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Convict love token from M. Flinn, 1825

2008.0039.0054

Convict love token from M. Flinn, 1825

Object information

Description

Michael Williams (alias Flinn), 24, was tried and convicted along with Henry Williams (alias Martin), 28, and Frederick Williams, 21, on 16 September 1825 for the theft of a tea chest containing 90 pounds (41 kilograms) of tea worth 20 pounds sterling from the wharves at Queenhithe Dock in the City of London. Despite producing character witnesses, the men were sentenced to death. This was later commuted to transportation for life, and the three sailed for New South Wales on the Marquis of Huntley on 10 May 1826.

Physical description

A convict love token, made up of a coin, engraved on both sides. One side features the text 'M. Flinn / aged 25 / cast for death / September 16 / 1825'. The other side features the text 'A / token of true love / when this you se [sic] / remember me'.

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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