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Convict love token from Samual Phillips, May 2nd, 1820

2008.0039.0044

Convict love token from Samual Phillips, May 2nd, 1820

Object information

Description

Samuel Phillips, 21, labourer, was tried and convicted at the Bristol Quarter Sessions on 2 May 1820 for stealing a watch. He was sentenced to 14 years' transportation. Phillips's record states that his conduct on board the hulk was 'orderly'. His physical description notes a tattoo of a mermaid on his left arm. Phillips sailed for Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) on the Juliana on 3 September 1820, arriving on 28 December 1820. He had received his ticket of leave by 1830 and was granted a free certificate on 24 September 1835.

Physical description

A convict love token, made up of a coin, engraved on one side. The engraved side features the text 'Dear Sister / from your un / fortunate brother / Saml. Phillips* / Transported / May 2nd* 1820*'. The other side is the obverse of an Anglesea penny token, worn down so the profile of a head with a wreath is only vaguely visible. Also on the outer edge of the coin there is very faint engraved text.

Statement of significance

The Timothy Millett collection comprises 307 convict love tokens dating from 1762 to 1856, and seven contemporary documents relating to the criminal justice system including: recommendations to commute the death sentences of Hester Sampson and Thomas Hayes to life transportation; a calendar of prisoners awaiting trial in the goals of Durham, Newcastle and Northumberland; a request to the Middlesex assizes for rewards to be paid; a printed copy of George Skene's last speech prior to execution; a printed broadside listing prisoners in Dorchester jail awaiting transportation; and a 60 page handwritten account of the life of Thomas Jones, who was transported twice and finally hanged at Winchester Prison in 1856.

Convict love tokens, typically made from smoothed-down coins and engraved or stippled with a message, derive from traditional sailors' farewells. The production of these 'leaden hearts' rose as criminal indictments increased in Britain, with the majority produced during the 1820s and 1830s. As mementos made by or for convicts facing transportation (or death) to leave behind for their loved ones, the tokens provide a poignant, personal insight into the transportation system.

Object information

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