of the larger image (from which the above extract has been taken), below, which shows the convicts from the hulks working during the day.  

View near Woolwich in Kent shewing [sic] the employment of the convicts from the hulks, c. 1800 / printed for Bowles & Carver, c. 1800
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Answer these questions:  

  • How many convicts can you see?  
  • What kind of jobs are the convicts doing?  
  • Do you think these conditions would be much better than being in Newgate Prison?  
  • What kind of criminals were sent to the hulks? 

Explore the data displays showing information about 65 convicts on the Warrior hulk in 1841 as you complete the convict quiz: Who’s in the hulk?